I was fortunate enough to travel a lot as a child. The World’s Fair in Vancouver, Canada, trolley rides in San Francisco, a paddle boat down the Mississippi, and singing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. And I must not forget our annual road trips to Walt Disney World every February. I have very fond memories of sitting in the foot well in the back of my mom’s car as my brothers stretched out across the back seat–before the days of car seats and seat belts!
While my husband and I certainly don’t travel as much with our family as I did growing up, my children are in no way deprived. We’ve been on plenty of weekend trips to Mineral Spa, Great Wolf Lodge, Hersheypark, and the like. They’ve even seen the Grand Canyon and been to Disney World on more than one occasion. But 2011 was different. This year was to be, as my kids would say, the best vacation evah!
In deciding on our annual summer family vacation destination, we wanted to stay clear of our typical, comfort zone things. A rental at the Jersey shore? No, not this year. Maybe a rental in Maryland? Visiting the Rhode Island beaches? All Nos. Maybe renting an RV? Now this seemed to interest us. We would go to Cooperstown, N.Y. to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Next stop, Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side. And last, a few days at an RV resort in Lake George. Sounds perfect!
Except … we didn’t plan it in time. So, instead we made a reservation at a townhouse and packed the kids and our stuff into the Honda Pilot and head off to Florida! Was I reliving my childhood? Well, maybe a little but what a great family trip!
We left in the middle of the night so the kids were in pjs and ready for a few hours of good sleep. We got through DC before the morning rush and with daybreak made our first official stop for breakfast. Next up, the license plate game! I had printed a U.S. map and we marked all of the state license plates that we saw on our trip. And let’s not forget Mad Libs! The kids had a blast with those. And yes, there was more sleeping and some movies on the portable DVD player but also A LOT of singing!
The anticipation was killing me. I couldn’t wait to get further south to start seeing the South of the Border billboards. The campy rest stop has been part of the I-95 landscape since the 1950s and I was looking forward to sharing this experience with my children. We stopped here every year on our way to Florida to visit Pedro. We ate at the Sombrero restaurant and wrote our names on a paper sombrero that got put on the ceiling. I even remember finding our name up there from years past. I, admittedly, hoped to find my family’s name up on the ceiling from days long ago. There was nothing like sharing a bit of my childhood excitement with my children. Every child likes stuff and this place is full of it. Tchotchkes galore!
We arrived at South of the Border at lunch time, perfect for the Sombrero restaurant. We all needed the break and the stretch. The kids ran around the stores trying on sombreros, shaking maracas, wearing giant sunglasses, and messing around with coconut bras. A good time was had by all. To my disappointment though, the restaurant no longer has the paper sombrero tradition. Bummer!
We decided to drive straight through to Florida without stopping elsewhere for the night. We arrived in Daytona Beach, checked in a hotel, and had some dinner. We enjoyed a gorgeous day on the Florida beaches the next morning. Highlight for the kids, you can drive on the beach there!
Later that afternoon we arrived at our destination, Florida’s Regal Palms Resort. We had a great week relaxing, playing games, swimming, visiting the Magic Kingdom, frolicking at Sea World’s Aquatica, dinner with family we don’t get to see often enough and just spending quality time together.
The end of the week came way too fast. I can’t say that the trip home was nearly as exciting but still a lot of laughs and reminiscing. Our last stop before home was Arlington National Cemetery to visit my father’s final resting place. A somber pause but noteworthy, nonetheless.
Arriving back in Verona was bittersweet. Glad to be back in our own beds, it was the end of a wonderful family trip filled with childhood memories, new and old. I think we all agree: Our family road trip was by far, the best vacation evah!