yes, you can take a toddler on a road trip

Remember that carefree road trip you took with the top down, a map at your side, big white-rimmed sunglasses and that cute scarf tied around your head?

I’m willing to bet there wasn’t a two-year-old strapped to a car seat in the back blowing a toy whistle and laughing maniacally. Am I right?

Clearly our laissez-faire road trip days are a distant memory for at least sixteen or so years. However, I’m happy to report that in January, with a little carefully-timed park breaks, we took our first step to reclaim a small bit of the open road when we took our toddler along on one of our favorite road trips of all times — Los Angeles to San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway.

We started the trip in Santa Monica where we based ourselves for a few days of sightseeing and hanging out at our favorite spots in and around Los Angeles — The Getty, Griffith Park and Palisades Park. On our way out of town we dropped by The Reagan Library in Simi Valley to take a look at the original Air Force One, which is now housed in a hanger with a beautiful view at the library. Our toddler loved strolling down the aisle of the airplane and standing under the original Marine One helicopter.

Following our presidential pit stop we continued north for some outdoor playtime and a picnic lunch at Santa Barbara’s Alameda Park. After an hour and a half of hard-core swinging and running around, we settled back in to the car and enjoyed our son’s nap all the way to Cambria where we enjoyed a little late afternoon play time at Shamel Park — adjacent to Moonstone Beach.

Refreshed with a full night’s sleep and a nice steak dinner (included in our room rate at Cambria Pines Lodge), we drove a few miles up the road to start our day with San Simeon’s famous elephant seals. The late Fall / early Winter months are pup season so we were treated to some very cute Moms seals cuddling with their babies. Lucky for us, elephant seals cause drowziness in toddlers, so we made our way along the jaw-droppingly beautiful drive to Big Sur with relatively little comment from the back seat.

After almost 400 miles of parks, beaches and stunning ocean vistas we arrived at our last stop before arriving in San Francisco, the innovative, award-winning Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium was the perfect way to end our two0day trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, trip on the open road. My husband and I marveled at the enormous ocean tanks and the creative kid exhibits while our son seemed equally entranced by the escalator. Kids. Perhaps our next road trip will be to one of our own local shopping malls here in New Jersey!

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