First time driving across the map! looking for any tips and advice to make this trip easier. Family friendly activities. we are giving ourselves 5 days to drive and don't want to spend too much money. TIA!
5 days is a very strenuous schedule. You'll have to drive 8-10 hours per day to make it in 5 days, and that won't leave you too much time for sightseeing. It'll also be extremely stressful for your kids, regardless of their ages. I'd strongly recommend giving yourselves at least 7 days, and scheduling one or two days of down time during the trip where you stay in one place.
Having said that, I'd recommend the following. 5 days of driving, plus however many days of down time you schedule:
Day 2: Tucson to El Paso. This is a short drive of less than 4 hours, but there's nothing much to see between El Paso and San Antonio/Austin so you may as well stop here. Franklin Mountains State Park and the aerial tramway are a fun activity.
Day 3: El Paso to San Antonio or Austin. About 6 hours. The Alamo, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Natural Bridge Caverns, Texas State Capitol, Congress Avenue Bridge, Fredericksburg (Texas) and Lockhart are good places to visit.
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You probably saw the Trippy page for a road trip from San Diego to Jacksonville. That spans 5 days.
In terms of family-friendly activities, I think a lot depends on the age of your kids. I'm assuming they are not infants (if they are, I don't know if I'd recommend a trip this long =).
For older kids, the national parks are always good to explore. You might want to drive farther the first half. Assuming you're from San Diego, Arizona and New Mexico might not be as interesting to you and you can always do shorter trips to those destinations. So I would think you might try to do more driving early on when everyone is fresh, then maybe explore more starting from Texas.
If you go through Austin, you could check out the bats under the bridge.
I think it might be interesting for you to explore the Gulf of Mexico since again, that's on the other side from where you live, so maybe spending time in Houston or Galveston and maybe a detour to New Orleans.
Of course, it really depends if you're into beaches, but I figure that's an inexpensive attraction for kids, and if you're going all the way across the country, you might as well see stuff that's further from home.
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Don't drive. It is more than 4000 miles coast to coast. Especially with 95 temps, flooding, construction, breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. Best wishes