Looking for a quick getaway that’s close by the west coast but will leave you feeling as though you’ve left the mainland? Catalina Island may be the answer to your vacation search. Just a little over an hour from the mainland, and in the same timezone, you’ll feel you’ve traveled to a different time altogether.
I’ve lived in Southern California for over a decade. I’d heard all about Catalina Island. Or so I thought. I knew that there was a historic round building in the harbor at Avalon. I knew people got all misty and faraway looking when asked about the place. I knew that there was a herd of buffalo roaming about the island, few cars, and good snorkeling.
But this was all I knew. Many of my friends had not been there either. Even the ones that grew up in the area. So when I told them we were headed out to Catalina and planning on checking out the many tours available through the Catalina Island Company my friends’ ears all perked up. “Tell us what’s there!” they demanded. “Let us know if it’s family friendly!” And the #1 request, “Let me know if it’s worth the ferry ticket price?”
To be fair, this cost is probably what has deterred us the most over the years. At $50-70 per person, it’s not exactly cheap to get our family to Catalina. It’s actually strange that we (and so many others) see it as a stumbling block. Because we can see the island’s shadowy outline from shore, it looks close enough to touch. It’s so familiar that it seems silly to spend the money to stay so close to home. This thinking, however, is misguided. In fact it takes about an hour and a half to get there on a high speed boat – just a little longer than it takes to fly to Vegas or San Francisco. We’d fly to Vegas or San Francisco for a similar cost, or more, so why do we question ferry prices? After making the trip, I’m happy to pay the ferryman to take me back again. There is so much to do and see on Catalina that this fare is worth every penny.
What to See:
Avalon Harbor and City Center.
The Sea Life.
The Avalon Casino.
Where to Stay:
We checked out two hotels while on Catalina, both in Avalon and both run by the Catalina Island Company.
Where to Eat:
We ate really, really well on Catalina and were not particularly scandalized by the prices. Although we’d heard tales of food being more expensive on the island, it really was not much more than anything we have regularly encountered at restaurants in the OC. So much for the so called “barge charge”. Highlights of our eating included:
What to Do:
My #1 recommendation of what to do on Catalina? Chill. Head over to Descanso and do as the sign says, drink in your hand and feet in the sand. Go for a swim with your snorkel, and take you time on a leisurely walk back to town, stopping for ice cream. The beauty of Catalina is that even though it is a short ferry ride from the LA area, the pace is completely different. Away from the cars, the smog, the strip malls and the billboards, it really is possible to relax. Other family friendly activities include:
What to Pack for a Family Vacation to Catalina Island:
We recommend packing in rolling luggage and/or packing light for your trip to Catalina. You’ll be loading your luggage onto the boat and hauling it off, so don’t pack more than you can comfortably carry. The island is very casual, you won’t need fancy clothes. If you wish to bring your own bicycles to the island, add $7 to your ferry fare.
Want to know what’s going on in Avalon right now? Wish you were there? We do! Check out the island webcam.
Last weekend, Ford lent us a Flex for our 5-hour road trip from Los Angeles to Bass Lake near Yosemite National Park. We’d be “cabin camping,” which is one step below car camping in terms of roughing it: a bare-bones cabin was provided, so no need for a tent, and meals were served in the dining hall, so no need for the umpteen-million cooking and cleaning supplies. Still, with a lake in which to frolic and two little boys to outfit for the four-day trip, I knew we’d need some serious cargo room. The Flex proved itself worthy not only with its ample space, but also with many other perks.
My husband and I drive an Element and a Galant, respectively – enough for the daily lives of a family of four but a little close for comfort when jam-packed. When the Flex came to our house, we were taken aback. On my maiden voyage around town, I was a bit nervous because it was so big to me that it felt like I was driving a bus. It instantly occured to me that this vehicle would be perfect if my boys were teenagers involved in sports. With three rows of seats and a cargo space with a recessed floor, we could have teammates and hockey/football/golf/tennis equipment ride with us in comfort.
It was a good thing I used the Flex for a few days locally before we set out on our journey, because I was able to become comfortable driving a vehicle of such different dimensions from the one I am used to. My husband, who specializes in automotive design and has driven every car I can name off the top of my head, was less intimidated. The morning of our departure, he got down to business and took a bunch of pictures, in the gallery below.
Of course, Stewart’s main interest was fuel economy. On the electronic dashboard, the Flex told us that it gets 17 MPG. Stewart saw that and said “Oh yeah, we’ll see about that.” Our trip took us through city and mountain traffic, and during our stay in the Bass Lake area we wound up driving the kids around to help them fall asleep a couple of times – a ritual to which we don’t usually resort – so we did cover a variety of different road types.
The media center in the middle of the console was something new to me. Since our own cars are from 2004 and 2005, we are not accustomed to all this newfangled technology at our fingertips, and the whole family really enjoyed the touch-screen navigation system. Every time the lovely and firm female voice told us to turn or continue on a certain road, our 4 year-old would emphatically repeat the command. “In two tenths of a mile, turn left, Dad, okay?” Apparently the system could be voice-activated as well but we were too intimidated to try it. Plus, we had an old-school paper map with us too. We were covered.
Once we returned home we calculated the gas mileage: 20.1 MPG! Stewart noted that the Flex’s frontal area is lower, making it drive more like a car than a SUV, and “It seems to have less drag than say, an Expedition. The drag force is proportional to the frontal area, as well as the drag coefficient.” This is the kind of talk I listened to during the entire ride. Let’s just say he was impressed. Basically by lowering the frontal area of the Flex, Ford gets more bang for the buck.
What I loved best about the vehicle, as I mentioned above, was the room. One of the things I hate about having two four-seater cars is that when grandparents come to visit, there’s no room for them, and we have to take two cars for the whole family to go anywhere. Anywhere you live, that’s impractical. When we were up at Bass Lake, the first night we had to go off site for dinner, and with so much room in the Flex we were able to install a third car seat and our friend and her 4 year-old rode with us, eliminating the need for a caravan. That alone made me sad that I would have to give it back at the end of the trip.
The kids, well, at least the 4 year-old, got attached to the Flex, too. In between them was a 2nd-row refrigeration system. A refrigeration system! We kept drinks cold in there during the ride, and there is even an option for freezing items! When we returned home, I explained to Kyle that we had to give the car back to Ford. I said “It’s not our car, honey.” He nodded and said “It’s our camping car!”
Our Flex’s color was “Cinnamon,” and with all of the options included, the price tag it carried was $43,250, but bare bones price is $28,550.” I can only hope we get something as cool and useful to drive the next time we go camping.
The minute I saw Moeben Sleeves, I knew they were going to be coming with me on a lot of trips! This clever clothing product was developed by/for long distance runners, but works equally well for families on the go. Especially when travelling! Think legwarmers, but for your arms. With UV protection.
Moeben Sleeves are a great way to mix up your travel wardrobe without adding a lot of bulk or weight to your suitcase. Use these “arm warmers” to get a layered tee look without the layers, to go from day to night in your fave tee without a chill or to protect your arms from the harsh rays of the sun. They are great for adding a little warmth and fun to any outfit. I love the way these sleeves look and feel, in their high quality bamboo blend and fleece fabrics. I also love the little pocket that is perfect for keys, ipod, cash card or $.
Moeben sleeves are great for kids as well. We keep some in the diaper bag, handy for when the sun goes down and the temps shift a few degrees. Much easier to pack than three extra sweaters! Check out the Moeben Sleeves palette of cool prints!
In a little under two weeks time, I will be leaving on a roadtrip with my husband, four children, and all of you! We’ll be blogging and vlogging from the road, reviewing travel gear and kids’ products, as well as ideas for family travel. I can’t wait to go, and hope we’ll all have a great time. As we prepare, I could a little help from you. We’d love to hear
1. What products/services you’d like to see road tested, or would like to recommend
2. Your best travel tips for travel with kids aged 5 months to 11 yrs
3. Must see attractions between Southern California and Pacific City, Oregon
Leave us a comment below. If we use your suggestions, we’ll be sure to credit you!
They are certainly inspirational enough to plan a whole trip around. Salt air, flip flops, sand between your toes… these are the images and emotions the beachy line conjures. The luggage is not inexpensive but is the high quality sort that is meant to last you decades and become family heirlooms. And the good news (for us family types) is that their laminated fabrics ensure they are durable enough to withstand the spills and thrills of travel en famille.
After much online success the company has opened a flagship store at 409 31st street in Newport Beach, CA. If you are in the area, peruse their entire line at the store, as well as home goods that will make you feel as if you are on perpetual beach vacay. They have an awesome line of mirrors, table goods and pillows and will be selling their signature laminated fabrics from the shop as well.
Armchair travellers, shop for Halsea online.