Pacific Coast Highway Family Roadtrip

This post is a little overdue (for good reason) but even though our trip ended the way it did, I still wanted to share about traveling the Pacific Coast Highway!!! Trying not to let one thing that happened taint the entire experience (though it is a little hard since I still don’t have my vehicle back, ouch!) Anyways, let’s start at the beginning instead of the end. We wanted to put our 4 day weekend to good use, so we decided to plan a trip up the PCH! It is iconic and classic California, something we never did when we lived here for 5 years the last time. I got to planning and this was our itinerary.

Day One: Leave San Diego bright and early, and I do mean early, around 5 am to be exact!

We skipped the PCH between San Diego and Anaheim because we’ve driven that portion often. We left so early so that we could attend rope drop at Disneyland (it is what they call it when they open the park) sadly, we missed it by about 10 minutes, because we had our dog with us on the road trip, some aspects took longer than normal.

Day One: We enjoyed Disneyland for 4-5 hours and headed out for the open road around noon, we spent the day driving up PCH through Long Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu, and eventually landed in Santa Barbara.

The drive was pretty, but not quite scenic at this point. You’d be amazed at how much farmland there is in SoCal! I know I was. Santa Barbara is beautiful! The coastline is stunning, State Street has a great vibe with a lot of restaurants and shops. Highly recommend this as a stop! (My husband is in the military, and we opted to stay on a military base to save costs! The trip was last minute so this was an easy way to make it happen!!)

We ate at Finney’s on State Street, it was DELISH. Ohhhhkay, I ordered the Chicken and Waffles and it was delightful. Overall our experience was great, albeit the fact that we had our 3 kids and a large dog with us, not everyone appreciated that.. which in turn made us feel uncomfortable. It is advertised as kid-friendly and dog-friendly on Yelp and I found that the actual restaurant staff was amazing! The other patrons, not so much. I’d go back for sure and recommend trying it if you’re in the area.

Afterward, we wandered over to McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream and henceforth created a new obsessed, Double Peanut Butter Chip was divine.. like so so good. Thankfully (or not depending on how you look at it LOL) they sell McConnell’s at almost every grocery store here in San Diego!

Day Two: After spending the night in our hotel, we left around 7 am to make the drive the rest of the way up the coast to Big Sur and San Francisco.

For breakfast, we stopped at Beach House Tacos in Ventura for breakfast burritos. They were great + cheap mimosas! It was a super chill spot, though the flies were rampant. It was dog-friendly! We stopped along the way every time we saw something interesting, there was plenty to look at, and it was truly beautiful! This portion of the drive was my favorite!! Gorgeous cliffs, waterfalls, unimaginable rolling lush hills, it was breathtaking. McWay Falls was probably the best, albeit a very short/simple stop. The trail was not dog-friendly so we weren’t able to hike closer like we had planned. When we arrived in San Francisco, we grabbed Pizzeria Delfina for dinner and it was GOOD. We love pizza in this house!

Day Two and Three: We arrived to our hotel in San Francisco, with plans to spend the entire next day exploring!

I shared on Instagram that the first place we visited in the morning was a local, very hipster, coffee and toast shop called The Mill. It had a rad vibe and the toast was really good, $5 per slice good? I think so. I mean the nostalgia of cinnamon sugar toast is strong, though the pesto cream cheese might have been my favorite!!

*insert dramatic pause*

It was at this point, walking back to our car that we discovered that our vehicle had been vandalized and my camera equipment stolen. Ughhhh, I won’t even bother to write about it here because as of today, 2 weeks later, we have gotten no further in this and have no current resolution. We’ve been down to one car and I’ve been stressed to the max about getting my camera equipment replaced, but alas, I’m believing that it will work out, and hopefully soon!!

*back to our travels*

We tried to make the best of our full day in San Fran, no windows and all, and drove around to see the sights. I couldn’t quite muster up the energy to partake but we had fun sightseeing, we saw the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, the gorgeous pastel houses, and a lot more.

Day Four: The next morning we drove straight back to San Diego!

That was how we spent our 4 days! On the last day, we would’ve taken the PCH again but we were honestly feeling defeated, and with no windows, it was a long and uncomfortable ride home. (No repair shops were open because it was Sunday, then a holiday, and the glass place didn’t carry the type of glass our vehicle has.) If I were to do it over again, I would’ve only gone as far as Monterey, or maybe I would still have gone to San Fran but not parked my fancy car downtown.. I’m not sure because my view of the area is definitely skewed. I’m sad that I only have cell phone photos to share but am also grateful that I have those at least! The kids enjoyed the road trip and we did it SCREEN-FREE, I know it sounds crazy but we wanted them to actually enjoy the views as well! Lots of music, car games, and other silliness was had.

Tips For Families Making The PCH Trip:

1. If you want to camp, you have to plan well in advance, that is why we chose hotels. Camping would be so fun for the adventurous family!
2. Go screen-free, it was worth it! I recommend travel games for the car, creating your playlist before you leave, and just encouraging/talking up the sights you’ll see!
3. For the love of all things, do not leave anything valuable in your car, ever, even if you’re hopping out for 5 minutes, just don’t do it!
4. I would recommend the same overnight stops that we made, the drive didn’t feel too long or unbearable, certainly, it was interesting!
5. Once you get between Santa Barbara and Monterey, there are less towns, less gas stations, etc. so make appropriate stops when you need to! I wish we had stopped in Monterey, I’d add that to your list for sure! At one point, the kids had to go to the bathroom so bad, we used a porta potty on the side of the road, it was actually super clean LOL

If you’re wondering why there aren’t pictures of the kids, it is because I took them with my camera, not my cell phone, and it was stolen out of our car, womp womp. I’m thankful for these photos but I spent more than a week agonizing over the ones that were taken. Overall, it was a great trip and I would recommend it at least once!

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We LOVE this lap organizer for Hunter, he plays with his gears, colors, and it keeps it all where he can reach it! Instead of the 10,000 times asking to unbuckle to grab something (if you have a toddler or little kid, you know this struggle!) which is not only unsafe (a given!) but frustrating for him! Also, I was hesitant to buy Native shoes at first (no thank you croc look alike) but guys they are SO kid-friendly, I * think * they are cute, and you can rinse them off in the sink, win-win-win. They are our go-to travel shoes for him!

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