In true Hampton last minute fashion, I decided last week that maybe we’d take a little road trip for spring break. It is smart and responsible to book Florida spring break trips only a week before they occur, and I am smart and responsible. Using completely random specifications for our location of choice–“Places that Rhyme with Grandpa”–I ended up finding hotel availability in Tampa which, thankfully for us, turns out to be a really fun place to visit. It’s a big enough city to feel very different from where we live. “Is this New York?” Lainey asked. “No, New York is a lot bigger than this. This is Tampa,” I explained. “I’m going to call it New York Tampa,” she decided.
Heidi and her kids joined us (husbands stayed home to work) for a 2-day, full-speed adventure that we’ll remember for a long time. Knowing we’d only be gone for two days, we decided we’d fill it to the brim, leaving early Tuesday morning and coming home late last night. My van smells like ketchup and my kids smell like sunscreen because we skipped baths last night and slipped right from car seats to bed sheets, but we are full and happy and thankful.
Adorable fun and easy-to-play car scavenger hunt
My Spontaneous Kid Trip Saviors:
* Packing Light. I’m an overpacker by nature, but I’m slowly learning how easy trips go when you pack only what you need. I wanted to be able to slip in and out of the hotel with all three of my kids without a hotel luggage rack or six trips to the car, so I brought only one small suitcase for all of us.
* Backpack. We’ve been using a backpack for everything these days–traveling, day trips, beach excursions, etc. I put everything we need for the day in a backpack, skip bringing a purse and clip it to my stroller with a Mommy Hook.
* Double Stroller. Nella and Dash both nap in it when we’re out and about, and it works great for hauling stuff in and out of places. We didn’t get one until last summer (for Michigan road trip), and now I can’t imagine not having one when traveling.
* Hotel Baby Crib. Skip lugging your own Pack ‘n Play around and call ahead to the hotel to have a baby crib set up in your room–saves so much work.
* Spontaneity and a Go-with-the-Flow Travel Mate. If you’re laid back and messy and you’re taking a road trip with a Type A planner, you better sign a friendship contract and have it notarized. Road trips with Heidi have always been a breeze because we share the same travel philosophy and are in it to have fun and make memories.
We are also sentimental, and as our kids get older, these trips become more special. So many times this week, in the midst of both the chaos and the sweet moments of travel calm, we said to each other, “This is it, man. We’re in it. Living the dream. We’re going to look back on this and miss it.”
After all our exploration–the aquarium, the downtown roaming, the skipped naps, the pool party, the late night hotel dance fest, the pizza, the giggling, the aching calves from pushing heavy strollers, the museum, the park, the never-ending quest for adventure–we finally made our last stop last night at an ice cream shop in Ybor City before making the drive home. We finished our ice cream and then wandered a bit outside, hesitant to end our trip. We walked along railroad tracks, following a flock of lost chickens and finally reconvened in a parking lot where we made the kids huddle for a made-up thrown-together cheer where we all put our fists in the middle and jumped up with some ridiculous “Spring Break Tampa, WHOO!” chant that the kids mumbled through while Heidi and I gave our embarrassingly enthusiastic all. Moms be crazy. We’ll do the same thing at fifth grade spelling bees and middle school sleepovers, high school homecoming games and college Meet the Parents weekends, hiding it from the kids but never failing to play it out in our heads. We’ll be proud and forever thankful for the adventures we shared, the road trips we endured, the short time we had with them before they flew out of the nest to explore more of the world without us.
I watched the video below this morning and smiled at a line I hadn’t noticed, fitting for this sweet adventure we call raising kids: “We’ll hate what we’ve lost but we’ll love what we find.”
A little video of our road trip adventure:
Thank you all who gave Tampa recommendations on Instagram. We definitely want to return to explore more, but loved the following:
Florida Aquarium: The kids loved it so much, they’re already asking to return. Bring the kids’ bathing suits as when you’re finished with the exhibits, there’s a fantastic outside water play area.
Glazer Children’s Museum: We spent hours here, and it’s great for all ages. The little ones found plenty of age appropriate things to play with, and the bigger kids had a blast as well–flying planes, exploring weather and their favorite–an hour in the theater creating their own plays with sound effects, lights and costumes. Bring bathing suits again as there are fountains for play in front.
Curtis Hixon Park: Riverfront park directly in front of the children’s museum. There’s a huge grassy area for the kids to run around. There were two additional museums here that we wanted to explore but didn’t have time
Tampa Pizza Company: The best thin crust pizza ever and staff that were so kind and patient with the kids. Right downtown, walking distance from museums
The Sheraton Riverwalk: Loved the location–tucked right downtown so the kids got the city feel. Walking distance to park, children’s museum, restaurants. Riverside view, great pool.