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  1. Default MD to CA in 5 1/2 Days?

    I was very excited to find this website as I am in need of some trip planning suggestions. My sister and I have to get our kids and ourselves from Annapolis, MD to Santa Rosa, CA for our brother's wedding at the end of June 2015. Our current plan is to drive there leaving either Friday, June 12th in the afternoon or Saturday, June 13th in the morning. Ideally we would like to be in Santa Rosa, CA by lunchtime on Thursday, June 18th. Is this doable or are we crazy for even attempting it? We will be in a minivan with 2 6-year-olds, a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old. Our current trip route is 64W through West Virginia, Kentucky and St. Louis then getting on Route 80 for the rest of the trip. According to Google Maps this will take us 43 hours. Does that sound about right?

    I guess I am in need of some reassurances that this is possible and we're not biting off more than we can chew. If possible we'd like to be able to see some sites along the way but I'm just not sure where to begin looking or what places are worth stopping at.

    Any and all suggestions/ideas/tips are totally welcomed at this point! Please help a lady out and tell me where/how to begin planning a trip of this magnitude. I'm really excited but also a little nervous about the timeline we have.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Just About the Minimum

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Five and a half days is just about the minimum time required for the trip you are contemplating. That will require actually being behind the wheel for at least eight hours each and every day, not counting time taken to gas the car, feed everybody, and visits to the rest room. Remember as well that with so many people involved stops will be more frequent and each will take longer to complete as each is controlled by the slowest member of the group. Still, the trip is doable as long as you realize that you will be 'on the road' (including all necessary stops) for 13-14 hours each day. That still leaves you a good 10-11 hours in your motel room each night which should allow about an hour for everybody to wind down, then get eight hours of sleep, and still have an hour in the morning to get up, have breakfast, and get packed up. Tight but doable.

    The one thing I would caution against, however, is trying to push too far too fast on any given day. This will be a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to keep up a steady maintainable pace. That pace will really be set by what the children can stand. It will actually help to take a couple of breaks each day from driving to let them get out of the car, run around in some fresh air, and not feel like they're being held prisoner in a small moving jail. Such stops are actually quite common all along the Interstates, and I would encourage you to work out where the kids would like to stop beforehand. For that matter, working out where your nightly stops are going to be would also be a big help. That's work you can get done ahead of time rather than spending precious travel time wondering where the next motel will be with a vacancy, pool, and decent rate will be.

    Now, that will require that you decide ahead of time exactly when you're going to leave and how far down the road you'll get on the first day. To that end, I would suggest that you leave Saturday morning rather than Friday night. Instead of rushing around at the last minute and invariably leaving something behind, only to leave into the teeth of Friday night rush hour, spend Friday getting organized, packing up the car, making sure you've got everything, and then leave on Saturday morning after a good night's sleep.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Welcome to RTA!

    No, this is not crazy at all. However, you are going to have to look at this drive as work, not play. You can't really measure it in hours, you have to look at days. My software does say it's doable in 5 days, so an extra half day is a plus. A day will be 10 to 12 hours in the vehicle with brief stops for fuel, food, and bathroom.

    Your routing is not the most efficient. I show the fastest route would be I-97 to I-695 around Baltimore, then I-70 to the PA Turnpike, across OH and IN on the toll roads, and I-80 from there. At Vallejo, take CA-37 to US-101 to Santa Rosa. If you have an EZ-Pass, it works all the way across PA, OH, and IN.

    If you would like to avoid all those tolls and the Chicago metro, this modification adds about an hour:

    At Hancock MD, take I-68 to Morgantown WV, then I-79 north to I-70. Take that to Indianapolis, then I-74 to I-80.

    You will need to get up early each morning like it's a school/work day and get on the road by 8am in order to be off the road in time to check in to a hotel and get some dinner.

    Suggested overnights following my route modification and leaving bright and early Saturday AM would be Richmond IN, Des Moines IA, Cheyenne WY, and Wendover UT. This will get you there in 5 days, leaving half a day for unforeseen circumstances. If you take the toll roads, your first night should be in Fremont IN.

    Whatever you do, stop at least every 2 hours for a brief stretch and let the kids run off some steam. Switching drivers each stop would also help.

  4. Default

    These are all great suggestions, thanks very much!

    I am wondering if you might be willing to help us with our route back, please? The current plan is to leave San Francisco, CA on Wednesday, June 24th or Thursday, June 25th and be back in Annapolis on Thursday, July 2nd or Friday, July 3rd.

    Some of the sites that are must-sees for them on the way home include:

    Yosemite National Park
    Grand Canyon
    Mammoth Caves

    Any routes that you can suggest that would take us to these sites would be greatly appreciated! Thank you very much for your time and help in making our trip a success. :)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Will you be leaving from the city of SF or from Santa Rosa? This makes a big difference on how to get from there to Yosemite.

    Either way, you will be taking CA-120 into Yosemite. Leave Yosemite to the east on CA-120 over Tioga Pass. Take US-395 south to Lone Pine, then CA-136 to CA-190 through Death Valley. Leave Death Valley to the east on CA-190 to CA-127 at Death Valley Junction. Turn right, then an immediate left on Stateline Road to NV-160 at Pahrump. Take NV-160 into Las Vegas. Leave Las Vegas on US-93 over the Hoover Dam Bridge to Kingman, take I-40 to Williams (see note below) and AZ-64 into the Grand Canyon. Leave the GC on AZ-64 east to US-89. Take that north to US-160 east to Tuba City, then take AZ-264/NM-264 east to US-491 south to Gallup to I-40 east. Stay on I-40 to Nashville, then take I-65 north to Mammoth Caves.

    Leaving Mammoth, go north to Elizabethtown on I-65 then take the Bluegrass Parkway east to Lexington. Best way through Lexington is US-60 to New Circle Road, take that north to KY-922 Newtown Pike, take that north to I-64 which you will follow to Charleston, then I-79 north to Morgantown and retrace your steps home on I-68, etc.

    Note: If you have one extra hour, you can take the longest stretch of old Route 66 still in existence from Kingman to Seligman. It's signed as AZ-66/Historic US-66.

    This is the most efficient way to visit exactly what you have asked for, plus Death Valley and Las Vegas - if you have time you can certainly take detours to see other things that may interest you. You definitely have more time than on the way out, but not a LOT more time so you need to be judicious. Yosemite and the Grand Canyon by themselves need at least 1 whole day each. Death Valley is going to be HOT so this is more of a drivethrough than any exploring out of the car and it's a pretty efficient way to get from Yosemite to Las Vegas.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    You've had some good advice above. Traveling with 4 children will be an adventure! It was suggested that you stop and let the kids run periodically, which we always did when traveling with our kids. Another thing that worked beautifully was finding a motel with a pool at the end of the day. Our kids looked forward to that! Something else we did, to help our kids make those long travel days, was allow them to choose their "travel toys", and pack a small bag of them for the car, as well as to help me choose some of the snacks that we kept in the car.

    Our kids were *never* permitted to ask either "are we there yet" or "how much farther do we have to go" once they got to the age where they could add and subtract. Every day, we told our children how far we were going to travel that day (i.e. "500 miles"), and if they wanted one, we gave them a map of their own. They could ask us "how far have we gone today" and we would answer that, then *they* had to do the math. Those 9 and 11 year old children of yours can do that! Those that could do single digit math were allowed to ask how long we expected to be in the car ("10 hours") and how long we'd already been in the car, and then they had to figure out how many hours were left.

    BTW, don't rely on Google maps estimate of 43 hours. Google doesn't have 4 kids and 2 adults who will have to stop and use the potty, a van that will need fuel periodically, or 6 people who need to eat. Sometimes it knows about the construction zones and traffic issues, but often, it does not. It assumes you can keep going at the speed limit and never slow down! At 2900 miles, that's 5 full days at almost 600 miles per day -- a good 12-14 hours, depending on your stops.

    With two families to accommodate, and the need for more than one hotel room or finding a suite to fit all of you, you would probably do well to reserve something ahead of time, using the stops that GLC suggested, above. To find something in your price range, you can do a Google search for "lodging in XXXX, XX". Or, if you already have a favorite chain that you like, you could go to their website and look. My husband and I like the Wyndham chain, which includes Super 8. We've also stayed in a few Choice properties, which includes the Quality Inn and Suites.


  7. Default

    Thanks very much, this is all great info for us to use as we plan our trip home!

    They will be leavning from Santa Rosa, CA as opposed to San Francisco. Not sure if this will affect travel to Yosemite.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Yes, that makes a difference. Take US-101 south to CA-116 east to CA-12 east to CA-99 south to CA-120 east. Figure about 5 hours.

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