I traveled across five states with my almost 3 year old alone and lived to tell the tale. An essential checklist to get you started on your great American road trip with kids.
HOW TO PLAN AN AMERICAN ROAD TRIP – WORK OUT A BUDGET
This should be the first step to any travel plan you have. How to plan an American road trip with kids should be no different. There is nothing worse than getting stuck without cash on a trip or even worse coming home so broke that you forget all about the awesome time you had. Here are some of the most important costs to consider when you plan your American road trip with kids.
- TRANSPORTATION (GAS, INSURANCE, PARKING)
Despite its reputation for cheap gas, the vast distances in the USA do mean the cost quickly adds up. This also applies to the wear and tear of your car, we went through 3 rental vehicles on our trip.
- GEAR (TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, CAMPING STOVES, CLOTHING)
Gear is a major expenditure, choose wisely, shop in sales and in our case borrow as much as you possibly can (Thanks, Sarah my generous shopaholic sister ;).
- ACCOMMODATION – (CAMPING + RV PARKS V’s HOTELS + AIRBNB’S)
Accommodation on a road trip is key, don’t expect you and your kids to turn into campers overnight if you haven’t been before. Likewise, if you don’t have a hotel budget choose a motel option, you might be surprised. If you think you will miss your home comforts but don’t want to miss the Grand Tetons then use our Airbnb LINK and earn 34€!
- FOOD – (GROCERIES V’s MEALS OUT)
Food on our US road trip was a real challenge and a reason we cut our trip shorter than expected. Depending on where you go variety is hard to find in the US. Healthy food is scarce and unless you’re in California, New York state or a handful of others do prepare to be shocked as a European.
- ADMISSION FEES – (FREE ATTRACTIONS V’s PAID)
Parking at Mount Rushmoor memorial is 10$, just saying. These do add up and with kids in tow, you can really do some damage if you are not planning carefully.
HOW TO PLAN AN AMERICAN ROAD TRIP – PICK THE RIGHT VEHICLE
America has a road trip vehicle for everyone but, be really honest with yourself here. Can you really spend 2 weeks in a camper van and bring your kids too? For me and Oscar, this was a resounding NO! We like variety and space and the prospect of cleaning, dumping waste, locating RV parks with space (you have to book many popular parks months in advance) didn’t appeal to me at all. Do you want to endlessly worry about your fancy convertible being broken into while parked in a remote National Park car park? Again as tempting as a convertible Corvette seemed I knew I couldn’t relax if we had one. We opted for a Jeep Cherokee which was about halfway there, 3 cars later my absolute favorite ride was what the USA refers to as “a soccer mum van”. Soccer mums know a thing or two about speed, comfort and a ton of great space it would seem. This was by far my favorite ride. Not a great look but honestly the most practical.
HOW TO PLAN AN AMERICAN ROAD TRIP – THE ROUTE
This is always such a tough one and so very personal. I wanted to fulfill a lifelong bucket list dream and have a fun and relaxing time with my son. I chose a slightly shorter road trip so we could spend more time doing rather than driving. I wanted to experience nature and show Oscar as many wild animals and natural wonders as possible. Still, we wanted to have a good time so we really mixed it up. Our family road trip google map is here. Let us know if you would like to know more about the route? Comment below….
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HOW TO PLAN AN AMERICAN ROAD TRIP – SOME GREAT RESOURCES
We always use a wide selection of trip planning tools. I will link to my post on this soon. So much to do, so little time! Ugh! Anyway, these were the top tools we used to plan our epic American road trip with kids.
- Road trip Apps – FIND OUR TOP 5 here
- Pinterest – OUR AWESOME BOARD here
- Family and Friends – they can be a great resource and have some secret tips too.
- Family Travel Bloggers – honestly the best resource ever. Check out this INSTAGRAM account for the best.
- Our trusty Lonely Planet guide – Never fails me. Everything in one place and in paperback.
HOW TO PLAN AN AMERICAN ROAD TRIP – THE GEAR
I promise I promise I will also do an ” Essential Road Trip Gear” post very very soon but here are the things you need to get started.
- An awesome kids car seat – If they aren’t comfortable and able to sleep in it, forget it. Stay sane, invest in this.
- Plastic storage boxes – One-word BEARS. This was a very real warning on our USA road trip and I was very glad I had mine to transport things too and from the car while camping and to organize the trunk during the trip.
- Really comfortable shoes for you and the kids – We traveled in September and all-terrain sandals and sneakers did the trick. I had a short-lived experience with some flip-flops. They didn’t last.
- A good selection of clothes – the weather across our trip was surprisingly varied. It snowed, in September.
- Good pillow and sleeping bags – You will thank me for this one day. All day driving and a terrible days sleep + kids is a NIGHTMARE
- Stock up on food – The vast expanses of America are not as well stocked up with food as you imagine. We drove over 700 miles without finding a fresh egg. Seriously no eggs. I wish I has just documented this. My mind was blown. In case you were wondering they come in liquid form in a plastic box. Yuck.
NOTHING YOU SEE IN THIS PICTURE IS MINE APART FROM THE CHILD. RENT, BORROW, TRADE.
HOW TO PLAN AN AMERICAN ROAD TRIP – ENTHUSIASM
I’m sure you got to the end of this and your thinking, really, after all this planning sourcing and organizing she wants me to be enthusiastic too? is she serious? I am, I can’t stress this enough if you want to travel with kids and enjoy yourself you have to have your glass half full ready and packed. I talk about it this in my Early Morning Travel post. Nailing travel with kids is all about mindset and planning an American road trip with kids is no different.
LET’s BE HONEST THIS IS THE AMOUNT OF F***S GIVEN BY ANYONE’s CHILD ON ANY GIVEN TRIP LOL
HOW TO PLAN AN AMERICAN ROAD TRIP – TIPS FROM REAL TRAVEL MUMS
- Mum Pack Travel’s Evie Farrel rounded up some of the most well-traveled mums I know for this epic 66 Mega Saving Tips.
- Globetrotting Grommets April shares some fantastic money saving tips and planning tricks in this great post.
- Thass from Family off Duty tells us exactly why Insurance is a must CLICK HERE.
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