We’re less than a week back from our family vacation in SoCal and here I am writing about it already, a record for me lately. It almost wasn’t a family vacation, well leading up to the planning stages anyway. Sean was reluctant to go and be separated from his girlfriend for a week (ah young love) and he was torn but in the end, just before absolute deadline, the decision was made to join us. Chris however was a lock from the beginning. To quote: “who would be stupid enough to give up a free trip?” Indeed.
We decided to try something different this time and fly out of Bellingham to Orange County (by way of Seattle). The idea was to avoid departure from YVR (for cost) and SEA (for the 3 hour drive) and bypass LAX (for the crazy AND the drive). Truly it was the best idea ever, it worked out GREAT.
Our flight was early which meant hitting the road around 4:00 am to avoid any border tie-ups and to give us a two-hour window before the flight to clear security. BLI isn’t a huge airport but with the addition of another airline flying out of there and the better deals to be had for Canadians, the Bellingham airport is a lot busier than it was a few years ago. None of us got much sleep that night, I’m thinking less than 2 hours other than Chris who was able to drop off to sleep way before any of us even were ready to get to bed. This meant we were running on fumes when we set out and no coffee. We were finally able to get some coffee at the airport gate as nothing was really open in town. Trust me we tried, we stalked a McDonalds for 15 minutes hoping it was about to open (we were hungry too) but alas it wasn’t meant to be.
For a smaller airport though it is pretty efficient and we were soon through security and at the gate with a bunch of very excited kids who were also apparently on their way to SoCal. They were letting their kids run amok which seriously drives me INSANE, especially on zero sleep and almost zero caffeine. I spent the better part of half an hour exchanging grimaces with a lady who was facing the kids crashing their way along the window ledges and screaming. Seriously, whatever happened to parents keeping their kids entertained and teaching them manners rather than letting them act like that? I managed to do it!
Thankfully the time to board the plane came around and we walked outside to our prop plane (yep outside!) It was raining some we did a very fast walk to the plane.
It was basically a puddle jump from BLI-SEA, just over a 20 minute flight. You barely had time to buckle your seat-belts and take off before they were announcing our arrival. We had a layover in Seattle which gave us plenty of time for a sit-down breakfast. Unfortunately we picked probably the worst place and though the boys said their food was alright, Tom and I both picked french toast which was really quite inedible. Ah well.
Soon we were bound for John Wayne Airport which is a hop-skip and jump from the Marriott resort in Newport Coast, the same place we stayed the last time we were in Southern California and also a fabulous and efficient airport. Given a choice I don’t think I’d ever want to fly into LAX again after this.
We made our way to the rental car counters and judging by the line-ups at only TWO of the companies only two of them were giving the better deals. Tom stood in line while the boys watched the luggage and I wandered around some.
Eventually Tom got through the line and we made our way downstairs to the rental car pick-up area in the nearby garage. We had booked a “Dodge Charger or similar” and sadly they had no chargers left. Instead we ended up with a rather uncool but huge-ass beast of a Mercury Grand Marquis. It felt so weird getting into this car as it was low and the passenger cab was so huge in-depth as well as width. I mean *I* drive a Mazda 3 so this was a tank to me. Good thing Tom was doing the driving. It was even bigger than he was used to but he adjusts well.
The plan was to spend the weekend relaxing from the flight and avoiding ANY and all amusement parks on the weekend to ensure a shorter line-up.
We drove straight to the resort and checked in but it turned out we were so early that the rooms were not ready though they said we were assigned to a villa in the newer development (score!) so we drove to the local Pavilions (grocery store) and stocked up on breakfast foods, snacks and of course some adult beverages (aka wine) for Tom and me. By the time we were done it was the official check-in time and we headed back to the resort to get our keys. I waited in the car while Tom went in and when he came back he handed me the keys and the “map” that showed where our villa was. They map had us going to the OLD villas so we went back inside to straighten things out. In other words I wanted my damn new villa thank you very much =) Turns out the person who had written down the room number had in fact had momentary dyslexia and had transposed some numbers. If we’d have headed to the villa they had written down we wouldn’t have gotten in (they’d encoded the correct room on the keys) and we could have very well given someone inside a shock to hear someone trying to get into their room…ah well.
We headed to the correct villa and indeed we were in the new development which was nice. It was quite high up in the property and was being built the last time we were there, Tom and I had seen the area when we went on a walk-about in 2009. Here is a placard announcing the new phase from our last trip.
The Marriott is a time-share so they tried a few times to engage us in a sales pitch as “renters” rather than “owners”. I’m sure there are a few people who fall for the old 90 minute presentation and you get a gift card deal, but hell we PAID good money to stay there as “renters” so it kind of annoyed me that they tried that. I mean one phone call before we leave okay, but then to try again when we were already there kind of pissed me off. It was wasn’t such a nice place and a great location it would probably put me off to stay there again. Tom always tells me that I should just not pick up the phone or listen to the message (and he’s right) but that is so not me.
The suite was lovely, the kitchen darker wood than the last unit we stayed in and different furniture throughout, though the layout was similar.
One thing is the living room furniture is a little on the uncomfortable side, I think the set from the older units was a bit more comfortable than these ones. Both the couch in the living room and in the second bedroom are fold-outs which would accommodate a larger family. We both felt it would have been nicer had they been a little more cushioned.
The beds were nice though and we all managed to be well rested.
The boys took turns on who got the bed vs. the pull-out each night.
The first night we pretty much just vegged and had takeout pizza from Z Pizza (a VERY yummy pizza place we’d discovered last time) before falling asleep fairly early considering it was vacation and all.
The following day after a relaxing breakfast we got in the rental beast for a drive around Balboa Island (that place is CRAZY busy on the weekends, no parking and holy crowded one way streets!!) and then around Laguna Beach.
As you can see we opted for In-N-Out for dinner (in Laguna Niguel) the first of two dinners we had planned for In-N-Out and then hung out back at home base. The first of our amusement park trips was that Monday morning and we wanted to get up early and beat the crowds. Sure the line-ups are a LOT less in the off-season but as it turns out there were a lot of parents with small kids there anyway but that’s another story.