New Year, New Travels
Happy New Year to my wonderful Have Baby Will Travel Readers! 2012 started sadly for me with the loss of my father, and ended much the same way with the loss of my father-in-law. Thanks to him we have had many wonderful visits to see him in Florida, and his sudden passing presented us not only with grief and sadness but also with a new challenge – an unplanned and un-budgeted for family road trip to Florida. Flights were out of the question. We had to drive.
I may have mentioned it here before once or a dozen times, but we are not car people. My kids complain for the ten minutes we have to drive to activities or the grocery store. They did amazing on our family road trip across Alberta. But the longest leg on that trip was four hours, and the drive to Florida from Toronto takes anywhere from 20-24 hours depending on where you’re going and which route you take. I reached out to my wonderful family travel community for advice and got some great tips that served us well.
The general consensus was to break it up into at least two days – with at least one overnight stay. According to our various online map generators, the drive to Florida would take roughly 21 hours. And that’s not accounting for stops for gas, washroom breaks, food, etc. We needed to get to Tarpon Springs, which is just outside of Tampa. The drive to Tampa is a bit longer and not as direct as the one to Orlando, thus the additional couple of hours.
And we did it, and we survived! I will go into specifics in future posts, but here is the gist of our trip:
For the drive down we left at 9pm after my daughter’s Christmas concert. We packed up the car, (silently cursing at the size of the Christmas gifts that we had to bring with us) and I modified my road trip tips for a longer drive – the car was recently tuned up, I had a cooler bag and a snack bag within reach, as well as a bag of supplies close by with wipes, a stash of grocery bags to use for garbage and/or carsickness (we were blessedly vomit-free in both directions), and had all our documents and our map and directions info on my iPad.
Bub fell asleep by 9:45pm, and my daughter was up a little later. But both of them mostly slept straight through until a rest stop around 8:30am in North Carolina. We stopped for breakfast in Statesville, NC for about an hour, where I also got the kids out of their pajamas and washed faces/brushed teeth, and then continued on to Savannah and got there around 3pm. Savannah was my choice to stop even though it was much further than halfway, but I always wanted to visit there and I’m glad we made the effort. We were pretty much write-offs after checking in to our hotel and getting dinner, but we had a great sleep (out by 8pm – unheard of for us grown-ups!) and had a wonderful morning exploring before continuing on. We headed for Florida at 1:30, and got to my brother-in-law’s by 7:30pm. Oddly the 2nd leg of the drive, at six hours, felt a lot longer than the first, which was 18 hours altogether.
We delighted the kids with a surprise visit to Walt Disney World after spending Christmas with family and attending my father-in-law’s memorial. More on that later, of course, but suffice to say a visit to “The Happiest Place On Earth”, no matter how busy, is wonderful during the Holiday Season and a great place to lift your spirits and close out a challenging year.
We figured we’d dawdle our way back North after Disney, but we all just wanted to get home.
We’d decided to spend the night in St. Augustine, for pretty much the same reason we opted to visit Savannah on the way down. But my husband wasn’t feeling well, so instead of exploring America’s oldest town, we checked into a hotel near I95, had McDonalds for our New Year’s Eve dinner, and headed for home at around 11am on New Year’s Day. We were going to play it by ear, but ultimately we decided to “Give ‘Er” and go for the drive home straight. After a stop for gas and snacks in West Virginia where I changed the kids into their jammies (troupers after being in the car all day) we blasted into the night. We made it home shortly after 5am, carried the sleeping kids to their beds, unloaded the car as quickly as we could, and fell into bed ourselves. Luckily the kids slept until 9:45, so we actually managed a solid four hours’ sleep, which felt awesome.
Like I said, my family travel community was incredibly supportive and offered a wealth of tips, but probably the one that stuck out most came from Linda Kramer who hosts the blog Travels With Children. She said, “If the kids are happy, keep driving no matter how hungry YOU are or how much you need to use the bathroom. The kids will let you know when they’re restless, and that’s a good time for a break. If they’re quiet and content (or especially sleeping) do not interrupt it or you may not get the peace back again for quite some time.”
Although the reason for this trip was sad, I’m glad we did it. The drives were quite cathartic after a crazy year and my husband and I managed to have long conversations about important and unimportant things that we never seem to have or make time for. Also? This trip felt empowering. We would never have attempted this drive unless we had to, and now that we’ve done it, so many places that seemed out of reach since we could not justify the cost of flights are now totally doable. New York City, Chicago, Boston – eight to ten hour drives are no longer daunting. Look out Eastern Seaboard, in 2013 here we come!