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  1. Default Round trip, cross country road trip in Aug.

    Hi All,

    I joined this site a few months back, but this is my first time posting. I've been reading all of your great posts and thought you could give me some practical advice with our trip. If you think I'm totally nuts, tell me that too. LOL

    My daughter is heading to college in PA in August, we live in AZ, and her wish was to do a huge family road trip to get her out there. I will be traveling with my six kids (ages 7-18) solo for the majority of the trip. My husband was going to fly out when we made it to the east coast, drive and sight see out there, help move her into the dorm and then help me drive back home. The kids wanted to make this an epic journey, not a straight shot deal. Since it's summer, I've chosen to head north and then east, to avoid the high temperatures along with the high humidity.

    IF, notice the big if there ;), IF we were to do a plan as listed below, how long would it really take if you consider stopping to see attractions, hike, etc. Real days, not google map days. :) I know some of these city to city markings are really long driving days. Those were more final destination to site see rather than actual one day driving times. Feel free to let me know when/where I should stop between these big chunks of miles. Also, how long at each spot you think is a good amount of time to spend (days, hours). Imagine the drive time to get to the east coast is the entire summer, minus the two weeks at the end when she's due at the dorm, the time on the east coast is 1.5 weeks and the drive home is another week. Thanks for any and all advice! (Times and miles listed are from Google maps. I know reality is much longer. :) )

    Route East
    Phoenix to Page, AZ (Antelope Canyon was on the wish list)
    Page to SLC
    SLC to Breckenridge, CO (I headed this way because I know lodging along the Teton/Yellowstone route is already booked)
    Breckenridge - Rapid City, SD
    Rapid City - Minneapolis, MN
    Minneapolis, MN - Green Bay, WI
    Green Bay - Ottawa
    Ottawa - Quebec City
    Quebec City - Bangor ME (meet up with Hubby)
    Bangor - Boston, MA
    3,982 miles 64 hours

    Alt route
    Minneapolis - Milwaukee, WI
    Milwaukee - Chicago, IL
    Chicago - Detroit, MI
    Detroit - Buffalo, NY (still going through Canada on this route, just not as far north)
    Buffalo - Boston, MA (meet up with hubby)
    3,612 miles 55 hours

    East Coast tour
    Boston - Providence, RI
    Providence - New York, NY
    New York - Philadelphia, PA
    Philadelphia - Baltimore, MD
    Baltimore - Washington DC
    Washington DC -college in PA
    770 miles 13 hours 30 min

    Drive back west
    College in PA - Dayton, OH
    Dayton - St. Louis, MO
    St. Louis - OKC
    OKC - Albuquerque, NM
    Albuquerque - Phoenix
    2,085 miles 31 hours

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default In the Real World

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    One of the first things I do when I plan a trip of this magnitude is to simply map out the basic route and figure out how many miles are involved in the point-to-point drive from beginning to end. In your case (and using your first Route East) that's just under 7,000 miles. Then I divide by a figure of roughly 500 miles/day. That gives a total driving time of two weeks on the nose. Now, what does that mean? It means that without pushing too hard, you could drive your entire route in that amount of time. And even at that pace, you'd have time for two or three stops each day at a state or local park to get some fresh air and exercise after getting a full eight hours sleep the night before, spending an hour or so to get ready in the morning, taking time out for lunch and any necessary fuel and bathroom breaks, and still arrive at that day's destination in time for a leisurely dinner and another hour or so to get ready for bed. You can keep that up almost forever.

    Now, that just takes care of the driving, however. Time at stops is in addition but you certainly seem to have plenty of time for a family RoadTrip headed east. You say that your oldest is 18, so presumably she can help at least a little with the driving on this longer of the two legs of this trip. And even headed west, you'd only need about four and a half days at the above pace to get from State College PA (Penn State) to Phoenix, so you'd have time for a few modestly long stops on that leg as well.

    As for what to see and how long to spend at each stop, you're clearly doing an admirable job on your own so far. It's important to keep all the participants involved and invested, so make sure that each of them - even the youngest - gets to pick something that appeals to them. Get a wall map of the US and start marking out places you plan to visit and roads you might use as an aid to finding other worthwhile sites along the way - and to demonstrate when some otherwise 'perfect' place is simply too far away from everything else to be practicable. Once you finalize a basic route and/or stops, we can perhaps point out a few spots that would be worthwhile additions.

    But relax, you're doing great so far.


    BTW - You've got passports for everybody, right?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    I wouldn't completely write off Yellowstone, if you don't mind staying in West Yellowstone and going into the park each day.

    Do you all have passports for Canada, or birth certificates for the young kids? You won't get back into the US without them. Better be thinking about applying for your passports NOW if you don't have them, or take Canada off your list. A few weeks back, there was a 4-6 waiting list for the passport, plus the time between your phone call for an appointment, and the actual appointment.

    As far as your drive back to Phoenix from PA, those are good drives each day without overdoing. Recommend that you stay southwest of St Louis (Fenton, St Clair), west of OKC (such as in El Reno), and on the west side of ABQ (such as Old Town or at the Coors Rd exit) to avoid morning rush hour the next day.


  4. Default

    Thanks, and yes, I know about the passports. I need to get on that! Two of my kids have them, the rest of us don't. I know this year, in particular, is supposed to be a heavy year for passport applications. If we don't get them in time, I'll drop Canada and either travel one of the routes through the US. A friend mentioned cards, not actual passports, for US citizens to travel by car into Canada or Mexico. Do those have a faster turn around time? I imagine they are cheaper, but I'm not sure they are any faster than the passport process. Off to get head shots in the morning! :)

  5. Default

    This is very helpful, the miles driving per day. Also, a great reminder to have my 7 year old give some input since we all know the smallest ones on the trip are the most vocal! ;)

    I'm hoping to have two drivers helping with the drive east. However, if we end up renting a vehicle, that won't be possible since they will be 18 and 17 at the time of travel.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Good luck.

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    ... spending an hour or so to get ready in the morning,
    Alone with six children? If you can all have breakfast and get ready and packed in an hour..... you're better than I ever was with my five..... and a husband!

    The consensus is that Niagara Falls are best seen from the Canadian side, so for that reason alone it is worth making sure you have all that paperwork completed.

    Enjoy, sounds like a great trip.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    A friend mentioned cards, not actual passports, for US citizens to travel by car into Canada or Mexico. Do those have a faster turn around time? I imagine they are cheaper, but I'm not sure they are any faster than the passport process. Off to get head shots in the morning! :)
    The cards are a bit cheaper, but the turn-around time is about the same. You'll need official birth certificates for everybody that is applying for the passport/passport card, and of course the head shots. (If you are a CostCo member, most CostCo's do passport photos for about $5. If you allow the passport agency to do them, prepare to pay $15 per person. I used CostCo for mine, and they turned out very nice!)


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The 'Card(s)'

    The special card for crossing the border into Canada is the Nexus Card issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This is a program for expedited travel between the two countries (special lines) for people who have completed an extra level of background checks and thus qualify as trusted travelers. You have to submit a passport as part of the application process for this special card, so it makes no sense in your situation.

    Just for the record, there is a similar program for travelers to and from Mexico, SENTRI, as well as one for travel into the U.S. from anywhere, GOES. The GOES card, and maybe the other two as well, also qualify the holder for TSA pre-check lines when traveling domestically.


    Correction There is also a card, PASS, that allows for travel to and from Canada, Mexico and certain Caribbean islands. It is cheaper than a full passport but takes as long to obtain - just as Donna noted.
    Last edited by AZBuck; 04-08-2016 at 09:08 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    The Passport Card is $55 compared to the Regular Passport Book that is $135 for a first time applicant. Renewals are $25 cheaper.

    You still need all the same documents for either option, and I'm not aware of any differences in processing time - they should be about the same - and for both, you can pay extra money for faster processing. Really, the big difference is if you think you'll want to travel anywhere out of the country by plane in the next 10 years - in which case you might as well get the full passport book now.

    If you are in AAA, you get a "free" set of passport photos each year included with your membership.

    My passport is about to expire, so I've just been going through the renewal process myself.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona



    The Passport cards are really designed for people who live near the Canadian or Mexican border and cross back and forth on a regular basis. They're convenient and easy to carry (besides being a bit cheaper), but they're of limited use, since they're only valid if you're traveling by land. If you're flying to Canada or Mexico? You need the full sized passport.

    Your trip sounds like a lot of fun--great family time. One of the only destinations you were specific about was Antelope Canyon. I'm an Arizona native myself, and that beautiful spot is one of my favorite places. There are a few things you should know about it to make your experience there the best that it can be--to make sure you start out on the right foot. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I'll invite you to take a look at a post that I wrote for my blog, where I go into the differences between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, details about how the tours work, and tips for taking photographs, if you have an interest in trying your hand at that (the light is pretty tricky).

    Here's a link:

    There's also a second post, "Part 2" where I talk about those magical beams of light that you see in many of the photos of Antelope Canyon. This second link is to a gallery of light beam photos that plays like a slide show. You'll see just exactly how they do that (it's pretty cool):



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