Results 1 to 7 of 7
  1. Default "Are we there yet?"---Round the country with 3 kids in family wagon.

    We have set aside 2-3 months to tour the country with the kids. We were planning to tent camp at state parks and national parks and stay with friends and family. We have done some math and came thought that $6000 would cover our expenses. $1400 for gas, $2000 for camping or occasional cheap hotel, $1000 for food, $1000 for fun and $600 for car repairs on the road. We are starting on the Chesapeake Bay in VA and then want to make our way across through WVa, Kentucky(Mammoth Cave NP), Arkansas, Denver, Utah, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yosemite NP, San Fransisco, Lake Tahoe, Idaho, Glacier NP, Yellowstone NP, Mt. Rushmore, Iowa, back to Chesapeake Bay, VA. We already have all of our camping gear. Our kids are great travellers. We regularly do 10-12hour road trips. They are also great little hikers. How long would one set aside to camp in the National Parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier and Yellowstone. Our kids are young...7,5,2. i am thinking 3-4 days at each park. I noticed that we would need to make reservations at those parks well in advance. Once i make the reservations, how flexible are they? I mean if we are a day earlier or a day later, is that a problem? Then there was Utah. There are so many cool spots to visit there. I had penciled in Arches and Zion. I would love to hear from others which ones would be best to take the kids. We homeschool our kids, so this will be an educational trip as well (2nd grade level). Any places that are a "must see" with kids? Or are there any places that we should definitely avoid with kids? Thanks for any information you might have.

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

    Default real life costs

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    It sounds like you've got a fantastic idea, however, I fear your budget is woefully small.

    The trip you've laid out is going to cover at least 10,000 miles. Even if fuel remains at $4 per gallon and you get a reasonable 20 mpg, that would be $2000 - and frankly I'd budget a bit more since I could easily see you doing more miles once you factor in driving around cities and national parks, etc.

    Your food budget seems impossibly low. $1000 for a 2 month trip is just $16 per day, which is tough to do even for a single person much less an entire family. Even if you cook every meal yourself, I don't think you'll reasonably be able to eat for anywhere near that. If you ate at restaurants even once a week, you'd barely have any money left for groceries. Even on the low side, I'd factor $10 per person, per day.

    Your camping expenses are more reasonable, if you stay on the short side of your plan. At 2 months, you're planning about $33 a night, which is quite reasonable if you mostly stay in campgrounds, figuring a motel about once a week for when there is bad weather, you're exploring a city with limited camping options, or you just want a real bed. However, at 3 months, you'd only be budgeting about $20 a night, which really would leave no money for a single motel room.

    The other big thing which you'll need to think about for your budget is the little misc. expenses that come up. Things like propane cooking fuel, firewood, showers, ice, paper towels, souveniers, etc. They can all sort of be worked in to other areas, but right now, most of your budget is pretty bare bones and doesn't have much wiggle room.

    As far as some of your other questions, each park will have its only policies for canceling and/or changing reservations. Yellowstone for example, you can change without penalty with 48 hours notice - however, also keep in mind that if you are changing your reservation just a couple days before you arrive, they will likely have limited space for different days.

    Educationly, make sure you are taking advantage of the JR Ranger program available at every national park. It is perfect for your kids ages and will require them to really learn about the park they are visiting. Also, take advantage of the free ranger tours and show available at most parks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    Michael has made several good points about your budget. Frankly, I just figured a budget for a similar trip, using a combination of camping, staying with family, and a few motels, and it came to close to $8000. (It ultimately decided that we wouldn't be doing that trip this summer.) The reason is because camping is no longer the $5 and $10 a night that it used to be. Oh, you'll find an occasional state park or national forest at $15, but it's usually higher than that. The other reason is the $4/gallon for fuel! When your vehicle is loaded down, it gets less miles per gallon (in many cases).

    As for things to do with kids -- our kids were very open to different activities that are for families. We'd get to a national park and not only do the sightseeing thing, we'd go for a hike. The Junior Ranger program was fun for them, though it's increased a lot in availability and in popularity since our kids were small. Ours loved waterfalls, especially when they could stand at the bottom of some and feel the mist (or better yet, get WET). When we stayed in commercial campgrounds (which was more when we had a tent trailer or 5W), a pool was a necessity (just like it was with a motel).

    Bear in mind, when driving, that children tend to want to stop a lot. Ours had the firm direction given: when we stop at a rest area, you TRY to go. Don't tell us 15 minutes later that you need to stop again. We have good laughs about this now. Another giggle we have, now that the kids are grown, is that Mom and Dad's rule was that they could NOT ask "are we there yet?" or "how much further?" At the beginning of the day, we gave them how many miles we were intending to drive that day. They could ask, at any time, how many miles we'd already driven, but THEY had to figure out how many more miles we had.

    Finally, don't be afraid to share a map with your older one. I learned to read a road map at age 7, and have loved road maps ever since. One of my daughters had the same experience. Road map reading skills aren't necessarily taught in schools.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Learning..... what?

    Children can learn so much, and you can teach them tons, by simply observing your surroundings. I recall well, camping with our five, when they were little. We mostly stayed days on end, in one spot, and take short hikes, often one before lunch, and another later in the day. What we saw on the ground, in the trees and on rocks/boulders were often subjects of long discussion.

    An animal paw print or track on the ground would start a discussion as to whether we could tell from the print which animal it was, and if it was grazing, and basically standing still... or if it was moving. And in that case, was it in a hurry? Similarly with scats we found on our hikes. These would start discussions as to how long ago the animal was there, and what animal it was. Subsequently we would know to look out for it or follow it's track. Among the most valuable books in our camping library was one on 'scats and tracks', with illustrations to identify wildlife.

    In the same way, with birds and plants. Pocket books on these subjects are invaluable. We would discuss with the children from which tree a particular leaf they found, had fallen. Especially in areas where the vegetation was diverse, teaching them to identify plants. When one of the most deadly snakes was seen at the base of a cliff, some ten feet away, we were able to stand there and discuss the fact that we were 'invading' it's territory. The reptile looked at us, and quietly went on it's way.

    In some ways we wanted the children to learn, what the native population has known for thousands of years. (Mind you, you don't need to go camping to do this, it can be done everyday, wherever you are. Just that in urban areas we never think of it.)


  5. Default $4/gallon...ughh

    yep, down here in SC gas is cheap apparently at 3.25/gallon. when i did the math, i thought it would be more like $3.50/gallon in the summer. I didn't take into account the west coast or even midwest prices. maybe, i should just assume $5/gallon for gas so that we won't be surprised. I mean, we all know it is not getting any cheaper.

    I like the idea about the Jr. Rangers program. I will have to look into that some more. Also, I think my kids would totally love the "Scat and Tracks" book. I mean, who doesn't like investigating poop?;)

    We were originally thinking of travelling June, July, and August of this year. However, I think that is changing to July, August and September. Reason being, we should take advantage of being able to travel in the off-season when parks are not as crowded. Also, I was reminded of how hot the Utah and Arizona, Nevada desert can be during July and August. So we thought we would try and put that part of the trip off until late August into September.

    Has anyone ever used the Bureau of Land Management land to camp. I hear it is free and, of coarse, primitive. How off the beaten path are they and is it safe?

    The other thought is, we could just travel until we have $1000 dollars left and then turn around and go home. I would be sad not to complete our whole itinerary, but I know we would still have some awesome memories. Also, I am sure that I would appreciate being home and in my own bed after weeks of camping.

    Thanks for the input everyone.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    June-August or July-Sept won't make too much of a difference really. The real peak season is July and August. Both June and Sept are months that are slightly less than peak, but still see a healthy number of travelers.

    More than regional differences in prices, the bigger factor is simply that gas prices spike in the summer. You're going to pay $.50-$1 more in July vs. in January. Without some additional crisis with Iran or similar, I doubt we'll get to $5 this year (except in some uniquely high areas), but $4.50 wouldn't shock me. Last year, I saw prices ranging from about $3.40 to $4.25.

    BLM, like National Forests, are areas owned by the Fed. Government. In many cases, they do allow free dispersed camping. It is a completely primative experience, as in completely pack-in, pack-out. There is nothing but the ground, no water, no restrooms, no picnic tables. The biggest thing is that you do need to find out exactly where exactly camping is allowed in these areas and and what the restrictions are (often you need to be a distance from the road or waterways). The BLM and National Forests additionally have actual campgrounds, which are usually primitive but have things like pit toilets, however these typically cost between $10-20 a night.

  7. #7


    sara - I'm interested in hearing whether or not you & family carried through as intended. Our family is about to embark upon our a similar expedition come June 26th, 2013. We're doing a six-week (06/26 to 08/09), from West to East and back again. If you you've accomplished what you set out to do, I'd like to find out what worked out for you; what you encountered; what you enjoyed most/least; what the children liked; costs; and advice.

    You can view our most up-to-date itinerary here: ... Be well!

    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 06-11-2013 at 04:37 AM. Reason: Fixed link, cleared Moderation.

Similar Threads

  1. First "family" road trip!!
    By Lisa P in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 08-26-2011, 11:54 AM
  2. A "no plan" trip cross country and back
    By sben in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 05-07-2009, 04:02 PM
  3. cross-country "speed run"
    By taxidea in forum Spring RoadTrips
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 04-03-2008, 04:46 PM
  4. NJ to CA- "Northern route" or "Southern route"?
    By Lemon345 in forum Spring RoadTrips
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 05-25-2006, 07:00 PM
  5. X-country 101 "sample routes"
    By DCwom in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 02-02-2006, 09:05 AM

Tags for this Thread


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  • Find the Perfect Hotel
    Search RoadTrip Motels
    Enter city name