Our First Solo Family Vacation

We go on vacation a lot, but we don’t often travel to places we’ve never been, and we’ve never gone somewhere new just the 3 of us. Usually if we’re going somewhere new, we meet someone there – my sister, my parents, etc.

On our way home from FL this past Thanksgiving, Christopher asked if we could go somewhere we’d never been before. That got me thinking and brainstorming ideas for spring break. After much deliberation and cost-research, we settled on Atlanta. Jim had been there once in high school for a band trip, but it was cheap to fly to, and his uncle lives there, so I thought it would be a fun city to explore on our own.

Planning our vacation

I booked the airfare during a Southwest sale, so we got our 3 round-trip tickets for just a little more than $500, which was amazing. I selected a hotel by the airport with an indoor pool – cheap entertainment if we needed it – and lower prices than staying downtown. Then I booked a car using Costco Travel. All said and done the travel and accommodations came out to around $1200, so not really that cheap after all, but much better than the $2500 or so I’d estimated if we went to Oregon, which you know is on my travel bucket list.

An afternoon on Google led me to a lot of fun things to do with kids in Atlanta, including a list of playgrounds from a mom blog. I also put together a list of kid-friendly restaurant (again, I love mom blogs!) since Christopher is a picky eater and not always well behaved at restaurants.

I considered a day trip to Savannah as well because I’ve been wanting to go there since I missed Read Savannah last fall, but it was a little too far away. I learned from a former classmate that Chattanooga wasn’t too fair away, so I researched things to do there as well.

The night before our trip I finally built a rough itinerary for us. I wanted to be flexible and spontaneous as much as possible, but I didn’t want to feel lost or stuck when we were starving or bored.

The real fun – the vacation itself

We left town on Christopher’s 7th birthday, so we gave him his presents before leaving for the airport. I told him he could pick one to bring with him, knowing he’d choose the Kindle Fire tablet we got to replace the iPad that broke at Christmas time. Jim had pre-loaded it with movies and games, so he was set for the flight and for driving around Atlanta.

Christopher with his new tablet.

Here’s what we ended up doing:

Tuesday (Atlanta, GA)
AM – flew to Atlanta (We picked up a birthday donut on the way to the airport.)

Christopher on the train at ATL airport.

Lunch – McDonald’s – Boring, I know, but we were hungry after our flight. Happy meals at $1 cheaper in Georgia. Amazing!

PM – Stone Mountain Park – We didn’t get to go on the Summit Skyride because of a thunderstorm, but we did get to explore the houses in the historic village until they closed from the rain as well.

Waiting out the rain on the porch of the Adams House.

Hotel Check In and Swimming

Dinner – Steak n Shake – I’d promised Christopher a milk shake for his birthday dinner. We all loved this place, and it was crazy cheap.

Birthday milkshake!

Evening – We went to see Smurfs: The Lost Village. It wasn’t great, but Christopher enjoyed it.

Wednesday (Atlanta, GA)
Breakfast – We stayed at the Country Inn & Suites by ATL. It was a nice enough hotel with a great continental breakfast – make your own waffles every morning. Yum!

AM – Georgia Aquarium – We saw everything. We had lunch there, so we could keep exploring. We lasted 4.5 hours, and we were totally wiped afterward. I liked the whale sharks the best. Christopher enjoyed the dolphin show, and Jim liked the sea lion show.

Christopher and Jim in the whale shark tank tunnel.

PM – DH Stanton Park playground – It was pretty nice, but not in the best neighborhood. We left when some unsupervised kids showed up with a toy gun. Yeah.

DH Stanton Park – We played “who can stay up the longest”. I always lost.

(I’d planned for us to explore Centennial Olympic Park, but it was closed off because of an event happening over the weekend.)

Dinner – Chick-a-Biddy – Amazing banana bread waffle. Decent chicken.

Evening – Swimming/reading and WiiU in the hotel

Thursday (Chattanooga, TN)
AM – Ruby Falls – We did the cave tour, which was pretty cool. Christopher had never been in a cave before. He was a little nervous, but he enjoyed it. Although he didn’t really appreciate it like Jim and I did, but at least he didn’t complain.

Ruby Falls cavern.

Lunch – Blue Plate – I found this place from another mom blog article. We sat outside under an umbrella thankfully because it started raining 5 minutes after we sat down. It was warm and sunny though other than one cloud, so we stayed outside and ate. The fried chicken was SO good. Jim got the fried chicken sandwich, and I had a fried chicken Caesar salad. We both loved our food. Christopher had pancakes and sausage, but he hardly ate anything. Oh well!

PM – We walked across the river using the Walnut Street Bridge, which is a footbridge converted from an old railroad bridge. It was so pretty. When we got to Coolidge Park, we rode the carousel. Then I had to give Christopher a piggy back ride all the way back to the car (probably about a mile).

Walnut Street Bridge

Coolidge Park Carousel – Jim and I rode once; Christopher rode 3 times.

Dinner – We ordered food and had it delivered to the hotel. I was so excited to find Romeo’s Pizza and Bistro via Yelp because they had pizza and hamburgers. Christopher doesn’t eat pizza. The pizza was delicious, and Christopher enjoyed the burger/fries, although of course he didn’t eat much.

Evening – WiiU and a movie (Kubo and the Two Strings) in the hotel

Friday (Atlanta, GA)
AM – Sandy Springs Playable Art Park – This place was beautiful and so fun. The sculptures were designed with play in mind. They were laid out in a winding park that is right next to a divided highway. There were gorgeous gardens as well. Sandy Springs is a really nice area of Atlanta. I’d live there! We spent about an hour here. We may have stayed longer if it had been a weekend and other kids were there, but Christopher did find one boy to play with.

One of six playable structures at Sandy Springs Art Park.

Lunch – Jimmy John’s and McDonald’s

PM – Dunwoody Nature Center – This free, small nature center is nestled among neighborhoods. It has really nice hiking paths with a hammock garden, teepee, tree swings, and amazing playground. We hiked all around, but it only took about 1 hour.

Hammock Park – We each laid in our own hammock for a good 10 minutes.

Swimming/reading/packing at the hotel

Dinner/Evening – We went to Jim’s Uncle Chuck’s house and met up with them. Then we went out to dinner at Nic and Norman’s in downtown Senoia, which is apparently where The Walking Dead and Fried Green Tomatoes were filmed. The food was amazing!

Uncle Chuck and Jim – Can you see the resemblance? 
Maybe not since Jim’s not looking at the camera.

AM – flew home – We ran into some friends in the airport in Atlanta, so Christopher got to hang with them for a little bit before the flight. And then we sat in the row behind them. It was pretty fun.

Airport fun

How it turned out

I was worried about how it would go being on our own. Would Christopher be bored without another kid to play with? How would we handle all sharing a hotel room without another room to hang out in after Christopher went to bed?

It ended up to be fine. Other than one tense evening after Christopher refused to eat dinner at a fried chicken and waffle restaurant, we all got along great. We had a lot of fun together. Jim swam in the pool with Christopher, while I read and got a little introvert time. We played games (board games and video games – Jim brought the WiiU) in the hotel when we needed down time.

We kept Christopher on central time, so that allowed him to stay up until 9:00 PM or 9:30 PM. And then Jim and I listened to an audiobook together in the dark for about 45 minutes each night once he was asleep. Jim takes sleeping pills every night, so he was able to go to bed early without a problem, and I always go to bed early anyway. We were able to wake up around 7:30 AM each morning and get going without issue.

Wrap up

I call our trip a success! And in fact I’ve already booked our Disney cruise for next spring break. We decided we didn’t need to wait to find another family to go with us (although we won’t deny them if someone wants to come along). We know we can go on a vacation alone.

What did you do for spring break?

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