Family Travel Route 66 Route 66 with kids Travels

Why Should Your Family Take a Route 66 Road Trip?

Route 66 Illinois

Who’s idea was this Route 66 trip anyway? Do we really want to spend this much time in a car, with kids, trying to capture a look into the past? … It looks broken down to me…

–My Husband

Route 66 Illinois

I think everyone thought I was crazy when I decided that our family was going to embark on an epic road trip exploring Route 66 with kids. And that my ultimate goal was to make it all the way from Chicago to Santa Monica and back in 11 days.

Why Route 66? I really have no idea. I pretty much shared my husband’s above sentiments about the old road.

But I knew I had a goal in mind… Two goals actually: 1) To see the Grand Canyon, and 2) To make it to the Pacific Ocean. Other than that, whatever happened along the way would happen.

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Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

So, why Route 66 with kids? Especially when one of those two little kids was completely averse to car travel? Well, my answer is, that’s exactly why. I wanted my overly-sensory son to experience the discomfort so he could discover the amazing things that could happen if he could just let go a little. In fact, I wanted that for all of us. We had all grown a little too comfortable with our lives in the suburbs. And I, especially, felt that I had reached a time in my life when I would explode and maybe leave some collateral damage behind if I couldn’t find a way for the family to burst out of our comfort zone together.

Mater Route 66
The kids with life-sized Mater in Galena, KS.

We had all grown a little too comfortable with our lives in the suburbs.

Another reason to explore Route 66 is because of the simple fact that a very popular children’s movie (you know the one I’m talking about) addresses the importance of the old road and the changes that growth and capitalism can affect – positive or negative. I am definitely one who lives to tie in life lessons with popular culture (and math lessons, and science lessons, and all kinds of lessons). After all, children and adults alike are already familiar with popular culture. Comparing pop culture with new ideas makes the new ideas more accessible, and imbues the things we all experience in everyday life with so much more meaning. Does that make sense?

Yet another reason for Route 66 is that our family started calling the summer of 2016 the Summer of 6! The twins were 6, we purchased season passes to Six Flags, the year 2016 ended in a 6, so it only made sense to explore The Mother Road, Route 66.

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To recap, the reasons we took this road trip:

  1. To see sites that my husband and I had talked for years about seeing, but always disregarded our wanderlust for home, work, and school responsibilities.
  2. To help my overly-sensitive son to overcome some of his discomfort and fear with experiences in everyday life.
  3. To break our family out of a comfort zone that was stifling our zest for life.
  4. To help my children learn the real story behind the fiction of one of their favorite children’s movies.
  5. Because it was the Summer of 6 for our family!

All that said, we had an amazing trip. Despite the fact that there is a dearth of information out there about where Route 66 actually is and how to travel with 6-year-olds! On this website, I will share resources that we used to make our trip successful and the routes that we took.

One last thing…

Especially when traveling with children, it’s important to remember that your trip is YOUR trip. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should and should not do during your trip. Route 66 is a very old road with lots of starts and stops. We did not stay 100% faithful to traveling ON Route 66 the whole way. We had limited time and our children had limited patience, especially for the 10-12 hour drive days. Route 66 symbolizes the freedom to explore our nation, the freedom that technology has given us, and the freedom that we all need to feel. And we all should feel free to explore in the way that works for each of us!

Janette DeFelice, MD, MA is a writer currently focusing on how the changing environment affects our health. Her essay collection Resistance Essays from the Heartland and her new novel Delia Rising: A Ballet in Three Acts are both available now. She has also published at Be The Change Mom, ChicagoNow, and Medium.com. She holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Chicago Medical School and a Master’s degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago, where her major essay was Hegel and Ibsen: The Evolution of Consciousness in Ibsen’s Prose Play Cycle. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Indiana University. A former professional dancer, former adjunct Humanities professor, and former lecturer in Medical Clinical Skills, as well as a mom of 9-year-old twins, she currently finds herself at a career/life crossroads at which she is trying to figure out how to use all aspects of herself (her art, her medical and scientific knowledge, her philosophical explorations, her interest in popular culture as a teaching tool, and her unique perspective) for the good of humanity.

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