A couple of weeks ago, I went to LEGOLAND and SeaWorld without my kids. It was part of the Travel Media Showcase fall conference for family travel writers in Carlsbad, California. Friends and family have been interested in the details of the trip, so I’m sharing the experience here.
About 40 writers – nearly all bloggers – were selected to attend the TMS Family Travel Conference from around the United States, as well as a number of peer presenters. Attendees applied for invitations months in advance. Sponsors, including Visit Carlsbad and Omni La Costa Resort and Spa, covered the cost of the conference.
I was excited to connect with family travel bloggers I met at the TBEX conference in Keystone in 2012, and to meet bloggers I’ve known online for almost as long. I also had the opportunity to get to know more lifestyle bloggers, who cover a variety of family topics including food, parenting, crafts, and of course, travel.
Thursday through Saturday, we attended informative workshops, visited with sponsors and networked with each other. Omni La Costa offered yoga and other fitness classes early in the morning, which were appreciated because we were fed well. On Friday, we were bused to three separate destinations to eat (and tweet about) their food until late in the evening.
The conference was held at Omni La Costa Resort and Spa. The luxury and beauty of the resort – not to mention the family-friendly pools and water slides – made me wish that my family could hop on a plane and join me. Since that wasn’t practical for them, and the conference schedule kept me so busy anyway, I just had to enjoy my suite with the spa tub and the perfect Southern California weather on my own.
Here are a handful of my take-aways from the workshops:
- Are you reporting or repeating? Quality writing still matters. – Spud Hilton, San Francisco Chronicle
- Creativity sells giveaways and promotions – set yourself apart from the crowd. – Adam Rucker, Southwest Airlines, LiLing Pang, Trekaroo, Jyl Pattee, Mom it Forward
- Use the Hotel Price Index at trivago.com to find the cheapest time to plan a vacation. – Jeremy Crider, trivago
- Hold your smart phone sideways for better video. – Rob Burgos, Full Circle Post NYC
- Visitors who find your blog through search engines are generally more engaged. – Steve Cohen, MMGY Global
- Too many Americans don’t use all their paid vacation time. – Mike Gallagher, CityPASS
- Looking for deals? Check websites of visitor’s bureaus. – Catharine Hamm, LA Times
- Are we teaching our kids to get or give? Look for opportunities to do good through travel. – Dave Parfitt, Adventures by Daddy, Alejandro Castro Alfaro, Costa Rica Tourism Board
Pre and Post Tours
Tours of local attractions were offered as optional activities before and after the conference. I wanted to make the most of the trip, so I signed on for both the pre- and post-tours. There were about a dozen bloggers on each tour.
SeaWorld San Diego hosted us all day on Wednesday, and arranged for us to stay at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay just down the street. SeaWorld has recently been mired in controversy, as the documentary Blackfish raised concerns about keeping killer whales in captivity. This tour was SeaWorld’s effort to share its side of the story and we were given behind-the-scenes access to rescuers, trainers, marine biologists, researchers and veterinarians. I’m working on additional research and am planning to write more about my SeaWorld experience at a later date.
The Post Tour of Carlsbad was a whirlwind tour of a city that I already loved. My family visited Carlsbad twice in 2013, and I was happy to visit new destinations and old favorites. In about six hours, we toured three hotels, two restaurants, and LEGOLAND California. We spent a whole 20 minutes at the beach!
TMS Carlsbad Awards
There were many delightful destinations and experiences at TMS Carlsbad, and this post would be far too long if I detailed every one. So, I’ve created my own TMS Carlsbad Awards, to share my favorite thing about each host destination.
Best farm-to-table meal: Bistro West
Best desserts: Park Hyatt Aviara Resort
Best ocean view: Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort
Best Pinterest moment: S’mores in a Mason jar at Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa
Best free museum for families: Green Dragon Tavern and Museum
Best hotel pool: Hyatt Regency Mission Bay
Best free amenities for families: West Inn and Suites
Best animal encounters: SeaWorld San Diego
Best disco elevators: LEGOLAND Hotel
Best winter wonderland: LEGOLAND California’s Holiday Snow Days
Best outdoor dining: Twenty/20 Grill
Best resort you’ll never want to leave: Omni La Costa Resort and Spa
To say the least, my four days at the TMS Family Travel Conference were busy and productive. I’m excited for the ongoing opportunities it has given me to write and follow up with the sponsors and writers I met there. Next year, this conference will be held in Kansas City, and I would love to be there!