We Drove Across The Country With Our Preschoolers & Here’s What Happened.

July 31, 2018

Disclosure: Thank you to the brands that partnered with us as we made this trek. I only partner with brands I love and trust, and as always all opinions expressed are my own.

Since we went to the End of The Oregon Trail recently, I thought it would be fun to share all about our journey across the Oregon trail (with yes, two kids in tow). We sat out from the Midwest last May to our new home in Portland, Oregon. Just a few weeks ago though did we finish the journey, and made it up to Oregon City to the end of the interpretative center. In this post, I’m reliving the experience and sharing what we learned, what we’d do again, and what we would suggest skipping or altering to better serve your family.

Road trips can be a whole lot of fun, although you have to make sure to drive safely at all times or else you run the risk of getting a traffic ticket! If you do get a traffic ticket on your road trip though, then try not to worry too much. If you go to traffic school, you can avoid stiff fines and increased insurance rates, and even keep your record clean. There are some great california traffic school courses out there so do not be afraid to do some research online to find the best solution to your traffic ticket woes.

Here is the path we took in this post:
Bloomington, Indiana to Kansas City, Missouri to Lincoln, Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming to Salt Lake City, Utah to Boise, Idaho to Portland, Oregon to Mt. Hood, Oregon, Seaside, Oregon, Cannon Beach, Oregon Astoria and beyond.

I know some people like to just drive and see where they get tired and stop, we had to be a little more realistic since our traveling companions were four and two years old. So, we scheduled our stops and reserved our hotels in advance. We just wanted to avoid any possibility of getting somewhere and learning there was no vacancy. That would honestly be my recommendation to do some planning in advance. We chose some children’s museum (like this one in Salt Lake City called Discovery Gateway.) Unfortunately, we were on a little bit of a time crunch because we had to get to my husband’s new job. So, we really only allocated a day to each stop (except for Idaho, where his parents live.) I’ve included a bunch of photos below with captions, but here are our tips:

Get audiobooks/download podcasts. I drove over 40 hours (because my husband was in his car.) so, I listened to career related podcasts, comedy books, and the boys and I listened to some quicker children’s books. The mix kept me focused and tuned in, when the kids were asleep you better believe I was listening to Ying Yang twins, but I tried to use the car time productively.

Don’t rush with kids. Give yourself plenty of time to get there, that’s supposed to be the joy of a road trip! Getting there should be HALF the fun. We packed lots of car activities (books, DVDs, coloring books, water magic books, and the boys had snacks galore.) We stashed some “bonus” items to distribute occasionally when they would get restless.

Try to eat at local places when you can. Our experience was that we couldn’t do sit down meals every time. We had to grab Subway and take it a park, but for dinners we tried to do a local sit down restaurant. We had barbecued meats in Kansas City and potato ice cream in Idaho. Regional food is really fun and can make for some great stories.

There is a reason “tourist spots” become tourist spots. Don’t ignore a place, because it isn’t uniquely local either. Hit up those landmark spots, when in rome baby!

Say yes when you can. Try to tell your kids yes to random things when you can. Like, maybe they want to explore that random building with the chicken on top. They will never forget it!

Save money tips: So, by staying at the same hotel chain when you can earn rewards. Don’t forget kids eat free nights when you can find them! Parks are wonderful, lakes, beaches, etc.

I love driving across the country, it was so relaxing and opened us to many conversations with my boys. We made so many memories as a family and it was a very affordable option for seeing so much terrain.

Would you ever drive across the country with your kids? Comment below and let me know!

Our first stop on our journey was in Kansas City, we were so excited this room was about the only thing we saw. Minus eating BBQ.
We love the Portland Zoo!
Our hotel in Wyoming. We enjoyed dinner at the Outback in Cheyenne, and watched a big storm from the window. I ruined our travel plays in Wyoming by getting extremely lost.
Once we arrived in Oregon, the first day trip we took was just up to Cannon Beach!
Horning’s Hideout is where the boys fell in love with fishing. Look how little they were!
Our view from our hotel on our trip to Astoria, Oregon!
Does this school look familiar?! Kindergarten cop was shot here!
The Tillamook cheese factory is a must visit! We had a blast, actually. Although, I had to literally pull Liam away from the samples station.
Crabbing is one of our favorite things to do in Oregon. We love Kelly’s Marina
How little are they here!?
Tillamook Air Museum. The boys absolutely loved this place, and the whole family learned so much.

The Astoria Column Idaho is one of our favorite states!
My husband was raised there so as a family, we’ve spent a lot of time there.

Splash pads are free!

Go Berry Picking!
on the Oregon Coast crabbing! Kelly’s Brighton Marina!
Oaks Park Amusement
Newport, Oregon
dinner cruise on the Portland, Spirit
Mt. Hood, Oregon
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
OMSI in Portland, Oregon. An Absolute Must See When You Visit Portland!

More about This Messy Season

This Messy Season is a blog serving families through practical tips for nurturing their families, emphasizing quality time and adventure. Helping young families bloom where they're planted, embrace their mess, and thrive through a series of honest, blog posts highlighting realistic travel tips, favorite products that simplify the work load of families, and family entertainment.

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