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….and I need some advice. Here’s the back-story, I have a friend from high school who has a child a few months younger than Little C. She recently moved to California and while she was at Little C’s second birthday last month we started talking about how C and I should come out and visit her and her daughter. When we “talk” about travel, we really mean it! Today we firmed up a weekend this spring that will work for everyone involved, and now Little C and I have tickets booked to Cali for the weekend. Woohoo! I’ll share with you how we used a combo of miles and dollars to get the tickets, but the real kicker is that I need a bit of help narrowing our hotel choices. Normally I put ridiculous amounts of time planning each trip, but since this one just kind of popped up, I’d love some input. 😉
Here we are at my wedding a few years ago. and then with our own babies in December of 2010. We have not lived in the same city since we graduated high school quite a while back, but I firmly believe that when you find a good friend you don’t let a few thousand miles get in the way of spending time together.
The Airline Tickets:
For the dates we wanted, tickets are not cheap. It didn’t seem to matter what city we flew into or what airline we choose, flights with reasonable flight times were all in the $400 range. Normally I would just use points for both tickets and be done with it, but there were a couple issues with that strategy this time. First, I didn’t plan for this trip so I didn’t already have 50,000 miles earmarked for the journey. I certainly have miles I can pull from, but I don’t have tons of extra miles lying around that I don’t already have plans for. Second, I am trying to be a bit more strategic about flying myself on some paid tickets so that I can give elite status a try next year. I have had elite status before, but it has been several years. So, since I didn’t have tons of miles lying around anyway, I decided to use my husband’s 25,000 miles from the US Airways Grand Slam to book a Continental award ticket and I bought the ticket for myself using cold hard cash (well, actually with a OnePass Plus Card, but who’s counting).
Since you can’t book US Airways partner awards online, I called in and was a bit worried that they would have a problem with me booking a two-year-old on a ticket by herself. I think I held my breath a bit when the customer service rep asked for C’s date of birth. However, the fact that she is just two and was ticketed by herself never came up. Kind of weird, but very glad it worked. They charged the annoying $25 award ticket processing fee plus the regular $5 in taxes and the whole process took about five minutes from start to finish. They even asked without me prompting if I wanted them to do a three-day courtesy hold on the ticket, or if I wanted to be ticketed immediately. My husband spent about $80 to earn 25,000 US Airways miles in the Grand Slam last year, so all even with the taxes and fees, C got a $400 ticket for only $110. Not bad.
Before I get to the hotel part, it might be helpful to know roughly what we plan to do during our weekend of California Adventure. There will be two mamas and two toddlers, so we need things to be simple and kid-friendly. We hope to go to Disneyland for most of one day. How long we are able to stay will be influenced somewhat by whether the kiddos pass out in their strollers (oh please let that happen!). I took C to Disney World in April of 2011, but she is already so much more advanced in every area that she was then, so this will be a totally different experience for her already! I told her we were going and she got so excited.
During the rest of our time there we hope to play at the hotel, in the hotel pool, as well as visit the Pacific Ocean. We are only there for two nights, so we won’t have time for a ton of different activities on this go-round. The real focus is on the four of us spending time together and doing things that the toddlers will enjoy.
This is where I get a bit stumped. I have no shortage of ideas, I am just having a hard time making a decision. Again, this trip wasn’t really planned far in advance, so while I do have points I could use, I think I would probably prefer to get a good rate and save the points for another trip. However, I wouldn’t be opposed to a cash and points SPG stay as those are often the best way to maximize points and still save dollars.
I think I would prefer to stay closer to the ocean and just drive into Disney for the day, but I would possibly consider staying closer to Disney. I would like to give preference to a Hyatt or Starwood Hotel, but am not entirely opposed to another chain if it met our needs better. Here are some hotels I have been considering: Westin South Coast Plaza Costa Mesa, The Westin Long Beach, Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort, Hyatt Regency Orange County, Hyatt Regency Long Beach, Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort, and Avia Long Beach. On average, the Starwood Hotels (Westin and Sheraton) are priced a bit lower than the Hyatt Hotels, but my Diamond status at Hyatt’s provide for free breakfast and possible confirmed suite upgrade. If price wasn’t an issue, I think my clear front-runner would be the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort – they have a little on-site water park! But, it is about twice as expensive as some of the others on the list and it is in the highest category for Hyatt point redemptions, so that probably isn’t going to happen either.
I have been to California before, I have been to Disney World in Orlando many times, but I have never been to Disneyland. However, I am certain that many of you have, so I would love to hear your thoughts on where to stay or if we have missed a key toddler-friendly activity to focus on. I can’t tell you how excited I am to go on this adventure with C. She is destined to by my little travel buddy, so this trip is just the beginning.
PS, in case you wonder where The Man will be while we are on this journey, check the lake. It will be spawning season, and we both get a huge win by indulging our own hobbies for one weekend this spring. 😉