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  1. Default Newbie w/?'s About a Trip Out West


    I am so glad I found this forum. I have already gleaned several things from the posts here.

    My dh and I just found out that he will have a one month break in his job. We have 3 children, ages 3, 5, and 8, and want to take a trip out west. I have never been, so I am clueless.

    We considered renting an RV, but have decided that driving our own van will be the best fit for us. We'd like to still have a pseudo-camping experience, possibly staying in cabins at state or national parks (or other places), but we haven't researched it yet.

    We have four weeks, would start and end in southwest Ohio and would like to see:
    -Mt. Rushmore/Badlands
    -Sequoyah National Forest
    -Grand Canyon

    Is this even possible in 4 weeks? Would we be able to stop and smell the roses along the way or would it have to be a fast-paced trip? Do you think it would be possible for us to stay in cabins/out in nature for most of the trip rather than in hotels? (We really want areas where the kids can get out and run around at the end of a long day. Hard to do at a hotel.)

    I'd appreciate your thoughts on our plan, any tips, websites, or other suggestions that could help us in planning our trip.

    Thanks so much!

  2. Default

    I'd recommend droping Sequoia National Park because that's going to add almost 1,000 miles to your trip.

    Here are my suggestions for stops. Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, Devils Tower National Monument in north east Wyoming. Yellowstone, try to spend 4 or more days in this park and enjoy! Don't forget to drop down into the Grand Tetons National Park for maybe a night or two. Instead of heading to California, go south to Utah. There are plenty of National Parks & National Monuments to choose from. If your kids like dinosaurs there's Dinosaur National Monument. Zion is a beautiful park with lots of easy hikes. Just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park you can camp in Tee Pees at Ruby's Inn and Campground. Campground has a outdoor pool and there's an indoor pool at the Inn you can use if the weather is bad. Then head down to the Grand Canyon. Take Hwy 89 and pass right by beautiful Lake Powel and the Glen Canyon Dam.

    From the Grand Canyon you have some other good choices. Monument Valley and head north to Moab, Utah where you can visit Arches and Canyonlands National Park. I'll warn you that his area can be pretty hot in the summer. In Moab you can rent cabins at some of the private campgrounds. I know that Slickrock rents them and they also have a swimming pool. From Moab take scenic Hwy 128 up to Interstate 70 and I-70 into Denver, CO. This the most beautiful section of Interstate that I've ever driven on.

    Another choice after the Grand Canyon would be to make a stop at Mesa Verde National Park then head north on the Million Dollar highway 550 and make your way up to I-70.

    I'd really recommend saving Sequioa for another trip out west.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A little more research.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    As you can see just from Utahteas response, you have many,many options open to you. Four weeks is a nice amount of time to discover some of the "gems" of the West but I think that first of all you need to sit down and have a look at the map again and start to study the places between the dots you already have and see how they can fit into your overall plan. You won't be able to see them all but you can start to form a picture of those that appeal the most and how they could fit into your route. If you search the forums and road trip planning pages you will find thousands of threads containing useful info, just use the search button. It's perfectly feasible to spend your time in cabins and camping and is a great way to get in touch with nature but if you want to spoil yourselves the odd night in a Motel then why not !

    You should also find the NPS find a park a good tool. You can get info on all the parks, camping and things like the junior ranger programs for the kids. If you are visiting a few then the annual pass for $80 will save you money. Check out the State parks and other points of interest as well.
    Have a look around and do a little more research and when you have a better idea of your routing/places of interest let us know and we can help piece it all together.

  4. Default A Big Thanks!

    Thank you so much for both of your responses.
    I completely agree that I need to do more research, and now you've both given me some starting points and ideas to consider. I don't feel quite so overwhelmed now. :)

    I like the idea of dropping Sequoia and being able to linger a bit longer to savor our other stops.

    Can't wait to dig into this forum and the NPS site later this evening.

    I'm sure I'll be back with more questions eventually!

    Thanks again for your help.

  5. Default Change of Plans - need opinions

    Hello again!

    We're re-thinking our major goals for our trip, and are looking at a slightly different routing. I'm wondering if what we've come up with is do-able in 26 days.

    After realizing everything there is to see on a trip to the Grand Canyon, we've decided to save that area for another trip in order to visit all of the jewels there that you and others have mentioned.

    Here's what we've got now...

    Leave from Cincinnati, OH:
    -Badlands/Mt. Rushmore
    -Grand Tetons
    -Glacier National Park

    Our goals: (Our children are ages 3, 5, and 8)
    -see and linger (as much as possible) at the above points
    -Experience the Old West - see something of Native American heritage and possibly an "Old Western/Cowboy" town.
    -hit part of the Lewis and Clark trail (which we would accomplish by going up to Glacier N.P.)
    -We still want to try to stay in cabins/experience nature as much as we can, with the occasional motel stop.
    (optional: see Colorado in the summer - we've been in the winter.)

    1. Which would be the more interesting/scenic return route home to Cincy?
    -a "northern: route through MT, ND, MN, etc. or...
    -a "southern" route down through ID, UT, CO, KS, etc. (Someone told me that there is a Wizard of Oz Museum in KS that our kids would enjoy. If I find out that it's really great, that might make this decision for us - plus I absolutely love Colorado. :)

    2. Is this plan do-able in 26 days? (Using the scale on the map, I'm estimating about 8 long-haul days of driving, leaving 18 days to explore our points of interest, make little side trips, and stopping to smell the roses, etc. - not sure how good of a guess this is.)

    3. It looks like a large portion of this trip could be done on Interstates, which would obviously help our time factor. In between the major stopping points out west would you travel Interstates or get off the beaten path and travel smaller highways?

    I'm sorry that my questions are still so general. Once we get our overall picture nailed down, I'm sure I'll have more specific questions.

    Thanks again for giving of your time to help an overwhelmed newbie! :)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    For "long haul" I'd recommend you do your planning so that you will not drive more than 500 miles in a day on Interstates, less on secondary roads. I'd plan on a combination of Interstates and other roads, depending on where you are and what you want to see.

  7. Default


    What month will you be taking this trip?

  8. Default

    Oops...meant to tell you we'll be traveling Aug. 11 - Sept. 6.


  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by HomeschoolMama View Post
    We considered renting an RV, but have decided that driving our own van will be the best fit for us. We'd like to still have a pseudo-camping experience, possibly staying in cabins at state or national parks (or other places), but we haven't researched it yet.
    We also started with the idea of renting an RV, but when we started looking at costs . . . well, that idea fizzled in a hurry. We didn't know how expensive an RV rental was, and when we added in campsite costs, gas, mileage fees . . . well, that just wasn't going to happen. We then considered camping, but it wasn't practical for our trip: we wanted to travel to SEE AND DO THINGS, not to relax and smell the roses, and camping chores do take a good bit of time every day. Also, we flew to Las Vegas to begin our western trip, and though we own great camping gear, getting it out west would've not been cost effective. Finally, we were able to rent a smaller car (which cost less and used less gas) because we were not transporting large camping items.

    We ended up using hotels for our trip, and it was the best choice we could've made. Our total lodging cost (taxes, everything included) for 19 nights was $1388 -- and we had either a suite or two rooms about half the time. We have teens, and that space was welcomed. Some of those nights were free (rewards points from husband's business trips), and others were low-cost Priceline hotels.

    Our expensive "splurge nights" were cabins in the national parks. We stayed two nights at the Grand Canyon (north rim), which was well worth the cost -- the Pioneer cabin had two rooms and looked like a little Lincoln log cabins. My girls loved the little chipmunks who ran all around the cabins. We stayed two nights in a cabin at Yellowstone (Canyon area), and I'm unsure whether that was worth it or not. The location was convenient, but the room was small and undoubtably the worst of our entire stay; though it was very expensive, it was not as nice as our Best Western or Holiday Inn stays. The value just wasn't there. When we go again, I might choose to stay in the small town of West Yellowstone -- nice little town -- though the traffic we saw coming in through the western gate was scary! Finally, we stayed at Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Tetons. The two-room cabin was cute as a button, and we loved it . . . but it was very expensive. For that stay, I wish we'd paid just a little more to have a lake-front cabin. It would've added to our enjoyment to sit out on the porch and watch the sun set over those beautiful mountains.

    Putting aside gorgeous scenery, our best stays were Holiday Inns and Best Westerns. Many of these places out west have two-room suites that cost only a little more than a standard room. Quite often I was able to buy the standard room with my husband's "reward points" and pay the extra to upgrade to the two-room suite, making our stay $20-30. Pretty sweet, we thought. These places include free internet and complimentary breakfast (note, two teens -- food was welcomed). Even though my girls are older than yours, they still enjoy some "running around" time in the evenings, and the hotel pools were just what the needed.

    You really do have to settle the "where're we gonna stay" issue early in your planning. Consider your needs and resources, and make the choice that's best for you.

    We ended up spending more -- much more -- on food than we did on lodging. But then, though we bought a cooler and had lots of picnics, we didn't really scrimp on meals.
    Quote Originally Posted by HomeschoolMama View Post
    We have four weeks, would start and end in southwest Ohio and would like to see:
    -Mt. Rushmore/Badlands
    -Sequoyah National Forest
    -Grand Canyon
    I don't know anything about Sequoyah National Forest, but the rest could easily be done in two weeks -- in fact, I just did those other items (and a whole lot more!) in 19 days, and we weren't pushed for time. We took a "we may never be here again" attitude, and we tried to do as much as possible. We can rest at home for free. We did spend a good bit on activities, but -- again -- this was a looooong way from home for us, and IF we go out west again, it'll only be a few times in our whole lives; thus, we splurged on things like horseback rides through Yellowstone.

    Here's a quick run-down of what we did -- I'm forgetting some little things here and there:

    Flew to Vegas
    Zion -- hiked
    Grand Canyon, North Rim: hiked, rode mules, attended cookout
    Antelope Canyon -- wonderful!
    Glenn Canyon
    4 Corners -- cheesy
    Mesa Verde -- took two tours, loved it
    Arches -- my least favorite
    Denver, CO: saw Denver Rockies play, girls went to concert; husband and I scalped our tickets, toured Mint, saw museums
    South Dakota: Mamouth Site, Custer State Park, Wind Cave Mt. Rushmore
    Cody Night Rodeo
    Yellowstone: Hiked, rode horses, attended cookout, Grizzly & Wolf Center -- very disappointed that Uncle Tom's trail is closed because a portion of it washed away -- bought sweatshirts because it was VERY COLD in July
    Grand Tetons: hiked (my favorite hike of the trip - Hidden Falls /Inspiration Point), took float trip
    Seven Peaks water park
    Vegas again: saw all the famous stuff, saw Ka show (incredible)
    Flew home

    Admittedly, however, my girls are teens, and they travel extremely well -- younger kids are a different ball game.

  10. Default Newbie's Trip Out West Revised Plan

    Hello Again,

    I wanted to run our revised schedule by you folks and
    get your advice on a couple of things, so here goes...

    (Again, we're 2 adults and 3 children - ages 3, 5, and 8 - with 26 days to do the trip. We will be leaving August 11, returing home Sept. 6. We will not be doing any serious hiking, rafting, etc.)

    Day 1-Leave Cinci, OH/Arrive Iowa City
    Day 2 - Iowa City to Mitchell, SD (see Corn Palace)
    Day 3 - Mitchell, SD to Wall, SD (see Wall Drugstore)
    Head into Badlands/check into hotel (not sure where to stay yet)
    Day 4 - Badlands N.P.
    Day 5 - Drive to Custer State Park, check-in
    See Mt. Rushmore
    Day 6 - Custer State Park; visit Bear Country
    Day 7 - Custer State Park to Cody, WY
    Day 8 - See Buffalo Bill Museum
    Drive Cody to Grand Tetons - Jackson Hole? (having a hard time figuring out where to stay)
    Day 9 - Grand Tetons
    Day 10 - Grand Tetons
    Day 11 - Leave Grand Tetons; Drive through Yellowstone/Check in hotel at West Yellowstone
    Day 12 - Yellowstone/Old Faithful
    Day 13 - Yellowstone
    Day 14 - Yellowstone to Great Falls, MT/Check in hotel/Trolley tour to falls?
    Day 15 - Great Falls, MT (Lewis & Clark interpretative center)
    Day 16 - Drive Great Falls to Glacier N.P./Check in at Glacier Park Lodge at East Glacier Park
    Day 17 - Glacier
    Day 18 - Glacier
    Day 19 - Glacier
    Day 20 - Drive from Glacier to Salt Lake City
    Day 21 - Drive from Salt Lake to Colorado Springs
    Day 22 - Colorado Springs
    Day 23 through 26 - Colorado Springs to Cincinnati.

    1. Should we spend less time in Glacier and more time somewhere else (Grand Tetons maybe?)
    2. Anything interesting in Idaho or Utah we should make time for instead of just driving straight through these states?
    3. Where should we stay in the Grand Tetons Area? We'd like to see Jackson Hole (I've heard that they re-enact a western shoot-out there everyday - our kids would love something like that), but we'd also like to be in a good place to see the high points of the park.
    4. Any ideas for a good place along our route to see a Native American Reservation or something of Native American Culture?
    5. Any rodeos, "old-western" style towns, or pioneer festivals that we could see along the way?

    Suggestions for must-sees in Badlands, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier. Also I'd love to here anything you would change or do differently if you were taking this trip.

    Thanks so much for your input!
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 07-24-2009 at 04:40 PM. Reason: Merged - Please don't create new threads about the same trip

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