My wife and I decided to take a short vacation this year to Daytona Beach, Florida. We didn’t quite know what to expect, since we were going such a long way with a toddler. Keep reading to see how it went!
I’ve actually been to Daytona once before with a friend, but this was Lisa and Zoey’s first time. I really like Daytona because it’s less expensive than Myrtle Beach and it’s not as crowded. It’s a longer drive since we live in East Tennessee, but I think it’s worth it.
Originally, we wanted to stay a full week at the beach, but we accidentally sandwiched our vacation (Lisa’s time off from work) between Zoey’s cousin’s birthday party and David Blaine Live (and yes, I still love watching magicians perform). So instead of leaving for the beach on June 15th, we went to the birthday party at 2pm on the 16th and getting on the road to the beach around 5pm.
On the 15th we went to the wonderful world of Wal-Mart and grabbed all of our supplies. You’ve got to have road snacks, a few new toys for the beach, some new trunks for me, new bathing suits for Lisa and Zoey, beach towels, plenty of Little Swimmer diapers and a couple of giant jugs of water for the hotel room. And don’t forget the sun screen.
Day 1 – June 16, 2018
On the 16th we got ready, then spent the rest of the morning packing and cleaning the house.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog yet that we have 3 dogs (Tito, Roxie, and Kenney). Unfortunately, Tito and Kenney don’t always get along (you know how boys are), so we decided to take Kenney to my mom’s house to stay, that way Lisa’s brother and his wife would only have to take care of Tito and Roxie.
Once we got the house adequately cleaned to my wife’s liking, we loaded down the car in what I assume was an effort to make my car a low-rider.
Then we headed off near Knoxville to celebrate my niece’s birthday. As always, Zoey was clingy to Lisa at first and then was running everywhere playing with everything by the end.
Zoey had a great time and ran off a bunch of energy which is exactly what we hoped for before we hopped in the car for hours and hours of driving. We knew we didn’t want to drive the whole 10 hours to Daytona that night, because that would have put us getting there around 3 or 4 in the morning and that sounded awful. We figured it would be better to just wing it and find a hotel midway.
We lucked out with Zoey on the way down. We got her a Kindle Fire for kids for this trip because we knew she would need something special for being stuck in a car that long. (I’ll write a review on the Kindle Fire soon, so stay tuned.) That kept her happy and occupied for a good bit of the trip and she slept a lot, too, which was nice.
Around 10pm we stopped to eat at an Ihop (or Ihob in the future I’m told) in Columbia, SC. Zoey was pretty glad to get out of the car seat by that point. We ate quickly and got back on the road.
After Ihop, Zoey was ready to be done with the car. To be honest, we were all done being in the car. Lisa found us a room and we stopped in Walterboro, SC around midnight. We made it a little over halfway.
Just FYI, the Hampton Inn in Walterboro, SC is awesome. I have no idea what’s in Walterboro or why you would be there, but I highly recommend that hotel. The room was big and open, everything was modern, and each employee we interacted with was super friendly.
Day 2 – June 17, 2018
It would be nice if we were early morning people but we are not. We took our time getting ready. I woke up about 8am and Lisa and Zoey got up about 9am. We packed and then went to the lobby to eat our free breakfast. After getting gas and a fresh supply of road snacks, we were on our way to the beach.
We arrived at the beach around 4:30pm. We were fortunate that Zoey did great the whole trip to Florida. She never had any complete melt downs. Even though the trip was broken up into 2 days, 10 hours in a car is still a lot to ask of a 2 year old.
The whole way down we kept telling Zoey , “We’re going to the beach!” to get her excited about it. When we finally got to the room, we took her out on the balcony and showed her the beach. For the rest of the trip, any time we were in the room, she’d say, “Let’s go to the beach!” Then she’d run to the sliding glass door to the balcony and that was “going to the beach.” It’s funny how things get paired in a child’s mind.
We stayed at the Tropical Winds Resort Hotel. It’s an older hotel, but great if you are working within a tight budget. It has nice rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness room, a nice little restaurant, and it’s close to great places to shop.
Once we got our stuff settled in the room, we sprayed Zoey down with half a bottle of sunscreen and took her to the beach for real for the first time.
As soon as we walked down the steps by the pool and our feet hit the sand, Zoey plopped herself down and started playing. It took some coaching to get her to understand that there was a lot more to see.
Once we got her to the water, she loved it. Without any hesitation, she immediately started kicking around in the waves and having fun. I think we have a beach bum in the making. Lisa and I got a workout chasing her all over. We all had a blast.
After a few hours of playing, we decided to get ready and go eat. The first place we had dinner in Daytona was LandShark Bar & Grill. I got my beloved coconut shrimp. It was so good. Since it was Father’s Day, I had to get the chocolate lava cake. Zoey might have snuck a few bites, too.
After that we called it a night. It was an incredible Father’s Day.
Day 3 – June 18, 2018
When day 3 started we were ready to get back to the ocean. We got ready (and used the other half of the bottle of sunscreen on Zoey) and went down to the family owned restaurant at the hotel for breakfast. They were super friendly and the food was really good (and inexpensive!).
After we ate, it was time for more fun in the sun. I’m not going to lie, the mid-day heat was pretty brutal. As a bigger dude, I’m always hot anyway, but oh man is Florida HOT. It didn’t stop Zoey though, she still ran all over.
After we played on the beach, we decided to take her to the pool for the first time. Of course we forgot to borrow the puddle jumper life jacket from my brother. Therefore, we held Zoey in the pool at all times. I’m happy to say, she loved the pool, too.
We didn’t get to stay out as long as we wanted because of the heat. We decided to go check out the St. Augustine Premium Outlets that we saw about an hour north of the hotel. We thought it would be a good opportunity for Zoey to get in a quick car nap (she didn’t, but we tried.)
We grabbed a quick bite at TiJuana Flats before heading to the outlets. I love their food. I’ve only eaten there once before, but I remembered how much I liked it all these years later. It did not disappoint. After eating, we rushed off to the outlets.
I arranged a meet up that evening with one of my best friends since high school and his girlfriend and her kids at Ocean Walk Village. It’s a place right next to the ocean (hence the name) that has several restaurants, shops and even a movie theater. It’s a fun area to walk around and has plenty of things to keep children entertained.
One of my favorite places to get coconut shrimp, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, is also located there. The 8 of us got a table outside.
One of the funniest moments (which I wish so much I had recorded) was when Zoey met the identical twins. The twins were sitting side by side and Zoey was sitting to the right of one of them. She took a while to warm up as usual and then she started interacting with the first twin sitting beside her.
Zoey was talking to her a little bit and looking at her shirt. She pulled at it to get a closer look. After playing with her for a moment, she decided to get down from her chair to meet the next girl. As soon as Zoey walked between the twins and looked at the new twin, you could tell that her mind was blown.
It was so funny. She would look at one girl and then quickly turn her head to look at the other girl. She was so fascinated and she just kept looking back and forth. Then the second twin looked away for a second and Zoey went to her and grabbed her face to turn it back towards her. She thought it was hilarious and looked away again and Zoey immediately grabbed her face again and moved it back to further examine the twins.
If you ever want to mess with a child’s mind, just introduce him or her to identical twins. It’s a lot of fun to watch.
After the shock of the twins wore off, Zoey and the kids went running around all the shops. They are several years older than Zoey and did a great job of playing with her and keeping her safe. Zoey wanted to do things that were beyond her abilities at times and the kids were good about asking if she could. If we said no, they did awesome redirecting her.
After Ocean Walk Village, the 3 of us went back to the hotel to get some much needed rest.
Day 4 – June 19, 2018
Learning from the day before, we decided not to rush out to the beach. We thought it would be better to wait until 5 or even 6pm before playing in the sun.
We got lunch at Bahama Breeze Island Grille. We took my brother’s recommendation and decided to give it a try. I got the Grilled Chicken & Tropical Fruit on Mixed Greens. It was delicious. Zoey got her usual mac and cheese and wasn’t disappointed.
After that, we went shopping. The first stop was Volusia Mall. Zoey hardly ever rides in a stroller anymore so most of our shopping was really just chasing Zoey. It’s hard to make much progress with a toddler in tow. It’s especially tough to make progress when trying to convince said toddler to keep walking when she is staring at a play area with a ton of kids who all look like they are having the time of their life.
After the mall we hit up Best Buy (or the land of temptation I like to call it). So much wonderful technology all around me and I’m allowed to tinker with it all, what could be better? However, for some reason this magical place does not seem to have the same allure to my wife. But at least Zoey likes it there for now.
After Best Buy we decided to beat the heat by swinging by Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Scoop Shop. Eating ice cream on a super hot day is the best.
Once we were finished eating we were ready to visit the beach one final time before leaving the next day.
It was the perfect time to go to the beach. It was finally cooling off and it felt so good out there. The water was nice and warm. A lot of people had already gone in so it wasn’t crowded. I think we hit it just right.
Zoey once again did great. We splashed in the water. We built sand castles and Zoey smashed them. We went to the indoor pool for a while and then the outdoor pool.
The highlight of the day was Zoey and the bird. When we were playing in the sand, a bird landed fairly close to Zoey. I got her attention and said, “Go catch the bird!” She hopped up immediately and took off as fast as she could go. Lisa hopped up to chase her.
Apparently Zoey took that challenge to heart. She chased that bird all the way down the beach with her poor momma running all the way behind her. I just sat there and laughed and laughed. You had this bird that was flying completely out of reach, a 2 year old running for all it was worth, and a mom following the toddler trying her best to explain there was no way she was going to catch that bird. It looked like they got a mile away before Lisa convinced her it wasn’t going to happen.
Once the sun started going down and we had exhausted ourselves playing in the water, we headed back to the hotel. We thought about finding a restaurant, but we decided pizza in the room sounded best.
We ended the day, eating pizza, watching TV while listening to the sound of the ocean. It’s a shame vacations have to come to an end, but I think we all felt satisfied by the way we spent our time.
Day 5 – June 20, 2018
We woke up and slowly packed our things. It feels like it takes forever and we always double check everything so we don’t forget anything. I got everything packed in the car while Lisa entertained Zoey.
We checked out pretty close to 11am. I called my friend to see if he wanted to eat lunch with us before we got on the road. We went to a great Indian food place called AaVTAR last time I went to Daytona. It’s one of my friend’s favorite spots to eat, so he was ready to go and brought the kids.
We had a little time to kill while they got ready so we ran into a couple of shops for some last minute souvenirs and gifts for a few people.
AaVTAR was as great as I remembered. Lisa said their coffee was the best she had all week and their food was her favorite of the trip. They even gave the kids suckers as a treat after lunch. After that we decided to check out Toy R Us and see if we could find any good deals in their going out of business sale. My mom and step-dad gave Zoey $20 to spend at the beach, so we let her spend her money there. It went far at the 70% off sale! Then we hit the road.
We didn’t know if we would stop half way again or try to power through and get home. Lisa wanted to stop half way, but I wanted to get home. However, we knew our opinions didn’t really matter. It all came down to what Zoey thought.
If I were a betting man, I would have guessed that Zoey would have made us stop. Surprisingly, we made it all the way home. We had to make more stops than I wanted, but overall Zoey did outstanding.
Zoey slept some, played with toys, messed with her Kindle Fire, watched some movies and shows on the phone and never got overly upset. We tried to take her into gas stations every time we stopped. We ate at Wendy’s even though it took longer to give her some time to run around.
We got home a little after 1am, which was late, but I was really happy to unpack one last time rather than unpack at a hotel for one night and then pack again in the morning. The odometer said I had driven 1,400+ miles this vacation. That was enough for me.
The trip was a great success. Everyone had a fantastic time. I was really worried that the 10 hours of driving each way was going to be a problem, but it ended up being fine. Zoey handled it like a champ.
I loved seeing Zoey play on the beach. She was so happy and carefree. It was refreshing to see. Watching her chase that bird while her mom chased her was so funny. That was definitely one of the best moments of the trip.
Another great moment was Zoey seeing the twins for the first time. I could just see her trying so hard to figure out the situation. It was hilarious.
I kind of wish we had found a local restaurant that specialized in seafood, but I can’t complain about the food we ate. We didn’t have a single bad food experience the whole trip.
I’m so glad we got to hang out with my friend and his crew, too. It’s always nice to know someone when vacationing far away from home. Zoey loved playing with the kids and we enjoyed getting to talk to another couple. It was a win-win.
I had a good time in Daytona. It was everything I loved about the beach without a lot of the annoyances. I get irritated quickly if I’m surrounded by too many people and I never felt crowded there. I know some people like the energy of a bunch of people being around, but if you’re like me, Daytona is the right mix of people and things to do.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you enjoyed it. It you have any questions, feel free to send them my way.
If you have any tips or tricks you like to use for road trips, please share them in the comments section below. We parents have to stick together, so the more information we share, the better for us all.
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