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Southern California Family Vacation Travel Planning Guide

Southern California Family Vacation Travel Planning Guide


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There’s just so much to do in Southern California! There are truly some wonderful family-friendly locations down the coast from Los Angeles to San Diego. Gorgeous weather makes it easy to explore. This is my family travel guide of things to do with kids, including your best hotel option, tips for beach travel, local museums & parks and of course the popular area theme parks.

Southern California family vacation in La Jolla beach with boy

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hyatt Place. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Mom Rewritten uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the links in these posts. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see the Privacy Policy and Disclosures tab.

Planning a Southern California Family Vacation

Many of my readers don’t realize that many SoCal attractions are spread out, distance-wise. The logistics of drive time, traffic and accommodations can be a challenge when planning a SoCal trip. If travel plans include hitting all the area theme parks, it’s best to first choose a place to start and move either north to south or the reverse. This means flying into Los Angeles, going to Hollywood attractions, Anaheim next and finishing in San Diego. Or consider doing the opposite, taking into consideration airfare costs when choosing where to begin your trip. International travelers may only have the option of flying into LAX, solidifying that their Southern California vacation should begin in Los Angeles.

Why Hyatt Place is the Best Choice

With that said, if your SoCal plans include travel from top to bottom of the California coastline, choose a hotel in each spot to make your area home base. While it can be tempting to choose a central location for accommodations, travel times between attractions can be prohibitive. Better to move hotel locations as you travel to each city.

Hyatt Place Anaheim Resort sign in front with little girl

Fortunately Hyatt Place has families covered, with convenient locations in each SoCal area. From LAX and Anaheim to Long Beach, there’s a stylish Hyatt Place with guaranteed spacious rooms for families. Free Wi-Fi and free breakfast for World of Hyatt members make the Hyatt Place a reliable place to recharge in between SoCal attractions. You’ll want to start your California trip on the right foot by signing up for the World of Hyatt Loyalty Program – start earning rewards on your first stay!

Best Family Attractions in Hollywood

Kick start your Southern California adventure in the iconic Hollywood area. The actual “Walk of Fame” area in Hollywood can be a bit iffy for families with younger children. But there are locations including Griffith Park that are kid-friendly. Planning a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood for the first time? This theme park is a family-friendly choice for a full day of entertaining rides and shows (though best for ages 7+).

If your California family vacation includes bringing your pet or service animal, rest assured that many Hyatt Place guest rooms include space for your fur baby as well. Just look on the hotel’s website for guidelines.

Fun for Families in Buena Park

Travel south to Buena Park, home to several fun family attractions. Consider at day at Knott’s Berry Farm, America’s first theme park. End the night with dinner and a show at either Medieval Times or Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. Both offer great family themed entertainment and food.

Hyatt Place Anaheim Resort front entrance

Buena Park is just a few miles north of Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center, where my daughter and I recently spent an overnight. As a member of the World of Hyatt loyalty program we enjoyed the perks of this conveniently located hotel, including early check in, late check out, free breakfast and well-appointed and spacious guest rooms. 

The expansive breakfast at Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center was a definite highlight. Regionally inspired dishes like chilaquiles, fresh fruit and potatoes were on the menu as well as kid favorites including several juice choices, cereals, scrambled eggs and ham. The roomy dining area, helpful staff and a clean, well-stocked serving area made this a complimentary breakfast for World of Hyatt members worth waking for.

Hyatt Place Anaheim Resort complimentary breakfast offerings

Top Attractions in Anaheim for Families

Anaheim is a hot spot Southern California vacation destination for families around the world! Disneyland, Disney California Adventure park, Discovery Cube OC children’s museum and Angel Stadium for major league baseball are just a few of the fun things families can do in this area.

Making big bubbles at Discovery OC children's museum
Bubblefest at the Discovery OC children’s museum

On my recent family trip to Anaheim I made the Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center my home base. Attractions in Anaheim are all within a quick driving distance and Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center is in a great central location. It’s also walkable to the Disney parks (about 20 minutes on foot) as a Disneyland Resort “Good Neighbor” hotel.

But here’s a time saving tip: The Toy Story Parking Lot is only a five minute walk from the Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center. Simply cross the street and walk to grab a bus. Complimentary transportation to the park gates! You’re definitely going to want to take advantage of this after a long day of fun in the parks.

With the Disney parks often closing at midnight, families might find themselves rolling back into Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center tired and hungry. Fortunately Hyatt Place never sleeps!  There are Hosts available 24/7 to assist with check-in, make coffee and help with purchases from The Market grab & go case.

Hyatt Place Anaheim Resort Market grab & go items

Beach Travel Tips in Southern California

The Pacific coastline and SoCal beaches are only about 30 minutes’ drive from the Anaheim area. It makes it very easy to add a day on the sand to any Southern California family vacation! Before deciding which beach to visit, read about them on the local tourism websites. Here are a few tips for beach travel.

  • Some beaches have difficult access (like rock-only entries). Avoid these with young children or those with mobility issues. 
  • Most beaches have restrooms, but some do not! When researching aim for beach locations that have bathrooms, showers, lifeguards, a playground and picnic tables.
  • The beach waters of the Pacific Ocean err on the chilly side. So while the air may be very warm in springtime, the water is likely too cold for swimming. Your best bet for warmer water temps is late summer and early fall.
  • Don’t forget to pack your beach essentials including sunscreen, picnic lunch, plenty of water and beach towels (not hotel towels!).

Of course you could always skip the beach and just kick back at the pool! Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center has a convenient swimming pool area stocked with towels and toys. The hot tub is the perfect place to relax after a long day.

Little girl next to pool at the Hyatt Place Anaheim Resort

California Family Vacation Stops on the Way to San Diego

The drive from Anaheim to San Diego will take between 60 to 90 minutes, depending upon traffic. I highly recommend traveling early in the day on the weekends if possible, to avoid all rush-hour traffic. Monday through Friday, your best-bet traffic-wise is driving between 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Barring any accidents on the freeway, you shouldn’t experience much slowing during this time period. The train is another idea, taking several hours with stops along the way if you wish to get off.

Carlsbad beach

If you time your drive right, there are some great places to stop along the way from Anaheim to San Diego. The scenic drive along the I-5 or Hwy 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) takes you along the Pacific Ocean for some of the drive and there are vistas to stop and look.

  • Crystal Cove State Park (near Hwy 1)
  • Mission San Juan Capistrano (off I-5)
  • California Surf Museum in Oceanside (off I-5)
  • Batiquitos Lagoon and hiking trails in Carlsbad
  • Mount Woodson Trail in Escondido

It can’t be go-go-go all the time, even on a California family vacation. Leave time in your agenda to unwind and relax in the hotel room. During my stay at Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center, I let my daughter kick back in the cozy bed with a preschool program on the 42″ HDTV while I caught up on emails with the free Wi-Fi. The large desk space made it easy to work, even after she’d long fallen asleep.

Hyatt Place Anaheim Resort bedrooms with mom and little girl

San Diego Area Destinations

At the end of your California family vacation leave several days open to explore the amusement parks, museums and gorgeous weather of San Diego. Some attractions are close together and others have a drive of about 30-45 minutes between them. These are just a few of the fun activities you’ll find in the San Diego area:

Hyatt Place Anaheim waiting room

Nearing the end of your California family vacation, you might find yourself low on supplies. Ask your gallery host about the Hyatt Place Necessities program. There’s a list of items that guests can buy, borrow or enjoy for free. At Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center I asked about the items and was told they include things like nail polish remover, deodorant, universal cell phone charger, toothpaste and more. What a time saver this is on vacation when something is needed. Saves you a trip to the store!

What are you most excited to explore on your California family vacation? Don’t forget to sign up for the World of Hyatt Loyalty Program before booking your Hyatt Place hotel rooms to earn points on travel and receive complimentary breakfast throughout your stay.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hyatt Place.

Planning a Southern California family vacation? Read the best tips on what to do, where to stay, transportation tips, and more! Get all the details on why Hyatt Place is the perfect family choice and how to get free breakfast each day of your stay. AD #California #SoCal #FamilyTravel #Anaheim #HyattPlace

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