Preparing for The Great American Road Trip Out West

The Great American Road Trip.
A family of six.
Two weeks.
Traveling in a Yukon XL.
All sleeping in the same room, sharing the same bathroom
(but not in a tent)
This is going to be fun!

I have a list of destinations that I want to take my children, with a list of different events and adventures I want them to experience with me.  So this summer we are crossing some of it off the list.

I started planning this trip last fall.  With a family of six you need to get a jump on rooms and activities because options are limited when you have large groups.  I checked out books from the library, asked people who had been before me, researched online, and requested literature from any destination that would send it.  What I found out was that planning a trip Out West was beyond overwhelming!  There is so much to see and so much to do.  How do you decide which are worthy stops and which to skip over?

I ended up planning our trip around the adventures I wanted to experience most as a family.  I'm sure we could take this same trip a dozen times and experience new things each time!

Here is our itinerary

When taking long road trips with the kids in the past I have done a ticket system.  Every 30 minutes if the child is not throwing a fit and not annoying me then he or she gets a ticket.  I have brown paper bags with the initials of each child and a number on each bag.  The child can then redeem tickets for an unknown prize.  They have to save up tickets to get the bigger prizes and may not get a prize for a few hours.  The kids have LOVED this and it has been a highlight for them while road tripping.  It does take a lot of preparation and planning on my part, but it has worked wonderfully.  I don't have kids asking if we are there yet.  They watch the clock to see when they get the next ticket.  Wait!  Fighting with your brother?  Sorry no ticket for you!  Worked great!

The last road trip we took was during Spring Break.  I had the ticket system going for the way down and the way back.  Unfortunately, part way home our youngest became ill and threw up all over her remaining prizes that were still in brown paper bags by her feet.  We stopped at a gas station and I was able to clean everything up, but I was not going to touch the soaked brown paper bags.  (so so gross!) We were all tired and a bit ornery so into the trash went all of her unclaimed prizes. (don't worry - when we got home she got a special prize from the store that she loved) . Because of this, I decided that we would try to forgo the ticket system.  I'm a little worried...

In place of the ticket system I have explorer bags for each kid.  Each bag contains a pair of binoculars, a whistle (for bears), a compass, a magnifying glass, a water bottle holder, and some trail guides about wildlife, tracks, edible plants, animal farts, kinds of trees, or about a specific park.  I have also printed up Junior Ranger booklets that the kids can fill in and do in the car and in the parks to earn badges.  This may prove to be an epic fail, but I hope they will learn a little along the way.  And in case you thought animal farts was a typo - it's not!  I found a book that talks about different animals and tells if they fart or not.  If you know my kiddos, you would be able to guess who is getting that book! :)

Update after the trip:
The explorer bags were a hit!  We used the items in the bags all of the time!  I loved having the Jr Ranger books before we got to the parks.  The kids were able to fill them in and learn about what they were going to see before we got there and because Sylvia is a beginner reader, Ryan and I learned a lot too!  I felt like our time was well spent.  Tyce and Sylvia loved getting the Ranger badges.  I don't think Tyce liked making pledges to clean his room, but he did it! (I have it on tape!)
The best thing about our car ride, besides the awesome scenery, was watching Little House on the Prairie.  We all loved it - even the 15 year old.  Great clean show with a lot of lessons and it references the Bible all of the time.  It was perfect for what we were going to see and experience too!  So gone are our days of the ticket system!  I think they are old enough now to make it to the destination without rewards so frequently!  Yay!!


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