So as we are wrapping up our WATCHING OUR WAY ACROSS AMERICA posts and a week out from loading up the Family Truckster (translation: rented Hyundai Santa Fe or similar) and heading cross-country to Walley World DIsneyland, I thought I would do something different in this post and talk about the trip itself. I know I have been talking about the route in each of these most recent posts. But I haven’t really talked about the “hows” or “whys” of the actual trip in too great detail.
And I have tried to convey IRL the planning that has gone into this thing but you know…for posterity…thought it would be good to get it all down here for Goodreau historians in the future to better understand this massive undertaking.
Yep, I totally imagine that someday in the future, there will be courses of study dedicated solely to Goodreau history. Or at the very least, maybe this post will show up on someone’s ancestry.com search. Either way, LESSGO. Buckle up, it’s a long one.
The route and pre-booking
So here is the route:
So how the frak did we pick this route? We are travelling north to go south, partly on Route 66. Partly not. Coming off Route 66 for a bit after the Grand Canyon then rejoining it. And then we are flying back. Head. Spinning.
Well, this wasn’t always the route. The only real constant on this route has always been Disneyland. Of course. Everything else has come and gone. We were first going to Cooperstown. Then we weren’t. Vegas came off and on multiple times. Cedar Point was on here at one point. Busch Gardens in Virginia was on here. Which of course meant VIRGINA was on here. Seriously, it’s been a work in flux. But now I honestly think we have landed on the perfect route.
I say that knowing full well that whatever route we landed on would have also been the perfect route. On account of there is no perfect route. There is A LOT to see. I mean, think of everything we are seeing – Niagara Falls, Cooperstown, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, the world’s second largest rocking chair – but think more about everything we aren’t seeing – Mount Rushmore, Washington DC, New York City, the world’s largest ball of twine. The point is – if you ever find yourself planning a trip like this, I would recommend thinking about it way in advance because it’s going to take a while to get to a plan that will (A) get you there and (B) encompass at least some of what you feel you need to see.
We also pre-booked almost everything and prepaid where we could. So that now, we have all our hotels booked and, with the exception of one, completely paid for. We also already have our Disneyland tickets, Red Sox tickets, Baseball and Hockey Hall of Fame tickets, Niagara Falls fireworks cruise tickets and Warner Brothers Studio Tour tickets in-hand and paid for. AND we have already made reservations at all the Disneyland meals we definitely know we want (I am pretty sure we have 8 or 9 reservations made for Disneyland. Did I mention fatness. Because yeah.)
I have heard from a few people that they would never do this trip in this manner. It would be too stressful to try and make those reservations. Or it wouldn’t be spontaneous enough. For us though, it makes sense. I mean, we are planners at heart. It’s why we think our vacations at Disney World go so well. Plus, knowing what we are doing builds excitement for our trip. We can watch videos and read up on all the fun places we are visiting. It helps extend our vacation. Which is good because we forever want to be on vacation. Sorry not sorry real life.
Plus, from a more pragmatic standpoint, some of the stuff we want is either booked at this point or has gone up in price since we booked. Getting a room in the Grand Canyon is near impossible at this point. But we have one waiting for us. Our room in Vegas has gone up in price since we booked it months ago. So I stick my tongue out at you, naysayers.
The binder (and the budget)
In fact, Nickie has created a binder for the trip that is pretty epic. So epic in fact that it deserved its own section of this post. Some of the features of this epic binder:
- The spreadsheet/budget – Yeah, THE spreadsheet. Anyone that has read this blog for some time or knows us at all knows that Nickie always does a spreadsheet laid out day by day that contains information like places to go, reservation numbers, etc. I also helped with this one and added lines for budget broken out by things like food, gas, accommodations, etc. that adds up both what we have paid for as well as what we owe. I hesitate to say how much this trip costs but I mean, it’s expensive. Knowing what we have paid and what we owe though has helped us know how much to save and how much to pre-pay.
- Color-coded tabs – Each section of the trip is coded and tabbed for easy reference. Within each section is pertinent information as well as pockets to hold materials for each place.
- Tickets – All of the tickets mentioned (including Disneyland) are contained within. Ugh so exciting. TICKETS!
- Other stuff – there are other things, such as maps, coupons and points of interest printed out in here as well. Some of these are mentioned in the next section.
I seriously cannot stress how many times we have looked at this thing. A lot though.
When planning a trip like this, you obviously need help. In addition to visiting town and attraction websites and tools like Google Maps and Mapquest, we used a lot of resources to help us plan.
Right, um, resources.
Websites and apps
In addition to attraction/hotel/area-specific websites, there have been A LOT we have used to plan this trip.
- YouTube – We watch a lot of YouTube to get ready for our Disney trips and have a number of subscriptions to channels that post a ton of Disney stuff. For this trip, we were in new territory. And we stumbled on Justin at Randomland Adventures and not only does he have a ton of Disneyland videos but he also does a lot of Route 66 stuff. In fact, he is in the middle of a Route 66 trip night now, which has been fun to watch. There have been a few other Route 66 videos we have been watching as well as doing some random searches for destinations along the trip (doing a “top 10”search in various locations has helped. And there are some pretty good Disneyland posters out there as well – Tim Tracker, someone we follow for Disney World stuff, has posted some great Disneyland vids and we have also discovered Fresh Baked Disney for some general Disneyland news and Magic Journeys for a lot of Disneyland dining reviews. Hrm, I should really do a post on Disney World YouTubers when I get a chance since I now feel guilty for never mentioning them.
- Route 66 sites – As you guys know, Route 66 is a BIG part of this trip. So we have done a bunch of Route 66 research online. One big one has been Road Trip USA, which has a bunch of other road trips as well. But it’s information on everything Route 66 has been essential. Other sites, such as route66motels.com, Gas Food No Lodging and Route 66 News have also helped.
- Route 66: Ultimate Guide App – I haven’t paid for many apps in my life, but I did buy this one. The Route 66: Ultimate Guide app has details on a number of Route 66 attractions and even lets you map out your own Route 66 experience. Pretty neat.
- Disneyland app – I mean, HELLO. Of course we have the Disneyland app. We use this to not only read about attractions, restaurants, etc. but well right now, that IS basically what we use it for. However, this will also let us check out character appearances, wait times, fastpass return times, etc. while in the park.
- The Disney Food Blog – Yep, we also come to The Disney Food Blog for information on Disneyland food. Seriously, do not visit this blog hungry.
- Allears – always a great place to find menus for Walt Disney World, we have also been using allears.net to check out menus for Disneyland restaurants.
- Yelp – dur, of course Yelp. We have done a lot of region-specific searches and Yelp has helped us narrow down places to eat (and places to visit as well). I am pretty sure the app will also play a role as the trip progresses.
- Expedia and TripAdvisor – Expedia has been where we have booked the majority of our hotels. I have points on there that have helped with discounts on rooms and I do like having access to all of it through the app on my phone. Tripadvisor’s reviews have really helped us better understand what hotels are preferred in specific areas and what we can expect.
Believe me, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the resources we used, but I mean, I could probably do a whole post just about that. Don’t tempt me.
- Maps – Yeah we are bringing also like real maps with us. I know. It’s so cute how we are antiquated. But I mean, you never know when your GPS is gonna crap out. So Nickie bought me a Road Atlas. I plan on still highlighting the route through every state just in case. I also bought this set of Here It Is! Route 66 maps because Route 66 these days isn’t like an actual one-highway route. These maps should help keep us on track. They outline a lot of great roadside attractions and places to eat/sleep and are illustrated. They not only help to plan out the route but also again are a cool way to get excited.
- Additionally, we do have all the maps from AAA that outline our route. I honestly don’t think we have looked at them all that much but eh, there is still time, man.
- Books – Nickie bought me this awesome book Roadfood which has like 900 restaurants in it coast-to-coast. It’s a great book and fun to read but it gives me serious food FOMO. We also still have our like early 2000’s copy of Road Trip USA that we have checked in with from time-to-time for part planning, part-nostalgia.
Our personal experience
As I have said, Nickie and I have done this trip before. Well, kinda. Not this exact route and we are seeing a ton more but still. We still have our journal we kept from our 3-week trip and our photo album. If anything, even if it didn’t help with much planning it did help build excitement. Which I mean, we obviously needed oh no wait we didn’t.
I bring up clothes because this was the most daunting piece of the planning for me. 17 days of clothes. Across a number of different areas and experiences. 17 days worth of underwear seems insanity to me. Which is why Nickie bought me new underwear just for the trip. Actually, I have a lot of clothes bought specifically for the trip.
We have all planned out at least a couple “nice” outfits for more classy-type dinners and definitely some more comfortable clothes (sweat shorts (I got new ones with stars on them), tanks, etc.) for the longer rides.
Beyond that, though, of course there are themes. I mean, of course. I am pretty sure I am bringing at least 5 different shirts that reference America in some way and, no lie, 4 or 5 shirts with Mickey Mouse on them. In fact, I have one shirt that has a red, white and blue Mickey. Which kills two birds with one stone. Again, the most efficient way to kill two birds.
But we also have clothes picked out for certain days – Red Sox clothes for the Baseball Hall of Fame and Red Sox game, Bruins t-shirts for when we visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, Patriots jerseys for Michigan (on account of where Tom Brady THE GOAT went to school) and that sort of thing. And obviously, we have Disney t-shirts for Disneyland. Obvs. Again, multiple Mickey shirts.
Plus, we did create a t-shirt for this trip. Check this thing out, it’s amazing:
I should also note that we have developed a system for our clothes so we are not constantly taking a huge bag out at every stop. We have each day’s clothes bundled together within our main bag that we can grab, throw into our smaller bag and then bring into the hotel. We will see how this all works but it should make things easier. The explanation though? Not easy.
The music and entertainment
The plan for the car rides is to limit personal electronics to about an hour of phone time for the boys ech ride. We really do want to talk and sing and bond in the car on this trip. Most likely, this is our one shot at this and. In addition to having some amazing experiences along the way and seeing America, we want to be an even stronger family coming out of this. So interaction with each other is key. But like I said, we don’t want to completely erase phone time. We will all need some personal space too. Plus otherwise with no phone for too long, its like…
So to keep the kids entertained, we do plan on you know…just looking out the window. But in addition to that:
- Music – I mean, of course I made a playlist. I started making this thing like 2 years ago maybe and it’s up to 213 songs and still growing. These are songs about America and being on the road for sure but also Disney songs and songs we like to sing in the car. And then there are songs like “On the Open Road” from A Goofy Movie, which is all of these things.
We also are working on what is the actual theme song for the trip. I mean we NEED a theme song, no? Some top contenders are “I Lived” by OneRepublic, “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash, “Try Everything” by Shakira and “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham (the theme song from National Lampoon’s Vacation.)
- DVDs – We bought some seat-back portable DVD players to hook up in the rental car. Now, we have been doing this thing with the kids where we watch TV shows from start to finish. We have watched The Wonder Years, Friends, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Chuck and Gilmore Girls The plan was to watch Seinfeld on the trip but eh, we went ahead and watched mot of it already. Couldn’t wait. So we have agonized over what show to watch. Did the whole pull it out of the hat thing. Had votes on Facebook. Went through a number of considerations. The Brady Bunch. Cheers. Beverly Hills 90210. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ended up with Scrubs. On account of it’s good and we already have the first five seasons on DVD.
- Treat bags – We also have small bags for the boys to open every day until we get to Santa Monica. These contain little presents that will give them stuff to do on the way. Can’t really say much more about them right now. On account of my kids can read.
The odds and ends
- The cooler – we bought this super cool cooler for the trip. Here it is. It’s cool because it has a bunch of cool outside pockets to hold toys, games, etc. and the top flips over to become a tray to eat or play on. Cool stuff. Hah, cool.
- Video camera/editing software – We debated back and forth on what video camera to get. We seriously considered a GoPro but heard awful things about the audio. It seems a popular camera simply because its popular. It’s like the iPhone of cameras. Oh snap. So we landed on the Sony Handycam because it was small and seemed to take good video. I hope to create some great videos of the trip when we get back using HitFilm Express.
- The snacks – Nickie has also put together a snack box with goldfish, granola bars, applesauce pouches, etc. to keep the kids somewhat healthy in the car in betwixt pulled pork sandwiches and corn dogs.
- The hashtag – Again, yet one more thing we debated. What would our hashtag be? Eventually, we landed on #GoodReaudTrip. We will be tagging all our photos with this on Insta and Facebook along with secondary hashtags associated with that specific spot.
- The blog – Obviously, I will be blogging. I am going to try and do a daily update at the end of the day so you can all follow along.
As you can see on the t-shirt, I suggested we include the “Because getting there is half the fun, you know that” quote from National Lampoon’s Vacation. I mean, I included that because that movie is amazepantz. But also because it’s the gist of why this trip is happening in the first place. Yes, we want to see Disneyland. Of course we do. And we will have a great time there. But this trip is about so much more than Disneyland.
It’s about us getting there. Together. It’s our grandest adventure yet because we are all part of the journey. Rather than simply hopping on a plane, zoning out and then arriving, we are blazing our own trail across the country. Driving thousands of miles together. Seeing so many things together for the first time. We are seeing America together. Maybe it’s corny but I think every American should actually see their own country at some point.
And look, we love all of our vacations and have created so many memories together. But this one will hopefully go down as one of the most epic. Because all four of us have such a strong part in how it goes down. Sure, Nickie and I booked everything. But the kids have both had a say in where we stop, where we stay, what we see. This trip is completely “ours.” All four of us.
The boys are growing up. Myles is 13 and Owen is about to turn 10. I think Nickie and I are hoping to trap a little bit of the “right now” in this trip. The pictures we take. The video we shoot. The memories we make on this trip. These will hopefully let us hold onto this time in our family’s life. As our kids grow up, I know we will always be making new memories. But right now, things are pretty great and I am looking forward not only to this 2 and a half weeks, but the memories to look back on for years to come. Like I said, once in a lifetime.
So please, follow along as we take this trip. It’s gonna be something.