Driving Cross Country
The experience of driving cross country is awesome. We live in Virginia and have been traveling cross-country for many years, starting as a young couple in our Vanagon and then taking the kids out. We have traveled tent only, travel trailer, recreational vehicle, etc. What's right for one may not be right for all. You have to know what your level of comfort is and how remote you plan to go. The IMPORTANT QUESTION to consider:
How much time do you want to spend on the drive? Is your goal to reach a western destination/s or do you want to take time along the way?
Travel Trailers/RV The convenience of travel trailers and RVs are great. It is easy to sleep each night without a lot of set up. Sometimes the campgrounds/RV parks are unreliable. Best bet, go to a KOA. The kids will enjoy it, especially if there is a pool, and they are generally reliable. Of course you can stay in a Walmart lot if you are comfortable with that. But as far as having put in a long day of driving, possibly arriving late to your campground, it is nice to just get into the RV or Travel Trailer and go to sleep. Very little set up involved.
Our 1st travel machine!
Tent camping I would not recommended this type of camping while travelling XC for the actual driving days unless you plan ahead and wish to stay at least 3 nights in a given place. This 3-night limit became our mantra with kids. The effort it takes to set up and tear down is simply not worth it unless you are going to stay and chill for a while. And in our experiences, camping east of the Missouri River--not the best. Best bet, go to a KOA. The kids will enjoy it, especially if there is a pool, and they are generally reliable. Remember, if you are taking your sweet time getting out there and time is not an issue, this could be doable and cool to explore all the way along the route.
Hotels This is also an option. Even though you are sitting in the car for hours on end, it is somehow exhausting. For us, our "outdoor", "camping", "backpacking" adventures start at our western destinations. So it is somewhat of a treat to stay in a hotel, trying to reach the destination with enough time for the POOL! Sometimes I think the pool moments are the highlight of the kids' memories! LOL! So, if you main goal is to get out west, to the adventure destinations, but you still want to enjoy the beautiful drive through this AWESOME and diverse country, this is a great option.
In our experience, based upon the time we have and the plans made, we are usually driving to get to our western destinations. We have tent camped along the way which I would not recommend. We have tried all the above options. I've included tips for each option. However, for us, we have found that even with the trailer, and for the goal in mind of making it west, we prefer to stay in hotels. The campgrounds of the east and mid-west are generally uninteresting to us and in the summertime very humid! YUK!
Slow Down, Smell the Roses!
If you want to spend time along the way, there are lots of interesting places to visit. You need the time and PATIENCE to meander and wander! After lots of years of "JUST GET OUT THERE!", we are planning to stop at a few major league baseball games on our way out next year!