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  1. Default Michigan to Seattle with One Driver & Two Kids O_o

    Hi all, I'm really excited to find this website full of wise and experienced roadtrippers! I have done a few trips, but on my own when I was younger. Now I'm older, and have a couple of wee beasties tagging along, so I am dialing back my daily driving expectations.

    I am planning a trip from Northville, MI area to Seattle, WA for my nephew's wedding July 30. I will be doing all the driving because the husband a) has to work, and b) isn't as brave and/or crazy as I am. Instead, he will fly out for a few days for the wedding. Along for the fun will be my two kids, 9 & 12. I have planned out the trip, and would love to hear the advice/comments of seasoned travellers. I have reservations made for the trip out, but they are changeable if I've made a horrible mistake.

    Starting in Northville, MI, these are my stops with miles/rounded hours (I do realize the computer time guestimate needs to be increased by at least 20% for traffic/potty breaks/snacks/separating fighting kids):

    7/18: Davenport, IA (413/6.5)
    7/19: Sioux Falls, SD (448/7)
    7/20: Rapid City, SD (348/5) - direct route, doesn't include a drive to De Smet (may save for return) and a drive through part of the Badlands.
    7/21: Cody, WY (380/6)
    7/22: Bozeman, WY (205/3.5) - direct route, doesn't include a "quick" drive through Yellowstone. I did read other threads about the realities of the parks, 30 mph, animals, parked cars blocking the road, etc. I have friends who live/work/volunteer in the park and they are helping me plan how to see at least a couple of things. I have limited mobility so we will only be able do short accessible walks, but I am happy to see anything!
    7/23: Coeur D'Alene, ID (366/5.5)
    7/24: Seattle, WA (306/4.5)

    The return (no hotels reserved yet):
    8/2: Coeur D'Alene, ID (366/5.5)
    8/3: Billings, MT (508/7.5) - too ambitious?
    8/4: Rapid City, SD (316/5) - through De Smet if we didn't go on the way out
    8/5: Sioux City, IA (429/6)
    8/6: Peru, IL (449/6.5) - seems like an odd place to stop, but I'm using the husband's free hotel nights from his work trips. :)
    8/7: Home (334/5.5)

    Start and end dates are firm, as is the 8/2 departure for home. The return trip seems hard to figure out, probably because I'm doing it in six days instead of seven. Should I take another route? What else should we see? Are we trying to do too much? I really appreciate any advise and suggestions y'all can offer!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default good start, but a change recommended

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you've got an excellent start for your plan. All of your drives are very reasonable and will leave you a nice amount of time to make stops and explore things along the way.

    Having said that, I strongly recommend you look at using a different route back. Your return trip will be taking place just as the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will be getting underway. That means you're going to find a lot of extra traffic on I-90, and hotels and all of the attractions in Western South Dakota are going to be packed.

    I generally recommend taking a different route each way, if possible, anyway, just so you can see different things, but there is some extra importance this time.

    For alternative routes back, you've got two easy options. You could take I-94 across North Dakota - going right past Teddy Roosevelt NP and through Minneapolis on your way back to I-90 in WI. Otherwise, you could head southeast out of Washington on I-82/I-84 to Utah, and then take I-80 across Wyoming and Nebraska. Either route would still be very possible on your timeline.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Other Options

    As Michael pointed out, you really don't want to be anywhere along I-90 in the upper Plains at any time in early August, and it's always a good idea (time permitting) to take two different routes out and back on a RoadTrip so as to maximize the number of new adventures included in your trip. You certainly have plenty of time for your drives in both directions, so at the risk of overwhelming you with choices, I'm going to lay out two possible alternatives to the basic I-90 route through South Dakota. I'll describe them both west-bound but you can, of course take any route (including the I-90 route) in either direction.

    The first, as Michael noted would be to simply use I-94 through North Dakota instead. That is certainly a good choice. I would suggest that if you choose it as one of your routes that you look at going north over the top of Lake Michigan instead of around the south and through Chicago (shudder!). Just take I-75 up to Mackinaw City, cross the bridge onto the UP and take US-2 to Engadine, MI-117 up to MI-28 along the southern shore of Lake Superior. This would give you access to Pictured Rocks and Apostle Islands National Lakeshores and reconnect with US-2 to Duluth. From there MN-210/US-10 would take you through the Land of 10,000 Lakes to Fargo and I-94 which eventually rejoins I-90 at Billings MT taking you the rest of the way to Seattle.

    The other alternative route would have you heading for Chicago but then taking I-80 west through Iowa and Nebraska (where it follows the route of the old Oregon Trail). Then at Salt Lake City, you'd pick up I-84 northwest into Oregon and finish the drive on I-82/I-90 into Seattle. This route gives you the option of taking a relatively short detour in northeastern Colorado to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Neither of those alternatives is too much longer than the shortest, I-90 route. The first alternative is about 50 miles longer and the second is about 150 miles longer - on a drive that is 2300 miles long. That's a small price to pay to avoid all the motorcycle traffic, and full motel rooms, on I-90 before and after the Sturgis Rally. Where you would stop at the end of each day would depend on which route you used in which direction and how many days you were devoting to that leg's drive, but there really aren't any long stretches of no travelers' services on either route. There are also plenty of places for quick stops to let the beasties blow off steam.

    As you plan, keep an eye on how many national parks and/or monuments you plan to visit and what the entry fees are. If it looks like you're going to be spending $80 or more on entry fees, then plan on purchasing an annual parks pass ($80) at the first one you come to. The rangers and guides at the park visitor centers are have a wealth of information on short hikes and age-appropriate activities as well as the latest info on any wildlife movements, use them. And plan to sign your kids up for the Junior Ranger Program at each and every park. This will give them some things to do to help them learn about the park and earn them some very nice (free!) souvenirs.


  4. #4


    If one of your kids is a 4th grader, definitely explore the "Every Kid in the Park" website, which is encouraging all 4th graders to get out and see our National Parks, for FREE! (along w/those who accompany them).

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