Friday, October 14, 2011

Family Road Trip - Summer 2012

Hi -

We are a family of 4 (kids 14 and 12) looking to travel cross country (next summer) starting in VA. We are mostly interested in outdoor activities and history.

What specific route would you take out and back? What stops would you make along the way? We have about 6 weeks. Would you drive both ways or fly then drive?

Any advice on making the driving part easier/less boring for the kids.




Hi Scott & Family --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA, and I hope I can help you plan a fantastic family road trip next summer.

6 weeks is a perfect amount of time for driving across the country and back, and if you feel brave enough for such a big adevnture I think you'll all have a blast.

There are a number of ways to keep everyone from getting bored on those occasional long stretches of empty highway -- though to be honest, once you get into the right frame of mind, in my experience road tripping is the opposite of boring. With sounding too much like some bubbleheaded California Zenster, I do believe that once you start appreciating the many many little things you can find along your way -- getting out of the car as often as possible, wandering around oddball historic sites and small-town downtowns, going bowling or stopping for a piece of apple pie. All these things make road trips fun -- and the key to all this is to drive along pleasant, littler roads like those I cover in Road Trip USA, as opposed to the anodyne Interstate highways.

Interstates are great when you need to get your self 500 miles further down the road, but when you are not in hurry, driving the Route 66-type highways lets you actually enjoy the freedom and mobility of a family road trip.

For your trip next summer, I would suggest you head west along what I call the "Loneliest Road" along old US-50 -- from DC, via Cincinnati and Louisville, St Louis and Kansas City, then following the Santa Fe Trail and Pony Express route west to San Francisco. No matter what you like -- history, baseball, mountain climbing or sifting thru junk shops for old Hot Wheels -- it's all here , waiting for you to enjoy it.

Then I'd suggest a road trip up the Pacific Coast, from SF to the "Avenue of the Giants" in the Humboldt County redwoods, and then on to the Oregon Coast, which is gorgeous. Then Portland, and then back east, via the Oregon Trail, Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore and Chicago. Depending upon your tastes and how much energy you have left, you could set aside some time to see and explore the brave old "Rust Belt" cities (like Cleveland and Detroit), and wind your way back home again.

I'd suggest you make some accommodation arrangements in advance (for cities and national parks lodges, especially), but if you can leave enough dates open so you can "follow your noses" and have the freedom to stay longer if you like a place along the way.

Also, to keep the kids involved, I would encourage them to use their native Internet skills and plan the trip THEY would like to take , rather than one Mom 7 Dad drag them along on. They are likely to find some great places you've never heard of, and making everyone a "stakeholder" in the success of the road trip will make them participants rather than passengers.

(And by the way, I am planning a similar trip with my own twin 13-year-olds for next summer, so I do sympathize if you ever feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities!)

Hope these ideas help you, and please keep in touch and let me know how things shape up.

With best wishes,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

PS: Earlier this year I contributed to a Travel + Leisure magazine story called "Great Family Road trip Tips", which you can find here:

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