Recently my lovely niece finished school and had the privilege of getting two great job offers. Either place would have been lucky to have her. It was a big decision to make since this decision would shape her future in her new adult world. She chose a job in CA to our delight! Traveling to CA verses NY is a lot easier, or so we thought…

As you can imagine as soon as my niece took the CA position we were planning a trip to come visit her. Well, our story begins when we were choosing what plane tickets to purchase for our trip. There are a handful of airlines we had to choose from but the cheapest by far was through Allegiant Air, an airline that I had not even heard of until this trip. They are a budget airline, along the line of Spirit, so they have cheap tickets but you pay for EVERYTHING extra. This includes paying extra for assigned seats, an overhead bag…the list goes on and on. Another catch is that this airline only has one flight to southern CA on Friday and one back on Monday. No problem, we just planned around those dates. Usually Justin and I share flight information prior to the flights but I was particularly busy and distracted by my silly shoulder trying to heal that we didn’t touch base. I was in charge of packing and Justin was in charge of getting us to the airport. This is an important part of the story.

The girls and I were packed and ready to go the night before, leaving just the regular last minute stuff for us to pack in the morning. We were so excited to go but our flight wasn’t until evening. Justin had the day off work so he busied himself doing projects around the farm while the girls and I puttered around with this and that. The time finally came and we all piled in the car for the airport. About 15 minutes from the airport Justin got a call. He didn’t recognize the number and he was driving so he ignored it. A couple minutes later the same number called. Hmm, that was strange. Again he ignored it. The third time it rang we figured we better pick it up. Was this Justin scheduled for flight #****? Well, yes he was. Was he aware that a final boarding call is being announced? What? No! At this point we were 5 minutes from the Airport which meant we still needed to park, get through security and to the gate. We didn’t have time and they told us the plane would be taking off without us. No!!!! Sweet Justin thought take-off was at 5pm not 4pm. Ahh! Here we all were twiddling our thumbs anxiously awaiting our trip to see my wonderful niece when we could have been on time to our flight. We were heartbroken.

We had purchased a non-refundable Airbnb, Hotel stay and amusement park tickets for all of us. On top of that the next flight on Allegiant wasn’t until next weekend which wouldn’t have worked. We went through security anyway hoping to work something out at the airline desk. It was a tiny airport but the security was VERY thorough looking through almost everyone’s bag which took forever. There was no TSA PreCheck so any hope of catching our plane was dashed.

After we got through security we were told that to rebook flights you had to go BACK out through security to do it out at the main airline desks. The girls and I stayed behind, us trying to look on the bright side of things and being distracted by the airport artwork. Justin called me about 20 minutes later letting me know he booked us all for a VERY expensive last minute flight on Alaska Airlines for 2 hours after our original flight. Thank goodness! How very ridiculous of us!! By the time Justin got out of the long security check we had just enough time to use the bathroom, take a deep breath and board the new flight. We were so excited that at last we were on our way!

Our plan was to stay at an Airbnb for two nights just down the road from my niece. The host had forgotten to send our pin-code for the door until I had messaged him at the airport requesting it. That made me really nervous but now we had the code and were on track for a smooth check in. After getting a rental car, and renting a booster seat for 4 times as much as we paid for a new one (as we forgot that at home), and driving to the Airbnb location it was 10:45pm. The girls were able to doze off for a handful of minutes in the car but it is WAY past their bedtime at this point. I was looking forward to scooping up the girls and popping them into bed so we could wake up well rested for our fun packed weekend. No such luck. My sweet niece met us at the Airbnb and she and I went up to find that none of the beds were made. What?! Upon second glance, the place had not been cleaned!! There were dirty dishes in the kitchen and wet dirty towels on the floor. My goodness! It is 11pm, the girls are fully awake now and we don’t have a place to stay. What a nightmare!

Thankfully my niece was there and luckily the people she lives with had just left on vacation. We had a place to stay! The sleeping situation wasn’t ideal but I was very grateful to have a place to sleep. What a crazy situation. I don’t know what we would have done if my niece hadn’t had a place for us. I guess try to find a local hotel that had vacancy and hope it was a good one.

With these two major blips to start off our trip everything else seemed like smooth sailing.

We knew it was going to be a short weekend trip so we wanted to be sure we packed in a lot while we were in California.  The first full day we had my niece be our guide around Ventura, CA.  

We spent the morning at Ventura Botanical Gardens which overlooked the town and the ocean.  There were lots of different kinds of succulents and various high dessert plant life, many of which I had never seen before.  It is always funny though seeing desert plants.  Many look as though they are just hanging on by a thorny thread to life in such a hot and dry climate.  The terracing of the whole place was really neat and I’m sure the gardeners had their work cut out for them keeping all those plants alive, but the girls soon were over it and wanted to move on. 

Ventura had a cute downtown with a mixture of restaurants and shopping places.  We ended up eating lunch at a really delicious Vegan restaurant called the Harvest Cafe.  They did such a good job pairing flavors in their dishes.  I had a spinach, goat cheese, lemon pizza that was out of this world as well as a smoothie with nice blends of ginger, spinach and berries.  What a treat!

With full bellies and smiles on our faces we headed to the beach. The sun was out and it was a beautiful day to be by the water.  My niece and both girls were brave enough to get into the water.  Justin and I watched the fun from the sand.  I dipped my toes in for a little bit before jumping away with pain from the cold.  Oceans are just so cold!  It was a nice relaxing afternoon and fun to know my niece was living so close to the beach.

After the beach we went for a dip in a pool attached to the place my niece was renting from… as if the girls hadn’t got enough water fun in. 🙂  Also, a pretty nice living perk for my niece.

To wrap up our Ventura hanging out day, my niece was so sweet and treated us to a dinner on the water!  

The next day, Sunday, was our day to spend at Knotberry Farm.  Though the name makes it sound like a berry picking place, which would have been lovely too, it is actually an amusement park!  We have been tentatively planning a Disney Land trip for the winter of 2023 so Knotberry Farm would be a good test of how comfortable the girls were with rides.

Overall the girls did pretty good and it was a really fun day but there were some blips, as is to be expected.  Some of the more popular rides had lines over an hour long.  We ended up standing in the log ride line for a little over an hour.  When we got up to the entry point of the ride our 8 year old was adamant she was not getting on the ride.  To be fair she had told us she didn’t want to go on the ride in the first place but we were trying to warm her up to the idea while in line.  Once our youngest saw that her big sister wasn’t going to go on, she decided she wasn’t going to go on either.  She decided this, however, after my 8 year old and I had already left the ride so my niece and Justin couldn’t send her with me and ride just the two of them.  So…we waited over an hour in line for a ride we didn’t end up going on.  Oh dear!

After that we decided my niece and Justin should go off and do a roller coaster while the girls and I did some more gentle rides.  In the end the girls ended up going on one kiddy roller coaster, which was a brain smasher and my oldest daughter went two other more adult roller coasters with Justin and my niece.  Brave!  

We were all definitely pooped at the end of the day!  We spent our last evening with my wonderful niece at a nice Mexican restaurant.

Since the next day we were flying out of John Wayne in Annahiam, CA we got a room at the Hyatt Centric in Long Beach so we’d be fairly close to the airport the next day.  The Hyatt was like a glorious palace!  The beds were SO comfortable and the room set up was absolutely ideal for a family with kids.  It had two queen sized beds at just the right angle to each other and a dividing curtain that worked great for the girls to fall asleep on one side while Justin and I chatted quietly and did computer work on our side.  I feel like getting a really good nights sleep on a comfortable mattress is worth so much.  People are so much cheerier and forgiving of things after a good nights sleep.  I would think it would always be worth upgrading mattresses to please guests and cutting corners elsewhere if needed.

There was also a rooftop pool which was pretty neat.  It was pretty chilly for a dip but the girls didn’t seem to mind until they got out and were freezing.  The rooftop gave us a good view of the city below and had great lounging options.

Before our flight we took a stroll to the waterfront near the hotel and aquarium.  Our original plan was to fit in an aquarium visit before flying out but it felt too rushed so we just decided to get a slow start of a morning at the hotel and take it slow on the waterfront instead.  The girls found lot of things to climb on and lots of garbage to pick up.

We discovered that the Spruce Goose plane took its first and only short flight on the waters that we were strolling on.  We used to visit and tour the Spruce Goose at McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon.  The Spruce Goose, built of wood, was intended as a transatlantic flight transport during WWII but wasn’t completed in time.  It was the largest flying boat ever built yet was deemed unable to fly over long distances for additional flights.  It is really interesting to tour because of its construction and size!

Anyway, I got off track.  It was a great trip overall mostly because we got to see my niece, check out new places and all be together.  Our flight home went smoothly, thank goodness!