If you have plans to head to Southern California for a family vacation, reunion, etc., you can read about the things we did in SoCal for inspiration to plan your trip! I believe you need more than just a few days vacationing in California, but you can pack a lot of adventure in just a few days of fun in the sun! Here’s our adventure- Eight Days in a Californian Paradise.

Headed to California? Here's a list of things to do in Southern California, places to eat and where to stay! Great family vacation ideas for SoCal- Eight Days in a Californian Paradise

Eight Days in a Californian Paradise

We woke up early to another spontaneous and dreary Michigan morning

A week of warm, near 60-degree weather, had turned it’s back on us, and a cold front was headed our way. Michigan is known for it’s fickle weather patterns, and it’s inhabitants are known for planning temporary escapes. And escape from Michigan is exactly what we are up to. And somehow we played our cards right and are heading to sunny California. Perfect timing? Well, almost.

Our family of five is taking our annual Spring vacation, and over the years we have either headed south to Orlando, Florida or out west to California. This time around we all voted (Yes, every year each family member gets to cast a vote for the place they want to visit. Indeed, our house is a very democratic one) for Cali and this is the story about how an eight-day reprieve from the mercurial clutches of Michigan morphed into one of our most chill vacations to date.

The night before we departed Tat and I did our usual clean the house from top to bottom routine, like so many vacationers, who wants to return from vacation to a disheveled house. We also arranged for Goku (our Boston Terrier) to be picked up and did a few other pre-vacation must-dos. The boys are excited, we all are, and everyone sleeps a fitful sleep.

Tick-tock and off goes the alarm clock

The morning comes too soon, and it isn’t long before we’re all sleepwalking out of doors into the chill air and our SUV. We are traveling light, the boys with their respective backpacks and only a single suitcase between us. Tat devised a stratagem in which we only back enough clothes for three days and then wash, wear and repeat. Brilliant! The traffic heading east towards the Metro Detroit Airport is sparse, for which we are grateful because we know traffic issues will be our reality soon enough. We make it to airport parking and take the shuttle, and this particular driver is a chatterbox, his excessive talking I wonder, is it the result of too much caffeine or just his regular modus operandi? Tat and I share a knowing look and smile our knowing smiles, and she rolls her big beautiful eyes, and now I wish just the two of us were heading off to Maui, St. Barts or some other romantic getaway, maybe next time.  But it’s okay because I am sure we’ll have a good time all the same once the jet stream delivers us to California.

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Spirit is my homeboy

The cool thing about flying Spirit is that they’re fairly efficient and over the years we have learned how to fly with them. They’re a no nonsense lot, and that’s how they keep their fares low. And you can’t get too much lower than a family of five flying out west for a mere pittance. Not too long after we’re all seated and buckled in we are up, we’re off, we are flying, and four hours and a few minutes later we are landing in LAX and ready to get this vacation started.

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Our first stop is also our last stop 

After we retrieve our single piece of polka dot luggage (Tat loves polka dots), we take a shuttle to pick up our car, and soon enough we piling into an all-new 2016 Kia Sorento LX V6 AWD and this stagecoach sparkles like the Hope Diamond! This is one sexy car with a soft luminescent Titanium Silver sheen and leather interior, and it has an infinity sunroof. Can you say GAH! Thank you, Kia! The boys love it, we all love it, and I am confident Goku would love it too if only our littler guy were here.

2016 Kia Sorento

We get loaded up and make a bee-line to our traditional first stop, In-n-Out Burger! Soon we’re eating delicious burgers and Wild Style fries out of those iconic red baskets and slurping it down with their refreshingly delicious pink lemonade, well except for Zion because according to him, “Lemonade should be yellow, not pink”.

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Under the cover of darkness, we point our silver chariot eastward on the I-105

I pull co-pilot duty, and Tat is at the helm. She punched in the address to our vacation house a few minutes ago and now we heading towards Anaheim. It is late Wednesday, and we’re threading our way through light Los Angeles traffic (I know right) and a bit of drizzling rain. And we know better than to complain about a little rain considering what we left behind in Michigan. Who wouldn’t welcome 60 degrees (rain or no rain) over what is is currently happening back in Michigan? I learn a dreadful accumulation of four inches of snow is what’s going on back home. I shake those horrible thoughts from my head. Shake! Shake! Shake!

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A vacation house to remember

In just under an hour we pull into the driveway of our new home for the next eight days. It is a single family house with a detached garage. And through the California moon-glow, we can see that the lawn, as well as the house, looks well-maintained.  We are all a bit weary from the flight and more than ready to call it a night. You can read more about our vacation house, and why this option is recommended over a hotel when going on a long vacation.Our boys ask and lickety-split don their swimming trunks for a quick late night dunk in the pool. Why not we’re on vacation and vacation, our typical regimen gets set aside until we return home. On vacation, as parents we try, within reason, so let them indulge and hear “yes” more often then “no” because vacations should be mostly about what they can do rather than what they cannot. After an hour or so the boys shower and get into their pj’s and soon enough they’re settled in for the night. We are finally here, and we all look forward to venturing out into Anaheim and beyond in the morning. Goodnight!

You can get more in-depth details about why this Anaheim Vacation House rocks {plus a coupon code for your future stay!}

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How to save whilst on vacation

In the morning, we let the boys sleep in and head on over to Ralph’s grocery store. Tat did her due diligence beforehand and researched the best bargains for groceries in the area. She also discovered that Ralph’s in owned by Kroger, which is a biggie, because now she will be able to take advantage of additional saving using her Kroger card and earning points! She also brought along coupons. I married the smartest (and prettiest) woman ever! Here’s the deal. We had set our grocery food budget at $200 and because we planned ahead and used coupons and the saving from our Kroger’s membership we came in under budget at $123.74! The takeaway is, make sure you plan and find the best deals no matter where you are vacationing. Utilizing this strategy enabled us to stick to our savings habit and make the trip even more affordable! Winning! And because we saved big we treated the boys to a Chick Fil A lunch and guess what, no one complained!

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Disneyland, Universal’s Harry Potter,  Downtown Disney, Beignets and crazy good food!

Over the next several days we gorged ourselves on good times and as much California sunshine as we could get. We visited Disneyland for a day, took in a Clipper’s game and watched our boy’s eyes light up with the sheer excitement of attending a live game. Zion’s favorite NBA team is the Los Angeles Clippers, and so he was in fanboy heaven. We don’t ever think we have seen him smile this hard and the whole time wearing the most genuine smile ever!

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The next couple of days were spent lounging by the pool, snagging up NBA jerseys for the boys (we have one Clippers fan, a Golden State fan, and a Toronto Raptors fan). So two out of three were taking advantage of our time in California and getting jerseys, t-shirts, and hats that wouldn’t be able to find back home.

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We also ate at some pretty righteous restaurants, namely Public School 818 in Sherman Oaks and our hands down favorite The Ramos House Cafe located in the quaint town of San Juan Capistrano.

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The Banana Nutella Pain Perdu and Crab Hash w/ Bacon Scrambled Eggs and Citrus Cream are both foodie dreams come true! And if you’re ever in Cali, or know of good places to eat, make sure to let us know because we would love to check ’em out next time we’re out west.

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On our last day in beautiful California, we hit Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and even though we been to the one in Orlando this was still a great time. We scored Butter Beer, (we wish we could have brought a couple of bottles of this stuff bad, so good! We nabbed an interactive (and so very official) Harry Porter wand too! Expecto Patronum! We also ventured through the rest (most) of Universal where we got to see a live taping of a the Extra entertainment magazine segment with host Mario Lopez, and we got to see large and in charge leader Optimus Prime has he interacted with fans with funny quips and shenanigans. Very cool stuff.

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READ: Going to California on a budget? Read our budget-saving tips and how to plan a trip for under $3000 for a family of 5!  California Vacation: How We Saved BIG & Spent Under $3000

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It’s hard to say goodbye

No one wants to leave. However, all good things must come to a temporary end. Our Kia 2016 took us to  In-N-Out for our last hurrah and headed to the airport. We enjoyed driving around the Anaheim and LA area in style. Not only did this luxurious SUV fit our family of five (can seat up to 7), but also our luggage, laptop bags, and all of the boys book bags. We own a 2011 model, so it was easy to see all of the upgrades Kia did to the 2016 model. #welldonekia

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The interior design of the 2016 Sorento is on fleek. And with 29 mpg on the highway, we were able to save on gas! I also loved the Panoramic Sunroof. This is a MUST have in my next vehicle. It comes with all the latest technology, including Surround View Monitor (SVM) controlling four mounted cameras. Trying to back into a tight space? The Sorento has you covered. This was one my favorite features in this model. Sometimes I get nervous about backing into tight spaces. Having the capability of the surround view eased my nerves. While this is an SUV, it drove like a car. It felt as if we were floating while driving on the highway.

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You can learn more about the 2016 Kia Sorento here.

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Zayd’n somehow talked the Pilot into letting him fly us home. We made it home in one piece, so it’s safe to say he got booted back to his seat! As always, we had a fun and adventurous vacation in Southern California, and we’re counting down the time until our next trip!

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Have you ever been to Southern California? What are some of your favorite things to do there? Places to eat? Leave us a comment below and let us know!

In the meantime, you can find more California Fun below: