Recently my son and I watched the film “The Greatest Showman.” If you’re a fan of musicals, fantasy, or dreams this is a great film to see. While watching the sparkle and shine, I was drawn back to my years of making shows. I began my “showbiz” career in dance. Nothing kept my attention more or made me happier than dancing. I was convinced I would travel around the world and study the dance of various cultures and choreograph at genius levels. As I grew, I moved into production. Now - I’d decided - I would create productions that shared the stories of people from around the world. I learned about the behind the scenes world that made the dream come to life on stage. Every hour of my life was devoted to the theater. During the day I would hang lights, build sets, and search for props. At night there were rehearsals, technical rehearsals, and performances. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to work in the field, you know it consumes you. It’s a magic that can intoxicate you just as Hugh Jackman’s character P.T. Barnum got lost in the process of bigger, better, and more fantastic!
Life, as it so often does, had other plans for me. I found myself in a new career. I became a Travel Advisor, merging my passions of cultural immersion and experiential creation. We live in a world where we are surrounded by spectacle, where we are constantly seeking entertainment from a variety of technological stimuli, where we have our attention competed over by what is the loudest or most provocative and we constantly look away from the greatest show…life. Why do we prefer false realities? Why do we choose to look away? These are deep questions best left to self reflection of the individual but as a Travel Advisor I think about the core of this often. How do I move the traveler out of a cookie cutter experience and into a deeper travel experience? How do I fully express the value of authenticity?
I will always love a great story masterfully told and will find one in the Wadi Rum desert of Jordan. Now, however, I find myself moving in a direction that seeks contact - to actually be part of the story even if it’s simply as the woman who passes the action on the street and not the woman swinging from the trapeze (though I’ll try one if I happen upon it). Real life continues on regardless of whether or not we decide to look out at it.
In the end, Barnum realizes the show he wants to watch most is the one of his daughters growing up. Today I still make stories, but now they are travel stories for clients. Every time I work on a trip, I get to help turn their dreams into a reality. I suppose this run on reflection has to do not so much with abandoning other forms of entertainment (because that would just be nuts), but to remember that the greatest show is life and we need to get out and see it with our own two eyes.
Since he was born I’ve been attempting to brainwash my son into sharing my love of road trips, landscapes, and culture. His first obsession were the trees in Dr. Seuss movie The Lorax leaving him singing “I say let it grow” long before he learned about that farmer McDonald. With a summer birthday I made it my goal to take him on an epic trip every summer. The first few years have been spent in training squeezing in as many mini road trips as we could. This year he was ready to return to his homeland, California. He has an obsession with bridges and I have an obsession with scenic views making the choice in destination clear; The Pacific Coast Highway.
I kept the itinerary simple with 5 key highlights.
1. San Francisco
2. Monterey/Carmel By-the-Sea
3. Big Sur
4. Los Angeles
5. San Diego (Not part of the Pacific Coast Highway, but a must if you’re here)
We begin … in San Francisco. It’s probably pretty obvious what his major interest was when visiting the legendary city, The Golden Gate Bridge. The rain, however, changed the majority of our planned activities centered around the iconic bridge. Luckily he really only cared about getting to look at the bridge. So we drove over the bridge, over and over again.
We easily found a spot to park at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center to stare at the bridge from the safety of our car.
The next morning before heading down the coast we crossed the bridge one more time to Battery Spencer to take in the epic view of San Francisco.
MONTEREY & CARMEL BY-THE-SEA
After a simple introduction to the immense city, we headed south to Monterey, Carmel By-The-Sea. We spent our day contently gazing at the turquoise water at Carmel Beach City Park.
And devouring some of the tastiest food at Baja Cantina.
Next on the agenda was the part I was looking forward too most, Big Sur. To kick it off we had to stop for some obligatory pictures at the Bixby Bridge. Several oh’s and ah’s later we continued down the coast traveling at a leisurely pace focused on avoiding running over cyclists and pulling over frequently at the multitude of pull offs to breath the fresh air.
There are a multitude of trails to further explore in this section of the world, but as previously stated I’m traveling with a 4 year old so we stuck to the beaten path for this trip. The one exception we made was McWay Falls. There is parking and the hike is short. It makes for a great spot to get out and stretch your legs.
After a long winding day on the road we stopped for a spell in Ventura. Chilling around Ventura Harbor Village to look at the boats and hopping across the street to watch the surfers at Surfer’s Knoll on Ventura Beach.
Bypassing Los Angeles for the moment we cruised, and by cruised I mean sat in stop and go traffic for hours, down the I-5 and into America’s Finest City, San Diego - the place we used to call home.
Our first stop in San Diego was Sunset Cliffs. This has always been one of our favorite places in the city. It has some of the best views and parking is relatively easy to find in one of the various parking lots lining the cliffs. It’s a favorite spot for a run and is just down the street from the hipster beach area of Ocean Beach where you can walk the pier and eat some of the best tacos at South Beach Bar & Grille. As a new mom Sunset Cliffs was my favorite spot to stop to give Desmond a quick bottle and stare at the water.
Next up, some time in La Jolla. First on the agenda was a drive up to Mt. Soledad where you will be greeted with stunning views at the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial. This view of the city is second only to that of Cabrillo National Monument, one of my favorite places to visit for both the natural beauty and the cultural history.
Driving back down the hill we stopped for a tasty treat at The Living Room. One of my favorite small coffee shop chains, it is decorated with an assortment of vintage furniture. The La Jolla location has a coveted window where you can sip your coffee while watching the waves.
A short stroll down the hill on Jenner St. leads you to Seal Rock to watch the seals play in the waves from Children’s Pool Observation Walkway. The name might confuse you if you’re not a local. Once a protected swimming area for children the cove has been claimed by local wildlife that is now safely view from a distance (though the city has a history of going back and forth between their preference for the seals right to the spot and the humans). We were lucky and also were able to spot some whales while we were there.
To round off the day we visited the cliffs above Black’s Beach.
This is one of my all time favorite spots. The view is breathtaking. A steep hike down the hill will lead you to a secluded beach where you will find local nudists sunbathing. For today we stayed at the top of the cliffs and watched the paragliders at Torrey Pines Glideport.
Our next day was dedicated to Balboa Park. The possibilities of what to do here are endless and many days could easily be dedicated to exploring this stunning park. Today, however, we have opted to leave out the museums and stroll. Our first stop was, naturally, the Pepper Grove Playground. For a boy in love with machines, the playground was made magical by watching the planes come in for a landing at the nearby San Diego Airport as he played.
A quick stroll down the sidewalk brought us to the Rose and Desert Gardens and the Bea Evensong Fountain. Stroll down El Prado to the Botanical Gardens and Coy Pond (If you child is like mine hold their hand or you’ll be fishing for you child).
Continue your stroll to the Alcazar Garden. This is one of my all time favorite spots in the park and the place where Desmond discovered his new obsession, BELLS! We sat here for a long time lying to him about not being able to climb up the bell tower, which of course you can in fact climb the California Tower at The Museum of Man if you are up for it.
If you leave the Alcazar Garden from the back and cross over a small parking lot, you will find a small boardwalk that takes you past one of my favorite spots in Balboa Park. Technically part of Palm Canyon, the massive Moreton Bay Fig tree adjacent to the wooden steps is a fantastic hidden gem and a must see while you are in the park.
As you leave this path you’ll see in front of you the Spreckels Organ Pavilion where we were able to sit for a bit and listen to the organist play.
It was time to say goodbye to all of our old friends and head back up the coast for a day in Los Angeles. Desmond requested to see the Hollywood sign so we headed up to the Griffith Observatory to get a great view of the iconic sign. If you do one thing in Los Angeles this is what I would recommend.
The view by itself is breathtaking and most of the observatory is free as is parking if you can find it. Catch one of the fantastic shows at the Samuel Oschin Planetarium complete with a live narrator and wonderful reclining seats. Note: children under age 5 will only be admitted to the first show of the day, must sit on the lap of a parent, and are warned that the shows may be disorienting for them. Use your best judgment on whether your child is ready or not for the experience.
As our 4th Birthday Adventure was coming to an end Desmond spotted his favorite celebrity hanging out in the airport.
The drive up the West coast is a must for anyone and a true joy with children. Hope you enjoy your drive and give me a call to get you on the road.
Must run for now. Talk soon!
This month my featured partner is none other than The Resort at Paws Up! This iconic resort, situated on a sprawling 37,000 acre authentic working cattle ranch in western Montana, is a dream for all but especially for families and multigenerational groups.
Families come together to experience the unspoiled wilderness in a luxurious way at Paws Up. You can choose an expansive private home or a sophisticated safari-style luxury tent - all with an unfiltered connection to the natural beauty of Montana in a landscape of impeccable rustic elegance and comfort.
These are no ordinary glamping sites. Each campsite is composed of 6 different tents ranging from 1-3 bedrooms each making them the perfect location for family reunions. Each site has a dining pavilion where you have a 24 hour camp butler and chef to prepare all meals. All sites are located around the Blackfoot River.
It’s amazing how the wilderness will actually bring your family closer together. The family-owned Resort at Paws Up is a Montana family vacation resort where you and your kids will get reacquainted, reconnected and revitalized. Accommodating families of all sizes, Paws Up offers everything from Montana horseback riding, Montana fly-fishing, river rafting and rappelling to paintball, the Kids Corps of Discovery and chuck wagon dinners. Adventure enthusiasts can rejoice in 100 miles of trails, 10 miles of the Blackfoot River and 1.5 million acres of the nearby Bob Marshall Wilderness Area combine to make for the ultimate outdoor playground for adults and kids alike.
The Resort at Paws Up features a pristine Rocky Mountain environment most kids will only see on TV. Supervised, age-appropriate activities include everything from hiking and horseback riding to fishing and mountain biking, as well as nature education, wildlife appreciation and wrangler activities.
The Kids Corps of Discovery is an immersion program that replaces screen time with serene time and idle time with the time of your child’s life. Age-appropriate itineraries are available for toddlers, teens and in-betweens. The Little Discoverers (ages 3–5) will engage in everything from exploring an old ghost town to pony rides and an Old West treasure hunt. Adventure Club (ages 6–12) participants will race go-karts, do cannonballs off a rope swing at the lake, shoot arrows and mine for sapphires. They’ll all eat delicious and healthy meals and make a ton of new friends. And they’ll do things they never thought they could. The Kids Corps of Discovery gives young people the chance to explore the wonders of Montana and discover themselves at the same time.
Give me a call and we'll plan the family trip you'll always remember to The Resort at Paws Up.
Must dash. Talk soon!
Planning a Family Vacation: 3 Ways to Go from Rough Waters to Smooth Sailing when Planning Your Multigenerational Family Vacation.
Here you are again (the coolest and most organized member of your family) struggling to keep your sanity as you plan the next family vacation (a task made exponentially more daunting now that Grandma and Grandpa asked to join), and you have no idea where to begin. For the past 10 years this has been me (even before I officially became a Travel Advisor) and I am well aware of how easy planning can become overwhelming spending countless hours going in circles attempting to fulfill every single person’s every single dream. I am currently enrolled in the Engagement and Nurture Marketing Strategies course at Northwestern where I will be using my newly acquired knowledge to help you with this problem by boiling it down to your 3 top priorities to when planning your next Multigenerational Family Vacation.
In Virtuoso’s article, Multigenerational Travel Made Easy: How to Have a Great Trip, seasoned luxury travel advisor Betsy Goldberg advises her clients on how to plan their next family vacation. Goldberg reminds readers to look for a destination appealing on two fronts. The destination must have a good mix of activities and be scenically beautiful. Scenically beautiful is especially important for families traveling with older members of their family. She reminds clients that travelers don’t want to sit still anymore. The want to “experience a destination.” They want everything they’re doing to be interesting and enjoyable for everyone. Goldberg suggests itineraries that include learning a language together or learning to cook a local meal together. Look for opportunities for “genuine connection to the destination.” When planning these activities make sure you find out from each family member what their must haves are and what activities can slide.
In Wall Street Journal’s article, The Multigenerational Family Vacation, Sara Clemence @SaraClemence, discusses the rise of multigenerational vacations. With the rise of a more fit and intrepid set of grandparent baby boomers, many are now beginning to vacation with their extended families. Families are embarking on more adventurous and culturally inclined escapes. Clemence suggests considering the age, interests, and limitations of each family member traveling. Remember, Grandparents want to participate in the vacation not simply sit around babysitting while the younger adults vacation. Pick a location where the kids can be active and the older travelers comfortable like a cruise. When deciding your budget remember a high price tag is not so high when split 15 ways, just make sure there is a democratic assignment of bedrooms if all parties are splitting equally.
The list to plan your perfect family vacation can go on and on but here are the top 3 things to remember when planning your multigenerational vacation.
1. MIX IT UP!
Consider travelers ages, interests, and limitations with a mixture of planned culturally enriching activities AND free time.
2. Who’s Paying?
Avoid unpleasantries and possibly ruining your vacation by NEVER assuming. Plan in advance who is paying for what.
3. Plan the Meals!
Consider officially gathering for only 1 planned meal a day with a “team” in charge for each night of the trip.
Now you’re ready to begin! Create your group email and let the debate between Italy or Alaska begin.
Must dash. Talk soon!
One of the favorite pastimes of the adventurous souls is the classic road trip. Ever since I’ve been allowed to drive I have loved to pack a bag, jump in the car, and see where the road takes me. These days it is not quite as simple. With the addition of my son I would quickly be turning the car around if I put as little preparation into my trips as I used to. Luckily with the proper planning and preparation, road trips can still be fun and are sure to still be an adventure.
For the past several years I’ve been training my son in the art of the road trip, slowly building his tolerance for longer drives and painstakingly learning the tricks of the trade for a successful road trip with kids. In addition to the basics of a smooth road trip, there are a few more things to consider when bringing the young ‘uns along for the ride.
In the Travel Channel’s blog titled Family Road Trip Survival Guide, Travel writer/blogger Erin Gifford @Kidventurous offers a survival guide to creating a successful road trip with the family. Gifford believes one of the top benchmarks of a road trip will be snacks. Providing snacks will keep the kids occupied in additional to simply feeding them. She advises readers to remember that the type of snacks are just as important as the snacks themselves. Don’t fill your kids up on sugary snacks that make them want to bounce off the walls of the car and torment their siblings. With nowhere to separate or escape this could be a recipe for disaster. Gifford also suggests packing each child their own backpack full of activities and snacks that each child will be responsible for. Leave some space for collecting memories along the way.
In Road Trip America’s blog titled Tips for a Great Family Road Trip, Mark Sedenquist @RoadTripAmerica offers his top tips for creating memories to last a life time on the road. While Sedenquist on the importance of snacks he adds to the entertainment category with the recommendation to bush up on the history and geology of the area you will be driving through. Sure your kids might groan and appear to not be listening, but they are actually absorbing the information creating a more enriching experience than simply plopping an iPad in front of them. You may even be surprised by the development of an actual discussion. For the older kids, and even scaled back for the younger ones, Sedenquist recommends holding a family planning session. Discuss the route you will be taking with visual aids and even let the kids help plan a day’s itinerary if they are capable of doing so.
You’re sure to discover a myriad of obstacles along the way, here are the top three things to remember to have fun while discovering the open road with your children.
EAT - Planning and preparing an abundance of snacking options and places to stop and dine in is a must if you want to avoid bad attitudes.
ENTERTAIN - Remembering to bring a variety of activities to mix up the drive time will save your sanity. Make sure the gadgets are fully charged and don’t underestimate your ability to entertain with your wits.
ENCOMPASS - Include your children in the process. Having a responsibility is not only a distraction, it gives your children a sense of purpose and a chance to learn.
Remember there will always be bumps in the road of a road trip just as there is in the road of life. Spending this time with your family and teaching your children through first hand experience will bring everyone memories and lessons to last a lifetime.
Time to hit the road. Talk soon!
HOLLY MANN: As an Independent Contractor of Vista Travel Consultants, Inc. a member of the Virtuoso Network, my access to the highest quality of vetted global travel partners allows me to create rich, culturally immersive, and liberating travel experiences.