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  1. Default NJ to grand canyon, rushmore, then home, first big family road trip-need HELP!

    Trying to plan one epic family road trip right before my oldest leaves for college. We will be driving a minivan, leaving from OC, NJ in early August, and want to take possibly Rt 40 (southern route so we dont retrace our path on the way home) to Grand Canyon, then up to Mt. Rushmore (possibly including yellowstone) then back home with a stop in Pittsburgh, avoiding Chicago. We are trying to do this as time efficiently as possible, while still having stops for little fun things. The best hotels for us are two double beds and a pull out sofa, free breakfast (we can do some serious damage, they are good at eating a big breakfast), and a pool so they can run off steam after a long day of driving. Single parent, Kids are 18, 13, 8, 4, and 2. Any and all suggestions about fun stops, good inexpensive places to eat, reasonable amounts to drive each day, affordable but nice places where we could stay (esp. near national parks), etc. would be so appreciated. We would be on a very tight budget, so cost is a concern. Really need some experienced guidance here. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Budget and time have to work together.

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    With the size of the group and the need to take regular stops and let off steam for the Kid's, I would recommend no more than 400 miles per day, but you could extend it to a maximum of 550 miles occasionally. Travelling in the height of the holiday season with a large group and staying around National parks is going to be tough on budget and the longer you are on the road the more it will cost. You need to work that out with the budget you are planning and see how it fits in with your plans. Driving 400 miles a day would require the best part of 2 weeks just to get around including Yellowstone, so you really are looking at a minimum of 3 weeks for the trip.

    You really need to do a little research and see what else appeals, work with the time you think you may have and then see if you can make it fit. You could look to see if there are any cabins that might fit your requirements and you can 'search Roadtrip Motels' in the link on the right of each page to see if family suites are available. As you move forward with the planning we are happy to answer any specific questions.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Probably the single most important thing you didn't mention is how much time you have available? That's of particular concern when you talk about time efficient as being a primary factor. Not including time to actually stop and see anything, you're looking at 10-11 days on the road just to cover the miles. I think 2.5 weeks would be about the minimum time you'd want to take, and that would go up to at least 3 weeks if you decide to include Yellowstone into the mix.

    A reasonable distance to cover in a day in would be up to 500 miles. Factoring the size of your group, that's going to take you about 10 hours before you make any stops beyond the bare minimums. If you want to do any more than making short stops at minor attractions along the way, then you'll need to plan to cover even fewer miles in a day.

    Your plans are far too vague right now to provide much in the way of specifics in terms of exactly where to stay or eat, but I will say you will have to do a fair amount of preplanning to find the kinds of motels rooms you are looking for - especially in an affordable price range. When looking to stay near the National Parks, you'll generally find the cheapest prices in larger towns outside of the park when you'll have a significant commute. For the Grand Canyon, that would mean Flagstaff or Williams (both about an hour away) and for Mt. Rushmore, that likely means Rapid City or maybe Custer.

  4. Default

    I appreciate the info- knowing how far in miles that is feasible to shoot for per day is helpful. I cannot find ANY search feature that allows me to search for hotels that will sleep 5 or 6. If I could find a way to search that and free breakfast, then with the anticipated mileage per day and the planned route would be possible to work out. All the,, etc do not let me search. Even if a certain hotel chain has a room with what we need at one location we have been to-the next hotel in the same chain may not. In the past I have had to call a number of hotels in each town (when I knew we were staying in a specific town) to find one. On a trip this scale that is not possible.

    If we tried to make a straight run from NJ to Mt Rushmore (spend a day or two), and then San Francisco (spend a day) to ?maybe seattle, and return-without a second driver and driving respectable but not insane death distances per day, any ball park what time required might be? I know these are general questions, but I need some idea by experience of what is do-able. We are good about minimal bathroom stops and eating lunch in the car, etc. Last dumb question-I promise.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I don't have a good answer for you in terms of hotels, other than to continue doing what you've been doing. You might try searching for all-suite hotels, which are most likely to have the configuration that you're looking for.

    The 500-550 mile/day recommendation was already a maximum, especially considering the size of your group. 600 miles a day is an absolute maximum distance you should consider on any multiple day trip on, because of safety concerns - that's also roughly the maximum professional drivers are allowed to travel in a day because of safety laws - and that assumes interstate highways.

    In other words, you're looking at 3 days to get to Mt. Rushmore, at least 2.5 more days to San Francisco, another day and a half to Seattle, and then 5 days to get back to NJ. Those are bare minimums thinking only about safety, and not even considering the enjoyment or lack-there-of of your kids.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Focus on the children.

    What Michael has laid out for you is doable..... but the emphasis there is on the DOABLE! As he says, it will not be enjoyable, likely putting the children off roadtrips for life. For them it will be a most memorable trip for all the wrong reasons.

    Your first post asked for fun stops for the children, and I urge you to still schedule them into your trip, even if you only end up covering only a fraction of the miles per day mentioned above. Make it a family roadtrip which will be memorable for all the right reasons, and which will make the children look forward to the next roadtrip.

    Virtually every small town along the way has some fun thing worth stopping for, especially for the young ones. With our five we never travelled before 8am and always stopped by 4pm, trying to have a day off driving after three days. Trips, the now adults, still recall.


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