Stella Goes to Santa Barbara!
Ever since I worked on a real estate project in Isla Vista, I have had it on my list to get back to Santa Barbara. From the easy airport and charming Spanish style town, to the flower lined trails and beaches - I knew it was the perfect U.S. beach destination for our first trip as a family of 3.
Naturally, a vacation with a 1 year old would be a far cry from the months I spent in a hip, State Street Hotel as a 22 year old, so I was sure to take all the necessary steps so it was an enjoyable vacation for us all. Here’s what we did:
Stay at a luxury hotel: this sounds silly, because obviously that would be ideal for anyone, but I feel like often people veto a nice hotel thinking they will be out and about for the majority of the trip. This was NOT the case with a toddler. Still on a 2 nap a day schedule and a full night sleep being the goal, we knew we’d be spending most of our time at our hotel. The Ritz Carlton Bacara was AMAZING when it came not only to the atmosphere, but especially the service. Stella seemed like the most popular girl on the property and got stuffed animals from the chef, special meals made just for her brought to our room, and her stroller was a welcome presence everywhere from the lobby to the stunning trails throughout the property. Ritz is VERY kid friendly.
Get your little a seat on the plane and if they are still in a carrier, bring it! I had flown on 3+ hour flights with Stella before and knew what I’d be dealing with (major arm workout), but she was getting more and more mobile and jumpy every day. My husband is a great helper but flying isn’t his favorite thing, so I was anxious about being on my own in the entertainment department. I had already gotten her own seat so that we would for sure not have to share a row with a patient stranger, but the idea of bringing her carrier annoyed me. I like to travel light so that I can move quickly without hassle, so carrying her carseat through the airport only to have her possibly wanting out right when we sat on the plane did not seem ideal. Thankfully, she was AMAZING in it. we put her in the window seat and covered her to make sure it was nice and dark, and she slept almost the entire flight both ways. Be sure to check that your carrier is FAA approved, my UppaBaby MESA was even though it didn't have the sticker on the side saying so.
Blackout curtains and sound machine were musts: like everyone, Stella wakes up every now and then and usually goes back to sleep. Except for when she is someplace new and exciting to wake up in. I packed a blackout curtain from home and her usual sound machine so that when she did wake up, she wasn’t distracted by her different surroundings and could continue to give her Daddy and I some adult time. I thought about it, but a monitor wasn’t necessary given that her little living room/sleep space was attached to our bedroom.
Child proofing is impossible, so pay close attention. Of course I considered requesting that all sharp edges and outlets be covered prior to our arrival, but I needed to be realistic. Naturally, Stella took her first steps during our trip and promptly nailed her little forehead on the only corner of the roundest chair I’ve ever seen. Yes, that meant that I was going to chase her around the room all weekend, but that’s part of the family fun I guess.
West Coast meant time change, that Stella ignored. Rather than spend 4 days trying to get her to an agreeable schedule that would inevitably go back to normal, we just embraced it. I woke up early with her (5-6 am) and we enjoyed long walks through the nature trails and along the beach in her ErgoBaby 360 and got in great workouts! Then in the evenings we did early dinners (5 pm reservations were great for not wanting to annoy other guests at the nicer restaurants too) and had drinks on the balcony after an early bedtime.
Where did we stay? Ritz Carlton Bacara - perfect in every way, but be prepared for some hikes as its largely outdoors with lots of hills in between amenities.
When did we go? Early May - We weren’t that far south and being right on the coast meant it wasn’t hot by any means, but it was wonderful! The pools were heated to 80 degrees and so long as we had light sweaters in the evenings, it was great.
Where did we visit? The marina is a favorite and you can often see seals and sea lions between boats and on the buoys. I love marina food spots and Stella enjoyed her first clam chowder. We also liked Sterns Warf and the shops/restaurants along State Street. Honestly, our hotel was more than enough entertainment for our short visit.
Did we rent a car? Yes, but that was booked back when I was considering renting a carseat and not bringing hers. Ultimately we could have brought her carrier in an Uber on the 4 car rides we had.