Travelling to Florida – Part 1
Some of my best, and most favorite memories when I was growing up was travelling with my family. My sister and I were pretty lucky, we got to go by car or plane and visit different areas of North America, and it inspired my current love for travel that I have now as an adult. At the top of the list would have to be the summer trips we took to Ontario with my Grandmother (Gram), and also the trips we got to go on during our March breaks with my parents down to Florida to visit her. Those trips were all way too long ago and I miss them dearly but just last March my parents invited me to go down with them to Florida for a vacation and to help Dad drive down. I jumped at the opportunity – I got to spend time with my parents PLUS get out of the crazy winter we were having, it was a no brainer.
Now my parents are pros at these drives. They’ve been doing them for years and they seem to have it down to some kind of a science. It actually made the trip really enjoyable instead of the panicked chaotic mess it could be if you’re not prepared correctly. I’m going to share a few of the things I learned on the trip that I think really helped to make it stress free, and I think it would help most long road trips not just down to Florida
- Pack lots of snacks and water – The key here is to make sure you don’t have a lot of sugary snacks for the driver. It’s no fun trying to drive on an unfamiliar busy highway trying to fight a sugar crash. I noticed that my mom bought lots of flavored nuts for my dad – they were filling, tasty, and it helped him to stay awake. I also find that by bringing snacks you’re saving money and time. You don’t have to stop as much and there is a good chance you’ll get a better deal at your grocery store then a gas station by the highway on the way down. Also keep in mind on the way down you might not want to bring fruits and veggies with you before you cross the border. It can be a pain to claim sometimes – so my parents save that kind of snack for the way back where they have lots of time to eat them before they get back to Canada.
- Have an awesome kick ass GPS. – My Dad has told me a few horror stories about driving down where he had a GPS but it didn’t have for example the traffic info. He and my mom have been stuck in traffic for hours and hours with people having accidents all around them on the highway and they were just hoping to get out unhurt and safe. After that my Dad bought his new GPS – It has lots of way points and the traffic indication. I’ve borrowed it a few times on some trips I’ve taken with my husband and also my best friend (MJ) and it’s pretty sweet. It can take a bit to learn – but once you have it down you feel a lot better about where you’re going.
- Have a backup map with your directions – Let’s face it, as much as I love electronics they can break. Anywhere from getting over heated in the car, to being accidentally dropped or you have spilled your coffee on it. It would feel pretty horrible to be somewhere and have no idea where you are and how to get to your destination. It’s always good to just have a paper backup! The worst that happens is you don’t use it and it sits in your glove compartment for the next time you drive down.
- Pack a small suitcase to bring with you into your hotel – This one I was kind of skeptical when my parents told me they did this. My parents will each pack one huge suitcase of their own, but for the hotel stops on the way down and back they will pack a few days’ worth of cloths into a suitcase about the size of a carry on. This way they don’t have to drag around their HUGE full suitcase with everything in it at each hotel stop and they don’t have to move around everything they have packed so perfectly in the back of the car. My mom will also pack a nice separate bag with all of their electronics (Tablets, Readers, chargers). This way they stay with them when going into the hotel and they’re easy to get to on the trip if needed.
- Get a Next Exit Book – Until this year when I went with my parents I had never heard of this book before. How my parents do it is that my Dad does all the driving and my mom follows along in this handy little book. It has all of the U.S. Interstate Highways with all of the Exits and what you’d find at each Exit. This was so neat because we never had to worry about which of these exits had a gas station, food, bathrooms, or even hotels that we liked to stay at. I wish when we were kids we had something like this and I can say for sure if I went on a long distance trip to anywhere in the states not just Florida I’d be getting myself a copy. My mom will also make little notes next to different exits. On the way down we stopped at a pretty bad exit. So she put a big sad face next to it so next time they’ll know not to stop there unless it’s desperate!
- Toll Money – If you put in some time and really research your route like my Dad did you can probably avoid a lot of the tolls when you go down. But I don’t think unless you really went out of your way that you’d get away with not being faced with any of them. My dad used his awesome GPS unit and set his way points so that we had some great highways and really not many tolls at all. They have spent over 50-60 dollars in tolls going down before but I’m not even sure we spent 10 dollars on this trip on the way down. They found a great balance between convenience and their dollar. He took the tolls that he knew would save time, but didn’t needlessly take them when there was another easy way around them.
- Entertainment for Adults and Kids – When I went down this time with my parents it was just the 3 of us and honestly I mostly just wanted to listen to music, look at the scenery and check out the Next Exit book. But I know not everyone is like that and from where we live it took a good solid 3 days of driving to get down to Florida. Some people need entertainment, and obviously most kids would as well. So don’t forget to pack some things that will keep them entertained. I know some cars come with TVs and DVD players. But you can also use Tablets for offline games, reading, and you can even download movies to them! I also remember when I was a kid having a book with coloring, connect the dots and word games. You can also play car games! My sister bought car bingo once – and it was awesome. It would be something the whole family could enjoy together!
- US Cellphone Plan with Data – I find that here in New Brunswick at least if we want to buy a roaming plan for our personal cell phones it can cost an arm and a leg, plus your first-born child to get one. The prices are crazy and they also give you very little talk\texting and that doesn’t even include any data! A few years back I found a site that sold devices and sim cards to Canadians with decently priced plans to travel to the states. At first we bought one of their little flip phones with a sim card and it was perfect. Unlimited talk and text from that phone for the whole trip for a fraction of the cost we had with our providers. Now years later with the smart phones we have I unlocked our phones and now just use their sim cards in our own phones. My parents got a talk\text only plan which is all they needed but I got myself a talk\text\data plan. It was awesome I could look up weather, Facebook when I was bored and at one point I took it out to help my dad get out of a tough spot on the highway when the GPS wasn’t working right. I think it’s really worth the money, even if you just get their basic phone, PLUS you can call back to Canada as much as you need to all included in the price!
I hope that all of these tips and tricks help you have a successful drive down to Florida or any long driving trip you might be taking. With a little bit of planning the actual drive down there can be a fun part of the whole experience and I know that I’d jump at a chance to drive down again. Robyn and I decided that we’re going to do a bit of a Florida series. She might talk about flying down and we’ll talk about places to stay, things to do, and we hope to get into detail about the different parks! Safe travels everyone 🙂