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  1. Default First Time Cross Country Roadtrip - Washington D.C. to San Francisco

    Hi, we will be driving from Washington DC to San Francisco in early July. This will be our first road trip across the whole country, and we will be traveling with two children - a 5-year old and a toddler. We'd like to take the safest and the most scenic route that we can cover within 6 days.

    Please share your suggestions, advice, concerns, or just your experience from making a similar trip. Also, if you have traveled with children, how did your make the trip memorable for them?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Making it Enjoyable

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    While not quite the shortest route, the route I'm going to recommend has several advantages over the Turnpikes to Chicago and I-80 the rest of the way. Among those advantages the lack of tolls, fewer major cities and greater opportunities to make pleasant, child-friendly stops. From Washington, take I-270 to I-70, but then at Hancock, MD switch over to I-68. At Morgantown, WV use I-79 north to get back onto I-70 west at Washington, PA. At Indianapolis, IN, take the beltway (I-495) around the south side of town to I-74 which will take you to I-80 at the Quad Cities. I-80 will take you the rest of the way to San Francisco.

    The main thing to keep in mind in order to make the trip memorable for them is that their world scale is a lot smaller than yours. In some respects that's a good thing, simple parks and attractions will be every bit as enjoyable to them as major amusement rides. In some ways it's not, they'll need a lot more stops during the day to keep them amused. You can address both those issues by simply planning to make frequent short stops along the way.


  3. Default

    Thanks AZBuck. Many people on this forum seem to prefer I70 over I80, especially through Colorado and Utah. Do you agree with that? I guess the biggest problem with taking I70 is that we will either be forced to take smaller, possibly less kid-friendly, routes such as Route 6 and Route 50 through Nevada. The other option might be to take I70 all the way to Cove Fort in UT and then take I15 to Salt Lake City followed by I80 from there to San Francisco. But that will end up adding quite a bit of additional distance to our travel. The conundrum is whether we should I70 or I80.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Consider the children

    Quote Originally Posted by seatoshiningsea View Post
    Please share your suggestions, advice, concerns, or just your experience from making a similar trip. Also, if you have traveled with children, how did your make the trip memorable for them?
    Hi Matt,

    As the mother of five, albeit all grown up now, we travelled quite a bit with our children. Let me pass on some of the concerns which go through my mind as I read your plan.

    This will be a 3000 mile journey over 6 days, i.e. ~500 each day or 9 - 10 hours in the car. Now that is something you and I would cope with, and possibly enjoy, even six days in a row. But I want you to put yourself into the shoes of a five and two year old.

    Imagine yourself confined to being strapped into a car seat for all those hours.... not just for one day, not even just for two days..... but for six days in a row. You will make regular - hopefully every two hours - stops along the way, but these will be no substitute for what children of that age need. If this were to be a two day trip you could possibly get away with it.... but six days?

    Please reconsider.

    To help make this a memorable trip for your children, may I suggest these rules of thumb - never travel before 8am, stop at least every two hours (often more), and stop at 4pm.... no matter how far short of your destination you are. This allows the children time to wind down, explore their new surroundings before dinner time, and become familiar with the place where they will be sleeping for the night. Not something which can be done in 30 mins. (Children need and deserve patience.) It will also help ensure you have an uninterrupted night's sleep.

    But even then, monitor the children closely, as you may find after two or three days that one or both of the children are starting to show signs of confusion and irritability. They have been moving too much, too far and too often. They no longer know where they belong. Be flexible enough to spend two or three nights in the one spot (doing very little!) allowing the children to settle down.

    When young children on an extended roadtrip - such as yours - start to whine and cry no amount of candy, toys, books or promises will suffice. They need security and stability. Only then will they remember the trip for all the right reasons.

    Hope this helps.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    If you want to take I-70 all the way, the US-50 option from Salina UT to Fernley NV is the fastest way to get to SF, but US-50 is a very desolate road. You are going to have to actually plan stops - or be prepared to stop alongside the road in the middle of nowhere.

  6. Default

    Thanks for the suggestions, Lifey.

    You are right, it is essential to remain flexible while traveling with children on such a long trip. Although we do not plan to complete the trip in less than 6 days, we have given ourselves 2 more days if we need to slow down a bit. We definitely do not plan to drive more than 8 hours a day or past 4 pm.

  7. Default

    Thanks glc. I'm leaning towards AZBuck's suggestion and will probably take I80 all the way from Indianapolis to San Francisco. Taking US-50 is probably not a good idea while traveling with kids.

    Can anyone share suggestions on places and sights that one must not miss on I80?

  8. Default Cell Phone Coverage Along I-80

    Hi, we will be going across the country for the first time, from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, in early July.

    With respect to cell phone coverage, what has been the experience of people on this forum who have gone along I-80? We are traveling with young children and want to make sure that we are able to call for help if we need it. Between us, my wife and I have AT&T and T-Mobile. Are there any pockets of the country, along I-80, that are not covered by AT&T and T-Mobile.


    Moderator Note: Please don't create multiple threads about the same trip.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 06-14-2011 at 01:20 PM. Reason: merged

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    We can't begin to tell you what coverage you might see - as in addition to your carrier, that depends upon your specific plan, phone, etc.

    In general, there is good service along the interstates, but there can certainly be pockets where there are gaps. ATT is generally pretty marginal in rural areas, and from memory, T-Mobile is virtually worthless outside of cities. However, contacting your carrier for their maps of what you "should" have for coverage would be a best bet here.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I have AT&T, and I have encountered very few "dead zones" along Interstate highways anywhere in the country. The only major one that stands out is much of I-70 between Green River and Salina UT.

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