We did it! We drove to Florida with 4 kids in our van!
I had visions of our trip going south before it even went south, but our kids were troopers. You never know how people/ children will do in situations until you put them in those situations. This was our first time driving as we normally fly.
We headed out on a Thursday evening. We have the flexibility to leave before the March Break masses. We were excited, to say the least. The kids were already fed with pizza in their belly and pj’s on their back. We had our eyes set on travelling 5-6 hours that night. That is what we did. We ended in Troy, Ohio, just about where we wanted to. After a full FREE breakfast we were on the road again. A 10-hour day took us to near McDonough, Georgia. We got through the infamous “Atlanta Traffic” on a Friday night at 5:30 pm. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds. There are 7 lanes of traffic on each side. That is, at one point, 14 lanes of traffic. There are HOV lanes to follow. We had the I 75 book and it was our bible. Sure, you have GPS these days, but the book as you travel up each page you can see what is ahead, what is at each exit and what lodging, gas, food is approaching.
After another hotel night we were on the road again. This time we encountered a flat tire. This was remedied in about 3 hours. It added adventure to our adventure in the middle of Georgia.
We arrived in Florida after traffic and construction at 5 pm on Saturday. The kids did really well in the car. We had snacks to send back to them and games to play. We began to play the “license plate game” to see how many states/ provinces you could find. At the end of our trip we only had 3 to still find. That is not bad!
Spending that much time with each other in the car I noticed things about each child, especially the older ones that I hadn’t noticed before. Which was AWESOME! Their character and personality shone through.
In Florida we share a home with my sister in law, brother in law and their two children. This works out perfectly as all the cousins play all week together. They would be in the pool at 8:30am each day. My in-laws are snowbirds down in Davenport, Florida for 6 weeks in the winter within the same gated community that we stay. Many family memories were made with each other poolside over the week!
We left Florida Sunday behind all the March break traffic, again lightening the congestion. We breezed northbound through the feared “Atlanta” traffic. We have heard stories of it taking 2 hours to transverse north bound on I75; we flew through in 20 min. My husband did all the driving and did 12 hours the first day, and 7.5 the second day.
Will we do it again? YES. For those who are curious, even with the exchange it cost us $90.00 US in gas each way to get there. You can’t beat that. You have to be careful but make it an adventure. You can do it.
Here are my tips to tackle I75 with 4 kids in a van:
- Purchase the I 75 bible http://www.i75online.com/I75BookInfo.html
- If possible try to avoid March break traffic. Leave slightly earlier for Florida and then coming home, leave slightly later than the masses.
- Plan on driving 8 hours the first day (from London ON departure). This is will take you to (about) Richmond Kentucky.
- Plan on driving 12 hours the second day. This will take you from Richmond Kentucky to Orlando (Davenport), central Florida.
- Atlanta is 15 hours from London ON. Budget accordingly. You do not want to go through Atlanta at rush hour. Going south is usually not as congested as coming northbound.
- With kids in the car, find lunch stops where they can run around. Don’t use this time to eat, use this time to run off their energy. Sit back in the car to eat.
- Stay at hotels where there is a free breakfast. This cuts down on the amount you will spend on breakfast. Ask for bags (they always have them) and load up at the breakfast bar for the next day in the car.
- Limit water in the car. This sounds so backwards to what I am used to as I drink tons of water constantly throughout the day. HOWEVER on this trip think like camels. Limitation on drinks equals limitation on pee breaks.
- Prepare snack packs for each child. I had to create four of everything. I created 8 snack packs each way. Each has a different combo of snacks in them. I was easily able to send these back into the rear seating.
- Each seat where there is a child seated, have a garbage bag attached to the seat back in front of them. This will be easy for them to put their trash in.
- Create a games and activities package. We had bingo games printed off, scavenger hunts, and license plate games. Here is a sample. We had the bingo games in small plastic bags so we could play over and over again with a washable marker. This worked awesome. http://www.momsminivan.com. Make sure to take a clipboard or hard surface for each child.
- If you, as a second adult, can get in the back seat with the kids who are in back this changes things up.
In health and happiness,