beach

San Diego Off Season Beach Vacation. Where to Stay. (San Diego, CA)

South Mission Beach Rental House

Mission Beach is a lively beach with walkable options for dining and recreation. That’s one of the reasons it makes such a fun family vacation. Not having to get in the car (unless you want to) makes it one of the most affordable and relaxing beach vacations we have found. There are two accommodations options for travelers visiting the area. We are going to detail both.

Every family is different in what they expect from a vacation. We are often conflicted about our preference for staying in a rental home or a hotel. Both have advantages and disadvantages. We find hotels are nice because we know we have a safe lighted place to land no matter what time we arrive, rooms are clean and remade and restocked daily, dining options are easy and plentiful and most hotels have pools or other recreation options for our kids. Rental homes offer more of the comforts of home. We know they are going to have a kitchen we can stock and cook our own meals and space to stretch out. With our children we find that overall rental homes are most relaxing for us when we go to San Diego for a beach vacation (Legoland vacation or downtown we prefer hotels). Since we really are relieved to get away either way we often book a hotel and then look for last minute deals on rental homes to get the most for our money. (more…)

Be Right Back. (San Diego, CA)

South Mission Beach San DiegoWe are taking a break this week and getting out of town.  San Diego is one of those places that has so many meanings for us that it’s almost difficult to capture everything in words alone.  It’s our place to log off, relax and explore.  We hope you have the chance to take some time off this holiday break.  We are going to be back with some travel tips, recipes and farm visits soon!

Getaway. Dream Inn (Santa Cruz, CA)

Vacations don’t come often enough around here and usually entail sneaking off for a night or two at best. This summer we wanted to celebrate the last day of school and Grandma’s birthday so we took off on a quick midweek getaway. Destination. Santa Cruz. The Dream Inn.

I haven’t spent a ton of time in Santa Cruz. I mean TBH it’s been grammar school camping, cheer camp in high school and a day trip with my brother in sister when they were in high school. So my knowledge of the area isn’t extensive, even if I did grow up in the Bay Area. So lame right. For some reason my parents didn’t take me to Santa Cruz. Like. Ever. I inquired about this with my Mom as we sat on the beach this trip and she laughed and said maybe she spent enough time there in her teen years for the both of us. Hmmm. Allrighty then.

BOOKING
I booked our reservation by phone and you should too. Here is why. The online prices for this hotel are quite high. It runs about $300/night for a two queen room and up depending on what night you are looking at. I found much lower rates online so I called the hotel directly to see if they could price match and they offered me a lower rate of $239/night that I took.

CHECKING IN
Getting to the Dream Inn by way of my trusty GPS was precarious so make sure to familiarize yourself with a map of Santa Cruz before leaving. The boardwalk facing streets are one way and for some reason had me going \crazy ways and definitely not ending up anywhere near my destination. Parking at the hotel is valet or self park and both run $25 so save yourself the hassle and just valet. The beach is crazy and most parking is pricey.

Checking into the hotel I was immediately transported to another time. I completely relaxed and allowed myself to become part of the flow. This is a difficult task after spending almost four hours in a packed Subaru with two screaming tots. Our room was available early so we were able to drop our bags and find the pool. Midweek during the first week of summer the place was so quiet you could hear the waves crashing and the sea lions barking under the pier. We opted for a poolside lunch. The bar serves lunch and is ordered by way of a poolside bar cabana. Options were limited as expected and did have some nice options. We got turkey burgers with homemade chips and the kids got grilled cheese sandwiches (off menu) and fries. The bar itself is sparse. The only wine was a partially full box of wine so I went for a margarita instead. It came in a cheapie plastic cup which was sort of sad except the bartender made up for it. That was a completely surprisingly perfect margarita! Deserved. So deserved after that drive.

POOLSIDE BEACHSIDE
We spent the majority of the afternoon at the beach which is accessible from the pool area. There is one flight of steep stairs that leads right to the lifeguard protected stretch of sand that all the hotel rooms look out over. The beach has gentle waves as it is actually part of the Monterey Bay so it’s perfect for tots that just want to play in the sand and do some water time. The crowd around the beach is roughish at times. I stayed close to the lifeguard stand. Definitely don’t bring valuables and keep personal items to a minimum.

There is a basic outdoor shower just inside the door that leads back up the stairs to the pool area so you can shed some of the sand collected at the beach.

The fact that the beach is so close to your room really is kind of amazing. There aren’t many hotels in California with this set up and with toddlers it’s a game changer.

ROOMS
We retreated to our room. Got cleaned up and ordered room service for dinner. The adults got Cobb Salads and the kids got chicken fingers and vegetables. The salads were basic. Ingredients seemed fresh. The kids meals were more impressive and the vegetables were a nice variety and steamed and my tots polished them off without hesitation. I really don’t see vegetables like this offered to children much and it was a refreshing option! The room service staff was extremely polite and patient and gave me lots of options by phone. We took a stroll around the property after eating and got in our beds. Listening to the sound of the waves at night is magical and we were all ready to sleep.

There are two basic room designations to keep in mind. The tower rooms are further from the front desk and close to the adjacent cliff. We toured a tower room and it was exactly the same as ours except for location. For couples or anyone looking for privacy or romance. Stay in the tower rooms. They are definitely quieter and further away from the action. We stayed in one of the rooms in the non tower area or the poolside rooms. These rooms look directly out over the pool and beach. These rooms can be nosier and have more going on outside. There was a rowdy bonfire group in the evening except with our door closed we could barely hear anything. The kids loved being part of the action and liked being on this side of the hotel. There are also higher floor rooms and suites available.

OVERALL
Overall our stay at the Dream Inn was worth the room price. Being that close to the ocean with small children is no small feat and worth the extra money. The hotel is a restored historic property so it does seem a bit worn in some places and in need of some additional upkeep. Then again it is a beach hotel and gets sand happy guests nightly so keeping the place in top shape could not be the easiest of feats. The guest rooms are a mix of retro and new so expect what Joie de Vivre hotels are famous for. Authenticity and imagination. This hotel is deeply rooted in it’s authentic boardwalk past and used some creative imagination to give it a modern flair.

We chose to stay at the Dream Inn as part of a trip to get to know more about farming in the area and visit Gilroy Gardens. See more about this on a later post.

The Dream Inn is located at 175 W Cliff DrSanta Cruz, CA 95060 or can be reached at 831-426-4330