Our Cross-Country Road Trip With Kids- Plus Tips

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Click here for our tips on how to survive a cross country road trip with dids!

In May of 2022, we moved from Washington State to Georgia with our four children.

This was the trip of a lifetime- and we took so few photos!

Near the end of May, we emptied our house and fit everything we thought we might need for the next few months into our van and truck. The rest of it went into a moving van to be stored in Atlanta for however long it took for us to find and move into a new house.

At the time, our oldest was 9 and our youngest was 11 months.

Because we were taking two vehicles, both Daniel and I had to drive the entire way. This meant we would each not have a passenger to help out with distributing kid’s snacks, and managing tablets, and all those tasks that are hard to do while you’re driving.

Thankfully, we’ve done enough road trips in the past to have a few tricks up our sleeves to make a long road trip a little bit smoother.

The whole trip was a really cool experience and I like that I can say that I drove all the way from one end of the United States to the other (minus a few miles on each end!) Surprisingly, everything went smoothly and as planned, with no hold ups or car trouble. 

Considering we had two vehicles, 6 people, and drove approximately 2800 miles, that was a huge blessing!

First Stop- Idaho

Our first stop after leaving our empty home in Washington was Daniel’s parent’s house in Idaho. Our golden retriever, Luna, rode in the truck with Daniel there, and we left her in the capable hands of Daniel’s brother for the summer.

We stayed in Idaho for four days and enjoyed time with Daniel’s parents, siblings, and nephews. The kids did a lot of walking and hiking on the trail behind their grandparents house.

Kids biking and walking on a trail
Burning off energy!

We knew with so many miles to cover over the next several days that we should get out as much energy as possible!

Second stop- Yellowstone

From Nampa we traveled to West Yellowstone in Montana, and stayed at a hotel with an awesome water slide.

One of the best things about the midwest is the abundance of hotels with water slides! Highly recommend.

We were there one night, and from there we traveled through Yellowstone National Parkhttps://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm. We were lucky to get to go through Yellowstone just a week or so before it closed due to severe flooding.

It was a beautiful clear day, and we saw so many bison! I love bison. I was hoping we’d get to catch a glimpse of one, and so when we drove by three sitting right by the road, I think I freaked out and teared up a little.

Large bison near the road in Yellowstone National Park

You can ask my kids, although they’re still probably embarrased by me for such an extreme reaction to seeing an animal. Whatevs.

We saw so many bison, however, that we stopped keeping count and lost some of our enthusiasm, especially when we had to wait in a long line of traffic because a small crowd of them decided to cross the road. They were everywhere, it was very cool.

It had been years since I’d been to Yellowstone and I’d forgotten how beautiful it is and how the landscape changes so dramatically! We stopped several times to get out and walk, and to check out the epic geysers.

Next stop- Cody, WY

From Yellowstone, we stayed in the beautiful town of Cody, WY. I found it was super difficult to get decent pictures because I was always driving, or so tired by the time we stopped somewhere that I didn’t think of it.

We didn’t spend much time in Cody, as we needed to get moving for our next destination.

The next day, we drove from Cody to Rapid City, SD.

Waterpark Break

We stayed for two nights at a hotel attached to a waterpark named Watiki Water Park. It was recently renovated and beautiful! The water park area was HUGE! We could walk to it easily from our hotel room. We all agree that it was the highlight of the trip- we Wuoris love a water park!

We spent hours in the lazy river and going down water slides and just having the best time. It was a great way to break up the trip.

Just a few minutes away was Bear Country where we saw an abundance of bears and other wildlife! It had been over a decade since my last visit, but I fondly remembered it as one of my favorite stops along our route to the mid-west as a young teen. There’s a shocking amount of bears there- surprise, surprise!

We were a little tired, but ready to hit the road after our fun water park stay, and had decided to do a really long day of driving. Our destination was Kansas City, a 10 hour drive away.

12 Hour Day

We drove through cute small towns I’d never hear of, and saw an abundance of beautiful farm lands.

We also stopped along the way to visit some cute prairie dogs. You can buy food for them, and the kids loved feeding them nuts.

So cute!

We took a scenic detour through the Black Hills to take a short hike around the Badlands. It added to our day, but getting out of the car and letting the kids run (or crawl) was vital to keep everyone semi-sane.

Badlands, South Dakota

12 hours later, we were a bedraggled mess of emotions and exhuastion as we dragged our stuff once again into a hotel, set up the pack ‘n play, and tried to grab something to eat before falling into bed.

Kansas City

We were all beginning to feel weary of dragging our stuff in and out of hotel rooms and being in messy, cramped vehicles. I don’t remember anything about Kansas City except that our hotel had a record number of young baseball players with loud parents and there were just too many people.

Last Stop- Kentucky

Our next stop after Kansas City was Hopkinsville, KY. This was about an 8 hour drive which felt much more manageable, and we arrived at the hotel in time to get in a good swim and dinner. I found this area so pretty!

Hopkinsville was our last stop before arriving at our final destination in Georgia. We really enjoyed driving through new states, even if most of it was farm land and rather uneventful.

We would have loved to have stopped in big cities like Omaha (Nebraska seems delightful), St. Louis and Nashville. Some day, we’ll backtrack a little, and get to do more exploring.

By the time we were driving through these states, we had been on the road for 10 days and ready to be done. And, our vehicles were SO dirty and full of so many crumbs and so much garbage that we could have been traveling with a family of rats that were ALSO relocating to Georgia and we’d have had no clue.

The break from reality had been great- but it was time to get to our final destination.

Finally there!

Finally, on May 30th, Memorial Day, we arrived in our new home state of Georgia!

Welcome to Georgia!

Tips for Surviving a Cross Country Road Trip With Kids

Our youngest, chilling at a rest stop- with a playground!

At the time of the trip, our children were 9, 7, 4 and 11 months. Our youngest is by far our busiest! He’s generally good in the car, but every kid has a limit, right?

When I think about what worked for our trip with the kids, a few things come to mind.

1. Zipper Pouches for Snacks and Toys:

We used (and continue to use) these zipper pouches for everything. They are amazing little bags that keep the kids’ snacks, toys, and entertainment organized.

You can find them on Amazon, and they come in different colors and have labels. This way, you can easily identify whose pouch belongs to whom.

No more searching for snacks or toys in a messy bag – everything is neat and easy to find! My older kids pack their own, and its up to them to have them handy.

This eliminates the need for the driver to have to be rummaging around, handing back all the requested snacks and whatnot!

2. Garbage Bags for a Clean Ride:

The amount of garbage that comes with traveling from the west coast to the east coast with four little kids and two vehicles is alarming! To cut down on mess, we attached garbage bags to the headrests of multiple seats in the car. They were easy for the kids to reach, and we could unclip them to at gas stations to quickly empty them. It’s a small trick that made a big difference.

3. Waterproof Bag for Swimsuits:

We didn’t always have time to dry out our swim suits before leaving the hotels. Bringing a waterproof bag was a big help.

With a waterproof bag, we simply put the wet swimsuits inside without worrying about them getting everything else wet.

4. Audiobooks for Entertainment:

We love audiobooks! Audiobooks were a fantastic way to keep the kids and adults entertained during the long car rides. We downloaded a bunch of audiobooks before our trip and listened to them while on the road. I chose stories I would enjoy listening to as much as the kids.

I wrote a post with our favorites, if you’re looking for some recommendations!

5. Screens for Fun:

We chose not to limit screen time too much. We felt everyones sanity was more important and we’d worry about that later.

Our kids used their tablets often, although we did take long breaks. We like the Kid’s Kindle option from Amazon that comes with the durable case. They’re well protected against falls!

We let the kids download movies and games when we had Wifi so they’d have fresh content. It kept them entertained and frankly, make the journey more enjoyable for everyone!

We don’t have a DVD player in our van or truck. So, for our toddler, we got a special holder that attached to the headrest in front of him and bought a really cheap tablet.

This way, he could see the screen without touching it. It was really secure, we’ve used it a few times since and I’ve been impressed with it.

Honestly, he didn’t watch that much. At 11 months it didn’t hold his interest. But having the option on occasion was great.

6. Rest Stops for Fun and Stretching:

We made a lot of stops! Even when no one needed to use the restroom, we’d still pull over at rest stops to stretch our legs.

One rest area had a playground, which was perfect! Our toddler enjoyed crawling around on it, and he wasn’t so fussy when we strapped him back into the carseat. We knew we couldn’t be in a rush.

7. Early Mornings and Late Nights:

When we could, we tried to get up early or drive late. When the kids were sleeping, especially the youngest, it makes the journey much smoother. We reclined the seats as much as we could and gave the kids plenty of blankets and pillows.

8. Pack Wisely:

In those same zipper pouches, I packed a small first aid kit with band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and any necessary medications. I put it in an easy-to-get-to spot. We had some minor scrapes and not having to dig around for supplies was a time-saver.

9. Use Walkie Talkies if Caravaning

This is pretty specific, but if you’re traveling with another vehicle, get long-range walkie-talkies. We used walkie talkies to chat between cars, and the kids loved it!

When we lost service in Yellowstone, we were still able to exclaim to each other about all the wildlife and vistas, followed by lots of “over!” “Roger that!”

Just remember to charge them overnight– we came back to the cars a few mornings with dead batteries!

10. Enjoy the adventure!

Lastly- we really did try to enjoy the journey. We knew we were making unforgettable memories with our kids.

And, what a great opportunity to spend time as a family, while seeing so much of our beautiful country!

My biggest takeaway with traveling with kids, for so many days, was how important it is to have patience, be flexible, and treasure the quality time.

To Sum Up…

We all (who can remember) look back on that trip with really fond memories. Even though we were in two cars, we used walkie-talkies to communicate. Things felt pretty organized because we took the time to pack smartly.

We listened to stories, watched shows, played games, and were fairly comfortable.

We didn’t rush, and we stayed entertained.

If you’re planning an long family road trip with your family- we wish you the best! Safe travels and please, take more pictures than we did. 🙂

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