This is the post I alluded to yesterday – I started to draft it while on our trip.
We have driven from NC to PA more than a dozen times in the last 4 years alone. We’ve done it four times since our second child was born. We’ve made the occasional stop on the way home (Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Ocean City Maryland, Virginia Beach), but never have we made the journey a true road trip. Prior to kids, we enjoyed several road trips as a couple and our honeymoon was even a road trip (Vegas to San Francisco). When we were invited to a wedding in Boston, we decided to do our first full-on road trip with the kids and, I have to say, it went a lot smoother than I dared to hope!
This was our itinerary (and some take-aways):
day 1 – Raleigh, NC to Lehigh Valley, PA ~467 miles. We stopped at IKEA in Maryland for dinner and found out they were doing a “kids eat free” promotion; we all ate, including milk for the kids, for less than $10! The kids blew off some steam in the kids section (just outside the restaurant) and we made use of higher-than-rest stop-quality facilities.
days 2 and 3 – Visiting family in Lehigh Valley, PA. We spent time with family, but there are some great things in this area, if you were to make the trip: Crayola Factory in Easton, PA and Dorney Park in Allentown are a couple ways to enjoy the area. Philadelphia (just an hour away) is one of our nation’s great cities and, for kids, there’s Sesame Place, the Please Touch Children’s Museum, and the Zoo, and The Franklin Institute plus great historic sections of the city.
day 4 – Lehigh Valley, PA to Mystic, CT ~226 miles.
days 4, 5 and 6 – Mystic, CT. We stayed in a 1 bedroom suite as a special vacation “gift” to ourselves (allowing us to stay awake past the kids’ bedtimes) at The Hilton Garden Inn in Groton, CT. On the advice of my brother, who lived in the area for years, we visited Abbott’s for Lobster Rolls, Ocean Beach, and Mohegan Sun (they have a kid’s arcade and restaurants) and we discovered Kitchen Little (awesome breakfast!) on our own.
day 7 – Mystic, CT to Boston, MA via Providence, RI ~102 miles. We left for Providence and the Roger Williams Park Zoo early and spent about 4 hours there, including a break for lunch at the cafe at the zoo. After the zoo, which is just the right size and has a great variety of animals that were easy to spot (important for little ones’ attention spans), we drove just over an hour to a suburb of Boston, where we were based for the wedding festivities we attended.
days 7, 8 and 9 – Boston area. We were busy most of the time with wedding festivities, but we did find time to hit the Boston Children’s Museum. It was pretty packed, but the kids still had a blast.
day 10 – Boston, MA to Lehigh Valley, PA ~309 miles. We headed back to my folks’ place, but you could always go the distance to Lancaster (see day 11).
day 11 – Lehigh Valley, PA to Lancaster, PA ~73 miles. Our stop here was designed to break up the long drive from Boston to PA and then from PA to NC, but it turned out to be a humongous hit with the kids: Dutch Wonderland. This amusement park is aimed at the younger set (my not-yet-four-year-old could ride all but 4 of the rides and my 20 month old was excluded from only a few more). They had a fantastic time and we spent all day there (we thought it would be a few hours only, but the fun kept on rolling). The kids even enjoyed a show and didn’t want to leave, even after we spent 30 minutes (the longest wait we had) to get on the flume ride (which we all could ride!). We also stayed at quite a nice hotel, the Best Western Eden Resort, where the kids capped off the day with a splash pool, plus dips in the outdoor pool and the indoor pool (they also have lots of other amusements). The rooms were lovely, too (ours opened to a gorgeous patio overlooking some of the gardens and outdoor amenities).
day 12 – Lancaster, PA to Raleigh, NC ~375 miles. This route is 90 miles shorter than our usual one (starting from the Lehigh Valley), plus it avoids Baltimore altogether (a plus, when considering traffic and time spent on the road).
Our time in the car was made easier with copious snacks and two toy bags (one for each kid) that I packed before we left. They contained: a new coloring book and a few crayons, several new books (appropriate for each – i.e. board books for the little one), a few small toys (matchbox, strawberry shortcake, a small soft ball, etc.), and a new electronic toy for each child: a Mobigo plus two game cartridges (which we spaced out over the trip) for the nearly 4 year old and a LeapFrog Alpha Pet Explorer for the 20 month old. We’re not big on these gadgets in general, but in the car they were very helpful in keeping the kids happy and busy. She liked trying lots of different games. He loved playing the ABCs song over and over and over. Sure beats listening to a screaming toddler!
That’s the whole thing. Also, I want to note that I have received no request or compensation to write about any of the above.
So, are you a road tripper? What itineraries have you enjoyed with (or without) kids in tow? Any take-aways or tips to share?