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This post will be all about our first, long, road trip with our 7 and 10 year old (turned 11 on the way back). I want to share our experience in case you are planning a similar road trip and are not sure what to expect. Let’s dive into it.
Our itinerary was as follows: Chicago – Nashville: Nashville – Orlando.
I will preface by saying that I was an absolute wreck for this trip. I did not know what to expect. Some people have amazing experiences and their kids love road trips. Others told us it was a waste of time and don’t do it. But just like everything else, sometimes you just have to try it for yourself and figure it out.
So we did.
First thing I would highly recommend is a break in your trip. If you are planning a drive that is longer than 8 hours, most definitely stop for a sleepover. We chose Nashville. Nashville was always on my bucket list but because we only had a few hours, I have to come back for the full experience. But it was a great stopping point and I would do it again.
What to pack for the ride:
- tablets/ phones
- headphones (these were amazing and the battery lasted entire drive)
- chargers/ charging adaptor for multiples
- travel games/ convo cards
- coloring books/ paint by stickers
- pillows/ blankets
- snacks/ water
- large ziplock bags for anyone that gets car sick
- car organizer (best purchase ever)
- car seat organizers with trays (we have this in the car all the time)
- download movies in case you loose connection
- Print a blank USA map and have the kids color each state as you go
- Print license plate game and look for different plates. This kept all of us busy.
What to expect:
I expected a lot of fighting and complaining. But I was pleasantly surprised.
I think the fact that they knew the end result was Universal, kept them excited. They were looking forward to this experience for a long time, so the road trip part of the plan, wasn’ta big deal I guess.
However, tablets, games, and snacks helped too. A lot!
However, you can plan and expect to stop every 2-3 hours. To stretch, use the bathroom, grab something to drink or eat and maybe even gas. That is if you leave in the morning (4am) like we did. If you leave at night, your kids might sleep through the trip and the only time you will stop is when YOU need to use the bathroom, get coffee or gas. Plan accordingly.
We did not plan on stopping for any particular attractions on the way to Nashville or Orlando. But there are plenty of activities on the way. A lot of which will be posted on the side of the road. So if you feel like you can spare an hour or two and need a good break, definitely look into it.
When I say travel experience, I am referring to the road it self and how our drive went. Smooth. The drive was wonderful. At times, windy. But overall, it was a great drive from Chicago to Nashville. We lucked out with weather too because if we went the week before, it wouldn’t have been as easy. There was a storm and we just missed it. So I would suggest planning your driving around the weather too.
We also didn’t have any traffic issues so it was truly smooth sailing all the way to Nashville.
We booked a wonderful hotel in Nashville. I wanted to be downtown so we stayed at the Drury Plaza Hotel and it was fantastic. Clean, very COVID conscious, in the perfect location and with parking on site ($30 per night). Parking was super important for me because I wasn’t familiar with the city and did not want to waste time looking for parking.
It had an amazing view and the kids loved the pool. That was such a nice treat for all of us.
We checked in, dropped off our stuff and went to see the city. Boy were we in for a surprise. It was packed. Most people wore masks, others did not but every bar was full to the brim. Music was taking over the streets, your mind and soul. It was definitely an experience for us all.
We wanted Nashville hot chicken but that proved to be harder than expected. Not because it wasn’t available but because it was Saturday and the places were booked solid. Plus the waiting time was at least 2 hours for some places. We just could not wait that long so we walked back to the hotel, hopped into the car and drove out to The Row Kitchen and Pub. Parking on site and there was no wait at the time. Service was just okay and the place could use a major cleaning but that Nashville Hot Chicken on their habanero corn cake, made up for it! Big time.
On the way back, we also stayed in Nashville but Drury was booked so we stayed at The Hayes Street Hotel. That was a very different experience. The hotel itself was very nice and appeared very clean. Also had self parking on site ($15 per night) but I wouldn’t stay there again. The service wasn’t very friendly or welcoming.
Nashville > Orlando.
For the most part, the ride was the same on the way to Orlando. On the way back, we got stuck in 3 hour traffic but that is a story on it’s own and all I can say is be prepared.
We left Nashville super early because this stretch of the trip was much longer. So we wanted to get a leg up on traffic. It was great. We didn’t loose any time and arrived in Orlando just in time. We even missed the Atlanta traffic which everyone usually complains about (not on the way back though.)
The mountains through Kentucky and into Georgia were stunning. But scary. Oh my word those turns are something else. Just be careful and take your time.
I expected Orlando traffic to be insane and maybe it is on a normal day but because of 50% capacity, we did not have any issues. The directions took us directly to our hotel and into Universal in no time.
I made a deal with the kids that for every hour they spent on electronics, they had to take an hour break to do something else or nap. It worked wonderfully. Nobody got sick. There were no fights. We stopped as many times as we needed to (factor that in). We had enough water and snacks to keep us busy. We had enough games to keep us entertained. When we ran out of ideas, we looked up would you rather questions on our phones and laughed our butts off. We enjoyed the scenery and took tons of pictures and videos. All in all, it was a success and we would do it again.
Hope this gives you some insight on what to expect or what to avoid. But I would definitely recommend this for all families. Maybe not when the kids are babies but for us, this was the perfect timing and you know what they say: timing is everything.
I am looking forward to many more trips with my crew.
Until next time,
More about road trips: CAN A ROAD TRIP WITH THE KIDS TRULY GO WITHOUT A HITCH?