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Epic Cross-Country Road Trip

Epic Cross-Country Road Trip

By the time this article is being posted, I should be in Yellowstone National Park with my kids on an EPIC 3½ week road trip. That’s right, I said ROAD TRIP! And guess what? It’s just me and 2 kids on the open road.

Right now, you’re probably thinking, is she NUTS? What is wrong with her?! That’s the reaction most folks had when I told them of my plan. But I can assure you I wasn’t crazy then, and at the time of writing this (about a week and a half into it) I can assure you I’m not crazy now… well, not yet anyway.
[pullquote type=”2″ align=”right”]One mom, two kids, and the open road. Stacy reports to us in real time, from somewhere in middle America![/pullquote]I started planning this trip back in April. It’s not a luxury vacation, but I’m not being overly skimpy either. We’re staying in hotels such as Holiday Inns, Comfort Inns, and Quality Inns. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how nice these places are these days. Not 4-star resorts, but comfortable beds and very clean. My criteria for a hotel was that it had some sort of breakfast and free wi-fi. So far, I’ve been happy with every place we’ve stayed.

Some things I’ve done or learned to do:

Know where you’re going & how you’re going to get there. has an excellent online road trip planner. It particularly helped me determine my route, and it let me put in my daily driving hours (I only wanted to drive up to 6 hours per day) and calculated where I’d need to stop overnight. It’s got a ton of other cool features, such as coming up with step-by-step directions and it will transfer your itinerary to your GPS.

Plan, but allow time for adjustment.

In planning our trip, I tried to do about 2 ½-3 hours of driving in the morning to our destination/event, then drive another 2 ½-3 hours to our overnight stop. In most cases, this worked. But there were a couple long driving days. On these days, I found halfway points of interest to help break it up. One day, we found the Danish Windmill in Elk Horn, Iowasimply by following a roadside billboard, and it was a quirky stop that helped break up the monotony.

Take time to sample the local haute cuisine - no chains allowed!

Have plenty of activities in the car.

By this, I most certainly do NOT mean a Nintendo, Playstation or DVD player. Believe it or not, we have driven from Tennessee to Wyoming over the span of a week and a half WITHOUT the aid of electronic devices (well, with the exception of my iPod). I have a shoebox size box full of travel games such as Hangman, Trouble, Connect 4, the “Are We There Yet” book. Plus I put together a travel journal for each of my kids. This is much simpler than it sounds – I bought a 3-ring notebook with pocket folder inserts. This is for them to journal, keep track of the Junior Ranger certificates, or doodle. It’s worked very well.

Take 5 days of clothes.

Most hotels have coin laundry facilities, so I stocked up on quarters, bought a pack of Tide Pods, and brought a pillowcase to serve as my laundry bag. I lucked out at one hotel, they allowed me to use their commercial machines as they didn’t have coin machines. (This spoiled me – a short wash cycle, and a 15-minute dry cycle. Sweet!) So far the most expensive machines have been $2.00 for one wash, and $1.75 for one dry cycle. But all in all, this has worked out quite well. I have two tote clothes bags – one with 4 days’ worth, and a smaller bag with the rest to include extra shoes. Plus a toiletry bag, and that’s it in the way of clothes and personal items.

Hooray for commercial machines and nice housekeeping staff!

Put yourself in your kids’ shoes.

By this I mean, do things they enjoy. Although the Junior Ranger programs at the National Parks are really interesting and the kids enjoy them, I let them cut loose at such places at AdventureLand in Iowa (amusement park) and at Reptile Gardens near Rapid City, South Dakota. AdventureLand really wasn’t up my alley, but both Alice and Ben truly enjoyed it, and it remains one of their highlights.

Let the kids help plan the trip.

You might be surprised at where they’d like to go. For example, my daughter really wanted to go to Springfield, Illinois to see the tomb of Abraham Lincoln. She saw this in one of her history books. I wasn’t too keen on it, but we visited Springfield on day 2 of our trip. I must say, so far it’s been one of my favorite destinations. The tomb and the Presidential Library and Museum were excellent. I am still hearing how ‘she picked’ that destination; she’s quite proud she contributed to the trip!

Honest Abe's house didn't disappoint.

I look forward to ‘reporting’ more to everyone after our trip. I can truthfully say that I’ve been overwhelmed with the beauty of this country, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to do this road trip – I’m already planning next year’s trip. Traveling with the kids has been for the most part, a lot of fun; not without its challenges sometimes, but overall I’d do it again and recommend it to anyone!


View Comments (6)
  • What fun! We’re actually about to head out on a trip to Yellowstone. Our family of six is going to do this in 2 1/2 weeks by way of Indianapolis, Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, to Yellowstone, then Wyoming, South Dakota, and up to the U.P. of Michigan before heading south.

  • Loved your story! I would LOVE to do a road trip with my son, and you have given me inspiration that it might be impossible, after all. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you for the tips with traveling. We went to Disney recently with three kids in tow. I don’t know that we will take that long of a trip with a new little one again. Ha!

  • Love this post…can’t wait to see how the rest of the trip goes. I have a friend who is doing the same thing this summer. I think the two of you have inspired me to try a road trip with my girls.

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