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  1. #1

    Default Mom with well behaved 5-year-old & 9 year-old driving from Alexandria, VA to So Cal?

    Hello. Is this a doable idea? This is my first time on this forum. I have a trip idea and I'm wanting advice to make it a good idea. I'm not sure it is a good idea right now. I'm thinking about driving from my house in Alexandria, VA to my parents house in So Cal and taking 14 days to do it, starting in Mid-July. It would be just me and my 6 year old boy and 9 1/2 year old girl. I would be driving a 2004 Honda Odyssey with 105,000 miles on it. We would stay with friends along the way in Canton, Ohio; Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City. We would then drive from KC to Fort Collins, over 2 days I'm thinking (we have friends there). Last haul would be CO to San Bernardino area (So Cal). We would then spend 3 weeks in CA with my parents. Then my husband would fly CA and we would take 16 days to drive back to our home in Alexandria, VA going a more Northern route through Bryce National Park, Arches National Park, then to Yellowstone and WI (friends in Little House area near La Crosse), and then back to Alexandria, VA. Am I crazy? We could just fly both ways but I've been wanting to do a road trip for a long time. My husband can't take off 7 weeks from work. But he could do the drive back with us and he would do all the driving. I'm trying to think creatively about how to do this trip. My children are well behaved and we have a really fun time together. Would love thoughts on this.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Big Picture

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Is this trip doable? Absolutely. Will your kids enjoy it? I would certainly bet on it. Perhaps I'm prejudiced, but it's a prejudice born of experience. In my own childhood, we would alternate vacations between one year going to the Delaware shore and he other year taking a RoadTrip from Delaware to Wisconsin to visit relatives. I preferred the RoadTrips. My mom would also make those drives as a solo driver and from a very young age I served as her 'navigator', keeping track of where we were, how far to the next turn or stop, etc. Now my wife and I take our grandsons on a 'mystery vacation' every other year. These have also alternated between RoadTrips and flying to our destination. Their favorites: the RoadTrips.

    Your westbound plan is perfectly feasible, if all your friends en route are onboard with your visiting. Up until Kansas City, all your day's drives are in the 250-350 mile range which allows you both time for a few quick stops each day as well as getting to your friends' homes early enough to actually spend some time with them. Between Kansas City and Fort Collins (650 miles) and between Fort Collins and San Bernardino (1050 miles) you'll need at least one overnight stop, maybe even two between FC and SB to maintain your ~300 mi/day pace.

    As you continue to plan, I'd encourage you to get the kids involved. Put up a nice wall-sized map of the US somewhere and mark your basic route(s) on it. Let them suggest places along those routes that they'd like to see besides the big obvious ones. They might surprise you with some good choices, and having the stops be something that they chose rather than just what mom and dad say they're going to do will make them more invested and interested in those stops. One change you might want to make early is to drop south from Fort Collins and include Petroglyph National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, and the Grand Canyon, on your way between Fort Collins and San Bernardino (another reason to take three days on this leg, if possible).

    The other thing you should do before you depart is to get your car thoroughly inspected by a mechanic you trust. Far better to find (and fix) any issues with it while you're still at home rather than getting stranded on the road and at the mercy of whoever comes out to tow you in.

    At the first national park or monument you stop at, be sure to buy an annual pass. This will be good for any entrance fees at any parks in the system for you and everyone in your car. At $80, it is a true bargain, especially with all the parks already on your itinerary. The other great deal at our national parks and monuments is the Junior Ranger Program. This is FREE and will give your kids some age-appropriate activities to perform that will help them to get more out of their visits and upon completion will earn them some very nice souvenirs such as badges and certificates.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    The other thing you should do before you depart is to get your car thoroughly inspected by a mechanic you trust. Far better to find (and fix) any issues with it while you're still at home rather than getting stranded on the road and at the mercy of whoever comes out to tow you in.
    Honda makes excellent cars. I will add something to what AZBuck suggested above. If you don't already have a AAA membership, this would be a great time to get one. Get the best membership so it has a little more towing, if you possibly can. (Or if you already have AAA, consider upgrading if you haven't already.) The other nice thing about AAA is that you can get maps and tour books for your trip.

    Your older child can be taught to be a great navigator. I learned to read a road map when I was about that age, and often insisted on having a map of my own. (My parents would give me the one they got from the state tourism department and use the AAA map for themselves.)

    Is your 9 year old a 4th grader (or about to be)? You can get a free national park pass - here's the link.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Still with the children....

    All the grandparents chiming in here.

    Both your children are old enough to keep a journal. Buy them a special book for this, so they can keep it. At the end of each day they can record their most memorable moments of the day. this can be in words, drawings, stubs from tickets or a leaf picked up along the way. Photos can be added later.

    My grandchildren have many of these journals from the trips they have been on. They are wonderful to look back on in years to come, and also a great item for 'show and tell' at school.

    We would love it if you too could keep a commentary on your trip to let us know how it all went. We have a special forum for these reports which gives a little feedback to the members, and helps new members planning their trips to see what others did and saw.


  5. #5


    From my experience, I recommend remove or fold down one or both center row seats in minivan, this reconfiguration will give kids big leg space and wont feel cramped on long trips. Other option is to fold down small sectional back seat and push back one of middle seat for extra leg space. The seat reconfiguration make it like a nice space in minivan where passengers can move about and also can be good for relaxing during rest area breaks for driver.

    Minivans are one of the best vehicles for long trips. The only negative is MPGs may not be as good as small car but ride/comfort is big plus.

  6. Default

    We often removed the middle row and slid the third row forward. It was great! Left lots of leg room and avoided the cramped in feeling a long trip can cause. Like being in a limo! There is still plenty of storage room behind the seats.

  7. #7


    For this long of a trip. I would also look in to getting new tires from SAMS/COSTCO, in case the current tires may be closer to needing replacements. Look in to Odyssey forums for best tires recommendations for your Odyssey. 105K miles are fine, recommend you take van to dealer for full synthetic oil change and 100K service as it's a long trip...

    If vehicle does not have GPS installed, get a latest in-dash GPS system that will come handy. Amazon sells JENSEN brand for under $300 and local best-buy or Car-Toys can install it for around $150+parts.

  8. #8

    Default Thank you from AlexandriaMAMA - new idea is to figure out how to do a 1 way trip

    Thank you to all the responses! I am so appreciative! I am still thinking about doing this trip with a new iteration. I only want to drive one way (which would be SoCal to Alexandria, VA). I realized if our family drives both ways, I won't have enough time to see my parents (the grandparents) in CA. We only see them once a year and I don't want to shorten the time with them. I would really appreciate suggestions on an economical way to do a one-way drive or how to economically get our minivan from Alexandria, VA to SoCal without me driving it. Our family would then do the drive back and go to Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Mt. Rushmore.

    Thank you so much!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Getting Your Car Moved

    There are a few options for getting your car from DC to L.A. There are commercial driveaway services (just do a web search on the term 'driveaway'). Typically, these services match people who want their car moved with people looking for a way to get somewhere. It will help that you want your vehicle moved between two large metropolitan areas. These services usually carry their own insurance.

    Another option is to place ads in local college newspapers looking for students willing to do the same thing. This is often cheaper (free!), as you're just swapping the ride for the transport, but insuring the move will be up to you and I'd recommend that you check with your insurer to see what you're covered for.

    My wife and I have used both of the above options with good results. The only problem we had was that when we contracted a commercial service, the driver they placed in our car was a smoker and it took a week or so to get the smell out of the car. But in both cases the car was delivered safely and on time.

    However, in both cases we were moving cross country and drove one of our cars while having the other one delivered, so we were never without a car. In your case there is going to be a period of roughly five days where you won't have your car. If you've got two cars at home, you should probably get the transport started early and have your car in L.A. when you arrive, making the best of it with one car. If this is your only car you can either rely on your parents' car in L.A. or send your own car westward early and use a local rental for the days before your flight.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 03-15-2016 at 10:50 AM. Reason: Typos

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