#SummerSeventeen was so amazing that we did a terrible job of documenting our travels and updating our blog! After we pre-summered in Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore, we officially kicked summer off in Chicago. We also went to Virginia, Gatlinburg, and Asheville during our #summerofcities. Coming soon we will post some updates from our summer travels, as well as a review of our Spring Break at Walt Disney World! And of course, more travels are on the horizon. We are currently enjoying fall break in Cape San Blas, Florida and we have upcoming trips to Virginia, Chicago, Disney, and the Florida Keys planned before year’s end! Thank you for following our travel adventures! We hope that our travels, inspire you to take a trip! #adventureawaits
To kick-off #SummerSeventeen the Spires Family spent Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, Illinois. The drive from Lexington is approximately 6 hours, but the long lunch with three kids at a Max and Erma’s in the middle of Indiana made our trip a little longer. My biggest advice about traveling with kids is do not give yourself a deadline and have zero expectatations, stop when you need to stop, and you will eventually arrive at your destination
We used credit card points to book three nights at the Fairfield Inn. Valet Parking was $62 per day. The hotel was no frills, but did provide a complimentary breakfast. Our family typically stays in Marriott Properties- Towneplace, Fairfield, or Springhill Suites as these rooms usually have a fridge/microwave and can accommodate all 5 of us (though are really designed for business travelers). This hotel did not have a pool as I have recently realize that when we travel, we rarely visit the pool, yet all the kids ask is “when can we go to the pool?” so booking hotels with a pool has become a lower priority for our family.
When we got to Chicago, it was dinner time and raining hard. John had plans with friends from his childhood camp, so the girls and I asked the front desk for a kid-friendly dinner suggestion. When we realized there was a Rainforest Café about two blocks away, we were sold! We threw on our raincoats, grabbed our umbrellas, and marched through the puddles towards dinner.
The truth is that none of us had ever been to a Rainforest Café. The food was just ok (the kids’ meals looked promising on the menu but the girls barely touched their food. I am not sure if there was too much going on at the restaurant or if the food didn’t taste good, or a combination of both. I personally loved the Lava Mud kids’ dessert which was chocolate pudding, Oreo cookie crumbles, and gummy worms- but the girls were not feeling three of their favorite foods touching each other). The ambiance was awesome! Every 22 minutes there was a thunderstorm. There were animals and waterfalls everywhere and a person came to our table and made balloon animals for the girls. Overall the girls had a great time and it was the perfect way to kick-off our Chicago weekend!
After a morning of car repairs and museums, the Bugs decided they wanted to check out the beach (because they refused to call it the shore) and add another state to their list of states visited, so we hopped in the Suburban, took a quick drive through the historic parts of downtown Philadelphia (art museum where Rocky ran up the steps, the Free Library, Independence Mall, etc.) and crossed over the Ben Franklin Bridge into New Jersey.
It was a cold day (even for May) in Ocean City, NJ, and not many people were out, but that did not stop the girls from walking on the boardwalk (though they are requesting that we visit again in the summer), collecting seashells for their collection (we collect seashells from every beach we visit and put in a glass jar/vase/bottle to display), and finding Shrivers for candy and saltwater taffy.
Though there were several pizza joints open on the Boardwalk, we asked the locals where to eat and they suggested Piccini’s adding that the Food Network had once visited there. So decided to check it out. The downside is they only take cash (when traveling up north, take cash, between the toll roads and the small businesses, cash is the preferred currency). The upside was the girls each got to make their own personal pizza (any toppings) and then it was cooked in a wood burning stove. While the girls enjoyed their pizzas, I enjoyed fresh mussels. The place was really small and had a wait in the off season, so I imagine in the summer its nearly impossible to get into, but if you figure out how to get in, I highly recommend this for a family with kids.
At the recommendation of some of our cousins, we decided to visit the Please Touch Museum on our recent visit to Philadelphia. The girls are sort of Children’s Museum experts and this was probably the best children’s museum they have ever visited. Housed in the old art museum, this place is huge! As a mom, I was impressed by how well the museum was staffed. Every exhibit had staff nearby to help lost parents connect with their children (or to return the groceries to the shelves because seriously every child likes to play check-out but no child will clean-up).
If your family is planning a trip to Philadelphia, our family highly recommends the Please Touch Museum.
And sometimes, no matter how much your prepare, you still manage to get a nail in your brand new tires, and your trip to the Please Touch Museum is delayed…
Tomorrow, the Spires girls are kicking summer off early with a long weekend in Philadelphia. We have an action packed weekend planned including a funeral, a reunion, visiting family, and playing tourist.
In addition to packing (clothes, books, and a few toys) before every car trip, we have a standard to do list:
- Change the oil and have the car inspected
- Check the tires (today we had to replace all 4 tires- see photo below)
- Buy snacks for the car and hotel
- Make sure all of the car headphones have working batteries
- Make sure we pack a variety of DVDs
- Fill the gas tank up
- Get some cash for toll roads, emergencies, and candy
One of the ways that we document our adventures is through travel journals. Each member of our family (except John) has a journal. On the back page of each journal, we list the states and countries visited that year. No countries yet in 2017 (passports still needed for 3 little girls) but we have visited 10 states already in 2017 and are scheduled to visit several more before the end of May (watch out Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware).
Mommy helps us document the details of our trip and then we draw a picture, write a sentence, answer questions, or insert a photo or memoir of the trip in our journal. This was our mom’s silly idea to tie academics into our travel adventures, but we have to admit its a fun way to learn and rumor has it we will enjoy these journals when we are older.
It’s hard to believe that #SummerSeventeen is just around the corner! Instead of a big family vacation this summer, our family is planning a series of smaller trips to cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Gatlinburg, Cincinnati, Louisville, and more! If you have any ideas for day trips or mini-vacations for our family, we would love to hear from you! If you need help planning your summer adventures, email our mom. We look forward to sharing our adventures with you!
This past weekend, I had the chance to travel to Philadelphia with my three daughters, where we connected with my father and stepmother (they live near Asheville, NC). As a child, I frequently traveled to Philadelphia with my parents and grandparents to visit my cousins and to visit the University of Pennsylvania, where both my father and grandfather attended. Traveling with the girls to Philadelphia for the first time brought back a flood of happy memories from my childhood. In addition to the Please Touch Museum and Penn Reunion Festivities, we visited the Jersey Shore, hung out with cousins, and visited the graves of my grandparents and other family members.
I grew up in a family that loved to travel. My grandparents visited all 50 states in their lifetime, causing me to challenge myself to visit all 50 by my 50th (I am confident I will get there). I also want to visit every continent, except Antarctica (because adventure seeker and cold weather lover, I am not). Before I was 5 years old, I was given the opportunity to visit the west coast, visit Canada, and spend a lot of time at the beach (I love the beach). When I was 15, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel with my parents and grandparents to France, Italy, and Switzerland. And as a high school graduation gift, my grandparents took me to Hawaii. I can only remember a handful of gifts that my grandparents gave me over the years, but I remember every single trip, like it was yesterday. This is why multi-generational travel is so special.
Our family is not wealthy, but we prioritize travel. When my daughters ask for a toy or a Happy Meal, we talk about the cost of those items and discuss future trips (current requests from the girls include Mexico, Hollywood, NYC, Paris, and London) we want to take. Instead of a large production at Christmas, we travel some place (ok, yes, I took a tree to the Florida Keys last year, but I also spent less than $75 per child on gifts).
I started my business, Spires Travel Group, LLC to share my love of travel with others and I started this blog- Planes, Trains, and Tricylces, as a way to share our family’s travel adventures with others. I am not going to sugar coat it, traveling with children can be chaotic, but the memories make it worth it! I hope that by following along with our adventures, your family will get excited about travel. And when the time comes to plan a trip, I would love to help! –Stephanie Spires