If you have been following J’s blog, you know he is ahead of me and that we’ve already reached Phoenix. So I’m playing catch-up.
One of our challenges on our cross-country drive was to find stops in the cold winter weather where the kids could run off some of their energy after several hours in a car. We planned driving times of four to six hours with stops every two hours because that is about the extent that our youngest can ride in a car. Our solution the first two days of travel was to stop at shopping malls (the Galleria in St. Louis and Northpark Mall in Joplin). This worked reasonably well; the malls provided room for them to walk and wiggle, and lots of visual stimulation, even though we prefer parks and playgrounds when the weather permits.
We also made sure to stay in hotels with indoor swimming pools so that L1 and L2 can swim off their final energy for the day. L1 was excited to swim each time we arrived at a hotel and would have jumped out of the car straight into the pool if we had let him. In his words, “It is hard to wait,” which covers most situations where a 3-year old has to wait for adults to finish all those pedestrian tasks such as checking into the hotel, walking the dog, and getting dinner. But oh, the joy of warm, chlorinated air and jumping in the pool.
We stayed in three hotel chains that met our criteria of being pet friendly, having an indoor swimming pool, and a free breakfast: Baymont Inn and Suites; Springhill by Marriott (my favorite with the best breakfast); and Drury Inn (it won on the free evening meal and drinks in addition to free breakfast).
Although I was a slow convert to a smart phone, I have found it to be indispensable when traveling. Here are several apps that we found useful, especially when you have a three-year old who says he really needs to go potty:
Road Ahead: my number one travel app. It locates you on the highway and tells you what is coming up at each exit ahead of you. It includes gas stations, restaurants, rest areas, and occasionally other businesses or even parks. It is linked to Yelp reviews.
Play Places: Locates McDonalds with play places and Chuck-E-Cheese. Integrated map shows your car’s location. You can search ahead. We found the locations to be slightly off; the app usually got us in the general vicinity and then we had to look for our destination. We were sick to death of McDonalds, but sometimes it was the only place to stop for in indoor run-around.
Rest Area: Simple, locates all the nearby rest areas and tells you if they have facilities. One drawback is that it does not list whether the rest area has a playground. Integrated map shows your car location with gps.
Around Me: Great if you are stationary (at a coffee shop or gas station) to tell what businesses are around you in any direction. Not so helpful when you are driving need to find something in the direction you are going.
Trip Advisor: I used it to research hotels for amenities and quality based on customer reviews.