Overnight trip to NJ with 2019.40.2.1

During our daughter's first year, we flew quite a bit for family to meet her. We took a break from travelling just after she turned one, until we did the same pattern flying our twins to meet everyone, but with one child, flying proved less stressful than driving. Our last flight capped-off the difference, where flying from Boston Logan to JFK was simpler than driving1. Now with three kids, including the younger twins who are significantly better on car rides than our daughter at their age, we were looking to do another quick turn to visit family for Christmas and return before we left for our Puerto Rico trip.

Boston Skyclub

Our daughter dancing in the Skyclub shortly after her first birthday.

Marriott Courtyard Wayne Fairfield

When we had only our daughter, we had been staying at Hilton properties. Before her, we had been staying at Hampton Inns; The Hampton Inn, Parsippany North, was one of two stays which had us switch to the Embassy Suites as our go-to brand in order to let her sleep in a different room. When we flew down for Christmas in 2016, we stayed at the Embassy Suites in Parsippany which worked out really well. We have since moved away from Hilton and Embassy Suites, so we booked the Marriott Courtyard that was nearby.

Writing cards

My daughter sat down at the desk to "write Christmas cards" while we got ready for Christmas dinner.

I considered the nearby Residence Inn, whose standard room would naturally be a one-room suite (256 square feet) as well, or when we booked we could have gotten a two room suite (452 square feet) for a similar up-charge we had for the suite in the Courtyard. The Residence Inn would also have had breakfast included the next morning, while the Courtyard (as per brand) only provides a an a-la-carte counter (which would actually be quite busy the next morning). The extra Bonvoy points and some curiosity about what a suite at a Courtyard would be like, led us to book the room we did. The Courtyard's rooms also offered additional space, with the suite providing plenty of space across 604 square feet.2 Originally, we'd also booked the Residence Inn for a different stay to compare, but we ended-up not making that trip.

Bedroom sitting area

We've been pleasantly surprised by each of the Residence Inns we've stayed at, and the Courtyards have also had similarly approachable and congenial staff3. Perhaps because of the holidays, or perhaps because we were walking-in with three tired kids, they waved us by when we stopped at the desk to get a couple bottles of Gatorade when we returned from Christmas dinner. Despite working the holidays, each time we stopped by the desk, we were greeted by smiling and friendly agents.

Elevator waiting area

The room itself was surprisingly nice, when couched in the context that it was a Courtyard after all. Materials and upholstery certainly aren't up to the level of the St. Regis or even our recent Autograph stay in Tampa at the Current, despite sharing modern touches of the latter. Couches were a more durable industrial material, the bathroom was bright and spacious, with textured walls that were well applied pictures, and "metal" accents were a cheap silver plastic; but if you squinted at it all, it was a noble attempt. We had no trouble setting-up the boys cribs out-of-the way in the living area, while our daughter's cot sat between the bed and the sitting area in the bedroom. Even with the king bed and my daughter's cot, there was plenty of room in the bedroom, and I was able to use the sitting area after my daughter went to sleep without any concerns for space.

King bed Toiletries

Courtyard-standard Paul Mitchel toiletries. The bathroom was spacious though, along with the discount-modern design.

Cribs

The cribs fit well in the living area. Fortunately, the kids didn't lock us into the bedroom.

The view from the windows (one in each of the bedroom and living area) overlooked the "courtyard" at the rear of the hotel; there isn't really a great view here. The spacious bathroom was nice, even having a rainfall shower head. The only really odd thing about the room was that the bedroom door seemed to have the nob installed in reverse: someone in the living room could lock people into the bedroom, requiring a phone call to the front desk for assistance. With toddlers that love playing with push-button locks, this was a real concern of ours which fortunately never materialized.

The Drive with 2019.40.2.1

We drove our Model X, Pensive, twice along a similar path to the NYC area back at the start of the year: to Brooklyn under 2019.5.16 in March and then Long Island and Manhattan under 2019.8.5 a month later. Each version of the Tesla software has tweaked the AutoPilot behaviour, following a general trend towards more reliable driving. More recently, the major release of V10 rolled-out, which potentially calls into question lots of assumptions about how the car would behave–the v9 release brought radically different AutoPilot behaviour. By the time time we took our third trip to Manhattan last month, a lot of updates and iterations have been made to the behaviour since those earlier trips. How does the experience at the end of the year compare to the start of the year? Like everything Tesla, it's a mixed-bag.

Our drive under 2019.8.5 made minimal use of AutoPilot as the heavy rain was too much for the system to handle. Our drive in late December was dry and surprisingly warm for the north east, but this time it was the sun hanging low in the sky that caused problems. As we drove along I-90 with Bruce Springsteen's Welcome to Asbury Park playing, the driver's HUD alerted that the cameras were blinded by the light. Oddly, it permitted us to continue using AutoPilot and even AutoNavigation; in recent versions it seemed like this meant automatically disabling those features.

AutoPilot was not too abnormal as we drove around I-90, other than intermittently complaining about the sun and then restoring AutoNavigation for short spurts. As we got going on I-84, leaving where the toll booths once let-out into a few broad turns, the car suddenly stopped hard, requiring me to manually apply acceleration or risk getting rear-ended. Unexpected breaking certainly isn't new for my Model X, although it's gotten less common than in earlier versions, and I didn't notice it exhibiting the same level of incompetence on CT-15 as it had back in April where it continuously stopped for no obvious reason. It did however regularly throw-off AutoPilot as it failed to maintain turns on its own—even at the end of I-84 with wider lanes it was having trouble finding and keeping its angle at the speed limit let alone the usual speed of traffic on some of these roads.

Last-mile (and first-mile) driving with the Tesla directions in New England, as well as upstate New York and Canada, has tended to be fairly useful4. In New York City, Tesla's routing had no idea which roads were open following the Thanksgiving Day Parade on our last trip; in New Jersey we came across a more regular problem: the turns on the state highways can be pretty close togethr. Directions to "turn now" were misleading when you have three turns in quick succession, and the default zoom level on the maps wasn't helpful.

Tesla Store

The Paramus superchargers are at a Tesla store on Rt.17. There's a strip mall with a Smashburger across the ravine, which requires a brief walk along close to the highway which was a anxiety producing considering we had the twins in a stroller and our daughter walking with us.

Making a quick turn work

My wife needed to work the day before Christmas Eve, as well as the day after Christmas Day, and then we were flying to Puerto Rico with the kids early on Friday. That left us with one our overnight trip to New Jersey and basically no time to pack or plan between leaving for Christmas and our flight. The weekend before, we ended-up packing our regular luggage for Puerto Rico, and had separate bags for the overnight trip, with only the cribs and other bed time items in bags we'd need to bring in both trips. With kids, we've tended to over-pack, to make sure we had change of clothes in case of accidents, the perfect toy or book, and enough food; so this meant a conscious strategy change and aggressively pruning for what was only going to be 24 hours. This turned-out to work out nicely, although we're looking forward to the days when we will not be needing to pack so much for bedtime.

Obviously, a good night's sleep is one of the requirements to getting a good jump on the return trip and keeping everyone on schedule; the suite at the Courtyard provided for that. We also found a diner that was open just down the street from the hotel—after all, this was New Jersey—which saved us from potentially running into the same issue we had returning on Thanksgiving when we could not find a restaurant that open in Connecticut. We were able to grab some decent coffee, but the food was mixed at best, with the blintzes coming across like something from the freezer aisle that hadn't been thoroughly heated. What did not work out so well was the lack of electric vehicle charging. We needed to stop at the North Stamford Superchargers to ensure we had enough juice to get us back home. Fortunately, the Starbucks was open on Christmas day, and that gave us an opportunity for diaper changes and potty breaks, but it did mean prolonging our time on the road which grows harder on the kids in particular; next time we're considering picking a hotel a bit farther out that would allow us to wake-up with a full battery, and avoid an extra stop.

High Ridge Plaza

North Stamford Supercharger


  1. In the age of ICE cars, and with a free rental with National, flying was no more expensive either.

  2. Standard rooms a the Courtyard are around 355 square feet, although some king rooms were as small as 315 square feet.

  3. one exception was a Courtyard stay where I had a grouchy agent at check-in who had a few negative comments about her colleagues, but quickly tried to put-on a friendlier face when she pulled-up my account status

  4. except for those times the GPS doesn't have a clue where you are