My Green Travel Resolutions (Revisited)

A year ago, I wrote about how I was hoping to change some of my wasteful, Earth-harming ways. So I made some resolutions and promised to revisit them a year later. Here I am, a year wiser, but am I a year greener?

I put my teacher skills to use and gave myself some grades. Here’s my Traveling Green Report Card:

Resolution #1: I will tame my love affair with plastic bags. Grade: B+

I admit that I use too many Ziplock bags when I’m packing for a trip. It’s just that they are so good for organizing all the kid stuff I need to bring along. I bag my kid’s snack, and his toys, and his clothes, and…just about everything. There has to be a better way.

Well it turns out there is a better way. I bought packing cubes, bags, and pouches in many shapes, colors, and sizes. It was a bit more expensive than a box of Ziplock bags initially, but it is a good investment. Besides, these nifty packing cubes make it super easy to keep all of our clothes organized and I can cram more into our suitcases. More cramming, means less laundry. Love.

Resolution #2: I will bring along my own refillable water bottles. Grade: C

I also hate to admit I take along, or buy, cases of plastic water bottles when I’m on a trip. It’s hard to get away from the plastic bottles at most hotel rooms, but easy to refill my reusable bottles at restaurants when we’re out sightseeing.

I’m great with refillable bottles at home and work, but still not great while traveling. We have gotten better at using refillable bottles on road trips, but not while were out sightseeing. It’s just one more thing to schlep along, and I hate to shlep any more than I have to. I’ll keep working on ways to use less plastic for my hydrating needs.

Resolution #3: I will spend my travel dollars at places that have good environmental practices. Grade: C

In all my days of travel, I have only stayed at one “green” hotel. It was The Ambrose Hotel, in Santa Monica. I loved that I could recycle in my room, that they had a water-saving shower, and that they served all local, organic food. I stayed there, because of their sustainable practices. That, and the reviewers keep raving about their chocolate croissants at breakfast.

So I’ve only stayed in a couple of “green” hotels this year. Mostly, because there aren’t always many to choose from. When you’re traveling with kids you have to consider many things when choosing accommodations, and sometimes choosing a hotel with a kitchen, trumps choosing one that is LEED-certified. Traveling with a kid, doesn’t mean I need a bunch of goodie bags with junk that will eventually just end up in a landfill. I would like to recycle in my room, have local organic meals to choose from, and still enjoy the luxury of a suite room. Hey there hotel industry, are you listening?

I would have liked a better report card this year. But some progress is better than none. I will keep working on some of these resolutions, while making some new ones for this year. However I manage to improve my green travel practices, I’ll come back to share my progress.

Point Lobos State Reserve

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Sometimes you stand on a windy cliff, overlooking glassy blue waters, and you forget that this beauty has already been discovered a million times over. You don’t remember all the others who have stood on that same cliff  (or are standing right behind you trying to snap the same picture). You forget that you’ve already seen these scenes before. The sight of these beautiful places will erase all memory and let you experience their grandeur all over again. I don’t know about you, but I need to experience a bit of grandeur every once in a while.

To experience all this beauty head over to Point Lobos State Reserve just off Highway 1, past Carmel-by-the-Sea, at the beginning of the Big Sur coastline.

I’m trying out this new slideshow feature, just in time for Photo Friday at Delicious Baby. Let me know what you think. Is it easy to view the pictures? Do they load quickly enough? All comments are appreciated.

Monterey Family Vacation

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

What: The San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Where: It’s located high up in the Mason and Washington cable car barn in (you guessed it) San Francisco, California.

Why: We wanted to learn more about those famous cable cars, without having to actually stand in one of the long lines to board one.

My Kid’s Picks: The penny machine. Yes, there seems to be one of those wherever we go. He also enjoyed seeing the wheels that turn the cables and checking out all of the maps and grids for each cable car line. In the downstairs viewing area, he checked out the cables that entered the building from the channels under the street. This is a trip underground.

Mom’s Verdict: The museum is often overlooked, mostly because it is not near any other major attraction. You can, of course, ride up in a cable car and then back down. In addition to the behind-the-scenes look at the machinery that keeps those cable cars moving, there are a few antique cars on display. It is worth a stop if your kids are into learning about modes of transport, and if you’ve already seen many of the other attractions in San Francisco. School-aged children will get the most of out of the visit. Oh, and if you can’t guess from watching the video: it’s loud.

Useful Tidbits: Admission is free. There is only street parking so we parked in a garage on California Street (a few blocks away). The whole tour of the museum took less than twenty minutes (including a bathroom break and penny machine session). There is also a small, inexpensive cafe across the street. We stopped there for a panini and Italian soda for lunch.

San Francisco Family Vacation

Less January, More Paradise

It pitters. It patters. It’s hard to see past the gray, hazy skies of January, and remember a warmer time. My feet are cold, my tissue box has become my dearest friend, and I’m stuck inside a classroom full of second-graders all day long. I’m not complaining or anything. But I am turning to my photo library for some inspiration on this dreary Friday.

San Francisco, CA

Capitola, CA

Waikiki, HI

My visions of paradise are linking up to Delicious Baby Photo Friday. Click on over.

Waimea Canyon With a Side of Chip

We never embark on a day trip without our munchies. So before we headed out on the road to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park in Kauai, we made a stop in the town of Hanapepe first. We were looking specifically for the Taro Ko Chips Factory, but we still almost zoomed right past the little green building. It looks more like a house, not like a factory, nor a store. So as you drive along Hanapepe Road, just past the main drag with the galleries and stores, keep your eyes peeled for the sign.
We bought a bag of taro and purple sweet potato chips that were still warm from the frier. I thought they were the perfect combination of salty, sweet, and crunchy. They also kept that kid (pictured above) from getting too whiny in the back seat. I’m not sure if he was more interested in the views of Waimea Canyon or the chips. What I do know, is that we all enjoyed the views more because we were crunching away on those oily little chips.

We’re linking up our chips for our first Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick. Go on over to check out all the delicious posts.

Poipu Family Travel Tips

The Trains at Griffith Park

What: Griffith Park Southern Railroad and Travel Town

Where: Griffith Park in Los Angeles

Why: We needed a to make a pit stop while on an eight-hour drive from San Diego to the Bay Area and stopping at the In-N-Out just wouldn’t do. Griffith Park is conveniently located right off of the parking lot/freeway I-5. So to prevent any road trip melt downs (from me) we took the freeway exit to check out some trains and burn off some steam. Choo-choo.

My Kid’s Picks: What’s not to love? There are trains. My little conductor dude enjoyed the miniature train ride on the Griffith Park Southern Railroad. Then he really got his train geek on, when we headed over to Travel Town and got a close up view of some really big engines. The locomotives, cabooses, and passenger cars are on display outside and there are some smaller vehicles on display in a building. There was also a small corner of the building geared for smaller kids with some hands-on activities. Because he was older, he wasn’t as intrigued by the trains as he would have been as a preschooler. He also wished he could have gotten to go inside some of the trains. But it was still a fun stroll through the train yards.

Mom’s Verdict: Both of these places where blissfully uncrowded on a Monday afternoon, and inexpensive. Travel Town is a great place for either really big train fanatics, or the under-5 crowd.

Useful Tidbits: Tickets for the train rides are $2.50 and trains operate year-round (except Christmas day). You can hop on the train at Griffith Park Southern Railroad or at Travel Town. Although the day we went, the train ride at Travel Town wasn’t operating. Parking and admission to the museum in Travel Town is free and also open year-round (except Christmas day).

Los Angeles Family Travel Tips

Today’s Tip: Keeping ‘Em Kids Busy

I was being such a good little organizer recently, that I even organized all of my son’s travel busy bags for the next few trips. This is what I usually procrastinate packing the most, so I’m glad I got ahead of the game this year. Like it or not, traveling with a kid means that I’ll be lugging some sort of busy bag for years to come.

From age 4 to 8, we still have this card game.

His busy bags have changed throughout the years and I have to constantly update them; hence my organizing and purging exercise this weekend. But as I cleaned this weekend, I noticed that there were some items in the busy bag that have seen us through many trips and will continue to serve us well through many more.

Here are some of the tried and true items in my son’s busy bag:

  • Sketch pads, crayons, pencils, and markers. An artist never rests.
  • Books. The books get wordier, but they are always there to entertain.
  • Card Games. We switch from UNO, to Old Maid, to Go Fish. They’re small, light, and versatile.

The best part about these items is how relatively inexpensive they all are. Now that’s something I can truly appreciate.

As I thought about our busy bags, I remembered all the other travel blogging moms who shared their expertise on the matter. Putting together a great busy bag, takes some thought, creativity, and planning.

I really enjoyed reading how Lorraine puts together the Busy Kits for her two daughters and for her business as well. She has this formula: color, play, create, discover. Read about the process here. Make sure to click over to all her posts for all four of the components.

I also enjoyed reading Debbie’s take on things to consider when packing an airplane busy bag. She gives you a whole list of things to consider, and offers tips on where and how to go about making one. Read about them here.

Do you have any  of your own favorite busy bag items? Or have you written about it? Please share, I’m always looking for a few good tips.

San Francisco Family Travel Tips

A Year in the Life of Kids Go West

It was a good year for my me and my son. Here we are in the final days of 2009, and we are healthy, happy, and just a bit more well-traveled. Yes, I’d have to say it was a fantastic year. So as I sit here with my pom-pom slippers-pondering my good fortune-I think it’s appropriate to share my joy with the world. Today I’m going to my blogging mountaintop to post forth my travel blessings.

I searched the blog for some of my favorite posts. I have to admit that I’m proud of how I captured these travel moments, happy that I decided to dabble in the world of blogging, and looking forward to another year. (You’ve been warned!)

Sometimes they were blessings in disguise, otherwise known as the story of my life.

  • Here’s a little story of an unexpected road trip moment: Red Dawn on I-5 I will always remember my sleepy kid in the back seat, waking up and uttering: “The sun is a big red ball, mami!”.
  • And I found that sometimes I can come up with posts even when I’m swamped and under pressure. I wrote this one in a hotel room in February:  When Maps Fall Into the Wrong Hands.
  • Being a travel blogger means that I need to get out there as much as possible. So you can imagine my frustration when a long awaited trip was detoured in: Surviving a Sickation.

Sometimes I got a bit sappy about it.

  • In August we sat on the beach in Kauai and I was gifted a heart : The Fuzzy Moments.
  • This Snorkel Dream is just one of the reasons why I travel with my kid, despite all the trouble.

And there was always adventure to be found.

I have a video camera and I know how to use it. Apologies.

And now for one more appreciation: you. Thanks to all of you who have stopped by to visit, contributed with your comments, and gave me a reason to keep up with the challenging task of maintaining a blog. You’ve helped make this a memorable year for me.

On Board With Trekaroo KidsMobile: San Diego

If you’re a traveling parent and still haven’t visited the Trekaroo website, then you’re missing out. Big time. I’ve had them listed under travel resources, because I think that their parent reviews of destinations, hotels and restaurants come in pretty handy when I’m planning a trip. You can also create your own Passport Page and chime in with your own reviews. I know you’re dying to put in your two cents. Their travel lists are also a superb resource, so I joined in with one of my own.

This week, a fab group of blogging moms came together for a San Diego list-off, otherwise known as the Trekaroo KidsMobile. Go check out all of our San Diego tips.

Trekaroo families  have been voting for their favorite kid-friendly activities and hotels in and around San Diego.  We’ve tallied their votes for 2009 and here’s the line up!

Top Activities for Kids in San Diego, CA – voted by parents

Top Kid-friendly Hotels in San Diego, CA – voted by parents

Living in San Diego leaves local families little excuse to stay home.  These moms bring you their personal recommendations of the best places to take kids in their hometown.  Want the local scoop?  Here it is!

Bridget Smith, the author of The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook not only shared with us her Top Tips for a Legoland Adventure with Toddler and Preschoolers, but now gives us some great ideas about Fun Things to  Do After Visiting Legoland, California. Bridget spent countless hours in Legoland one year and made more than full use of their family’s season pass to bring us the blow-by-blow of making the most of your visit to Legoland.  Follow their family’s other adventures on her blog:  Family Adventure Guidebooks

The Q Family  isn’t local but lives to travel.  If you have 5 days to spend in San Diego, here’s their list of the Must See Attractions with Kids in San Diego. This is a family who’s constantly on the go!  The Q Family Adventures Travel Blog chronicles their adventures with wonderful photos, fun stories and helpful tips.

Balboa Park is a wonderful urban park that families love.  But when hunger strikes, Carolina has a list of Kid-friendly Dining in Balboa Park.  She is the mom behind the blog Kids Go West.  As a public school teacher, mom and freelance travel writer, she shares her insider tips on all the totally awesome places to go with kids in her home state of California. Bookmark her blog if you’re heading to California.

Rockinmama loves to mix fun and learning.  She recommends these 5 Fun and Educational Kid Activities in San Diego.  On her blog Rockin Mama, she writes with great humor about pregnancy.  She also write prolifically about parent-friendly products.  If you’re looking for the inside scoop on new products for parents out there, this rockin mama’s got it.

Amie O’Shaughnessy of Ciao Bambino brings us San Diego: Favorite Family Hotels . Ciao Bambino is a one of Trekaroo’s favorite partners because we share a common passion – inspiring families to travel.  Ciao Bambino provides tips and advice around all things related to traveling with kids and is a guide to the best kid-friendly hotels.

Wylsa runs Toddler’s Travel – a local baby equipment rental company for visiting families.  Naturally, she’s a guru on Fun Activities for Toddlers in San Diego.  Instead of lugging all those bulky items on the plane, rent it when you arrive from Toddler’s Travel.

Colleen of TravelMamas has the scoop on the 5 Best Family-friendly Restaurants in San Diego County.  Her blogTravelmamas blog gives tell-it-like-it-is tips about traveling with kids.  Gathering information from travel experts (with kids), moms who’ve been there she got loads of practical advice on traveling well with kids.

La Jolla is one of the most beautiful suburbs of San Diego and La Jolla Mom shares with us her list of Things to Do in La Jolla With Kids. Her blog La Jolla Mom has become a meeting place of sorts for local moms looking to connect.  Her Family Fun section is full of popular and off the beaten path places to go with kids.  Hop on over and see why La Jolla is a town you must stop at when visiting San Diego.

Other Resources for San Diego, CA

Which Hotels came up at the top?

Top Activities for Kids in San Diego, CA – voted by parents

Next stop, Denver, CO (that’s right, the launch of Colorado is coming soon)

KidsMobile_jumponThe Trekaroo KidsMobile is a blog carnival with a twist. It’s designed to provide a unique opportunity for mom and dad bloggers to be featured on Trekaroo while

1) expressing their unique point of view

2) getting a web of link exchanges.

Join us for one of our next stopovers.

Today’s Tip: Easy Beach Clean-Up

The beach is my family’s favorite natural playground, so we’d like to keep it looking spiffy. Earlier this year, I noticed myself picking up trash as I walked along the beach. I just couldn’t stand to think that any piece of plastic would end up being washed back into the ocean. But my pockets got full while on our walks, so I decided to start taking along a specific “trash” bag anytime I went to the beach. Now we collect shells and bits of trash. It’s sad to have to pick up any trash at the beach, but it’s a good feeling to leave our favorite place just a little bit nicer than we found it.