by Jeff Hoyt
How could anyone turn down free airfare? That was the choice I recently made when American Express offered me 250,000 Membership Rewards points to plan my family summer vacation. If you’ve never had to wake a sleeping child from a nap to fold up their stroller to get through security; if you’ve never had to prove to the TSA that milk in a baby bottle was truly milk in a baby bottle; if you’ve never had to submit to the complete pat-down inspection because you wanted to carry milk in a baby bottle onto a flight; if you’ve never had a child screaming on a descending airplane because the tyke was too young to alleviate the pressure in her ears; if you’ve never had to wrestle ill-fitting baby seats into a rental car in the rain at the airport while the pint-sized passengers lustily vented their frustrations; then you would never understand why I would take my family via car to San Diego rather than accept free flights anywhere else.
Using the Membership Rewards points and the American Express Travel website, I easily booked a stunning suite at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad. The family-friendly resort was the winning choice for so many reasons: as we checked in, the “Toy Concierge” was distributing age-appropriate toys which quickly became favorites on the trip and beyond. When the crib arrived, it came with toys and other thoughtful baby necessities in travel sizes. Not only did the spacious accommodations include a separate room for two-year-old Joss and four-year-old Jemma to sleep in, but from our patios, we could see the large pool, splash pad, and even a shallow kiddie pool that both the kids enjoyed. On her first trip in, Joss declared, fascinated: “I’m walking in the water. I’m walking in the water!” When the pool attendants offered Jemma a free ice pop to cool off, I admit I was jealous that the offer didn’t extend to me.
I also was a tad jealous of the childless vacationers enjoying The Tranquility Pool, an adults-only infinity pool with a beautiful view of the surrounding hills. We parents were able to enjoy a brief respite while Jemma attended the kids’ camp… at least, until Joss’ nap ended. The hotel arranged babysitting so we could enjoy a satisfying and adult meal at Argyle Steakhouse. But our personal favorite feature of the resort was one I first saw on the American Express Travel website: the Beach Butler.
Whoever coined the phrase “a day at the beach” didn’t have children in tow. A trip to the surf with wee ones typically involves a struggle to find parking followed by lugging them over hot sand along with a diaper bag, food bag, towels, blankets, chairs, umbrella, dry clothes, sunscreen, visors, shovels, pails, and other toys. But at Aviara, the Beach Butler picked us up and drove us via van — complete with car seats — to a nearby beach. While the kids frolicked on the playground, the helpful young man set up beach chairs, umbrellas, towels, and even sand toys for the kids. We could even order food from the hotel to be served seaside! We were truly able to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
The kids also had a great time at SeaWorld, where they saw killer whales and other creatures for the first time; and LEGOLAND where they couldn’t get enough of the new water park. We’re already planning another trip to this family-friendly area; are you listening, American Express? In the meantime, I’m going to try to figure out if there’s a way to take the family to Maui by car.
Park Hyatt Aviara Resort hotel review
Argyle Steakhouse restaurant review
Vivace restaurant review
San Diego Travel Guide
Travel for Free with American Express
Travel More for Free with American Express
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