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  1. Default Pennsylvania to Arizona, north and south routes

    This is a first time family road trip (with our kids). Our children will be 2 and 8 at the time of our trip next summer. Looking for suggested routes and attractions. We are traveling for a brief stay with family in Arizona, so we are anticipating several stops along the way. How many days should we plan for driving one way? Planning for a 2-3 week trip overall. We have comfortably driven 5 hours to the beach this summer, so we were hoping for about 4-5 days of travel one way, our short stay with family, then traveling back home in another 4-5 days. In our route, it would be ideal to travel south there, then take a northern route home, or vice versa. We have an annual pass to national parks, any suggestions on which ones to really aim for? Anything that would keep children happy is a must! We aren't looking to spend a lot of money on attractions, though. If you've ever traveled with children, any advice is gladly appreciated! I know two weeks is a very short time to cram all of this into, but we are at least being realistic in knowing that every day will require 1-2 attractions.

    Thanks in advance for any advice!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Where in PA and where in AZ? Regardless, you are looking at 4 days each way going by fastest route and in the car for at least 10 hours a day. This only accounts for brief stops for bathroom, fuel, and lunch. Any sightseeing or alternate routes will add more days. I think you need to plan on 3 weeks to do any meaningful sightseeing, at least a week each way, if not more.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    If you've ever traveled with children, any advice is gladly appreciated!
    Welcome to RTA! Most of the regulars on here have either road-traveled with their own children, traveled as children, or both. Some of us have even traveled with our grandchildren. That said...

    With the older one especially, get him vested in the trip. 8 year olds are Internet savvy these days, and perhaps can look up something for you about it. When you stop at a national park, be sure to enroll him in the Junior Ranger program. He will then be looking for things, sketching them out, and doing something educational (just call it "fun" though) instead of answering, "yeah, Mom, I see that."

    When you are actually on the road, you can give him the mileage you expect to drive that day, and how many hours. Have him pack a small backpack or tote with some of his favorite small playthings for the car. Teach him to play some of the car games such as "I spy...." or the Alphabet game (you find something out the window that begins with A, then B, then C, and so forth). Get him a smartphone version of Car Bingo. All of these will get him to look out the car window and see something of the country. Parents vary on their feelings about onboard DVD players, so use your own judgement about that.

    As for the 2 year old -- my daughter just got back home from a 3600 mile round trip from MO to CA, with her husband and two small ones. She stated that the DVD player kept both of hers (age 3-1/2 and less than 1 year old) occupied, as did lots of little toys. The baby slept a lot, but the older one didn't.

    Oh, and try to find a motel at night with a pool (or a playground nearby). As a child, I loved it when my folks found an RV park with a pool, so when we were raising our kids, motels or RV parks with pools were a hit too. My daughter even used that as an incentive with her 3-1/2 year old, who got really excited!

    As for your trip -- I would be asking the same questions that GLC asked. No matter where in PA you start or where you end in AZ, you are looking at 4-5 long days on the highway. These won't be 5-6 hour days, but around 10 hours. No matter what Google or Mapquest tells you, a 500 mile day will take you around 9-10 hours, especially with kids.


    Donna

  4. Default

    Pittsburgh, PA area to Gilbert, AZ (not far from Phoenix). We are really pushing for 3 weeks now, after doing some more research.

    Thanks! 10 hours a day in a car is doable, but we may add a day or two for specific sightseeing, where our travel time won't be an issue.

  5. Default

    I'll have to look into the Junior Ranger Program, thanks! I think he will be the easier one to deal with the trip. I know that even when stopping for gas, it's good to get the kids out to run around a little and play ball or something. Get that energy out as much as we can! The finger toys and snacks in the car will only occupy them for so long I figure :(

    I'll have to grab a portable DVD player, great idea!

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 07-24-2015 at 10:26 AM. Reason: Removed Quote of Entire Previous Post

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

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    I will warn against using a DVD player.

    I'm not saying you shouldn't ever use it, but way too many people basically use electronics as a tool to "drug" their kids on a roadtrip. It's true, a kid is less likely to fuss if their eyes are focused on a screen, but at that point, they also missing out on seeing the great big world around them. Stopping frequently, along with some basic toys and games, and paper for coloring and drawing are great ways to help them break up the trip without becoming numb to it.

    We generally limit screen time on the road, to about 1 movie a day - which waits until the end of the day, if we'll be traveling into the evening.

    As a practical matter, you can probably get a small tablet for the same price as a portable dvd player, which might be a bit easier to use, and be more versitile for your trip.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Routes and Stops

    Seems we never did get around to answering your initial questions regarding possible routes and places to stop along the way out to Phoenix and back. It is certainly possible to take two completely different routes west and east bound, but as others have pointed out four days would be the minimum time required for a steady drive straight through with minimal stops. And even five days would still only allow you a modest detour from the shortest path and a couple of hours each day to visit an attraction. So clearly if you can gather up a full three weeks for this trip, you would then be in a better position to turn the drive into more of an adventure and still have a week or so in Glendale with family. With that in mind, some possibilities...

    The 'Short' Route. This is the most direct route available and the one that takes the least amount of time. It is the only one that could possibly be driven safely in only four days. It's essentially I-70 to St. Louis, I-44 to Oklahoma City, and I-40 west from there to Holbrook AZ and then dropping down into the Phoenix area using AZ-377/AZ-260/AZ-87. Major stops along the way might include the Arch in St. Louis, Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo, Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, and Petrified Forest National Park. But note that if you need to drive even this route in only four days, you have no time for any of those stops.

    The 'Northern' Route. This is about 250 miles longer than the direct route. You'd still take I-70 to Indianapolis, but there you'd switch over to I-74 to Champaign IL, I-72 to Hannibal MO, and US-36 across northern Missouri. Then I-29 up to I-80 across Nebraska to I-76 down into Denver. Finally, I-70 across the Rockies into Utah, US-191 south into Arizona and US-163/US-160/US-89/I-17 into Phoenix. Major attractions on this route are Lincoln sites in Illinois, Mark Twain and Molly Brown sites in Hannibal, landmarks of the Oregon Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches National Park, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon.

    The 'Southern' Route. This is also roughly 250 miles longer than the direct route. Take I-79 south out of Pittsburgh and I-64 west to Lexington KY. Next use the Blue Grass Parkway to I-65 south and Nashville where I-40 to Little Rock, I-30 to Dallas/Fort Worth, and then I-20/I-10 will get you the rest of the way to Phoenix. Highlights of this route would be Mammoth Caves National Park, Memphis, the Sixth Floor Museum, Saguaro National Park, and maybe the Pima Air and Space Museum.

    Any of the three routes can be driven either west or east bound, ad there are certainly more things to see and do along each of them than the few highlights that I've listed. but keep in mind that the more you want to do on your drives, the longer those drives w2ill take.

    AZBuck

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

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    AZBuck, they're going to Gilbert (East Valley) rather than Glendale (West Valley). :-)

    It's essentially I-70 to St. Louis, I-44 to Oklahoma City, and I-40 west from there to Holbrook AZ and then dropping down into the Phoenix area using AZ-377/AZ-260/AZ-87.
    Here's a slightly different way from Holbrook that will land you closer to Gilbert: AZ-77 from Holbrook down to Show Low. Catch US-60 from Show Low all the way into the East Valley. These are very scenic, too, to the route AZBuck suggested, just in a different way. Between Show Low and Globe is the Salt River Canyon. You also cross a lot of Native American land (Apache tribe). If memory serves, there's either a rest area, picnic area, or viewpoint in the Salt River Canyon area.


    Donna (Former 'Zonie)

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

    Default

    Donna,

    To those of us in Baja Arizona, it's all just 'Phoenix'.

    AZBuck

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    You can go either way - AZ-87 goes right into Gilbert. I have driven the 77/377/277/260/87 route, it's very scenic and you can make good time. A trucker told me about it at a rest stop in NM, said that it cuts 30 minutes off taking I-40 to Flagstaff then I-17 to Phoenix.

    My software says that 77/60 through Show Low is 30 minutes slower than going through Payson if you are going to Gilbert.

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