Orange County Vacation Planning

O. C. Locals Can Help You Plan the Best Orange County Vacation!

There is a lot to talk about, to provide perspective and advice on getting the most out of your Orange County vacation. But we are strangely compelled, somehow, to first offer a disclaimer about goofy TV shows like The O.C. and The Real Housewives of Orange County.

Neither of those shows can be watched by real locals without a lot of laughs and groans. Those dopey housewives should be slapped silly (figuratively speaking, of course). There are people who live like the residents of those shows, but they represent like 2% of the population. The shows do serve as propaganda, drawing some viewers to invest in an Orange County vacation.

Now, Arrested Development was a great show, with the dysfunctional family operating a concession stand in Balboa, among other extremely entertaining diversions. But it too involves a caricature of blissful life in the County of Orange. By the way, most locals do not use the term “The O.C.,” although O.C. is not a bad abbreviation.

Orange County Vacations in a Nutshell

We’ve devoted a page to simply give you a brief overview and introduction to the county. We could spend many pages on the details, but that won’t enhance your visit much. On the other hand, many of us enjoy the trip more if we have at least a glimpse into the world we’re visiting. So check that out at some point.

With so many vacation options in and around Orange County, we suggest you think through with your fellow travelers exactly why you’re coming here and what is the highest priority for your Orange County vacation. This is also true if it’s an adults-only trip.

If We Had Relatives Coming From Out of Town, We’d Ask…

  • Is the objective of your Orange County vacation mainly to visit Disneyland?
  • How important are other O.C. destinations to you; if you just have a couple of days to take the kids to the Mouse House, that’s a major factor. However, it is probably worthwhile to fit in a few other diversions into a Disney-oriented vacation if possible, to maximize your vacation budget.
  • Are you coming to take in as many of the Orange County beaches and attractions as possible?
  • Have you been to Disneyland plenty? Perhaps you mostly want to check out Knott’s Berry Farm and explore some of the fabulous beaches in the county? You may feel that you should spend at least a day at the Magic Kingdom during a week-long Orange County vacation? We suggest some vacation destination combinations that will allow you to get your dose of Disney and then focus on visiting other great attractions.
  • Maybe you really don’t give a rip about yet another trip to Disney or Knott’s, and really want to kick back at some of the many beaches in Orange County. Although space is limited, there are some terrific camping beaches and, of course, miles upon miles of beautiful sandy beaches for day use. We have many beach-oriented hotels and resorts as well.The Guru can help you find a beach-oriented destination ranging from as cheap as possible, all the way up to top-end resort living at Orange County vacation hotels. We have some ideas and links for you.
  • Are you going to be here long enough to be able to explore some of the lesser-known destinations like the Mission San Juan Capistrano (pictured to the right) or the Discovery Science Center? If you’re with children, a little of that goes a long way, but there are a number of cool activities oriented towards kids if you’d like to stray from DKB (Disney-Knott’s-Beaches).Even if your emphasis is on the DKB triathlon (Editor’s note: keep your eyes peeled for the use of irrelevant words), a short break can help you appreciate them more. For example, if you’ve purchased a 3-day Disney Park Hopper pass, you might want to fit in a morning or afternoon at a The Ripley Believe It or Not Museum in Buena Park to break it up. Otherwise the hours could tend to blur together; a break with a couple of other destinations can make the trip seem longer.If your home town does not offer Major League Baseball, take in an Angels game at the Big A in Anaheim. There are many great restaurants, shopping destinations and other activities to round out your Orange County vacation.
  • What if you’re here on business and want to pick up a Disney souvenir for the kids? Or you have an evening (or a half-day) to kill by yourself and you’d like to see a little of the local non-beach color.
  • Somebody is getting married? Orange County is one of the obvious options if you’re considering a Southern California wedding. The weather is terrific or “OK” most of the year and it makes more sense to force your loved ones to find an Orange County vacation package than if you wanted to get married on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park (like my sister-in-law claimed for many years).There are plenty of restaurants for the rehearsal dinner, and the family can gather for a post-wedding trip to any number of attractions to chase away “the-happy-couple-has-left-us-for-their-honeymoon” blues. And, of course, we steer you to some nice web sites to help you consider an Orange County honeymoon.
  • Do you want to spend time in other parts of Southern California? Where else do you want to visit during this trip?

Should You Rent a Car in Orange County?

It depends. There are numerous shuttle services, as well as taxi cabs and the Orange County Transit Authority bus system. If you’re settling in to visit a relatively small number of destinations, you can get to and from the airports and attractions without a rental car.

If you can find a great discount rental car rate or plan to see a lot of places (including other parts of Southern California), you’d do well to rent. With gas at over $2 per gallon, and many of the nicer hotels charging for parking, at least check out the alternatives to a rental. Hopefully the convenient links here will get you started on that.

By the way, we have a page to help you research John Wayne Airport hotels, as some folks desire to stay within close proximity of the airport (or should that read …close proximity to the airport?).

We’ve Scoured the Web

We’ve spent a lot of time checking out other web sites, wanting to present you with a convenient number of sources for detailed information related to your Orange County vacation. There is a plethora of web sites, but many of them are very generic, and likely written from some office building that’s a thousand miles from the nearest surfboard.

The major travel sites like include some local information and traveler reviews, but they are not that compelling (some of the nicest places can have a bad day, triggering a scathing review that is really not indicative of what you can expect).

After you’ve familiarized yourself with your options and have developed a good idea of the intended scope of your Orange County vacation, you can check out the big travel sites for possible discount vacation packages. Check out the following sites, which offer a good level of detail, with at least some local perspective.

This site has specific information on nearly all of the individual beaches in O.C., as well as pretty good information about other attractions, big and small. Also covered are many secondary opportunities and the site widens out into a local business directory as well.

You’ll find good, detailed information here, with tons of photos. The drawback is that it is pretty broad, covering all of California, but still worth some time. It has a good events calendar; you can see if there are any unique events taking place during the days of your Orange County vacation.

This has good links to the usual attractions, as well as to shopping and hotels. The site is sponsored by the Orange County Tourism Council, and we found it to have a bit of a cheerleading feel to it; everything is so wonderful and perfect (you need to know that people in O.C. get hangnails and speeding tickets, which would not be the natural conclusion from this site). So look past the gooey stuff and you’ll find a lot of great information quickly.

A Few Final Comments

Once you’ve memorized all that your Guru has to say, and then checked out the above sites, you’ll be ready to make some decisions. Of course, you should consider the many other parts of Southern California for your vacation travel; while you’re at it you might as well expand your Orange County vacation from one week to three weeks…