Motherhood - Travel

How we planned our cross country road trip with kids

This year our family took an epic road trip across the country. We traveled from California to Massachusetts and back. We did it with our 1 and 4 year old! And guess what? It was FUN and WAY less stressful than I was preparing myself for.

Our idea planning started a good 9 months before we left, but the real planning started about a month before we left on our trip. The destination of our trip was to visit my aunt who lives in Massachusetts. My dad passed away a few years ago and I hadn’t been back to his hometown since I was a kid so I was excited to start visiting now that I had kids of my own.

So we committed. And here’s exactly how we planned it all out!

Map it out

The first thing we did when we started planning was map it out. I simply went over to google and typed in Los Angeles, CA to Wellfleet, MA and google gave me the quickest route right across the middle of the USA. It was going to be about 3,000 miles and 44 hours to get there if we took that route.

Since we have young kids (1 and 4 years old) my plan was to be in the car an average of 4-6 hours a day. So to make it so we could take our time and give us a little padding so we could have one or two days with no driving to get a break we planned for about 10 days to get there and 10 days to get back.

Pick dates and length of the trip

When we first started planning we knew we wanted to take our time. Our plan was about a month, but once we started looking at the map and being realistic about how long we wanted to be in the car with the kids we extended it to about 6 weeks.

Knowing that the summers on Cape Cod are crazy busy with tourists (and also pretty humid) we decided on leaving September 1st to keep things simple. Since we work for ourselves as resellers we were really able to just pick whenever we wanted to leave.

So once we had our approximate length and dates, we moved onto the next step.

Download the Roadtrippers App

I tried several apps when I started planning, but I eventually stuck with the Roadtrippers App and even upgraded to the pro version. We honestly used it every single day we were on the road!

I loaded our trip there by entering our destination and then took a look at the cities it would take us through and started to make a plan for where we would spend the night each night.

Looking at the map I would simply choose a city I recognized and enter that as a stop. Depending on how long it said the drive would be from one stop to the next I would change the destination if it seemed too long or too short of a drive. This took a while, but I had fun with it playing around with all the different places we could stop.

In the end we decided to take a slightly longer route across the south so that we could check out Austin, TX and Nashville, TN as these were places we had been wanting to visit as possible places to move in the future.

Once we had our route there and back mapped out with all of our overnight stops and I felt pretty confident about the plan we started working on a budget.

Working out a budget

When we first started planning we had planned to drive my Prius the whole way, but because of the large stroller we like to use and the fact that we were going to try and take some inventory with us to take on the road we decided on our Toyota Sequoia which gave us more space.

The Roadtrippers App actually lets you input your vehicles gas mileage and will give you an estimate based on that right in the app which is nice. Our estimate for the trip was just under $1,200, plus the driving around we’d be doing while in Cape Cod.

Then we needed to figure out hotels. What I did was just looked up hotels in the cities we were stopping in. I didn’t look at every single city, but I came up with an average of around $70 and multiplied it by the number of nights we planned on being on the road since we’d be staying at my aunts once we reached Cape Cod.

Then we needed to figure out a food budget. I knew we wouldn’t be cooking much at all, though I did bring my instant pot thinking I could make some simple rice and beans type meals. Never used it. Ha.

I assumed we would eat out a good amount and try to buy lots of healthy snacks like fruit, hummus and pita bread, etc. in between. We brought a big box of food from home as well.

My best guess was about $50 a day for food, eating out, activities, etc. That’s pretty low for a family of 4 on vacation, but we were trying to stay relatively budget friendly on the trip.

So our estimated budget for just the road trip part (not staying in Cape Cod) was:

  • Gas: $1,500
  • Hotels: 20 nights x $70 = $1,400
  • Food/eating out/misc $50/day x 42 days = $2,100
  • Total: $5,000

Our final total budget for the trip was approximately $5,000. To be totally transparent, this was just an estimate so we had some sort of idea. We had the money in savings for the trip and knew it could be more depending on many variables.

How can we save money?

After doing our budget we asked ourselves how we could do our best to save money and still enjoy the trip. Luckily we had a lot of credit card points from our business credit card so we planned to use those for hotels whenever possible.

If you’re planning a trip that’s maybe 3 or 6+ months in the future look into getting a credit card that gives a lot of bonus points! This ended up saving us on hotel stays almost the entire way to Massachusetts.

We also decided to purposely try to choose hotels that provided breakfast if we knew we’d be there in the morning to eat which could save us money on food.

Start packing

We try to be relatively minimalist so our goal was for Blaine and I to have small suitcases for ourselves and then for the kids to share one. And so that’s what we did. We just set those limits and stuck to them.

Other than clothes we considered everything we might need. A stroller, car activities for the kids (I’ll do a whole post on tips for road trips with kids!), a few boxes of food, some dishes because we wanted to be as minimally wasteful as possible.

We picked a spot in the house about a week before and just started piling stuff that we thought we wanted to bring with us to we could see it all in one spot and figure it out from there.

For this trip we ended up packing

  • One suit case for each adult and a suitcase for the kids
  • Bob double stroller (newer version of what we have)
  • 2 boxes of food and misc kitchen items like non-disposable plates
  • Travel Berkey water filter and stainless steel water bottles
  • A pack of monsters from Costco for those early mornings/late nights (we don’t usually do energy drinks, I know they’re horrible for you!)
  • A box for work that included our label printer, a scale, some inventory and the laptop
  • A bag of shoes

Plus some other miscellaneous items.

We filled the back of our SUV with everything we needed and we filled the top cargo carrier with inventory for our business so we could still ship items on the road and hopefully continue to make a little money.

So basically that’s how we planned. I have so many more posts to come with tips, what we learned, what we wish we did differently, etc. so keep an eye out for those and feel free to send over any suggestions!

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