Driving to LA from the Bay Area

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Driving to LA with 18-mo old twins

Nov 2004

Non-CA natives, infrequent traveler by car, not super excited about this trip, but it is better than hosting (for me right now). Any tips? I-5 or 101? Places to jump off (e.g. if we went 101, we could stop at the Dennis the Menace park in Monterey....). Personally, I wish we could skip the holidays this year! Wendy

We drive to LA often with our twins When our twins were little, we began travel at dinner time. I fed the kids in the car while my husband drove I-5. We made one stop to change diapers, get coffee for the adults, and let the little ones play at the indoor play structure (usually around 7:30pm). I brought light up/wind up crib toys that play music to help them unwind and get to sleep. As they grew up, I used a small tv/vcr, and now a dvd player to help time go by faster. Good luck. Susie - Twins by the Bay

I was born and raised in Pasadena so we do this trip frequently because my kids adore seeing Grandma for the holidays. It seems daunting at first but we've got it down to where we actually enjoy the time together.

My advice is

(1) Leave as early as you possibly can--we usually pack the night before and try to be out of the house by 4:30 am so the kids sleep in their jammies until we stop for breakfast. I pack a change of regular clothes and dress them in the car before we go into the restaurant.
(2) Take I-5, it's the fastest
(3) Stop for breakfast at the Harris Ranch (VERY kid friendly) which is the midpoint of your journey. After breakfast, we let them run around out back by the fountain. We have an entire collection of plastic ''rocket'' cups which come with the kids' meal. They love these.
(4) For the 2nd half of the journey, they get to open one, possibly 2 brand new toys (a new coloring book, a cassette with a follow-along picture book, a new toy car--whatever suits)
(5) We stop at a rest stop just before the grapevine, stretch our legs, use the bathtroom, perhaps get a little treat from the vending machines (they have push pops).
(6) Arrive in L.A. by lunchtime. We let Grandma know via cell phone to get lunch ready cause we're almost there.

We repeat the same routine for the trip back but without the brand new toys since Grandma usually has presents for them during the visit.

Best of luck with your holiday travel. Go Bears!

We drove down to LA from Oakland(and back) countless times when my three kids were small and our best bet was to leave as early as possible and take I-5. 101 is more scenic, but not worth the extra few hours it takes. We'd pack a bag of toys (always a few new things) for them to play with and a bag of snacks to keep them munching. There are several rest stops along the way for diaper changes and space to run around to blow off steam. We'd always make one stop midway at a restaurant just to give ourselves a break. My husband hates ''children's music'' so we'd blast the oldies station and sing our lungs out. I probably have a selective memory, but our trips to LA to visit grandma and grandpa were always fun. I hope yours is too. Jan

I drove back and forth between Berkeley & L.A. several times during my undergrad., with my 7-8 yr. old. Take the I-5, by all means! You will save at least 2 hours. There are parts where radio reception is not that great - so I would recommend a good tape/CD; they'll probably sleep most of the way. If it's cold enough, you may see snow right before Frazier Park - that's right past the ''grapevine''. One year, I let my son out to play and he had a blast. I've tried the I-101 route once - all it did was add HOURS to the trip.. even stopping to sightsee - was a drag as we just wanted to get to where we were going... Good luck. Gizella

i like to get the pain overwith quickly and while little one is sleeping. our last drive with the wee one we drove the 5. Harris Ranch is midway between the bay area and LA: great rooms, fun pool, good food, reasonable rates. we left here around 8 in the evening, arrived at harris ranch at 11:30. transfered sleeping baby into one of the rooms in our suite and hung out. got up in the morning, ate breakfast, swam in the pool and ran around, gassed up, and got back on the road a little early for naptime, and she slept most of the way. Julia

If your goal is to drive to LA as quickly as possible take the 580 to I-5 and leave after 8pm so there will be no traffic and the kids will sleep. However, never drive the I-5 on the sunday after Thanksgiving! The traffic is horrific and there is nowhere decent to stop.

If you plan to drive during the day and have the time to take a nicer route than definately drive the 101. (I wouldn't take a sidetrip to Monterey unless you have tons of extra time however because it will add 45 minutes to your drive each way from the 101!) There are lots of places to stop on the way down:

Make it to Gilroy and stop at the outlet center. There is a carters store where the kids can cruise around and play with toys for a bit. There are nice bathrooms with changing stations. There is a Fresh Choice restaurant (good for kids) and coffee places too.

There is a central California chain of restaurants called Margie's Diner that serves huge portions and works well for toddlers. They are near the highway, one is Salinas, one in Gilroy, one just south of San LUis Obispo, and one in Goleta just north of Santa Barbara.

There is a nice rest stop between King City (which is a notorious speed trap by the way!) and Paso Robles where the kids can run around on the grass. I usually bring a ball in the car.

In Paso Robles the old downtown square is lovely and it has a nice playground for kids. It's not far from the highway. There is a F Mclintocks Saloon right near the square which is a fun place to take kids and has good food.

About 30 minutes south of Paso Robles is San Luis Obispo and they have a great downtown main street area built near the creek. That is a nice place to stretch your legs.

About twnty miles south of Santa Maria are two state beaches/camp areas called Gaviota Beach and Refugio. Refugio has an exceptionally beautiful beach with shady palm trees that you can see from the highway. It's lovely there and the kids can run around. You can pick up a picnic in Pismo Beach and eat it there or dirve some more and eat it at Refugio.

In Goleta (suburb just north of Santa Barbara) is Goleta Beach Park. You take Hwy 218 towards the SB airport and UCSB (it's a super short highway) Take Sandspit Exit just before you reach UCSB campus and turn left. a few yards later turn right into the beach park. There is a great playground there literally on the sand, good restrooms and a fantastic restaurant called the Beachside Bar Cafe which has great food and outdoor seating too. There is a super long pier you can walk out with the kids. It's very fun.

In Santa Barbara there is a new children's park right on El Cabrillo blvd which runs parallel to the beautiful palm tree lined beach. If you like Denis the Menance Park in Monterey....this one is 10 times better.

Let's see, Ventura has some great public parks too and beaches the kids can toddle around. and then Ventura is 90 minutes north of LA (without traffic).

the 101 is scenic and there are so many places to stop and hang out for a while if the kids get cranky in the car. If the kids are sleeping where you had planned to stop than you can drive on and stop an hour further down the road.

Have a nice trip! Christa

And I thought driving to LA with one kid is tough! Take I-5, it's faster. Stop at the Peach Tree Resturtaunt in Marysville for food. It's approximately half way. They have an amazing collection of tin lunch boxes! And a peach orchard the kids could run around in. They have a great gift shop with a kid's coloring book section...stuff like that.

There are several rest stops that are spacious and grassy. I'd suggest, since the kids are so young, don't waste your money at theme parks. Just hit a rest stop for 20 mins and let the kids run around on the grass. Have a picnic, pet some dogs... don't fuss with strollers and long lines and tickets and other people. It's an 8 hour drive. It'll only add to the stress. I'm a native Californian and have traveled up and down milliona of time. This is the fastes and easiest way to complete the drive almost stress free.

Oh, and a secret traveling tip: Dramamine! It's a motion sickness tablet you can buy over the counter. My kid gets sick in the car and it really helped AND the side efect is sleepiness. So, she'll sleep for hours and the trip just floats on by!

Good luck and uh... Happy Holidays! Alena

We just made the LA drive with our then-15mo last month, and the best advice I have is to start the drive right before bedtime, if at all possible. The freeway (I-5 if speed is your goal) is less crowded and, best of all, they conk right out and sleep most of the way there. The only downside is you get in tired and they're fresh and ready to go, but if you're seeing family, hopefully you have a built-in sitter who could let you catch some zzzs. If night travel isn't possible, bring some favorite CDs, small toys, or a LeapPad-type thing if you have one. And bring a towel or window-shade for daytime travel - 5+ hours with the sun on one side of the car is brutal. There are pretty good rest stops along I-5 where you can get out and change a diaper and let toddlers run around on the grass during the day. Bring a ball to get them moving at the rest stop and burn off some energy. Jeni

We've driven to LA once or twice a year with our twin daughters ever since they were born (now they're 5). We always take I-5 because it's significantly shorter than 101. 101 is much pretier, but that's only really an issue for adults. Kids are equaly entertained/bored with beauty or semi trucks, so we choose the shorter route! We always pack plenty of car-toys, and for the past several years interactive toys like leap pads. We always have lots of snacks ready for them as well. And we always make one stop at some fast-food chain with a play place so the kids can run for an hour while we watch and eat a little, and then hit the road again. We let the kids play the whole time, only stopping some to take a drink, and then they eat in the car after we head out. This is typically a dinner stop, and then sometime after dinner they fall asleep for the rest of the trip which is also a great way to get many miles covered painlessly!

For some trips, it's more convenient to arrive not late at night, so we've driven most of the way as described above, then stop at a hotel in Grapevine (just before heading over the hills into the LA basin). The next day we get a nice breakfast out and have only about two hours to get all the way to our relatives' house to arrive at about lunch time.

We've also tried flying, but by the time you get to the airport early enough, rent a car in LA and drive to your destination it's taken almost as long as to drive plus it costs a lot more. Mike

may I suggest something that is probably one of the most powerful tools of parenting and long distance traveling that has come about since the invention of the automobile. It is The Portable DVD Player. I think there is a god named after it. Deeveedious, the god of peace and quiet. I know you asked for places to go and with twins, you may already know this bit of wisdom but I couldn't help myself. erin

Because your kids are 18 months I recommend several things. You want to be in the car as little as possible, so you should take I-5. It is a lot shorter, nothing to look at, but it won't matter to your kids. Also anything is exciting to an 18 month old, so if you just stop at a rest stop and play chase for 20 minutes they will think that is very exciting. When we go on road trips of that length we try to leave early in the morning so the kids sleep for a good portion of the trip and then we stop for breakfast when they wake \\ We usually leave at about 4AM or 5AM, but it has worked out best to leave really early. Try to have a good attitude if you can. It helps alot. There is one stop just this side of the grapevine (so pretty far south) that is a good one for kids. It is a state park that used to be an old army fort. It's called Fort Tejon. There is some grass to run on and logs to jump off of and not much else, but my kids can have a really good time there. Kids music also helps. lots of road trips

There's one important thing that nobody seems to have mentioned yet: If and when you stop for a meal, you have to let young kids run around and play for a while BEFORE you sit down in a restaurant. It's just not reasonable to expect them to go straight from sitting in the car to sitting down for a meal.

That's why fast food places with play structures are good, and so are rest areas when the weather's good, but Harris Ranch and the TA ''truckers' mall'' (next-to-last exit before the Grapevine) are more pleasant indoor places for the adults to hang out while the kids run for a bit.

My son loves the fountains at Harris Ranch (there's a small one indoors and a larger one out, at the opposite end of the hall from the restaurants), the restrooms are really nice and include both plenty of diaper-changing space and mini-sized toilets for the newly potty-trained, and there is a little shop that sells travel toys along with gift items, a few books, candy, etc.

The TA place is not so upscale but is a good place to stop in bad weather or in the middle of the night or very early morning. In one building there are a couple of fast food options, a coffee shop, a convenience/gift store and a few vending machines, a video games room, and large restrooms with changing tables. There's enough hallway space for a bit of leg- stretching. There's a gas station across the way.

Mom of kids with grandparents in Orange County

Driving to Disneyland from Albany

May 2003

hi i am a single mum of a 4 year old. he is going through some insecurities ( just realized he doesn`t have a dad-my husband left when i was pregnant) anyway i promised him a trip to disneyland. i was thinking of going by car from albany since the fares are so expensive but everyone thinks i`m crazy. any ideas on stopovers on route or where to stay on route to break the journey? i believe its about 6-7 hours and i feel i can do it, but i`ve lost my confidence a bit now, in case something goes wrong. single mum

In the Grapevine (when I-5 climbs steeply into the mountains between the Central Valley and Los Angeles) there is Fort Tejon State Park, which might be great to stop at to let your kid run around a bit. It was a Civil War era army fort, so might have some historical interest for you if you are into that sort of thing, plus there are picnic benches and lots of open space. Most of I-5 up until that point consists of farmland and roadside restaurants with bad food, so last time I drove that distance with my 2 year old, I was very happy to stop at the state park. Robin

Just go!! You will have the best time. We drove in march and it was great. It took about 7 hours and we stopped for a long lunch. The park will be crowded this time of the year so be forwarned. It is expensive so I suggest staying in one of the hotels that have little mini suites that have kitchens so you can eat in. Our son (3 1/2) had agreat time. Be careful with some of the rides. Our son was very traumatized by Snow whites scary adventure. He still talks about it. good luck! ncm

It is an fairly easy drive, about 410 miles. It takes about 7 hours, including stops at rest areas and a stop to eat. The key is to get on the road either in the early morning (best of all between 6 and 7 am) to get to LA before the afternoon rush hour (580 towards I-5 is not a problem in the morning), or around after 2 pm to avoid heavy afternoon traffic on 580 and get to LA after their rush hour. I-5 is an easy freeway to drive, it has several rest areas along the way, plenty of restaurants, so I guess everything depends on how long a trip your son can survive before he gets nuts from riding in a car.

Since Anaheim is on the southern side of LA, you could also take your son to Legoland which is less than 2 hours away, people say it is not a bad place for little kids. istratov

Go for it. We do it all the time, the last time was last month with my 3 year old and my 6 week old. I stop over in Bakersfield for the night, somewhere with a pool to hang out and burn off some of the calories he was storing sitting still. They another 2 1/2 hours and we are there, and in time for the openings usually. Bakersfield is about 4 hours away, so the big part I do in the morning, stop on the way for lunch at a stop with a playground (mcDonalds, etc) and then on the road til about 3, then hang at the pool til dark. It is a great adventure for all ages. Kristi

Check Southwest airfares. My husband and I are taking our 4.5 year old at the end of June. We are flying from Oakland and into Aneheim for $29.00 each way. If you drive, it is about a six hour trip. I have driven solo with my son a handful of times to visit a friend in LA and did not find it terrible. My son is a good traveler, so you need to take that into account. We took some fun car toys and stopped a couple of times along the way. We also did the Interstate 101 and US1 route which takes much longer but is beautiful...you can stop along the way and stay on the beach. tracy

I give you a lot of credit to tackle the trip to Disneyland with your son. We did the same road trip and stuck with Route 5. It has plenty of chain restaurants and rest stops to help break up the trip. To boost your confidence, I would bring the car in for servicing before the trip, have AAA road service (and they can help plan your trip) and a cell phone. If you leave in the morning, you'll do all the driving in daylight. And we got a bunch of books on tape from the library for our kids. Good luck. Anon

Take 101 and stop in San Luis Obisbo -- that's about the halfway point and there are some decent motels there, and a nice walkable downtown with restaurants. You can also take a break for a walk or lunch the next day in Santa Barbara. Then it's about a 1-1/2 hour drive to the west side of LA or 2 hours to Orange County. 101 is much nicer than 5, especially in hot weather, and there are places to stop along the way -- the down side is that depending on where you are going it takes an extra hour or so. I think you should consider the drive down as part of the vacation. However, you don't want to drive for a trip of less than 4 or 5 days; the ratio between driving time and being ''there'' is too great. Carol

I have a daughter who is almost three, and wev'e been driving down to L.A. several times a year since she was born. I don't like to fly, and I like to have my car when I'm visiting friends and family. Anyway, I use to worry a bit, but we always seem to manage just fine. Some trips were easier than others. I always chose going down the 5 because it is the quickest, but very boring. It all depends on how many stops you take and how fast you drive. When I use to go down the 5 without child, it took me on average about 51/2 - 6 hours at an average speed of 75 (One stop for a quick picnic lunch at a rest stop and bathroom, and maybe one more brief stop at a gas station for fuel and snacks a cold drink). With child it took anywhere between 6- 10 hours depending on what we did during those stops and how old she was. Lots of toys, books, snacks, and music for the drive is a must. Getting an early start always seems to work best. I did the trip alone with just my daughter three times and found the easiest trip to be the one where we stopped and stayed at a hotel half way down.This was great because it eliminated the need to get an earlier start, and made the trip more relaxing, but a bit more expensive. The nicest hotel that is right off the 5 at the half way point is Harris Ranch. Take the Coalinga exit. You can't miss it. It is a rather large two story complex surrounded by lots palm trees. They have a swimming pool with several jacuzzis, two restaurants, and a nice outdoor garden area with room to walk around. It was an experiment that I found to be successful. I would definitely do it again if I had the extra time. There are probably other decent hotels around there. If you are a AAA member just ask for their California hotel guide. I believe it is in the northern California book. Look up Coalinga, the town that Harris Ranch is listed under, or just look at a map and pick another town that is close to the half way point near the 5 and then look for hotels listed in that area.

An important note if you drive the 5. It can get extremely hot during the summer, so a car with working air conditioning is strongly advised. Also, it is important to make sure your car doesn't have problems with overheating, as this can be a real problem when trying to get over the Grapevine during three digit temperatures. Turn off air conditioning if you are not sure when going over it. Don't worry, most cars make it just fine. I've never had problems. You'll do just fine. Don't let your friends tell you that you are crazy. They probably never did it themselves. You'll have a good time. Just take your time, stop at a hotel half way, and relax. And have fun at Disneyland! 3loons

you might want to rethink flying only b/c fares on Southwest can be cheap. $29 each way from Oakland to Orange County (closest to Disneyland) You might also check out AAA website for vacation packages. if you fly, you could stay at a hotel that has shuttles to/from airport as well as to/from Disneyland. If you decided to drive, which really could be fun (but the price of gas = the air fair, no?) it depends in the route you take. If you go by way of 5, there is really nothing from here to there that sparks any interest--but it is much faster, cuts at least an hour off the trip. If you go 101, you could stop in many places. there are lots of beaches on the way--Pismo, San Luis, Santa Barbara is more than half way but gorgeous. Just check out a map, there's a lot along the way.....I wouldn't worry, it's a nice drive, it's only a matter of whether or not your kid likes being in the car. One suggestion, if you can drive at night, you might try that and he could sleep on the way, and no traffic for you. Finally, I know you promised Disneyland but have you thought of Knotts Berry Farm? We found it was much more kid (under 6) friendly, smaller--so less tiring, and bathrooms everywhere! not to mention less expensive. The characters at Knotts are the Peanuts (Charlie Brown and Snoopy, etc.) We took are then 4 year old there and she loved it....good luck. been there

We leave at 4.30am in the morning, drive until the kids wake up (usually 3 hours later) stop for breakfast (Denny's) then drive some more before we hit LA. It makes for a quicker trip - less traffic and less whining from the cheap seats AND less need for a stopover! anon

We just drove our daughters down to Disneyland for a long weekend. What worked well for us was leaving at about 6pm. We fed them dinner in the car, let them watch a video and read, then told them it was ''sleeptime''. They slept most of the way to LA! While I wouldn't recommend this for you alone, maybe a friend could travel along? The trip took us 5 hours since we didn't have to stop for them to stetch their legs and potty breaks (1 quick one for us!). It was great and very manageable with 2 drivers. Saved a lot of $$ in airfare, too! On the way, home, it took a bit longer, but we left with plenty of time and let them stop to play tag at a rest area once in a while. Good luck! Trish

My husband & I drove last year (in a civic hatchback) w/ our 3 & 5 year old (from Berk to Disneyland). We put them still sleeping in the car @3am & drove as fast as we could. They woke up when we gassed up ~6:30 or so. It is pretty much a wasteland all the way down but you could stop when they got the fidgets.

We had packed activities for them (books & drawing stuff & small plastic figures for them to do play activities). They did fine. We stayed inexpensively (~$75/day) within a few blocks on the strip across from Disneyland.

The best advice we got was to go as soon as it opened in the morning, go back to the hotel & rest during the day, and then go back in the evening until closing time. This way we avoided the crowds to some extent. Our young-uns got a chance to rest & swim which they need as a result of the over-stimulation.

Our kids still talk about it - it was a highlight of their young lives! Have fun & don't worry - it's very doable. Anonymous

I drove from Richmond to San Diego when my daughter was 21 mos old, and it was fine! It took 8 hours, but I did not opt for any significant stops. I left the house at 4 am to get a few hours of driving in with her asleep. I bought a tray that straps to her car seat to make eating and drawing easier and it kept her pretty busy (the One Step Ahead catalog has them). I also had some tapes of favorite music, as well as books on tape for me for when she was asleep. If you want to make a stop, you might want to consider driving down the coast instead of the I-5, as it's prettier and the stops would be more interesting. If you & he like camping, there's a lot of camping along the coast. I'm not sure if a road trip with a 4 yr old is easier or harder than with a 21 mo old, but I found she seemed to know we had a long way to go, so she might as well relax. You can do it! Good luck & have a great trip! alonn

It is 6 hours with minimum stops, light traffic, at 80 mph (speed limit is 75 mph on I-5), if you take I-580 to I-5. It is the flattest, straightest, most monotonous drive imaginable. I hope you have cruise control and air conditioning. That said, there are gas and food stops every half-hour to an hour from here to around Bakersfield. I recall a 2 hour gap somewhere between there and Valencia. We take an hour long restroom, fuel and meal break twice along the way, including breakfast at McDonald's and later a Happy Meal (with an entertaining new toy) lunch. Bring taped audio books and music (from the library?). Pack everything in the car the day before, save your energy for the road trip. Keep snacks and drinks within arms reach of your son so he can help himself. Use safety pins to attach a snack bag to his car seat cushion.

Disneyland has fireworks only on Fridays and weekends before 6/15, and every night after that in the summer. When school is out on weekends and the summer, the park is very crowded. So try to attend on a Friday before school is out. It means travelling on a weekday. To avoid commute hours along I-580 and in L.A., start out at dawn expecting to arrive around noon. By the way, they allow you to bring your own stroller, if you want to try and save on the rental. They have locker rentals and do airport-style security checks at the entrance. kim

It's an easy road trip to Anaheim--as long as your car is in good condition. And since you are a single woman travelling with a child, I'd make sure you have a cell phone with you, for safety. There's an In-and-Out Burger in Kettleman City which is always crowded so if you are driving at night, I'd stop there for a bathroom stop. It should take you about 7 hours -- but think about what time you'll be hitting LA. If you hit LA during rush hour, it will take you longer (potentially adding 2+ hours). I-5 Veteran

I am a single mama who just rediscovered the joy of a road trip! My three year old son and I just went on a week long road trip to southern California and we had a terrific time! In terms of places to stay, we used the Extendedstay America hotel chain - it's inexpensive (relatively speaking!)and the rooms have kitchenettes, so you don't have to eat out for every meal! They have a website, so you can check out all of their locations. As for stops along the way, just look at the map and pick a couple of pit stops a few hours apart, and be sure to leave at a time that works with your child's schedule...we left at about 11 a.m. drove for about 2 1/2 hours, stopped for lunch, ran around and played, then hopped back in the car for the rest of the drive...brought books, toys (not too many), but really just talked a lot and enjoyed the drive! Just remember to plan it out and be prepared and you will have a blast! have a fabulous trip!

Take your cell phone, make sure you have some sort of road service in case of emergency, and GO! Do you have a friend (with or without kid) who might like to go along? Did the trip when my daughter was 3 and we had a blast. Of course, she slept most of the ride. It's a boring drive, but if you're willing to stop at the likes of McDonald's, many of them have play areas. There's lot of stuff to do en route, but we preferred to just drive and get it over with. Driving Dad

I've drive to San Diego and back by myself with a 1 month old and 3 year old. I wouldn't do two again, but one child I would do! You can too! An easy rest stop or overnight stop is the Harris Ranch & Hotel. It's half way between Berkeley and LA. The hotel is beautiful and has a lovely swimming pool. It you're going this summer, it does get hot! If you don't want to break up the trip, just stop a couple of times and expect them to be a little long. You're not crazy, got for it! Anonymous

We have driven down to Disneyland at least once a year since our now 16-year-old was a couple of months old. (I know, we're ''spoilers'', but my husband and I love it even more than the kids!) We have stopped and stayed at Santa Nella (?) where the Anderson Pea Soup place is. I believe it is about half way there. We take a little TV/video combo to watch movies along the way. If you have a lap-top that plays DVDs that would also work. We usually stop at all of the rest-stops along I-5. They are spaced about an hour apart. Everyone gets out to stretch and use the facilities. When the kids were a little younger, we would play tag or ''keep the beach ball up'' type games to expend some energy. Have plenty of snacks and water in the car, but there are also tons of fast food options along the way. Be careful to time your trip so that you don't get into the LA basin at commute time. That is no fun! Also, once you get over the Grape Vine and into LA area there is really no stopping! Getting off of the freeway to find a restroom or food is really inconvenient (but not impossible.) Some people I know have started their trip in the middle of the night so that their kids sleep most of the way, but we haven't tried that. (I personally need MY sleep!) It is not a bad car trip and Disneyland is so fun! Just relax and you and your child will have a great time! Marcia

We have driven to Disneyland twice in the last year so I wanted to give you my thoughts on it. We took our 4 and 7-year old. Many people recommended waiting until 6 years old and I would recommend the same. I took our 4 year old because I wanted to take my 7 year old. There are fewer rides available to that age and it takes alot out of a kid walking/strolling, waiting in lines, etc. I discourage going in June, July, August because the heat is very hard on children. We first went in August and many children were miserable and therefore many parents were miserable (alot of money and little fun). Go after September (we went in late January). It is far more manageable and fun. When you do drive, leave really early in the morning and take I-5 down. There are a lot of little towns on the way with restaurants, etc. There are fairly inexpensive hotel/motels across the street from Disneyland. For a little more money you can get tickets to the California Theme Park (go if you are staying more than 2 days). It sounds like you made a promise to your child during this challenging time. If you feel like your child can manage the ride, etc. go for it. Otherwise, wait so that you really can have a great time. anon

There are plenty of things to see on the way down to Disneyland. I think the San Luis Obispo area is a great place to visit with kids.Stay in Paso Robles for cheaper motels though, and then you can drive in to SLO and Moro Bay. It's a good half way point as well. Also, We just moved to Albany (just from Oakland) and I have a 4 year old daughter. I was a single mom for 2 years.Write me if you want to meet at a playground or something. Jess Jessica

I did not see your original post, so excuse me if my post is off from your question.

We just came back from Disney land yesterday. We took our 4 year-old son, and 6 month old baby. Since we did not know how our baby will be in a car trip, we decided to stay one night at Pismo Beach, near San Luis Obispo, then drove to Anaheim the next day. Both trip is around 200 ~ 230 miles, and it was managable for both kids. On the way back from Anaheim to the Bay Area, we took a chance, and drove I-5. We said that if kids could not bear with long drive, we just stop at a motel off the highway, and stay overnight. Well,, we left Disneyland area at 10 am. By 6pm we were eating dinner at Tachibana, Japanese restaurant on College Ave. Luckily our baby slept 3 hours and a half straight during a trip, and older one also napped for 1 hours and a half. We just kept going until kids finally became fussy. I know we were lucky that our kids slept in a car. We thought our little one could not bear with this long drive, but now we know it is sometimes possible.

About Disneyland, we took our days easy. We went there for 4 days from 10am to 2pm. My 4 year-old son enjoyed easy rides such as ''It's a small world'', ''Autopia'', Casey Jr. Circus Train'', ''King Arthur Carrousel'', ''Mad Tea Party'', and most of Mickey's Toontown attractions. He was a bit scared of new ''Winnie the Pooh and Friends'', ''Alice in Wonderland'', and any ride which goes inside of buildings. Actually most of such rides are dark and loud, which can be scary to little kids. I took my baby in a sling, and rode to most of attractions together. He had great time looking at people and being in my arm all the time. Afterall my sons enjoyed Disneyland, but I felt I could have been able to wait to go there until he reaches 6 years old. By then he will be able to enjoy more rides.

Dining there can be very costly. We bought healthy fruits and snacks here and brought them there, and it helped.

Last advice, if you are going to Disney's California Adventure, be warned for ''It's tough to be a bug'', 3D movie type entertaiment. It was way too scary for my son that we needed to get out of the theater immediately when a huge spider run toward us (visually) with a huge sound and a blast of air toward us. Too sensational for a little one. In fact, I am going to write a complainment to Disney. I do not understand why it is located in a ''district'' for small children. If you want to know more about our experience, e-mail me. Good luck! Mika

We drove to Disneyland from Richmond in November with our almost 4yo and 7mo sons. We left in the morning around 8am (bad timing for the commute, but we just didn't make it out of the house as early as planned. We were able to use the carpool lane though so it wasn't bad.) And were in Anaheim by 5pm... yup, just in time for the eveining commute down there. Despite the unfortunate timing, the trip was easy. We packed books and the magna doodle for car seat entertainment. We also brought all the sing-a-long CDs. The baby slept. The 4yo... well he ate and slept, which was good because it kept him happy. It rained the whole way down so rest breaks to burn off steam consisted mostly of jumping around puddles in parking lots.

I have noticed that a couple of posters felt that their kids were too young, small or overwhelmed by Disneyland. It is funny how different kids react. My son loved it. His cousin went a few months later... at around the same age, and didn't have as much fun. Some of it I think you can tell before you go though... my neice gets nightmares more easily so the rides will be scarier to her. My son was tall enough to ride every ride in the Disneyland park except Indiana Jones and Autotopia. He LOVED it all. We felt he was just the right age to really experience the park. Since we got there late his first experience of the park was the parade with all of the princesses and characters. He just stood with his mouth gaping in awe. We rode the train and Dumbo and Peter Pan that night... all very fun and non- threatening. He had seen all the movies that went with the scarier rides like Pinocchio and Snow White and while we were on them we just whispered reminders of all the happy, fairytale ending parts of the story to help him place the images. He wasn't frieghtened at all.

California Adventure was a little less fun. It was raining pretty bad the night we went, and there wasn't much we could do except over in bug land. (The park is more spread out but with the rain we weren't to up on exploring.) My son LOVED all of those rides though. He also really liked the Tough to be a Bug 3D movie and the 3D Muppet Movie (both were very simillar... the Honey I Shrunk the Audience movie in the Disneyland park was more of the same). He didn't keep the 3d glasses on the whole time, but really didn't seem to notice the physical tricks. He was small enough that the air and water jets didn't hit him in the face as they did me. He also loved getting to see the characters from the movies. I have to say that the thing he liked best at Adventure was the Electric Light Parade. We had found a seat right by the fence where the characters emerge (across the street from the Hollywood area) so he got a really great view of them all. It was really fun to see him enjoying it all.

The ride back we did all during the day as well. Both kids were so tired from the whole trip that they slept all the way from LA to Harris Ranch, (which really isn't half way in our opinion... it just seems that way because it takes so long to go through the Bay Area.) If you are looking for a good place to stop close to the middle I recommend Split Pea Andersons. They have a huge parking lot, as well as a huge front yard area where we could all stretch our legs. The restrooms were huge and clean. If you feel like stopping to eat the food is pretty good too.

It has been several months and recently he has started to ask when we can go again. He says he misses Mickey Mouse. I would love to go again while he is still young enough to be excited by the ''baby stuff'', but the baby is toddling now and won't be so good about sitting in the stroller as he was at 7 mos. Mom is missing Mickey too.