Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Little Family Time

Who would have thought that a family road trip to Geezer Village West would be one of my top trips of all time? Surely not me! At the last minute, DrRuckus and I decided to take the kids to Lake Worth, Florida to see my self-proclaimed "old Grandma" who, after a few months delay, had finally made it down to her condo there. We hadn't seen her in a couple of years and she had never even met my Little Ladybug. Though she is doing very well for 92, we wanted to see her before, well, before "it was too late". So, we decided that we would load up the car and take our little family on the road, 1200 miles from The Woodlands, TX to Lake Worth, FL. I got some advice from a seasoned road-tripping friend (those Canadians sure do like their car travel) and packed our car full of toys, books, snacks and fun.

The trip was so much better than I expected for so many reasons. First of all, because it was really great to have a dedicated block of time with just our family. We are always running around, and it was nice to just be together. Second, it was a highlight of my life to see my kids with my grandmother and to watch them fall in love with each other. Third, we got the added treat of a few days with my parents and youngest sister and made the love-fest even bigger and better. Fourth, because we learned that my kids are really great travelers.

On this road trip, we actually gleaned a number of important lessons. So, if you are taking a road trip with young kids and toddlers, I hope that this list might help you.

Top 10 Things we Learned on our Family Road Trip to Florida

10. The best driving is done in the dark. We got the easiest, most relaxing miles done early in the morning the first day, when we left our house at 5:30 and didn't stop until 9 a.m. After that, we took it easy and made plenty of rest stops the rest of the day. We even did as our fathers never did on trips, we ventured off the highway to tour the USS Alabama. Still, after a picnic dinner, we put the kids in PJs, let them fall asleep in the car, and drove 400 more miles to end up at Disney World. We never expected to get that far in one day, but the night time miles flew by and we decided to make a spontaneous trip to "Mickey World"! On the way back the other day, we also drove for hours after a delicious dockside dinner in Destin, FL and covered a lot of miles while the kids slept.

9. If you are going to blow your diet, blow it with something worthwhile. I highly suggest the deep fried crab stuffed bacon wrapped shrimp from Dewey Destin's Seafood in Destin, FL followed by made fresh every hour custard from Shakes down the street. You might think that it would be too much richness, too over the top, but really it was a heavenly meal.

8. High Fructose Corn Syrup really might be pure evil, but when you never let your kids consume it and then let them gorge on it for 2 days straight, they are beyond thrilled! Even before reading Omnivore's Dilemma, I knew not to give my kids processed food or things containing "HFCS", but on the road, anything goes! Sweet Tart bunnies, jelly beans, Kix, and even Fruit Loops. Oy vey!

7. It is worth it to go down a couple of "star levels" in lodging in exchange for a lot more square footage. Those who know me know that I love hotels, that I love nothing more than getting a great deal on a luxury hotel, that I take advantage of all of the luxuries at those hotels, and that it makes me happy when the staff know my name and want to take care of me. Well, when traveling "en famille", it is totally worth it to give up luxury for space. We stayed in a huge suite at the lovely Doubletree West Palm Beach Airport and having all that space made the stay there so much easier. (Plus, they were always giving us delicious freshly baked Doubletree Chocolate Chip cookies that were divine!)

6. Kids need to be older than 5 in order to really appreciate Disney. 6 or 7 would be even better. My kids, especially the Z-Man, had a great time and were amazed, astounded and delighted by our few hours at "Mickey World", but they had just as good a time, if not better, playing in GG's pool. One of the highlights of the trip for the Z man was learning to use the key cards to open doors at the hotel. The few hours at Disney were a perfect little taste, and we are glad that we went, but won't go back for at least 5 more years.

5. You might have a house full of toys, but all you need is a bowl of shells and a walker. How many kids have gone to my grandmother's condo and played with that same bowl of shells? And now she has a new "toy", a walker with a seat so that my kids were able to take turns getting rides to the pool. It is the simple things, I tell you.

4. Worth Avenue in Palm Beach is a dangerous place. . . for your wallet!

3. The portable DVD player is the best road trip invention since cruise control. I had packed bags of books, toys, crafts, snacks, etc, but my kids happily zombied out watching movies for 95% of the ride. In the meantime, we got to listen to the music we love and I even read The Omnivore's Dilemma out loud to DrRuckus.

2. The iPhone is the greatest overall travel invention since, well, anything! I knew that I loved my iPhone, but now my appreciation for it is so much deeper. We had music, movies and books right there. Maps and directions were at our fingertips. When we wanted to find a place to eat, we had Yelp and Zagat leading us to some true gems. I could text, email and facebook every mile of the way. I forgot my camera, but I still was able to snap and send pictures. And the list goes on.

And the #1 thing I learned (or re-learned) on our Family Road Trip:

I adore my husband! He is the smartest, kindest, most fun, most generous, most loving husband and father that I can imagine. He used his few days off to get in the car with us and take us to see my grandmother and made the whole trip into the adventure that it was. We reaffirmed that together we can do anything, and that we have a great time doing everything. We make an amazing team. I love you, baby.