SANTA MONICA WITH KIDS

Santa Monica has always been a favourite spot of ours.  Years ago, we spent a week there while backpacking around the States, doing all that backpackers do.....shopping, bar-hopping, and staying in hostels. Now that we were a family of four, we had to look at Santa Monica in a whole different way, the days of finding the next happy hour, and sleeping in shared dorms are over.  Luckily Santa Monica is a haven of recreation and entertainment for all ages! 

Santa Monica was our last stop on our 'Theme Park' adventure with the kids.  We wanted a couple of days in an truly LA suburb to round off our trip. With the beach, bike path, and Santa Monica Pier Amusement Park, we couldn't go think of a better place to be.

As we now required more than a couple of bunk beds, we chose to stay at DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Santa Monica.  This hotel is one of few in Santa Monica that offers suites, meaning that we had a separate living room with sofa bed, and a King sized bedroom.   The kids loved the view down to the hotel swimming pool, and loved swimming in it even more!  The room was spacious and well-equipped with a mini-fridge, handy to store the kids snacks.

After checking in, we ventured out to explore the area.  The hotel is an easy three block walk down to the beach and pier. We wanted to make our way, all the way down the beach boardwalk to Venice, so we decided the best way for us to do that was to hire bikes. We had the pram with us, but the bike rental shop was nice enough to store it there until we returned.  We hired two bikes, one with a double seated cart attached to the front, strapped the kids in and headed off.  This boardwalk has some of the best eclectic people watching in LA.  From buskers to an impromptu 'Roller Disco', to men and women working out at Muscle Beach, inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger! The kids and adults were all kept well entertained! There are also a couple of great playgrounds along the way. 

Satisfied with our afternoon out, we headed back to the hotel for a swim, then out to dinner along the Santa Monica Pier.  While waiting for our table at Bubba Gumps we had noticed a very popular looking little burger shack, Pier Burger, so snuck in a cheeky snack to keep the kids tummies content. (And perhaps mine!) It was sooo good!

The next morning we decided to have breakfast on Third Street Promenade. If a walk along the beach to Venice is too far, or you don't fancy hiring bikes, then you can still catch great street-performers and plenty of musical entertainment along Third Street Promenade, from sun up till sun down.  Best of all it is free and keeps the kids entertained.  Another bit of excitement for the kids are the dinosaur statues in the centre of the promenade.

Roaring with the dinosaurs on Third Street Promenade!

Roaring with the dinosaurs on Third Street Promenade!

As this was a 'Theme Park' vacation after all, we couldn't leave Santa Monica without hitting some rides at Santa Monica Pier Amusement Park. You can purchase rides as you go, which is great, it means you can simply just walk around the fair ground, or if it's your last day, like it was ours, you don't have to blow your budget!  Surprisingly Bodie wasn't quite tall enough for some of the rides, that he certainly was tall enough for at Disneyland, but this didn't matter, as there is a great area and assortment of rides for the smaller kids, and he had just as much fun on these.  The highlight for the kids though, was winning a giant Nemo stuffed toy, which the friendly 'carnie' attendant may or may not have rigged for him!! 

Hands in the air!  The children's rides at Santa Monica Pier Amusement Park.

Hands in the air!  The children's rides at Santa Monica Pier Amusement Park.

As we had a late night flight from LAX, we headed back to the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton and had a final swim and relaxing soak in the jacuzzi.  Although we had already checked out, the Hotel held our bags for us, which we could easily get access to throughout the day.  The pool area, has excellent changing rooms, with showers and plenty of space to change and freshen up for our flight.

The use of the pool after checking out was a great bonus, as it tired the kids out enough, that with with help of the Air New Zealand Sky Couch, they slept soundly for 10 hours of the flight home!!

Who needs first class?!

Who needs first class?!

So although it was a different kind of vacation in Santa Monica this time, it can be equally exciting with kids, if not more, as you get to experience it in a new light, and through their eyes!

TRINITY BEACH

When most young newly-wed couples, expecting a baby think 'babymoon', they don't think two bedroom self-contained apartment, rather an exclusive adults only luxury resort!  However we didn't have a babymoon the first time around, so when we were expecting our second baby we headed to North Queensland, Australia for a mini-break to savor the last few weeks we had left as a family of three.

We chose Trinity Beach, just out of Cairns, as our perfect, relaxing destination. (As relaxing as it can be with a 18 month old!) This is where the Marlin Cove Beach Resort comes in. We booked a two bedroom apartment, which was ideal, meaning come 7pm, we could pop the toddler in bed, and relax without worrying about tip-toeing around a studio hotel room.

Although we enjoyed the odd meal at the restaurants in Trinity Beach, the fully-equipped kitchen in our apartment came in handy for breakfast and snacks during the day.  As did the BBQ area by the pool, for an alfresco dinner one evening.

 

Who needs the beach, when you have sand at your hotel pool!

Who needs the beach, when you have sand at your hotel pool!

Our room had direct access to the amazing resort swimming pool.  This is one of the best I have come across at a resort.  Don't think big, busy, overcrowded resort pool, think, calm, relaxing and practically secluded.  The pool is surrounded in sand, which Bodie happily played in while I rested my pregnancy induced swollen ankles on the sun lounges!  The pool had a great shallow area for Bodie to swim in, and was a lovely warm temperature. Thank goodness this pool was so great and mimicked the beach, as at the beach we were greeted with signs saying "Crocodile sightings, swim at your own risk!"

 

Yeah, no thanks!

Yeah, no thanks!

 

Another highlight of Marlin Cove Resort was taking an evening stroll through the grounds to spot the wallabies hopping around.  They must enjoy doing the same thing with the guests, as we had one hop right up to check out Bodie's breakfast on the courtyard, one morning!

 

Spotting Wallabies

Spotting Wallabies

With Cairns being so close to Trinity Beach, we decided to take a trip in for the day.  The Cairns Esplande is fantastic area for families, and Bodie had a ball, playing in the free water park.

 

Loving the water play area at the Cairns Esplanade!

Loving the water play area at the Cairns Esplanade!

 

If you too, are looking for a relaxing resort in a laid back town, yet close enough to all the excitement and adventure that North Queensland has to offer, then I highly recommend Marlin Cove Resort.

HAWAII

On a whim, when our first baby Bodie was born, we booked a holiday to Hawaii.

I remember it clearly, it was a rainy Sydney day, we were looking out to the beach that we couldn't swim in for a few months until Summer rolled around.  Bodie was a few weeks old sitting on my lap, while Jono was surfing the net, dreaming of actually surfing.  As if it was meant to be, a two for one JETSTAR airfare appeared in his emails. Not only did the deal captivate him, but the destination HAWAII, had us booking right then and there! We had been to Hawaii numerous times, and thought, hey it's been a couple of weeks, we have this parenting thing down.  So the following Valentines Day, we were off for our first big overseas trip with our 10 month old.

Calling your airline ahead and securing a bassinet seat is the best piece of advice that I can give you when traveling with a baby.  Providing your baby's height and weight fit the airlines regulations, then you could be as lucky as us, and have a sleeping baby for 8 hours! The other advice I have when traveling with little ones, is to ask the crew for help! As an international flight attendant for 10 years, I am telling you, we are more than happy to help, and understand the limitations and struggles you have while trying to keep a baby still on your lap, eat some food without knocking it all off the tray table, and even try to get to the loo!  One of the first questions asked at my first interview was "describe the day to day role of a flight attendant." Apart from the important stuff, such as safety and among other things, one of the main answers they were looking for was 'nanny'!  This is so true.  Now, while the crew obviously can't take your child down to the back galley for 10 hours, while you have your wine and watch numerous movies, when it is down time for the crew, between meal services they certainly are happy to help out.  Or perhaps they've kept you a meal aside, while you fed your baby.  So please don't be shy, and ask away!

Right, I went off on a bit of a tangent there, (hopefully helpful to some of you).

As we had visited Waikiki many times, this time we thought we would jump straight on a plane for a quick 25min flight to Kauai.  We had previously spent a few days on Kauai, but it is never enough so we just had to go again.

We booked 4 nights at the KAUAI MARRIOTT RESORT. After doing some goggle research and seeing aerial views of the swimming pool there was no way I was staying anywhere else!

Great pool, great view, great family holiday!

Great pool, great view, great family holiday!

Upon arriving at Lihue airport, a shuttle picked us up and drove us the 5 min drive to the resort.  It was so close, it literally felt like we took a back gate out of the airport, and there we were.  Perfect for a 10 month old, after being on an aircraft for the previous 10 hours!

As we entered the lobby, we knew this was going to be a luxurious stay.  Our Garden View Guest Room was conveniently located on the ground floor, meaning we could easily wheel the pram in and out on to the lovely grassed area out front, which had a hammock swinging between palms trees, perfectly placed right outside our room.  The room was spacious with a large comfortable bed, a double couch, and plenty of space for the baby crib, that the hotel provided for us.

Relaxing on the hammock outside our room

Relaxing on the hammock outside our room

I just had to get in and explore the pool that is described as one of the largest pools in Hawaii.  It sure lived up to all the amazing photos that I had seen, and surprised me even more, with the hexagon hot tubs enclosed by large majestic looking pillars, that had direct access from the swimming pool.

Just a little bit of luxury for this Mumma!

Just a little bit of luxury for this Mumma!

Our next few days here were spent between the main pool, the great little toddler pool with a water slide, and the amazingly scenic Kalapaki Beach, that is directly in front of the resort.  The most perfect soft green grass between the boardwalk and the sand was ideal for the moments that we didn't feel like dealing with a 10 month old and sand! We loved watching the cruise ships come and go, they looked so huge, that they seemed to close the gap in the bay between the surrounding mountains.  One of our first tastes of Kauai was on one of those cruise ships, so each time I saw one, a warm feeling of nostalgia would wash over me.  We had great big buffet breakfasts at the Aupaka Terrace, and tasty poolside dining and cocktails from Kukui's on Kalapaki Beach.  Bodie also enjoyed feeding the Koi Fish by the lobby each morning.

Feeding the Koi their breakfast, before breakfast

Feeding the Koi their breakfast, before breakfast

Is it going to fit??

Is it going to fit??

We also strolled down the beach side boardwalk one night to dine at the famous Dukes Restaurant, and walked across the road to the Harbor Mall for hotdogs.

This trip, we did not hire a car or explore Kauai, we felt we had everything we needed at the KAUAI MARRIOTT RESORT. Sun, sand, pool, ocean, restaurants, and a local feel with the Harbor Mall.  We will be back!

The rest of our Hawaiian adventure as a family was spent on Oahu.  Back in 2010 we got married on the North Shore, so thought it only fitting to bring our first born back to where our family began! We would absolutely love to live on the North Shore, but all we could do for now, was book a wee home, via HomeAway.com and pretend to be locals for a week.  We hired bikes that were dropped off right at our door, along with a cart on the back to tow Bodie around in.  This was perfect, rather than a toddler bike seat, as some days he had nap in there while we had a relaxing lunch after biking into Haleiwa town! We also had a car on the North Shore, which I highly recommend if you want to check out the numerous famous beaches, such as Sunset, Pipeline, and my favourite, Waimea Bay.  A car is also handy to have, to pull off the road at Laniakea Beach and see the Green Sea Turtles that love to sunbath on the sand.

Our first wee home away from home cottage

Our first wee home away from home cottage

Visiting the turtles at Laniakea Beach

Visiting the turtles at Laniakea Beach

To end off our trip, we had to do the obligatory stay in Waikiki, to fulfill our shopping needs. Although Waikiki is very touristy and in such contrast to the more secluded Kauai, and North Shore, there is still a lot of natural beauty here.  Floating out in the soft gentle waves of Waikiki, on a typically touristy highlighter inflatable lilo, gazing at Diamond Head is the perfect way to end our first family vacation. We survived our first trip with a baby and ignited a flame to venture on more and more!

A tiny tourist in Waikiki

A tiny tourist in Waikiki