That sums up our Spring Break this year. It just happened that my husband was in the middle of a huge work project; so taking time off was out of the question. Also, because we are planning a big trip this summer, we are trying to be mindful of our travel costs. Earlier this Fall I wrote a post “Keep the Luxury, Cut the Costs,” where I mentioned removing one of the big three travel expenses: car rental, hotel or airfare and exploring your local area.
Keeping those tips in mind, I decided to break up the first week up with day trips and an overnight in Boston. Then for the second week do a 5-day road trip from Boston to D.C. Don’t ask me why, but my kids, have been begging for a road trip. I have no idea how they got that idea in their heads, but you can understand my skepticism about taking four very active kids on a road trip without my husband. However, I figured that four on the go is better than four in the house!
As vacation week started, most of our schoolmates were jetting off to warmer climates. We on the other hand, were driving up a long asphalt driveway in Fitchburg, MA that has signs that read “84 degrees and tropical.” I had to chuckle to myself. Fitchburg, is not exactly the prime vacation locale, however, it is the location of the new CoCo Key Indoor Water Park. We burned energy, ate some junk food and played together – isn’t that the point of a vacation.
The next stop was Boston. We were excited to try the lovely Charles Hotel, in Cambridge. This independently owned and operated boutique hotel is known for their outstanding service, restaurants and accommodations. My kids loved the children’s gift bags and the TV inside the bathroom mirror. I couldn’t understand why they were staying in the bathroom so long, only to discover Sponge Bob was entertaining them. We spent the next few days exploring the local museums and especially enjoyed the ICA’s Shepard Fairey Exhibit. For more Boston activities, see my article on Boston’s Top 5 Family-friendly Excursions.
Now, week two – the road trip. I found a great website, Tripwiser, which enabled me to plug in my destinations and activities to a schedule and then create a map. This site was a bit slow, but the for those of us that need help organizing and planning, this was great. Mostly, I loved the printout and the addresses, so I could plug them into my GPS. With my iPod loaded with audio books to play in the car and a surprising amount of luggage filling my suburban, off we went.
Now, I was a bit nervous, but not about handling all four kids on the trip. It was the little things like, what if I have to use the bathroom when the baby has fallen asleep in the car? Or, cutting up everyone’s food at restaurants when it’s all delivered to our cranky tired group at the same time. And, do I drag my 8 year-old son into the woman’s restroom with me at the rest stop? You get the idea. Basically, I didn’t drink anything and yes, I kept the whole crew with me in the restrooms, making my older ones hold the baby (bathroom floors gross me out and she loves to shimmy on her belly from stall to stall – yuck!).
The trip from Boston to Philadelphia was easy. We didn’t have that much time in Philly, so we stayed in the Historic District (at a hotel that I wouldn’t recommend) and explored Independence Hall. The exhibits were terrific for the kids and my 10 and 8 year-old loved it. My 6 year-old didn’t get it, but loved getting a hat and glasses like Ben Franklin and the baby was just happy to come along. There are so many other kids friendly activities in Philly that we didn’t get to this trip. Next trip, we’ll go to Betsy Ross’ House, Ben Franklin Museum of Science, Please Touch Museum, Aquarium, Camden Yards and South Street. Notice that I said, “next time.” From a historical perspective, this was an amazing stop. Independence Hall is only a few years old and very interactive. We can’t wait to go back.
Next stop was Alexandria, where we stayed at the Lorien Hotel and Spa, my new favorite hotel in the DC area. With easy access to the metro, this is a charming home base while visiting DC. Alexandria’s history and access to the Potomac and Mount Vernon are perfect for our family. We loved Hooray for Books, an independent children’s bookstore. The helpful woman suggested a series for my son that he hasn’t put down. Also, they loved the Torpedo Factory, which is now converted into art studios. Later, we went to the Bureau of Engraving, where the kids were wowed watching millions of dollars being produced.
My husband joined us for the drive back and our stop in New York City. We stumbled upon a great hotel that we booked using miles, The Parker Meridian. The rooms are small and a bit funky, but the kid-friendly amenities made it perfect! First, there’s a pool on the 44th floor with an observatory deck. Then, there happened to be the top rated burger place in NYC, The Burger Joint, and top it off with a 20-foot Wii game that you could play in the gym. The first night we were tired and didn’t leave the hotel. The next morning, we ate at their terrific breakfast place with the Charlotte Hornets basketball team right next to us. I’m not much for star gazing, but it was amazing to see how tall these guys were when they are standing right next to you, let alone how much they ate!
All in all, the trip was great. My older kids were so annoyed with my younger son that they really bonded and found some common interests. That alone is worth the 900 miles in the car. We learned a lot about American history, specifically the American Revolution. I will admit that I was tired at the end of the trip, and boy did I enjoy that first Monday with the kids back in school!
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