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  1. Default Chicago to Denver with 2 toddlers

    Hello. I was wondering anyone has attempted this trip with young kids (3yrs and 1 1/2 and very active) My wife thinks I'm nuts for comtemplating driving. We have nice new minivan :) and the we would need to rent when we arrive in Denver anyway so I figured why not drive.

    I'm looking for any suggestions on good, kid-friendly places to stop en route. Also, any experiences with road tripping with kids this age. For example, how long did your last in their car seats before needing out? We do have DVD so that should cover some of the time.

    Thanks for any thoughts.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Family RoadTrips -- Creating Memories for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by cubbie_doug
    I was wondering anyone has attempted this trip with young kids
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! I would guess that several thousand families have done this route in the last few years. For some tips about family roadtripping you might like this essay by Chris Epting and read our tips about another family who drove from Chicago to New Mexico with young children.

    Happy Journeys!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default How much time do you have for this trip?

    It's just over 1000 miles one way so 3 days would be a nice amount of time to allow to get to Denver. If you have more time, you could break the trip up even more and stop and explore along the way. You could do the drive in 2 days but that would be harder with kids along.

    When my kids were young, I always found the trip to be more enjoyable if we let the kids somewhat determine our schedule. When we tried to enforce adult-level abilities to sit on the kids, they would get miserable, cranky, and make us miserable, too. It's a battle not worth fighting. I guarantee you, you will lose.

    So, if you don't have time to make this trip in a leisurely manner that can take stops for the kid's needs into consideration, you might be best off flying. Also, if your temperment wouldn't be suited to doing this, then you might also want to fly.

    However, it's very do-able, should be alot of fun for everyone, and would be a good way to get your kids into enjoying life on the road if you do things right. My suggestions:

    * Avoid DVDs or any other forms of electronic entertainment. OK, books on tape with kid's stories and songs are an exception to this rule. Enjoy the stories and songs with your kids and use it as a time to bond and enjoy your children. DVDs are a solitary experience. A roadtrip should be time for family bonding.

    * Your youngset might be too young for this but try to have games you can play together. When my kids were young, we enjoyed memory games, contests to see who could spot the first cow, purple building, whatever you can think of to look for, etc. Storytelling is also fun. Start a story and take turns adding to the story. It's amazingly fun to see what the kids come up with. No matter how implausible or non-sensical their contributions are, go with it. Fun and funny stuff!

    * And, when your kids get the wiggles....and they will....stop and let them get the wiggles out. That's one reason why planning to eat out of a cooler on the road is the best idea for roadtrips with kids. You can then stop at any park, virtually all towns have a playground, and let the kids play and get the wiggles out while making some sandwiches, etc. And this way you can eat much more healthy than you could if you only relied on McDonald's with play areas. That's not good for you or your kids! You should plan to stop every 2 hours or so when traveling with kids. That's probably about the longest they can last without needing to move. If you plan your trip with stops like that in mind, then you won't feel so frustrated by the frequent stops. It's best to stay as long as needed for them to use up their excess energy. Don't try to rush them back into the car too quickly. A bonus is that they will probably nap more frequently if you let them play as long as needed as well.

    *If you really need to burn some miles, you might start in the evening when your kids will be close to bedtime (put them in the car in the PJs). You can drive for a few hours while they're sleeping. And then stop for the night but get up quite early before their normal wake-up time just transfering them back into the car in their PJs). Then, when they wake up and they're hungry, you'll have already burned some more miles and won't mind stopping for breakfast. Breakfast food like cereal, muffins, etc. are easy to pack so you can stop at a park instead of a restaurant.

    We had a horrid situation on one of our first roadtrips when my daughter was almost 18 months old and we didn't plan well. We certainly didn't plan for eating out of a cooler on that trip so, when it was time for dinner, we ended up stopping at a sit-down restaurant because there were no fastfood places where were at. (Fancy probably wouldn't happen in today's world.) Anyway, she was rather uncontrollable and ruined our dinner as well as those of other diner's around us. I never again tried to force a wiggly, energetic kid to sit down and relax during a meal stop. It's not worth the hassle.

    Obviously, if you have had a busy day and the kids have walked and played a lot, sitting in a restaurant is fine, should be encouraged, and is a good place for them to learn manners. However, after sitting too long, you're just expecting too much and setting them up for failure and you for a big headache.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Default Thanks for the tips

    The decision to drive versus fly is still up for debate. Your tips are very helpful. I think your idea about traveling two hours at a time is a good one--and a good reality check. Thanks again.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default My last word on this...

    I've done long roadtrips with toddlers and I've flown with toddlers. I'd rather drive anytime.

    On a plane, you have the long wait at the airport, then you have the line to get on the plane, and then you have the cramped surroundings on the plane where your kids can't get those wiggles out and, if they do get loud or rambunctious, you have the comfort of other passengers to worry about, too. Then you have to go through the chaos of getting off the plane. And who knows how long you'll have to wait for your luggage (unless you do all carry-on, my recommendation but difficult with all the things you need to carry for the kids). Then you will need to stand in the line for the car rental. Oh, and won't you be doing all of this while hauling around the airline approved carseats for the kids to sit in?

    Yikes! Double Yikes! This is as horrid as it sounds. Believe me.

    To each their own and you might not agree with me but I would rather drive with toddlers when you can attend to their needs, play with them, bond with them, and just plain have the time to enjoy them without the pressures of daily life to get in your way. Flying with toddlers was one of the worst things I've ever done. Once they hit about age 5, it wasn't so bad and, actually kinda fun. But before that....horrors!

    My last 2 bits on the matter.

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