Our Florida Road Trip 2013 – Planning
We were looking for our family holiday for May of 2013. As Sukh and I prefer long-haul, we usually book our annual holiday several months before. I was intent on visiting Goa again. We had been when Shalini was only eleven months old and we all loved it. But this time Sukh wanted to explore somewhere new and so he suggested Florida. All I wanted was beautiful beaches, to relax by the pool and good food. After all, we had a seven-year-old and a three-year-old, so I wanted something easy.
Florida seemed appealing as we’re huge fans of the States. We’ve been to LA and Las Vegas a few times, and Hawaii was our honeymoon destination. We had never been to the East Coast so I started looking into it. Key West was a quick addition to our shortlist, as was Clearwater. We weren’t keen on doing any of the theme parks this time round. The kids were too young and we wanted to undertake a costly trip like that when they could appreciate it.
As our research continued, so did our intrigue about the whole state. There were so many beautiful locations, beaches, towns and cities. One day, Sukh just suggested a road trip. ‘Why limit ourselves to just one or two areas? Why not stop a day or two in each place that appeals to us?’ He said we could be like the Griswolds with obviously a lot less drama! (You will know what I mean if you’ve seen any of the Chevy Chase movies).
It’s not difficult to get those first feelings of excitement bubbling away in my stomach. As soon as you mention the word ‘holiday’ I can feel those butterflies. But a road trip sounded like a challenge – one that I wanted to explore. It might work out, it might not but I sure as hell wanted to give it a good go.
And so we grew our shortlist, adding places that we felt were a must. We knew nothing of these areas and had never even heard of some of them. Before now, I thought Venice and Naples were only places in Italy. But Google showed us the way. There was Sanibel Island, St Petersburg, Fort Myers. We looked up each place that had some appeal for us – whether it was a beautiful beach, known for it’s food, or whether there were family-friendly activities.
One of the places Sukh was keen on visiting was Tampa – and that was solely because he wanted to drop in to Hulk Hogan’s Beach restaurant. As a wrestling fan, this was a must-see, must-do for him. So it went on to our shortlist.
During this time, we saw a road trip route supplied by a well-known travel operator here in the UK. You could book your entire trip through them but we didn’t feel that worked for us. We wanted the independence to explore how and when we wanted. And if there was a place we particularly liked, to have the option to hang around a day or two longer. So we set about creating our own route.
Once we were done scribbling notes and looking at what we could do at each location, it was time to book our flights. We knew this is what we definitely wanted now so booking our flights would make it a reality. Flying into Miami was the cheapest option – no matter what route we decided to take, it would start from there.
Planning had to be meticulous. We needed to know how long we wanted to stay in each locale, what we wanted to do there, what time we would need to set off for a new town, how long the drive would be and where we wanted to stay.
We looked up a map of Florida and came up with the following route: Miami all the way up to Orlando, back down to Tampa, then onto St Petes, moving onto Clearwater, driving down to Fort Myers followed by Sanibel Island, going onto Venice, then Naples, driving down to Key West and then back to Miami to catch our flight home.
We decided the only way to really give ourselves flexibility as well as make the planning simpler, was to only book our first and last hotels. We booked our first night in Miami after we landed and then decided we would head out to Orlando very early in the morning. As we were also flying out of Miami, we booked a different hotel for the last couple of nights.
Between those pre-booked hotels, we were on our own. We had no idea where we would be resting our head from one night to another. All we knew is the area we would be in. It was a huge risk with two young kids in tow but it was exciting. It was the US after all, there would be so many motels we could choose from and what was there to worry about? As long as we had fuel in the tank, food in our bellies and cash, we would make this an adventure to remember.
We decided to take Shalini out of school for a week. Her attendance was usually between 98-100% so we weren’t worried about getting authorisation from the head-teacher. She was happy to sign the request form. Well maybe not happy, but she didn’t call us in for a chat as she did with many other people who wanted to take their kids out of school during term-time. Things have changed drastically in these four short years. Now we would never even consider taking the kids out during a term.
Finally the day came. And we were ready for our adventure.