Our Five Ring Circus: Traveling During a Pandemic: Our Family Road Trip to Myrtle Beach

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Traveling During a Pandemic: Our Family Road Trip to Myrtle Beach

New River Gorge

2020 was a year unlike any other. There was so much we couldn't do during the pandemic, including going on our usual Summer vacation to the beach. It turned out that we just needed to rethink our travel plans!

Like so many other families, we were being careful, and avoiding travel, especially to hotspots. As Summer neared an end, we decided we would look for a condo at a beach, since Fall isn't a peak time for beach travel. We knew we were going to have to wear masks, and we knew the weather was going to be cooler, but we just wanted to get away after the craziness of the year. 

We ended up finding a big condo in Myrtle Beach, for an INCREDIBLE deal, at the end of September. We immediately booked it, then invited my dad to join us. We had never taken anyone on our family vacation, and we had never gone during the school year, so we were excited to try something different! It ended up being a great vacation full of fun memories. We are officially less than a month away from our 2021 beach vacation, so I figured I would do a quick recap of our pandemic vacation before I start packing for our next trip!

Preparing for the trip was more hectic than usual! We had never taken our kids out of school for a vacation, so they did have to go to school the day before we left. I scrambled to finish packing while 4 of our 5 kids were at school, but as usual, I was still packing past midnight!

Packing was interrupted by running our dog, cat, and rabbit to my mom's house, and bringing my dad home with us. Everybody but Dylan and I went to bed for a few hours, which is also our norm. Dylan stayed up to help me finish packing and load up the SUV. It was more challenging that year, due to two extra people (Coen and my dad) and no roof rack, but somehow we managed! Dylan and I are pros at this point! 

After the SUV was bursting at the seams, it was time to wake up the rest of the family, strap the boys in their car seats, and lock up the house. Somehow, we managed to get on the road around 3:30, despite me double checking everything. Everyone was so excited for vacation...leaving in the middle of the night is always a thrill! After a quick snack/drink stop at a nearby convenience store, we got onto the interstate, and were on our way. 

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Traveling during a pandemic was more time-consuming. Masks were required in most places, but we were already used to that. It was one more thing to remember every time we left the car, though. We did stop for fast food once (to go), but during the rest of our 12 hour road trip, we stuck with easy snacks and drinks.

Some rest stops were closed, only using Porta Potties, or operating at half capacity. We did try to limit our stops, but each stop definitely took longer than usual. Instead of everyone going in together, we took turns going in to use the bathroom, so Coen could stay in open spaces. I simply changed him on the passenger seat or in the grass. Liam was carried into buildings to limit him from touching things. We went through a LOT of hand sanitizer!

We also stopped at more natural rest areas, like parks and hiking areas, which I HIGHLY recommend, especially for a big family. We were all so cramped in the SUV with all of our belongings, so it felt amazing to stretch our legs. It was a great way to break up the road trip, and the kids were able to run off some energy!

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Our favorite place to stop on the way from Pittsburgh to Myrtle Beach, and back, is New River Gorge, in West Virginia. It's an absolutely beautiful rest stop with a museum, a sitting area, and a hiking path leading down to an overlook to take in the beauty of the gorge. That little hike down (and back up) all the stairs is well worth it. We all look forward to that stop! By the way, New River Gorge is now a National Park!

Last year, we left earlier than usual, and so we arrived at New River Gorge just after 7 AM, and it was COLD! We definitely weren't ready for that, because we usually travel in the Summer. It was really foggy, and so chilly that we could see our breath. Thankfully, we all remembered warm hoodies. We knew Myrtle Beach would still be warm during the day, but that we would probably need hoodies at night, so we were prepared. (Plus, Grant keeps the car at a deep freezer temperature, so hoodies, blankets, and socks are a road trip must for everyone but him!)

My dad stayed at the car because he has bad knees and ankles, but the rest of us enjoyed our brisk, early morning hike. That view of the gorge and the bridge is ALWAYS worth it. New River Gorge is just under 4 hours away from Pittsburgh, so we want to plan a 2 day trip to visit sometime! One hour a year just isn't enough time to explore!

New River Gorge National Park

New River Gorge

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The rest of our road trip was uneventful. All of our kids are great travelers, so road trips are fairly easy for us! We got to Myrtle Beach around 4:30 PM. If you drive straight through from Pittsburgh, without stopping, it takes just over 10 hours, but with stops (including a hike), our time was about 13 hours. Not too bad!

Grant pulled into the parking garage, and I went inside to check in. Everyone arrived at the same time, and the line was moving very slowly, so check in took almost an hour. Finally we made it to our condo, and it was beautiful! We opted for a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom condo for that trip, with a kitchen, dining room, big living room, full laundry, and a huge oceanfront balcony. It was PERFECT for us!

Unloading all of our luggage is always an ordeal, so we were so thankful to have my dad with us this year! Usually, our teenagers stay in the condo with our little kids while Grant and I unload, but this time, our teenagers were able to help us take the luggage from our SUV to our condo. It was so much easier and faster! Plus we were able to hold Coen on the balcony for a few minutes to give him his first view of the ocean! 

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After our car was unloaded, we left most of our kids at the condo with my dad, so Grant, Lexie, and I could quickly tackle our grocery shopping for the week. When we got back, we had to unload a week's worth of groceries and supplies for our big family, which was also an undertaking! Finally, we were able to kick off our shoes, and set up our home for the next week.

On previous vacations, we always chose a condo that included breakfast, but getting everyone ready and down to the restaurant by 9-10:00 AM was no easy feat. We also went out to eat for dinner every night, but because we have a big family, there was almost always a long wait. We decided to eat every meal in our condo to make it easier, but also so we didn't have to go out in crowds. We only got takeout on our last night so we didn't have to cook. It worked out so well that we're planning to do the same thing next month while we're on vacation!

Back to the trip...we put away groceries, unpacked, and sat down for an easy dinner together. After cleaning up, we headed down to the beach so the kids could wade in the ocean. It was almost dark by that point, but it's our tradition to go to the beach on our first day! Funny Coen story...Grant led him to the ocean, holding his hand, but let go to grab something that washed up. I was with Liam, and yelled to Grant to grab Coen, but he didn't reach him before a wave knocked him down! I thought it would ruin Coen's opinion of the ocean, but it didn't! We headed back to the condo for a quick dip in the pool, then showered, got ready for bed, and ZONKED out after an exhausting day of driving!

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We love traveling, and road trips, but we were not big fans of all the pandemic precautions. Then, again, who is?!? Even so, we made the most of it. We had a fun road trip to Myrtle Beach, and ended up in one of our favorite places! Stay tuned to see how the rest of our vacation went...

Traveling During a Pandemic: Our Family Road Trip to Myrtle Beach

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