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East Coast Road Trip: Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey (+ yikes! The tolls!)

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 hereDay 4 here, and Day 5 here.

How is it already Day 6 of our 14-day trip?!? I’m sad that time is going by so quickly!

This trip has been so good for us. We’re spending so much quality time together, we’re experiencing so many memories together, we’re having so many good conversations, we’re learning so much about history, and it’s just drawing us close together as a family.

There’s part of me who wishes we travelled full-time. But I’ll be quick to say that the other part of me loves our community in TN, the routine and rhythm of our simple life, and yes, and our own bedroom with a door that shuts! 😉

After a few full days in D.C., Day 6 was a laundry and travel day.

The Laundromat

The 5-day clothes packing system is working really well! Today, we stopped by a laundromat in Alexandria to do our laundry and now have fresh, clean clothes for the next 5 days.

(Note: While we were really happy with how simple it was to use the laundromat and how clean the place was — we had looked up reviews online ahead of time — it took us quite a bit of extra time to go to the laundromat and wait for the laundry to get done. Next time, we’re going to try to plan it so we choose a hotel with laundry facilities as I think that will make it much easier and less time-consuming.)

Fitting in Work on the Road

While we were waiting for the laundry to run, I got in some blogging time. 🙂 I love that I can take my laptop with me and work pretty much anywhere.

Some of you have asked when I’m fitting in work on this trip. Well, I had initially thought that I’d work in the mornings and then we’d go explore and play in the afternoons. But I quickly realized that plan just wasn’t going to work without it meaning that my family was waiting around on me and I was feeling stressed that I needed to hurry up and get done.

So, for the most part, I’ve just been fitting in work where I can — which is usually when Jesse is driving or at night after the kids go to bed. And sometimes, like today, it was at the laundromat.

Before I left on this trip, I worked hard to make sure things were in good shape business-wise, we cleared my schedule so that I didn’t have any extra tasks while I was gone, and I decided to only focus on doing the basics + blogging/posting on social media about our trip while I was gone. This meant that I was able to cut back to only needing to work about 4 hours per day, instead of my usual 7-8 hours.

(I’m so blessed to have a team in place who works so hard behind the scenes so that I can take a two-week vacation and be offline for half the day — or more! — every day without me having to stress that things are falling apart or the work is piling up in my absence. For years, I tried to do so much of the work myself because I just didn’t have the courage to delegate and trust other people. The more than I’ve delegated and trusted people and focused on doing only those things that I can do/am good at, the more I’ve enjoyed life. Plus, I’ve been able to empower other people to use their gifts and skills to not only earn an income but to also make a difference through this blog/business.)

Our Car Ticketing System

The kids made notebooks for themselves with travel games in them printed from (yes, when your kids get older, they instigate this kind of stuff all on their own and just ask you for permission to do it!!).

They also came up with the idea — 100% on their own! — to implement a ticketing system. They printed these tickets here and then made one baggie for each child.

I set the timer for 30 mins and then hand out a ticket when the timer goes off to everyone who has had a good attitude. At the end of the day, whoever has the most tickets, gets to choose which show we watch as a family when we’re at the hotel.

This system has been very effective — especially on our longer traveling days!

The Tolls

The tolls from D.C. to New Jersey are pretty crazy. We spent about $30 just in tolls today! We were definitely not prepared for that and it shocked us that about every few miles (it felt like!), we had to hand over more cash!

A Stop at Barnes & Noble

The traffic was also really bad in Maryland, so we ended up stopping at Barnes & Noble to take a break since some of us were really car sick. I had a $50 gift card I’d been saving and I whipped that out and we used it for special treats at the cafe plus letting the kids each pick one thing out to do while driving.


We passed through Delaware — my first time in the state, if I’m remembering correctly! We didn’t stop anywhere, but at least I can now say I’ve been to the state!

New Jersey!

We made it to New Jersey and are headed to spend the day in NYC tomorrow! I can’t wait for our kids to experience it! (This was my top pick for where we’d stop on the trip!)

What I Read Today

I read this fascinating book by Obama’s deputy chief of staff, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? (It has a lot of crass language in it and it has very mixed reviews on Amazon, but I personally found it to be a really interesting look at what it’s really like to work in the White House and the stress that comes with the responsibility riding on your shoulders.)

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow my personal Instagram account here where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.

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  • Cindy says:

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but at your next stop where there is a grocery store, or at one of the toll plazas, stop and get an EZ-Pass. Last year we had a friend drive to visit us from Illinois and looked at the tolls she would pay without one, versus with one. The EZPass tolls are lower and by the time her trip was done she had just used up the last of the credit that comes with buying the EZPass. Plus, no more stopping to pay those tolls, slowing down your trip.

    • We looked into it, but because of the monthly fees and because we don’t know that we’ll be using it again for quite some time, we decided against it. But if we were going to be driving in this area regularly, we would definitely get it.

    • Heather K. says:

      Excellent point Cindy. There seem to be different ways to cut down on tolls in different areas. Were we live, there is a toll to cross the Ohio River. Just by registering your plate online thru River Link , one can cut the toll by 25%. I went a step further and signed up for a free transponder, and cut tolls by 50%. No monthly fee for it. So simple and yet I have yet to see any other car with a transponder. Maybe people don’t know?

  • Heather says:

    Too bad you didn’t stop in Delaware! Our little state has a ton of history for sure. It’s definitely a great location to see all the places you have visited on your east coast road trip. Enjoy the rest of it!

  • Eizabeth says:

    It looks like you guys are having a wonderful time. As crazy as this sounds, we find doing laundry an adventure when we do it. When we were in Rome we got lost looking for one and met so many wonderful people who tried helping us, even when they didn’t speak English. When we finally found the laundry mat (it was small with only two washers) the woman running it looked at me like I was crazy when I started shoving my clothes in the washing machine. Turns out laundry mats in Rome are full service where they do everything and you pick up clean, folded clothes. Who knew?! ?

    Even mundane chores like laundry can be more fun in vacation!

  • Heather says:

    Yes, the traffic in MD was one of the reasons I was most happy to return home to SC. We listened to A LOT of books on CD in the car because of the traffic. And the tolls are really crazy! One of our most cherished experiences was riding the train from Union Station in DC to NYC. The train is definitely the way to go if you can swing it.

  • TRLupo says:

    I’m enjoying your road trip adventures, especially because I’m from NJ, live in NY and visit friends in DC, DE, & MD on occasion.

    A suggestion for anyone driving the East Coast- you may want to check out getting an EZ Pass for the tolls. Fees and rules vary by state, but it may significantly reduce your fees. EZ Pass users pay less than cash prices.

    According to the website, EZ Pass is accepted in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia,West Virginia and North Carolina.

    Sorry for your toll woes…I understand. I paid over $3,500 per year in bridge tolls just to drive 9 miles to work and back each day.

    Enjoy your trip!

    • We looked into it, but because of the monthly fees and because we don’t know that we’ll be using it again for quite some time, we decided against it. But if we were going to be driving in this area regularly, we would definitely get it.

      • Aubrey says:

        You might want to look again into an EZ Pass (if you’re going to travel places with tolls in the future) There is no monthly fee for an EZ Pass – I know there are other pass systems, maybe it was one of those that had a monthly fee?
        We live on the East coast but our family is all in the midwest. We mostly use our pass once a year when we drive back to the midwest to visit family and we save $35-40 every year, and don’t pay anything to have the pass (initially it cost $42 but came with a $35 credit – so really cost $7 – which we’ve saved at least 25x over) Not only does it save us a ton of money, but we also just drive through the toll and don’t have to stop – going around Chicago that can save us a good hour or more on some trips.

        • Hmm, when we looked online last week, it said that there were monthly fees — I wonder if it depends upon which state you purchase it in. It looks like that might be the case?

          • Michele says:

            Yes, some states have monthly fees. Some do not. I’ve had an EZ Pass for over 15 years and have never paid a monthly fee. Also, some of those tolls on I-95 from Maryland into New Jersey are one-way tolls, meaning there is no toll heading southbound. Not all of them are, however.

  • Susan says:

    Some of my kids best vacation memories were of our trip to NYC when they were 11, 9, and 6. We were actually disappointed in how little the tourists were appreciating the city because they were too busy using selfie sticks rather than enjoying what was right there in front of them.

  • Juli says:

    I’m a faithful follower from annapolis,Maryland. I know all too well about the horrific traffic and Tolls.
    It’s a beautiful area here but so overcrowded.
    Wish I had realized you were finally coming to the east coast. It would have been fun to meet you. I think you’ve had times where you meet your readers. But I’m sure you’re family is loving family time! Enjoy these days

  • Renee says:

    Next time definitely stop in Delaware, after all it was the 1st State. So you can combine some fun with history. Got send some love to my home!

  • Amy says:

    Since you have many more miles left to travel, you may want to try Sea Bands for those who are prone to carsickness. They have made an amazing difference in our family.

  • Liz says:

    I discovered your blog through another blogger who recommended your Makeover Your Morning Routing (which I’m working through now!). I am totally blog-crushing on you! I love your high level of productivity (so inspiring!) and that you homeschool on top of everything else! I also live near Blacksburg, VA, and grew up outside of D.C. so seeing all your posts this week have been extra fun for me! 🙂 Thank you for sharing so much!

    I was wondering if you may be willing to gather a full list of all the books you’re reading on this trip, maybe at the end of it? I am just blown away at how you are finding the time to work, spend time with your family, AND read a book a day while on vacation? I literally gave up reading because when I get into a book – I can’t put it down and it was making my relationships suffer! Anyway – I’d love to know more about how you make that happen??

    Thanks again for sharing and being inspiring!

    • I love reading and it’s kind of my refresh and refuel thing to do (which is important on a trip like this!), so I make time for it — usually in the mornings before my family is up, or at night when they are asleep, or while we’re on the metro, or a little when we’re driving (but I’m usually working or talking with the family or reading aloud to the kids then).

      I have a Pinterest board where I keep track of all of my reads for the year here:

    • Janell says:

      Thank you, thank you! Someone else who has the same problems with reading…relationships suffer when I get into a book!

  • Terry Jackman says:

    To avoid getting car sick I use Motion Eaze (found at the larger Walmarts). It works almost instantly! It does have an interesting smell that dissipates quickly and doesn’t make you sleepy. It is all natural as well! Try it!

  • Maryalene says:

    That ticket system is brilliant!

  • I’m loving your updates all about your trip…I’ve been mostly following them on Instagram 🙂

    My family and I live in Maryland, but my in-laws are in New Jersey, so I definitely can relate about the tolls! I’m actually from California originally, so when we moved here, I couldn’t get over the fact that you had to pay to drive on the highway. Tolls for bridges are understandable, but not just the regular road!

    Looking forward to seeing your other adventures 🙂

  • LeAnn says:

    Per EZ Pass…I found this article about the various costs and fees in the different states that offer them. If you scroll to the bottom of the article, there is a list of each state that offers the EZ pass, what you have to pay upfront (to load the transponder), and if there are any associated fees. Delaware and Illinois have no monthly fees.

  • Jenny Rowlee says:

    We live in MD & just traveled to Chicago & Wisconsin. Before our first toll on PA, $18.75 we got an EZ Pass & the first toll was free! Perfect timing!! Cost us $5 to buy it. The fee is only $3 a year!! We almost bought one in MD, but that fee is $1.50 a MONTH! Crazy! Although if you use it then that month there’s no fee. Not worth it for us. It did also cut some of our tolls down. So for us it was worth it! Each if the states that have the EZ Pass has different fees in case you want to look into it.

    Oh and it was SO nice not having to stop to get a ticket or pay with cash.

  • Chris says:

    I hope you finish your series! 🙂 I’ve enjoyed it.

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