Family road trips can be fun and create long lasting family memories.

A Florida Car

Our family has taken road trips in the past, but never one from New York to Florida. I was excited when fellow YOLO mom, Diana, was willing to be a guest blogger and share a “play by play” from her road trip to Florida and the parenting life lesson she gleaned from the experience.

“Initially I was helping to fulfill my husband’s wish. For years he has begged and pleaded to drive to south Florida. He always had fond memories of driving with his family and friends. I myself had never done the trip… in fact I adamantly refused, resorting to tantrum-like behavior when needed. After much “discussion,” (basically if we wanted to go away after Christmas, we drive) the craving for sunny and 75 degree weather reigned strong….the decision was made (although not fully embraced) to do the drive.

I researched and planned everything out. For two months I relentlessly polled (and complained!) to anyone and everyone I knew about their drive experiences to Florida….with kids (one of whom notoriously gets car sick, the other is bored driving around the block!). We decided on the best time to leave, where we would stop for gas and bathroom breaks. And most importantly what we could do in the car with the kids to make the trek tolerable….for all of us (ME!)

With my research all gathered and courses mapped out and planned, we fine tuned our fun activities for the car. Luckily, Santa knew of our journey and delivered many travel-size games, maps and license plate sticker books. He also heard that the kids loved, with crazed passion, the Full House television series….he brought the 8-season, 16-disc box set for entertaining, along with a few other movies.

Our journey began at 3am….sharp. The kids remained in their pajamas,went to the bathroom and got in the car. No movies or electronics until our first anticipated gas stop in Virginia. After about an hour, they were fast asleep in the car. They didn’t wake up until we arrived for gas, food and bathrooms in Virginia. We stretched, they got changed, used the bathroom and took our food to eat in the car. Our first movie…Annie…was scheduled to start in an hour. Not a peep during the movie!!!! And one of the two kids fell fast asleep immediately afterwards. The rest of the trip went just as well…with the exceptions of the nasty I-95 bathrooms (South of the Border…need I say more for those who’ve experienced Pedro’s domain).

We made such good time (less than 6 hours) to the Carolina’s, we decided to skip our scheduled overnight stay in Savannah and motor along.

After 19 hours (door to door) with three gas and bathroom breaks (Virginia, South Carolina, Jacksonville), two movies (Annie & Million Dollar Arm) and several episodes of Full House (and a new love for all things Uncle Jesse circa his Kokomo Beach Boys days) we arrived at our destination (Delray Beach, FL)…with happy kids, who weren’t bored or carsick, immeasurable and countless laughs, stories and memories to last a life time.

I can truly say I had the best time! My husband was right!! The memories that I took away were unknowingly worth more than the convenience of an airplane flight.

For those of you thinking this is absolutely insane, a one time thing…the ride home was just as great…although the seedy bathrooms along the highway were worse northbound!!

What I took away from our journey…YOLO (You Only Live Once)…trying something outside your comfort zone can be a lot of fun, can create long lasting memories and great laughs. My family enjoyed the trip so much…..we did it again in February. Of course our bathroom choices were much more selective this time around.

A Florida Journal

My family memories of this trip are incredible. I started our initial trip with a handmade journal (made from palm tree and flamingo -patterned duct tape) to check in and record our thoughts on an hourly basis. This initially was going to be my proof of how awful the trip was going to be…documentation for my husband that we did it and never will do it again. Our journal (which we continued on our second trip) is worth gold to me! Lasting memories preserved for life! And proof that I was happy to be wrong:)”

Sounds like such fun. Makes me want to start planning a road trip for April when the kids are off from school again.

What road trips have you been on? Any funny stories?

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Road trips in our minivan paired with “old school” games create special family memories.

2013 Honda Odyssey Minivan

I truly love our Honda Odyssey minivan which we got last spring. I don’t know what the hang up is with minivans vs SUVs. I knew as soon as I sat in the 3rd row of the Honda Odyssey that this minivan was the way to go…comfortable and lots more legroom…great for family trips.

Our first road trip from New York to Vermont sat 6 adults and 2 children comfortably. We also have had fun trips to the North Fork, LI and hope to have many more this summer. Having room for eight people makes road trips more fun. I am not a fan of extended periods of electronic games/DVD players on road trips, but more about playing games with the family.

These are our 5 favorite road trip games (in no particular order)

1) License plate game – There are many ways to play this game, but our version is as follows:

* Guess the number of license plates we will see on the trip and I track everyone’s guess on my smart phone.

* Then the license plate hunt looking out the window begins, but I summarize them collectively.

* When we reach the destination, I tally up the number of license plates and the person who has the closest guess wins.

* Sometimes there is money involved – $5-$25 for the winner. If you are able to repeat all of the states from memory, the winner receives double the money.

2) Table Topics – set of 135 clever questions cards that ask a different question, from lighthearted fun to thought-provoking. No rules, just great conversations! (I have multiple versions of this game – – it is always lots of fun and you really get to learn wonderful things about family and friends)

For example – What was your favorite all-time vacation? (They even have a Table Topic to Go version for Road Trips)

3) Name Game – You create names with certain nouns that start with a specific letter. You start with the beginning of the alphabet and then go through the entire alphabet.

For example, “ A my name is Ava, I live in Alabama and I sell apples.” The next person starts with B (B my name is Birgitta and I live in Brooklyn and I sell bagels) and the same routine continues until you get to the letter Z.

4) Road Trip Bingo – This is basically a scavenger hunt on the road. You can buy Road Trip Bingo Boards on Amazon or you can just make them up yourself with items you think you may see on the road – (For example: stop signs, railroad crossing, farm, plane, bird on a wire, traffic light, cat, dog, airplane, truck, train, horse, tractor, orange car, etc.

5) ABC Game

* Look for signs on the side of the road or highway

* Start out with the letter “A” and find that letter on the sign somewhere

* Continue with the letter “B” and so forth… (You can make it easier or harder by having the word start with that specific letter or it can just be a letter on the sign. )

Summer vacation is around the corner! Children do grow up so quickly. Let the family road trip planning begin!

Create family memories with credit cards: Starwood American Express Card is my favorite.

Starwood Card

Having worked for a credit card company, I always put everything on credit cards – it is all about getting something for spending… be it cash back, miles or in my case Starpoints.

I love my Starwood American Express Card and a lot of it has to do with the great loyalty program Starwood has. There are no black out dates, you can use points as currency and they have beautiful properties all over the world. We have enjoyed free nights or reduced rates all over the place… from a staycation in NYC and a beautiful resort in Vermont to places abroad (India, London, Turkey).

Most people spend money on every day necessities like groceries, gas, etc. If you put it on the Starwood American Express Card, the Starpoints will add up quickly. The beauty of this card is that you can redeem for free nights at some properties for 3,000 points ( a much lower redemption than many other hotel chains). An up to 25,000 points acquisition bonus gets you on your way to free nights after your 1st purchase.

If you have to spend the money anyway, use your credit card for all purchases and save money on your next family vacation… 🙂