Back to Santa Barbara

Vacations are all about time and/or money, so when you have three young kids all in some form of paid child care, you don’t have either of those things. But I put my foot down this year. We WERE going to take a vacation, even if it was a small one. I briefly considered San Diego, but the parks are crowded and expensive, and the hotels make you pay for parking. So I turned my eye north and we dipped our toes into the family vacation pool by taking a couple of days to hang in Santa Barbara — and it was perfect.

I am not one of those parents who want to immediately take their kids to Disneyland, Hawaii, etc. First, Hawaii when they’re babies is more for me than them, and daycare. Second, babies at Disneyland is a waste of energy, and daycare. Third, I get hives at the thought of taking my three little hooligans on a plane anywhere. So when I became determined to take some sort of vacation this year (spring break, ideally, because there’s still a chance we could move, and we have to throw Chris a birthday party later this summer, so let’s spread out those expenses!), there was no doubt it was going to be a road trip. But to where.

I briefly considered San Diego. But the parks are expensive and crowded, and you have to pay for parking at most of their hotels. So I decided on Santa Barbara, and it was a fantastic decision.

We stayed at Quality Inn Santa Barbara. It was clean, the room had a tub (my kids once thought showering at a hotel while visiting my sister in Indio was punishment), there was free WiFi, parking and continental breakfast, served in a communal area where we were also able to fill up our water bottles. BTW, when you have kids, make sure your hotel has free breakfast. BUT, what the hotel neglects to tout on its website and other descriptions all over the web is its fantastic location right across the street from a Coffee Bean and around the corner from a Trader Joe’s. DUDE.

It was within walking distance of quite a few very good restaurants too, like Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch, where we ate our first night. It was so good.

Call it a step up from El Pollo Loco. Thank goodness we walked because we were stuffed. We even skipped getting hazelnut chocolate cookies from TJ’s for dessert.

The next day, we reserved for the Santa Barbara Zoo. I love this zoo because you don’t have to walk far to see another animal, its small enough to see in just a couple of hours.

There’s also a fantastic play area that’s so well known, I saw people bringing in their Amazon and Costco boxes just for it. You’ll see why.

Later that night, Google took us to some strange places — a Japanese restaurant that was actually closed, and then the long way around to Giovanni’s Pizza, which was SO GOOD.

Trin got the barbecue pizza, while the boys and I shared sausage and pepperoni.

The next day, we lingered at the hotel, packing up and clearing our stuff out for checkout, then made a detour to the Santa Barbara Mission. We did not want to pay for a tour, which was fine, because the boys had a great time on the grounds out front, and Trin and I had fun taking pictures of them and the mission.

The mission was not actually our mission for the day — that was actually going to Stearns Wharf, where we ate overpriced but extremely good fish and chips and bought saltwater taffy.

The boys could not stop talking about the trip for a good week. They even memorized the exit number off the freeway (Trin had told them to watch out for Exit 100 after repeated, “are we there yets?”). It was good vacation.