In search of winter rays, and fun for all the family, fashion PR Kara Goodley and her husband Ed headed to the Golden State with their three not-so-little angels
Having been there ourselves a number of times,we had always fancied the idea of taking our three kids to Los Angeles for a holiday, but were worried about the timing, both in terms of the flight time (11 hours) but also the age of my kids: five, eight and 11. I didn’t want my eldest, Isabella, to be over Disneyland which, let’s be honest, is one of the main reasons anyone goes to LA. But the city has so much more to offer a family with kids of all ages, as we discovered late last year.
The flight was surprisingly successful. I am not the best flyer and the thought of an 11-hour trip, with or without the kids, was horrifying to me. But, in a way, when it’s that long you just relax and get on with it – especially when your children are a bit older. I tried to make them aware of how long it would be the week before by starting one school drop-off saying we are just getting on the plane, picking them up saying we would still be on the plane, then at teatime saying, yep, we would still be on the plane. I think it helped the penny drop.
We flew with BA in Premium Class on one of the new, enormous A380 double deckers which was great: really spacious with a large TV screen and yummy food. My top tip is to always order the kids’ meals in advance and make sure you get to the tuck box for treats as early as possible.
If you’re planning a family trip I would recommend renting a house. Hotel rooms across the US tend to be small and don’t work well when you’re with little ones. There are several reputable house agencies in LA. We stayed in family-friendly Santa Monica where there are great restaurants and stores, not too much traffic (hiring a car is still essential though), the beach is a stone’s throw away and, most importantly, there is just so much space.
We also loved spending time in Malibu. The kids all wanted to learn to surf and some locals told us to go to Drill, a surf shop run by two incredible guys who taught them to handle a board. They loved it: they saw dolphins and seals swimming beside them and seeing nature that close was a huge thrill for them. The coastline here is beautiful with glorious sunsets and those iconic palm trees dotting the panorama.
And then, of course, there was Disneyland. My journalist friend had mentioned a couple called Disney Debbie and Duane. She told me to enlist their services and it’s true, they did make the whole experience incredible. Debbie used to work at Disneyland and now, with her trusty team, uses her magic to make your visit an absolute joy. You tell her your kids’ ages and she plans the day for you, from fast-tracking you onto the rides to taking all the photographs. We did the whole park in six hours without a tear being shed.
We then tackled Universal without Debbie. Even though it’s much smaller than Disneyland we bought a queue jumping pass. I would also suggest that you arrive at opening time for both parks as it’s really quiet first thing in the morning.
We also spent a day in central LA as I wanted the kids to see the Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood sign and the Walk of Fame but they couldn’t have cared less. Teens may appreciate central LA because they recognise it from films and TV, but for pre-teens and younger it’s all about the beach and the theme parks.
But this didn’t matter. The entire experience was fabulous and I didn’t even get onto the whale watching. When they’re a little bit older we’ll definitely go again. Maybe then they’ll appreciate the movie-making side of things too.