Road Trip 2015: Chapter 6

San Diego Safari Park

San Diego Safari Park ~ the sparring elephants were quite entertaining!

Day 12

We purchased discounted tickets online for both the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park. They are affiliated and there is a reduced cost when you purchase tickets for both parks. (They are located about 40 minutes apart.) Tim and I had visited both parks back in 1996 when we travelled to California. We enjoyed both, but especially loved the Safari Park. It has changed a lot over the years and actually there has been so much added on that it didn’t even seem familiar. The animals were active and we especially enjoyed watching the elephants “spar”. Although my memory is not the best, I really don’t remember there being so many “á la carte” options. It was a bit annoying to be honest. They have jungle climbing ropes, a caravan safari ride, a zip-line, a hot air balloon type ride, a biking tour (and more), but all at significant additional costs (Eg. zip-line for $35).  General admission is $48, but everything other than the African Tram is at an additional cost. We spent a few hours walking around and then took the African Tram around the park. This is a must, as its very informative and you get a great view of the animals in their “natural” habitats. (Of course, they’re not completely natural, but the purpose of the Safari Park is to help prevent extinction and it plays a major role in helping to replenish endangered species, so the animal’s habitats are created to closely replicated their natural surroundings.)

It was hot and we decided to cut our day short and arrived at Oceanside Pier by early afternoon. We still had a few great hours to enjoy the beach. The kids had a blast riding the big waves with their boogie boards. In all honesty I found it hard to get great ocean pictures as we were always facing the intense afternoon sun.Oceanside Pier

Day 13

Today was a planned beach day. We really loved Oceanside Pier, but with so many beaches to choose from we thought that we should try something different. We ended up going to Moonlight Beach at Encinitas. It’s a lovely beach that sits in a bit of a cove. Again, the kids had lots of fun playing in the waves and I enjoyed relaxing on the beach.  Although I kept a close eye on the kids, I did feel a bit more comfortable with them having boogie boards strapped to their arms. Both our kids swim well, but swimming in the ocean is a very different experience and I felt a bit uneasy.  Boogie boards are certainly not life saving devices, but the ocean can be unpredictable and I felt better with them having the boards. Tim is a great sport and spent time lots of time in the water with the kids. I found it a bit cold and was happy to just wade in when I got hot and then head back to the beach to relax.

Day 14

We were so sad to be leaving the guest house today. We all felt very welcome and comfortable here. The host family was lovely and I know our kids would have loved getting to know their kids better, but our time with them was limited as we were always on the go.

We packed up and began our journey north up the coast. We used our “Go Cards” and spent the day at Knott’s Berry Farm Soak City. Although the day ended well, our visit to Soak City was a disappointment. The park was packed and when I say packed I mean …. busting at the seams. To make matters worse, it was the most inefficiently run water park we’ve visited and we’ve been to several. There was only one lifeguard per post and they were responsible for six slides. They had riders wait behind a chain and then allowed six new riders to enter together, once the previous group had left, completed the slide and safely exited at the bottom. When you entered, they quickly reviewed the rules and even asked each rider if they had read and understood the park safety regulations. Needless to say, the lines moved super slow. We only stayed 3 1/2 hours because of this. In that time, we left the wave pool because there were too many people, avoided the single tube slides because it was virtually impossible to get a tube. (Although they are “included” in the park entry fee, there is an option to rent tubes to use all day for $10. Clearly this is what most people do because the number in circulation to be used with your general admission is minimal at best.) Tim and Shay made it through the lines of four rides while Eden and I only made it to three. The pavement was so hot it actually felt like your feet were burning. The slides and facilities were good, but the management was poor ~ too many people, not enough guards and a poor system for getting slides through the lines. We’ll never go there again. As well, you need to pay $17 to park and the rental of the smallest locker was a whopping $14 for the day. Overall poor value, but because we did it with the “Go Card” we didn’t feel completely ripped off. Despite this, it was hot and still nice to be near the water 🙂

Road Trip 2015: Chapter 5

Days 9, 10 and 11:

By Day 9, we were ready for a bit of a break. We decided to pick-up some groceries and hang-out at the guest house pool.

On Day 10, we were up and at it early. We had planned to spend the Day at the San Diego Zoo. It was voted the #1 zoo in the world on Trip Advisor and is really quite spectacular. It’s huge and there’s lots to see, so it meant for a long day of walking. It was overcast in the morning, so the heat wasn’t too bad until the afternoon. We had pre-purchased our tickets online. (It is always better to buy ahead as the gate prices are generally escalated.) The zoo parking is free (Bonus!) and it was only a short trek back to the van for lunch. We took our own water bottles with us and were able to fill them up at the water fountains in the park. The animals were quite active and we were able to get lots of great pictures.

The 11th day was spent at Knott’s Berry Farm. Knott’s Berry Farm is an amusement park that is just south of LA. It was about an hours drive from Vista, but we were all ready for a day of fun. We had a bit of a lazy start to the day and didn’t get there until 1, but stayed until well after dark. We had a blast and the lines weren’t too long, so we got to do everything we wanted. We were so proud of the kids, as they rode on all of the roller coasters with us. Tim and I love rides and it was so nice to have the kids overcome their fears and join in the fun.

Los Angeles Go Card Review:

When planning this vacation, I was really trying to figure out how to make it affordable with the Canadian dollar being so bad. After a lot of number crunching and research, I ended up purchasing each of us a Los Angeles Go Card from Costco. We bought “4 day passes” and basically this enabled us to visit as many attractions as we can in 4 days (within a 14 day period). The catch is that you have to use the card for entry before 5:30 p.m. To make the cards worth the money, you really have to take in more than one attraction in a day (at least once). For example, an adult 4 day card is $246.99 Canadian.

The attractions we plan to take in are:

The above equals $238.95 US ($309.91 Canadian). We are actually doing all three Hollywood tours on the same day. That means, we have one day at Knott’s Berry Farm, one day at Soak City (we can also walk across the parking lot before the 5:30 cut-off and spend another evening in the Knott’s amusement park if we want) and a third day doing the Hollywood tours. We haven’t decided what we are going to do on the fourth day. Our card includes entry to Six Flags, Universal, Santa Monica Pier as well as about 3o other attractions. You can see this was a great option for us. Just in the three days, we’ve already saved about $63 per person ($251.68 savings between the four of us) and this is not including the attractions we take in on the 4th day. You do have to weigh this out based on what you want to do, regular gate prices (and advanced online) and how many attractions you can fit it. It may not always be economical. I think the biggest savings was reflected in the Costco price in Canadian dollars, as the price was not that much more than the US price on the Smart Destinations Web site (Go Card). They don’t actually sell a 4 day pass on their site, so it would be somewhere between the 3 and 5 day cost, keeping in mind that these are US prices. So you can see that $246.99 Canadian is a pretty good price. With the current conversion rate, the $190 3 day pass converts to $246 Canadian, so essentially you are getting the fourth day for free!Smart Destinations

It’s always important to do your own research and determine what works best for your family. For us the “Go Cards” proved to be a huge savings.