Family Travel

Family Birthday Trip, Palm Springs


With money being tight the idea of taking a vacation of any length seemed completely out of the question this year for my birthday. But, when I found an offer for the Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, at like $300 for three nights, I jumped at the chance to head down with my wife and four year old son.

We got a deal by booking a flight and car together and flying into Ontario airport (Southwest Vacation’s – Cha---eep) and then drove the remaining 45 minutes to the Resort. I should mention that in addition to getting a better rate and flight time, another reason for flying into Ontario vs. Palm Springs airport is to hit the Desert Hills Premium Outlet stores right off the freeway. We stopped for a couple of hours at this vast expanse of outlet-ness and I ended up buying two pairs of Lucky jeans for under $80 bucks total, which was a great birthday gift.

I'm still amazed what a champion my son was during that shopping experience, barely a whine or a wiggle in the 100 degree heat – must be from his mom's DNA. We had invited a few groups of friends to come join us and the one available couple who could make it were long-time friends from Los Angeles.

They called the Westin every day (no exaggeration) to check on room availability since there were two conventions at the resort during that time. Eventually they got a two night stay in a villa (super-nice) and we all hooked up by the pool. Their two and a half year old son could swim like a fish, which we all enjoyed watching, and we spent most of the vacation doing nothing more than applying thick layers of sun screen.

We did go into town one night to this awesome, old-school Italian place called Castellis. The food was pretty good, but the ambience (think Rat Pack) and wine list was unbeatable, especially for a birthday dinner (here are reviews on Yelp: We drove back on Sunday morning at a leisurely pace, returned the car and got on the plane with no worries and back in time to celebrate most of Father’s day with my wife’s dad. Perfect trip.

  • Take a timeshare tour – usually takes less than two hours and we got resort credits and coupons for discounts on future stays. No hard sell at all.
  • Dry heat is way, way better than wet heat – especially with a pool nearby.
  • Look for nearby airports and rent a car for better flight times, rates, and less crowded terminals. And the car rental provides the ability to travel like a local which will always save you cash.
  • Farecast to start – it’s a great website that predicts flight costs. Then when the time was right to purchase, we went directly to Southwest Airlines Vacations and booked directly.
  • Keep trying – if you can’t find the available nights you’re looking for, keep calling. Eventually you may get a customer service agent who will go the extra mile or someone will cancel last minute.
  • All family vacation time is great time. Relax, be open, and enjoy your children experiencing things for the first time.

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