FLORIDA ROAD TRIP
Everything you need to know when driving from Toronto to Florida!
Wow. We did it- drove 2355 kms to Hollywood Beach, Florida! I am going to share all of my tips, tricks, our route & why we decided to drive with you all, because I had really wish I read something like this before our trip.
OK. You have committed to driving to Florida (YAY!) Now what? For us, we decided we would break the drive down into two days. The check in at our hotel was for the Saturday and our plan was to leave at 3AM on Friday morning. Lucky for us, a huge snow storm was rolling in and we decided to try and beat it and we left a day early.
WHAT TO PACK FOR A TWO AND A HALF WEEK ROAD TRIP:
luggages for you + kids
cooler with snacks + drinks for the ride
an overnight bag for you + kids (so that you are not lugging your suitcases out on your one night stop over)- THIS IS SO IMPORTANT lol
a playpen (both my girls are in cribs so I figured it would be good to have one on hand in case we could only get our hands on one)
entertainment for the kids (iPad, colouring, DVD's) wagon (was so great when lugging all of our beach stuff to and from our hotel)
double stroller + umbrella stroller
umbrella (or you can buy at a Walmart there or rent each day)
I researched the weather in all of the major states we were entering. Lucky (or not so lucky) for us, we left the GTA in snow and we entered a crap ton of rain.
We stopped every 2.5-3hrs because #kids. Plus, it was a great way to stretch, pee, grab a coffee, have a mental break and then go!
My husband drove the bulk of the way (thank goodness) but I would drive a 2.5-3hr chunk each day! Also, the GPS app Waze was amazing. It told you when there was police/radar, cars stopped on the shoulder, hazards on the road- definitely recommend using this!
Also, we drove our 2019 Honda Odyssey. We had both girls in the middle row & took out the middle seat so that there was room for me to hop in the back if I needed to. Brayden was in the back row! Make sure your car is in tip top condition- the mountains through Virginia are no joke! Breaks, tires, oil change, maintenance check- make sure it is all done before you leave!
We did not plan this prior to leaving- which gave me a ton of anxiety. But Steve reassured me that we would drive until we were tired and we were told by friends that there were a whole bunch of lounging stops with big hotel chains off of the highway. We drove for about 14 hours the first day and the rain around the mountains was so bad, we decided to pull over at around 5pm! We found a Holiday Inn Express in Hillsville, VA and it was lovely! Best part, they served free breakfast in the AM that was delicious and the staff was super friendly and accommodating. We met other travelers who were also driving down to Florida so it was a definite hot spot to stop!
On the way home, we stopped overnight in Charleston, South Carolina (WHAT A DREAM- another blog post to come on this) and then drove home the following day (leaving at 5AM and we were home at 10:40PM).
WHEN WE LEFT/FLORIDA ARRIVAL:
We left at 3:40AM on the Thursday morning- stopped every 2.5-3hrs for atleast 45mins to an hour each time. The kids needed a good stretch, Lily needed to be fed and stretched and we found that if we let her hang for an hour, she would sleep much longer in the car and not fuss!
We woke up in Hillsville on Friday AM and was on the road by 7AM & we arrived in Florida just before 11pm. Again, we made plenty stops. We were also a day early (our reservation was for the Saturday) but they were able to get us into our room!
It took us about 27-28 hours including all of the stops- pretty much 14 hrs/day. And it honestly, wasn't that bad considering I have a 4 year old, 2 year old and a 4 month old LOL! The kids were SO good- they were such good sports! They fell asleep a lot, they watched movies, we sang songs and we ate! Stopping every 2.5-3hours was key- letting them monkey around in the car or getting out to eat at a restaurant.
WHERE WE STAYED
Hollywood Beach! My favourite florida spot. The broad walk, the beach... I love it all. We stayed at The Costa Hollywood Beach Resort for the second time and we had a great experience up until the last day. The reason why we booked here is because we absolutely love the location, love that there is a kitchenette and we felt comfortable knowing we had been to the hotel before. Because we stay for two weeks, the kitchenette is crucial. We made breakfast for ourselves + the kids every day, I would make sandwiches and wraps for the kids for lunch and a few times we made dinner! Here is the downlow:
Distance to beach
Fairly new hotel
Washer + Dryer (weren't very good because it was a 2 in 1 so my clothes were never dry) Valet (you have to pay but they are super efficient)
Great pool restaurant + vibe
Cute coffee + breakfast spot Two beach chairs for each reservation
Horrible customer service
Floor cleanliness (they don't wash the floors- the kids feet were BLACK, we had to beg them to keep their shoes on- they also don't vacuum)
Pool is very, very slippery. It is a great pool, great restaurant but the floors are a death trap. Water shoes helped but with two kids constantly running around, you could never really relax)
Valet parking is super expensive but you can negotiate a cash deal with them
Resort fee of $25/day which is not included in the total cost
Another thing to note, I booked our hotel through Expedia and apparently I booked someone's condo (they owned a room in the hotel- so essentially like an AirBnB) which we were not happy about! And the hotel manager had said that it wasn't something that they encouraged (and something Expedia needs to figure out). Luckily for us, he went above and beyond to help us and put us in an awesome room, a night early. The manager was SO SO helpful and we found out on our last day that he was no longer with the company. There were a few errors on our account + the hotel ended up charging us for a resort fee when it was supposed to be waived and no one seemed to care. The staff was super unprofessional and unapologetic BUT whatevs, water under the bridge.
RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS Sahara- great chicken souvlaki pita's
Taverna Opa- greek food + belly dancing
Florio's- yummy chicken farm The Taco Joint- great tacos
Giorgios- on the marina and yummy meatball sandwiches
The broadwalk is half of the reason we go to Hollywood- so fun to walk up and down scoping out restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream shops- you name it.
Because we carry A LOT of baggage with us lol not only do we have three small kids and all that comes with them (car seatsx3, strollers, luggage's) but it wouldn't make sense cost wise. It would cost over $5,000 just to fly us out there & rent a car with car seats. Half the reason we vacation to Florida every year is because it feels like a home away from home. We can grocery shop, we can shop, we can cruise around and if anything were to ever happen to us or the kids (god forbid) I know that the health care is good.
Walmart was an 8 minute drive away and Target was 15 minutes! Plus there are casino's, outlets, South Beach... you name it!
Also, bring the grandparents (always bring the grandparents)! My parents stayed at a condo 5 minutes away from us (they flew down:P) and having them there was so fun! My little brother joined on our second week... now trying to convince the whole family to join next year.
If you have any questions, ASK away!