Our family is, well, not normal in a lot of ways. One thing that makes us a bit odd is that we love to travel, but we don’t have the money to do it the “normal” way. Most people prefer not to drive long distances, especially with children. Our kids are used to many long hours in the car. Even our six year old knows to give us a half hour warning before bathroom emergencies. Most people prefer plush hotels. We camp often. Most people would look at our travel plans and tell us we’re crazy.
I actually had someone tell me once that we would quite possibly die if we stuck to our plans for our trip to Europe. We had an 18 month old child at the time (crazy idea #1 – no one takes little kids on vacation to Europe). We had planned to rent a large car and to drive from Paris to Rome and back (crazy idea #2 – NO one drives long distances across Europe). We went during winter (crazy idea #3 – no one goes to Europe in winter). With a family of four, it was more economical for us to drive between cities than to fly or take a train. Also, I preferred the idea of having the kids enclosed in our vehicle. Our potentially fussy children would not be a bother to other passengers, like they would on a train or plane. We could set our own schedule and stop as needed in a car. So we ended up taking our own path, cramming together driving/walking/subway tours of every major city in Italy, a stop in Switzerland, and a week in Paris into 18 too-short days. We did not slide off a snowy mountain road in the Alps. Our children did not die of boredom in the car. Instead, we generated a bunch of memories that we will always treasure. Many of them surrounded little towns in France that we stopped in to acquire groceries for the day, the sweet way people in Italy reacted to the way our little blond baby on the bus said “ciao”, or the way Parisian museum guards with large machine guns approached us to tell us (oh no, what did we do wrong??) that families with small children don’t have to wait in lines in Paris, and that we were to go straight into the front door.
For our family, travel is about adventure, education, and making memories. We do not travel in the normal way. We drive too far in a day, we pack too many awesome sights into each day, we hike too far, we take too many pictures, we end each day worn out, we sleep hard, we wake up early (well, not too early), and we do it all again.
After finalizing the itinerary and booking all the hotels and campsites, I can honestly say, this trip is going to be exhausting. We are really going to be pushing ourselves. I am glad this will take place in the summer. I’ll have a few days after school ends for getting our gear together, and a couple of weeks after we return to get ready for the next school year. It will not be a “normal” summer for us, but it will be a wonderful experience. I know people are going to look at this itinerary and say we’re trying to do too much. I know they will say our kids will be bored in the car. I know they will say that we haven’t planned enough time in ____ National Park. I know I will completely agree with that last comment. I keep looking at the map and thinking “if only we had ONE more day, we could see this other amazing place (Carlsbad Caverns, for one),” and “if only we could stay longer at ___, we could take this overnight hike”. But I know we have to draw the line somewhere. Hopefully, this won’t be our last trip to the Southwest, so we’ll be planning the next trip while we’re on this one.
So, here goes. The Official Itinerary (with links!)
- Day 1: drive. A lot.
- Day 2: Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historic Park, NE
- Day 3: drive, lunch break in Denver for fun
- Day 4: Dinosaur National monument, CO
- Day 5: Arches National Park, UT
- Day 6: Capitol Reef National Park, UT and Bryce Canyon National Park, UT (I know I will want more time here.)
- Day 7: Zion National Park, UT and Las Vegas
- Day 8: Hoover Dam, NV, and Death Valley National Park, NV/CA
- Day 9: drive
- Day 10: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and driving into Yosemite National Park, CA
- Days 11-12: hiking in Yosemite
- Day 13: mostly driving, but highlights include the Point Reyes Lighthouse, and the Golden Gate Bridge on our way to Monterey Bay
- Days 14-15: Stay in Monterey to see the aquarium and do some kayaking (and hopefully whale, seal, dolphin, and otter watching)
- Day 16: Drive the Pacific Coast Highway to the Page Museum at the LaBrea Tar Pits, also check out Hollywood
- Day 17: Salton Sea (see also this video that made me intrigued about this place) and Joshua Tree National Park, CA
- Days 18-20: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (south rim side)
- Day 21: Meteor Crater, AZ
- Day 22: Carrizozo Lava Flows, NM
- Day 23: Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, TX
- Day 24: Alabaster Caverns State Park, OK
- Day 25: Kansas City (celebrate the little guy’s birthday at a water park hotel, no geology included)
- Day 26: Home to Indy!
So, there it is. Our crazy plan. I think it can be done. I think we will love it. I think we will want more time. I can’t wait to share the journey with you!