California Vacations + More

Before I get to today's topic, I want to mention that Memorial Day is coming right up and if history is any indication, that will mean 40% storewide at Express from this Thursday through Monday. I'm prepping some "best of the best" sale content for later this week so stay tuned for that. But for today I'll hold off on the all-Express talk by joining Momfessionals to share some favorite vacations.

As it happens, my favorite vacations of the last decade have all made it to the blog in some form or another. They are my favorite because they signified this new stage of family life of being able to travel with my spouse and kids...and enjoy it! All the trips we took with our kids in the baby/toddler/pre-school years were a lot more "work" than vacation. Even though we stayed in state, it was a big deal for us to go somewhere other than Grandma's house on these trips, so here are the highlights of our last vacations.

1. San Francisco, CA 

I posted about our San Francisco trip here, but I focused more on my packing strategies and what I wore each day (like this outfit) than our travel activities. So for today I'll share our top activity recommendation and some quick notes of what I learned about what to take on the trip.
Jacket: Express | Tee: Old Navy (Similar) | Jeans: Express | Necklace: Stella & Dot | Hat: Target

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Favorite San Francisco Activity:  Alcatraz
Image via Wikimedia

Our family was unanimous in choosing Alcatraz as our favorite activity in San Francisco. I had been to Alcatraz before but on my previous visit I didn't do the audio tour and it turns out that was a big mistake. It made all the difference in the experience and was well worth the time! My kids became totally fascinated with learning about Alcatraz and watched several movies and documentaries after we visited. Also, (incredibly!) new information has recently come out about the escapees since our visit so it's been fun have a connection to the story. If you want to go, book your tickets well in advance because the tours always sell out.

Packing Lessons Learned:
1. Wear sneakers. As pictured above, I wore Converse for most of our San Francisco touring and while I wasn't miserable, sneakers would have been a better choice.

2. Layers. You can't have too many layers in San Francisco! In the outfit photo above I was actually wearing a thin, lightweight cardigan (pictured here) underneath my jacket. Sometimes I needed just one layer, other times I needed both for warmth.

2. Los Angeles, CA
Our Los Angeles trip was just last month (original post here), and I used my my San Francisco outfits (as well as my Canon Beach, OR outfits) as a guide for packing this time. No need to re-invent the wheel!
Jacket: Express (Similar) | Tee: Target | Necklace: Express | Jeans: Express | Bag: Aldo (Similar) / Shoes: Nike Internationalist

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Favorite Los Angeles Activity: Kids Choice -Universal Studios Hollywood

Favorite Los Angeles Activity: Parents Choice - A Day in LA Bus Tour

Everyone in my family rated these two activities 5 stars out of 5, but the kid and adults had slightly different opinions on which one was the ultimate favorite.

Packing Lessons Learned:
1. Wear sneakers. I sort of learned my lesson from San Francisco, as I'm clearly wearing sneakers in the outfit above. But there was one day I wore Converse (see original post) and once again, there was more walking than I expected so my Nikes would have been a better choice. Next time I'll get it right!

2. You are not a tourist attraction. I've realized I spend entirely too much time stressing about what to pack for family trips. No one is there to look at me, and it's more important for my outfits to be comfortable and functional than blog-worthy. But...worthy or not I share them here anyway because I find packing posts from other bloggers very helpful!

Me at Universal Studios. Zero people looking at me. (Other than the camera man...)

3. Bonus: Ultimate Favorite Vacation - Germany

Just for fun I thought I'd throw in an honorable mention of my all-time favorite vacation to Germany. I've only left the continent once, and it was an amazing experience. It also took place in the years before digital cameras, so I think my memories are better than the actual photos I have!
My jacket love goes way back! 

In the 90s, I had an older brother in the military stationed in Frankfort, and my parents took the two youngest siblings (another brother plus myself) over to visit him and tour around a few different parts of Germany, including Heidelberg (pictured above). I loved every minute of it, and it makes me look forward to the day I can take my own kids on international trips like this since it's the best kind of education!

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Thanks for taking a little trip down memory lane with me today! And stay tuned for more posts this week with Memorial Day news. I'll be sharing my favorites and I'm polling my friends to find out their favorites as well so we all have a chance to get the best pieces at the best prices!

Linking up with:
ErikaAndreaNarci |JoLynne | Katie | Megan | Lindsey | Amanda |



  1. These are great tips! I feel like I always get caught up in what shoes to wear, when in fact its always best to wear sneakers!

  2. SO many cool trips! I need to make another trip out to California. So much to see :)

  3. Your favorite activity and packing lesson learned is such a helpful reference! I would love to go to Germany one day! What a great experience!

    Doused In Pink

  4. I failed at posting today, anything at all! I had good intentions but my bed won out! #bloggerfail lately :(

    Anyway, I love your tips on packing and what to wear. I've been stressing about my upcoming Hawaii trip because Nate and I both want to do more adventuresome things this time and so I'm going to bring more shoes than normal! But I love the philosophy on practicality and being comfortable over wearing things that are too fussy!

    That's so great that you've been to Germany! It's my dream to go to Europe one day.

  5. I am definitely going to reference your packing tips for my upcoming summer trips! I'd love to go to San Francisco someday!

  6. I've been telling Russ that I would love to do a tour of CA and hit all the fun cities. I just ordered a pair of Express jeans. Feel the need to tell you. ;)

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

    1. I cannot wait to see what jeans you purchased, and I have feeling you will LOVE San Francisco. :) I hope you get to go!

  7. I lived in Germany when I was a wee little girl and would love to go back!! You know my history about LA. And I love love love San Francisco. Such a fun city. And I certainly remember layers being a necessity! Your thoughts about not being a tourist attraction are spot on and half the reason why I can survive with a carry-on on most trips despite my hoarder status in real life!
    Carylee | http://morepiecesofme.com

    1. Oh wow! I didn't know you lived in Germany!! You will need to share more about that at some point!

  8. Love the sneakers with the stripes- too chic and easy, which is great for a day of sight-seeing. And the throwback pic is amazing! :)

    Le Stylo Rouge

  9. I already have my list made for the Express sale haha! I am definitely anticipating that!

  10. "You are not a tourist attraction"--Now that is good advice. When I travel with the kids, I'm pretty good about just packing for comfort, but it's sometimes hard in this age of social media posting. When I'm traveling for work (like right now), I over pack. In any event, comfortable shoes are key and I tend to wear my trusty flip flops. Love the look of your ponytail in the ball cap.

    1. That is my signature travel hairstyle because my family definitely does NOT like to wait for me to do my hair or worry if it gets windblown, rained on, etc. during our travel activities! And yes...social media adds some pressure to be "on" at all times. I can certainly admit that it takes a little mental effort to maintain perspective.

  11. Your hair is SO long, love it! I need to think about shoes for our trip to Italy. When we went to Paris a few years ago, we walked and walked AND walked. I am guessing it'll be the same in Italy and I may need to splurge on some cute tennis shoes, since I don't want to wear my running shoes! I've never been to Germany, I had to chuckle over you wearing a jacket/having jacket love even back then! I should buy that Express white cami you keep sharing on here during the possible Memorial Day sale.


    1. Oh I wish my hair were that long but unfortunately it never will be! I often wear a clip-in ponytail (more about it in This Post), and it's pretty much a necessity when I travel!

  12. This is such a great post and next year I'm planning on going back to Cali but the northern part. Have to put Alcatraz on my list.


  13. Definitely layers in Cali, gets pretty chilly there but I love it! Last time I was in San Fran, we missed out on Alcatraz because like you said you have to buy your tickets well in advance. I'm bummed I missed out. Hopefully on the next trip! Now Germany is definitely a place I'd love to visit!


  14. oh my gosh that throwback photo of you is the best thing i've ever seen. i'm so jealous! i'd love to go to germany one day. i'd also love to take my kids on international trips, i think it would be amazing. Alcatraz sounds really cool, if i ever make it across that way i will be sure to go. i never really thought about it but you've made it sound interesting. and i really hope express has a sale that includes jeans - the supersoft ones i bought and love are too big, which is a good problem to have, but i can't return them and i need a smaller size, but i don't want to buy 2 pairs of jeans lol.


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