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  1. Default Portland OR to Chicago IL and back, with kids

    I found this forum while trying to figure out an itinerary for a big roadtrip this summer. Here are the details: We are going to my sister's wedding in Chicago and she wants us to get there Thursday, Aug 6 at the latest, and stay up to 4 days to see the sights. We are open to when we will leave Portland, and would like to keep the first leg of the trip around a week. We are taking I-80 there and will stop and see friends in Boise and in SLC. I am also thinking of detouring through Colorado instead of going through Wyoming.

    Coming back, we will be traveling I-90. I have family in Southern Minnesota, and then we don't know anyone who lives between there and Washington.
    I have two girls, 3.5 years and 10 months. The older one I'm not too worried about. She is very good natured, especially in the face of new things. I have a number of car activities that relate to the trip in mind for her. The younger one changes everyday, but has grown to like our average car rides, especially when she can giggle with big Sis!

    We expect to make many stops, both unexpected and planned. We will be camping mostly, and would like to sample what our great american farms have to offer by visiting either family farms or farmers markets. I've even made a note of the community centers that are in towns along the way in case it's so hot we just want to go for a swim. (we will have AC, but that can get old too!)

    My husband has this idea that one or two days I could take the kids off somewhere while he naps, and then we'll all sleep in the car while he drives at night. He's a night owl, and he loves to drive, but... Is this a bad idea? Also, even though he won't be officially at work, there are a few things he needs to do everyday from his laptop (1-2 hrs, tops). Are there any areas we should be concerned about his ability to work?

    My other questions are: How long should we plan the trip to last? What are the must see attractions along the way? Are the historic towns (Lewis and Clark, Oregon Trail...) all they're cracked up to be? How much water should we have in the vehicle at all times? Are we going to run into tornadoes in Nebraska? (just kidding... sort of)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    My husband has this idea that one or two days I could take the kids off somewhere while he naps, and then we'll all sleep in the car while he drives at night. He's a night owl, and he loves to drive, but... Is this a bad idea? Also, even though he won't be officially at work, there are a few things he needs to do everyday from his laptop (1-2 hrs, tops). Are there any areas we should be concerned about his ability to work?
    This is not a good idea. You cannot sleep well at all in a moving vehicle, and it's always wise to have a second person awake in the car to make sure the driver doesn't fall asleep. He should be able to find wifi just about anywhere except remote areas these days. An aircard will expand the options considerably as long as you are near Interstate highways, decent size towns/cities, and other major highways.

  3. Default

    Thanks for your reply! I immediately thought, "bad idea!" too, but I didn't know why exactly.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Sights and Timing

    I agree with glc, and you apparently, that the idea of driving through the night is not going to help much and might even be counterproductive. The only one who might get a decent night's sleep in such a case is your infant. You and your older daughter will sleep fitfully at best and both of you are likely to be tired and cranky the next day.

    On your way east, you don't have a lot of time for wandering and sightseeing if you overnight in Boise and Salt Lake City. You're looking at 4 days from SLC to Chicago, leaving you one day to spend at attractions along the way. Besides quick stops, I'd recommend Flaming Gorge if you go through Wyoming or Rocky Mountain National park if you go through Colorado, with other stops along the old Oregon Trail in western Nebraska.

    On the way home, you'll need one full day to get to 'southern Minnesota' and a minimum of 3 full days to get from there to Portland without stops, so any time taken to see things would have to be in addition to those 4 days. Major things to consider spending some extra time on would include Badlands National Park, and Yellowstone which would require a semi-major detour and probably a full day to see.

    Nowhere on these drives are you going to be so far away from civilization that your lives will depend on how much water you're carrying in your cooler, but do use it and keep enough provisions on hand to keep everybody comfortable and happy.


  5. Default

    So it looks like making the travel times 8-9 days (each way) will allow us to relax a little more about meeting our destination on time while giving our kids some run-around time. If we do overnight in Boise, then I don't think we'll overnight in SLC. I'd rather drive east a bit and go camping since NE Utah looks really lovely. That route sends us towards Denver. I'd overnight in SLC with our better friend, but I don't think that's a realistic goal for the first night. Maybe we can convince him to come camp with us.

    Also, my older daughter loves horses. I'm certain there's some awesome place where little kids can at least interact with some. Anyone know of one?

  6. Default

    Thanks for linking that awesome list, btw. We certainly have the ability to be spontaneous and stray from the beaten path a little; I feel better doing it when I have a plan to fall back on. I took a backpacking trip through Europe in my earlier kidless days, from Scotland to Hungary in three weeks, and it was really nice to have a list of hostels and destinations, but we certainly didn't stick to it like glue. We went to Venice on a whim and that was a big highlight of the trip! Even the nights when we couldn't secure a hostel and slept in a train station or on the street were alright, because it was an adventure.

    I'm getting pretty excited looking at everyone's pictures of the fabulous scenery. I want to get out there and climb around! And look for dinosaur bones! (exploring the Utah destinations, right now)

  7. Default Taking it Slow

    My sister and I are going to be attempting a similar trip, Chicago to Seattle, this summer before she leaves for the Peace Corps! I think 8 or 9 days of traveling sounds very appealing to me, we plan on doing it in 6. I love that you plan to take it slow and really see interesting stops. Also any extra leg room, time wise, will prevent stress (and speeding) to make it to your destination (Chicago) on time! Plus with kids I find that extra time for full nights rest (in tent or motel or wherever) and frequent running around stops/potty breaks, makes an immeasurable difference in how happy everyone is and how well they handle the driving.

    Hope you have a fantastic trip!

  8. Default Chicago

    Oh and here in Chicago... I dont know what your sister has planned for your four days. But REALLY consider the Shedd Aquarium as 1 of the days, maybe mixed with Sears Tower, Lake Michigan, Buckingham Fountain. I volunteer at the Shedd and we just recently finished a 50 or so million dollar renovation on our Oceanarium (which houses our Beluga Whales and White-Sided Pacific dolphins). The whole theme of the Ocenarium is the Pacific Northwest (So you Portlanders (?) might find it very interesting! Also the whole underwater viewing/ downstairs area in the Oceanarium has endless interactive and breathtaking kids exhibits. They can play in water with toy/replica animals, work a submarine, dress-up and play like penguins (across from real Penguins!), and reach into the water to touch REAL sea stars and sea urchins!!!!

    Hope you love our city as much as I do!

  9. #9
    Tony J Case, Super Genius Guest


    Oh, one more reason not to drive at night and snatch sleep in the car? You cant see anything! The first couple of nights on my Seattle -> Madison trip, I pushed on after sunset and found that there was no point to it at all. All the cool sights I came to see were whizzing by in the dark. So after that as soon as the sun started setting, I'd find a hotel (and if I needed to make time, I got up an hour earlier).

    So yeah, safety and comfort issues aside, I wouldn't do it anyway because you're missing the point of the road trip!

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