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  1. Default NYC to Yellowstone eventually

    I am just starting to plan a trip for this August. We can leave August 2 but must be back by August 25th. I have no experience; the longest road trip I have taken with them was NYC to Dayton, OH. I will be traveling with my 3 kids in our Toyota Sienna. We are thinking of camping/hoteling along the way. We have a tent big enough for all, and sleeping bags for each.
    Of course we do not have endless funds and I have read the advice about getting a small propane cooker. Is that safe to travel long distance with?
    The only research we have done or planning is that we have gone to AAA, gotten maps and books for planning the way. And have been reading lots of things on this site.
    We are thinking of heading up to Niagara Falls for our first stop. Then heading out thru Detroit and Chicago area to get to our next destination, Mt. Rushmore. After that we are hoping to get to Yellowstone. Then we would like to head down to Bryce Canyon/Zion Nat'l Park and the Grand Canyon. From there we will head back toward NY We would like to stop in Tennessee near the Chattanooga area. Work our way up the Great Smokey Mountain Nat'l Pk and then home.
    My husband believes this is totally unrealistic and wishes we would just go to Hershey Park and come home. My kids are 14, 12 and 9. I figure I don't have much time left where they will do something like this. When my daughter was 12 she got to go to N Korea to visit Uncle. My now 12 year old was supposed to visit same Uncle in China but the trip was cancelled. I thought I could take him for that "trip of a lifetime" right here in the Good ol' US of A.
    Can you give me some advice, am I being realistic?
    We are hoping to be very flexible and do the best we can.
    We appreciate any information, direction, advice you can give us. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default striking a balance

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think your plan might be a bit optimistic. Trying to do a big loop all the way out to Yellowstone, all the way down through the Grand Canyon and back through the Smokey Mountains might be a bit much for just 3 weeks. You could cover the distance, but it would likely be a whistle stop tour and I don't know if you'd really have enough time to enjoy yourself.

    That said, you can certainly do a lot more than going to a theme park a days drive away.

    What I would recommend is plotting out a rough itinerary to see just how much you can fit it. If you start planning for days that go beyond 500-600 miles, you're probably trying to drive too much. And of course, make sure to get your kids input to find out what things they would most like to see.

    Using a tent to camp and a propane stove to cook should help you save a good deal of money on both food and lodging expenses, although I would also plan for a couple nights in a motel and a few restaurant meals when you are building a budget.

  3. Default Being realistic

    Thanks for the welcome and response.
    I will try to be more realistic and still be hopeful. Okay, So I can make the trip to Niagra Falls in one day, then travel onto the Chicago area. Where do you think might be a good stopping point between Chicago and Mt Rushmore? The days between the Falls and SD will just be driving. Unless you can recommend some other natural sights to see. I don't have any interest in stopping to see cities/museums etc. We want to get out to Yellowstone and see that as quickly as we can. I would like to at least make it that far.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Somewhere between extremes

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyigol View Post
    My husband believes this is totally unrealistic and wishes we would just go to Hershey Park and come home.
    The tentative route you have created is going to feel like a forced march/job at some point. I think you can create a plan that is somewhere in between Hershey Park and the "entire USA". Personally, I would suggest going no further west than the Mississippi, lots of cool places to explore between St. Louis and NYC. Vacation road trips should include plenty of time of lounging in the motel pools and still seeing some of the sights. Here are some more tips for planning family road trips.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default plotting out

    Okay, So I can make the trip to Niagra Falls in one day, then travel onto the Chicago area. Where do you think might be a good stopping point between Chicago and Mt Rushmore? The days between the Falls and SD will just be driving.
    I again would just encourage you to lay out a basic plot of your trip. I think making it to Yellowstone is certainly within your reach, and you probably don't need to do a sprint to get there and enjoy it and the many other things that are along the way. If you really want, you could probably get to Mt. Rushmore from Niagara Falls with 2 overnight stops but right now, I think you're so focused on getting to places, that you're going to end up with a trip that's more work than fun.

    With 3 weeks, you could make it to Yellowstone and back with plenty of time to enjoy the ride, you just probably won't be able to fit in the entire Mountain West and more without a non-stop, place to place march.

    Lay out an outline for yourself, and see what you think you could realistically do in 3 weeks that would be an enjoyable trip for everyone in your family.

  6. #6
    Jan_WI Guest

    Default Similar trip last year

    I live near Milwaukee, WI and took my 11 year old granddaughter to Yellowstone last summer. We traveled 500 miles the first day to Sioux Falls, SD, but because you're already starting out 90 miles further away in Chicago you probably won't make it to there. I think if you stopped somewhere between Albert Lea and Fairmont, MN, you'd be doing good (approx 500 miles). There's not much to see until you hit South Dakota anyway.

    If you wanted to travel directly to Rapid City, SD from wherever you decided to stop, you could do it in one day but it would be a pretty long haul (another 500 miles) and you wouldn't get to see the great stuff on the way! Depending on what tourist traps you want to hit, stopping half way thru SD might be a good idea. Some things to see are: Porter Sculpture Garden (do a Google search to see some of the HUGE sculptures right off the road) just west of Sioux Falls. Near Murdo (mid-SD) is the 1880 Town (Google that one too) where you can rent period costumes for only $5 each and tour the town on your own. There are even set props from Dances with Wolves on site. This was my granddaughter's favorite attraction. A stop for the night in the Murdo area should leave you rested for the next day.

    Between Murdo and Rapid City is a scenic drive through the Badlands which ends in Wall, SD and EVERYONE has to stop at Wall Drug! Both these stops alone will take 3-5 hours total but you'll really only have to drive about 200 miles to get from Murdo to Mount Rushmore. If you're into pertified trees and pretty rocks you could also stop in Kadoka at the Petrified Gardens.

    While in the Rapid City area you'll have a myriad of things available to see and do. A pretty neat place for kids is Reptile Gardens. They still have an old tortise that I saw as a kid with my father about 45 years ago. Alligator wrestling and birds of prey shows are held too. If you pick up a tourist guide in Wall at the Drugstore or in Rapid City you'll see just how many things there are to do in the area... some glitzy, some natural, a lot for every taste and age.

    After spending a night (or two) in the Rapid City area and Mount Rushmore you can head on out toward Yellowstone. My granddaughter and I took a side trip to Devil's Tower in WY after leaving Rapid City on our way to Cody. It's about 30 miles on side roads to get there (and another 30 to get back to the interstate) but the view is spectacular! (Dramamine is in order if you get car sick.) The mountains have such spectacular vistas and many places to pull over to take pictures which may slow you up a bit.

    From there we left for Cody and made it by late afternoon. However, Cody is still approx 55 miles from Yellowstone and you need to get off the interstate to get to Cody. (More mountain passes, yikes!) Cody has a GREAT combo of museums (Buffalo Bill Cody Museum) which are sometimes called the Smithsonian of the West. I'd highly recommend it if you have time.

    I'm hoping to go back to Yellowstone next year but I'll be taking I-90 up to Billings to spend the night instead of heading to Cody. On the way to Billings you should pass the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Garryowen.

    From Billings there are several ways to get to Yellowstone depending on how much of a scenic drive you can handle. I know driving through mountain passes that have snaking uphill roads and 7% downhill grades that twist for 10 miles kinda leave me a little breathless so I'm going to avoid the Beartooth All American Road and try for Hwy 89 from Livingston to get to the North Entrance of Yellowstone.

    After my one-day visit to Yellowstone last year, I wouldn't spend less than 4-5 days exploring the park! It's HUGE!!! And the little we saw really whetted my appetite for more.

    I think I'd leave the Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon for another trip but would consider heading home through Colorado. I've never been but I bet an internet search for attractions and outdoor adventure would be easy to find. A stop in Omaha at the Henry Doorly Zoo would be a great way to spend a day on the way home too. Your kids would LOVE it! Do a Google search for this one too. It's been rated one of the best zoo's in the country and for good reason! There's also a wildlife drivethru park just west of Omaha that's really nice too. Just don't try to do the drive thru and zoo in the same day like my daughter, grandson, and I did. The zoo is an all-day event and the drive thru takes at least 3-4 hours because there are places to get out and explore.

    You might still be able to fit in the Chattanooga and Smokey Mountain leg of your journey in on the way home but I guess you'd just have to see how exhausted you all are.

    I tend to overplan but I'm getting better so I have one last suggestion: try to leave at least 1 or 2 days without anything planned just to relax before heading home. Remember, the more tired your husband gets, the less likely he's going to want to do another road trip. So if you skip the Grand Canyon this time but want to go back another year, better not poop out pop!

  7. Default So much great information!

    Thank you for your reply. You are the first person to give me any real direction. I don't know where I will be stopping on our way. I have to get from Niagra Falls west and am not sure where I will stop. I was looking into taking a ferry from Grand Rapids to Milwaukee. I could easily make the drive and ferry in one day. Are you familiar with the ferry? Can you recommend any places to stay in either city. Cheap but safe and healthy for the kids. By the way, no husband, just me and the kids. Dad has to keep working.
    I have been doing some reading and have heard of many of the places you mentioned. Murdo sounds good. We will have to give that a try. And I have seen many things about Wall Drugs.
    We are no longer planning to hit the Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion another time just as you suggested. Maybe next year.
    I am trying to find places to stay in all of the areas I mentioned. I will take any information you have, camping, hotel/motel, places that run tours in the areas. What ever you can share. Thanks for the info. It has really helped inspire me to keep planning.

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