Like most travelers, we’ve made a multitude of mistakes. Our goal with this blog is to share those mistakes and help others not make them. Here is a little insight into our first two road trips.
Our first road trip was pretty poorly planned. Our oldest was a toddler so we decided to drive all night and arrive at our destination in the early morning. Here is why that didn’t work.
- The baby didn’t sleep all night and was super cranky
- Adults had to go to the restroom, eat and were also tired and cranky
- The four days of vacation turned into four days of sleepy, cranky people who put up with each other.
Another important thing to remember is that we decided early on we would never use a credit card for a trip. (There is one exception to that which will be in another blog) So all of our trips are paid for in cash up front. Even if we use a rewards airline card we pay it off instantly.
You’ll read more about our road trips in other blog posts, but this was the first well planned one.
Since we could not afford to fly EVER at that stage in our lives, we decided we needed to rethink road trips. First, we set down goals for the end of our trip.
- Arrive at final destination at a reasonable time
- Never interrupt sleep schedules
- Allow for a short break every 2 hours and a planned meal stop
- Make the road trip part of the vacation
- Bring plenty of food so we don’t have to eat out or skip meals and snacks
Our next road trip was to Florida. By then our oldest son was 5, our middle son was 2 and I was pregnant with the youngest. This trip took us from Galveston Texas to Destin, Florida. As we started planning we looked at maps (MapQuest was not in the picture as of yet) checked for low-cost hotels and places we wanted to stay along the way. Since we had 10 days we decided to take 2 of those days for travel each way. That gave us 4 road trip days (to and from) and 6 days in Destin.
We left our home at 7 AM on day one. We’d mapped out where the state parks and rest stops were between Galveston and Destin and we’d determined our halfway point to be in New Orleans. That is where we decided to spend the night.
Leaving at 7 meant we made it to the Louisiana border right at 9AM. That wa
s our first planned rest stop. The boys got out and ran around the beautiful rest area, and we pulled out our cooler with snacks. (We prepare most meals on vacations as a way to save money) The boys were small, so we had one of their favorite snacks, peanut butter ant logs and we spent 15 minutes hunting for bugs and frogs. It was 20 minutes of pure joy and gave the boys and us just enough of a break to allow them to feel good about another 2-hour car ride. We stopped once between Lafayette and Baton Rouge to let the boys run and go to the restroom. This was a quick stop of 10 minues.
In the car, one kid slept while the other talked about our next stop in New Orleans, bugs, alligators, and pirates!!
We drove a few more hours and found our hotel. We choose to stay out of the French Quarter because the hotels are much less expensive, but we were within walking distance. We had booked our hotel in advance and it served breakfast. This was 20 years ago so the cost is not something that you can compare today but it was very modest in cost and we had strollers to walk with the boys into the French Quarter.
We had a late lunch in the French Quarter under the beautiful old Oak Trees outside of St. Louis Cathedral. I had packed my boys favorite of “Fancy bread” (bread cut with cookie cutters to make it look fun) and chicken salad, watermelon and Gold Fish crackers.
We had a beautiful picnic, walked around and listened to music, bought beignets at Cafe’ Du Monde and sat by the Mississippi River and watched the boats roll in. While it was tempting to go out for the amazing food in The French Quarter for dinner, we decided to go back to the hotel and have time at the pool. We had tons of snacks with us so we ordered a pizza and had fruit.
We got up at 6AM the next morning. I packed up, we grabbed breakfast and took some of the fruit from the breakfast bar and headed out. On our way out we found a grocery store to pick up a few essentials for the cooler. Again, while we will eat out on vacation, most of our meals are not expensive. This really helps you stay on budget and it allows you to spend more money on the experiences and not the food.
We stuck with our plan and arrived in Destin at the scheduled time, happy, well fed and not exhausted! Coming home we planned to stay in Baton Rouge but the rest of the trip was pretty similar.
Here are the tips we learned on this trip:
- Bring Food to save money when eating out
- Plan to use the existing rest stops for a break
- Don’t fall into the trap of staying at the most expensive hotel. A 10-minute walk will save you hundreds of dollars
- Use the hotel pool for kid fun
- Stay where breakfast is part of your room
- Plan well in advance and no everywhere you will stop for both long and short breaks
When we took the trip to Destin you could not find rest stops online. We had to use old fashioned maps. Use your technology to help you determine where to stay. Below are links to the state rest stops in the states we visited before our stop in Destin.