How Our Vacation Turned Into A Staycation

We had finally settled on a destination for our family vacation. It was even listed on Family Adventures Await’s top destination list. Then my husband’s work schedule changed and we had to nix our vacation plans.

Not to be thwarted by work, and not to lose out on precious family time that we don’t often get, we decided to make this the summer of the staycation. Our first stop was San Diego.

My husband was able to take a day off, so we decided to make a long week-end of it. Packed the car and the kids and headed south. We didn’t do anything super out of the box during our stay but we did manage to pack each day with some adventure.

Old Town San Diego

Day one – Old Town San Diego

We arrived late morning, ditched our bags and hopped on the train to Old Town, San Diego. One of my guys is obsessed with anything from a long time ago. He kept calling it “Old Fashioned San Diego from a long long time ago.”  And while trying to explain time to a 3-year-old is seemingly impossible, it was super fun showing them how things used to be.

It’s important to incorporate not traditional kids activities. What they see and what they absorb can leave a lasting positive impact. It allows them to ask questions and use their brain in ways they otherwise would not. It is also a great opportunity for the entire family to get educated and participate in an activity.  We learned that chocolate grew on trees and how it gets made.

Tip: Take the train, leave the car. The kids love riding the train and it beats having to find parking.

San Diego



Day Two – The San Diego Zoo

In all honestly I am not a big zoo person. I have a hard time seeing wild animals in a city dwelling. For me, this was definitely a parenting moment when I had to choose between my own personal beliefs and something my children have always wanted to do. I choose the kids.

My kids are animal obsessed and the San Diego Zoo definitely delivered. They got to see every animal on their ” I want to see a…” list. We hit every corner of that zoo. If I had a fit bit it would have exploded with the amount of mileage I think we did. But it was worth it. Especially when your toddler gets to see his favorite animal.

Tips – 1. We made a lunch reservation prior to getting to the zoo at Alberts. It was well worth it. Being able to sit inside mid-day and relax gave us all the energy for the next half of the day.

Tip 2 Save the bus tour until the end of the day when everyone is tired. Some people recommend taking the bus tour at the start of the day to get the lay of the land but the maps are pretty easy to use and most of the animals are active in the morning. You don’t want to be stuck on a bus when your favorite animal is alert and active.

Day 3 – Balboa Park

We knew we had to leave that afternoon. So we hit Balboa Park and just roamed around. There are so many incredible museums, and when you’re 3, little adventures can be had around every corner. We kind of let the boys run this day. While we did have a few spots picked out ahead of time, the boys determined most of the day. We told them to pick the direction and we followed, with a little directional guidance from us.

Tip 1 – Have a game plan. The grounds are so big, don’t try to see what is there before deciding what to do. Have a museum picked out ahead of time.

*We stayed at the Hampton Inn which was perfect. The location was ideal for families. A playground across the street. Right in front of the harbor. Within walking distance to a train stop and had free breakfast.







Top 5 Destinations for This Year’s Summer Vacation From Family Adventures Await

Have you been waiting for your kids to be “old enough to appreciate” a truly amazing family vacation? Jen Shanks, Founder of Family Adventures Awaits believes this is one of the biggest mistakes a family can make.

So often parents get caught up in the idea that their child needs to remember every event of a vacation to truly appreciate it. Jen thinks the opposite is true.

“I believe that children truly gain so much more from travel at a young age. Giving your child epic experiences and adventures will help shape the person they become and the desires they will possess as they grow older. It becomes a piece of their narrative and their favorite photos to look back on. They may not remember the exact details of a trip, but they will always remember the feelings of those incredible moments with their family fully engaged in a journey together.”

These are Family Adventures Await’s favorite summer vacations spots for families this year.

vacation in iceland with green fields and snowy mountainsICELAND

There is a reason why it seems like everyone you know is talking about Iceland lately. It is a spectacular destination. How about learning about the geology of the country, and seeing the place where two tectonic plates meet  walking on glaciers?  Or walking on moss-covered lava fields, watching geysers erupt, playing in black sand? Maybe boat rides through glacier lagoons, and walking behind waterfalls? These are only a few experiences in nature you can find in Iceland. You can experience all of this and more by staying in Reykjavik and taking day trips out into the countryside. But I recommend renting a car and driving the Ring Road, which is the road that takes you in a circle around the country.


The Azores is a group of islands off the coast of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. They have a few international airports on the Islands and offer nonstop flights to the Azores from Boston, MA and Oakland CA. The Boston flight is only 4 ½ hours, which is closer than most Caribbean Islands. For those who are unable to fly direct, I would recommend flying through Lisbon and spending a few days in this charming historical city. Combing a few days enjoying nature and relaxing in the breathtaking Azores with the culture and history of Lisbon is sure to please every member of the family. And did I mention the wine?

Hawaii vacationHAWAII

If you are looking for a tropical paradise filled with natural wonders and cultural appeal but do not have passports for the whole family, Hawaii is the perfect destination. One of the all time best experiences Hawaii has to offer is watching lava flow into the sea. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience for everyone. What makes Hawaii so special is that it is made up of 5 islands, each with unique landscape and mind-blowing activities for all the members of your family. By combining more than one island in your vacation, you are able to experience something for everyone.

vacation Montana with moose at a Glacier National ParkMONTANA / WYOMING

There are so many amazing National Parks in the US that it is impossible to choose just one. However, there is a reason Yellowstone National Park tends to jump to the top of the bucket list for so many families. There are hikes for all levels and huge variety of wildlife, and scenery; It is truly magnificent. Going on a sunrise wildlife spotting adventure will be the event that your children will talk about for years to come. In addition to this national gem, the area offers so much more. Adding a Dude ranch stay to your National Park visit is the perfect way for your family to disconnect, and make memories to cherish forever.

vacation San Jaun Islands watching Orca breechSEATTLE / SAN JUAN ISLANDS

Seeing Orcas in the wild has become increasingly more popular with families who want to teach their children about our animals in their natural habitat. Once your little animal lover has this experience, they will never look at ocean animals the same. There are several places to see orcas in the wild, but San Juan Islands are a gorgeous stop and only a few hours from Seattle. Creating a vacation spending time in both Seattle and San Juan Islands is a perfect way to combine an amazing city and a life changing experience in the wild.

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