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Tips for Long Road Trips With Kids - Driving from Mississippi to California

Updated on May 28, 2017

Mama Hates to Fly

Driving from Mississippi to California...hmmm...most likely not thought to be a good idea - especially with 2 elementary aged children!! This trip all came about by a suggestion by me (the mama). Due to my unreasonable and yet crippling fear of flying, when my husband had suggested a few vacation ideas that involved the West Coast, I came up with a plan to make a DRIVE sound appealing. "Think of all the places we can stop! The things we can see! Things we would miss if we flew!" So thus began, our plan for a two week trip to California in the car with 2 kids ages 6 and 8. Continue reading to see how we broke up the trip to make it easier for the kids and so we could see more sights along the way! A trip like this is a daunting thought but the memories are so worth it! If I am ever able to get 2-3 weeks off of work again I would plan another road trip across the country with my family in a heartbeat!

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Day One turned into Day Two

We were all packed up and ready to leave and as we pulled out of the driveway the car started making a strange noise. Reluctantly, we drove straight over to a local mechanic's shop. The alternator.... After thanking the Lord that we at least caught this in our own hometown and not in the middle of the Texas dessert, we arranged to get back to our house and leave the car overnight for repairs. Mercifully, the mechanic could arrange for the part to be there the next morning and repairs done by noon. So after canceling our hotel plans in Houston, TX for that night we settled in for the night...at home. Day two went smoothly, repairs were made by noon and we were able to get back on our schedule by driving to San Antonio, TX in one day.

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San Antonio, TX to El Paso, TX

We loved San Antonio! I loved the River Walk area, and I had always wanted to see the Alamo. We planned for a little time in the city and for a trip to the Schlitterbahn Water Park in our day and half there. Upon departing the water park on the real Day Two, we headed out to El Paso, TX. We had no idea what a long and desolate stretch of interstate it is between San Antonio and El Paso. Of course, we thought we could do better the what Mapquest predicted. Alas we did not make it to El Paso until the wee hours of 3 am! Needless to say, we slept that next day until check-out time.

Atlas we took on the trip.  The kids had fun highlighting the route as we drove.
Atlas we took on the trip. The kids had fun highlighting the route as we drove. | Source
The Hilton El Conquistador in Tuscon, AZ
The Hilton El Conquistador in Tuscon, AZ | Source

From El Paso, TX to Tuscon, AZ

When we finally woke up, we headed out to Tuscon. When we arrived we were happy to find that Trip Advisor had not let us down with the description of the beauty of our hotel. We stayed at the Hilton El Conquistador Hotel and Resort, and it was truly and oasis in the desert. It was one place we wished we could have stayed longer. Beautiful grounds, scenery of the cacti and mountains, and great pools for the kids. We stayed as long as we could then headed on to our first California destination. San Diego!

San Diego
San Diego | Source

From Tuscon, AZ to San Diego, CA

Hooray we made it to California! We were so excited to reach San Diego! The famous San Diego Zoo and the town itself were our scheduled points of interest for our brief time in San Diego. After the zoo the next day we headed to Carlbad, CA to touch our toes in the Pacific Ocean and spend a day at Legoland.

Our kids playing on the beach at the Pacific Ocean.
Our kids playing on the beach at the Pacific Ocean. | Source

San Diego to Carlsbad

We loved our brief time on the beach and then Legoland. Our next stop was Valencia, CA after driving through LA in bumper to bumper traffic at 11 pm at night in preparation for a trip to Six Flags, Magic Mountain.

Carlsbad to Valencia

We had a great day at Six Flags Magic Mountain. We purchased some Flash Passes so we could get in more rides in our one day visit. Exhausted, we started back down through LA to Anaheim for our last CA stop of Disneyland!

Six Flags Magic Moutain
Six Flags Magic Moutain | Source

Valencia to Anaheim

We were all very excited about our last stop at Disneyland!!! Wanting to have a more relaxed visit there, we planned to stay for several days. Finally, it was nice to stay in the same hotel more than one night. Everyone had a blast at Disneyland enjoying both parks. Sadly the day had come to head home...

Disneyland!
Disneyland! | Source

Anaheim to Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas was our next stop as we began our journey back home. As we didn't have much time to spare on the return trip, we only stayed on the outskirts of Vegas. We did stop at Red Rock Canyon before heading to our next stop at the Hoover Dam.

Las Vegas, NV to the Hoover Dam!

I was excited to see this National Landmark...the kids not so much. It was very hot that day, and they frequently reminded me of this fact...just in case I forgot. We saw it. It was impressive. I have pictures....Off we went foolishly thinking we would make it to Arizona in time to see the Grand Canyon before dark.

Hoover Dam to The Grand Canyon!

We did not make it to the Grand Canyon before dark. Instead, we deviated from the plan and got a hotel room right outside the park. There was no way I was going to drive that far, be so close and not see the Grand Canyon....and get the pictures to prove it!! The next morning we drove to the park and spent several hours. There are really no words to describe the feeling when you first see the Grand Canyon.... Even my "hot" kids were speechless for a moment. They then said something like "you didn't tell us it was like THIS" in awestruck voices. Even at their age, they were impressed by the natural beauty that lay before us.

The beauty of the Grand Canyon
The beauty of the Grand Canyon | Source
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Grand Canyon to Amarillo, TX to home in MS

The rest of the trip was just driving and stopping for a picture at the Route 66 sign. We made it home in the wee hours of the morning tired but with our minds full of memories!

U. S. License Plate Travel Game we used.  You can have 2 teams.  The licenses flip to either a red or blue side.
U. S. License Plate Travel Game we used. You can have 2 teams. The licenses flip to either a red or blue side. | Source

Traveling Tips:

Before we went on the trip, I had ordered a state license plate game, travel Bingo where they have to find signs, types of buildings, etc , and a book with suggestions for games to play in the car. The kids really got into the games especially the license plate game. It became a big competition! One of the things they thought was the most fun was just stopping at the gas stations along the way and getting snacks for treats. Of course, we had movies in the car too! I had ordered several they had not seen before to take and that helped pass the time. We had several books for them to read as well. They really did much better than I thought they would! My husband had made a CD of songs for us that contained some of the different state names we would be traveling through. Also, the kids loved tracing our route in the big road atlas with the highlighter marker as we went through the states. Now, with the popularity of geocaching, you might want to start a hobby like that for a long road trip. From our trip the suggestions would be:

-games like the license plate game or travel Bingo

-movies

-CDs

-tracing route with marker on map

-stopping along the way for treats at the gas station



The Best Vacation Ever!

This trip was one of the highlights of my life! I am so glad we did the drive and did not fly. We saw so many things I had never seen before. I had never been further west than Texas or Colorado. It was a fun time of family togetherness as well. We still are still talking about all the fun we had. I would do it again in a heartbeat! I just want would want a month to do it in instead of 2 weeks.

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