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HELP with routes for cross country (or half country!) trip with kids

HELP with routes for cross country (or half country!) trip with kids

Nov 1st, 2017, 11:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 31
HELP with routes for cross country (or half country!) trip with kids

I am trying to start planning a cross country trip from Los Angeles to wherever we can go realistically (!) this summer. I am dizzied by internet research so would love some ideas from personal experience. We will have around 3 1/2 weeks but that includes getting back to Los Angeles. I will be traveling with my kids who range in age from 3-16 but I always cater to older denominator so looking for older kid fun stuff for the most part. We have already done Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce so don't need to go in that direction. How far do you think I can make it? Chicago? My kids would love to see big cities as well as National Parks. We havent done Yellowstone or Rushmore which sound wonderful. All ideas as well as book recommendations much appreciated!
shifrap is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 12:30 PM
Join Date: Mar 2015
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I think Chicago is pretty far for 3.5 weeks. How about Colorado?

Are you camping or what? Budget?
marvelousmouse is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 12:53 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 31
Ugh! I was hoping to make it to a big "exciting" city! Hence, Chicago. My dream was to make it to New York, but didn't know how realistic that was in 3 1/2 - max 4 weeks... Any other recommendations other than Colorado? And the budget would be the cheapest hotel room I could find nightly!
shifrap is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 01:09 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
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My first reaction was..you live in LA, why the need to make it to a big exciting city? You already live in one. But if you want to do that, Chicago is absolutely doable. When I was in college, I drove roundtrip from Madison, WI to LA for the Rose Bowl with a group of friends. That was a 9 day trip.

New York is also doable but that's a lot of driving just to say you've been there. I wouldn't do it.

Have you thought about going up the coast to Portland and Seattle, then heading east to Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore? The idea to visit Colorado is good but you can still make it to Chicago and hit Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone on the way back. I would probably opt for the latter since the former is more in your backyard, relatively speaking.

You would need some days where you just drive for 8-10 hours to make either of those plans work.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 02:11 PM
Join Date: Mar 2015
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I agree it's doable, it would just be a really long trip with a 3 year old. How long can you drive with your kids per day? Budget matters because Chicago is not really a cheap city, and lodging near of the national parks is $$$$. Seattle was my other thought but it's definitely not budget friendly in the summer. The "cheapest" room could easily be 300/nt. How many kids do you have?

If the city is the main thing...Crazy idea; no idea if it's practical- see if you can find cheap plane tickets to Chicago or NYC (chances are pretty good out of LAX) and cut the trip down to 7- 10 days, stay maybe at a Y or hostelling international.

Because gas and hotels to get out to Chicago or New York will really add up.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 02:21 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
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From LA it is 30 hours driving time to get to Chicago. I'm old and have done some marathon road trips, but I wouldn't put my kids through that. Can your 3 year old enjoy sitting in a car seat for 6 hours a day for 5 days getting out and then 5 more days getting back? How about the bigger kids?

What if you headed up to Yellowstone. You could aim for Cedar Breaks NP the first day and spend the night in Brian Head.

Then for a bit of "city" visit Salt Lake City for a day or two.

Then on to Grand Teton NP for a few days.

Then Yellowstone for a few days.

Now think about the return trip, do you want to go to Mt. Rushmore, and or Badlands? Or would you like to head south to Denver for another "city"?

If you choose Denver you could then go to Rocky Mt. NP and/or visit Mesa Verde NP on your way back home.

The tricky thing will be getting lodging in/near the parks. I'd look for that now.

Have fun, and get the kids to give you some input.
emalloy is online now  
Nov 1st, 2017, 05:07 PM
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 1,276
Kids are easy in cars these days with games and movies. Chicago and back is pretty easy for 3-1/2 weeks. You would have 20 days in Chicago if you desired.
tom_mn is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 06:25 PM
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Of course, there is also a train to Chicago from LA...
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2017, 12:53 AM
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Our son and his family did a cross country truck camper trip with two other families this past summer. All three families' youngest child was 5. Key to sanity was kid breaks at playgrounds. Our DIL googled to find playgrounds when they needed a break. Some even had water features.

If you are going to Chicago, make sure to check out the free City Greeter program. You need to reserve a few weeks ahead so they can match you to a volunteer. We have done this twice and enjoyed meeting a local. You choose the area of interest. I still haven't gotten to Museum of Science and Industry although recommended it to a family staying at same hotel. A friend had recommended it and the family said they were going back a second day. This last trip we stayed at a 2 bedroom air b&b that was convenient to the subway system. We bought passes and loved Chicago's public transportation.
dfrostnh is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2017, 04:53 AM
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Just my view, but LA to Chicago and back with kids up to ten days of relatively high-speed driving across the Great Plains in hot temperatures, with basically not much to see. Yes, you'll cross the Rockies, in both directions, but the bulk of the driving will be in, dare I say it, less than thrilling country.

How much time have you spent touring the west, including your own state? Just as a thought experiment, what about a route that travels north through California, maybe via Yosemite on the northbound portion, and up to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC (a "big city" that will knock everybody's socks off) then returns via the coast?

You could certainly get a national park fix at Yosemite, Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier or Olympic National Parks, ride ferries from Seattle or Vancouver to beautiful islands, go whale watching, explore the Columbia River gorge including visits with Herman the Sturgeon at the Bonneville hatchery...

On the way back you could ride dune buggies on the Oregon coast, see the redwoods, maybe visit Point Lobos near Monterey (incredible scenery and wildlife), visit the Hearst Castle...

The point being, it's a destination-rich area that wouldn't require day after day of "are we there yet?" questions from the back seat, because you're there VERY quickly.
Gardyloo is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2017, 04:54 AM
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... and back with kids means up to ten days...

Gardyloo is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2017, 05:54 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Chichago is fine . . . But do you REALLY want several days driving across more boring country than even the I-10, or I-5 up the central valley? As Gardyloo says, there are terrific big cities like Seattle and Vancouver with a hecka better scenery between them and LA.
janisj is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2017, 06:20 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
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My Amtrak plan: Take the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago. It's 42+ hours but at least you're not driving it.
You could stop for 24 hours in Albuquerque if you wanted to break up the trip. Sleeping on the train is not as comfortable as in a motel room but at least you are moving toward your destination while you sleep.
Once you are in Chicago, you have a choice of going to Washington DC on the Capitol Limited or going to NYC or Boston on the Lake Shore Limited.
The return trip from Chicago would be good on the California
Zephyr with a 24 to 72 hour break in Denver renting a car downtown to go see Rocky Mt. NP.
The California Zephyr gets you back to Sacramento where you have the choice of returning to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight (next day connection) or the bus to Stockton - San Joaquin train to Bakersfield and another bus to Los Angeles.
I've driven across Nebraska (and Kansas) enough times to know I'd rather ride a train while I sleep.
tomfuller is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2017, 06:25 AM
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THREE weeks on trains with 4 kids(?!?)
janisj is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2017, 06:53 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 10,171
Three weeks in a car/van trying to find reasonably priced parking in Chicago, NYC, Washington, Denver etc?
My DW is currently in the Rochester NY area.
I dropped her off in Winnemucca NV on Friday evening. She got to Rochester on Monday morning less than an hour late.
She flies back to PDX on Sunday.
We're headed to SOCAL for Thanksgiving using Amtrak both ways.
On our 30 day USA Railpass, we spent about 240 hours on trains.
We started in Albany Oregon and got as far away as Kissemmee Florida. We spent several days with my dad when he was living in Melborne.
tomfuller is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2017, 08:38 AM
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Chicago is doable and would be a great place for both the older and younger with museums and sites/sights.
Kids in car seats are pretty amazing these days in my experience with grands . Their parents were NOT (in car seats!!).
You should be able to look at a map (on paper) and see a slightly different going and returning itinerary.
Gretchen is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2017, 11:10 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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But Tom - you are many (MANY) decades older than the 3 yo and sitting on a train for days on end is actually 'fun' for you.

Train trips are great for kids, but not multiple loooong train rides for weeks on end.
janisj is online now  
Nov 5th, 2017, 10:27 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 31
Wow! You guys are wonderful and so helpful. So: to answer some questions, with your help, I did the north of California trip last summer. Drove from Los Angeles to Vancouver (with the then two year old - he will be three end of next month! Did almost all of the amazing things Gardyloo recommended. Did it in three weeks and it was fabulous. Also, did Yosemite, Bryce and Zion with them which was also amazing and we loved it. That's why this time we want to go east. Trying to figure out which way! The southern route or the northern route or I guess the middle route. Want to leave on a Saturday night and get started to somewhere maybe three hours away and then tredge forwards. Want to arrive in a decent sized city to spend the weekend starting Thursday and then moving on on Sunday of each week. Time to do laundry, spend a few days somewhere, etc. We don't have to make it to Chicago per se. Just an exciting type final destination like what we had when we arrived in Vancouver. The train, while wonderful not to drive, would be impossible with the amount of cargo we travel with. I have several kids and tons of food and clothes etc! All advice and potential routes with their pros and cons would be GREATLY appreciated! Thank you so so much to this wonderful group!
shifrap is offline  
Nov 6th, 2017, 11:45 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 2,937
What about New Mexico? Beautiful state, you can visit Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque, maybe drive a bit north to Durango, CO. There is also stuff to see in the south like Carlsbad Caverns (never been myself yet).
Lot of stuff like Indian festivals, hiking at Banderlier and other places, cooler since Santa Fe is in the mountains.
jamie99 is offline  
Nov 6th, 2017, 12:51 PM
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 88
Don't write off Colorado! Denver is a large city but not so large that you'll be overwhelmed. Rocky Mountain National Park is gorgeous and they have good ranger programs. You could go to Boulder which has a smaller ski resort and you could ride the chairlift for a fun activity. Look into Denver and see what you could come up with. I remember traveling with my two and any quick stop seemed to take an hour. I have driven across the country with an adult and it is a long time in the car--I can imagine how it would be with a three yo.
StacyB is offline  

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