A Cross-country Road-trip?? Are We Crazy? :)

Updated on April 25, 2013
R.M. asks from Evanston, IL
19 answers

We are debating a road trip this summer from California to Wisconsin and back. We would take two different routes and see family and close friends in 5 different states including my hubby's entire extended family in WI, my half-brother, my husband's brother, my Aunts/Grandpa and my grade school BFF. We would stop and spend probably 2 nights in a couple different states along the way and 5 nights in WI for a total of 17 days. Our kids will be 4 (almost 5), 8 and 9. Are we crazy? I keep thinking that it would be an awesome experience but then a part of me wonders if we will all just be miserable driving and driving and driving. That is why I thought it would be good to stop multiple times along the way but I am not sure if, even then, it will be miserable. My kids are pretty mellow and we have an SUV with a 3rd row so they would all have space. The farthest we have ever been as a family is Vegas though so this would be a first for us. If you have made a similar voyage, do you have tips for making the driving part more fun/manageable? Thanks!! :))

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answers from Austin on

I am jealous!!!
We went on a road trip like this when we were children.. .. We drove from Austin to Los Angeles, then on the way back through Nevada, Utah..
(Getting out of Texas is what took so darn long..)

We also visited friends and family in some of these places.

We had a blast.

Go for it..

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

We did a road trip last summer from the central coast of Cali, Nevada, Arizona & Utah (kids were 13 & 9). Two weeks over 2000 miles and the best memories you can imagine. So much fun, we stayed at least two nights per stop, some places 3-4 nights so we could really relax.

The driving was really fun too, beautiful scenery, quirky roadside stops and day trips and best of all old fashioned family bonding. I love a destination vacation too but an extended road trip is a really special way to spend time with the ones you love. We're doing it in the Pacific Northwest this summer, can't wait!

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Norfolk on

In 1976 my M. drove me and my sister from NY along a northern route, ending up in San Diego to visit family and then we took a southern route on the way back.
We saw Mt Rushmore, the Corn Palace, the badlands of S Dakota, Yellowstone, the giant sequoia's, San Fransisco, lot's in San Diego, the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, - we saw SO MUCH of the country!
It took about 6 weeks during the summer but it was a fantastic trip during the bi-centennial!
We weren't old enough to help with the driving - our M. did it all.
She drove about 8 hrs per day and we'd stop at a motel with a pool every afternoon.
Sure - there were stretches of the mid west where there was nothing but corn to look at as far as the eye could see but there were games to play (spot license plates from different states) and we didn't have any electronics or DVD players.
It will be a wonderful family adventure!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

Done that, 3 weeks from AZ to CO to NE to IL to WI to AR and then back to AZ. Stayed with family most of the time. Went on many day trips in those states. And I did it ALONE with my 4 kids (ages 3 to 11) and loved every minute of it (well...looking back I do, I'm sure not every minute was perfect).

Get lots of food and entertainment. Make sure DVD players are in the car. Find some fun places to stop along the way. And get yourself a book on tape. If they get the dvds, you get a story.

Go for it! It is a trip the still talk about.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My husband had a business trip in upper New York. He convinced me to take a family road trip with my 3 month old, 23 month old and 3 yr old. We also had my 17 yr old daughter and 10 yr old niece.

Not only did we drive from Chicago to upper New York, we then drove along the coast and went to Boston for several days. Then back home, all in 2 weeks.

Looking back, I was CRAZY for doing that especially cuz I HATE driving anymore than 3 hours. But we all had a blast and great memories.

I say go for it, you will have so much fun.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

About three years ago when mine where 11 and 8 we took a road trip. We started in KY for about 3 days then drove to SC for a few days and then NC for a day and back to SC then home. We did it in about 8 days. It was not bad. Just make sure you have enough to entertain your kids with in the car and make plenty of stops. This is the type of vacation they will remember for a long time.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Memories Trip! Go for it!

I've traveled all over the midwest with my M. & her grandkids. Been doing it for 25 years now, & the youngest grkids are 16 now. Every single one of them have wonderful memories of our trips, & anticipate doing the same for their own kids. (which I hope is not in the immediate future! I'm not ready for grkids!)

The grkids have enjoyed road trips so much that my M. began giving them trips as gifts. She's given 13 Trips, H.S. Grad Trips, & 21 Trips. In addition, she & my older son have enjoyed 2-3 week long trips together. & it all began with our early years road trips!

A few of our fav tricks: for the early years, we had goody bags for the kids. Usually my M. bought cheap backpacks/travel bags for the kids. We then had a variety of activities & treats...all wrapped up in tissue paper in front with us. These ranged from magnetic toys to mini boxes of raisins. The key was variety! With each long leg of the trip, the kids opened 1 surprise. Once the activity was completed, it was stored in their new backpack/bag. These bags/treats were used in the hotel rooms, too! Great for entertaining the kids!

Each night in the room, we'd discuss the day & plan the next. At all ages, we wanted the kids to be a part of the events. We made sure the hotel had a pool & we rarely had a sit-down dinner....the kids had been cooped up/contained enough. Dinner was usually in the room, with the bigger meal in the middle of the day. We also did a lot of picnic lunches + on the road meals. We tried avoiding making the kids sit still outside of the vehicle!

20 years ago, we let the kids have quickie cameras. In today's world, the options are much better! We also made sure we had a wide range of music available, & I'm proud to say we never had to rely on dvds. We spent the time visiting, napping, singing, & doing activities/reading. Once the kids were independent readers, we always made sure we had a selection of comic books available. They were quick reads, could be passed around/shared, & funny to boot! & funnier than funny, my Sis & I still have our comic book collection....as do our kids!

During school-age years, we also did a lot of Road Trip Games. Easy to do a search engine for...& I bet there's a lot more options available today. The kids & I always enjoyed the BINGO games I created....using oddities along the way: a purple rig, a pink car, an Oreo cow, etc. When the kids got older (late teen years & older), I was known to throw in a few random quirks....hmmm, like a "plumber's crack on a biker". :) We'd also count the McDonalds & Walmarts, & of course we'd check off the 50 states of license plates.

& oh, the memories! I will never forget the trip where my younger son & his cousin (partners in crime...just 51 days between their BDs!). They both had new backpacks from Gma + stuffed monkeys. They both were hysterical in the backseat, but being good....or so we thought. Then we noticed the people passing us were laughing too. Yep, that little boy & girl in the backseat were mooning the passerbys with their little monkey butts. (shaking my head, rolling my eyes) I think they were about 10 when they pulled this trick!

Hit the road! I'm jealous! :) Wishing you safe travels!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

We used to drive cross country ever year for three weeks when we were young. No DVDs, phones, iPods etc we had a blast. So many games to play the memories I have are awesome. We interacted as a family. Sang, talked, played games. You have to be creative to have fun when in car. Good time to unplug kids.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My kids are 8, 7 & 5 and husband and I are going to be moving from Wa
State to Long Island NY at the end of the summer...so we will be right there with you...and we will have 1 big dog and 2 cats, YIKES!

I am so nervous about it and think it's going to suck!

On one hand I think: How great, we will be able to see the country, yadda yadda, yadda...

and then on the other hand I think: OMG! 5-6 days in the car! Blech!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Are you crazy? Yes! But in a good way!!! We drove most of our trips with our kids because flying was so expensive for a family of 4. The worse car trip was when our daughter was 12 months old. We drove from Houston TX to Danbury CT. Yeah, I swore I would never do THAT again!!! That didn't last! KY to Myrtle Beach, KY to TX, KY to WI, KY to Chicago. Our kids were used to being in the car for a long period because we always drove to our destinations.

What a wonderful opportunity for your kids to see parts of our country. If you can plan activities along the routes that would be cool. Like going down Route 66, or the "biggest yarn ball", type of stuff. Things you kids would enjoy at their age. If the kids get antsy, pull off at a road stop and let them run around. You really aren't on a big time frame so stopping a couple extra times won't hurt.

Also, if you have portable DVD players that would help for your kids to entertain themselves in the car. Books, coloring books, games.

They will get antsy, just take a deep breath and know in several years you will look back and think what a great trip it was!!! =)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I know of people who do it and enjoy it but it would not fly for me and my family.

If we are over 2 hrs away, we fly.. I just think it is safer to fly than drive. More expensive yes, much faster and everyone in better moods. I can't stand the thought of being in a car for long periods of time.

Even in the fall when daughter is moving to AZ for college, we are shipping her car.. NO way will we drive 15+ hours.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Four things I suggest you get:

1 - Portable DVD player or laptop computer with a working disc drive and new movies -- we allow only one movie per leg (when we all need it) to also have family game time (you say a word with the last letter of the world I say, etc) and sing alongs.

2 - A car charger converter (plugs into what used to be called a cigarette lighter and makes an outlet like you have at home) this ensures the DVD player battery doesn't die.

3 - Lap desks for each kid, Then get travel sized games and activity books with new crayons that you wrap like presents and the kids get to open one per leg of the drive, new activities are always more exciting than what is already owned.

4 - A membership to a science center with reciprocal tickets. Whenever we do road trips we check the route to the participating science centers and we drive, break up the day with a kid-friendly museum, have lunch there, go to the bathroom and get back on the road. Each Science Center - Children's Museum is different and can usually be done in 2-4 hours and really makes the days go nicer and breaks up the sitting times.

Here is the name of the Science Center Membership:
Association of Science-Technology Centers ASTC Travel Passport Program

The one thing you do need to know is that each museum has a different price for membership and there is a rule about not being able to use it with another science center within 90 miles. Usually we join at the first stop, it costs us about the same for a Family Membership Deal than to pay for each person individually, and we call it a vacation expense and benefit from it throughout the trip and then we have the membership as a souvenir for the rest of the year.

Okay a few more - Family Friendly Books On Tape/CD are great! The library has them and we love them. We usually listen to the first in a series then the kids are hooked and want to read the rest of the series.

Let the kids be involved in the planning of the activities or at least read up on where you will be stopping each day and let each child choose one or two activities that that the whole family will do.

Give each child a vacation journal and have them fill it out with words and pictures each night before bedtime of the trip (some times the kids would dictate to us if they didn't have the skills or energy to write all the words). Having those books from each trip is such a nice keepsake.

Have a great time!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

Would love to do a road trip! I say go for it!
(we did one a few years back - would like to do part of it again and take more time - and also take a different route in other areas)

(wow - all you KY gals..!)



answers from Los Angeles on

I regularly drive from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Everett, WA, USA, with my 6 and 9 yo. It is about a 15 hour drive that we break into 2 days.

Travel with kids? Do it!

But - what saves the journey from turning into one enormous pit - is our portable DVD player. I let the kids watch hours and hours and hours of DVDs. They are too young to appreciate the scenery, it really does help to pass the time, and if they are happy, well, then time flies.

Is it how I would like to do it? No - I would prefer more discussion and game playing and reading and sight seeing, etc. But I try to include that when my husband drives with us; when I am on my own - 14 hours of Phineas and Ferb. Red Box makes it easy!

We also try to stay at really nice hotels with swimming pools and we hit every other rest stop, for a game of tag, hide and seek, just to get out and move, even if no one has to pee. And we clean out the car every time - a clean environment makes a huge, happy difference.

Food - I usually bring a lot of food, but will stop at a fast food place once or twice, because it is something novel to do - and everyone gets an ice cream and a toy!!

I hit up the dollar store before the trip, to find little diversions and novelties, then pass themout between every other movie or so. Our best surprise - early Christmas gifts of a digital camera each! $60 never so well spent! Used every. single. day. Photos of family, sights, the trip, they made little videos - fantastic.

Just clean out the van, get a very careful auto check so there are no mechanical surprises, make your reservations, prepare in advance and GO!!

I love travelling with my boys!

Bon Voyage!!!



answers from Denver on

Some families do these kinds of trips all the time and have a blast. Me? I'd prefer not to spend so much time cooped up in a car with my kids. Love them to death, but they can annoy me during the 5 minute drive to school!

But that's just me.



answers from San Francisco on

When we used to do long road trips, we brought a tv along with videos.



answers from Dallas on

I think if you limit the electronics to between this and this time in the morning and afternoon, that you would give yourself some time to bond and also some power to make behavior changes. Not good, no morning time. Take a turn entertaining your brother- extra time.



answers from Reno on

When I was a kid, my parents piled us all in our standard sedan for long road trips (to Yellowstone, for instance). We've taken our kids on trips that include 7 to 12 hours a day of driving. You'll hear some whining and complaining - they're kids - but they'll have great memories!

We bought small, non-messy "gifts" that we'd hand out every 2 or 3 hours on long trips - stuffed animals, plastic action figures, coloring supplies, games. Knowing that they had something to look forward to helped keep them happy.

Don't try to "make good time." Sometimes you'll be stopping every hour for potty breaks.

Games where you need to spot license plates or types (or colors) of cars are a good way to prevent car sickness (looking out the windows is good, focusing only inside the car is bad) and are a fun way to pass the time. You can make or buy "BINGO" type boards, and keep track of traffic signs, sights, other cars or a combination. It's amazing how exciting seeing a cow in a field can be if it earns you a BINGO.

Have fun! Take lots of photos, and write down the funny things that happen before you forget them.

Bon voyage!



answers from Las Vegas on

My husband and I took our 2 year old on a 9000 mile, one month long road trip around the country, 2 years ago. We were visiting people, but also stopping here and there driving and filming for a day. We tried to get in a stop every day at a park or just a spot for our son to run around a little longer than a short food stop, which really helped. For the first two weeks no one was very happy, and I think it was because we would basically drive, spend a night with friends, leave the next morning and drive again. My son wanted to stay with the people more, and we just needed more breaks of not driving, more fun things. I think if you are in Wisconsin for 5 days, plus full days (with your two nights) in a few other places, it won't be so bad. Of course, my son also likes riding in the car a lot. He is now 4 and would probably enjoy it more now since we could actually play games.

Get a list of car games to play, and remember to bring it out when things get rough (arguing, complaining, etc). We used basically no electronics (my son played for probably a total of 3 hours the whole month on my tablet, mostly drawing games, when it was really rough). At least try to have some time periods when there are no electronics, so you can spend time talking with each other. I found we didn't need anything special, we just talked a lot to each other (my son too). I also find that on long road trips I get my best ideas, let your kids use their brains and imaginations, that is how we got through our long road trip. Maybe give everyone an hour each day you are driving of their own music as well? They choose the station or cd.

One last thing, be flexible. If the kids are really having a hard time, find a place to do something fun for an hour or two, or just get out of the car and stretch your legs (maybe do short hikes or walks every day or so). If you see something really cool, stop there and check it out. Make the road trip fun, and everyone will have fun.

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