Road Trippin' with Dad on the Alabama Gulf Coast

I’ve crisscrossed the country many times. I’ve flown to exotic countries. But would you believe the Alabama Gulf Coast is one of my fondest travel memories to date?

I’ve traveled extensively throughout my life. Whenever I go on vacation it takes me a moment to decompress and leave behind the stressors and the responsibilities of life. It usually takes a day or two to totally disconnect from work and tune in to family – except when I go to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

It takes us eight hours to get from where we live in Nashville, Tennessee to Gulf Shores, Alabama. When my eyes see the blue water and my toes feel the warmth of the sand, I feel all the stress immediately wash away.

You see, along the Gulf Coast is where my wife and I got married. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores is where we had some of our first real family vacations. One crazy year, we evacuated to Alabama’s peaceful Gulf Coast when devastating tornadoes were predicted for Tennessee Valley.

Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores, AL

I have awesome memories of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, so it’s a joy to road trip there every chance I get. I’m offering some tips for those who plan on driving to the beach with the kids on a road trip with Dad.

Get off the interstate and drive along the coast. Sure, the highway is faster and more direct. But opt for a road along the water any time your GPS offers it as a route. As a bonus, Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway takes you through some really fun spots, including Fort Morgan, a military fort from the 1800s.

Don’t be in a hurry. Enjoy the drive down and the drive back. Yelp sights along the way. The journey is part of the trip.

Be spontaneous – there’s lots to do and see that you won’t find on billboards. Related to my previous tip above, stop when you see something interesting. It may add some minutes to the drive, but if you see a quaint antique store, a cool coffee shop or a roadside fruit stand . . . stop. I cannot tell you how many beautiful travel moments our family has had when we let spontaneity be our travel guide.

Hotels and Condos along the Beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL

Road trips to the beach are better on weekdays. Avoid weekends, if you can, and you’ll enjoy a little less traffic. You may also be able to find midweek specials on Gulf Shores condos or Orange Beach hotels.

Good seafood can be found in places you may not expect. To find the best seafood restaurants, ask the locals. They always know the secrets to great beach dives. In the meantime, here are some additional insider tips on favorite Gulf Shores and Orange Beach restaurants.

Have these necessities in the car with you at all times: sunblock, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, sunglasses, lip balm, bug spray, beach umbrella, windshield shade (to keep your car cool).

Security tip: don’t drive around with your condo parking permit on your dash. Once you get to the beach, you may receive a parking permit from your resort or condo. Don’t keep it on your dash when you are driving around town. In addition to identifying where you are staying, sometimes it includes your family’s last name or your room number.

Find a place to eat on the water, and relax. My best memories are sitting at the restaurant The Gulf with my family, savoring some great food and an ice-cold beer. Find your perfect place to eat on the water.

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