We finally did it! We went on an 11-hour road trip with our 5-year-old son. We can proudly say that it was worth it! Why did we drive instead of taking a 2-hour flight from Indiana to Florida? The main answer is: to save money. The other reason was to drive while making several stops to see other states along the way. Prior to our trip, we made several lists and checked them twice. We would be camping for 3 days, so we definitely needed to make sure we had enough equipment in tow. Finally, after two meals prepped, cooked, and froze for camping, a living room full of suitcases, blankets, pillows, camping gear, bikes, and LOTS of snacks, we were ready to pack up the car and hit the road. We left our home in Indianapolis, Indiana at 10am on December, 24 2020 (Christmas Eve). We drove through Indiana, made it through Kentucky, and finally landed in Tennessee. I made several jokes to Zouhair that he was "the only 10 I see" in reference to TEN-UH-SEE. The total time driving was about 7 hours, with stops. We immediately went to our campsite to set up before sunset. Our campsite was within Greenbrier Campground in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We camped in a tent with a queen-sized air mattress, loads of blankets, and a trusty white noise machine. If you are traveling with children or are a light sleeper yourself, we HIGHLY suggest bringing a white noise machine along for your next camping trip.
Remy has been camping with us several times before this trip. The only difference this time was that it was a little bit colder in the mountains.
The temperature dropped from about 65-70 degreed F to about 34 degrees at night time, which meant lots of layers were needed. I leant Remy a pair of my Smartwool socks on top of his socks. His tablet was extremely useful during the downtown of our trip. If anyone is interested, he uses an Amazon Kindle Fire 7 tablet.
Our first night of camping was a bit rough due to the cold, but we were warmly welcomed by the sun come morning. We left camp and hit the road for a breakfast amongst the Great Smokey Mountains. Later that afternoon and the next 2 days we explored Gatlinburg. First on the list was Pigeon Forge Snow, which is an indoor sledding attraction. Zouhair and I did not participate in the sledding, but Remy sure had an incredible time.
There were 7 lanes for sledding and a conveyor-style escalator that carried you and your inner tube sled back up the hill to sled again, so no exercise required. The overall wait in line was about 10 minutes when we were there. You are given a bracelet that the staff will scan each time you go for another turn at sledding to see how much time is left for your purchased duration. We stayed for an hour and Remy got to sled about 5 times. The next attraction we visited was a mountain rollercoaster called, Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. All three of us were able to ride. It was our most favorite attraction during our time in Gatlinburg. The only downside was the wait in line. We arrived around 10am and waited for about an hour in line. Your wait time will depend on the time and day you visit. We HIGHLY recommend going earlier in the day. We tried going during the evening and the line was clear into their second parking lot. The coaster's speed is controlled by your hands - push to go fast and pull back to slow down. The overall ride lasted about 7 minutes. It takes longer to go up than it does to come down, but we can say with certainty that we had a great time and would do it all over again. Walking around Gatlinburg has a plethora of sights, attractions, and fun family things to do. We traveled there during the holidays and we do not recommend going during that time as the lines are pretty hefty. We skipped out on the very popular SkyBridge, SkyLift Park, and Anakeesta due to the heavy wait times. We noticed folks were out waiting in lines in the very early morning before the attractions opening hours. They were definitely more committed to the sights than us. The last attraction we visited before leaving Tennessee was the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Odditorium. We went there because the outside of the building really draws you in and there was barely a line to enter. Overall, it was an okay experience. Remy was a little scared of some of the exhibits and the overall time it took to explore was probably 30 minutes. If you are interested in knowing the cost of our trip or the cost of any of these attractions, be on the look out for our upcoming blog where we will address the financial details of our family trip. We truly enjoyed Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We plan to return another time and enjoy some of the attractions we missed. We'd also love to stay in a cabin for our next stay, so if you know of great cabins in the Smokey Mountains, please let us know in the comments.
Goodbye, Tennessee and hello Alabama! Cue "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynrd Skynyrd. We drove about another 6 hours through Alabama and finally landed ourselves in Panama City, Florida! We stopped at our AirBnB and were relieved to feel warm, humid weather again. We immediately showered and went to sleep with excitement to see the beach the following day.
Morning came and we rented a pontoon boat. Zouhair took the time to acquire his Floarida boaters license and it came in handy for us all. Zouhair found a boat rental company about 5 minutes from our AirBnB.
It was Zouhair's first time driving a pontoon and he did a great job.
The temperature was in the mid 70s during our stay in December. It was a refreshing change from the 20s in Indiana. We went into the water a few times and yes, it was chilly water, but not too chilly. There were several other boats with families enjoying the water and warm sunshine. It was a lovely day on the water. The final days in Florida were spent walking the beach. We truly did not want to return home, but we did end up packing the car back up and hitting the road back north. Zouhair drove us back up north to Alabama where we stayed in the Drury Inn and Suites hotel in Huntsville. This was our top hotel experience, ever. We loved the hotel. It was clean, the breakfast was amazing, and the pools/hot tub were perfect.
We ended up back in Indiana on New Years Eve and welcomed 2022 unconsciously in our dreams. Our trip was a joy and a nice break from being cooped up in our home. We are planning and looking forward to our next family road trip. Let us know in the comments if you have gone on road trips that you have loved. Let's share our experiences and learn from each other how to best enjoy our time! We hope you always love what you do!
Here is a video about this road trip enjoy watching it.