I have been getting lots of requests from readers asking for information on how to travel ‘jet-set’ with a kid. As you may know, Rob and I have an eleven (seemingly going on 20) year old girl, Demi. Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance between what kids and adults enjoy while on vacation. You end up either boring the “h-e-double-L” out for your kids with adult activities or as the parent, you find yourself wanting to punch the Disney characters by day three. However, we found the perfect balance this year. We decided to skip the family all-inclusive and cruises and head to the city of the stars, Los Angeles. And we all agree that this spring break proved to be one of the best “family” trips we’ve ever had. Here are my tips for an unforgettable spring break that the whole family will enjoy!
*** A month or so before you leave for LA call your concierge or go on TV Tix to see if you can score FREE tickets to the taping of your child’s favorite TV Show!
This can be answered in one sentence. Find something that will keep them occupied for the ENTIRE duration of the flight. Keep in mind that there is 20 minutes at the beginning and ending of each flight where they can’t use “electronic devices” like iPods, DVD players etc… For us, we allow Demi to rent enough movies/TV shows on i Tunes for the duration of the outbound and inbound flights. In addition, before we leave we take Demi to the bookstore and allow her to pick out a book or magazine that she’s interested in. Making her part of the process helps us be certain she’ll be entertained.
Most airlines are offering only snacks on flights. So, come prepared or you’re gonna get the “Mommy, I’m hungry” when you have 2 hours left before touch down. However, avoid the sugar! The last thing you and your fellow passengers need is a jacked-up kid bouncing around the plane on a sugar-high! I pack individual bags of pretzels, grapes and low-sugar snack bars to keep the tummy (and the Mommy) happy.
If the flight happens to be longer than 3-4 hours (and depending on the age of your child) you may want to consider getting them a travel blanket/pillow set so they can take a nap (which will also help with the time change later).
Car rental agencies at LAX are off the grounds of the airport, however most rental companies provide a shuttle from the baggage claim area directly to the rental agency. My suggestion is to become a member of one of the car rental clubs that allow you to avoid the line and just walk on the lot and grab your car without having to deal with the lines. We are members of the Emerald Club at National Car Rental, which by the way is one of three free memberships you can apply for if you have an American Express Platinum card. We literally walked on the lot, chose our car and drove out. From stepping off the shuttle, to driving out of the lot, the whole process took 10 minutes (which is a huge difference from last year’s experience of “Sorry sir, your car isn’t ready, would you like a van instead?”).
FYI: Unless you request a navigation device, you need to print the directions from your car rental company to your hotel in advance.
Where to Stay
This is the tricky part. Because Los Angeles is a big city with many areas with tons of traffic, you will want your hotel to be close to the activities and attractions you plan to do and see. You also want a hotel that’s cool for you, yet kid friendly.
We chose to spend a few days in West Hollywood and a few days in Santa Monica.
West Hollywood Hotel: The Mondrian
Rate: $250 and up
The Mondrian is a hip hotel with a laid back vibe. They’re used to having the kiddies around and most of the rooms are big enough for a family with two kids. They have recently renovated the property and have some cool things your kids will talk about for months; like the mirror that turns into a TV and floor to ceiling windows that have cool views. Plus, your kids will most-definitely run into a celeb like Randy Jackson (of American Idol) in this Hollywood hot spot.
If you’re kids are into seeing celebrities, then there is no better place to get the real feel of crazy “Hollywood” than The Ivy on Robertson Blvd. Stars only go to The Ivy if they want to be photographed, especially on a Saturday. It’s a spectacle! Make a reservation for lunch and watch the swarms of paparazzi flashing away at the celeb du jour.
Other kid friendly, yet adult happy, things to do near West Hollywood:
- Universal Studios Hollywood
- Warner Bros Vip Studio Tour
- Los Angeles Zoo
- Shopping on Robertson, Melrose & Beverly Hills
- Griffith Observatory
- The Grove
- Sprinkles Cupcakes
- Hollywood & Highland
- Kodak Theatre (American Idol)
- El Capitan Theatre
- Tour of Stars Homes
- Hollywood Bus Tours
Santa Monica Hotel: Shutters on the Beach
Rate: $300 and up
The pace changes when you head to Santa Monica. It’s time for bike rides on the beach, the Santa Monica Pier and surf lessons. Santa Monica is a great home base for exploring the beaches of Manhattan, Hermosa, Malibu and even for day tripping to Orange or San Diego County.
We love to stay at Shutters because of it’s location directly on the beach. Every night (while Demi takes the necessary nap) Rob and I escape to the balcony with a glass of wine and watch the sun set over the Santa Monica Pier. It’s a really beautiful sight, and the perfect time to add a little romance into your family vacation!
Kid friendly, yet adult happy, things to do near Santa Monica:
- Santa Monica Pier *wrist bands to ride unlimited rides are $24.95 per person
- Bike Rides * $6 per bike per hour
- 3rd Street Promanade
- Yummy Cupcakes
- Venice Beach (Muslce Beach)
- Surf Lessons * $115 for one person (2 hours-includes wetsuit, board)
- Sony Studio Tour
- Day trip to San Diego: San Diego Zoo, Seaworld
- Day trip to Malibu: beautiful drive, Zuma Beach
- Day trip to Disneyland in Anaheim.
There are a ton of great restaurants for adults and even a few that kids will love too! Just in case you want to get a babysitter, the nightlife in LA is not to be missed. We’ll be launching the newly redesigned site in July! Keep watching on JSL for the Los Angeles video and the eGuide for a complete list of hip hotels, hot restaurants, chic nightlife, amazing shops and cool things to do.