Family Travel: Dabbling in the Details
When I was little, during the summers my sister and I would go back home to visit our dad and family in Ohio. We’d spend the summers catching fireflies and swimming and playing from dawn until dusk with our cousins, and on occasion we’d take a road trip with them to Niagara Falls. In those days, it was perfectly fine to camp out in the back of a large passenger van while the adults drove. I remember those moments so vividly, how much fun I had with them playing games and eating snacks-so much fun that I barely remember actually seeing the falls at all.
We’ve travelled a lot since the kids were born and each time it gets a little bit easier. The night before we leave is usually the most intense; the anticipation and stress of packing for four children, making sure we get out on time, pouring over mental and physical checklists of necessities and trying not to worry when something is inevitably forgotten. The comforts and ease of being at home tempt with complacency and stagnate with routine, and it isn’t until we are removed that adventures begin. It’s so important to me that our kids are comfortable and happy travelers. I want them to feel just as at home with each other as they do in their own bedrooms, even when they’re in unfamiliar places. It takes practice, and one thing I’ve learned along the way is that while they don’t care so much about their surroundings, the little details make a big difference for us, the parents. Details that we found were recognized along the way at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California.
Though we hadn’t been to this property before, we had heard wonderful things about it from friends and family. The St. Regis Monarch Beach is a spectacular luxury hotel perched right on the beach with a landscape that looks and feels like it’s straight out of a movie set. I’d likely normally be a little uptight about bringing kids to a place like this, but there were plenty of amenities and attractions that cater to children, making the property very obviously welcoming to families. I recently learned that each of the St. Regis properties has program called Family Traditions that offers unique and select experiences that cater specifically to their smaller guests.
The staff was friendly and it was nice to see that there were children everywhere. A few things that made being away from home exciting for the kids and put our mind at ease were the familiar and healthy food options in the cafe and available by the pool and via room service. Justin and I ordered the kale smoothies that we make for ourselves at home each morning, while the kids had fruit and blueberry muffins. We ordered the veggie plate twice and enough was served that we were able to stash some carrots, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes for our 9-hour drive home.
Most of our time at the St. Regis Monarch Beach was spent at their private beach and pool, but we also took a day trip organized by the property on Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari and it was easily one of the most amazing things I have ever done. On Saturday, we took a boat with about twenty other people out in the bay and literally joined 3 grey whales and a pod of 100 common dolphins that were happy to swim right by our boat as if they were playing with us. It was the kids’ first time seeing dolphins and whales, and the magic in their eyes matched the feeling in my heart-pure wonder, awe and excitement. It brought tears to my eyes seeing these spectacular animals in their natural habitat, wild and free, and the kids were able to experience this as well. I truly hope they never forget it.
The St. Regis Monarch Beach was quite a treat to be able to experience with our children. We came back to our hotel room after the boating excursion to find adorable stuffed animals on the kid’s pillows, chocolates and waters and even a birthday cake for Justin. The valet had our car waiting for us the next morning with super cute little animals on our dashboard that Jack, Zoe and Beau absolutely loved to see as a surprise waiting for them. The key to their hearts is often through stuffed animals, and the hotel was definitely cued into that.
I’ve learned as an adult and a parent that life is so much more about the journey than the destination. It’s about the moments that make up that space in between milestones. There is also a time and place for taking vacations with children that actually feel as such for the parents, too. The St. Regis Monarch Beach made our weekend stay lovely and easy, and we were able to truly focus on just spending time with our children and enjoying them rather than the daily logistics of parenting at home that tend to cloud our lives. It was a weekend that neither we nor our children will forget and we are so grateful for that experience.