If you’re following along on our first family summer road trip, you know our first stop was New York City. Our next stop was my hometown of South Norwalk, Connecticut, so Jack could spend time with his cousins. I was going to rent a car from New York City and drive the 42 miles to Connecticut but the prices to pick the car up in the Big Apple and drop it off in Boston (spoiler alert: Beantown was our last stop) was quadruple the price ($195 a day) of picking up the rental in Stamford, Connecticut ($45 a day).
New York City to Connecticut
Normally, to get to Connecticut, I would take Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal (it takes one hour) but with Jack, his stroller and all of the luggage we now travel with, it wasn’t going to happen. So I ordered a Lyft (Uber’s competitor) and our driver, originally from Tibet, was nice but not the best driver. Three quarters of the way through the trip, he said he was running out of gas but when I looked at his gas gauge, I saw that he still had a quarter of a tank left. When I said that, he said that he needed to stop because he really had to go to the bathroom. He started to pull over on the side of the highway. “Whoa, what are you doing?” I asked incredulously. I told him he couldn’t pull over on a highway and definitely not with my wife and young son in the car and asked him to exit and then pull over. He listened, then darted into the woods to do what he had to do. The other problem was that he almost ran a red light by accident. Fortunately, I was paying attention and said, “it’s red,” before he barreled through, and we averted a possible catastrophe. It not for those two incidents, I would have given him five stars and a bigger tip. The ride cost $117.
National Car Rental
AutoSlash had the cheapest car rental deal and they use a discount code via Priceline. In my experience, National Car Rental has the cheapest prices out of its competitors. Since it was more expensive to pick up at the Norwalk location, I went to the Stamford location 15 minutes away. Tip: Always check surrounding areas for cheaper pick-up rates. The agent was totally cool and. runs a fairly tight ship. The first SUV ended up being too small so I exchanged it (the last-minute upgrade cost $15 extra a day) but the new vehicle was almost out of gas and needed vacuuming.
What I liked is that the agent didn’t give me a hard sell for insurance or for the toll tag and said I needn’t hurry to return the car by 5pm like I reserved but that I could have it until the next day at the same time, which was 3pm. I asked what would happen if I returned the a day early and he said I would only get charged for three days instead of four. Great policy.
Courtyard Marriott Norwalk
I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a hotel in Norwalk since I have so many relatives in town but they all had full houses and now that I have a family, I can’t exactly just crash on someone’s couch! So, we booked three nights at the four-story, 133-room Courtyard Marriott Norwalk. Natalie wasn’t too excited about staying at a Courtyard since she’d never stayed in one before and didn’t really know what to expect (and over the years, she’s developed a taste for luxury hotels!). But she ended up loving the hotel and said she’d definitely stay there again, which I was happy to hear!
Although I’m accustomed to luxury hotels too, I have no problem adapting to budget lodging, especially when I’m paying. I was totally relieved when we got into the room and Natalie looked around and said it was much, much nicer than what she was expecting. In fact, she actually loved the space and the décor and the fact that our room had a microwave and pull-out couch, making it very family-friendly. Here are the 10 things we liked about the hotel, along with our recommendations for where to go and eat while in Norwalk.
1. The hotel isn’t in the best location but it is right off the Route 7 connector so it’s easy to get on and off the I-95 and caters to business travelers.
2. The hotel is clean and quiet, even at full capacity like it was when we were there.
3. They have complimentary on-site parking.
4. The rooms have a kitchenette with a mini fridge, microwave and sink. This is particularly handy if you’re traveling with a child, like we were. It made it easier to do mealtimes with the baby since we had a mini kitchenette.
5. Like all Courtyards, they sell frozen food in the small market located in the lobby so you can make a pizza or burrito in your microwave if you want.
6. Norwalk and its surrounding area has plenty of great restaurants but if you’ve had a long day of travel or meetings, it’s nice to make something in your room or go downstairs and grab something from the market or order from the state-of-the-art lobby featuring the Bistro restaurant.
7. The Bistro also sells Starbucks coffee, tea and snacks so that’s an added plus.
8. If you don’t like Starbucks, then you can go right next door to Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s so close you could literally throw a rock at it.
9. The TVs in the bar, bistro and lobby have DirecTV.
10. The TVs in the room don’t have DirecTV but they do have 37 channels. Sadly, one of them is not the YES Network (New York Yankees), which DirecTV offers.
11. Jack’s too young to appreciate the fact that the hotel has an indoor pool but I’m pretty sure he will one day like the other kids I saw enjoying it.
Check out 5 places to go and where to eat in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Next stop on our first family summer road trip: Watch Hill, Rhode Island and Boston!