We just got back from our very first family road trip down the east coast! We have never driven over 4 hours as a family so this was a fun and scary idea. However for a family of 5 to fly from Massachusetts to Florida it can easily cost us over $1250, so when we calculated out the cost of gas one way to be less than $250 we knew we needed to try driving.
Our goal was to see different parts of Florida before deciding if we should move south. We left on a Wednesday at 3am. Our plan was to drive straight from Massachusetts to Washington D.C. so that Anthony could see The White House, then continue as far as possible. We planned to stay at a hotel somewhere between D.C. and South Carolina and then continue Thursday down to my brother’s in South Carolina. However it seems that the 3am hour was an amazingly perfect hour to start our venture because we hit no traffic the entire day!
We passed through Worchester in Massachusetts, New York City, and got into Washington traffic free and where standing in front of The White House by 11am!
We arrived in D.C. on what seemed to be the hottest day of the summer, so once we saw the White House we jumped back in the van and where out of the city by 1pm.
I would love to take Anthony down again to see all the other landmarks in Washington D.C. because he loves educational sight seeing, but that will be a mommy and son, one on one trip because the twins don’t have the patience for that type of trip yet.
As we left Washington we were shocked at how great we were doing on time, but we still anticipated staying somewhere along the next 8 hour leg of out trip. We assumed asking our kids to handle a 16 hour drive in one day was asking way to much for their sanity as well as ours. However I guess all those 24 hours of traveling trips to Brazil have trained them in long distance sitting because they stayed entertained with the portable DVD player, iPad, and the toys they packed the entire afternoon. Before we knew it, it was 8pm and we were driving into Charleston, South Carolina! We saved money on a hotel room, and got an extra night to visit with my brother AKA “Uncle”!
We enjoyed 2 nights with Uncle and the beautiful city of Charleston, before heading down to Clearwater, Florida. We knew the Charleston to Clearwater trip would only take about 9 hours so we took our time and stopped in Georgia along the way to stock up on Georgia Peaches of coarse!
We arrived in Clearwater by dinner time where Grammy and Papa had already arrived via air and our vacation was able to start. Clearwater Florida is a beautiful city, I have never seen a beach so nice in my life! My parents recently inherited a home in Clearwater so we stayed at their place for about 10 days. While there we visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the Florida Aquarium, The Lowry Park Zoo, Clearwater Beach, and Best of all took a cruise on Captain Memo’s Pirate Ship.
After our stay in Clearwater, my husband really wanted to see the Boca Raton area so we packed up and headed back on the road for 5 hours. Once in Boca we stayed at the Marriott Fairfield Inn. The hotel was beautiful, with great staff, and very clean. I was shocked at how nice it was for the price, plus they offer free breakfast every morning.
While in Boca we ate at Picanha Brazil. The food and drinks where delicious, especially the fried bananas!
Once done in Boca Raton we headed a bit north to the Orlando area. We stayed at the Double Tree by Hilton, which was located across the street from Universal Studios Orlando. The hotel had a huge pool that the kids enjoyed and the rooms where clean.
However I priced Universal tickets at the activities desk and was disappointed that the tickets cost more than they do on Universals website and the desk staff was not very friendly. However the staff at both the lobby’s Starbuck and the gift shop were fantastic!
Before heading to Orlando I had to promise the hubby I wouldn’t turn this into a Disney World vacation because we were just there in January. I agreed that we couldn’t afford another trip to the happiest place on earth. However being a Disney addict and all, it was really hard being so close to the magic but not visiting. In the end we arrived at an agreement to visit Downtown Disney one night!
After Orlando and a 3 week trip we began to head back home. We stopped in South Carolina for lunch, spent the night in North Carolina and continued our trip home as quickly as possible.
We came to the conclusion that I love South Carolina and that is my dream place to live, however the outskirts of Orlando is a close second. The Hubby loves Boca and Orlando, but likes the cost of living in South Carolina. So we decided to stay put one more year, let Anthony finish off elementary school and debate the issue until next year.
We stayed at the Marriott Downtown. The rooms where standard size, which is considered large when talking about NYC budget friendly hotels! Everything was very clean and modern, the lobby was beautiful and offered an on site restaurant, Starbucks, and store. What I really liked was that we were close to everything. We were directly across from the 9/11 memorial, a few blocks from Battery Park, and $5-$10 taxi ride to Central Park, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center.
This is the View from our room:
Anthony loved NYC, we had to explain to him a dozen times why we had to leave and when we could come back. He kept telling me he was going to live there when he grows up. Lilly had fun, but the candy shop was her favorite part. Aidan did OK, better than expected, but as with all trips especially ones involving crowds, He had his ups and downs.
Anthony wants to go back soon, I’m thinking of planning a trip with just him for next summer. I would love the mother/son bonding time, without the stress of worrying about the little ones. I think he really deserves the time too, sense so much of our daily lives has to revolve around Aidan’s needs.
After we checked out of the Hotel we stopped at The Central Park Zoo. This was another big thing on Anthony’s list. I’m guessing he heard about this one on TV and it stuck, because he had been asking to go for some time and I had no idea why. This is a tiny zoo with a very small amount of animals, but that doesn’t stop them from charging the same as the bigger zoo’s for admission.
In the main part of the zoo we saw about a dozen animals, in about an hour. Next we walked over to the 4D movie which the kids loved (and so did I) but wished it was a bit longer, and then over to the children’s zoo. The children’s zoo was a blast for the kids with sculptures to climb on and animals to feed and touch, this part of the zoo was perfect for the younger children and made the visit worth every penny.
On our second day in NYC we started tackling Anthony’s list of must sees. I still cant believe my little 8 year old wanted this for a vacation and to top it off had a list of what he wanted to see! On the top of the list was The Statue of Liberty, so we walked down to battery park and took the boat over.
The kids loved the boat ride, Aidan in particularly thought it was awesome that they sold food on board. Then once we got off they each got the talking tour radio’s that kept the little ones busy. Anthony was so happy to see everything!
Then we took the boat back and headed down the path to grab a taxi, but had to stop and see the men holding snakes! They let you hold the snakes and take a picture for $5. Anthony wanted no part of it, Aidan tried but was terrified, Lilly on the other hand was just excited to take another picture of herself and grabbed the snake.
For the second half of the day we headed over to the Top of The Rock, at Rockefeller Center. Anthony had talked about going to the Empire State Building, but after talking to Uncle, he told me this was much better so we needed to switch plans.
The little ones loved the elevator ride up and down, and also the laser light play room. Anthony loved that he could see EVERYTHING!
We walked through Times Square fairly quickly, the place was packed and with all the lights and hustle n bustle, Aidan was trying to run off and the closeness of strangeness was pushing him into meltdowns over everything. The one thing that made him happy was meeting Iron Man! These people dress up in costumes and hang out taking pictures with people, sounds cool huh?, ya until the pictures taken and you learn how rude they are about being paid for it! I figured ok no big deal gave the one I asked for the picture a dollar and tried to walk off, but the ones who jumped in the pictures (without being asked or mentioned) would be incredibly rude by Lilly’s pic I just paid them both to avoid any problems. I mean I have no problem tipping people for doing this. There obviously doing it for a reason, I had no problem paying $5 to take Lilly’s picture with a Snake in Battery Park but at least there the people taking the pictures are respectable and polite! Oh well, chock it up to experience, and either way the kids got to meet some characters and I got some cute pictures. Aidan’s exact words were “Mommy, when I grow up I be like Iron Man, He’s so coooooool!”
Once we made it through Times Square walked over to Bryant Park to relax a bit and put the kids on the classic Carousel. This park was the coolest, they had an ice cream area and a bar. The kids enjoyed the carousel and running in the park, I loved the feeling of laying on the grass surrounded by the city, the atmosphere was so amazing. This park became one of my favorite places in New York City!
Anthony has been asking for about a year now to go to New York, so in the last full week of Summer Vacation we finally made the 4 hour trip down there. He was so excited! He didn’t want to leave and insists he will live in New York City one day.
On Saturday we took the munchkins to Dylan’s Candy Bar on Third Avenue. I though Aidan’s eyes were going to pop out of his head the moment we walked in to this ginormous candy store, with a huge bunny statue and colorful lollipop sculptures. I was nervous taking Aidan at the beginning, thinking we would surely face some meltdowns, but we had a really smooth trip.
There was three floors of Sweetness!
They had every type of candy I could think of, Antonio was loving there huge jaw breakers that looked like they could last a lifetime, I was in love with the mega candy buttons. The kids wanted everything, but we settled on these big pops, some pez dispensers, and taffy.
I was shocked at the reasonable prices! Going into any store in New York City, especially one known to be a tourist hot spot, I was anticipating $15+ lollipops but these big rainbow pops were 4/$10! This Place was amazing and we will definitely be back on our next trip.