posing in New York City

A Month Away in the USA

It’s 12:30 pm and the kids are all still asleep, which is not surprising considering that their body clocks are set 5 hours behind. Athol has bravely fought his way out from under the covers and dragged his way back to work after bringing me a cup of coffee. This is the first time in the past month that I have had a couple of hours of peace and quiet and time with out another single soul about.

We have been back home almost 24 hours from our month’s road trip around the USA. It has been the most amazing month, I loved it all. All except the times we were stuck in traffic at the end of a long day’s driving in the dumping rain and the kids were fighting again about who had to sit in the hard and narrow back seats.

This is also the first time I’ve sat down at my laptop in the past month, and I have a small confession to make, I missed my blog more than I missed the dogs!

I mean, I’m happy to see the little furry creatures and glad they are thriving and were well cared for while we were away, but I thought about my blog far more often than them. I tried to keep up with posting from my phone but it just wasn’t the same.

I know. I won’t try and explain it.

So while the washing machine is churning over yet another load from our well-worn, travel weary clothing and the kids are snoring on, I’m keeping company with the spiders who have gleefully and greedily set up residence in every corner of our home while I summarise, in brief, our entire month’s road trip.

Liberty Street, NYC
I think I found my place in the world
me on the maid of the mist, niagara falls
blown away

Accommodation

This was our itinerary:

  • Fly from Dublin to Providence, Rhode Island with Norwegian Air (budget airline, bring your own food, blankets and inflight entertainment). Depart 3:00pm, arrive 6pm (flight was delayed by 2 and a half hours but caught up time landing only one hour late).
  • 1 night in Vernon, Connecticut – AirBnB
  • 3 nights in Valley Stream, New York City – AirBnB
  • 3 nights in Capitol Heights, Washington DC – AirBnB
  • 11 nights in Tryon, North Carolina – friends
  • 1 night in Louisville, Kentucky – in-laws of a friend
  • 4 nights near Chicago, Illinois in Libertyville – friends
  • 1 night near Detroit, Michigan in Livonia – friends of friends and now our new friends
  • 2 nights in Niagara Falls, New York – Couchsurfing
  • 1 night in Boston, Massachusetts – sister of a friend

As you can see, although we were travelling for a month, we only had seven nights of paid accommodation, for which we are extremely grateful. Our trip wouldn’t haven been possible otherwise. We were blown away by the hospitality and kindness shown to us by total strangers and hope we can extend the same warm welcome to them if and when they come and visit us in Ireland.

One of the lovely couples who welcomed us into their home
Airbnb, Vernon
Our favourite AirBnb was on our first night in an apartment in this beautiful home in Vernon, CT

Car Hire

We hired a car with Dollar for the duration of our trip, we asked for a 7 seater people carrier but were given an enormous Chevrolet Tahoe SUV. The car was heavy on fuel and had a tiny boot (trunk) so we had to pile up some of the cases in between the seats. It also had a very narrow back bench seat with little leg room which meant that the longer legged occupants of the car were unappreciative of its impressive engine size.

Huge Chevrolet Tahoe
Woah, check out the beast we were given to drive

However, it was an extremely comfortable car to drive, it was an automatic with many intuitive features like anti lane drifting, water sensitive wipers and lights that dim when another car approaches from the front. As Athol was having to do all the driving (adding another named driver to the rental made it prohibitively expensive), it was good to have a car that made it easier for him.

six lanes into Chicago
At least six lanes into Chicago, this was the worst day of driving, the traffic started 100km outside the city, it dumped rain at one point and the Chicago drivers don’t like to give you a gap when you need to change lanes

Flights

Our tickets on Norwegian Air only cost us €300 each return – I know, a steal right?! We were offered the option of paying an extra €30 each for a meal on board but we opted to bring our own instead as the flight is only six hours. (Maybe that’s the reason why we didn’t need to use the sick bag?)

You can buy food after you have been through Immigration pre-clearance in Dublin to bring on the aircraft or you can take a picnic provided that it doesn’t include fresh fruit or meat products. I packed instant pot noodles (and asked for boiling water on board), cheese sandwiches, cereal bars, mini bread sticks, sweets, hot cross buns and brioche rolls for the way over. On our return journey we bought burgers in the airport, none of us were hungry on the aeroplane.

We all carried our own water bottles which we brought empty through security. There are drinking fountains in Dublin airport just after security outside the bathrooms which you can use to fill bottles.

We found drinking fountains all around the States, many of them have a special ledge for filling bottles and usually the water is cooled.

Although we were travelling for 28 days, I made sure the kids packed only a week’s clothing as our packing allowance was tight (with hindsight I’m glad I did as the car packing space was so cramped). We checked in one 20kg suitcase but each had a cabin bag measuring 55cmx40cmx20cm. I packed our shoes, towels, raincoats, portable dvd payer for the car, toiletries, first-aid kit and gifts in the big suitcase.

The airline allows you to bring one cabin bag on board as well as a handbag, small backpack or laptop bag. When we checked our suitcase in, they offered to take our cabin bags too which freed us up to carry only a small bag each, just big enough to carry a blanket, travel pillow, picnic and books, phones, headphones, toothbrush etc.

We downloaded a few movies and audio books onto the phones, these were a life saver on the long road trips too.

Food

One of the notable things about the USA is that you never need to travel more than about 5km, if you are very unlucky or driving over a mountain pass, without going hungry. We spent most of our budget this holiday just feeding the kids. We tried to buy from supermarkets as much as possible but also ate our way through a list of fast food joints, diners and greasy spoons that included Chipotle, Ihop, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Waffle House, Chick-Fll-A, Cracker Barrel, Dunkin Donuts, MacDonlads and Burger King. Our diet starts today.

haagen dazs icecream
Another town, another ice cream

The States takes food seriously, every few miles on any Interstate on the east coast you will see about 5 or 6 signs for somewhere to turn off to refuel – and not just for the car. And then, as you approach an off ramp you will see another bunch of signs raised about 60 foot up into the air each displaying the logo for the eating place beneath it. If you can’t find a place to eat here, it’s your own fault.

slushies

Tip: Don’t give your kids 89c slushies on the road unless you’re willing to stop four more times in the following hour for toilet breaks.

We also picnicked when we could, sometimes we found indoor picnic areas which was a relief as they were always air-conditioned.

picnic area underneath the Rockefella centre
Picnic underneath the Rockefeller centre

Sight Seeing

the mall, washington DC
Kids are smiling but we’d just had an argument. this was before we walked all the way to the other end.
Tired kids
This was after, only 25% od our kids are willing to smile

On the positive side, we walked miles and miles and miiiiiiyels this past month, so we must have burnt a few calories too. The kids got very tired, especially as we are not used to the extreme heat, so I had to not keep dragging them to all the places I wanted to see.

We didn’t pay for a whole host of attractions throughout the month, we only bought tickets for a Hop-on-Hop-off bus in NYC (we got the tickets on Groupon), entry into the vitual reality booths and planetarium for the kids in the Air and Space museum, D.C., Madame Tussauds in D.C. (also on Groupon), an absolutely mind blowing and terrifying amusement and water park in Charlotte, North Carolina called Carowinds, a baseball game in Greenville, a boat taxi in Chicago and the Maid of the Mist boat in Niagara Falls.

The Nighthawk at Carowinds
The Nighthawk at Carowinds, I wasn’t brave enough for this one
On the Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls
On the Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls

Everything else we explored was free.

We visited museums, art galleries, monuments, parks, beaches and a petting farm where we stroked a very ugly lizard. The kids got tired of sight-seeing so we had some chill-out days in between. We practised the art of family communication and often failed but eventually learned to ask the children what they would like to do before we made plans for the day. We tried to balance out what everyone asked for even though it meant having to quell the moaning from the rest who didn’t want to do those things too.

Inside the Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC
Inside the Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC
Splash fountains at Navy Pier, Chicago
Splash fountains at Navy Pier, Chicago
Free concert in the park, Chicago
Free concert in the park, Chicago
Niagara Falls, USA
Walking around the Niagara Falls
beach at Lake Michigan
Chilling on the beach at Lake Michigan
local cultural display on the streets of Cherokee
Local cultural display on the streets of Cherokee
back door of the White House
His secret is out!! The fierce looking not-so-secret service, back door of the White House

I now have a gazillion more photos I’d love to show you, but I’ll spare you for another day. Thanks for reading up to here and I hope you’ll stick around for my next update of our trip.

Map of the eastern side of the USA
We covered 17 states and 3500 miles in 27 days. I want to see more!

I am glad to be home, to have a quiet day to collect my thoughts, to sleep and to pat the doggies. But in my head I’m already planning our next trip, there was so much we didn’t see and mostly, I want to go back and see those lovely people we left behind.

Other related posts:


Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

21 thoughts on “A Month Away in the USA

  1. Love it…you missed the best state in Texas and the rest of the southern hospitality states, but so glad you and your tribe got to go on a MONTH long trip!! Welcome back to the states any time, Liberty!!!!

  2. We live in New England and are heading to Niagara falls for our own family vacation soon. My husband LOVES when we rent cars on vacation and almost always ends up with a Tahoe or Suburban and I so agree that the trunk space is minimal and that third row of seats is not very comfortable so my boys always argue over who has to sit in back. Sounds like you really had a wonderful time. #BlogCrush

  3. Wow what an adventure. Well done for doing it. You must be shattered but what a memory to last a lifetime x #Blogcrush

  4. wow, looks like you really made good on sight-seeing during your stay. I’m glad you enjoyed it, next time you have to come to California. I can’t believe you ate out at all those places, especially the fast food places but hey, chicken and waffles, you can’t beat that kind of comfort food.

    1. Sure, we stayed in valley stream in NY, it was about 45 minutes by train out on long island. It was a small space, had no kitchen, only a bar fridge for picnic supplies but was very cheap (about $60 per night for all 6 of us). In Washington we stayed in capitol heights out to the east of the centre, it was a large basement apartment and was a bit more expensive but was closer in to the centre. There was a train and bus close by but we drove and parked in a garage in the centre for $12 and €15 per day

  5. Fabulous that you had such a long family trip, time-wise, and that you managed to pack in such a variety of activities.

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