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  1. Default Eight day road trip from New York to Los Angeles with a 1 year old and a 4 year old.

    Hello, road trip gurus! My wife and I and our two small kids have eight days to get from New York to Los Angeles this May. Our original plan was to spend those eight days further exploring the East Coast, then fly. But we've seen plenty of the East Coast, and plenty of the West Coast, and were toying around with the idea of driving cross country to see other charming parts of America, as an added bonus to a fun road trip.

    So the plan here is NOT to squeeze in as many destinations as possible, rather get a flavor of some of the places most tourists may never get to. Or places that are not Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston.

    The goals of the trip would be as follows:
    1. Get from New York to Los Angeles from May 10-17.
    2. Drive only in the mornings.
    3. Never drive more than 6 hours a day total.
    4. Take the most comfortable, safest, kid-friendly route.
    5. Avoid really big industrial cities, and go for picturesque towns with character.
    6. We just saw the Book of Mormon, so it would be great to go through Salt Lake City :)
    7. Stop at places that would be of interest to our four year old.

    A few questions for the more experienced road trippers here:

    1. Our kids are generally good in cars, but we've only ever driven three hour trips. A part of us thinks this may be a little too much on the kids, especially the 1 year old, but a part of us also believes that it could be a great family experience. Any general thoughts on traveling with kids, specifically cross country?

    2. Any tried and tested suggested routes that could hit our essential criteria?

    3. We are torn between doing a southerly arc and seeing places like Nashville, Austin and Santa Fe, or to go further North and see that part of the country?

    Any advice or suggestions would be most appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default A direct route.

    Hi, and welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    Considering it is five to six days driving to go direct from NY to LA, you will be hard pushed to drive just six hours a day for eight days.... especially if you want to, as you say, see what most tourists never see. I assume by that that you mean travelling for a significant part of the trip off the interstates, which will only take longer. With six hours a day it will take all of your eight days along an almost direct route.

    The best part with the little ones is, that they won't expect too much.... just a run around every couple of hours or so. Many roadside rest areas and just about all town parks have playgrounds. You may find some useful information in this thread.

    I have to say I agree that driving mostly through the morning hours is the best way to go with little ones. There is a great article on this site on travelling with little ones, but I am blowed if I can now find it. Someone is sure to come up with it.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A taste of the west.

    As above. If you want to stick close to your '8 x 6 hours plan' then all you can do is see where each route would take you and best suit your interests, there is no generic 'best' option. To get close to 6 hours on the road you would be looking at options every 350 to 370 miles but to suit your interests you could do less miles one day and a few more on another. Just to fit in SLC or Nashville and Austin would have you going over your said goals, but perhaps by only 30 mins a day. Interstate 70 is one of the most scenic of all Highways and would give you a taste of the Rocky mountains alpine scenery. You could check out some of the 'wild west' and head from Moab in Utah [Arches National park] down through Monument valley and perhaps spend a little time at the Grand canyon. That to would add a little overall time to your journey but in my opinion worth every moment.

    Whie travelling west it would make sense to try and find lodgings on the west side of town so that when you are heading off in the mrning you are heading away from the work traffic. I wouldn't always plan to only drive mornings, you might find a place of interest 2 or 3 hours into your journey, where you could spend a couple of hours, have some lunch and continue in the afternoon, it would certainly give you more freedom.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    We had a 1 year old and a 2 year old when we had 4 days to make it from Phoenix up to Seattle, WA. Our kids were used to 6 to 7-hour long journeys by then, but we knew we'd have to drive 8-9 hours per day. As long as we took care to stop somewhere and let them run around a bit, even if it were at a rest area, roadside park, or the playground area of a McDonald's-type restaurant, they did just fine! I packed a bag of small toys that could be doled out one at a time, and played with while strapped in a baby car seat. This included stuffed animals, "My Little Pony", and more. For the overnights, I tucked in a couple of favorite books to read to them before bedtime, and we traveled with a playpen in the trunk for the baby.

    For the route, I'd go with either I-70 straight across to Utah, then down I-15 to I-10, OR I-81 down to I-40 to I-15 and I-10. Both are very pretty routes and have the advantages of something you could divert to, for a few hours or a day. As someone mentioned above, this is a 5-to-6 day drive at 10 hours a day. You could do it in 8 days using 7 hours driving, or drive a little more one day and do a little less another day just to see something.

    Close to I-70: Dayton's Aviation history, the St Louis Arch, the St Louis Zoo (FREE), Eisenhower's Library (more for you than the kids), Rocky Mountain NP is about 100 miles off the freeway, Glenwood Canyon (gorgeous and lots of places for the kids to get out and run), Moab with Arches is about 40 miles off the freeway, the desert through Utah is gorgeous (San Rafael Swell), the drive through Virgin River Gorge is also gorgeous (and there's a state park in there where you can take the kids for a run).


  5. Default

    If you've got a bit of time to spare then the drive up to the Kolob Canyon section of Zion National Park would make for a superb picnic stop. The road is off I-15 between Cedar City and St George. On the other hand, having to pay the full park entrance fee for a thirty minute visit isn't good economics - unless of course you've got an annual national parks pass or plan to visit the main Zion Canyon section of the park accessed via Ut9.

    There's a rather superb Mormon temple in St George (southwest Utah, just before I-15 goes down the Virgin River Gorge). That would be much easier to visit than Salt Lake, although SLC has much more history of course. Non-Mormons aren't allowed inside the temple itself but there is a visitor center adjacent which is open to everyone if you don't mind a bit of mild evangelism.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Your unique trip plan.

    There are many more attractions along your route, even a direct route, which I could add to the above. However, your desire to limit your driving each day (good plan), to get a flavor of some of the places most tourists may never get to, and your plan NOT to squeeze in as many destinations as possible already makes most of the above suggestions irrelevant.

    If you want to stick to your *unique* plan - there is no reason why you should not - I suggest you have a good look at some top quality paper maps, such as produced by AAA (free to members) and Rand McNally. These maps hilight scenic routes and attractions along the way. You can then see where you can get off the interstates to drive a scenic route.

    Often these minor highways take you through small town America and all the suprising attractions they afford. Roadtrippers who stick solely to the interstates, including *most tourists*, never get to experience any of these hidden gems.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Something has to give.

    I'm just not sure how that would work given the time factor because finding 'unique places' on Highways and Byways won't fit with only 6 hours in the car, it's to tight as it is. My thinking is that if you want to spend less time in the car you need to maximise mileage while on the road and then find places of interest to stop not far from the main routes, so 6 hours [or so] of driving and then a few hours 'down time' somewhere you can enjoy, which could include some of those mentioned above. You can certainly take a slower pace, but it's going to require more of your time in the car. Of course there are thousands of attractions to choose from, but finding unique places on the Internet that tourists do no go to, means they are either no longer unique or they are difficult and time consuming to get to.

    If you want to stick to your *unique* plan - there is no reason why you should not
    Something has to give in my opinion.

  8. Default

    Thank you all so much for a series of solid advice, clearly coming from experienced road trippers. I am exceptionally grateful that you all took the time to formulate these wonderful responses. I am relieved that no one (yet!) has flagged the plan as crazy given the ages of our kids. And yes, I see the inherent contradiction in wanting to make time, but at the same time idle off the beaten track. I love all the suggestions, especially the need to get a real map. We are going to go back to the drawing board using the tips garnered so far and see if we can lay down a beta route and will come back here to share it for some more feedback from the gurus. In the mean time, if anyone else checks in and has any further advice please go ahead and add your own take. We are very, very grateful!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Definitely not crazy.

    Feel confident that your plan is not crazy. Many, if not all of those who have responded above, have travelled with young ones. (In my case, it was five little ones... though not all little at once - lol).

    Your trip will be a success, no matter what you decide, if only because you had the foresight to discuss your plan and seek advice.

    Enjoy the planning.


  10. Default

    Back again. How about the Historic Route 66 vs I-70 which seems to be an excellent choice. Any preferences? Major differences in the experience, and drive-ability? Thanks!

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