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Driving from DC to Jacksonville, Florida with two small children

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I am planning a trip from DC to Jacksonville with a 3 and 5 year old. Any suggestions about a good route to take?

I am also looking for fun places to stop along the way to break up the trip. As a child, I have memories of many car trips with stops every few hours for the children to have a chance to run around or do something fun for half an hour.

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    I trust you're headed for Jacksonville Florida instead of Jacksonville North Carolina.
    The fast route is I-95 with a stop at South of the Border. That's not what you are looking for. Try I-95 to I-40 east to Wilmington NC. See the battleship North Carolina. Take US 17 all the way down through Myrtle Beach through Charleston. Tie back into I-95 just north of Savannah.

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    That would be fun. I remember many visits to the Alabama battleship on trips to Florida.

    Charleston and Savannah would be favorites, too, but might deserve a trip just to see them.

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    Not very original but McDonald's with playgrounds or rest stops to run around a bit.

    I'd stay over in Savannah if you can drive that far on the first day. Then you'd be rested for the rest of the drive - which won't be very long at all.

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    About a month ago my wife and I took a road trip with all three kids. Their ages are 7, 5 and 3. The five-year-old gets carsick trying to read or color, so we had to switch gears.

    Some of the things that were helpful (read:stress-reducing, lol) were the following :
    - We bought a portable DVD player a few years ago (around $100 at the big box stores now), and that helped pass the time, depending on the length of the movie.
    - We stopped every two hours or so, be it a fast food place, or a Welcome center upon crossing the state line. I would highly suggest stopping at a public place where there are plenty of people.
    Everybody gets a potty break, hang out and walk around for a little bit (20-30 minutes), load back up and head out.
    - iPods. The little one inch by one inch sized ones worked great. My wife had her old iPod for the youngest, and we found two more on eBay for about $15 each.
    I suggest mixing up the ipods and the 'in-flight' movies so they won't get bored with one or the other.
    - Our road trip was a twelve hour ride as well. We split the driving time into two 6 hour days.
    And we made sure the hotel at the halfway point had a pool (the kids have been cooped up for seven to eight hours, they'll have some energy to burn).

    I would also suggest (if you don't already own one) is to consider purchasing a GPS device. You can find used ones on eBay for around $50. Even if they don't have the 'most recent map download', the major roads/highways are already established.
    I bought ours on eBay for $43 shipped. The map is from 2009, but again, it's been used primarily for established major highway travel. One of these days I'll break down and buy an updated map.

    I hope some or all of this has helped. Have a safe trip.

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    I had already assumed the OP was doing this drive over two days.

    You do not, not, NOT want to do a 12-14 hour car trip with two toddlers in one day!

    I would stay overnight in Myrtle Beach SC or Wilmington NC - it's not that much of a detour at all to swing to the Carolina coast from I-95. I also would plan on a drive break every few hours as mentioned above.

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    Here's a few places to stop and rest along I 95 heading S to FL. Good luck. Get off I 95 at Exit 161 at Woodbridge, VA on U. S. 1 toward Woodbridge, VA. Go 1.8 miles and take a right on Occoquan Road to Dixie Bones BBQ.
    Dixie Bones @ 13440 Occoquan Road, Woodbridge, VA. 703 - 492 - 7885.
    http://www.dixiebones.com/index.html
    Get off I 95 at Exit 130 B at Fredericksburg, VA and go E on Highway 3 to Jefferson Davis Highway # 1. Take a left and go N to Allman's BBQ in front of Park and Shop shopping center. You will find good BBQ since 1954.
    Allman's BBQ @ 1299 Jeff Davis Highway, Fredericksburg, VA‎ 540 - 373 - 9881.
    http://allmansbarbeque.com/
    A few miles N of Richmond, VA get of I 95 at Exit 92 and go E on E Patrick Henry Road or Highway 54. Go 1.4 miles to N Center Street and turn right. Go .1 mile to Henry Clay Road and turn left. Then Immediately turn left on N Railroad Ave and go .1 mile to Henry Clay Inn for the night. They have fourteen rooms that run $95.00/$195.00 per night. You can walk S on Railroad to the next block for outstanding lunch or dinner at Iron Horse Restaurant.
    Henry Clay Inn @ 114 North Railroad Avenue, Ashland, Virginia 804 - 798 - 3100.
    http://www.henryclayinn.com/
    Iron Horse Restaurant @ 100 S Railroad Avenue, Ashland, Virginia 804 - 752 - 6410.
    http://www.ironhorserestaurant.com
    Before you get to NC on I 95 at Exit 31 try Stony Creek Tastee Hut for good fried chicken or BBQ.

    Stony Creek Tastee Hut @ 12420 Blue Star Hwy., Stony Creek, VA. 434 - 246 - 2328.
    Take Exit 138 off I 95 at Rocky Mt., NC and go E on I 64 for 1 1/2 miles to Exit 466 and go S on N Winstead Ave. to Sunset Ave. Take a right and go to Gardner's BBQ. Gardner's has 3 locations in Rocky Mt., NC but this one on Sunset is the most convenient to I 95. You will pass a Hampton Inn on your right when you exit I 64 if you are planning to spend the night in Rocky Mt., NC.
    Hampton Inn @ 530 North Winstead Avenue, Rocky Mount, NC 252 - 937 - 6333.
    http://www.hamptoninn.com/en/hp/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=RWINCHX
    Gardner's Barbecue @ 3651 Sunset Avenue, Rocky Mount, NC 252 - 443 - 3996.
    http://www.gardnerfoods.com/Home.html
    Take Exit # 138 going S on I 95 at Nashville, NC and go W on # 64 about 6 miles to Exit # 458. Turn back E on Western Ave. less than a mile for some outstanding BBQ at Doug Saul's.
    Doug Saul's BBQ @ 813 Western Ave., Nashville, NC 252 - 459 - 4247.
    Get off I 95 at Exit 90 just S of Smithfield, NC to your right and turn back N on Highway 301 and go to White Swan BBQ for good road food.
    White Swan BBQ @ 3198 South Brightleaf Blvd., Smithfield, NC 919 - 934 - 8913.
    http://www.whiteswanbarbeque.com/
    For outstanding BBQ and country fried chicken get off I 95 at Exit 79 at Benson, NC and go W on E Main Street to N Fayetteville Street which is the first street to your right. Take a right and go N to E Church Street. Take a right and go to N Honeycutt Street. White Swan will be on your left.
    White Swan BBQ and Fried Chicken @ 105 N Honeycutt St, Benson, NC 919 - 894 - 4446.
    http://www.whiteswanbarbeque.com/
    At Exit 73 in Dunn, NC get off I 95 going W on Cumberland go about a mile take a right on General Lee and next left on Broad for some fine fried chicken at Kim's. Don't let the name bother you. They sell a BBQ sandwich but 99% country food.

    Kim's BBQ House @ 900 W. Broad St., Dunn, NC. 910 - 892 - 7750.
    Heading S on I 95 at Exit 56 try Fuller's Old Fashioned BBQ at Fayetteville, NC. They sell a good burger and also a buffet lunch with fried chicken.

    Fuller's Old Fashioned BBQ @ 113 N. Eastern Blvd., Fayetteville, NC. 910 - 484 - 5109.
    http://www.fullersbbq.com/index.html

    Get off I 95 at Exit 20 in Lumberton, NC to the right then turn NW on Highway 201 which is N Roberts Ave. and go about half a mile to Fuller's BBQ for good road food.
    Fuller's Old Fashion BBQ @ 3201 N Roberts Ave., Lumberton, NC. 910 - 738 - 8694.
    http://www.fullersbbq.com/index.html
    Get off I 95 at Exit 181B near Latta, SC and go one mile to Highway 917. Take a left and go about 3 miles to Abingdon Manor Inn and Restaurant at Latta, SC. Spend the night in a soft bed in a grand old inn and have a fantastic dinner.
    Abingdon Manor Inn and Restaurant @ 307 Church Street, Latta, SC 843 - 752 - 5090.
    http://www.abingdonmanor.com/
    In SC get off I 95 at Exit 160 A going S and go E on # 20 less than a mile to Red Bone Alley in Florence Mall Shopping Center on Palmetto St. for a RBA Black and Bleu Burger or a Bubba Burger. The food is fresh and innovative South Carolina regional cuisine. Closely tied to the land, sea and rivers that abound in the region, South Carolina's cuisine is influenced by hundred of years of French, Mediterranean, African, English and West Indian cooking. Or go to Apple Annie's for good road food. There's a fine Hilton Garden Inn at Exit 160 A.

    Redbone Alley @ 1903 West Palmetto St., Florence, SC 843 - 673 - 0035.
    http://www.redbonealley.com/
    Apple Annie's Deli and Pub @ 1720 W Palmetto Street, Florence, SC 843 - 669 - 6247.
    Hilton Garden Inn @ 2671 Hospitality Boulevard, Florence, SC 843 - 432 - 3001.
    http://hiltongardeninn.hilton.com/en/gi/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=FLOFGGI
    Get off I 95 at Exit 119 at Manning, SC and go E on Highway 261 to N Brooks Street. Take a left and go to McCabe's for good BBQ.
    McCabe's Bar B Que @ 480 N. Brooks St., Manning, SC. 803 - 435 - 2833.
    Get off I 95 in Summerton, SC at Exit # 108 and go N less than a mile to Church St. and good country cooking at Summerton Diner.
    Summerton Diner @ 32 Church St., Summerton, SC 803 - 485 - 6835.
    Get off I 95 at Exit 98 at Santee, SC and go W on Highway 6 to the 1st street on your left which is Britain. Turn left and go to Maurice's for good BBQ. Get off I 95 at Exit 98 and go W on Highway 6. Take a right on State Park Road and go to Lonestar BBQ for good southern food. Clark's Inn and Restaurant is also a fine place to spend the night and have breakfast, lunch or dinner.
    Maurice's Gourmet BBQ @ 263 Britain St, Santee, SC 803 - 854 - 3889.
    http://www.mauricesbbq.com/
    Lonestar BBQ @ 2212 State Park Rd., Santee, SC. 803 - 854 - 2000
    http://www.lonestarbbq.net/
    Clark's Inn and Restaurant @ 114 Bradford Boulevard, Santee, SC 803 - 854 - 2101.
    http://www.clarksinnandrestaurant.com/
    Get off I 95 at Exit 57 for good BBQ @ Duke's. Lowcountry is good too.
    Duke's BBQ @ 949 Robertson Blvd., Walterboro, SC 843 - 549 - 1446.
    Low Country BBQ @ 635 South Jefferies Blvd., Walterboro, SC 843 - 549 - 8355.
    Get off I 95 at Exit 38 at Yemassee, SC and go SE on Highway 68 to Castle Hall Road to Ray's Rib King for good BBQ.
    Ray's Rib King @ 4 Castle Hall Road, Yemassee, SC 843 - 589 - 2919.

    Get off I 95 at Exit 21 and have great pulled or chopped port at BBQ Grill. They also have BBQ ribs and chicken. I think it's better than Dukes.
    BBQ Grill @ 8084 East Main St., Ridgeland, SC 843 - 645 - 4414.
    Duke's BBQ @ 690 South Jacob Smart Blvd., Ridgeland, SC 843 - 726 - 6244.
    Get off I 95 at Exit 5 at Hardeville, SC and go S on Highway 17 which is Speedway Boulevard. Go 5.5 miles and take a left on Highway 170A which is S 27 34 and go 3.5 miles to Oakatie Highway. Take a right and go to The Pink Pig.
    The Pink Pig @ 3508 South Okatie Highway, Hardeeville, SC 843 - 784 - 3635.
    http://www.the-pink-pig.com/
    Get off I 95 at Exit 102 at Pooler. GA and go W on Highway 80 4/5 blocks to Don's Famous BBQ.

    Don's Famous BBQ @ 217 US Highway 80 E., Pooler, GA 912 - 748 - 8400.
    Get off I 95 at Exit 87 at Richmond Hill, GA and go W on Highway 17 half a mile to Smoking Pig BBQ next to the BP Station on N side of Highway 17. The ribs and chicken are excellent. This is probably your best stop for BBQ in GA.

    Smoking Pig BBQ @ 3986 U.S. 17, Richmond Hill, GA. 912 - 756 - 7850.
    Get off I 95 at Exit 76 at Midway, GA and go E on Highway 38 to Sunbury Rd. Take a left and go to Brigantine Dunmore Rd. Take a left and go to Sunbury Crab Co. which is open for dinner serving outstanding fresh seafood. This might be the best place you stop for the seafood is outstanding.

    Sunbury Crab Co. @ 539 Brigantine Dunmore Road Midway, GA 912 - 884 - 8640.
    http://sunburycrabco.wp.net/
    Get off I 95 at Exit 67 at Townsend, GA to the right and go S on Highway 17 for 1.2 miles then take a left going E onto Harris Neck Road just past a small church. Go 5.7 miles E to the Jessie Grant Road and look for the purple OSD sign on your left. Turn to the right at the sign for about 100 feet to Old School Diner for the best fresh seafood around. OSD is open for dinner Wednesday/Saturday and Noon to 10 PM on Sunday. They are closed on Monday and Tuesday. This might be the best road food you will have on your trip.

    Old School Diner @ 1080 Jesse Grant Road, Townsend, GA 912 - 832 - 2136.
    http://oldschooldiner.com/
    Get off I 95 at Exit 58 at Townsend, GA to the right on Highway 99 and go less than a mile to Highway 17. Turn left and go N about 2 miles to Pine Harbor Rd. Take a right and go E about 2 miles to Sepelo Station Crossing and fantastic fresh local seafood and hand cut steaks.

    Sapelo Station Crossing @ 1172 Pine Harbor Marina Road, Townsend, GA 912 - 832 - 3555.

    Get off I 95 at Exit 49 to the right at Darien, GA and go NW on Highway 251 less than a mile to Smokey Joe's BBQ. It is between two hotels on the left and has excellent pulled pork.

    If you want the best fresh seafood on your trip get off I 95 at Exit 49 in Darien, GA to the right and go E on Highway 251 to Highway 17. Take a right on Highway 17 and go S for 1.2 miles. Turn right on Broad St. just before crossing the bridge. Go one block and take your first left on Screven St. and have some outstanding fresh seafood at Skipper's Fish Camp. [size=3 font="times new roman"].

    Smokey Joe's BBQ @ State Hwy. 251, Darien, GA. 912 - 437 - 2555.
    Skipper's Fish Camp @ 85 Screven St., Darien, GA 912 - 437 - 3474.
    http://www.skippersfishcamp.com/
    Get off I 95 at Exit 29 at Brunswick, GA and go W on Highway 82 about a mile to Gary Lee's Market for good road food.

    Gary Lee's Market @ 3636 U. S. Hwy. 82, Brunswick, GA. 912 - 265 - 1925.
    Just across the GA/FL State Line get off I 95 at Exit 373 and go W to Callahan's BBQ for good road food.
    Callahan's BBQ @ 45007 State Rd 200, Callahan, FL 904 - 879 - 4675.

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    Just out of curiousity, I googled "Get off I 95 at Exit 49 to the right at Darien, GA and go NW on Highway 251 less than a mile to Smokey Joe's BBQ. It is between two hotels on the left " which is an excerpt from the above list of I95 stops. The results were very interesting. It looks like a cut and paste of this same page is being pasted on several sites.

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    Saraho,

    It will take quite a few keystrokes on the computer, but I think you'll find that the computer work will be worth it.

    First, try going to Mapquest and asking for the fastest and/or shortest route. Then ask Mapquest for 'hotels'. Now, only one or two hotels may come up when the map shows the entire route. But as you zoom in on the 'halfway' mark, more hotels pop up. If you can find an exit with at least five or more hotels near it, then consider staying in that area for the night. I'll explain why in a minute...

    Now, I don't know what the weather is like in that neck of the woods, but if there's a chance of pool-closing weather, find a hotel with an indoor pool. And make that hotel your primary choice if the rest of the hotel appeals to you. If there's a couple that you like, I suggest the indoor pool be the tiebreaker (indoor pools tend to be open longer).
    The big chain hotels are usually reasonably priced. Do the research beforehand as far as prices, amenities, in room and hotel (pool !!) and where exactly those hotels are in relation to each other.
    Check either the day before or morning of the start of your trip. Call the hotel you want to stay at (either night prior or morning of). See if they have a room available.
    But don't book a room... yet.

    Let them quote you the price, then tell them you need to double-check with your husband/boyfriend/boss/father/mechanic (you get the idea), but you can't seem to reach him. You will call them back as soon as you can check with him. And then (this is important) ASK HOW MANY ROOMS THEY HAVE LEFT.
    Now, most hotel staff will gladly tell you they have plenty of rooms left. Some will even go so far as to tell you EXACTLY how many rooms are available. If they say only a couple, then consider a different hotel. But whatever happens, don't be scared into or guilted into booking the room...

    Wait until you get to the hotel in person. Stroll up to the counter, state that you do NOT have a reservation, and ask what the best rate is for the type of room you want (if you've done your homework, between the website and the phone call, you know what they are going to tell you).

    Now ask if there are any complimentary upgrades. And do this so that other guests cannot hear you.

    Complimentary upgrades can range anywhere from getting the free continental breakfast delivered to your room (EPIC if traveling with kids), to getting rollaway beds or a crib at no charge, to staying in the executive suite at the lowest rate possible, everything in-between, and in some cases, all of it. You just have to be willing to ask for them.

    If you're dealing with a 'grunt' at check-in that tells you no (or doesn't ask you to wait while s/he finds out), ask for the on-duty manager. Managers are a bit more flexible when it comes to 'wheelin' and dealin'.

    In approximately 30-something hotel stays, I've managed to get the breakfast delivered twice (usually the no's are due to the hotel being understaffed).
    Conversley, unless there's a convention/wedding/tournament type thing going on, I get the executive/hot tub suite at the low double bed room rate. The nice part about that (besides the obvious) is that there's a lot more room for the kids to spread out.

    Bottom line, they are willing to work with you in person more than they will on the phone. If they let you walk out the door, that's revenue they will never recover once the night is over. That's revenue that the hotel next door or across the street (if you've done the homework and are in a competitive area of hotels) will get instead.
    An unsold hotel room doesn't make money. If you ask, they WILL work with you.

    Hope this helps. Have a safe trip.

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