Sunday, July 20, 2008


We went on vacation. We hadn’t had one since before we started the house building and with the boys, or should I say young men, being 15 and nearly 19, our time for family vacations is dwindling. Parenting is full of those bittersweet goodbyes as one stage passes but another one begins.

We let the boys choose the destination and they chose LA!!! What??? After all those years of camping and hiking and campfires and nature they choose a densely populated urban area where all you do is drive! I put on a happy face and we began planning. If this is the apex of their teenage rebellion we can live with it.

Let the planning begin. I set some limits on how many things we could realistically do within our budget and the amount of driving we were willing to do and they then made a list of choices. We then whittled that down and came up with a general idea of the trip.

The list:

Pacific Ocean (seems a no-brainer but we’ve been to SoCal several times and not gone to a beach)

Pacific Coast Highway

Santa Barbara

Aquarium of the Pacific

Downtown Los Angeles (?!?)

Universal Studios

I then entered my bargain-hunter mode. The planning started in February when gas prices were still less than $3.50 but we knew they would rise and we were planning our trip for over Memorial Day, when gas prices traditionally rise to their summer high point. That weighed into our decision of mode of travel. Also, it’s an 8 hour driving trip (at least) across the desert which eats into actual vacation time. I didn’t firm up our dates because I wanted to take advantage of the least expensive days to fly. I started watching Southwest fares and jumped on one that was $49.00 each way. $540 for the 4 of us to fly. It is approximately 850 miles Tucson to LA-that’s about $400 in gas for the trip, not to mention the wear and tear. We did rent a car in LA but more about that later.

As we were spending a week there, I wanted to find a cottage or an apartment to rent. Living in a motel is OK for a night or two but a week with 4 people! No way! An apartment allows you to prepare your own meals, a definite cost savings. Early risers (me) can get up in the morning and have some alone time without disturbing the rest of the group. I quickly narrowed down the general area we wanted to stay to Venice Beach or Santa Monica and then turned to the online vacation rental sites and read and read. We finally decided on this cottage found on It was small, clean, affordable and a 10-minute walk to the beach. And who knew (probably everyone but me) that Santa Monica was packed with cute little bungalows and mid-century moderns. I was in house addict heaven just walking the neighborhood. Around each corner was another “Ohh, that is co cool!” moment. My brain would then flip into fixer-upper mode but you might have heard about house prices in California. $7-800 per square foot for a tear-down! It was fun to look.

Next I researched bargains for attractions. We were going to Universal Studios and the Aquarium, and you can get a discount by buying tickets online.

Now about that rental car, we didn’t really need it, aside from the day we drove to Santa Barbara.
In hindsight I should have researched public transportation in the area and only rented a car for that one day. Again, who knew there was such a good public transportation system? We hear so much about the southern California car culture that I didn’t even think about public transportation; I’m here to tell you it’s alive and well in the LA Metro area. We rode both the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and the LA Metro and were pleasantly surprised with both. We could have also used the train but it just didn’t work out. Santa Monica is a truly walkable community. From where we stayed it was easy to walk to Albertson’s (grocery), restaurants, parks, the beach, shopping on Main St, movie theatres, the farmer’s market, the library and probably more that I’m not aware of. And Venice is just a bike ride away. We could have stayed in Santa Monica and not even been aware of the rest of the LA area. But we would have missed so much-but let's leave that for another post.

1 comment:

Simmons B. Buntin said...

Sounds like a great trip, and I'm glad to hear that the Santa Monica bungalow worked out for you. That's a great idea!