Monday, January 23, 2012

6 week Cross-Country Adventure - from Denmark to NYC and SF

Hi Jamie,

Very interesting site you’ve got. I can spend hours just reading through your advice.

Keep it up!

We are a small family of three (mom, dad and a 6-year old son) from Denmark. We are planning a road trip from NYC to LA beginning June 1st 2012. Mid July we leave from LAX to Hawaii for a 2 week stay just relaxing before we return to Denmark.

So we have about 6-7 weeks to get across the USA in a rental car staying at hotels/motels.

The current plan is to go down the east coast to Miami, FL – to New Orleans, LA – up to Rapid City, SD – to Yellowstone – down thru Utah to Las Vegas – thru Yosemite to San Francisco, CA – down Highway 1 to Los Angeles – on to Sea World San Diego – returning the car at LAX.

All in all we expect to do around 7,500 miles (avg. 160 miles per day).

Any tips on great places for the family to visit?

Any good advice for driving with a 6-year old?

We definitely need to have some “no driving days”.

Thanks in advance.



Hi there Peter --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA. I'm glad you like the website, and hope you'll get a chance to read the Road Trip USA book, which has tons more info, ideas, maps and fun stuff. All new, all color, 6th edition will come out in April 2012, just in time for you great adventure.

Sounds like a fantastic trip you have ahead of you, and I hope it all goes well. You definitely have plenty of time to see what you want to see, so I'll try to point you toward some especially good spots to enjoy with your young son.

On the first leg of you trip, there are lots of great beach communities (like Wildwood and Cape May New Jersey), but I'd also recommend you head inland a little ways, to see some of Washington DC where there are many great museum and monuments to welcome you to the USA. The Air and Space Museum is truly amazing -- and almost everything in the city is free.

Another place you might enjoy is Williamsburg Virginia, where historians have recreated an "authentic" colonial city, with lots of demonstrations and activities.

Further south, along my "Atlantic Cost" road trip, I strongly recommend spending some time in Charleston South Carolina and Savannah Georgia -- both of which are very walkable and enjoyable. (A rare combination in car-obsessed America...)

New Orleans is another walkable, aesthetically-pleasing place, though many of its attractions are more "grown up" (bars, nightclubs, etc). It's very lively, for sure.

Depending upon how much time you spend in NYC, and if you decide to brave Walt Disney World (and Sea World!) etc in Florida, the trip this far could fill a good 2 weeks, or more, of your trip.

The next section is probably the most open-ended -- if you like cities, you'll love Chicago, or if you want to see some Wild West type place you could head across Texas and the deserts Southwest, which is a fascinating part of the country. The ancient "Native American" cities and cultures of Arizona and Utah are for many people the highlights of a US trip, and of course you have amazing scenery here, like the Grand Canyon.

So that's a big decision -- I myself would be tempted to go from New Orleans up to Memphis (and maybe St Louis?), then head west, and approach Yellowstone from Utah and Colorado. Or if you go via Chicago, you could do as you have planned, and spend some time at the end of your trip to see Zion and the Grand Canyon (and maybe Las Vegas, which is another unforgettable sight.)

All these possibilities are what makes road trip so exciting -- and you are fortunate to have plenty of time to enjoy it. Most Americans get 10 days off work every year...

However you get there, Yellowstone is amazing, and worth a few days for sure. And set aside a day at least for the Buffalo Bill museums in nearby Cody Wyoming -- here's a URL to whet your appetite:

Cody is also home to a popular Rodeo, which any 6 year old will love:

I cover the trip thru Yellowstone in my "Oregon Trail" road trip, which will carry you west to Portland Oregon (another great US city!). Part of my thinking is that the Pacific Coast north of San Francisco is very enjoyable, and it would be a shame to miss out seeing it. Your son will be amazed to see the "Avenue of the Giants", where the world's tallest trees line the road in Humboldt County; and the coastal town of Mendocino is also gorgeous (as is the Wine Country of Napa and Sonoma, north of San Francisco.)

Before or after SF, take your road trip to Yosemite (and Lake Tahoe!), and be sure to have at least a couple of days to absorb the scenery of Yosemite Valley. As in Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park is very popular, so be sure to make your reservations as early as you can -- especially for th enice old lodge like Old Faithful Inn (in Yellowstone) or the grand Awhawnee Hotel in Yosemite.

I could go on for pages with more thoughts, but I think there's enough here for one email. :-)

Thinking of your young travel companion, a couple of things I'd suggest would be to bring some sporting equipment:
a soccer ball (for your future Daniel Agger!),
or a Frisbee, tennis rackets... so you can have fun and stretch your legs a little after all those miles.

Also, bring swimming suits, because there are many nice public swimming pools in towns all over the USA, which will be a great way for you to see the "real America" -- without having to pay the $50 a day for Disney / Sea World etc.

Also, look into getting some audiobooks -- when my kids were littler, we listened to all of the "Little House on the Prairie" books, as well as more contemporary kids stories, though I suspect the range of Danish-language audiobooks may be limited to the likes of Hans C Andersen and the Grimm brothers...

I'm sure you'll have a fabulous and memorable time, as America is a welcoming and friendly place to explore, so thanks again for thinking of Road Trip USA, and have a great trip! Let me know how it all shapes up.

With best wishes,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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