Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dad & Sons on the Road, All Summer Long!

Hey Jamie,

Early last year I started a new position that grants me the ability to undertake a road trip of monstrous proportions. My job has two requirements 1) That I have an internet connection and 2) That I have cell phone data service coverage (AT&T). With that in mind, one night my wife said "Why don't you take the boys on a road trip this summer - all summer long?". Aside from my concerns about where she's hiding her boyfriend (kidding) I only need to make sure that my travels put me at a hotel or place to stay with wireless or hardwired internet services and AT&T cell phone data reception by Wednesday Morning.

My plan is to leave Minneapolis, MN the second week of June and return to Minneapolis, MN the last week of August. Beyond that I want to give the boys as much of the splendor that the USA has to offer as humanly possible. Here's the travel planning that I have worked out so far:


$1000 every 2 weeks for travel costs, laundry, sight-seeing, sleeping arrangements, food, gifts, tours, etc.

Weekly Plan:
Main Driving Day - Sunday
Sight-seeing Day - Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
Morning Fun Day - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
Working (2pm - 12am) - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday

Due to the age of my boys (6 and 8) I can't let them out of wherever I'm working on my normal work nights. So I plan to bring board games, a portable DVD player, a gaming console (and additional video equipment to make it work), and a laptop computer. Plus the boys will bring some toys, books, etc on their own.

As far as what I was thinking in terms of where I'd head to first, I want to drive out to Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, Wall Drug, etc and then I was thinking of heading out to Seattle, WA after that, then south down the coast (maybe to Mexico/US boarder), east across the southern-most states, north up the east coast and finally west heading back to MN. I see on your site that you've listed some "easy" travel routes. So I was wondering if you have any recommendations on which number routes would be best for younger boys? Or if there are sights that you think would be important to get in, even if I had to leave the beaten trail for a day or two?

Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide. I'm really looking forward to taking the boys on this trip while I have the option and ability to do so.



Hi Patrick --

Thank you so much for writing in to Road Trip USA! So, you want to take two small boys on the road with you for six weeks, and see as much of the USA as humanly (and humanely, I assume...) possible.

And you want to get some work done while you're at it. Not asking a lot, are you? All for $500 a week...


I think it's definitely a good plan not to drive every day -- getting settled into a hotel can be a real hassle (I think of all the toys and other essential I have left behind, or almost left behind, when I have done road trips with my boys (twins, now 12 -- and childhood sure does go fast, so I applaud you for making this happen!)

The web access won't be a problem, as most hotels offer this for free, almost anywhere -- except maybe in some National Parks, so I'll concentrate on trying to help with the route planning.

One thing comes to my mind: I don't think you need to be quite so ambitious in your planning, and I think getting from Minnesota, thru some Mount Rushmore (and Carhenge!), and the National Parks like Yellowstone, Zion, Arches and Yosemite, then to have some time on the West Coast, will be plenty to contemplate. Adding on thoughts of the Southwest deserts and the Deep South, especially in August, may distract you from enjoying the places you are passing through. There is definitely a male tendency to want to add up the miles, when I think what's most fun about a family road trip is the hanging out in silly places and enjoying each other's company. Yes, your boys may learn a little about American history, but what they'll mostly do is get to know each other, and their Dad. And you will get to hang out with them, which is what it's all about.

I have had as much with my boys in small town swimming pools as we have at Disneyland -- it's all down to your mood, and as much as I love road trips, the more driving you do tends to be inversely related to how much fun you have. Especially for a 6 year old, for whom an hour in a car will feel like forever -- he'll be better off on a hiking trail than on the highway, for sure!

I did wonder whether maybe it might be a good idea to break this trip into two parts, maybe doing a Figure 8 shape, with a return home halfway along. I personally find 3 weeks to be the maximum time I can spend on the road before I get a case of white-line fever; one thing about travel is that it makes you value having a place that feels like home.

One other thing to consider -- have you thought about camping out? There's nothing boys like more than burning marshmallows around a campfire, and if you spent some time camping out you could see the stars, talk to each other rather than watch TV, and maybe even save some money. You don't need tons of gear either -- just a tent, sleeping bags, a stove and some cookware. Campgrounds are also a lot easier to come by than motels or national park lodges, and camping can make it easier to meet and play with other travelers, which kids like to do.

Just a thought.

I'll be happy to try to suggest some more places to see, but wanted to write back and share these more general thoughts with you. Thinking about summer fun makes winter go past that much faster -- and in fact that brings me to one last piece of advice: without putting too much on them to know what they want, try to encourage your boys to join in the planning of this trip, and let them pick some places they think might be fun and/or interesting -- Lewis and Clark exploration sights? Baseball games? Searching for charismatic wildlife, or cherry pies? There are a lot of "themes" you can use to inspire your travels, and it's a good idea to keep everyone happy and engaged while you explore all the great places America has to offer.

Keep in touch, and Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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