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  1. Default West to East Coast with kids over 3 weeks

    Hi guys. We will be leaving LA, CA on July 6th with a goal destination of NYC. We have 3 kids with us and will be renting a minivan and flying back home. On our itinerary is Grand Canyon, visiting family in TN and going to Great Smokyís NP, then proceeding to visit more family in Maryland and then taking a bus to NYC for 4 days. How to survive this trip with kids, ages 15, 8, 5. We will have 3 longest driving days: AZ to TX, TX to TN and TN to MD. They will average in 10 hr driving days. I am so scared. What to pack, how to pack for such trips. How to book hotels for overnight when we donít know where we will stop exactly. Please help

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,749

    Default

    Hi, Julia, welcome to RTA! No need to be scared, we'll start with the basics.

    Ten hours in a mini-van with three kids will get you about 500 miles a day. Have the kids each pack a small backpack or satchel with small things that will keep them entertained. (You may have to help the 5 year old.) Visit dollar stores and pick up a few "treats" for good behavior and no whining (if they're anything like my own kids were). Make sure that they know the rules, mainly, seatbelts must be on (5 year old is probably still in a car seat?), and when the car stops at a rest area or restaurant, EVERYONE must "try" to go to the bathroom. That way you shouldn't get 5 miles down the road and have a plaintive, "I gotta go!" from the back seat. Hopefully, anyway.

    Packing for a trip. Start making a list. On our Gear Up forum we have a basic list started to help you out. Clothes, toiletries, electronics (and chargers!), sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, etc. Tell each child (and adult) what the suitcase will be and to stick to what can fit in there.

    Finding hotels. There are two schools of thought. One is to "wing it" and grab hotels where they may be. This may not suit your temperament or your budget, however. You can try to rely on coupon deals (coupon booklets can be found at state visitor centers or at truck stops/travel centers) and hope that you can get the rooms when you arrive.

    Or, you can figure out using Google Maps, what's a good place to stop. Grand Canyon -- if you don't have a place already at GCNP, you can stay in Williams, AZ (an hour from the GC), Tusayan (right outside the park border), or Cameron (outside the border on the eastern end). Do a search under "lodging Williams, AZ" (or wherever).

    About 525 miles from Williams is Tucumcari, NM -- loads of lodging there. LOADS! Don't even think about getting to Amarillo. It's almost 650 miles from Williams (more if you're coming from Tusayan or the GC rim) and the kids will be ready to revolt. There is no way you can do 650 miles in 10 hours, and besides -- you have two hours to lose between AZ and TX. (AZ is on the same time zone as CA at this time of year, so you change time zones in NM and then again in TX.)

    About 525 miles from Tucumcari is Sallisaw, OK, which has a number of lodging places. I've stayed there before, at a Days Inn once (tiny rooms) and at the Super 8 (OK, and it has a pool). There are some decent places to eat, too -- try Shad's Catfish Hole about 7 miles south of Sallisaw.

    As for how to book, most places will allow you to book online. My hubby and I stayed in quite a few Wyndham properties one year and earned a free night on the way back, and another year, we stayed in a lot of Choice properties and did the same thing. This year's trip will be mostly Choice properties (Quality Inn, Econo Lodge, Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn), because we just plain like them better.

    If you need some more help, please ask. We aim to help -- we were all newbies at one time!


    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,461

    Default Rule #1

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    If you want your children (and therefore you) to enjoy this trip, you're going to have to adhere to Rule #1, which is simply: Keep the children happy. That means: No ten hours a day in the car (Rule 1a); Plenty of short R&R breaks (Rule 1b); Lots of bathroom breaks (Rule 1c); Early to bed each night (Rule 1d);....

    As you can see, Rule #1 and all its sub-categories involve taking your time and letting the kids have their way (a bit!) so that they stay rested, alert, involved, and interested in the trip. There's nothing worse than a RoadTrip where you start to hear "Are we there yet?" on the very first day. So my first bit of advice is to go back and re-plan this trip with an eye to doing no more than 500-550 miles, absolute maximum, in a day. If you stick basically to the Interstate Highways, this will allow time for two or three short fun stops each day in addition to a mid-day meal break. I'd also encourage you to be off the road no later than 6:00 p.m. or so each evening. This will give you time to feed the kids, maybe let them swim in the motel pool, and still get them calmed down and used to their new surroundings for a good night's sleep near their usual bed-times. Maintaining what you can of their routine schedule will help immeasurably.

    So, what does that mean in practical terms? For starters, it means you'll need six driving days between Los Angeles and Maryland rather than your current four. Add in a day at the Grand Canyon, a day or two visiting family in Tennessee, and a day in the Smoky Mountains and you're looking at a minimum of nine to ten days to get to Maryland. I strongly urge you not to try to do this in less time. You'll regret it.

    I do (very much) like your plan to use public transportation to get from Maryland (presumably Baltimore) to NYC, but rather than a bus (which stops often, is somewhat cramped, offers little to no room for exercise, and can be painfully slow) you should be looking at taking Amtrak instead.

    The above are my 'big' recommendations. On a smaller scale, and to answer some of your specific questions... Pack as light as you can; even in a minivan space will be at a premium with five people. Pack a cooler with sandwiches, snacks, cold water, juice, etc., both for on the road and for making an occasional picnic lunch at a lakeside state park. I really wouldn't worry too much about finding a motel each evening; they are practically ubiquitous along the Interstates and if you follow Rule 1d above, you'll be off the highway well before the 'No Vacancy' signs start to light up. Remember you can, and should, always insist on examining the room(s) you will occupy and feel free to walk away if they don't meet your standards.

    Mostly just relax. Anxiety is contagious and if your kids see you worried about the trip, they'll get nervous and unhappy as well. By the way, be sure to ask the kids what they'd like to see on the trip. Getting them invested and involved in the trip and its planning is the best way to ensure that they'll feel like it's their trip as well and not just something you're dragging them along on. Take your time (Rule #1) and most everything else will take car of itself

    AZBuck

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,281

    Default some reason to be scared

    Quote Originally Posted by JuliaB View Post
    We will have 3 longest driving days: AZ to TX, TX to TN and TN to MD. They will average in 10 hr driving days. I am so scared.
    Honestly, based on that statement, I think do you have some reason to be scared. The grand Canyon to Amarillo (my best guess for what you mean by TX) is nearly 700 miles. Amarillo to Memphis is 725 miles - and that's the western most point in Tennessee! Both of those drives are way too far for a single day, especially when traveling with kids. They aren't anywhere close to 10 hour days either, in real world travel conditions (not the fantasy times provided by online maps) you're looking at a minimum of 13-14 hours each of those days.

    As the above posters indicated, you need to rethink your plans a bit with the goal of traveling about 500 miles a day. That means you're going to need more time than you've currently planned, but that extra time really is essential to having a trip that is both safe and enjoyable.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 05-30-2018 at 07:21 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,966

    Default 500 miles in a day won't be fun.

    I'll just chime in here and say that I agree with the others in saying that long days on the road with Kids in a van will be no fun for anyone. I'd also add that unless the Kids are really good seasoned travellers, even 500 miles is going to be a heck of a day with basic stops and having the constant feeling of 'we got to get back on the road' shortly after each of those stops. With 3 weeks you can have a fun trip if you divide your time up wisely but I would try and keep most of your travel days to under 350 miles and the occasional and solitary 500 mile day, but don't try and do back to back 500 mile days as everyone will start to get tired and grumpy and it will impact the whole trip.

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Honestly, based on that statement, I think do you have some reason to be scared. The grand Canyon to Amarillo (my best guess for what you mean by TX) is nearly 700 miles. Amarillo to Memphis is 725 miles - and that's the western most point in Tennessee! Both of those drives are way too far for a single day, especially when traveling with kids. They aren't anywhere close to 10 hour days either, in real world travel conditions (not the fantasy times provided by online maps) you're looking at a minimum of 13-14 hours each of those days.

    As the above posters indicated, you need to rethink your plans a bit with the goal of traveling about 500 miles a day. That means you're going to need more time than you've currently planned, but that extra time really is essential to having a trip that is both safe and enjoyable.
    Thank you for your valuable input. Our Grand Canyon is already pre-booked and I am not worried getting there on time from LA. What my biggest concern is right now, after reading all the feedback is that our whole trip further on is pre- booked too, meaning Great Smokyís is booked with no refund and so is NYC. Which means, we have to make it work somehow to get to Memphis on the day we planned. When you say 13-14 hrs day, I was thinking leaving the hotel early around 7 am, driving for 2-3 hrs then stopping for a stretch and breakfast. Then, driving for another 3-4 hrs (which we have done with kids before), stopping for another stretch and food, then driving again for another 3-4 hrs and stopping for dinner and running around, and finally driving the last stretch of 3-4 and crushing for the night. Is it doable? I know between AZ (staying in Williams) and Memphis is going to be hectic long 2 days, but I need hope that itís doable because we canít cancel Smokyís as we are going with family who also requested time off from work and booked the hotel with us there. It would pretty much screw our whole plan if we canít arrive to TN on time. Everything else from Smokyís is pretty smooth as we donít have to rush anymore because our NYC is booked a week later.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,461

    Default No Can Do

    According to your own timetable, you're planning on spending roughly 13 hours on the road each day. Plus three stops during each of which you claim you'll get both food and exercise. Let's call that 4 hours in stops (and that's being very conservative) so you're up to 17 hours per day just in 'travel' time. Now I assume you're planning on getting undressed in the evening, bathing, and getting dressed again in the morning. Call that an additional hour for all five people (again, being VERY conservative). So you plan to spend 18 hours a day doing something other than sleeping. Now add in the fact that you'll lose an hour each day due to time zone changes and you've left yourself a grand total of five hours per day for sleep. The kids will be fried by the end of the second day and neither you nor your husband will be fit to be behind the wheel. I'm sorry, but the fact that you haven't left time to do this trip safely, let alone enjoyably, does not alter the space-time continuum. You simply cannot "make it work somehow."

    AZBuck

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,281

    Default somethings got to give

    I'm sorry, but I don't think a reservation is a good reason to stick with a bad, and actually dangerous, plan.

    Driving more than 700 miles on back to back days is legitimately dangerous. That is significantly more miles than professional drivers are allowed to do in a single day because of safety laws - and they don't have to consider the needs and stops of children!

    Realistically, the plan you laid out has you on the road at 7am and it could easily be close to midnight before you actually get to a motel - especially factoring you're going to be losing an hour each day traveling east. That means you'd have less than 7 hours before you need to get back on the road and do the exact same thing again the next day. Fatigue will be a major problem, and to say your kids would be miserable would be an understatement. So no, I would not call that "doable."

    Is there a reason you have to stop in Memphis? If you broke up your trip in Tucumcari NM and Russellville AR, you'd at least have 3 even distance legs and would be closer to 600 miles each day - so still longer than we'd recommend and you'll be exhausted when you get to the smokeys, but its still a whole lot better than back to back 700+ mile days.

    But if getting to the Smokeys in time to meet your family and having a safe, and enjoyable trip, is your goal, I'd seriously consider skipping the Grand Canyon, and using that time to have a much more relaxing and enjoyable trip for your entire family.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
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    4,749

    Default

    Now there's an idea....skip the GC this time around. It's close enough to LA to be able to go on a 4-day weekend, so it could wait for another trip. Getting to the Smokies safely is the idea!

    Reservations are almost always cancel-able. Sometimes you may have to take a hit to change them. The ones that are the hardest to reschedule are the ones that are actually IN National Parks. Williams should have an easy cancellation policy, as they are right on the freeway and can easily resell that room.

    If that's the case, your first night could be either in Flagstaff or in Winslow. Then the following night, perhaps Tucumcari, then Sallisaw OK.

    You'll lose an hour (forward your watches) as you enter NM, another time as you enter TX, and then again in TN just before the Smokies (I think).


    Donna

  10. Default

    Well, I've done the opposite route as a kid. :) And many more roadtrips in my lifetime. :) I know that kids love to feel included or like they are in control of this journey too. :) Don't we all? ;)

    Have fun!! That's the best part! And bond!
    Sincerely,
    edenorganic

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