Road Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

Over the past year, we reminisced our last summer’s San Francisco road trip so many times, we decided to do one to San Diego and Disneyland this summer. Our kids have never been to Disneyland before because we were waiting for both of them to be at the age to remember it. Neither me or Alex are willing to go to Disneyland more than once. More on that below.

This year we bought new truck that runs on diesel which makes driving cheaper plus Alex is way more flexible with his work schedule, so road trip was calling our name. Our boys do fine with driving and I think it’s great memories for them. They play old fashioned games, giggle, look around, learn and experience new things. Road trips are a huge source of memories for our family!Road Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

San Diego

I would like to say that I have been constantly posting our adventures on Instagram stories and have them saved in little sections in my profile. It is the best way to follow ifoodreal “behind the scenes”.:)

We drove all the way from Vancouver, BC to San Diego stopping overnight in Medford, OR. Getting into LA and farther on a Friday night as it’s getting dark is not the best experience. I would never do it again. At some point I counted 9 lanes each way. Coming back on Tuesday morning wasn’t as bad as it was rush hour and daylight so things proceeded very slow. But “flying” at 70 miles per hour in the dark not knowing the road among other cars that are going 70-80 was not fun at all LOL.

San Diego is beautiful! We did so much. Walked around La Jolla beach, boogie boarded at Pacific beach and walked the peer at Mission beach as well, visited Balboa Park. We found so much healthy good food like tacos and bowls, Cuban, Greek. Many places serve healthy kids meals. But that’s San Diego for you. However, as soon as we dove into must-to-visit places like Legoland and Sea World, things went south with VERY overpriced junk food.

I wish I could just hang out around beaches…Sigh.

Road Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

If you are wondering about my opinion on major attractions every North American kid wants to visit, I’ll give it to you because I myself had to read so many reviews and try to make a plan. I have to mention that I have purchased 4 day Go San Diego card online at Costco that allows you to visit up to certain amount of popular attractions (they now have this build your own package) So, another day we visited USS Midway museum which boys absolutely loved because airplanes, war etc. Then we hopped on a cruise of San Diego bay right next to the museum in downtown. It was good to see the city from the water as well. And after we drove to Belmont Park which is one of the oldest classic amusement parks on Mission beach. It has super old roller coaster and good old amusement park arcade, mini golf and rides. Kids loved it so much, we stayed there for 5 hours.

We really enjoyed San Diego’s beaches, cooler climate and less traffic than in Orange County or LA areas. That is some madness going on there in terms of density of population.:)Road Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and Disneyland


Legoland consists of many built from LEGO human size structures that are fun to look at and take a photo with. Then there are rides which are fun for kids up to age 6-7. And then there is a water park which is extra $30/person and open seasonally. So if you ask me, one day at Legoland is more than enough and once in a lifetime to put a check mark is good too. I have heard from many people not to expect much from Legoland, so I was prepared.Road Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

San Diego Zoo

Then we visited San Diego Zoo which is very big and nicely done. It has a double decker tour bus, another hop on-off bus and a short gondola ride above the park. Your experience depends if you have ever been to a big zoo or not. Overall, none of us are fans of encaged animals and I personally left with mixed feelings. One day was enough. We decided not to go to San Diego Safari because enough of animals.Road Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

Sea World

Then we took a day to visit Sea World. Again, it’s like a marine zoo plus rides similar in Disneyland including a crazy roller coaster, Electric Eel. There are a few good shows with orcas, dolphins and people. Your experience will depend whether you have visited an aquarium before or not. Having lived by the ocean for so long and travelled so much… Kids were more impressed and we did it for them. Me and Alex both are not fans of crowds and man made attractions (with many screaming children). One day is good enough.Road Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and Disneyland


After a week in San Diego we moved to Disneyland in Anaheim. I have read on so many blogs and asked so many people about how many days to buy a pass for and was told 4-5 days. So, I got a 4 day non-hopper pass to Disneyland and California Adventure Park right across from it, and could have gotten a 3 day one.

It was super hot day 1 and a bit cooler the next 2 days, which ended up being a blessing in disguise because on day 4 when clouds rolled in, mamma mia – I have never seen so many people in my life! Fun fact: population of Canada equals California’s. So many people and cars everywhere and anytime lol.

What We Liked

  • Parades and shows. Absolutely amazing nighttime water show in Disneyland and lighted Pixar parade in California Adventure Park. Daytime Disney parade is nice as well.
  • My boys loved Tomorrowland and everything Star Wars. From meeting and taking pictures with characters to Jedi training and building custom lightsabers at the store. We spent most time in that area.
  • Kyle enjoyed all the rides the most. Adam was scared of all fast rides and the ones with height, so we ended up doing Buzzlight year astroblasters for like 15 times (insert rolled eyes emoji here for me). But we did many other rides too, 5 times each – again the problem with heights.Road Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

Road Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

What We Didn’t Like

  • Most popular rides like Splash Mountain, Matterhorn Bobsleds and Big Mountain Railroad kept shutting down. It’s super annoying especially if you have a Fastpass. They said due to heat. Well, heat in Orange County is nothing new, so when you charge so much money you better be ready to deliver.
  • Monorail didn’t run all 4 days. Again they said due to heat. Well, charge me less or make it work. You need that ride vs. a walk in 115 degrees F more than ever.
  • MaxPass. We got totally ripped off and I would not recommend to buy a Maxpass. Guess what happened? Disneyland app was down for 7 hours the day we bought MaxPass. It costs US$10 per person, per day. And all it gives you is an ability to book a Fastpass through your phone BUT it doesn’t give you more Fastpasses. You still can get only one every 1.5-2 hours, same as if you walk to the attraction yourself and press a button for free. And other thing it gives you photos.  There are photographers throughout the resort that take pictures and upload them to your app. But what many don’t mention is that they offer you to take the same photo with your phone. And who doesn’t have a phone?! So, I think Maxpass is a waste of money.
  • Speaking of money. Every day I just couldn’t get rid of a feeling being ripped off by Walt Disney’s grandkids. Taking advantage of me locked in in this “zooland” with 2 kids who see and want to buy stuff, and some things I had to buy but many I said NO. Prices are insane beginning with $10 corn dogs and $4 small bottles of water, to $25 Christmas tree decorations and $30 hats. Ripoff full on and people are paying, that’s why they keep ripping them off. We bought same souvenirs like t-shirts, hats, keychains and personal fans outside Disneyland on the main strip in various souvenir shops. You will pay twice less.
  • Customer service. Sigh. I remember once we watched a movie where a guy tried to board a flight and a well groomed flight attendant with a perfect white smile wouldn’t let him do it unless he stepped behind the yellow line, and boarding already had finished, so he couldn’t board anyways but she wanted him to step behind that same line, so she could tell him he can’t board. I’m sure, you follow the story. This is a very accurate description of Disneyland policy. I’m not sure what they do to the employess but they are like robots/hawks with googly eyes. Like my friend said “so nice, it’s weird”. This stepping behind the line drove us nuts like they are celebrities and we are terrorists. During the parade if your sitting on the pavement child’s foot is sticking out even an inch behind the white rope, Laureannenicole (YES, it’s one word) is flying like a hawk to let him know he broke the rules. OMG me and Alex had a few laughs but honestly by day 3 we were all scared to walk even near them. I’m sorry but many rules are so stupid and I felt being treated stupid many times. It’s just wrong in so many ways. When I asked a Maxpass customer service to change my Maxpass for tomorrow because I couldn’t use it today because their app was down she told me I used it already. You know how “I used it”? Booked one Fastpass which I couldn’t use because it was on the app, THEIR app, that was down. Then I said give me a few paper ones, and they said only every 1.5 hours. OMG, Disneyland customer service sucks!!!

Here is my take on all of this. I’m sorry if I offend anyone but unless you are a hardcore 30 year old Disney fan that stands in a 30 minute line to get an autograph from a character (please note someone dressed as Thor, not Thor himself or Chris Hemsworth) in your Disney autograph book, Disneyland is good to visit for 1-2 days ONCE in a lifetime. Do something better with your life. Go explore the world but not Disney world. There is a world outside of TV, you know. Unless you live nearby and have an annual pass, and can “digest” that craziness in small doses.

And probably this is where the line between us, immigrants, and many of you born and raised here, like our kids, is bold as ever. Me and Alex didn’t grow up with Disney and possess different life experience that prevents us to look at Disneyland as a wonder land. Probably it’s the case in many ways and that’s totally fine. Trust me, many days I wish I was more “naive” and way easier to be “wowed”, trust me LOL.

Overall, we had a great time as a family and that’s all that matters! But I’m not going back. “Check”.:)Road Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

What We Ate

You will be probably shocked if I told you I lost weight during our 2 weeks of travelling. That’s not only because of me strategically avoiding all white bread and pasta but because we walked so much, 140,000 and more likely even more steps. Yes, we just don’t move enough in America, even if we eat healthy still need to work out to maintain weight. Our sedimentary lifestyle sucks in many ways.

Anyways, onto food. When travelling, we aim at eating out only once a day due to health and money reasons. We book hotels that serve breakfast. It’s unhealthy and to be honest disgusting a.k.a completely artificially chemicalized but at least it keeps everyone fed and a few weeks won’t kill anyone (I hope so). My breakfast consisted mainly of sausages and eggs. When we shopped, I ate plain yogurt and cottage cheese with dried fruit and chia.

Road Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

We bought snacks like jerky, trail mix, protein bars, strawberries, cherries, cheese strings, pita chips, crackers  and La Croix water on day 1 at Costco and ate along the way. A few times we shopped at a grocery store for deli meat, bread, veggies, hummus and made sandwiches for lunch. Other time we ordered American size x-large pizza and ate it for dinner and lunch. Other times we ate out.

I personally avoided simple carbs and ordered a salad for dinner mostly. For lunch I had a complex carb meal like a bowl or tacos. The goal was not to eat more than I need to either. Once I had to buy a kids meal and eating a few chicken fingers with fruit was better than eating fried chicken meal with mashed potatoes. There was nothing else on the menu. Many times I was saved by lettuce wrapped In N Out burgers. I drank protein mixed with water and sometimes cold water with chia seeds. Both give nutrition. Having a shaker helps a lot.Road Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

Road Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and DisneylandRoad Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

Food in America is a big problem, as we all know. Not only the portion sizes but the amount of sugar Americans are chugging down is making them sick and obese. It was a very sad picture, people “hydrating” in 115 degrees F heat with Coke, even toddlers. Just sad to watch people killing themselves with everything bigger that makes them bigger in turn. It’s just so foreign to me how people can function like that and not seek help…

So we will keep doing what we are doing best and save one soul (body) at a time. On a good note, I was reminded once again that being healthy isn’t that hard. First step is to stop drinking and eating that sugar. And secondly, cook at home. That’s so easy with resources and tools any American has today. Even poor people can boil potatoes, chop a salad and overall afford real food with money they save on soft drinks.

Now that laundry is done, I have more exciting news to come – stay tuned. And of course, healthy cooking to do. One thing I can tell you for sure is that WE CAN COOK! Out of all the meals I tried, I always thought at the back of my mind I could do better. Honestly, even my favourite meals were good but nothing “wow”. Especially the so famous Dole Whip that contains ZERO pineapple, we can do better at home!Road Trip to San Diego and Disneyland

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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  1. I know this is old but I had to chime in. I used to live in Orange County and I completely agree about Disneyland. I only went 2x on a 2 day park hopper, but everything is sooo expensive…not to mention the restaurants and shops in downtown Disney.

    I miss San Diego! There is so much…old town was so neat to walk around, and did you also go to the Maritime Museum? It’s walking distance from the Midway and really neat, plus there is a fish market down there too. If you go back I recommend it. There are also some really cute towns between Oceanside and San Diego that I used to visit to escape crowds and those are all walkable and fun too.

    I love where I live now but the cheap yet delicious sushi and beaches are definitely something I remember and look forward to when I visit.

    1. Yes, we did maritime museum and it was amazing!!! I agree about beaches and sushi. Loved San Diego. Hated Disney lol.

  2. OMG so true about everything you said… how they gouge you with prices to the crap people eat! I’ve been to Disneyland twice and I’ll say it was an experience, but, it’s certainly not something I need to experience again. When my kids were little I never even heard them say they wanted us to take them back. But, spending time with your family and having fun I’m sure was well worth it 🙂

    1. I am happy to hear “I’m normal”. My kids never ever asked us either. I think because they are boys first of all, and secondly because they are OUR kids lol. But I felt it was my duty, I knew I wouldn’t love it but it was good for what it was and I’m glad it’s over!!!

  3. Love it! Your openness and candor are perfect. Yes, can’t agrree more on the problem of food in America. When I see a toddler drinking a coke something in me dies a little.

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