Last year after looking at five million spring break pictures my friends were posting on Facebook, I vowed that this year I would go somewhere warm and tropical, too.
I used to take a yearly vacation to Puerto Rico every spring break.
Then I got married and had kids and that came to a screeching halt.
So I made this proclamation last year. I WAS GOING TO GO ON VACATION.
I didn’t know how I was going to do it or where I was going to go, but dammit, I was going somewhere warm.
Now to be totally honest, when I made this vow to myself last year in April, I had visions of flying all the kids somewhere really luxurious. Like an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas.
The kids have never flown before, and now they are old enough to carry their own stuff and not need a stroller or other equipment or tons of snacks and distractions when they travel.
There would be no cooking or cleaning for me, the kids would have lots of activities available to them, and I would do some serious lounging and relaxing on the beach.
But the trip didn’t quite pan out that way.
Financially, I was not where I had hoped to be.
But after making that proclamation, we ended up switching to a different swim team. And this team attends a meet in St. Petersburg, Florida in April. It’s a meet you have to have certain times to qualify for.
Number 3 and 4 both qualified, and the meet was the week before our spring break.
So rather than taking a fancy spring break vacation on an airplane to an island in the middle of the ocean, we went on a road trip to Florida.
It wasn’t exactly how I envisioned my trip last year, but it was awesome.
The swim meet we went to was from Wednesday through Saturday. We were the only family to drive down. Everyone else on the team flew down and arrived on Tuesday.
I was driving solo with the kids, and since I wasn’t sure exactly how the ride was going to go, I planned to arrive on Monday. And originally I was going to try to do the drive in two days.
From my house to the pool it was about 18 hours of driving. I thought maybe we could leave super early on Sunday morning, get about 15 hours under our belt with a couple stops along the way, and then stay somewhere for the night. Then we would only have a couple hours of driving left on the second day, and Number 3 and 4 would have two days to loosen up from the ride before the meet.
The week before we left I got the car cleaned, had the kids check the status of their summer clothes to make sure they had stuff that still fit, and then I sort of starting getting things together. It was a busy week because I was launching an e-course, but we’ve traveled a lot in the car before, and I wasn’t planning on bringing tons of stuff.
So I wasn’t too stressed about packing. I was going to do it all on Saturday, the day before we left, and then plan to leave around 4 a.m. on Sunday morning.
And then on the way home from swim practice on Friday night, about 36 hours before I was planning to leave, Number 7 puked all over herself and the backseat.
This sent Number 5 and 6 into complete freak out mode to the point that Number 5 couldn’t get herself to sleep that night and she was up multiple times because she was convinced that Number 7 was going to puke all over everyone for the entire ride down to Florida.
And I wasn’t sure if she had gotten carsick or if she had a stomach bug.
I had Number 7 sleep on the couch that night. She never got sick again, so I chalked it up to random car sickness.
Number 5 is one of those kids who kind of needs ideal situations to sleep. She does not sleep much in the car.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that getting Number 5 up at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning after she had slept maybe a total of six hours on Friday night would end in disaster. She’d be a mess by noon on Sunday, I’d have to stop much earlier than anticipated, and we’d end up getting to Florida sometime on Tuesday. And I didn’t want Number 3 and 4 in the car for two straight days before the meet. They needed a day of movement and not being in the car for hours and hours before the meet started.
So on Saturday morning while I was thinking about this at Number 3 and 4’s swim practice, I made the decision that we were going to leave on Saturday, and we’d take three days to get down to Florida. It’s about 1,230 miles from my house to St. Petersburg, so I hoped to get to Virginia on Saturday, over the Florida border on Sunday, and then to St. Petersburg on Monday.
Not a thing was packed. I hadn’t done any shopping to get any food for the ride down. I was on a budget, so I couldn’t afford to buy much stuff along the way, especially now that I was paying for an extra, unplanned night in a hotel. I needed to have food prepped in a cooler.
I called my parents and asked them if they could come help me out a little bit.
I ran to Costco and picked up what I needed.
The kids all packed their own bags.
I took boogie boards and beach chairs in the rooftop carrier we have so I wouldn’t need to buy or rent them when we got down there.
I had hoped to leave around 3:30.
It was about 5:30 by the time we actually hit the road.
Most of us were excited.
I made it past DC and to Virginia on Saturday night, and found a Holiday Inn Express just off of I-95 around midnight. I know they have free breakfast, and that was vital.
We got a room with two double beds. I had packed two air mattresses and had the kids pack a change of clothes, a bathing suit, and a pair of pajamas in their own drawstring bags so when we stopped, we’d just have to take those few things out of the car, and we’d have very little to pack up in the morning and could get quickly back on the road.
The boys slept in one bed, Number 4 and 5 slept in another, and Number 7 and I each slept on an air mattress.
We were back on the road by 8 a.m. the next morning, and we drove until we got to North Carolina. Then we stopped and had a little picnic at a rest stop I’ve stopped into many times on the way down to Carolina Beach where I’ve been going with my family for years in the summer.
The kids were able to move around a little bit and stretch out and eat. We were probably there for about 45 minutes in total between eating and peeing.
And we got into Jacksonville, Florida around 7 p.m. that night.
That was about the time I realized I had left my whole backpack, with my laptop and my planners and my journals and my chargers and all my important stuff at home in my bedroom in Connecticut.
I guess that’s what you get for deciding at the last minute to leave a day earlier than you had planned for a two-week road trip from Connecticut to Florida.
That’s one of the reasons why I went incommunicado here on the blog for two weeks. I had planned to do some work while I was down there, but it was kind of tough without a computer.
And it ended up being a blessing.
More on that tomorrow.
So we stayed in a hotel in Jacksonville on Sunday night.
That was probably one of the best moments of the trip. You know, that moment when you have been in cold temperatures and you get to your destination (or almost to it) and you get out of the car and it’s warm and you can wear shorts and the air feels and smells different.
We had that moment right here:
We stopped and ate at a Jersey Mikes (kids eat free after 4 pm!) right next to the hotel we stayed in that night.
It was so warm and we ate outside and we were so happy to be almost there with the anticipation of the meet and the beach and the sun ahead of us.
I’d love to go back to that moment right now.
We woke up early the next morning, and instead of going to the hotel, we decided to go straight to the pool where the meet was at the North Shore Aquatic Complex in St. Petersburg so we could check out the pool and so Number 3 and 4 could get in and swim since they were missing practice in CT that night.
That was probably the second best moment of the trip. The one where we made it. It was hot and sunny and perfect. And we were all so happy to be there.
It was the beginning of a great two weeks.
And tomorrow I’ll tell you all about Part Two.