If you are planning a trip of similar nature, here are a few tips from me to you…
1. Spend a lot of time planning. I spent a lot of time planning, and still feel that I could have done better. For instance, when we were standing in line at the San Antonio zoo, I checked on my phone for coupons for admission. Why didn’t I think of this before? I have no idea. There was a coupon…a very good one…but I had no way of printing it. I made my case to the ticket lady…telling her that we were from out of town and had no way of printing the coupon. She gave us the discount anyway, but I would have felt much more prepared if I had printed it at home before starting the trip. Also, when we were in San Francisco, we wanted to tour Alcatraz. As I mentioned, they were totally booked for the day. In Merced, we had no idea how long the bus took to get to Yosemite and back, so a day there was just not enough... So, look online for coupons to places that you know that you will be visiting on your trip, pre-book any tours that you want to take, and ask lots of questions about places that you want to visit at the train station BEFORE you get there. These three things will save you a lot of trouble in the long run, in my opinion.
2. Teach your children along the way, even if you aren’t a homeschooler! My kids still remember things from the “fact sheets” that I made for them in each city. They still have their folders that they can look through and refer back to. This will be good for them as they begin to learn states and capitals and such. There is a wonderful homeschooling resource for this exact thing done by “Confessions of a Homeschooler!” I did not know about this prior to our trip, but it would have saved me so much time and lots of researching because she has already done the hard parts. Check out the link here: http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/u-s-geography She calls it “Road Trip USA.
Here are some pictures of my daughter's folder. I made one for each of the children. I also included pictures of some of the pages that were in the folder. I made "fact" pages for each state and also included a copy of each state's page in a kid's atlas that I had on hand.
3. Pack lightly. One of the major grievances that my husband and I both have about the trip in general was the large suitcase that we brought along. It was marked “HEAVY” through Amtrak, and it was a pain for us to lug around, even though it had wheels. Remind yourself that there are grocery stores that you will be able to stop at along the way, and that there are places to do laundry. Pack as light as possible. Amtrak’s policy on luggage is awesome, but even so, packing light will help you more in the long run.
If you happen to get inspired and go on a similar trip, please come back and let me know. I would love to hear about your experience…or if you have already gone on a similar trip, I would love to hear about your experience as well.