How To Plan A Read Across America Road Trip

by Sandra Foyt on May 25, 2009

in Family Travel

America is a country.  America is an idea…America is a work in progress.*

I’m planning a road trip across the USA.  Just me, two kids, an old Chevy Suburban, backpacking gear, and a stack of books.

Usually, I pick a location, pack a few guide books, and go.  I can’t do that this time as there are time constraints to consider: setting aside time for visiting friends in California; and arriving in time to meet my husband at the airport when he flies in.  Nevertheless, I’m determined to immerse my family in a variety of American adventures, despite having to limit the length of our stops.

Planning this trip is challenging; fortunately, the unbeatable combination of Internet resources and a collection of travel books makes this job almost easy.

Planning Resources Online

Online maps, such as Yahoo Maps or Google Maps, are a lifesaver.  I’ve been playing around with the driving directions between destinations, trying to figure out the best way to get to the places that we want to see, and reasonable driving distances between stops.  Before we hit the road, I’ll print out a set of driving directions, and I hope to have a public geotagged Google Map where I’ll add photos, and book links.

Kayak – This travel search engine compares the results between other popular travel search sites such as Expedia, Hotel, or Travelocity.  You can also Buzz for travel ideas like the Top 10 Outrageous Bathrooms (my daughter likes this one!)

AAA – I wouldn’t dream of tackling a long road trip without the AAA safety net, but now, more than ever, I’m taking full advantage of the discounted hotel rooms, attraction tickets, and park admissions.

Travel Books Inspiring A Read Across America Road Trip

Some of my fondest travel memories have been inspired by Storybook Travels: a picnic lunch in Monet’s Garden, following the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, gorging on fine chocolate while sitting on a hidden staircase in the Plaza.

It’s the first book I turn to when I plan any trip, and it’s the muse behind this Read Across America Road Trip.  We’ll be listening to the books on audiotape, many of which are on, as we head to these destinations:

Find more book & state connections in The State(s) of Children’s Books.

The Art of Freedom doesn’t offer any travel suggestions, but I just like the sentiments and the colorful way in which they are packaged.  I’m taking this along for the ride, just because.

It’s been at least six years since my son was bit by the paleontology bug, more than half his life.  All he wants out of this road trip is the chance to look for fossil bones, nothing more, nothing less.  So, I’m a mom on a mission to add as many of the paleontology sites mentioned in the Fossil Freeway to this road trip as I can without turning into a “paleo nerd” myself.

We’re taking this one along for my daughter, the budding connoisseur of the weird and unusual.   I’ll let her guide us to these stops. Listed by state in an appendix, these humongous creations should be easy to spot on the road.  She’ll also find inspiration in 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12 by Joanne O’Sullivan, as I found a few places that I wanted to visit in the adult version, 1,000 Places To See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List by Patricia Schultz.

The Road Trip book isn’t as helpful as I would’ve liked as it’s limited to describing destinations along several vertical routes, while we’re mostly traveling across the country. However, for those areas where I am traveling North or South, it does describe worthwhile stops.

Immersion Travel offers lots of recommendations for service, learning, and work trips.  I found the suggestions for enjoying the Great Outdoors most helpful, even though most of the destinations require 1 week (or longer.)  I’ll leave this book at home as I’ve gleaned what I need for this trip, but I’ll keep it on hand for future planning.

With a Little Help From My Friends

I emailed a tentative itinerary to my friends, and got back some fabulous ideas.  Now, I think I’ve got this planning under control.  I’ve laid out a fairly ambitious itinerary, but I left some room for last minute changes.  Can you think of any essential travel resources that I’ve missed?

* From The Art of Freedom: How Artists See America (Bob Raczka’s Art Adventures.)

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

9to5to9 May 27, 2009 at 12:00 am

I am SO insanely jealous! I wanna do this!!! OK, calm down. The kids are only 3 and 5. Doing in now would be fairly to extremely disastrous.

I actually did drive cross country once, but I was trying to beat a load of furniture to California from North Carolina so I made the trip in roughly 60 hours. Don’t ask how. All I’m saying is my CB radio was my friend.

I’ve had a hankering ever since then, though, to do it the right way – taking my time, really seeing the country as something more than a high-speed blur. Dad has this fantasy of loading us all up in a camper some summer, though the four of us in such close confines for an extended period could be dangerous.

For the time being, I’ll just live vicariously through you. Looking forward to posts as your plans and travels progress!

9to5to9´s last blog post..Bargains in the bulk candy bin

Sandra Foyt May 27, 2009 at 12:30 am

Yeah, some days it really does feel like I’m living the dream. I couldn’t wait for my kids to get old enough to be fun travel companions, now I want to hold onto this time, and never let go!

Sandra Foyt´s last blog post..How To Plan A Read Across America Road Trip

Gayle May 27, 2009 at 10:18 am

This is something my husband and I have wanted to do with our kids for some time. Glad to see someone else living out a dream of ours. We’ve traveled to various countries overseas with our kids which was great when we were studying world history. Now that we are studying American history, it would be a great to do a “field trip” to see the places we’ve studied. Like 9to5to9, we would love to travel in our camper.

Gayle´s last blog post..Grasping Math Concepts

Roberta May 27, 2009 at 10:25 am

This sounds so wonderful. I hope you have a really great trip. If you are heading across northern Arizona to see the Grand Canyon,the Meteor Crater outside Winslow is pretty cool, too. And the Petrified Forest. And then there’s the Sunset Crater north of Flagstaff, a relatively recent volcano, where you can see lava flows. (About 900 years ago). And then there’s… :-)

Have a really great time.

Roberta´s last blog post..Meet a Scientist Monday: Dr. Minda Weldon, Epidemiologist

SwitchedOnMom May 27, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Sounds wonderful! Years ago we fantasized about a Laura Ingalls Wilder pilgrimage. I really wanted to go to Arkansas too, where Laura ended up and all the Rose books (written by her daughter) were set.

But re New Mexico. Must read: The Tree in the Trail:

Also, if passing through Santa Fe, check out Los Golandrinas, a living history museum south of town. This historic hacienda on the Camino Real is the setting for the American Girl “Josephina” books.

SwitchedOnMom´s last blog post..Hagiography Alert

Sandra Foyt May 27, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Thanks! I just ordered The Tree In the Trail, as we enjoyed Minn of the Mississippi in the past, and this sounds beautiful. I don’t think we’ll make it to Santa Fe or the Petrified Forest; there are so many places I want to visit in the Southwest, I’ll need to go back on another trip!

Sandra Foyt´s last blog post..How To Plan A Read Across America Road Trip

Julie Roads May 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm

You have the best ideas!!! Sometimes I daydream that I’m one of your kids…

Julie Roads´s last blog post..What’s Your Theme Song?

Anne May 28, 2009 at 2:06 pm

This sounds like such a wonderful trip. I would love to do something like this. Maybe when my kids are a little older.

Linda May 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm

If you’re going to be in DeSmet, see if you can go a few miles farther to Aberdeen. I think the Storybook Gardens are there, a delightful way to remember nursery rhymes.

Great ideas!

The only other thing I’d add (which isn’t literature-specific) is to get info from state tourist bureaus. Sometimes you can stumble on some great little-known attractions or festivals along your route.

Linda´s last blog post..Numbered Days: Historic Forestville

Monica @ Paper Bridges May 29, 2009 at 6:51 am

great post! I hope you blog about your adventures on the road, I’d love to ride along in the backseat

Monica @ Paper Bridges´s last blog post..How to survive your homeschool convention

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