On the Cars ride at Disney California Adventure

Two weeks ago I hopped on a plane to San Francisco to meet up with my cousin and her family for what would be my first ever big family vacation. I wrote a bit about it already. We started in San Francisco, went up to Tamales Bay, did the SF tourist stuff, then drove down Route 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) to LA. Truth be told, we gave up on Route 1 about 6 hours in somewhere around San Luis Obispo and cut over to the 101 for the remainder of the drive. We hit up Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Hollywood Blvd, and Newport Beach, before hopping back on the road to Las Vegas where we spent most of our time swimming, sleeping, seeing lots of shows including Britney Spears and both Michael Jackson ONE and The Beatles LOVE from Cirque du Soleil, and eating way too many buffets.

Now that I’m back, and recovered, I thought I’d share a few things I learned. Survival tips for the future:

Big Groups Move Slowly

Getting up and out the door every morning was an adventure. 6 people (2 rooms) awake, showered, dressed, primped, etc. takes a fair bit of time. In fact, doing everything took a little bit longer. Ordering food, photo stops, walking down the block. It took a lot of getting used to. About halfway through the trip, once I realized that it was going to be the norm, I learned to just roll with it and sleep in, but in the beginning I was up and ready hours before the rest of the group. On the plus side, I also got to cram in a few hours of work every morning which is awesome as a newly established freelancer!

Vacations Are For Relaxing

I’ve never, as an adult, gone on “vacation.” Every time I go somewhere, I go with a purpose - to explore the place, to experience the culture, to meet people, or sometimes just to work. This time, though, there were whole days dedicated to doing absolutely nothing. It was so weird. It took me a while to be able to relax, but once I did, I appreciated the downtime! I don’t know that I could do it for more than a few days, but a nice break here and there is something I might try to do more often!

Pack Snacks

My cousin’s family and I are essentially polar opposites when it comes to eating habits. I’m more fresh fruit and local restaurants, they’re more Panda Express and Starbucks. Not only do I really not enjoy chain restaurants, but my stomach also takes offense because I’m not really used to eating that kind of stuff. Really not pleasant on hours-long car trips through the desert. Luckily, I kind of anticipated this and squirreled away protein bars and raw nuts before I left home. I also made sure we screeched off the road when we passed a massive farm stand. I ate a lot of strawberries straight from the field. Happy camper indeed.

Just Go With It

@ Ghirardelli Square. They accidentally made me TWO strawberry sundaes!

Traveling with a new group of people is always an adjustment. Different styles, different preferences, different needs, different personalities, different moods. Adopt a zen attitude and just go with the flow. Keep positive, don’t get frustrated when things go differently from how you’d plan or execute them, and appreciate and learn from the differences. I got to do a lot of things I wouldn’t have done had I planned the trip on my own for my own tastes, so just like traveling somewhere foreign to you, traveling with new people (even if they are your family) can also push you out of your comfort zone. Embrace it - who knows, you might really enjoy it!

We went to some crazy gluttonous restaurants/dessert shops, went go-karting, my cousins even did the free fall from the top of the Stratosphere. I considered it, but I’d much rather put that same money into my next trip than a 5 second drop that no one seemed to get a super thrill from. Maybe next time.


I managed to get some sort of stomach bug on my redeye flight home and spent most of my first flight with my face in the barf bag (TMI?). My layover was spent between being curled up in a ball on the floor of the gate and running to the bathroom if I thought I was going to have another…episode. Most of the second flight was just trying to sleep and hoping I’d be able to make it through the flight in one piece. I almost considered staying in Charlotte for the night til it passed. It was seriously traumatizing as I’m not a sickly person, especially when it comes to flying. Luckily, I’d planned to go to my mom’s house after flying into NJ, so she picked me up and I spent the next 2 days in bed with the chills and didn’t eat another bit of solid food for 2 or 3 more days after that.

So did I survive my first big family vacation? Technically. But next time I’m definitely shooting for a quiet flight home!