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  • Writer's pictureJill Reed

Fasten Your Seatbelt for Reed Family Visa Runs Part II - California Edition

With a 10:00am flight scheduled out of Liberia, we were able to sleep in this time around, and we didn’t have to drive to San Jose. Phew!

Since this trip itself was only five days in total, and two of those were spent traveling, the whole adventure was a whirlwind.

There was some culture, quick hikes, catching up with old friends over breakfast, long car drives, rampant consumerism, one awesome morning beach run, two fabulous vaccinations, and a gorgeous farmer’s market. Thanks, California. Join us for our lightning fast visa dash to the states and back.

DAY 1: Travel Day and WeHo

We kissed our dogs, thanked our dog sitters (DC Pet Sitting), and drained our coffees as we walked out the door at 7:00 and loaded up in Eduardo’s van to head to the Liberia airport which is a short 45 minute drive from home.

No trouble at the airport with our suitcases inside of suitcases as we checked in and headed through Security for the gate. The direct one-way flight on Alaska to Los Angeles is highly recommended and ridiculously easy. Pro tip: Pre-purchase the kid snack packs.

Immigration at LAX was a breeze as we have global entry cards, therefore we didn’t have to wait in any lines, and there was no customs. We hopped the shuttle to the car rental and picked up our car. Except our luggage wouldn’t fit in the car, so we had to upgrade to the oversized Nissan Armada which was SO FUN.

The airbnb we rented in WeHo gave fabulous directions about how to get there and how to let ourselves in. It is an adorable old 2 bedroom cottage located right on Fountain Avenue between Sunset and Santa Monica, walking distance to coffee, restaurants, nightlife (not for me) and Whole Foods, which I spent an hour drooling over while Christie and the kids ate really yummy Chinese next door.

The walks in the neighborhood were full of gorgeous California botanicals and awesome renovated cottages and the park and tennis courts were directly behind our house, plus we had free parking. Good job, me, on finding the airbnb.

DAY 2: All Things LA

So, WeHo does not wake up early. Coffee is not available until 8:00, but post coffee, we met one of my oldest friends from waiting tables in college. She’s been working in news production for years and is now based in LA at MSNBC so we finally had a little catch up breakfast. The food was awesome, the coffee was amazing but the company was outstanding. Also, sidenote, ALL coffee shops in LA have oat milk and coconut sugar and some even carry Laird’s creamer. HEAVEN.

We parted ways with my friend who starts her fast paced day at 1:00, and then hiked to the Griffith Observatory so the boys could see the Hollywood sign and the city views. More beautiful California botanicals.

Our next navigation took us to the California Science Museum. When we first planned this trip, our youngest was stoked beyond words to go to Legoland, hence the tail end of the trip being in Carlsbad, BUT as we got closer to our departure, we learned that Legoland would only be admitting California residents.

But, y’all. The Art of the Brick exhibit at the California Science Museum was STUNNING.

I’d bought timed entry tickets weeks before and this exhibit did not disappoint.

Created by LEGO® artist Nathan Sawaya and photographer Dean West, this dramatic gallery features thirteen sculptures of the world's most endangered species.

But he doesn’t stop there. Nathan has created loads of lego renditions of famous artworks, plus his own original sculptures.

Absolutely fascinating.

Plus, this museum has gobs of space stuff (my favorite) including the freaking shuttle Endeavor.

The boys really loved the hands-on stuff in the Biome sections, especially the beaches, rivers and aquarium displays. And, thanks to the timed entry, it was not crowded at all.

Lastly, we finished at the Grove, so Christie could get her iphone battery replaced. The kids had a blast at the massive Barnes and Noble and the candy shop. Wow! Two very special things for kids who live in Costa Rica.

We ended up meeting a guy who used to live in LA and worked for the studios but had relocated to Charlottesville some 15 years prior. He was back in LA for sad reasons and we chatted for a long time with him, hopefully offering some distraction and eventually gave him a ride back to his hotel. We know a lot of the same people, kismet.

So, in total on the first full day, we had breakfast with an old friend and capped our day by meeting a new friend with so much awesome in between.

DAY TWO: On the Road

I had the brilliant idea to take the 1 down through Santa Monica, Venice, etc. We got a little lost in Beverly Hills, but eventually made it to the beach. Two hours later, we moved to the freeway and booked it to Carlsbad. What the hell, traffic? Alas, California.

Somewhere along Hermosa Beach we stopped at a Target and tried to check things off our list that we needed for home, but it was like the Target had special trolls that only removed the items we were looking for. They definitely didn’t have the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. It was so crowded. I haven’t seen that many people in one location in a really long time. Honestly, it freaked me out a little.

We arrive in Carlsbad right at check in time. The guy at the desk said, “Oh, you’re the package lady.” Yes, that’s me. I’m a mule for my friends back in Costa Rica, yes, I told him as I took the packages of workout supplements and tank tops from him. This is what we do.

We decided to press our luck at Costco for vaccines and we scored. A little bit of paperwork, and without insurance information of any kind, we still managed to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. One and done.

We ended up walking to Fresco for dinner, right by the sea, and again, FULL of people. The servers were slammed but we still had an awesome meal, and they comped our drinks for the delay on our kids’ dinners. Everything was delicious and fresh. There was a lot of lobster.

DAY THREE: Explore Carlsbad and Shop

I was up at 5:00 and went for a run through the Village and then along the boardwalks by the state beach. The botanicals were amazing, it was brisk and the air was salty. LOVE. I grabbed coffee at the local breakfast place and then we set off to fulfill our shopping mission. PS: oat milk for the win.

We failed at finding the automotive part we need for the Nissan Xterra. It’s American made and imported to Costa Rica so almost everything it needs is a pain in the ass to find. I’ve had parts imported and we’ve had to resort to used parts also. This time we really need a thing (professional term) to remove the back tires. The old owner had a safety lock installed but we have no idea where the thing is to uninstall it in order to change the tires. Alas, no joy - the part could not be found.

Next on the list, kids’ clothes, kids’ shoes, dresses for me, and a bike rack. I’m not going to get into it, but suffice it to say, immersing ourselves in American consumerism took its toll. Again there were so many people out and shopping. It just felt icky. And, I found NOTHING for work.

I dropped everyone off and went to the outlets which was even worse, and then soothed myself by buying a pair of Hoka Speedgoats at the running shop. Bliss is a new pair of running shoes.

We ended our day by walking into the Village to the farmer’s market, grabbing fresh eats and watching the sun set. Christie and I ate Kenyan food and the boys had burgers from Knockout.

DAY FOUR: Travel Day

I woke up at the crack, headed out for last minute CVS and Sprouts items. I found bone broth and collagen supplements, superfood for my smoothies, and organic non-applicator tampons all very important items. I even purchased last minute peaches and raspberries. YUM.

Christie went out looking one more time for the Nissan tire thing and failed. We loaded up, checked out and headed to the San Diego airport.

Car return was a breeze, check in was also, thanks to a really nice guy at the counter for United. It might have been the first time we’ve been given some special consideration and patience because we’re a two mom family.

One layover in Houston for thirty minutes and we arrived back in Costa Rica intact. Immigration was super slow with only two people working at 10:30 at night, but the officer took mercy on people with kids and moved us to the residents line.

Customs thought our bike rack was a weapon and I think we lost Sir Corgi at the customs table, but we did make it home safely thanks to Eduardo who has the patience of a saint, and also cold beers.

To top it all off, our dog sitters left the house clean as a whistle and our dogs were in great form. So, now we have a new stamp in the passport and we’re all set for 90 more days.

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Success!! I need to use your itinerary next time I got to LA.

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