Is planning a family trip with toddlers stressing you out? Is it possible to have fun with little ones in tow? We recently took our group of 20+ on an adventure through Pampanga, Pangasinan, and Baguio! And our crew wasn’t just any group, though. There were more kids than adults; the youngest member was just over a year old.

We squeezed in family time, tried awesome activities with the kids, and soaked up amazing views, all within a seventy-two-hour window. How did we cram a vacation in Pampanga, Pangasinan, and Baguio into three days? Read on.

Day 1: Pampanga – Red Planet

We landed in Clark, Pampanga, late at night, tired from the Cebu flight.

Clark International Airport

As I expected, Cyd (who was 3 years old at the time) and I were so wiped out that we found it easier to sleep when we got to the hotel. A daytime arrival would have made things easier, but I preferred a night flight as I was used to the traffic in Manila Airports. Arriving late at night would also mean cheaper taxi or Grab fare and ensuring I was done with work before leaving.

Bonus Tip: Talking to your toddler about your itinerary can help prepare them for the trip.

Day 2.1: Morning: Dinosaurs Island Clark

Our first stop, Dinosaur Island Clark, was a wonderland for little explorers…and perhaps a slightly less tranquil place for grown-up conversation!

This seemed like the perfect spot to reunite with my awesome friends from Insight Timer, Karissa and Gretchen. Their crew, Beau (Karissa’s curious toddler) and Lia (Gretchen’s ever-independent teenager) joined the adventure.

Did our reunion survive the chaos? I am happy to say that amid dinosaur roars and the chorus of “Look at me, Mama!” or “I’m hungry!” moments, Karissa, Gretchen, and I managed to squeeze in some heartfelt chats and laughter. It wasn’t the most peaceful reunion, but seeing the joy on the kids’ faces and reconnecting with old friends made it all worth it.

Tip: To avoid the lines, buy your tickets to Dinosaur Island Clark on Klook. The place offers an interactive learning experience with life-sized dinosaurs and giant insects. Open to all ages, the park operates daily from 8 AM to 5 PM and has attractions like the Dino Trail, T-Rex Encounter, and a Jurassic Jungle Safari Ride (pretty scary).

A Delicious Refuel at Matam-ih

We started the tour early to beat the afternoon heat, which was a good call because we were all hot and hungry by lunchtime. I’m so glad Karissa knew just the perfect spot to refuel.

Catching up at Matam-ih with Arvee, June, Beau, Gretch, Lia and Cyd (Image credit to Gretchen of Our World in Words)

She recommended Matam-ih, a restaurant serving authentic Kapampangan cuisine. Stepping inside, we were greeted by a unique atmosphere—staff dressed in safari uniforms amidst a blend of Indigenous Philippine and African decor. The ambiance charmed the kids, while the menu offered familiar comfort food. We savored classic dishes like pork sinigang and kare-kare, all delicious and budget-friendly.

Onward to Dagupan:

With full bellies and happy hearts, Cyd and I were ready for the next leg of our journey: a heartwarming reunion with family in Dagupan!

Day 2.2: Dagupan – Black Sand and Warm Reunions

Following our summer tradition from 2022, we were reuniting with the Bongalosa family again! This year, our beach trip was in Pangasinan. However, we planned a pit stop at Marlo’s place in Dagupan on April 29th. The rest of the family would join us in Dasol, Pangasinan, the following day, April 30th.

We joined my father, brother-in-law Marlo, and my nephews, Ian and Skyler, for some fishing in Dagupan. Everyone was excited as they threw their lines in the water, hoping to catch a big one. Even though the fish weren’t biting, it was still a blast. It felt like a simpler time, fishing and living off the land.

The sunset painted the black sand beach with a magical glow, and we knew it was time to head back to Marlo’s place. Of course, with the pre-Bangus Festival in full swing, traffic was bumper-to-bumper – a true festival experience! Luckily, we found the perfect cure: a delicious and cheap meal at a local restaurant.

After supper, we all returned to Marlo’s house and quickly fell asleep as we prepared for another busy day.

Day 3 – 4: Dasol Beach with Family

Joining my siblings for their church summer outing, we traveled from Dagupan to Dasol, Pangasinan, to meet up with the rest of the family. My father, some siblings, and I, who weren’t part of the church group, had to cover our own expenses, but the experience of being together under the sun was priceless.

Everyone pitched in to make the trip a success. My sister Pauline, who loves planning family adventures, organized everyone’s contributions. Some cooked meals, while others bought fresh produce from nearby stores. My father enjoyed socializing with his sons-in-law, singing during video sessions, and relaxing in the rented jacuzzi.

The white sand beaches weren’t crowded early in the morning, so we spread out to enjoy the scenery and take souvenir photos. We came together for lunch and dinner to share stories and laughter. This trip to Dasol holds a special place in my heart because it was the first time we were all together on a white sand beach, as far as I can remember. It definitely won’t be the last!

Tips: Planning a family trip to Dasol? Look for resorts and vacation rentals that fit your budget. Pack sunscreen, swimsuits, beach towels, and plenty of water. Arrive early to enjoy a less crowded beach. Don’t miss out on the fresh seafood Dasol is known for!

Day 5: Baguio – From Sea to Summit

Our original plan took an exciting detour when we decided to celebrate my father’s birthday in Baguio, the Summer Capital! With Marlo’s help, we hired two vans that took us from Dasol to Baguio.

Luckily, I found a spacious and affordable Airbnb perfect for our large family (P8400 for 16+ guests). Finding the place was a bit of an adventure, as can sometimes happen with Airbnbs, but the wait was worth it. The place was a hidden gem, and the host even offered tour assistance! The real highlight was the spacious living room with a chimney and the balcony – creating a perfect mountain retreat atmosphere.

Day 6: Baguio City Tour

Our Baguio adventure started the next day with an early trip to Mines View Park. The combination of cool mountain air, breathtaking scenery, and a horseback riding adventure was a hit for everyone. We couldn’t resist indulging in the famous strawberry taho, a delicious local breakfast treat. Souvenir shops were everywhere, tempting us with cute trinkets. We haggled like champs and scored some awesome pasalubong (souvenirs) to remember the trip by.

Next up was Wright Park, another gorgeous spot. After taking 150 steps toward the top – the air was so refreshing, it felt amazing. After all that exploring, finding a vendor selling dirty ice cream was a treat – especially for the kids! We skipped the Botanical Garden for now (saving those pesos!) because the main event – the super cool Burnham Park – was calling.

Photo credit: Marlo Vinluan of Royal Media Channel

We had lunch at GoodTaste Restaurant, an eatery near Burnham Park that serves Filipino and Chinese favorites at affordable prices Their generous portions, friendly robot servers, and attentive staff made for a memorable dining experience. If you’re craving comfort food at a great price for a large group, Goodtaste is a good choice, but be prepared to wait as it’s a popular spot.

Tip: Arrive early at GoodTaste to avoid long lines, especially during peak season.

Next, we strolled through the picturesque Burnham Park, a haven for fresh air and leisurely activities. The open space and playground were perfect for the kids to burn off some energy, while the adults enjoyed renting bikes or paddleboats on the lake.

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers:

  • Plan for short breaks and downtime: Toddlers have limited stamina, so take breaks – grab a snack or leave some space for playtime to avoid meltdowns.
  • Pack light: Bring essentials like comfortable clothing, sunscreen, hats, and plenty of snacks to keep everyone happy on the go.
  • Embrace flexibility: Adjust your itinerary based on your toddlers’ needs and unexpected situations.
  • Embrace the chaos: Things might not always go according to plan, but the memories you create with your family will be priceless!
Pack lots of love, embrace the chaos, and create memories with your big, wonderful fam!

Saying goodbye was tough on May 2nd. Cyd, especially, had become very attached to his cousins after just a few days, and there were some tearful moments! We stayed at Microtel Baguio that night before catching a convenient public bus to Pampanga from the nearby station the next day. This was our first time taking this route with Cyd, and I confess, I was a bit nervous since he no longer wore diapers. Thankfully, the air-conditioned bus made the trip comfortable, and with some planning and a lot of luck (think impromptu gas station pit stop and a mad tricycle dash to catch the same bus!), we managed just fine.

Sure, there were a few unexpected detours – the Baguio adventure, the elusive Airbnb, and the on-the-go potty training (bless his tiny bladder!). But those minor hiccups were mere whispers compared to the symphony of memories we created. So pack your love, embrace the chaos, and create memories that outshine any travel hiccup!

Thanks to Maricel Lantaca Gom-os for the feature image!

By Issa

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