Well, imagine my surprise, after deciding that our epic family trip would be a drive along the entire length of Route 66, that there really was no such thing as the entire length of The Mother Road. As stated in a previous post (see Epic Route 66), Route 66 has a lot of starts and stops. Sometimes it follows the path of the modern highway and sometimes it’s a dirt road that ends in, well, just ends. I tried google maps to find what was the actual route of Route 66 to take to California, but I found no help there. I purchased an actual paper road map of the United States, but no Route 66 there either. All I knew in the beginning stages of the trip was that Route 66 began across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago (east-bound) and ended somewhere in California.
After much research, I found a book on Amazon called Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers – 4TH EDITION by Jerry McLanahan and the National Historic Route 66 Federation. It’s a spiral-bound book (EZ for keeping your page while traveling in a cramped car) that breaks down the actual historic Route 66 into manageable sections for each state that it passes through. Without this book, I would not have had a clue where we were going. Another great thing about this book is that it gives you information about sites to see along the way and interesting side trips (if you have time). I also liked that I could follow the map and always see where Route 66 was in relation to the main, modern highway. This book was truly invaluable for our Epic Family Trip.
Another book we used, though not as much, was the Route 66 Dining & Lodging Guide – 17th Edition – Spiral Bound by the National Historic Route 66 Federation. Like the EZ Guide, it is spiral-bound. It does exactly what the title says it does – it gives information about dining and lodging along the route. Mostly diners and motels that stay true to the historic feel of a drive along The Mother Road. Though we did stay at chain hotels along the way (just for our own sense of comfort – because traveling with kids requires at least a little bit of comfort and reassurance), we took the book’s advice and stayed in two restored 1950s motels along the way. One in Albuquerque, NM called the Sandia Peak Inn and the other in Pasadena, CA called the Saga Motor Hotel. The Sandia Peak Inn was perfectly acceptable, though located in a questionable part of town. The lovely woman who runs the place made us feel at home. The Saga Motor Hotel was outstanding. I highly recommend staying here. And if you travel the entire length of Route 66 to get there, you may find check-in to be an especially lovely experience.
One other book that was indispensable for us was Emily Priddy’s Route 66 for Kids. I really wanted this book to have pictures when we were preparing for the trip, but on the actual trip itself the book turned out to be very helpful.
Furthermore, adults definitely want to make sure kids are pretty well occupied during the travel portion of the trip. For us, driving from Chicago to Santa Monica and back in 11 days, most of the trip was one big travel day. But the kids were surprisingly pleasant to travel with. Most likely, because we thought ahead and were prepared with many boredom busters! Among them were:
1. DVD player with dual screens and headphones. This was a MAJOR boredom buster! We usually required the children to endure some “staring out the window” time – sometimes for 30 minutes to an hour before breaking out the DVDs. After all, doesn’t every child have to experience the boredom of a road trip with the fam? Also, on a more intellectual level, it’s super important to let kids have time in which their brains just wander. They can ponder grand ideas, process the events of yesterday, and try to predict what the current day holds for them. But, yes, DVDs were a major life saver.
2. iPads loaded with games and educational apps. And don’t forget those headphones, so the little ones in the back seat don’t drive the big ones in the front seat crazy with all the sound effects.
4. Books, magazines, activities, etc. Summer Fun Mad Libs Junior was a big hit (especially for my boy).
Preparation is key for a great experience on any family trip. Just be careful not to prepare too much or too rigidly that you don’t leave yourself open to the unpredictable events that occur with travel. Once you’ve planned and prepared, let go a bit and allow your trip to unfold as it will.