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  1. #1

    Default Road Trip from St. Louis to Cali and back with 3 kids!

    My husband and I are planning a road trip for next summer. It will be my husband, myself and our three children. (Ages 9, 7, 5) We were also considering taking our dog. We will be leaving from St. Louis, MO and going to Crescent City, CA. From there we will go to San Francisco, CA to Grand Canyon Village, AZ and then back to St. Louis. My biggest concern is space in the car. We drive a 2011 Mazda 9. Does anyone have any advice on storage? We don't want to attach a trailer and so we were thinking maybe something that can go on top of the car to keep luggage and such. Also, any other advice or tips would be greatly appreciated! We are so excited!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default An Adventure Indeed

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Well, you are certainly going to need some sort of external cargo carrier, as every cubic inch of the interior of your car is going to be taken up with people (and possibly animals). A car-top carrier is probably the cheapest and easiest option, but make sure that you have some way to securely attach it to the car. Rain gutters along the roof, which used to be the norm back in the old days, are not common anymore. Another option is to get a trunk carrier that uses a hitch receiver to mount on the rear of the vehicle. You should be able to find one that gives access to both its contents and those of the trunk. Such a rig also cuts down on the wind resistance from a car-top carrier.

    Besides that, a few hints. First and foremost, plan on stopping every few hours to let the kids (and other pets) get some fresh air and exercise. Secondly, you will be going by enough national parks and monuments to make a National Parks Pass a worthwhile investment. Also, your kids are the perfect ages for the Junior Ranger Program, so be sure to stop at each visitors center and get them signed up.

    Other places to consider stopping en route, besides the coast and the Grand Canyon, include the old Oregon Trail which followed the Platte River through Nebraska, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, the Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats, the Pacific Coast Highway, Point Reyes National Seashore, Yosemite National Park, Death Valley, Petrified Forest, Petroglyph National Monument, Cadillac Ranch (your children are actually encouraged to spray paint graffiti on the cars), and the Oklahoma City Memorial.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    There's an RTA Article about different types of Cargo Carriers that you should check out. Its a couple years old, but I think you'll find the information to be quite useful.

  4. #4

    Default Great tips!

    Thank you for all the tips. I look forward to planning this trip as much as going on the trip! Keep the tips and advice coming! I mapped a route on the map tool here and have found everything to be very helpful and user friendly.

  5. #5


    Okay, so I was looking into the rear cargo carrier and it says you have to have a luggage rack on the top. We do not. Any suggestions? I really like the idea of a rear carrier as opposed to a top carrier.

  6. #6


    Also, we have no hitch...

  7. #7

    Default Rear hitch-mounted cargo hauler

    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMae View Post
    Also, we have no hitch...
    U-Haul is one of innumerable dealers in hitch installation. Be careful to specify you're looking for a "receiver hitch" and you'll likely need to specify a 1.25" square receiver. The 1.25" is the smaller of the two primary receiver hitch sizes. The larger is 2.0" and you might actually find it difficult to find a 2" for your car.

    I can't figure out what sort of guidebook is telling you must have a luggage rack on top in order to use a rear receiver hitch cargo rack. There is no connection between the two methods of attaching a hitch-rack.

    A large-scale manufacturer of rear cargo racks is Hitch Haul, and their products are retailed by a wide variety of sellers. You'll also find other brands sold at stores like Northern Tool, Harbor Freight, Cabelas, and most any sort of large farm supply such as Tractor Supply. With a rear cargo rack, waterproof duffle bags, ratchet straps, and bungees, you can lash down most anything you want to on the rear of your car. Just be sure you don't obscure the taillights or turn signals.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    Continue reading that article and it mentions that some have straps available that you can hook to the car .

    5. No luggage rack? No worries! Some car top bags offer car clips that can hook on ledges on the side of your car and other car top carriers offer straps that allow you to strap through the inside of the car and over the carrier.
    As you mentioned "considering taking the dog", have you weighed up the Pros and cons of taking your pet with you yet and reached a decision? The CX 9 [?] looks to be quite a big car and although I can see that room would be of concern with the pet, you could have enough space as you are without. -Perhaps with the odd trip to the laundry.

    My Bad ! I read that wrong myself as it is with regards to the top bags DOH !!
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 11-08-2011 at 09:37 AM. Reason: Being daft.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default which rear

    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMae View Post
    Okay, so I was looking into the rear cargo carrier and it says you have to have a luggage rack on the top. We do not. Any suggestions? I really like the idea of a rear carrier as opposed to a top carrier.
    I think there is some confusion as if you are talking about a rear hitch carrier or the car back carrier. It does look like you would have to have a luggage rack for the car back option.

    I think your best bet would be to take Foy's advice and have a hitch installed and then go with the hitch haul rack. While getting the hitch installed will cost a little more, it is something I think you will find is quite useful beyond this trip, and as he mentioned, there are lots of accessories that you can use with it, even if you never pull a trailer.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-26-2011 at 02:45 PM. Reason: fixed store link

  10. #10


    I was referring to the car back carrier, not the rear hitch carrier. I think I will go ahead and get some price quotes on hitch installation. Thanks again!

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