Our Family’s “Ride the Lightning Tour” to Destin in a 2017 Toyota Prius Three

What happens when two overworked parents in their mid-30s decide to drive their two young children in a Prius all the way from Spring Hill, TN to Destin, FL and back?

Awesomeness, that’s what.

Granted, we experienced our obstacles; that’s for sure, which you can read about here.

But my wife and I obviously knew there would be challenges involved in taking a 1 year-old and a 6 year-old on a 7 hour road trip. It didn’t matter to us. We were ready for a vacation, so we made it happen.

Map from Spring Hill, Tennessee to Destin, Florida 32541

When the folks at Toyota heard about my family’s plan to take such an ambitious road trip, they were quick to sponsor us by supplying us with a 2017 Toyota Prius Three for the week.

I was so happy about this, because I knew the Prius is supposed to average 52 miles a gallon, since it is a hybrid.

Fortunately, that wasn’t true. Instead, we averaged 55.5 miles a gallon. And for the entire round trip, which even included a day trip to Pensacola as well, it only took us two tanks of gas. (That’s less than $50 for the entire round trip!)

I decided to name our road trip “Ride the Lightning”, which references the (coincidentally same-colored) 1984 album by Metallica, and ties it into the fact the Prius has an electric engine.

So quite literally, our family rode the lightning to Florida and back.

Cargo space wasn’t an issue for us either. Even with our daughter’s travel crib, plus all our clothes and food, we still had a little bit of room to spare.

This trip made our daughter’s first visit to the beach- and she absolutely loved it!

It also made for the first time that my wife, son, and I experienced the glory of simply riding in an inflatable donut on the waves.

Sure, it wasn’t practical for my wife and I to take our young kids on such a long road trip, but we made the most of it.

And now that our vacation has ended, it’s simply a question of how soon we can do this again!

I’ve got so many more things to say about our trip, so be on the lookout for more stories about our family’s “Ride the Lightning Tour” to Destin in a 2017 Toyota Prius Three…

This is 36: We Took Our 2 Young Kids on a 7 Hour Road Trip to Florida (So You Don’t Have To!)

Brave. Ambitious. Heroic.

Those are buzz words that people like to throw around these days when referencing someone who dares to go against the norm; someone who is willing to take risks that others dare not.

If that’s the case, then my wife and I are soon to be famous…

Because during past week, we willingly took a 7 hour road trip from Spring Hill, Tennessee (where we live) to Destin, Florida and back… with our 1 year-old daughter and our 6 and a half year-old son.

Not in a minivan. Not in a big SUV. But in a small car.

As Jeb Bush muttered during last year’s campaign… Please clap.

Now I want to warn you, over the next week or so, you will be presented with several blog posts about our recent road trip and vacation to Destin. Riding on tubes at the beach, digging up buried treasure, racing go-karts…

At times, you may even think, “Lucky them! What a cool, fun family! Looks like they’ve got it made!”

If those thoughts cross your mind, think back to this blog post…

In the midst of all the glory and splendor of our trip, we were also caring our daughter who was still recovering from an ear infection.

We were there during a holiday weekend, meaning we were at one point stuck in traffic for 2 and a half hours (during a stretch that should have barely taken us an hour) with that little girl who we were desperately trying to keep asleep, as her older brother who hadn’t had a nap that day was getting way too antsy.

Keep in mind that as we were sharing a condo with family (which definitely saved us money), at one point we got locked outside for about an hour, which delayed our daughter getting to bed that night on schedule. And by the way, it took hours to get her to sleep each night in that new environment, compared to her falling asleep within a few minutes back home in Tennessee.

Consider that the 4 of us all slept in a small room with very squeaky beds, which at any moment my son or my wife or I could (and sometimes did) easily wake the baby.

Near the middle of the vacation, my wife mutually proclaimed we would not be taking another trip like this for years.

Funny though, because by the last day of our trip, we both recanted, asking each other, “Hmm… when can we come do this again?”

Despite the chaos, we truly had a blast.

And the fact that we were in a 2017 Toyota Prius Three, that meant we did the entire road trip on just two tanks of gas! Plus, we very easily stuffed the hatchback with all our stuff. We actually had plenty of room. My wife even rode in the back seat with the kids a few times, while I drove up front.

Our road trip not only produced awesome memories (and photos to prove it), but it helped build character for our family. And I’m all about character arc, because in my opinion, that’s what makes a good story.

I wouldn’t have had it any other way, actually. I think it’s obvious that my wife and I are wired for a good challenge.

We survived. We did it!

This is 36.  

2014 Toyota Prius: Family Friendly Car Review

Welcome back to the official “family friendly car review” by Nick Shell, the daddy blogger of Parents.com’s The Dadabase. On the side, I review cars.

This week’s featured vehicle is the 2014 Toyota Prius.

2014 Toyota Prius Family Friendly Car Review

Let me go ahead and address the elephant in the car showroom:

Yes, I am a vegan and I am married to someone from California. By default, I realize that pretty much automatically means I have to like a Prius.

But… the thing is, how can anyone not love a car that averages 50 miles a gallon!

That’s right: 51 highway, 48 city, and 50 combined. (The tank holds 11.9 gallons of fuel.)

We drove the Prius from Nashville to Atlanta and back on the same tank of gas. That made the road trip so much more enjoyable for a dad who is super “budget conscious.”

Just for the record, I am super serious when it comes to saving money.  In our household, we have no smart phones, no cable or satellite TV, and our electronics are so old they are laughable.

2014 Toyota Prius car review

So for me, one of the most important things about a vehicle is how much I save on gas.

As I’ve been doing these reviews since September, something I have observed is that, loosely, for every mile per a gallon better one vehicle gets, it saves about $200 per year in fuel costs.

In theory, if your vehicle gets 20 mpg, compared to your friend’s vehicle that gets 21, your friend would spend $200 more in gas in the year 2014.

So imagine a car that gets 50 mpg! That’s a lot of money saved. In a year’s time, that’s $1,100 compared to the average new vehicle.

Toyota Prius family friendly car review

As for my 3 and a half year-old son’s favorite part of the 2014 Toyota Prius, he proclaimed: “Daddy, the thing I like about this car the most that I can see out the windows!”

(It’s interesting that I never prompt him to give his opinion; he just automatically gives me his imput within the first 5 minutes of the drive!)

In closing, I personally am a huge fan of the Prius. But then again, as a vegan married to a California girl, I’m supposed to think that, right?

Decide for yourself. Here are the fuel facts, courtesy of fueleconomy.gov:


2014 Toyota Prius

1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios)
MSRP: $24,200 – $30,005
EPA Fuel Economy Regular Gasoline
Combined MPG:50 MPG
City MPG:51 Highway MPG:48
city highway
2.0 gal/100mi

EPA range: 595 miles

595 miles
Total Range
Unofficial MPG Estimates from Vehicle OwnersLearn more about “My MPG”
User MPG estimates are not yet available for this vehicle
You save or spend*

Note: The average 2014 vehicle
gets 23 MPG


in fuel costs over 5 years

compared to the
average new vehicle
Annual Fuel Cost* $1,100
Cost to Drive 25 Miles $1.84
Cost to Fill the Tank $44
Tank Size 11.9 gallons

*Based on 45% highway, 55% city driving, 15,000 annual miles and current fuel prices. Personalize.

MSRP and tank size data provided by Edmunds.com, Inc.

Range on a tank and refueling costs assume 100% of fuel in tank will be used before refueling.