Driving to Florida

Updated on May 19, 2010
K.C. asks from Solon, OH
17 answers

We are going on our first family vacation to Florida and unfortunately we are driving since flying is too costly. I have twin boys that are 3-1/2 and a boy that is 6. For those of you that have driven long road trips before did you drive during the day or at night? My 6 year old is starting to get car sick a little and a few of our friends suggested to drive at night. I just think having the kids sleep in their car seats seems so uncomfortable.

I am interested in hearing stories of other families and their road trips.

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So What Happened?

Thank you for all of your responses. They are all very helpful. My husband wants to drive at night, but I would rather get up early to drive. I don't think my kids will sleep well in their carseats.

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answers from Washington DC on

My inlaws just drove from Washington, DC to Palm Coast FL. They had a 1 1/2y, a 2 1/2 y, and an 11y. They ALWAYS drive at night, leaving around 8p, and they get there around 8am. The kids slept most of the way there.


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answers from Cleveland on

Hi, K.!
We just got back from Orlando last week. We are very lucky because our children are phenomenal travellers, and play with a few toys or books along the way, and watch scenery the rest of the time.

But one thing I have always found helpful is to give them maps (I handprinted them with very basic information and lots of pictures, when they were too young to read) They love to keep track of the mile markers that tell them how far until the next state. It's much easier southbound, since you reach a new state when the mile markers reach 0. And tell them what landmarks to watch for (make sure you draw them on the maps) to know they're getting closer. But don't say getting closer to FL. Say getting closer to the next stop or the next state. Much easier for them to understand. For example, if they are awake the whole morning through OH, tell them that when you get to the Ohio River, you'll stop for breakfast. And when you're in WV, tell them that when they reach the big tunnels that go through the mountains, it's time to stop for lunch (in VA).

I don't know what part of Solon you're in, but it will take you about 2 1/2 hours to reach the River. If you leave really early (5:00am), would the boys go back to sleep for a few hours? You could stop in Marietta for breakfast, and let them run around a bit.

WV is going to be the worst part of the drive for your six year old. My seven yo also gets a little carsick, so I got "Queasy Drops" from One Step Ahead. They're hard candies that stop the sick feeling. They worked great for us! I highly recommend them. I even sucked on them at Disney before and after the roller coasters, and I didn't get sick at all (I usually do). Also, One Step Ahead has pillow cushions that attach to the seatbelt, to make it easier to sleep in the carseat. My children both used theirs. (And they have toilet seat covers, which are always a must for me, because some of the places you have to stop at are so gross!) Sounds like I own stock in the company! I don't - I just like many of their products. : )

Anyway, WV will take three hours to drive through, and then one hour through VA. So you could stop for lunch (maybe pack a picnic cooler and stop at a rest area) in VA.

NC is about two hours to drive through, and you can stop in Charlotte for the night. Or you might want to push through to Rock Hill, SC (not too much further). Stay at a hotel with a pool and that serves breakfast. Let them use the pool for an hour and eat a good breakfast, then get back on the road. (Only about 7 hours to go, depending on where in FL you're heading!) : )

Let the boys know what to look for on their maps and to watch for it out the windows. Then whenever they get bored with their books and toys, remind them of the maps, and bring their attention back to them as a distraction.

It really isn't too bad of a trip. We've done it a few times now (and never with a DVD player - imagine that!) and the children do great. But whatever new toys you buy for the car, make sure they don't see them until the trip, then dole them out slowly, as their patience wears thin. Alternate a new toy with a snack - keep them guessing! : )

Best of luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

Growing up, we always traveled during the day. We had a full size van that we pulled a travel trailer with. The three of us kids would rotate having the back seat all to ourselves. However, like your son, I get motion sickness and tended to hog the back seat to lay down, close my eyes and daydream. (Obviously, this was back in the days before seatbelt laws.) More recently, we drove from Cincinnati to Charlotte, NC with my three year old. While we have a bagful of activities for him, he seemed to enjoy just watching the scenery more.
Here are some things that I have found that help me with motion sickness:
1) snacks/drinks- Munch through out the day. A little bit of food in the stomach seems to help. Stay hydrated.
2) a/c- Keep him cool. The motion sickness seems to be worse if I get warm. Sun shades on the windows might help too.
3) breaks- Frequent rest stops, even if it is just to use the restroom or get some gas.
4) no reading- Avoid tasks such as reading. Trying to focus on something small while riding makes me sick. I don't know if it would be the same way if I was trying to watch a DVD or not.
5) sleep/daydream- Use a neck pillow (I have seen them for kids), relax close your eyes, and dream about all the fun stuff you will be doing. :0)
6) medication- Maybe take a decongestant or an expectorant (Musinex), especially if he has had any allergies, sinus, ear problems. If I have even the tiniest bit of congestion, sinus pressure, etc., I get really sick, really fast.
7) front seat- He is too young right now. However, in the future the front seat is better than the back seat to avoid motion sickness.
Hope this helps you!!! Enjoy your vacation!!!



answers from Dallas on

I just returned from a long road trip with my 18 month old. We made two decisions that saved all our sanity!! One was to leave in the afternoon so the first part of the trip was during the day and the rest of it was during his normal sleeping time. The second was to borrow a DVD player from my in-laws. I know alot of people make the argument that we survived family trips without a DVD player when we were kids, but we didn't have the option to use one! Sleeping in the carseat is not ideal, but it's better than having very fussy kids in their carseats.



answers from Toledo on

We went from Toledo to Tampa in 2 days with a 2 and 4 year old. I wanted to leave at night, but since Grandpa was driving we left in the morning. They did great! We took our time and stopped to let the kids run when we could. CDs, Leapster, and computer brought more entertainment than the DVD player. It did help though to get us through those last 20 minutes before the next stop. I say snacks, snacks snacks. We packed snack bags with a little treat, juice box for each rest stop we took. I brought clementines since they are easy to peal, but the granola bars were a mess! We played games looking for things...different versions of eye spy worked for us.

Not sure if you'll be taking 75 or 95 down, but there are a lot of quick fun things to do down I75. I have the exits written down somewhere. Send me a message if you'd like. There is a huge Bass Pro Shops in Georgia, and an enormous statue of a cow we stop to eat lunch under...don't go to the bathroom at the gas station there though...go across the overpass!) If you have a GPS you can search an activity when they start to get unbearable...but we really didn't have to do much of that. Good luck and have fun!



answers from Muncie on

We have been doing road trips since our son was 4 1/2 months (CA to CT). We always travel during the day planning on stopping about every 2 hours. Ever other stop is a longer one alternated with a short 15-20 min one to run and use the bathroom. We travel during the day otherwise we are cranky from lack of sleep when the kids are readdy to go. We try to plan our hotels with a pool or park nearby. That way we get run time. As for the car sickness my neice gets really sick even on straight roads. We bought the motion sickness bands taht you wear on your wrist (accupressure) and she has not had any more motion sickness while wearing them. Also I keep a bag of Dollarstore type surprises in a bag, that when all else fails you can surprise them with a new something (the key is to not let them know that you have them).


answers from St. Louis on


I have traveled to Florida from Indy by car since my older kid was born, and then from St Louis, since my little was born almost every Christmas.. I have 2 kids (10 and 4 years old boys). We take the time we need, we leave early as soon as the kids have their breakfast (light breakfast, around 7:30 am or 8 ish am) We stop every 2 hours unless there is another urgent need (lol) either for meals or stretching (rest areas are the best!)So while one of us (husband or myself) goes to the restroom one stay with the kids, I mean we take turns.
We take with us:
DVD player and many movies, Coloring books and favorites books of each child.
Snacks and small trash bags (goldfish, bananas, apples, nuts or crackers)
Music (CD's) for the kids and for ourselves.
A ball (my husband plays with the kids at the rest area for some minutes while I am "busy")
Botttles of water,
Wipes and tissues
Comfortable small pillows and a light blanket for the kids (sometimes the A/C is too strong for them)
Your little one may need his potty or potty ring? (for my little one his potty ring is a must!)
We spend the night in a hotel, so we can recover from those about 8 hours? (not the most expensive, but reasonable price for one room)
We have breakfast and then we continue our trip.
The kids sleep in the car during the day, but in my opinion travel overnight is to exhausting for the kids, and for us who even taking turns driving, it is very energy consuming. It takes longer, but the kids enjoy the trip and we have fun together without force ourselves to get to Florida faster but in a bad mood and horribly tired
When you travel by car you can take whatever you think you may need for the kids without worrying about space and more baggage, etc...You stop whenever you need to, and if you have the idea to travel and have fun you really enjoy it!
I always, always start packing the weekend before I leave (it sounds ridiculous, but believe me...you will need the extra time the days just before the trip), I use 2 baggages, one for my husband and myself and another one for the kids. I keep ONE handbag or small bag HANDY to take just that one to the hotel without the need to take out all the suitcases and stuff. The "handy bag" always contains: a clothing change for the kids, for ourselves, don't forget a couple of socks and underwear!!toiletries, the stuffed animal or blanket or the "comfort" toy for the little one, water! any medicine you take and... pull ups for the little one?...etcl Think of layers to get dress yourselves and the kids!
Remember that the weather is different down there, so think of humidity, type of clothing, change of clothing,wipes, and the first aids. Sunscreen and light jackets are very useful!!!
Good luck and enjoy your trip!!!!



answers from Anchorage on

We traveled from Montana to Alaska over 5 days with my than 2 and 4 year olds. We traveled during the day so we could enjoy the sites and sleep at hotels or camp grounds at night. We brought plenty of snacks and a portable DVD player, that was a must. Over all, it went really well.



answers from Cincinnati on

We have driven Cincinnati to Florida more times than I can count - first with two kids, then three kids - from the time they were babies to even this year and oldest is 13 now. Our family, especially the kids, do much better when we leave a little before dinner, drive a few hours, stop for a late dinner, get them in their PJ's and they sleep the rest of the way. My husband and I take turns driving and sleeping. It's hard on us the first day, but my husband and I take turns getting a quick nap in while the other parent is at the pool with the kids. Then we are good to go!

I will put in the caveat that we do this with the understanding that if we need to stop at a hotel because one or both of us is too tired, we will. We have done that once and it worked out fine, too. It left us with a short 3-5 hour drive the next day.



answers from Indianapolis on

We routinely drive a 12 hour day to visit in-laws (like every 2-3 months). I often drive myself since hubby has limited vacation days but we want the kids (ages 7, 4 & 2) to see their relatives. The trips are easy. I'd just break up the Florida trip into 2 days - that's what most people I know do.

We leave early in the morning - around 4-5am. The car is packed and ready - we just pick up the kids from their beds and move them into the car and leave within minutes. They usually fall back asleep within 5 minutes and sometimes don't wake up at all. We can usually drive for 3-4 hours before they wake up and need to get gas, have bathroom break and eat breakfast. This means we usually arrive at our destination by dinnertime. We find something active for the kids to do - a playground or pool swimming pool - and let them play for a few hours before bedtime. Since they dont' sleep all day in the car they are tired and ready for bed and the next day is normal.

We tried driving at night once but it was horrible. The kids took FOREVER to fall asleep - like after 1-2am! They don't like sleeping in their carseats. So they were awake half the trip anyways but were horribly grouchy. And the next day (1st day of vacation) was basically wasted because everyone was tired and grouchy and we just wanted to sleep most the day.

As the ride itself... a car DVD player is a godsend. You can get a portable one that straps onto the seatback so everyone can see it. We watch a movie mid-afternoon (after the 2 year old's nap) and if/when we're driving after dark (gets dark early in winter!). It's not on the entire time. And they don't use it around town - it's only for long trips (ie, longer than 4 hours) so it's a special treat. Each kid gets a backpack of their car stuff -- coloring books, crayons, colorwonder stuff, books, small toys, sillyputty, rubics cube, colorforms (they stick to windows), Didj/Leapster, etc etc. We've found that half the time they are usually staring out the window watching the scenery or having a good conversation with us. Our trips are usually very pleasant and lots of fun (getting there is part of the adventure, not just soemthing to endure) - the exception is that 1 nighttime trip we did. :-)

Oh... our 4 year old started getting carsick about a year ago. We just make sure she is sitting the middle row (we have a 3rd row SUV) and doesn't get too hungry. If she snacks a little all day she's much better than having 1 or 2 meals in the car and then getting hungry before eating again. It's also worse when she's tired -- so we're extra vigilant on the return trip after vacation because she's worn out from a fun week... she often just sleeps and nibbles crackers and sits in the middle row and she's fine. (but we keep a large ziplock and towels at the ready!).

Good luck - have fun!


answers from Dayton on

Hi! I too have made that trip more times than I can tell you...as a child. We lived in Fl. while our fam. lived up here.

We always tried to leave early in the morning and drove it in 2 days (usually). Midway for us was Atlanta, we often tried to get there in time to have dinner somewhere fun, like the Spagetti Warehouse. Always had a fun breakfast the next day.

Always packed a full sized cooler w/ drinks and fruit and had a snack box/bag as well. Lots of variety was always good.

We had a Gameboy and walkman we rotated-there were 3 of us, and we each had a bag we packed of things to do. A DVD player would have been AWESOME-I'd get one if you don't have one.

We tried to get to our destination as fast as possible w/o being unreasonable. We stopped a lot. To us kids-that was fun!

I remember my little brothers (and myself) sleeping a fair amount of the time. The only problem w/ that is we were all bouncing off the walls once we got to the hotel-but we might of been anyway, we were excited! To this day being on the highway puts me to sleep.

(I've never had any exp. w/ motion sickness.)

I hope this helps some. Remember, the drive is part of the adventure!

Oh, I was going to mention, we did drive it overnight one time that I was old enough to remember. It was really hard on my parents. My dad started falling asleep and ended up parking at a rest stop to rest for a while-that was scary! Lol. I guess if you really prepare for it you'd be fine, but I can't say it was ideal.
Have fun!



answers from Atlanta on

I think leaving in the late afternoon is ideal, get your hands on a DVD player and then have them sleep most of the way--I saw some neck pillows made especially for small kids at babies r us and if your baby seat is anything like mine, you have the option to recline it back.
Im not sure how your little one that suffers from motion sickness will do with the dvd in the car, you might think about some Dramamine just in case, that will probably make him sleepy too.
Good Luck!!
E. S.
Helping Moms Work from Home



answers from Cleveland on

It is easier to travel long distance with small children when they are asleep. My parents did it with 5 kids. And I have done it with 4 kids. My dad would leave 4 in the morning. We leaved a little later. And if your child gets car sick, it is even better. No food in tummy, no chance of vomiting. I hated to travel with my daughter. We could always count on her getting sick at the half way mark. Crystallized ginger is great for nausea. You can find it at Mustard Seed.



answers from Seattle on

What we found best for OUR family is a schedule like this:

- Check out of the hotel room at 11/noon. (After having spent morning eating the free brunch & swimming in the pool/ playing in the room).
- Have lunch in the car.
- Half the time kiddos fall asleep exhausted as soon as they eat.
- Drive until someone needs to pee (1-3 hours).
- Pee and play at a rest stop for 30 minutes.
- Back on the road.
- Stop to eat "dinner" around 4 at either a McPlayplace (so the kids can play) or at an applebee's/fridays/ etc in a "disused" section so the kids can bounce on the seats / get the wiggles out without annoying other people.
- Get back on the road.
- Stop as often as wiggles or peeing needs to happen (about once an hour)
- Eat 2nd dinner at around 8pm. As much playtime as possible. Change into jammies.
- Kids fall asleep in the car.
- Drive until 1-2am. Whee... no stops to pee, because they're all out like lights!!!
- Check into hotel.
- Spend the morning at the hotel playing in the pool, reading in the room, free buffet, etc.
- Back on the road with lunch in the car around 11-Noon

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Using this schedule, we can make it from SanDiego to Seattle in 2 days, Seattle to Chicago in 3-4... and we're all pretty rested, because the kids get a lot of play time, and we actually get to sleep and then have lazy mornings.



answers from Steubenville on

hi there..did the florida drive fom Ohio, had 2 young boys, 5 and 7 1/2, we did the drive during the day. they both had thier gameboys ( this is 11 yrs ago), and a few travel games, books and markers/paper, and Snacks..don't forget the snacks. you're on vacation, let the kids indulge alil. :) plan to stop at McDonalds with a play ground arera, so they can run off alil energy. Get a portable DVD player if expenses permit it, maybe buy a new movie, so they will be entertained for a bit. driving during the day, allows the children and parents to all get a good noght sleep in the hotel that night. if you drive at night, while your kids are sleeping, who watches them during the day while you are sleeping? even if you sleep in the car too, either your husband won't get a good rest at the hotel with 2 young ones still bouncing around, or you will have to run around and try to find places to entertain them all day. Just something to think on. Now your lil boy that gets car sick?? you said just alil. will he be miserable thru-out the whole drive? :( There is a nausea med. called "emetrol", it is non drowsy. a liquid. my older son has a bad stomach and takes it often, and it works real well with his nausea. But not sure how it works for car sickness, just a thought. AS for sleeping in the car/booster seats..don't forget to pack pillows, and a sheet/blankets. All our kids have done it, might get a kink in the neck, but they would do fine. Good Luck and have a nice vacation :)



answers from Lafayette on

We've driven to Florida twice with the kids. The first time, they were 3 and 1 1/2. We drove over night -- neither one of them slept very well, but they did sleep some. Last year, they were 5 and 3, and we again left real close to bed time...and again, neither of them slept very well. =) On our way back home, we stayed in a hotel over night b/c they weren't sleeping. It seemed to be the same whether we drove over night or during the day. Traffic is easier at night, though! =)

Good luck & have some awesome memories!

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