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  1. Default First road trip! Mpls to Seattle return Portland to Mpls

    We are embarking on our first road trip with three older children who are very used to 5 hour+ trips each direction to our cabin and we're sure we could add a couple of hours per day to that if needed. We are leaving from Mpls heading to the west coast with 12 days. I'm thinking we could do 3-4 days each direction and have 4-5 days to split between the Seattle and Portland (1 day at the coast) areas before heading back to Mpls. I realize it is a very tight timeline but the goal is to get to the PNW area, the bonus would be to see a few highlights on the way there and back to give us an idea of future trips we'd like to plan. We will do Yellowstone as a separate trip next year or in the fall. I'm especially overwhelmed with how to plan for hotel stops ahead of time. I'd love suggestions for the one thing to see in each state on our drive through NDakota, Montana, Idaho on the way. I'm not sure what our return route should/could be so I'd love help with highlights we could see there. We are going into this with eyes wide open that we will be scratching the tip of the iceberg of travel but hope it opens the door to many more trips. We love hikes/parks/nature as opposed to tourist attractions.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I'd recommend you try to spend at least 3.5 days each way for this trip. You could probably do it in 3, but it really wouldn't give you enough time to really stop anywhere and make it an enjoyable trip for the kids. That 3rd overnight will make it much easier to include some hiking and exploration each day.

    I'd also recommend looking for different routes each direction - at the very least taking I-90 one direction and I-94 the other, but you could think about getting off the freeway some too. For example, you might take I-94 across ND and then get onto 2 lane roads like US-2 across Montana. That would take you past Teddy Roosevelt NP in ND and then Glacier NP in MT.

    Of course, there are also lots of state parks that can be great hidden gems that provide a great break from the road. Here's a place to find some ideas... but you'll find even more state parks and similar options just by looking at a good map. Of course, the RTA Map Center is also a great place to find stopping points right along your route.

    As far as hotels, what are your questions? With the exception of Western North Dakota, where there is an oil boom limiting options, and if you travel through National Parks, you really shouldn't need to make reservations.

  3. Default

    Thank you! When I mapquest the route I only get the I90 and I94 options so I hoped there was a route that might take us nearer some other options! I'll look for US 2. I haven't quite figured out how to use the roadtripamerica maps yet but I'm working on it! We have stacks of books about each state from the library and have had so much fun familiarizing ourselves with landmarks so we have some ideas now I just need to coordinate those with highways and roads for each stop! Obviously, I've never done this before so I have a lot to learn. I also need to pick some stopping points so that I can figure out miles/distance between each one for time planning, also new to me.

    As far as hotels... do you mean that we could head out with 5 of us and find a room to stay in for the night randomly/on the road? That idea never even occurred to me. I can not decided if that seems more or less stressful than trying to plan/book hotel/motels along the way! The only hotel I'm positive I need/want to book soon is an oceanside room on the Oregon coast near Manzanita/Rockaway beach.

    I forgot to mention that we are thinking of doing the trip this mid-July but will take advice to do it sooner or later during the summer if there are outstanding benefits to a specific month/time period.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    The "mapquest options" are a big reason that we don't recommend ever planning a trip based exclusively on computer programs. It's fine to use them as a suggestion or a starting point, but they can never replace your own brain to come up with the best plan.

    Making hotel reservations is usually a matter of personal preference over need. Unless you've got an unusual high-demand situation, it's rare to find an area where hotels are filled to capacity. Along the interstates, every city of any size (even places that would otherwise be considered small towns) has a variety of hotel options to pick from. But if you'd rather know where you'll be staying at the end of the night, that's ok too.

    Mid-July through Mid-August is generally peak travel season pretty much everywhere in the US. That's not necessarily a problem, but it is the reality of the situation. You might see somewhat smaller crowds and lower prices in some areas in June, but it might not be enough to make it worth your while to change your plans.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default The Drive Will Be the Trip

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    I'm glad to see that you realize that you will be a lot of driving for the relatively small pay-off in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, you're probably looking at closer to four days each way and only four days on the coast, and even those middle four days will entail a fair bit of driving to cover the ground from Seattle to Portland. With that in mind, you should be looking to make the est use of your drive time and not just use it a means to get from Point A to Point B.

    Basically, you are looking at I-94/I-90 out and I-84/US-12/I-90 back, although you could of course reverse the direction of your loop. Along the Interstates there are multiple opportunities for relatively short stops of an historic, scenic, or recreational sort and you should plan to make the maximum use of such smaller stops to break up each day's drive. As I said, I think you should devote four full days to the drives out and back and see some of the major attractions such as Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Also keep in mind that both your routes will follow and/or crisscross the trail blazed by Lewis and Clark, so there will be ample 'teachable moments' on this trip, particularly at their western terminus Fort Clatsop outside Astoria OR.

    As for where to stop each night, you should probably pre-book your accommodations since you may need a couple of rooms each night and certainly don't want to waste precious travel time looking for a place that meets your needs. Along the northern route three evenly spaced overnights would have you stopping in Bismark ND, Winnett MT, and St Regis MT. Along the southern route, look at Kooskia ID, Billings MT, and Presho SD. Note that your stops are spaced farther apart on the southern leg because it takes longer to drive between Portland and Minneapolis than it does between Seattle and Minneapolis.

    Finally, while we can (and will) give you suggestions for what to see, the people you should really get input from are the "three older children". Get them some good paper maps of the states you'll be driving though - an atlas of the US would be perfect - and mark out the basic routes. Then let them find sites that they'd like to see along the way. Maybe even have them do a little research on them and act as tour guides for their favorites.

    AZBuck

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Maps and more.

    Quote Originally Posted by afunhouse View Post
    Thank you! When I mapquest the route I only get the I90 and I94 options so I hoped there was a route that might take us nearer some other options! I'll look for US 2. I haven't quite figured out how to use the roadtripamerica maps yet but I'm working on it! We have stacks of books about each state from the library and have had so much fun familiarizing ourselves with landmarks so we have some ideas now I just need to coordinate those with highways and roads for each stop! Obviously, I've never done this before so I have a lot to learn. I also need to pick some stopping points so that I can figure out miles/distance between each one for time planning, also new to me.
    Probably by far the best thing you can do to answer all those points you mention, is get hold of some good paper maps. If you are a member of AAA, go pick up their maps. (If you are not a member, it may pay to join before the trip.) Get a detailed map of each State you will be traversing, as well as one of the US. Then, while reading the books, mark the maps. It will give you a greater perspective of where one attraction is in relation to another. It will also give you a balance for sightseeing each day, and automatic stopping points along the way. You are going to need good paper maps on the road, so may as well get them now and make the planning a little easier. The computer will help you figure out distances.

    Quote Originally Posted by afunhouse View Post
    As far as hotels... do you mean that we could head out with 5 of us and find a room to stay in for the night

    Here's a site you may find helpful.


    Lifey

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