We had planned on flying to New York, but as we looked into the logistics of renting a vehicle big enough for 8 people AND dropping it back off or paying the extra fees, it just made so much more sense to drive to New York and back. Truly the best decision we made, I 100% promise.
In preparation, I began looking for websites that had good info on how to do a church history tour and I really couldn't find much. I did however find these books: The LDS Family Travel Guide. I LOVED them. It was so nice to have a hard copy in front of me, with basic maps and timing suggestions and tips and directions. I used it to plan and I took it on the trip. It's a little dated but that really wasn't an issue. I just used it as a guide and then used google, maps, yelp and phone calls to fill in the rest. I also really liked the basic background the books gave on each site. We used them in family home evening lessons before the trip and read them aloud as we drove to the sites during the trip.
We used hotels (thanks to some discounts from my dad, the two rooms we needed were less pricey!) and airbnb.com. I LOVE airbnb so much. It's a really affordable way to lodge a family of 8 especially in bigger cities. It's the first place I've looked for any trip I've taken in the last year. Feel free to ask questions about where we stayed in the comments.
Spiritual preparation really helps if you want to have the best experience. We held a family fast the fast Sunday before we went, asking Heavenly Father to bless us to feel His Spirit and to help us deepen our testimony of the restoration of the Gospel. We also assigned each child to an area of the trip and asked them to present pictures, stories and outlines about what we'd see each place and had them give their presentations in family home evenings prior to leaving.
Okay...onto the schedule. I'm including my cross country drive because it was just so cool, but obviously it will all be different depending on where you live.
Day 1: Leave Spokane and drive to Billings, MT (7.5 hour drive)
Day 2: Drive to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (4 hour drive). Explore for 2-3 hours.
Drive to Fargo ND (4.5 hour drive)
Day 3: Drive to Walnut Grove MN; visit Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum (3.5 hour drive). Stay 2 hrs.
Drive to Chicago, IL (8 hour drive)
Day 4: Explore Chicago (Boat ride, Doughnut Vault, Art Institute, the Bean, deep dish pizza)
Drive to Sandusky OH. (4.5 hours)
Day 5: Visit Cedar Point Amusement Park for 7ish hours.
Drive to Rochester NY. (4.5 hours)
Day 6: Visit Sacred Grove, Smith family farm, Hill Cumorah, Grandin printing press
Day 7: Visit Peter Whitmer Log home, hike Watkins Glen State Park Gorge
Day 8: Drive to Niagara (2 hours) Visit Niagara Falls. 4-5 hours needed.
Drive to Ohio (3.5 hour drive)
Day 9: Visit Kirkland visitor center, Kirtland temple, John Johnson farm.
Day 10: Visit Isaac Morley farm. Drive to Valparaiso, IN. (4.5 hr drive)
Day 11: Scrap plans to visit Indiana Dunes State Park (dumb rain). Drive to Springfield IL (3.5 hr
drive.) Visit Lincoln's Tomb, Abe Lincoln Presidential Museum for 4-5 hrs. Drive to Nauvoo,
IL. (2.5 hour drive)
Day 12: Spend the day at Nauvoo.
Day 13: More Nauvoo, Carthage Jail, Nauvoo temple baptisms.
Day 14: Drive to Kansas City, stopping at Adam Ondi Ahman. (4.5 hour drive)
**here you could do Independence MO sites and Liberty Jail...we'd already done that a few years ago.
Day 15: Drive to Denver CO (8.5 hour drive)
Day 16: visit Breckenridge CO, hike Flatirons
Day 17: Drive to Salt Lake City (8 hour drive)
Day 18: Drive back to Spokane (10 hour drive)
So that's how we did it. It was truly the trip of a lifetime. I'll spend the next few posts talking about each place in detail, should you want more information.