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  1. Default Crazy or Doable? Atlantic City to San Francisco with 2 elementary-school kids

    A friend is getting married in Watsonville, CA, on August 18th. Can't afford plane tickets, but can afford about 2 weeks to get there and back. Have a smattering of friends & relatives we could stay with along the way... Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City; & Boulder, CO... is there a possibility of this being sane and fun, or is it just plain crazy? It would be me (middle-aged mom), a 7-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a mini-van... or a middle-aged Honda Civic. Brutal honesty welcome.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Welcome! may be a bit toward crazy because it's going to take you 6 days each way, and that's without doing any kind of major sightseeing or activities to break up the drive.

    I'd examine the cost of plane tickets again - that may be cheaper by the time you get done with gas, hotels, and restaurant meals. You are probably looking at around $1000 just for gas in the minivan - and I don't think you want to be cooped up in a Civic for 2 weeks.

    Also check on Amtrak fares.

    Not trying to discourage a road trip - after all, that's what this forum is about! However, it doesn't sound like you can afford either the time or the money to make it truly enjoyable, it's just going to be work.

    I just did an Expedia search - all 3 of you can fly PHL-SFO-PHL, departing 8/16, returning 8/20, for $1311.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Slight Edge to...

    Driving! As glc points out, the cost difference is going to be minimal, around $1200± for either flying or driving, and whichever way you go, you'll still have to pay for meals and lodging. So the question is: What would you and the kids enjoy more - a plane ride and some time in San Francisco, or a cross-country adventure? When you say 'two weeks', I'm assuming that you can get the weekend on either end for a grand total of 16 days, so that even taking a relatively leisurely 7 days to cross the continent still leaves you 2 days in Watsonville for the wedding and to see the coast. Or you can take 6 days each way and have 4 at your destination, or (what I would do) take 6 days out, 3 days on the coast, and 7 days back.

    Now, the thing about committing to a major RoadTrip like this is that it takes a fair amount of planning to pull it off in a way that everyone will enjoy and remember fondly. Certainly part of that planning should include the kids. Once you have a basic route worked out, show it to them, give them a good map or atlas and let them find some spots that they'd like to see. That way they are invested in the trip and not just being dragged along. So - basic route(s). On a trip this long, you can and should take two different routes out and back. Typically you can find two that, while completely different in tone and scenery, are minimally different in distance. Also, unless one of your 'friends & relatives' is very close indeed, you should probably plan on only staying with each of your connections just once.

    OK - some specifics. As noted, I would take a different route out and back. Such plans are referred to as 'loop trips' no matter how skinny the loop is, and as is my wont I will describe this in a clockwise fashion although you can do it in whatever direction suits you. Start out by heading for Columbus, which at about 530 miles is a good day on the road with no major stops. Spend the evening and then the next day plan on a bit longer day on the road - 650 miles! - to get to Kansas City. Now, to be honest, that is longer than we like to recommend for a single day's drive, but it is just a straight shot on I-70 and you do pick up an hour on the time zone change, so with an early enough start from Columbus, this should be doable. Now you have four days to get to Watsonville and you can slow the pace down a bit, covering 'only' about 450-500 miles a day. This will be the Southwest portion of your trip, leaving KC via I-35 down to Wichita and then taking US-400/US-54 west across the Plains cutting through the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles into northeastern Mew Mexico to join I-40 at Tucumcari. I-40 will take you west through Albuquerque and Flagstaff to Barstow CA where you'll use CA-58, CA-99 and CA-46 to cross the Central Valley and get on US-101 north to Watsonville. Overnight stops would be roughly in Guymon OK, Grants NM and Needles CA. For the first couple of days of this leg, you won't have a lot of time for major stops, but still there are places to take a break from driving and let the kids roam free. Major attractions along the western portion of the route would include aircraft museums in Wichita, the town of Greensburg KS which has completely rebuilt itself as a 'green city' after a devastating tornado a few years ago, maybe a short detour to Dodge City, Petroglyph National Monument outside Albuquerque, Petrified Forest National Park, Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon (This requires a bit of a detour, but is well worth it, and I built in a little extra time with the suggested overnight stops of Grants and Needles.), the Mojave National Preserve, and Pinnacles National Monument.

    For the return trip, you'll take a more northerly route that will cross the Sierra Nevada, Great Basin and the Rockies. taking I-80 all the way from the Bay area to Laramie WY before dropping down on US-287 to Loveland/Boulder. From Boulder you can either head down to Denver to get on I-70 and retrace your steps through Kansas City and Columbus to home, or strike out northeast on I-76 to Julesburg CO to hook up with I-80 again and follow it along the Platte River/Lincoln Highway/Oregon Trail and then across Iowa and the Midwest via Chicago and Cleveland, then I-76 to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and back to Atlantic City. Major highlights of the western portion of that trip would include Reno/lake Tahoe/Virginia City, the Great Salt Lake and Salt Lake City, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, and Rocky Mountain National Park. I'd take three days for the drive to Boulder using the time to visit some of those venues making your overnight stops in roughly Lovelock NV and Lyman WY. That makes your middle day a bit longer of a driving day but leaves more time on days 1 and 3 for stops in the Lake Tahoe and Rocky Mountain National Park areas. Obviously the rest of the trip's highlights depend on which way you choose to make the final run for home, but once you choose we can offer more help.

    Some other general hints to make any RoadTrip easier and more fun. Preplanning, especially on a trip that is this long on a relatively short time frame (and with kids) is a definite plus. Decide before you leave home what route you're taking and where you plan to stop each night, Then do your shopping beforehand, using the web to find reasonably priced motels that suit your needs and book them. That way you simply have to pull up each night and check in rather than wasting time looking for a place to stay. Also, having a fixed schedule will let you know each day how you're dong at keeping on time to make the wedding or get home. If you end up planning to go to 4 or more National Parks, then purchase an annual pass ($80) at the first one you come to. This will cover entrance fees for you and the carload to all national parks for a year. Also, whenever you enter a park, take the time to check in with the Rangers at the Visitor's Center on how best to use your limited time. They are amazingly helpful. And, by all means. sign the kids up for the Junior Ranger Program at every park, monument, or historic site you stop at. They'll get a lot more out of their visit and some nifty free souvenirs as well.

    Or you could just hop on a plane. As glc also pointed out this is the RoadTrip website.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 06-28-2012 at 12:54 PM. Reason: Typos

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