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Old 03-24-2006, 03:44 PM
Hedda Rosa Hedda Rosa is offline
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Driving cross country with 2 kids

Yes we are crazy to even contemplate driving cross-country with our 1 year old boy and 3 year old girl. From San Francisco to Syracuse. But if we go ahead and do it, we'll proably do a straight shot on 80 most of the way.

- Is there camping along the way? Should we make reservations? How about inexpensive but safe motels?
- How long, really, does it take to get across Nebraska and Kansas and places like that? I figure it'll be one day just to get us to Tahoe, and a day to get through Nevada, does that sound right?
-We'll be leaving early June. Will it be H.O.T. hot by then in the midwest?
-Any other pointers, warnings, or advice?

If we go further with this wacky plan we'll do the whole AAA triptik thing, but first hope others who've done the drive can share some of their wisdom...

Thanks in advance.
Old 03-24-2006, 03:55 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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You are seriously thinking of driving and throw in some camping too just for good measure?

Oh boy. You are looking at about 50 hours driving time not including stops. I suppose you could do that in 4 hard days but I wouldn't recommend it with kids that young. 6 days would be better.

We took our daughter to France when she was two and I thought that was bad (I had to commandere an airplane bathroom for 5 hours as a private holding cell on the flight back because she was sick and had tantrums).
Old 03-24-2006, 04:13 PM
Antinor01 Antinor01 is offline
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We did a similar trip august 04 on moving to LA. (no kids though). starting from columbus ohio taking I-70, we left mid evening and stopped for the night in st louis, next day drove through to about halfway through kansas, next day to a small town in western colorado then on to vegas and finally to LA. Could have made it to LA same day but we wanted to spend a day in vegas. So about 3 1/2 days of near solid driving and you're heading another....10 hours or so beyond us. (something like that.)

I would say you want more than 4 days, 5 maybe for the trip. Or perhaps tranquilizers for the kids, heck do both!
Old 03-25-2006, 01:03 AM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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The biggest hassle is having the kids confined for the trip each day. The second biggest hassle is that they will not appreciate the trip: e.g., the Sierra Nevadas will mean nothing to them which may be frustrating to you.

On the other hand, the 1-year-old is probably still in diapers and the 3-year-old should be toilet trained, so you won't be breaking any good habits. (Never pass by a rest stop. (I exaggerate a little. A quick view of I-80 seems to indicate a rest stop every 20 to 40 miles through several western states. You might try stopping every one to two hours.) Take the girl to the rest room and make both of them run for a few minutes. The trip will take a bit longer, but it will be a more pleasant trip.)

You might consider a portable DVD player that can plug into a cigarette-lighter for the 3-year-old. (Batteries go really fast on long trips). (I would not usually recommend a TV for older kids if you were travelling scenic countryside--they'd like it but it would drive you nuts when they ignored the scenery--but for a small kid trapped in a car for five or so days, it might be worth it.)

Yes, it is already hot by June. There may be more cool days than July or August, but it may also be more humid.

For camping, you might want to invest in the Woodall's Guides ($9.95 each for the Western U.S. and Eastern U.S.). Rand-McNally used to publish campground guides that were a lot easier to use (and a lot less biased toward advertising), but they got out of the business a few years ago. The Woodall's guides are still OK. They provide directions, lists of services, and ratings for most campgrounds in the U.S., state by state. You can also use Google™ to dig up campgrounds, state by state, but that would involve a fair amount of time.
You should not need reservations for camps Sunday night through Thursday night and would rarely need reservations on the weekend except around major attractions (few of which are along I-80).
For in-and-out cheap camping, few sites beat National Forests, wildlife areas, and similar locations that have not been granted "park" status. You might have to forego a shower that night and they will have few amenities, but they are generally cheap.
(BTW, if you have never camped before, you really need to take a weekend for a test run to see how you and the kids do.)

There are several low-cost motel chains out there, although "low" is a relative term. Days Inn, Knights Inn, Motel 6, and Red Roof Inn tend to run $45 - $70 a night. LK Motels used to be fairly cheap, but I am not even sure they still exist. Mom and Pop Motels can be cheap and wonderful or terrifying, dirty, and expensive and it is difficult to know in advance. Someone who uses Orbitz and similar services might be able to tell you better whether there is a way to find good, inexpensive motels. Similar to campgrounds, weekday nights you should rarely need reservations; weekends near large cities (epecially if you intend to travel late into the evening), they might be a good idea.

Are you planning to return the same way? Or is this a one-way journey? If you are going to travel the length of the country twice, I would strongly urge you to use separate routes for each direction unless speed is of the essence.

Paper towels
Zip-Loc or Glad-Lock bags, quart size and gallon size, at least. (Sandwich and snack bags optional. The 2-1/2 gallon monsters are not a bad idea.)
A good cooler. (As the ice melts, do not pour it out. The cold water still keeps things nice and cold. If you have cooled food that mustn't get wet, put it in a locking bag.) A seven lb. bag will cost $1.00-$1.20 and last a day and a half.
A gallon thermos with spigot. Fill with ice, (about 1/3 of a 7 lb. bag) then fill with water, juice, or soft drink of choice. That should generally last one day unless you get really thirsty.
Carrots, celery, (radishes if your kids will eat them). Slice them into bite sizes each night, them place them in bags in the cooler to be passed out when the kids need snacks. (Unlike crackers, the veggies are less likely to make the kids more thirsty--and with fewer crumbs. String cheese is a little salty, but it can keep them occupied for several minutes if they learn to peel strands rather than biting it off like carrots.)
Sippy cups, insulated to hold ice if you can find them

Check list (be sure to put the kids' toys on it and check it before you leave any place you stop)
Sun shade (the kids sit lower in the car and several hours in the sun (on your shoulders but their faces) will not make them happy people)
A carry-bag for the 3-year-old's three or four favorite toys or books, with a rule that if one thing comes out of the bag, one thing must go in. (Yeah, I never could enforce that, either, but it does not hurt to try.) Similar bag for the younger child under your control. (NO toys with small parts.)
Old 03-25-2006, 01:06 AM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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Oh, if you have a van, the kids are small enough that you could fix the interior to let you all sleep at rest stops, saving you a night's lodging on a couple of nights--although I would not recommend that for the whole trip.
Old 03-25-2006, 05:27 AM
Quartz Quartz is online now
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How about letting the kids stay with grandparents who then fly over with the kids while you drive?
Old 03-25-2006, 08:47 AM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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One of my friends drove to CA from Salt Lake with his 1 year old and it left enough of a trauma that the child would scream anytime she would be put into her child seat. That's a long time for kids.
Old 03-25-2006, 01:03 PM
ethelbert ethelbert is offline
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If you were doing this as an adventure for your children, I could see it. As other posters have pointed out, however, your children are too small to appreciate any but the worst aspects of this trip. As far as camping is concerned, imagine getting a camp set up after 10 hours in the car. I don't think so. This gets much worse if you are planning on eating dinner & breakfast in the camp.

Having said that, my parents took three young boys across the country (camping by car) in the 50s (my brothers & I were 4, 6, & 8), and I still talk about that trip today. My mother still talks about it, too, mostly about how much work it was.

I hope you will be staying at least a week in Syracuse before heading back. Good luck. I would like to hear how it turns out.
Old 03-25-2006, 02:46 PM
Hedda Rosa Hedda Rosa is offline
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Thanks for all the advice!

We'll be in NY at least 2 months, perhaps longer. And we will drive both ways. We've decided we also will be stopping in Chicago for a week+, coming and going.

We'll take at least 7 days for the drive, perhaps longer. I'm thinking 6 or 8 hour days, including rest stops, lunches, pee breaks, sightseeing etc. We'll go into it with the attitude of the drive is its own adventure, not just trying to get from A to B.

We camp frequently with the kids, but point well taken about setting up after hours of driving.

Already own a portable DVD player.

You guys are great, lots of food for thought here!
Old 03-26-2006, 04:49 PM
MsMitey MsMitey is offline
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We took tons of long-haul (think 3 week) cross-country vacations when my sister & I were kids. We've camped at every KOA west of the Mississippi, and they're always good, though not necessarily cheaper than motels. Bring a set of sheets to use when sleeping bags are too hot.
The worst part was that we would all get on each others' nerves something fierce by the end, and since my sis & I were devoted enemies anyway, it was rough going at times. For the 3 year old, find some colorform-type toys, with the little vinyl stickers that she can put on a background over & over. Also, I'd get some of those scenes that you can paint & repaint with just water - those things rock. That, some decent music, the dvd player (though I'm against that for older kids, too), and naps should keep her from making you kill yourselves.
And yes, Nebraska takes forever. I think we did Denver to Minneapolis in 2 days, but it felt like a lifetime.
Good luck!
Old 03-26-2006, 05:39 PM
FilmGeek FilmGeek is offline
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Kansas takes about 7 hours (MO border to Denver took us 9 hours or so) on I-70. Speed limit is 75 almost the whole way. If you're taking 80, you won't be anywhere near Kansas.
Old 03-26-2006, 06:38 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Chicago to Sherman, NY (near Erie, PA) taking I-90, is a solid 11 hours with kids, stopping for lunch, diaper changes and rest stops. That's our drive every summer.

Don't forget baby toys - lots of various rattles and shakey things, teethy things, things that go squish. Let the baby out to crawl around at rest stops while the older one runs around. Don't worry about the dirty floors, just let 'em get dirty and keep disinfectant gel in the car to clean their hands before you leave again.

Offer lots of inconsequential choices to the three year old. The worst part (besides having to sit still for a week) is going to be her loss of control over her life. Ask her if she wants the celery or the carrots. The blue book or the red book. This rest stop or the next one. Ask her if she wants to give the baby his toy, or if you should do it. Give her as much control as possible and she will be happier.
Old 03-27-2006, 08:20 AM
MizGrand MizGrand is offline
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Location: Contra Costa County, CA
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[Nelson] Haw-haw! [/Nelson]

Sorry, but I can't imagine taking my 4 y/o and 2 y/o cross country. I can only say if it were me, I'd be hopping down to have a DVD player installed and buying gosh, probably a dozen or more books/magazines/games for travel. Lots of snackie stuff too.

Happy Trails!


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