parenting travel

Road Trip to Monterey

With a handful of vacation days to use, we wanted to take a short, local family vacation. After evaluating the options, we decided to make the short drive down to Monterey to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium and see the beach.

We haven’t had many family vacations. In fact, we have only done overnights away from home twice, and one of those was still in-town. Although we took some good steps to prepare, we also learned a few more things from the trip.

The practice trip

Before spending a day at the aquarium, we took a few warmups. First, we went to a local children’s museum. Then, the weekend before going to Monterey, we drove up to the California Academy of Sciences in SF.

First, it got my daughter used to seeing the animals and exploring museums. Especially since we don’t have pets, we mostly only see animals at a distance when birdwatching or hiking. It also helped her to develop her interests and for us to observe them.

Second, we were able to play around with our routines and schedules to see what worked. We know typical snack, meal, and nap times around home, but those don’t line up as well on the road and trying to maximize museum time. Based on the Cal Academy trip, we probably got about 1 1/2 hours more than usual while still staying within limits.

A Monterey itinerary

We originally planned to spend four days and three nights in Monterey. However, we ended up spending only three days and two nights there, and I think we probably could have done it in two days. Here’s how I would have planned the final itinerary

Day 1 (Sunday)

Day 2 (Monday)

  • Arrive at the Aquarium in the morning
    • Go to various feedings
  • Lunch at the museum cafe (or Cannery Row)
  • Aquarium until nap
  • After nap, go back to the Aquarium until closing
    • Or repeat any other favorites above
  • Go to downtown Monterey (or Fishermans Wharf) for dinner
  • Drive home

Road trips growing up

I have heard it said that when we grow up, people realize that they have turned into their parents.

This trip really made me feel like my parents.

I, of course, don’t remember much about my early childhood. As such, many elements of how I play, feed, talk to, and generally interact with my daughter are still new. But I remember the road trips.

Growing up, my family drove all across the US to see big cities, national parks, theme parks, and lots and lots of hotels. We packed up the car for all sorts of contingencies. We stayed in hotels and motels. We ate cereal from plastic containers and drank orange juice from a machine. We watched tons and tons of ESPN in the morning and evening.

Although Julie and I traveled before having children, we didn’t travel much like that. Most of our travel was by air, and really the only place we drove was LA, which we typically had other accommodations for. Excepting the days of driving, this trip really combined all of the other parts of my childhood family road trips, and we planned it according to what we knew from our parents.

I won’t say that the motel bathroom or the spongy eggs for breakfast was luxury travel. We definitely could have packed differently for the trip. But it was pretty much what I remembered, and I enjoyed that.

Road trips now

What’s new? Mobile devices.

My parents went to AAA to get physical maps, and they had guide books to pick out attractions. We also had to pay attention to road signs and hope to find appropriate rest stops. Today, I can do all of that from my phone.

For my daughter, we now have tablets for watching TV in the car.

I found riding in the car on road trips to be incredibly boring. I didn’t have a Game Boy, so it also led to all sorts of creative ways to kill time. I also read books I would never have had the will to complete otherwise. I wonder if my children will ever get so bored.

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