We just returned from a 6-day fly-drive trip, mostly to see family, in Missouri. But because there are things I learned (and re-learned) on this trip, I thought I'd go ahead and post about it.
On Saturday, we got on a flight from San Diego to St Louis. It was a non-stop direct flight (the BEST kind) on Southwest Airlines. It was the two of us, plus our younger daughter and our grandson, who is 22-months old. We took him as a "lap child" since he is not yet two. Flying is hard on a little one, because they can't get out and run like they do at home or at Grammy's. Southwest has some great things to remember, for those planning fly-drives with children: two pieces of checked luggage per person (neither over 50 lbs though), but the car seat and a stroller can fly free and not be considered as part of your checked baggage. You can also keep the stroller right up to the aircraft door, and they will stow it below. Just get it tagged by the customer service attendant at the gate. Also, we paid for the Early Check-In ($12.50 per seat in each direction). This got us early enough boarding, twice, to claim the bulkhead seats. Since SWA is no-reserved-seats, these bulkhead seats are definitely NOT guaranteed. Since we claimed them, though, our grandson could get down on the floor in front of us and play with his Legos, as long as the seatbelt sign was not lit up.
My daughter came up with an idea, from Pinterest I think, to bring along small fun-sized candy bars. She had plans to hand these out to people around us if her son fussed and screamed a lot during the flight. As it turned out, he was a pretty good traveler.
Once in St Louis, we made our way to the Alamo Rental place. We had found that the best deal on a vehicle rental was through Costco Travel. I did a lot of research ahead of time, all over the Internet, and finally landed a deal on a "full size SUV" from Alamo through Costco. It was a Chevy Equinox, and we just fit into it -- three adults, one baby in his car seat, and our bags (5 checked suitcases, one stroller, diaper bag-laptop-electronics bag).
We had to drive another 3+ hours from STL to Lake of the Ozarks, where our older daughter lives. We landed just after lunchtime, and stopped at Captain D's in St Peters so that we could all eat. Our goal, agreed by all 3 of us, was to eat at places we don't have in SAN whenever we needed to eat out (which was a lot). It was a long rainy drive, and by the time we got into our daughter's, we'd been traveling for over 11 hours.
My husband and I left our younger daughter and grandson with the older one, and we checked into Quality Inn at Lake of the Ozarks. It was about the closest non-fleabag place that was open year-round. We figured that there would be peace all night for us (mostly true) and no real hassles with the shower, especially on Sunday morning as we were all getting ready for church. Quality Inn fit the bill nicely for 4 nights. We enjoyed the hot tub one night, though we never used the indoor pool. The place was busy on Saturday night due to a wedding or two in the area, but not the rest of the nights. They also put on a very nice breakfast, including hot scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, and waffles, which we took advantage of.
It seemed very odd, to us, to be traveling without our own amenities that we often carry on a trip (like our own coffeemaker, coffee and cups). Some things, though, could still be done -- like running to a grocery store to pick up soft drinks, snack, etc. (Enough for a week, and what was left was handed to my SIL.) That was still cheaper than relying on motel vending machines! There was a coffeemaker in the room, but mostly we got coffee at the motel's breakfast room.
One purpose for the trip was to meet our newest member of the family, a granddaughter. She is almost 3 months old and we'd never met her. Our daughter scheduled her church baby dedication on the Sunday that we were there, and I brought out the family "christening dress" that the girls in the family have been wearing for the past 50+ years (including me). This ceremony was very special to all of us. After church, we all went to Perkins for breakfast. Because of the size of the group, and the timing, we had to wait for a table, but the food was good. My grandson is a hearty eater, but my oldest granddaughter was Miss Picky-Picky that morning!
We also enjoyed Thanksgiving with the family. My SIL was the host and it was a crowd of over 35 people. It was a lot of fun to see people and get to visit. Some we just saw this past summer, but since they are getting up there in years we never know if we will ever see them again.
We had to return home on Friday (Black Friday). First there was the 2-hour drive to STL from Columbia, and the return of the rental car which was a breeze! On the first flight back, the leg from STL to PHX, we were once again able to secure bulkhead seating. Flying with a toddler, that is the way to go. Unfortunately, though, from PHX to SAN, those seats were mostly taken - only 1 open, and daughter chose to sit with us in seating further back. My grandson had a head cold by Wednesday so he was not feeling so great on Friday. As a result, he was mostly quiet with an occasional low cry (laryngitis had set in). He just watched a movie on both flights. We all love Disney, which was a good thing, because we watched Frozen again.
I will try to add a few non-family type photos a little later, in a separate post.