After we had decided to sell our home and make the move back to Utah, I knew I wanted to make our return trip memorable. I had always wanted to take a cross country trip with the family and thought that this would be the perfect time! I was actually a bit hesitant on sharing my idea with Kevin, I didn’t know if he would think the idea sounded crazy!! 60 hours driving in an RV with our 3 kids and puppy? That could scare anyone. Luckily he doesn’t scare easily. He was onboard. I share in this post all the stops we made, how much it cost, if we would do it again and more!!!!
Well, little did I know that Kevin would not only be onboard with the idea but another side of him would appear as well! If you caught any of the videos on Instagram Stories, you met Don. He had ordered the hat and driving gloves and the character was born. (Watch videos here).
We ended up driving for 60 hours and about 3,800 miles! Honestly, I can’t believe we did it. For someone who doesn’t like driving in the car at all, it was actually very fun! We had some spots that we really wanted to see, Niagara Falls and Mount Rushmore were top of the list! Kevin came up with the perfect route just using mapquest. (Hat linked at the end).
New York- Finger Lakes and Taughannock Falls
The first stop on our trip was a short 6 hour drive to the Finger Lakes in New York, it was so pretty! We used Harvest Host and stayed on the grounds of a local winery called Buttonwood Grove, such a pretty place! We decided in the morning to go to Taughannock Falls for a hike before getting onto our next destination. It was about a 2 mile round trip hike and we loved it, the views were amazing and it was easy enough for the kids, even Noah joined along!
What is Harvest Hosts and why stay there instead of an RV park? It is a great option if you travel when a lot of RV parks are full or closed for the season. Plus stay in beautiful spots. You can park your RV overnight at 1716+ Wineries, Breweries, Farms & Attractions. We wanted to stay at a Yak Farm, but the hosts were out of town when we were coming through, that would have been fun!
New York- Church Sites
Our next leg of the trip took us to some historical church sites. We stopped in Palmyra NY. We really enjoyed walking the grounds of the sacred grove, a grove of trees. So beautiful and I am sure it is gorgeous in the spring. We were the only people there which made it feel really special.
New York- Niagara Falls
We then loaded up and made our way to our first “big” destination Niagara Falls! We were not disappointed, it was breathtaking! Going during the winter had its upsides and downsides to every place we stopped. With Niagara I really wish we could had taken the boat to get a better view of the Falls, but the upside was, there weren’t a lot of people, which gave us great views of the Falls!
Ohio- Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Heading south with the destination of Nashville in mind, Kevin planned a stop along the way, Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was a huge hit, we found “Narnia” they said! We went on a hike to the Ledges and they were amazing! It was such a nice stop and was one of the highlights for the girls. We did stop in Columbus as we headed through Ohio for some Jeni’s Ice Cream and it was so good!
We had lots of people telling us to make sure to stop at the Arc Encounter in Kentucky and were very excited to do so. Unfortunately for us they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays so we decided to continue on to Nashville.
Nashville was one of my favorite stops and a location that I could spend more time in. We started the day with amazing donuts at Five Daughters Bakery. Then, we took a 2 hour bus tour. It was a beautiful day and we really enjoyed seeing the city this way. We walked down Broadway and found a fun Candy store for the kids (and who am I kidding, Kevin). There were so many great suggestions for restaurants in Nashville, we decided on Hattie B’s Chicken and loved it! Ella said they had the best macaroni that she has ever tasted, that’s saying something coming from Ella!
Nashville there were SO many recommendations for places to eat! Like, so many!! We need to go back just to eat at more places. Most recommended places to eat and do in Nashville-
- Five Daughters Bakery (we had the best donuts there! they even have paleo)
- Hattie B’s Hot Chicken (that is the photo above, really good chicken and Mac n cheese)
- Loveless Cafe (closed when we were there)
- Biscuit Love (closed when we were there)
- Bar Taco (they have those in CT, and LOVE it all!)
- Burger Up
- Pancake Pantry
- Creama Coffee Shop
- Frothy Monkey Coffee Shop
- Grays on Main
- Opryland Hotel
- White’s Mercantile (store photo below, so cute!)
- Downtown Franklin
- Pedestrian Bridge
- Country Music
- Draper James (Reese Witherspoon store)
- Johnny Cash Museum
Missouri- St.Louis- The Gateway Arch
We stopped in St Louis next, it was a quick stop, but we had to stop at the St Louis Children’s museum we had heard so many great things about! The museum is a must see if you go to St Louis, so many great activities for the kids. We ended up spending a good amount of time there and the kids enjoyed every second! Before we headed out of St Louis we made sure to visit the Gateway Arch and Union Station. Such a fun stop!
Missouri- Kansas City- Lake Lotawana
Approaching our halfway point of the trip, we were all in need of a shower and some time out of the RV! Our friends Jessica and Brandon were so kind and invited us to their lake house located about 45 min outside of Kansas City, they made us feel so welcome! We shared a dinner with them and the kids enjoyed spending time with their kids. So grateful for those who open their homes to others and it was so good to catch up with the both of them!
South Dakota- Sioux Falla
The next leg was going to be the longest but Don (aka Kevin) was ready and performed like a champ! We drove 7 hours and stopped in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We stopped at Falls Park, it was so pretty! The Falls were slightly frozen over and it was so nice to get out and enjoy the park and stretch our legs! Back in the RV we went for another 5 hour drive to Mount Rushmore, we arrived late and, once again, used Harvest Hosts to find a place to park the RV.
South Dakota- Dignity Sculpture
You could easily miss this gorgeous sculpture. Thankfully several people told us to stop here. Located on a bluff between exits 263 and 265 on Interstate 90 near Chamberlain. The 50-foot-tall statue was specifically designed to honor the cultures of the Lakota and Dakota people.
South Dakota- Sioux Falla
We were so excited to see Mount Rushmore and explore the area. We loved it. I would really like to go back in the warmer months, it looked like there were so many fun activities. We were one of two families there and were able to see the monument so well, looking back I think this was my favorite stop of the trip. The monument was so impressive, I’m always amazed at the amazing things people can accomplish and create! We followed up Mount Rushmore with a visit to the small town of Keystone for some lunch at the Alpine Inn and some Taffy at the local taffy shop. Both were so fun and delicious!!
We continued on to Crazy Horse Monument which was very impressive as well, if it ever gets completed it will be incredible! It is so worth the stop.
Yellowstone and Wyoming
We were back on the road and we had decided to go through Yellowstone, in the winter the only entrance open in the Northeast entrance and I was really looking forward to it! We had researched and knew people who have gone this time of year. Then SNOW came and more SNOW and even more SNOW!!! This was part of the trip the I will never forget but never want to repeat. We had made it into Wyoming and were at the very top of the pass when we made the only decision we could, pull over on the side of the road, wait out the storm and decide what to do next.
*I will say we don’t recommend driving your RV through the night. Some might have assumed we did. With the time change it was dark about 5 pm. We always tried to get to where we were staying by 8 or 9 pm.
It was one of the longest nights of my life! Amazingly we had cell phone service, the only place from the last two hours that we had service! I spent the whole night looking up when snow plows began, researching the weather and watching a live webcam of the roads we were traveling. After we heard the snow plows go by, made the right decision to turn around and head home to Utah. (these safety road triangles would be handy to keep in your RV for emergencies).
The drive from Wyoming to Utah was snowy and slow, we went in and out of snow storms and windy conditions. I was nervous, but Don was being extra cautious. We made our way through the storms and finally saw clear skies near Park City Utah!
We made it to Utah! We traveled over 2500 miles, drove over 35 hours, spent 7 days on the road, and laughed and enjoyed each other the whole way! Looking forward to our next RV trip!!
Most Popular Questions and Answers-
- Who did you rent the RV from and what was the cost? We rented from Luxe RV Rentals. It was hard to find an RV in Connecticut, so it did cost us a lot more than it would if you could find one in or near your area. We had to have it driven to us! We did look at the Cruise America, and decided to pay more for something a little bigger and nicer. I liked how the RV we rented had banquette seats around the table, vs just benches. Since the kids spent the most time sitting at that table it was worth it! My friend compared it to paying for a motel vs a hotel and that made me feel better about what we paid. I don’t want to quote exactly what we paid to rent the RV because it totally depends on location, how long you have it, how far you drive etc. From what we prices and what we spent it was between $7k-$10k. Again, it could cost way less if you have access to an RV near you. It was totally worth it for us, a family vacation.
- I will say the pictures online of the RV were different than what we got, which I probably didn’t read the fine print saying we weren’t getting that exact RV in the photos. Just something to be aware of and to manage expectations if you don’t see the RV before you rent it.
- Anything you would do differently? I would avoid areas that get unpredictable snow. Wyoming. No offense Wyoming. But you are scary in the winter months.
- What did you do for meals? We ate breakfast in the RV, just brought our mini waffle maker and a waffle mix. Or the kids had oatmeal we heated in the microwave. I rarely eat breakfast. We basically ate one big meal a day. Since we LOVE to stop at popular restaurants it was fun for us to find somewhere to eat in each town! We had snacks in the RV. Veggies and dip, crackers, fruit, nuts and kids (and Kevin) had some favorite candy. LOTS of beverages in the fridge and I always got ice in a big cup at gas stations to put in the freezer.
- How was sleeping in the RV? Great! We had sheets for the beds, cozy blankets and comfy pillows. In the RV we rented there were basically 3 full size beds. (The RV place we rented from provided new sheets and all the kitchen supplies. I do recommend bringing your favorite blankets and pillows!)
- How did Finn (4 years old) do? He did awesome! He did stay buckled in the banquette and was very happy. Helped that we had lots of toys, Nintendo, movie, coloring etc. He was even able to lay down and nap buckled in, once.
- Did you have to empty the septic? We actually didn’t! There is a gauge that tells you when it is time to empty it. If we would have been out another day then we would have emptied it. Helped we stayed at an RV park one day and at our friends house another day. We did also use bathrooms at gas stations because we had to stop often to fill up with gas, and it was a good reason to get out and walk.
- Were you able to work out? No. We brought stuff, but it was really cold outside, snow on the ground at most places we stopped. And honestly didn’t want to have to shower often! We hiked a lot and considered that a good enough workout. If we stayed at an RV park every night it would have been easier to workout.
- Why did you have to stop for propane a lot? How much did it cost? Our generator was run by propane so we had to fill it about once a day. If we would have hooked up to power at an RV park we would not have had to get propane as often. It cost $12 to fill up our 9 gallon tank. Filling it up was easy, but finding propane was a little harder!
- How hard for people who have never done it- Surprisingly easier than we thought! Kevin did have to fix a few odd things, like the generator stopped working in the middle of the night so he had to go out and did something to get it going.
- Was it hard to drive the RV? Kevin drove most of the way while I entertained the children :). I did drive a couple times and it wasn’t hard at all. Ours was only 30 feet, not too bad.
- How did you get around the cities with the RV and parking it places? Our RV was 30′ long, not too big. It was easy to park and get around. Never had an issue anywhere.
- What did you do with Noah (dog) in the RV? He would get out with us and hike anywhere we could take dogs. Anytime we stopped for gas we got him out to walk around and to go to the bathroom. He mostly slept when we drove or looked out the window. Such a good puppy. It was a good time of year to take an RV trip with a dog, because it never was hot in the RV if we had to leave him when we got out.
- How was showering in RV? Well, we never did it. One night we paid $60 for a night in a hotel to shower everyone by Niagara Falls (we didn’t sleep in it) best $60 spent!!! Then we showered at an RV park another time and then at our friends house. We showered 4 times out of the 7 days. We would have showered in the RV, just never needed to.
RV Travel Essentials-
- Small Hand Held Vacuum– so many spills, dirt, sand and random garbage finds it way in. Nice to have this on hand for easy cleanup.
- Sound Machine– we don’t travel without this! Helps everyone sleep better in a tight space.
- Bucket for shoes– trying to keep organized and sane. “have you seen my shoe?!” Check the bucket!
- Laundry Bag for dirty clothes– we stopped and washed laundry once, but it was nice to have a designated bag for the dirty laundry
- Packing Cubes– set of 6, various sizes. I found I can make so much more with these!
- First Aid Kit– I never regret being prepared, even if we don’t use it!
- Mini Waffle Maker– Easiest and smallest appliance to bring for quick and yummy breakfasts!
- Travel Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter– so many questions about this- YES we really like it. Filters your water (can filter any water it says) less waste and tastes good!
- Nintendo Switch and Games- the kids were only allowed to play these a couple hours a day (our quietest couple of hours, ha!) A few of our favorite games are Super Mario Maker 2, Super Mario Bro’s Deluxe, Super Smash Bro’s and MarioKart 8.
- Mini Toolkit – you just seriously never know, and Don had to be our handy man a few times!
- Diffuser–small enclosed space brings random smells, keep it smelling fresh with a diffuser and oils. Plus, it can help with sleep and mood boosting! (find the oils I use here).
- Bose Frames – Audio Sunglasses with Open Ear Headphones– I 100% recommend these! Loved them!
- 10ft Extra Lightning Charging Cable– love a fast charge, really important to keep a phone charged for emergencies and photos!
- Cleaning supplies– the only non-toxic cleaning products I use!
- Cousin Eddie Hat– I mean….this is totally essential!
- RV Maintenance Tee– next road trip we are all getting this!
- Crayola Pip Squeaks Washable Markers Set– my kids love to draw and color. Theses have lots of colors that last.
- The 50 States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps– learning as we pass each state, the illustrations are so cute!
- The Ultimate Travel Journal For Kids: Awesome Activities for Your Adventures– your kids will remember every second of fun-filled adventure. Packed with journaling prompts and activities so that no memory goes unwritten.
- Car Backseat Organizer with 10″ Table Holder, 9 Storage Pockets–every item will finally have a spot! Perfect to keep your road trip organized!
- Melissa & Doug Water Wow Bundle: Farm, Safari & Under The Sea–easy no mess coloring! Finn loves these!
- License Plate Game– once you spot each state you put on a magnet, kids will learn the capitol of each state too
- Brain Quest Questions– we have these and LOVE them!!!! We keep them in the car and use all the time
- Refugee– Ella (13) LOVED this book. I am reading it now with Lola (10). Based on real stories, real characters in history and of today, Alan Gratz alternates telling the tragic tales of three times in history when refugees were in frantic need of escaping their homes.
- Serafina and the Twisted Staff– we listened to this awhile ago on a long drive and we all enjoyed it.
- The Unique States of America– discover the country’s most iconic , and unique, destinations and experiences. I love that it tells you all about each state’s most iconic eats
- Basic Fun Lite-Brite Ultimate Classic Retro and Vintage Toy
- Travel mug with handle– highly recommend! Especially if you are in an RV, stock the freezer with ice and fridge with water and drinks
- Contigo Kids Stainless Steel Water Bottle– cup with a lid is a MUST! Insulated to keep cold and easy to refill. The girls have these water bottles.
Hope that helped! We would and are planning to do it again! Looking forward to an RV trip in the summer!