I LOVE to travel. To see the world. To try new food. To meet new people. To experience new things.
So how is it possible to dislike the actual travelling?!
Whether it be planes, trains or automobiles, I am a nervous traveller. There are steps I need to take to help make venturing a positive experience.
In seven days I will be driving to Disneyland Paris with two friends. It will be the first time long distance driving without my husband. Eek.
Here is what I am doing to prepare for this!
Clean the Car!I find that when the car is clean, tidy and smelling fresh I can concentrate a lot better. It makes for a pleasant journey!
Car checks! Checking the oil, screen wash, lights sets my mind at ease. Less to worry about.
Update the Satnav! We have a sat nav that covers the UK and Europe which is great, but road layouts can and do change. Our Garmin sat nav has free lifetime updates, which is handy.
Download offline maps! This is an extra safety net In case the sat nav goes AWOL!
Check the road rules for different countries! For obvious reasons this is important and helps to settle nerves because I know where I stand with different things.
Snacks! I need to eat regularly otherwise I’m a bit of a nightmare. I suffer from being hangry. I will pack enough snacks for an army, because I think you can never have too many! I am choosing a mixture of healthy and ‘naughty’ snacks that are easy to eat whilst driving. You won’t catch me peeling an orange at the wheel!
Music! Different play lists for an mood!
Seven day countdown is on!
Are you a nervous traveller? What do you do to prepare for journeys, long or short?
Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system! As you may be able to guess, we are massive Harry Potter fans! BUT, we are also massive Disney fans. This left us with a difficult choice to make when we were in the planning stages of our Californian roadtrip. We were only visiting for seven nights and we also had to keep a reasonable budget. We had not long come back from Walt Disney World a few months before, so we (eventually) decided upon Universal studios.
We didn’t have in mind which rides or what things we wanted to experience, so we just turned up and got stuck in.
Hogwarts Castle is just incredible. In fact, the theming in this area of Universal Studios is perfect. The attention to detail is mind blowing! It really is an immersive experience. It transports you from California to Hogsmead and Diagon Alley!
Plannning on spending their gallions…
When we were here, in late October the queue lines were thankfully short. The maximum time we waited for a ride was ten minutes! This allowed us to do more in a shorter space of time, which was unexpected. We enjoyed The Flight of the Hippogriff three times in a row, without having to get off and re join the line (because there wasn’t one!). Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was also just walk on, so we went on that a couple of times. You have to be slightly taller for this ride so we used the parent switch, which is available for some of the rides.
We couldnt leave Hogsmede without stopping off for a delicious frozen Buterbeer. It is the best thing ever! Cools you down, tastes great and you can pretend to be a wizard…
The park is naturally split into two different areas, the upper and lower lot, because Universal Studios Hollowood is situated on a hill – a very big hill. They are connected by escalators, called the Starway. You wouldn’t want to walk it!
Down to the lower lot, we experienced the parks most iconic and unique attraction, the Studio Tour. This takes you behind the scenes, to Universal Studios back lot, which homes sets and backdrops used in lots of their films. It is a working studio, so each experience may be different, depending on what is being filmed on the day. When we did this a lot of the sets and back drops were set up for halloween. During the tour you also experience King Kong: 360 3D and Fast and Furious: Supercharged, which are both 3D experiences.
We stayed on the lower lot to do the rest of the rides including Transformers, Curse Of The Mummy and Jurrasic world. There are good charachter meets for transformers and Jurrasic park outside the rides.
Whilst we were visiting, the park was closing early for Halloween Horror Nights. This suited us, because we were all tired from travelling.
We decided to eat out of the park, so we took a walk through Citywalk to find some dinner. We decided on Hard Rock Cafe, which is normally a bulletproof option.
One of the perks of visiting a theme park with children is the excuse to go on things that you may class as ‘kids rides’. We personally have no shame and will ride things with or without our kids! Universal Studios has lots of things for children of all ages to do. Super Silly Fun Land is, well, exactly that! Its theming is all things Minion! It will certainly catch your eye, with its colourful attractions and catchy music playing in the background. Most childrens dreams or most hungover adults nightmares could be realised here! Our favourite part of Super Silly Fun Land was the wet play area inspired by the carnival scene in Despicable Me. Being from the sometimes (mostly) chilly UK this was the perfect way to let the children cool off! This area comes with a changing area and lockers, because swim wear is a must.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is just across the way from here, which fits in nicely with the themimg. Side note- if you get motion sickness remember to take your anti sickness before attempting this ride!
Another great area for children is the Simpsons area. The Simpsons ride is a 3D adventure, where you are taken along for the Simpson family day, out at the fair. If you have ever watched the Simpsons you will know that this will not be a straight forward trip! The minimum height for this attraction is 40″, but our five year old measured up ok!
Across the two days, we had lots of character interactions, which is always great for a photo opportunity!
During our two day visit we went to see the WaterWorld show. It was brilliant! It had explosions, jet skis, fighting and a (*SPOILER*) epic plane crash! This is something you just have to see if you visit Universal Studios Hollywood. we didnt get many pictures because our eyes were firmly glued on the action!
All in all we had a great couple of days here.We could have rushed it all in one day because of the small crowds and short queue lines, but were able to take our time.
If you get the chance to visit it is definately worth a day trip.
As part of our seven day mini California adventure, we chose to visit San Deigo Zoo. We had done a bit of research on the zoo but didnt realise quite how big the zoo was.
To start the day, we took the Kangaroo bus around the park to get our bearings. The bus loops the park and stops at several points to let you hop on and off through the day.
We did a full lap of the zoo, on the bus and then started off on foot. They have an amazing variety of animals, some of which, like the pandas and koalas, we have never seen before. The koalas were so cute, and with up to twenty two hours of sleep a day, they seem to have life sorted.
We first headed to Panda Canyon. This seems to be one of the zoo’s main attractions and was very busy. The Pandas seemed very relaxed and there was lots of information about the various bears we saw along the way.
As we were still way off with the eight hour time difference, we decided to get an early lunch at the Hua Mei Cafe, next to Panda Canyon. They serve pretty good food, such as peppered beef teriyaki and orange chicken.
Once we were revitalised we worked our way towards the back of the park through the African Rocks and Elephant Odyssey. The zoo areas are very well themed to the animals and their natural habitats
To get back to the front of the park, we took the Skyfari aerial tram. The zoo is situated in a canyon so this gave us a great view and a rest from walking for a while.
As it was so hot, we treated ourselves to ice cream and drinks. We had purchased the refillable drinks cup at the start of the day, which definately saved us a lot of money. You can fill it at any of the restaurants or food stands around the park.
Next stop was the childrens zoo with a play area and petting paddock. We spent quite a while in this area, as the kids didnt want to leave the play park. All parents bear the scars from having to drag their kids off of play equipment!
To end the day we went through the reptile house and reptile walk. These creatures are always on our ‘to visit’ list because Emily loves anything slimy and scaley!
San diego Zoo has so much to offer. It is a great day out and deserves its reputation as one of the best zoos in the world. There is plenty more zoo left for us to explore and we will be back to enjoy it again in the future.
What a place to start our first California adventure! We stayed at a basic hotel in Newport Beach, as we were only staying here for one night. After breakfast we drove and parked on Balboa Island. It’s a picturesque place and as it was coming up to Halloween, we spent some time looking at some of the fabulously decorated houses. We even made a new furry friend!
We took the ferry across to the peninsula. The kids loved watching people fishing off of the Balboa Pier. We stopped at Ruby’s Diner on the pier to get a quick lunch. I had the cinnamon bun French toast which was absolutely amazing and big enough to share!
After lunch, we took the ferry back to Balboa Island for a whale watching tour with East Meets West Excursions. We chose a smaller boat tour in the hope of getting a more personal experience. We met Captain Nick and headed out to sea. Luckily, we had the boat to ourselves.
Once we cleared the harbour it was full throttle out to sea! It was a fast and fun ride. We spent the first half an hour looking for wildlife and we wondered whether we would have a hard time spotting anything that day. Nick was on the radio to other captains and there was a sighting of a large pod of dolphins nearby. We were off again racing across the waves to catch up to the dolphins.
Nick got us in position ahead of the dolphins to let them catch up to us. We were soon amongst hundreds of common dolphins passing us and playing around us on all sides. Captain Nick invited us to sit up on the front of the boat whilst we moved forward with the dolphins.
There were dolphins everywhere, as far as the eye could see. We were now amongst a mega pod, of more than five hundred dolphins and some yellow fin tuna too.
We spent around fifteen minutes with the dolphins before it was time to head back to shore and we made one last stop on the way back into the harbour to see the sea lions, taking a break in the sun.
We had an amazing time out on the boat with Captain Nick, who is an amazing guide. He was great with the kids and very passionate about our experience. Balboa has so much to offer. We will definitely be back!
‘The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.’