The Mommyhood Life – Travel, Crafts, Food, and Florida Family Fun

South Carolina

The Ultimate Holiday Road Trip Planning Guide!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Shell. The opinions and text are all mine.

The Holiday Road Trip Planning Guide

Are you thinking about taking a family vacation this holiday season? My family is. We have made it a family tradition to travel up to Kiawah Island, South Carolina each holiday season. My brother works on a resort up there, and because he is usually the one traveling down to visit us, we make it a plan to spend a week together during either Thanksgiving or Christmas in his world. However, traveling during the holidays is a lot different than any other time of year. From planning out dinners and trying to get gifts to the destination, a lot more goes into a holiday vacation. Here are my top tips for planning a holiday vacation!

Finding a place to stay: During the holiday season, you may want more than just your typical hotel room to stay in. If your extended family is going, you may want connecting rooms or a multi-room villa. Think about if you want to cook holiday meals, decorations and how much space you need for everyone to make magical holiday memories.

During our holiday trips, it is my brother, my family of 5, and my parents staying together. Plus, we host a lot of my brother’s friends for dinner, so it makes sense for us to rent a house for the holiday. This gives us a full kitchen for cooking, a living room to spend time together in and enjoy Christmas morning in, plus we all have our own bedrooms.

If you have seen my last few travel posts, you know I am all about using my Fuel Rewards® card as much as possible! You can earn Fuel Rewards savings when booking your hotel, so make sure you head over to the website or app and check out which hotels are offering great rewards.

If you’re staying with family or friends decide on a great thank you gift and schedule it to be delivered or picked up along the way, the less packing the better.

Consider attractions in the area. We visit Kiawah island which offers a ton of fun activities all week long over the holidays. Check out your locations tourism board or call the hotel to check out what events they have planned, and if advanced reservations or tickets are needed.

Driving:

Driving up to South Carolina from Tampa only takes about 6 hours, which is the perfect amount of time for a fun road trip in my book. It’s enough time that you need to stop and eat, explore a couple welcome centers to stretch your legs, and still not have to break for the night anywhere. However, even when we lived in Massachusetts, we would drive to holiday vacations, and it was about 20 hours of road time.

With a family of 5, driving has always been a cost-effective travel option for us, plus with Shell and the Fuel Rewards® program, we are saving even more at the pump now! Also, with holiday travel there is extra luggage that is easier to transport by driving. When we spend Christmas on Kiawah, we wanted to have a Christmas tree, so that meant packing a tree stand, some ornaments, and of course our elf.

Quick Road Trip Tips to Keep the Kids in the Holiday Spirit: Pack holiday snacks to minimize stops! grab some holiday cookies and treats to keep the kids happy when you hear “I’m hungry” from the backseat.

Keep the kids entertained with small new toys from the dollar store. Wrap them up before you leave, and hand them out every couple hours for the kids to unwrap along the way.

Stop in each state to collect postcards as souvenirs! When we would travel from Massachusetts to Florida, we did this! It was a great way to mark off a chunk of travel and keep the kids excited. In the northern states, we were stopping every hour or two, but once we hit Virginia it is easily a 4 hour of travel time to check off.

Gifts

Are you traveling to visit family? Shop online and have gifts sent to their house instead of having to load your car with gifts, especially if your little ones still believe in Santa. Plus, make sure you check out the Fuel Rewards® site for some awesome stores to shop at for extra Fuel Rewards savings!

No family in the area? Try shopping online at stores that allow store pick up. Order all the gifts you need, and when you arrive at your location head over to the local department stores and pick everything up.

We did this for a Christmas in South Carolina and it was fun having an adult wrapping party after the kids fell asleep.

Also, think about local gifts if you are arriving early enough to go shopping. My son loves golf, so I make it a point to stop at the Kiawah Pro-Shop and grab him a Kiawah branded item.

Holiday Dinner

There are many restaurants and hotels that offer large delicious holiday dinners, however, my family loves cooking together and being around a family table to laugh and talk for as long as we’d like. We enjoy the relaxing feeling of a homey environment and on Thanksgiving, the guys want to be able to watch football.

However, that means shopping for a large meal in a new city. Make sure you’ve looked into the closest grocery stores and know their holiday hours. Plus make a list, and check it twice! A couple years ago, my husband was out looking for brown sugar late Christmas Eve and ended up spending about $10 for it at the resort store.

Also think about bring some extra bowls, mixing spoons, and disposable pans from home. Most hotel rooms with kitchens are advertised as fully stocked, but when it comes to cooking a full holiday meal it’s unlikely they’ll have enough items to cook everything comfortably.

Packing

Packing for a holiday trip requires a lot of items you wouldn’t need on an average road trip. For Christmas, talk with your family and decide how you’re handling a Christmas tree. Some hotels provide them, or you can bring your own fake one, skip it all together if your kids are older, or pack a tree stand and find a local tree farm.

One year we did this along with purchasing a bunch of dollar store decorations and making handmade ornaments. The kids still talk about that being their favorite Christmas tree ever.

Other items such as stockings, traditional holiday books, plus cookies and reindeer food needs to be added to the list along with your normal vacation packing list. Make sure you put a list together of all the holiday essentials you don’t want to make memories without.

Extra Savings with the Fuel Rewards Program!

The easiest way to save right now is by taking advantage of their limited time offer: Instant Gold Status. This savings has helped me stay on a budget during every fuel up. With the Instant Gold Status offer, everyone who joins gets a 5c/gal savings (up to 20 gallons per visit) every time you fuel up at a Shell location for at least the first 6 months from signup.

Plus, there are additional ways to save on fuel with the Fuel Rewards® program. When you link your debit or credit card to your Fuel Rewards® account you earn additional savings each time you shop or dine with participating merchants, like hotels and restaurants.

By stacking all these potential rewards, you can really save at the pump and stay on your holiday travel budget! Best of all it’s free to sign up!

Make sure to head over and sign up for the Fuel Rewards® program and start saving at the pump now!

After signing up send your referral link to friends and family so they can join the Fuel Rewards program. The first time a friend uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station after registering with your link, you will instantly earn 25¢/gal (up to 20 gal). There’s no limit to how much you can save!

Are you traveling over the holidays? Follow our Thanksgiving road trip adventure this Thanksgiving on Instagram! What is your favorite travel tip?

*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the “Existing Member Introductory Period.” If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the “New Member Introductory Period.” The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the “Introductory Period”) is the “Qualification Period.” You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the “Benefit Period.” During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see fuelrewards.com for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit fuelrewards.com/gold or call (888) 603-0473

East Coast Family Road Trip

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.
 
 
 
 

Southern Fun ~ Charleston South Carolina with kids

There’s something about South Carolina that has completely stole my heart sense the first day I visited the state last year.  I am convinced underneath this rough Boston exterior, I am a southern girl at heart.  I love the weather, the food, the slow paced life style and I cant get enough of the southern accents!
 
 We stopped in the Charleston area twice on our Florida Bound Road trip.  On the way down we stopped and visited my brother for a couple nights, and on the way home we stopped through to eat but my brother was on a trip of his own in Massachusetts so we just stopped for the day.




We visited Kiawah Island Golf Resort again, this is an awesome family friendly resort.  The island is breathtaking, the beaches are warm, the pools are relaxing, and the kids can be entertained all day!  My parents have booked a house on the island for Christmas, and I am counting down the days till I can go back.
  
We ate at Triangle Char & Bar, the taco’s and burgers where delicious!  The kids cleaned their plates and the waitress was extremely friendly.

 

After the kids did so good eating we decided to take them for ice cream.  We went back to Belgian Gelato because the ice cream was beyond delicious last time.
 
Then before returning back to my bothers house we of coarse needed to stop and swim in the fountains, because who doesn’t want to jump in a fountain on a beautiful hot day?
 
Its so hard to leave South Carolina, even when I know I’m heading to Florida.  I love Charleston of coarse but we love my brother and miss him being close by so tears flow every time we have to drive away from “uncle”! 
On the way home we swung into Goose Creek, South Carolina to eat at Brazilian Bakery Buffet.  We were driving home in the middle of the Brazil vs. Columbia World Cup game and the hubby was freaking out about missing it.  Goose Creek is much more rural than the central Charleston area, which I liked.  There’s something about living in the middle of no where that has been really attractive to me recently.  However once we get there I may realize its not as fun as it sounds in my head.  So for now we’re staying put in Massachusetts but one day I hope to convince my husband to move South.   

A Trip to the South Carolina Aquarium ~ Traveling with Kids

We spent our last full day in Charleston at the South Carolina Aquarium.  This aquarium was great!  All the exhibits where full and laid out so you saw an animal every time.  The Huge shark tank was the kids favorite and even us adults thought it was a cool design. 
 The aquarium is set on Charleston Harbor, and you can often see dolphins swimming free.

 The Madagascar exhibit had a crawl under tube for the kids, and when the kids stood up in the middle the animals would sit right on the glass.
This was an awesome afternoon, I recommend anyone vacationing in Charleston with children to definitely visit this Aquarium.
We got our tickets at the Charleston Visitor Center at a discount.  I also recommend checking out the visitors center as a tourist in Charleston!  The list of attractions in the city is endless and these friendly folks know about them all!

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