Planning a Road Trip With Dogs and Kids

Go for ride?

This is gonna sound crazy, but here goes. This summer, I’m working on plans for a 2,400 mile road trip with two kids, two dogs, and just one driver, me.

But wait, there’s more! It would be a round trip, making it more like a 5,000 journey all told.

Before you start calling the authorities to have me confined for my own good, hear me out. My kids have all been experiencing an unusual amount of anxiety about Covid-19. I mean, it’s not strange to be highly concerned about getting a disease that could kill them or someone else close to them, or leave them with side effects that could compromise their lives for an indefinite period. You can tell them kids seem to get infected less and usually don’t suffer, but they’re not having it. I’ve been cautious, but they’ve been beyond cautious.

Two of the three are under 16, so it’s unknown when they’ll be able to get a Covid vaccine. They have let me know that they are not willing to board a plane until they’re fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, all of our family outside our household, on both sides, live in Wisconsin. In a normal year, we get two or three visits from family. We visit Wisconsin once or twice a year. So even though we live thousands of miles away, we are used to seeing our family every few months. We’re close. But due to the pandemic, we haven’t seen any of them for 14 months, the last time my parents visited California. We canceled a visit for my parents’ anniversary in March, and we scratched a planned cruise with my parents in August.

All this to say, we really want to visit the family in Wisconsin this summer.

And while two of our kids won’t fly there, the other kid won’t drive there. Or rather, it would be a bad idea for her to drive with us, because it’s her last summer before college and she has activities she wants to and should participate in. So she can’t spare the two weeks each way I would like for a leisurely cross-country drive. Plus, my husband doesn’t really want to blow a year’s vacation (or possibly more time than he even has) on all that time in the car. So those two will fly to Wisconsin and meet us (using the Southwest Companion Pass, thanks very much!)

But as a self-employed freelance writer, I have plenty of free time. And I love exploring. So, I decided to go for it. My plan is to drive only three to five hours each travel day, and to stop for longer at important locations such as National Parks.


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Here’s my favorite potential route so far. It involves up to five National Parks and a museum I’ve always wanted to see. (Note that since we’re not planning terribly far in advance, we’ll probably be staying near the National Parks, not in them.)

Day 1: Bay Area to somewhere near Yosemite (If we get reservations, we could drive right through Yosemite and then stay near Mono Lake on the other side.) It’s possible we could rent a second car so that my husband and other kid could join us for a camping or cabin weekend before we really get going on the road trip.

Day 2: Yosemite to somewhere in Central Nevada (Nevada is tough for finding interesting places to stop!)

Day 3: Central Nevada to Bryce Canyon National Park

Several years ago, we took a family trip to see Utah’s Big Five parks, but we skipped Bryce Canyon. That needs to be remedied.

Day 4: Explore Bryce Canyon

Day 5: Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park 2 hours

Plenty of time left upon arrival to explore here.

Day 6: Capitol Reef to Moab

I’d love to revisit the Moab KOA where we stayed 5 years ago, and of course there’s

Day 7: Visit Arches or Canyonlands

We visited these only briefly 5 years ago, and my youngest doesn’t even remember.

Day 8: Moab to Mesa Verde National Park

Day 9 Explore Mesa Verde

Day 10 Mesa Verde to ?

Somewhere in Colorado

Day 11 ? to Kansas City, Mo.

We have friends there we want to stop and see if they’re home.

Day 12: Mansfield, Mo. LAURA INGALLS WILDER MUSEUM!!!

This is a place I have longed to visit for a super long time. Really sad that my oldest won’t be with us for it, though.

Day 13: Visit the museum

Day 14: Drive to Wisconsin

This would be an 8-hour day of driving, but you know how it is when you just want to get home.

What do you think? If you have any suggestions for places to stop in Nevada and Colorado, I’m all ears.

3 thoughts on “Planning a Road Trip With Dogs and Kids

  1. I did a road trip with my mom and daughter a couple of years ago and I did all of the driving. We drove to SoCal and then over to Arizona and New Mexico and up through Colorado, Utah and across Nevada. I hate to say it but I found Nevada to be the most boring state. There was a lack visual stimulation in the way of geography landscape and not much to stop at. All the rest of the states had a lot of great things to see and helped break up the driving. The one thing I can say is the weather can be crazy to drive in during monsoon season. Wind, rain, lightning and truckers doing 80 miles an hour can make it a harrowing experience😬. Sounds like a well planned out road trip. If you’re in the area, I really liked Durango, Colorado and other towns along that route.

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