This spring/summer, we’re traveling around the United States on a great family road trip (you can read all about it here).
Many of you have given the most invaluable suggestions and we can’t wait to pore over each one as we finalize our travel itinerary. Thank you times one million for taking the time to share! If you’d like to see where we are going and suggest stops, there is a quick form here.
I announced our fun travel news in the last Coffee Chat and am back today to answer a bunch of questions about the trip. Here it goes!
Q: Will you talk about your travel prep?
Yes, of course! We are excited to share our whole experience and have a small list of blog posts I’ll work on before we leave. Once we’re on the road, we’ll be documenting the trip and posting photos, videos and details about our adventures. We do hope you enjoy following along!
Q: What order are you visiting the cities?
When imagining our trip we had either a Fall route or a Spring route; head east across the top and then down around clockwise or head south and around counter-clockwise. Since we’re making it happen this Spring, we’ll begin by going south down the west coast, over to Arizona and New Mexico, south through Texas then hug the southern and eastern coasts and continue counter clockwise through Chicago, Ohio and on through Wyoming. We’re skipping some states (sadly), spending the majority of our time in coastal towns and the big sightseeing must-dos around the country.
Q: Did you use a guide to plan this or did you do it yourself?
We planned the trip ourselves. This trip has been a pretty front-of-mind dream for the last two years, so we’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about where we’d like to go. I had my wish list; Ryan had his. Thankfully, they matched up pretty well. We knew we wanted to see all the major things (Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon). Showing my family the most gorgeous little town of Seaside, Florida (where I had visited with friends) was at the top of my list, along with seeing a few southern cities I had heard such wonderful things about. Ryan was particularly excited about Washington DC (neither of us have been and we can’t wait to do it with the kids!) and New York City.
Many evenings have been spent reading articles, books, and travel blogs about the best places to see and truly every city has something wonderful to offer. Ryan created a google map for us to drop pins on every time we found a stop and then we just started figuring out distances (google was our friend) and looking for fun places along the way. Our goal is to limit our drive time to a max of 4 hours on any travel days. There are two or three days that are longer – like nine hours (ugh) but there just was no way around it.
Q: What will you be traveling in?
We bought a Class C Motorhome two years ago as we prepared for the trip (see it here). We’ve used it a handful of times and it’s great, but it may not be right for this trip. We’re currently in the market for a travel trailer that we’ll pull with our family SUV so that we’ll have a car to take on day trips.
There are so many options and yet finding just the right thing for our large family has proven mildly difficult. We have just under four weeks to decide on the best option … wish us luck!
Q: What will you pack to wear?
I’m so glad someone asked this question because as silly as it is, it feels like a fun project for me. Our space will be very limited which means our wardrobes will be quite small. We’ll probably bring about a weeks’ worth of clothes for each person, with a few extras (a nicer outfit for dinners out, a rain coat, an extra sweatshirt). Each of us will bring a pair of good walking/hiking shoes and flip flops. We’ll do laundry at the campgrounds. Now that we’re getting closer to our leave date, I’ll be going through our clothes and putting our packing list together. I’ll be sure to write more about what we pack as I figure it out!
Q: What about school?
The kids will miss about 7 weeks of school. Ryan and I were super nervous to meet with the school and figured we were going to have to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to make the trip work with their education. As it turned out, our school district has been so willing to work with us and have made it extra easy.
Since the kids will be missing more than 20 consecutive days of school, we will un-enroll them from school and will technically be independently homeschooling. Our principal’s main concern was that the kids hit their end-of-year standards, and thankfully all four have so we won’t have additional school work to bring along with us.
We were truly so surprised at how school was a non-issue. It just reminded us that as parents, we have the power to decide how to educate our children. We’ll oblige by all of the state requirements, of course, and we don’t have a single worry that our kids will be negatively impacted by missing school (although they all love school and will be crying messes on our last day!).
When it really comes down to it, I can’t imagine a better educational experience for our kids than to experience culture, history and geography is such a tangible way. We know it will make a lasting impression on their lives!
Q: What about work?
Thankfully, having an online business means we can check in from the road (as long as there’s internet connection!) and we have an amazing team of people working with us to keep Maker + Ink, Paper Works, the blog, shop and classes going smoothly while we’re away.
Ryan retired this year from the fire service, where he was a firefighter for the past 12 years. Last summer, he had a pretty serious work-related back injury and we knew it was time to close that chapter of his career. He continues working behind the scenes with me at JDC (I love it!), doing small business consulting (which he is amazing at!) and is a real estate broker here in the Seattle area.
This trip falls at a great time as we transition into what’s next for our family, our businesses, and our ministry (which maybe will become clearer to us as we drive across the country?!).
Q: How did you budget for the trip?
Since we’ve been preparing for the trip for a while, we’ve had time to estimate costs and save accordingly.
Traveling for nearly 4 months with six people on a once-in-a-lifetime trip is not cheap. We started with a list of all of the possibilities, and have adjusted as we’ve planned (how much do we camp? stay in hotels? how many days on the road?) to keep it in line with reality.
We have a pretty basic spreadsheet with dates, where we’re staying, mileage between stops and costs. It acts as our planner and budgeting tool in one.
We’ve also done a fairly good job of hunting down discounts and memberships. We’re camping at several KOAs which offer a yearly membership, we have AAA which gets us better hotel rates and we bought a family membership to ASTC so we can visit science centers and museums all over the country.
Fuel will be one of our biggest expenses and hooray! gas prices are lower than they’ve been in years.
Q: Are you bringing your dog?
Sweet Atlas, our goofy labradoodle, will not be joining us. Ryan’s parents have graciously offered to keep him. The trip we’re planning is really not conducive to bringing along a pet, but we sure will miss him!
We clearly love talking about all of this, so if you have any other questions or comments, feel free to leave them below and I’ll reply back. Thanks again to all who have offered suggestions over on the road trip page!
What app or program do you use to lighten up all of your photos? Also, we are planning an east coast road trip this summer and are trying to decide between renting an RV or just driving our larger SUV. How easier/difficult was it to find close accommodations to larger cities for your trailer? Thanks!
I use either A Color Story and play with the curves level or Afterlight. Here is a post with some of my tips: https://jonesdesigncompany.com/photography/tricky-little-trick-make-instagram-photos-one-million-times-better/
As far as renting an rv or driving, it it totally dependent on what cities you are going to, how long you are staying, if you want a more city experience or camping experience. We pulled a trailer which allowed us to leave the trailer at the rv park and use our car for sight seeing. There is limited RV parking/camping close to cities. We left our trailer in Philadelphia and took the train into NYC for the week where we stayed in a hotel. In Chicago, the closest RV park was at least an hour outside of the city so we parked at a friend’s house a little closer and stayed in a hotel. I hope you have so much fun on your trip!
I’ve been loving following your journey and am hoping to plan a road trip like this with my family, using your itinerary and notes as an inspiration. Wondering how the travel days are going – the less glamorous part of the trip. Any insights, tips, or suggestions on how to keep 4 kids happy on long drive days? Any issues with kids needing more space, independence, or having conflicts along the way? Sounds like such an amazing adventure, your kids will surely remember this special summer!
Great questions and I’m so glad you are going to do a trip with your family! Traveling is going surprisingly well. We have a ford expedition xl which gives each of the kids their own space with a seat in between each pair. This helps immensely. I would not do this much driving if they were squished next to each other. We tried to limit our drives to 4 hours max each time. What we’re finding, though, is that it takes us at least one hour longer than expected because we didn’t take into account that we can’t drive the max speed limit while pulling a 7000lb trailer. So our 4 hour drive days are always more like 5 or 6. We don’t stop a ton – the kids are pretty happy just chilling in the car. We have no limits on movie watching or technology. I expected that we would limit it, but as it turns out we are so busy during our normal adventure days that a little downtime on travel days seems just what everyone needs. As far as space … there isn’t a lot of it. I only have one kid who really needs alone time to recharge. He has his hammock, he can be in our bedroom, or honestly just pop on some headphones on drive days and be in his own world. It is sufficient. I’ll do a post about more … these are great topics!
We had planned to fly from Georgia to California for our summer vacation but thanks to you (in large part!) we are now going to road trip and are going to many of the spots that you are visiting!
May I ask where you got that America pillow? I would love to get one!
Yay! I hope you have so much fun!
The pillow is a few years old from Target. I’ll see if I can source a more recent one …
Thank you Emily! Enjoy 30A – it’s our family’s tradition to stay there every year for thanksgiving week.
You posted a picture of what looked like an island in Arizona. I wonder if you could repost and tell us where it is.
Sure! That was in Page, Arizona – Lake Powell. Not an island, but so so beautiful!
Love following your family on this adventure. Your pictures are amazing!! What kind of camera are you using?
My family did a very short cross country trip last summer. My husband is self employed and could only get away for 3 weeks, it was still a stretch as far as work was concerned, but much too short as far as road tripping is concerned.
I showed my daughter and husband your map and told them your time frame and we are all jealous.
My kids are both teenagers, and we went in our car and stayed in hotels. We had planned to camp but at the end of each day we really wanted clean beds and cable tv.
Anyway, don’t be scared of the long driving days, lots of important bonding happens on those days.
We lived by my yelp app. We would eat breakfast at the hotel, eat snacky lunches while driving (mostly deli turkey meat and single servings of guacamole and each grocery stop everyone chose their fruit of choice) And each gas stop everyone chose a treat. I spent all day on the yelp app researching places for dinner and having a nice dinner each night was the best!
About wardrobe! A friend gave me the advice to pack a “color palate” and it worked out really well.
I don’t know when we’ll be able to do it again, so I am so excited to follow along, thank you for sharing!!
As a quiet but long time reader and Instagram follower I was so excited to hear about this fun trip! My husband (who grew up in eastern WA) as a kid went on a similar trip with his three other siblings and parents who are teachers across the country one summer. Some of his favorite memories as a kid will forever be from that trip, staying in KOAs and living out of their Suburban! I can’t wait to follow along with yalls road trip and steal some ideas for our own one day! Thanks for sharing with us!
I’m not sure the grades of your kiddos, but fourth graders can get free passes into all national parks through the end of August. Perhaps you knew this already? If not it could save you some $$! I’m looking forward to following your adventure!
Can we see updated pictures of your class c motor home. Would love to see your spin on decorating a motor home!
We did nothing to the RV!
I’d recommend a little mini steamer to take along for your clothes. Clothes do get smooshed up in the small closets in campers. I’ve found a steamer much more efficient and less space consuming than a travel iron and board. I also agree with the other commenter about grilling. In the Deep South, even as early as April or May, it can be terribly hot and humid. Keeping most of your cooking heat outside is a must in those high temps (especially if your camping spot doesn’t have shade). A crock pot can also help with that. Lots less heat output than the gas, and it can be plugged in outside. You’ll learn what works best for you and your family as you travel. That’s also part of the adventure. ? You’re going to have a great one!
Emily, I discovered that if you join the Burke Museum at the 100.00 level you will gain access to not only ASTC but NARM and ROAM as well. Hope this info is not too late….have fun on your trip!
Wow, I’m so excited for y’all! I can’t wait to follow along the adventure!!
Love this! I grew up camping every summer and we spent 2 summers traveling across the country for 2-3 months each time! So fun! We were a family of 5 and have the exact same RV with the double bunk bends in the back and it was perfect! I know you said that you’re looking to replace it with a trailer so you can take day trips but we were able to do almost anything in our RV when we traveled and it is soooo much easier to just pull up to a camp site and hook it up then to unload the trailer ect. Plus it made traveling so much nicer when you can walk around while youre on the road. You can get up to get a snack from the fridge or make dinner in the oven and you don’t have to stop everytime one of your kids has to go to the bathroom. It worked really well for our family but in the end its what works for yours! Looking forward to following along on your journey!
Your trip sounds like so much fun! Just an FYI – St. Louis has lots of free stuff to do that your kids would love. Forest Park is the site of the 1904 World’s Fair. Now it’s home to the zoo, the science center, the planetarium, the Art Museum, the History Museum, the Muny and lots more. The zoo (rated one of the top in America), the science center, the art museum and the history museum are free. You will pay for parking unless you want to park on the streets of Forest Park, which a lot of people do. The Muny is America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater. You can buy tickets, however, the last nine rows (1500 seats) are free. Grant’s Farm in the southern part of St. Louis is also free, and is home to the world famous Clydesdale (Anheuser Busch) horses. A visit to the Arch is free, however, if you want to ride up to the top of the Arch, there is a charge. We love visiting there, because there’s so much to do and it doesn’t hit our pockets too hard!
Ok, this sounds very presumptuous, but a must for the kids, and (dare I say adults too?) is a Squeasy, made by Squeasy Gear, you can find them on Amazon. I am by no way related to them, but we LOVE the Squeasy for on the road (and home too)!! Leak/spill-free, awesome for Greek yogurt, smoothies, or just plain drinks!! Comes in several sizes and colors, we don’t leave the house without one:)
This all makes me irrationally giddy for you! Your RV purchase years ago gave me RV-fever for MONTHS! I talked to my friends about the idea of going in on an RV together, like a time share. I was mostly joking, but not quite entirely… We’ve been waiting for our family to age up a little before planning major roadtrips, and we have a two week trip planned for this summer (our youngest is now 3 1/2). But oh my! Reading your plan has my wheels turning. I can’t wait to follow along, reading about your journey!
emily! did you know i grew up on a KOA until i was 8 years old?? my family owned one so we got to live in the house there. can’t wait to see how all of your adventures unfold!
I love that you gently remind the parents in the bunch that parents have the power to decide how to educate their children. So many times we forget that school is a TOOL, not the boss! :)
I’m with you, I can’t imagine a better educational experience for kids than the culture, geography (something I STILL struggle with as an adult), and history they’ll pick up. It will stay with them all their lives. I’m certain they’ll remember far more in 7 weeks of experiencing it than they ever will in double that classroom learning.
Bravo to you!
You will have such a great time!! We moved from the central coast of California to Toronto, Canada and took a month to do it in a travel trailer. (Yellowstone in a tent trailer is a little unnerving with the buffalo and bear). Our kids were 4 and 6 at the time. We loved it – one of the best trips we have ever taken. Unfortunately our kids were so small that they don’t remember much of it (they are 12 and 14 now – yikes!).
This is so great! We took our kids to South America for 7 weeks last year and they missed about 5 weeks of school. (Disclaimer: we homeschool and I had intentions of doing it on the road, but it didn’t happen.) I still can’t believe how much more valuable the trip was than school! They got a little out of practice in math, but everything else improved! They read while we travelled and learned so much about history, geography, science, language, different cultures and economies. No kid pays attention in June anyway. ;) The bonding that it does for a family is worth it alone. I’m really excited for you.
As an aside, I’m looking forward to living vicariously through you, too. We’re planning a similar trip in 2 years- maybe even in May-June too.
My family did a cross-country trip 12 years ago and we were similar ages to your kids. We termed it our “big trip” and I can’t recommend it enough!
We are in California and did 6 weeks on a very similar route. Because of our shorter time span we did some longer stretches of road – 4 hours will be so nice! We had each person pack for 10 days in one bag, undergarments for 14 days. Like you, space was limited in our suburban and we had to bring all our camping gear too.
We had so many memories such as; attempting to sled in White Sands New Mexico, bat caves in Austin, beignets in New Orleans, sweet reed baskets in Charleston, walking all over DC and seeing all the museums (there are lots of “free”historical sights that are worth it), getting caught in the rain on our historical tour of Boston, Niagara Falls walk with our blue ponchos, the kazoo factory, the arch in St.Louis, breakfast looking at Mt. Rushmore (flat tire later that day)…
Make sure each kid has a journal to write or draw in during your car rides. The memories last a lifetime :)
I want to do this SO much! I can’t wait to follow along! :)
You’re seriously my hero!!! I’ve been dreaming of a giant road trip for ever!!! Apparently I need to listen to your video chats!!!! I am so excited to follow you and your family as you embrace this giant adventure!
One must think, especially with children, it’s cheaper to be patient, save, and carefully plan for this type of vacation…then taking a few days here and there to fly and stay somewhere for only one destination, one trip at a time??? Interesting thought.
Anywho, you’ve definitely given me some thought… As I’m part of a family business, which it’s hard to get away, and have some free time. I’ll be vacationing vicariously through your posts this summer, and am excited to hear of all your adventures!!!
You probably already know about this app, since you’ve been planning your trip fro two years! But thought I’d share in case it’s helpful:
This is seriously the best! We are a roadtripping family with 3 boys, and the experience gained each time is life-changing. If you have any questions, I was raised near New Orleans, lived in Atlanta for 10 years post-college, and now live in MS. We travel cross country to Colorado (where my husband’s family has a vacation cabin) twice a year taking new routes and stopping at different sights each time. So excited to follow your family’s journey!
like everyone else, vicarious living shall commence here when you depart. and when you get to georgia, I know I’ll wonder about every motor home/ 5th wheeler I see. speaking of which, on a trip this, I really recommend reserving pull-through spots, especially if you go the 5th wheeler route. I’ve watched my FIL do this for years, and he is a much happier camper when he has a pull-through than when he has to back in (whether it was his motor home or his 5th wheeler.)
oh! and hopefully shady lots when you get to these southern states. if you can grow gills to breathe in the humidity, that’ll be a plus. ;)
Seriously so, so fun. My favorite memories as a kid are from family vacations and road trips to places just like the ones that you will be visiting. It’s a mix of emotions for me that I don’t have children of my own to pass along those life experiences. I am looking forward to virtually following along this summer. :)
I replied on your last post, but we just bought a triple bunk travel trailer. We’re not planning a 4 month trip yet I’m very eager to organize for our smaller trips. I bought hanging closet organizers to separate my boys clothing. They fit an amazing amount of stuff and are fairly inexpensive. I’m going to get one for my closet as well! I’ve done the bagged outfit idea from a previous commenter as well and it worked really well. I’m so excited to follow along on your adventure!
This is a dream I have for when my kids are a little older, so I can’t wait to follow along on the adventure and understanding the logistics too! So fun! Best of luck! Maybe I’ll run into y’all in Dallas ;)
Sounds like such a fun trip! One way my mom organize my siblings and I when we did extended travel trailer adventure was to put a days outfit…shirt, pants, underwear and socks in separate bags. We chose a bag for the day. Everything was together, clothes stayed organized, neat and clean and we could get dressed in a flash!