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  1. Default Chicago to Seattle (with kids) and Back - HELP!!!

    Hello all,

    I've lurked here over the past couple of weeks... great site. :-)

    My wife and I bought a new 27 ft travel trailer and plan to tow it from Chicago to Seattle starting the July 4th weekend and being back in Chicago in 2 weeks. We have 2 kids (boys - ages 8 and 6) and would like to see a few things along the way to make this a memorable trip. My wife's family live in Seattle, so we'd like to spend 4 or 5 days there, so the kids can see grandma and grandpa and we have time to visit extended family.

    Okay, so we didn't know for sure if both of us could get the time off from work at the same time, but we managed to pull it off. But from what co-workers are telling me, we should have had this trip planned out months ago and everything will be booked up as far as campsites go. Unfortunately, we couldn't plan that far in advance because we weren't sure about getting the time off until a few days ago.

    So our plan is to take I-90 going to Seattle and I-80 coming back.

    We both agree that we'd like to see Devil's Tower on the way there and Yellowstone on the way back. Other than that. we have no concrete plans on what we're doing and where we can camp with the trailer along the way. From what I've read here, 500 to 550 miles a day is a decent pace, and that should put us in Seattle in 4 to 5 days.

    I really have no idea about time management as far as travel goes, because my previous long trips to the east coast from Chicago were done alone and I drove them straight thru... about 900 miles each way at an average of 17 hours with gas, food and potty stops.

    This time around I have four sets of kidneys (and stomachs) to worry about. I'll also have to deal with a lot of "Are we there yet?" along the way, too. I plan on having a video system for the kids and they have handheld video games to keep them occupied. My little guy is a sleeper whenever we're on the road for awhile.

    Okay, so there's a brief description of what I've got going on. Oh BTW, this is my first TT, as I've previously only camped in my two prior pop-up campers for the past 5 years.

    Now, if you're still with me after all this, I'm kinda looking for some advice on some "must sees" along the way, as well as how to plan on finding camp sites along each route (there and back). I'd prefer not to spend my nights camping in a WalMart parking lot along the way.

    How do I go about this??

    What's the best way to manage my time and set a goal for specific campsite destinations?

    Can I just "wing it" at some points???

    Is my tentative plan of 10 travelling days and 4 or 5 visiting days (in Seattle) feasible?

    Y'all seem like a friendly and helpful bunch of folks here, I'd appreciate any advice and/or pointers you can lend me.

    Thanx in advance!!!

    Buck

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Towing that kind of load, 500 miles a day may be pushing it, you are gonna be in the slow lane with the 18 wheelers going up the mountains and you will be risking cooking your transmission if you try to tow in overdrive. 55 mph is pretty much going to be your cruising speed and trailer tires are not safe over 65. I hope you have at least a 3/4 ton long wheelbase truck - a 27 footer on a 1/2 ton or SUV (unless you have an Excursion or Suburban) will be a very uncomfortable tow. If this is your first TT, please have a good RV dealer check your rig over for proper equipment (brake controller, weight distribution/antisway hitch, auxiliary transmission cooler, suspension assist, etc.). A 5th wheel/gooseneck will tow a lot better than a bumper pull, but you must have at least a 6.5' bed for a proper 5th wheel hitch, 8' preferred.

    5 days each way with any sightseeing at all is a realistic minimum. With youngsters, you will be making a lot more stops than you are used to from your single solo days and you don't want to drive well into the night.

  3. Default

    Thanx for the reply, glc.

    I have a 2006 Toyota Tundra SR5 4X4 Double Cab (Crew Cab style - 4 full size doors). This truck has an extra-long wheel base. My new trailer is one of those new "light" style trailers, weighing just under 3,900 lbs with a 400 lb hitch weight. I also have a WDH and sway bars. My Tundra has a 7,100 lb max towing capacity, so I'm well under my maximum, even with gear and the family. My wife weighs 105 lbs and the kids are less than 100 lbs combined. On my first tow with the new trailer, it literally felt like nothing was back there. It was a piece of cake.

    When I made my afformentioned East coast trips, I towed a 1,500 lb pop-up through the mountains of Pennsylvania and New York state. The max towing limit of the tow vehicle I used (the wife's 4-cylinder Honda Element) was 1,500 lbs. I packed a bunch of guitars and a heavy amp, too. So I know I was at least somewhere between 150 to 200 lbs over weight. Except for having to turn off the air conditioning on a few steep grades, the Element handled it just fine. With my new set-up, I'm more than 1/3 under my max towing weight, so I'm pretty sure we'll be okay in that respect. I know what you're saying about going 55 mph, I kinda figured I would be slower with the bigger trailer and the obvious wind resistance. I have a cap on my Tundra, which might help a little bit.

    So, it's safe to say that we may only get 3 days of visiting in Seattle???

    That's fine with me, but I don't think the wife will be be too happy with that.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default That's a long shake-down trip for a new trailer!

    If you can squeeze it in, I'd suggest trying to do a short trip on a weekend before leaving just to ensure everything is working right and that the driving is as good as your original impression. At the very least, I'd take it out for a drive for the day to get used to any changes in driving you'll need to make.

    Each route (90 and 80) are about 2100-2200 miles. With a trailer to tow, you will probably need to figure that you'll be on the road for at least 40 hours, figured at driving 55mph. This is the minimum as you won't be able to maintain that speed on some of the elevation gains/drops. And this doesn't include time for fueling, food, and other breaks throughout the day, just drive-time. Because of this, you'll definitely need at least four, more likely five, days to make the drive, driving 9-11 hours per day. With the limited time you have, I don't see where you'll have much time to sight-see along the way, except for short breaks.

    Visiting Devil's Tower on the way there, and a quick peek at Yellowstone on the way back, are really probably about the only major stops you'll have time to make, unfortunately. Tip - it shaves off about 100 miles to take I-90 on the way back until you get to Yellowstone, then go down to I-80 afterwards.

    Of course, you will want to take breaks during the day so the kids can wiggle, and you'll need to do that, too. I suggest just looking for signs for interesting things along the way rather than spending a lot of time researching places to stop. I fear if you make a long list of cool things to see along the way, you'll find that you don't have time to do them. But serendipitious stops, when you need to stretch and have time for them, is always good. For that reason, I'll not be making any specific recommendations other than a couple in Montana you might enjoy. On the way to Seattle, Pompey's Pillar and Greycliffe Prairiedog Town are right on your route and would be short, interesting stops worth planning for.

    In order to get the kids used to roadtripping, I would really try to limit their use of video games for entertainment. Try to engage them in enjoying the sights. When my kids were little, I would have brochures, guidebooks, etc., with me that had information about areas we were going through. I'd read some of it to myself and then tell the kids about it. Just a few obvious things you could talk about are buffalo, the former Native American cultures that lived in those areas, specific events like the battle with Custer, etc. This might take a bit of advance research but it should bring the landscape alive for your kids and, hopefully, make them curious to learn more about things like history, geography, geology, etc. I think they'll enjoy not just trip but, also, future roadtrips if you do these types of things. At least it helped with mine. Of course, interactive songs, games, etc., are good, too. This discussion should give you some ideas. And this article, too.

    Besides the 4th of July weekend and Yellowstone, you shouldn't have any problems "winging it" to find campsites. It will be easier if you have a good guidebook of campgrounds to refer to. If your'e a AAA member, you can get their guides for free. Or purchase one of our recommendations. I would definitely try to get reservations during the 4th weekend. And you'll want reservations for the Yellowstone area. It might be too late to get a spot inside the park but you can give it a go here. Note that there's a link at the bottom of that page for camping outside Yellowstone.

    I would want to take a day from traveling in Yellowstone to explore, thus eliminating another day in Seattle. You really won't have time to see/do much there if you don't plan in the time.

    While you might have a few challenges, I think it will be worth it and that you'll have a terrific trip. Anything else we can help you with?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    A tip - stow your gear in the trailer, not in the bed. It's a lot easier on the truck pulling weight than it is having it over the rear axle. 1/2 ton trucks in particular hit GVWR and GAWR restrictions before you hit the maximum tow weight or GCWR rating. Before you actually hit the road, you should go hit a truck stop with a CAT scale to make sure everything is within limits. Full water tanks, etc. can add more weight than you may realize. Ideal tongue weight is 12% of the gross trailer weight. It wouldn't be a bad idea to get something like a Scangauge that you can plug into the OBD-2 port to monitor the transmission temperature. What heats it up is running with the torque converter unlocked - and constant upshifting and downshifting. Realistically, you should expect single digit gas mileage.

    As far as mileage and time management, what you could do if you have a laptop computer is install some mapping software on it such as Microsoft Streets & Trips and keep track of where you are. It's available with a GPS puck to plug into a USB port. I find this a lot more versatile than using a compact GPS by itself. Supplement it with a set of paper maps or national road atlas. Just keep in mind that mapping software by default bases its time estimates on driving all roads at the posted car speed limits with no traffic or construction delays or stops for any reason (food, fuel, bio, leg stretch). If you dig into the software, you can adjust the algorithms and force stops (i.e. 15 minutes off the road every 2 hours, etc.).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Kids

    Quote Originally Posted by Buck62

    I'll also have to deal with a lot of "Are we there yet?" along the way, too. I plan on having a video system for the kids and they have handheld video games to keep them occupied.
    Let me say from the outset that I am certainly not a fan of keeping children 'occupied' while on a RoadTrip, but rather engaged in the process. You're going to be showing them some of the most scenic parts of their own country and to waste that time with their heads inside the car and focused on something they can do anytime anywhere seems to me a shame. When I travel with my own grandchildren, I make a point of talking to them about different aspects of the countryside we're driving through, maybe a little history, maybe a little geology, even just "what does that cloud or that mountain look like?" Especially since your boys are now in school, they should have at least heard a little about the places you'll be passing and visiting to have opinions or to be able to recall something that they've learned. You can make this a teaching experience without being too obvious.

    As for the "Are we there yet?" syndrome. You can be 'there' several times a day by breaking up the drive with stops every few hours to get out and get some fresh air and exercise at parks close to the Interstates. You can even combine the two activities by showing the boys where you plan to be driving and have them look over some maps and see what they'd like to see that's really close to your route. If they are computer savvy, you can have them look up a little bit about the sites they want to visit and then they become your 'expert' and invested in doing more than just being a passenger, or even worse just cargo, on your trip.

    AZBuck

  7. #7

    Default

    When I was a kid, my Dad answered the "are we there yet" by showing me how to read a map. I would keep track of exactly where we were by keeping track of the towns we were passing. At any time, my parents could ask how far away our destination was, or how far we were from a town that might have a place to stop for lunch.

    This later evolved into a tradition of having a kid as a copilot. My parents swapped off on driving every 100 miles. The off duty driver rode in the back seat and the kids rotated into the the front passenger seat. The kid riding shotgun was in charge of navigation, watched for exits and alerted the driver to potential problems. By the time the kids started driving, they were already experts on navigation and highway hazards.

  8. Default

    WOW! Fantastic advice from each and every post so far!!!

    YES!!!.... I will do a localized "maiden voyage" to get used to the trailer and how it pulls.

    I'm also going to get "fact books" of the states we'll be travelling through, as my older son absolutely loves to read and learn new and interesting things and my younger son is big on asking lots of questions and has an "eagle eye" for interesting things when we travel. I'll definitely limit their movie and video game time and concentrate on making "discoveries" together with my kids. My wife has a laptop (with GPS) and we'll be sure to download interesting info to share with the kids on there, too.

    I'm glad to hear that I won't need to make reservations and plan each nightly stop at specific locations. That would take some of the fun out of the trip and would put undue pressure on me to get to certain places at certain times. I'd rather be a little more spontaneous and take it as we go. I'll also get in touch with some of the RV parks near Yellowstone from the link provided. I'll get right on that and see what's available.

    I'll make sure not to overload the bed of my truck and load the trailer instead.

    I forgot to mention that I'm a lifelong guitar player (I've been playing for 33 years) and will bring one of my acoustic guitars along for campsite entertainment. My kids love to hear me play and I'm going to work on some songs with them so we can entertain ourselves.

    Thanx for all the info and great advice so far! You folks really know you're stuff and have really helped to put my mind at ease about this trip. I applaud your knowledge and you're willingness to help people like myself who are novices at long distance road trips.

    You guys are great!

    If there's anything else you think I should know (or see), please continue to comment or advise, as I can use all the help I can get!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    If you are bringing a laptop, a lot of commercial campgrounds even have wifi now - this may help you and the family plan out your next day. Quite a few states now have wifi in the Interstate rest areas too.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Glad to help!

    In case you missed it, you will want reservations for the nights you're traveling over the 4th of July weekend, too.

    Between a laptop and a cellphone, you should easily be able to find campsites. For example, if you are starting to get a feel for about where you'll be for the night, you can google campsites in those areas and then call ahead to make a reservation for the night. Since many campgrounds are some miles off the interstate, at the very least call ahead before driving to them to see if they have space for you. This should save you some time driving around.

    If you're in need of wi-fi, just look for a Starbucks! I've also noticed other coffee houses have started offering free wi-fi in order to compete with the big chain. Or simply drive through a neighborhood and look for a connection. I've borrowed wi-fi connections more than once from unsecured wireless.

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