California: The Road Trip

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Singapore, Narita, LA to San Diego…

Day 1.  We traveled 20 long hours to Los Angeles via Narita.  The four of us were really excited about this trip.  It was the first time the boys, Benjamin and Joaquin, were going to the US and they were hoping to see orcas in San Diego, Mickey and Mater in Disney, classic cars in Petersen and snow in Squaw Valley.

Boys at Narita International Airport waiting for our flight to LA

When the boys saw this Star Wars plane at Narita, they also said that perhaps they will see Darth Vader somewhere in LA.


The flights were long and although the airplanes of United Airlines were new, the in-flight entertainment was quite limited from our experience.  Next time we should download their app on our Ipad first so that we can take advantage of their movies.  Anyway, the crew was accommodating and they understood the demands of having a peanut allergic child on-board, and really, for our family, that’s all that mattered.

We arrived at Los Angeles International Airport around lunchtime of December 10 and we were picked up by Europcar’s shuttle which would bring us to their office nearby so that we can collect our Jeep Grand Cherokee. The boys had been very excited about renting a jeep as it would be their first time riding in such a big SUV. Sadly, the Jeep wasn’t available anymore and so we chose a white Toyota 4Runner instead.  The car was big, it looked and smelled new and it had winter tires. So off we drove to start our adventure.

Heading south of LA, we looked for the nearest Target to get our supplies for the road trip ahead – food, drinks, Christmas CDs and a Garmin navigator.  I realised I did not have to bring Joaquin’s usual supply of grocery since Target had everything he’d need. Everything was adequately labeled and they do have a lot of food (including junk food) that are peanut- and fish-free.  America is allergy-friendly! It was only our first day, we were just at the grocery store, and we (especially me) were already loving California.


The freeways leading to San Diego were wide and luckily still not jammed that mid-afternoon.   Most of the way we were on I-5 which hugs the Pacific Coast and so there were nice views every now and then.  It’s about 120mi or 194km from LA to San Diego.

Our family is not fond of shopping and we hardly do so especially while traveling abroad, but we were in the land of factory outlets, so why not?  Also, Carlsbad Premium Outlets was really just on the way to San Diego and a perfect stop to give Euben, my husband, a break from driving, and so stopping for an hour or so was just nice.  Okay, I’ll stop justifying this already.  But really, it’s worthwhile making time for outlets in the US because the discounts are huge especially for people coming from Singapore where shopping is too expensive.  Carlsbad was 90mi away from LA and less than 30mi before San Diego.  I have my friend Aileen V to thank for the shopping ideas, and also for the accommodation and car rental tips for this holiday.

Benjamin at Carlsbad Premium Outlets

Keeping to our itinerary, we had dinner at Blaze Pizza and after that headed to Hampton Inn by Hilton in Mission Valley, our accommodation in San Diego for the next two days.

Picture courtesy of

Hampton Inn is a small, modern hotel and was decorated nicely for Christmas during our visit.  It didn’t have an elaborate breakfast spread but it was enough.  The staff was accommodating and they even helped check if Joaquin can safely eat the cook-it-yourself waffle.  The rooms were clean and spacious, enough to accommodate our family of four.  The hotel was located just a few miles from major attractions in San Diego hence the main factor for choosing it.

Picture courtesy of

Here’s our San Diego itinerary for the next 2 days:

Day 2:  USS Midway Museum, SeaWorld

Day 3: San Diego Zoo, Road Trip to Anaheim (Downtown Disney)

What I think about this day:

  • From Singapore, Singapore Airlines would be the best choice. But if you have peanut allergy, United Airlines is a great one, just make sure you have tools to keep your kids entertained during the flight.
  • Europcar has a fleet of new cars but do confirm and re-confirm if your choice is available a few days before your arrival.
  • Two hours in Calsbad Premium Outlets would still be too short.
  • I highly recommend Hampton Inn in Mission Valley.  It’s near SeaWorld and definitely not far from Downtown San Diego and the zoo if you are driving.

Do read the next posts. It had been an epic road trip for our family and I hope you’ll get some inspiration and tips from this series of posts…



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