I was a little unsure how our road trip would go with a 7 and 5 year old. We had a 12 hour plus drive that we wanted to do in one day (and we did it...both coming and going!). Then we were going to a conference in Baltimore for 2 days (an adult conference...which had the potential to be boring for two young kids) and had the rest of the trip (3 days) to fit in sight seeing. I have to say...the kids did great! I was so excited that there was a limited amount of complaining and the kids were so fun to have with us. I wanted to share some of the things I learned and some of the things we did that you might like to do if you have a road trip like this!
Planning phase: I didn't do mass amounts of planning for this trip. I knew that it would be good to have a "wish list" of things we could do, but realistically I knew we couldn't do it all. I started at Pinterest, one of my favorite resources, and got some good "top things to do for free" and "top things to do with kids" for both cities. That was a good place to start. There are tons of bloggers out there who have done this same trip and can share.
*keeping the kids busy...One thing I knew we would have to have on this trip is entertainment for the long car ride and for the conference time. My son has a LeapPad and my daughter has a Kindle Fire. So, I just invested in some cheap $5 headphones for each of them and that did wonders! I also signed up for a free Amazon Prime subscription (1 month free) so we could have access to lots of free tv shows and kids movies. I ended up not using it like I thought I would, but it is a pretty great free trial deal. I also spent less than $5 on a shower caddie like this:
I filled it with drinks and snacks that they could have at different intervals so I wouldn't have to keep reaching back to find them something if they were hungry. I set it between their seats in the van we were driving in so they could reach it easily. Worked great! After using it for snacks, I was able to put art stuff in there.
Traveling around: While we were in Baltimore, our hotel was about 30 minutes from the Inner Harbor, where the conference center was. The Inner Harbor area has so many fun things to do! It was the perfect starting point and my husband and I enjoyed the waterfront and all that it had to offer. Lots of great restaurants, tourist attractions, sports venues, etc. are within a short walking distance. If you want to pay extra for a hotel close to all of this, you won't have to rent a car. There is also a public bus system that is free to several points in the city. We rode on it once and it was safe (during the daytime), although there are several homeless and those less fortunate riding as well. We had a car, so we had to find parking in the city each day. Not fun. And expensive! A great resource that was recommended to us for finding parking at a good rate (in several different large cities) is:
we used this site twice and saved a good bit of money because of it!
I also knew that we were going to Washington from Baltimore and heard that the traffic is bad in DC, but the public transportation (Metro) was great. I figured that since Baltimore wasn't too far, there might be a train that we could take to get us there....and there was! We could've actually gotten to DC faster if we drove, but the train was a good experience for the kids, was easy for us because we could just sit back and relax, and was relatively inexpensive.
*Here's the MARC train link
if you want to do this, too. There were two stations in Baltimore...Camden and Penn. The Camden line left at 8:05 am from Baltimore and returned from DC at 5:22pm. The Penn line ran later from DC, but the Camden line worked for us. You can go to a kiosk at the train station and purchase your tickets there. We didn't realize our 5 yr old would've been free...so check the age requirements. The tickets were $7 one way.
*After we got to DC, we had to figure out the Metro, and thankfully it wasn't that hard. The trickiest part to me was making sure you were on the right side of the tracks....one side went one direction down the rail line and the other side went the other direction. The people working at the Metro station were extremely helpful in telling us what kind of ticket to purchase. You can purchase Metro cards in advance and put money on them so you don't even have to worry about it. This map:
was a lifesaver! You can get brochures at the metro station that have this map on there, but it was good to have a look at it before we went there. We arrived from Baltimore at Union Station, so we took two different lines to get off at the Smithsonian stop, which put us right by the Washington Monument.
Seeing the sites: There is an overabundance of history and fun things to do in both of these cities. There was no way we could get to all of it. My husband and I are already thinking of going back some time. The great thing about Baltimore is that it is a good central location to several different big cities, such as DC, Philadelphia, and New York. We chose DC because, well, it's DC. There's so many historical things and the great thing about that is that almost everything there, museums, landmarks, etc., are free. You do have lines to wait in, but you don't have to pay anything. Love it!
*Highlights of Baltimore: As I mentioned before, the Inner Harbor area is a great place to start. There's the Hard Rock Cafe, along with lots of other delicious restaurants, the aquarium, a World Trade Center, the USS Constellation (a ship that you can tour), a submarine that you can tour, and Camden Yards (the baseball stadium) is right within walking distance. We chose to tour the area by water. There's a water taxi that you can pay to ride ($6 kids/$12 adults) and you have all day access to travel to any of 7 (I think it's 7) ports. We chose to ride to Fell's Point, a historical little area that has cobblestone streets and rows of old town looking shops, pubs and more. There's a cute little pretzel and icee stand ride as you come off the boat and honestly, I could smell those delicious pretzels before we even docked! (Yes, I bought one!) From Fell's Point we took a taxi over to Fort McHenry.
This is where the historic battle took place in which Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner! It was so neat to be there on Flag Day as well, as we were able to see a special music/military presentation. It was free to walk the grounds and see the small museum and movie, but you had to pay to walk inside the fort area.
We also took in a baseball game. I was really impressed with the stadium and the fact that even though we were on the top row on one side, we could still see the field really well. My hubby bought the tickets online and got a really good deal. Even though we had to pay a little extra for processing fees, it was still cheaper than buying at the stadium. And, if you do go, buy some food and take it in with you. The lady at our hotel told us we couldn't take food in, but you can. We actually bought some from a vendor selling hot dogs, chips, bottled water and a bag of peanuts for a family of 4 for only $15...it was a great deal!
Too fun! It was the kids' first baseball game memory!
Like I said, lots more to do than I realized in the city of Baltimore. I also enjoyed the cooler, gnat and mosquito free, outdoors. Such a nice break from the south GA heat!
*highlights of DC: We started our day with walking from the Washington monument down through what is known as The Mall. This is a nice walking path that extends from the monument to the Capitol building. I would definitely recommend doing this in the cooler hours of the day since it's outside (if you're there in the warmer months). It took us a while to walk down the path and make our way to the Lincoln Memorial. On the way you'll see several other war memorials, all of which are worth the time to look through. By the time we got to the Lincoln Memorial, the kids were pretty tired.
But wow..how awesome! There's a little outdoor restaurant next to the Lincoln Memorial where we stopped to rest and eat. One thing I'm glad I did....packed snacks and lunch! We had brought lots of snacks for the trip, including some bread and pb&j...so worth it! We saved a lot in DC by just packing up some sandwiches, drinks and other snacks. Bring lots of water, too, because you'll need it. Because we were all a little tuckered out and we wanted to go the National Archives, we opted to take a short taxi ride. Honestly, so worth the $10 bucks. It was a fun experience for the kids, too. It put us right by the Archives and the Smithsonian museums, which is where I would recommend spending the hotter parts of the day. By this point, the kids weren't super interested in seeing the Declaration of Independence, but I was. So glad I was able to see all of these amazing documents. Then we went on to the Museums of Natural History and American History.
This was pretty cool. The kids perked up seeing all the neat and interesting animals. My only regret is our lack of time. I felt like I was pushing us through every place we saw in DC. If you're able to, spend a couple of days there. But for our time constraints, we were really able to see a lot. I regret we didn't make it to the capitol, Air and Space museum (I really wanted to see this one!), the White House, and Arlington. If we do this trip again, I definitely want to apply in advance for the tour of the Capitol and the White House. I honestly don't think our kids, being as young as they are, would've enjoyed the Capitol tour, but some of our friends went and said it was about 3 hours long and very interesting.
I hope this was helpful to some of you! If you have any questions, please ask away! I think this was one of our favorite family vacations so far. I hope we can do this one again some time and see even more. God bless!