Spring Break Family Road Trip – Santa Fe + Phoenix + Moab

For Spring break this year, we decided to visit my mother-in-law in Phoenix. We’ve visited Phoenix many times now and have always taken the easy two hour flight to get there. This time we thought it would be fun to road trip and make a fun stop somewhere we’ve never been on either side of the trip.

Before I get into the fun details, please listen when I say this – it was HARD! We’ve road tripped before, several times actually! This was our first time doing it with THREE littles. Adding in one babe with extra needs was very difficult. I did my best to plan the trip so that we would have manageable segments to drive each day, breaking up the 13 hour one way drive into 5 or 8 hour stretches. Of course, even the best plans do not go as expected and everyone in the family had some very cranky, very “over it” times, if you catch my drift. But, two months later we are mostly left with the awesome memories we made and have only a little disdain for road trips left over. 😉

Road Trip Essentials

Let’s start with a few tips on how we got through this very long trip. My number one suggestion is first to “pack your patience” and majorly go with the flow. You just can’t plan out the way each kid will react to a long road trip like this. They need a second slushie of the day to make it through the next few hours? I say do it. They need to stretch their legs a little extra? Find a park at the next stop. As hard as it is, it kind of has to be all about what the kids need.

Second, make sure you have your electronics. For us, our kids don’t use an IPad often and so the best distraction for our older two babes are endless movies. We take our IPad and have a headrest mount for it (linked here) so that both of the kids can see it. Bryn could even see parts of the movie in her car seat mirror.

Third, hit up the dollar store before you leave. I spent about $20 on complete junk and it was by far the best investment I could have made. We tried really hard to make it at least three hours in between stops. About two hours in, without fail, at least one of the kids would get insanely restless. This is when I would pull out one of the dollar store toys or surprise packs and it would always get them through that last little bit. Our kids like to pick a snack at each gas station, so I don’t worry too much about having a ton of food on hand. I did make sure to pack a few lollipops and small candies for those restless times as well.

Santa Fe

Unfortunately, on the first leg of our trip, the highway ended up shutting down due to bad weather at the Colorado/New Mexico border. This severely delayed our arrival into Santa Fe. What was supposed to be a 5 hour drive turned into an 8-9 hour drive and put us there right at dinner time. We sadly didn’t get to explore Santa Fe at all. It was also much colder there than I had anticipated. For a late March trip, I would definitely suggest more cold weather gear such as snow jackets, gloves, and hats. We stayed in downtown Santa Fe at The Governor’s Inn. We really loved this hotel. The staff was super nice, the room was clean and fit all 5 of us with space to spare, and it was decorated with a very traditional Santa Fe feel. Since we got in so late, we decided against exploring the town and went straight for dinner at the hotel restaurant. The food and drinks were excellent. The hotel also has a heated pool which we did not get to check out.

Our room rate came with breakfast included. This was not your typical self serve hotel continental breakfast buffet. It was a delicious, authentic southwestern brunch and it was awesome!

We can’t wait to go back to Santa Fe, especially for an adults only trip and actually get to explore the town.


Our next leg of the drive into Phoenix was smoother, although the roads were often slow-going, two-lanes and fairly remote. We stayed with family during this part of the trip and mostly hung with them. Phoenix in late march is beautiful. The temperatures were perfect for swimming in a heated pool or doing outdoorsy things. We swam a couple of times, hiked to the ‘A’ in Tempe with our family that went to school at ASU, and checked out the Phoenix aquarium. We have been to Phoenix many times, but there is always a lot for families to do.


On our way back to Colorado, we stopped in Moab. It was about 8 hours from Phoenix, and 5 hours from our home. We absolutely loved Moab. It is insanely beautiful, seems fairly small but also has a lot to do.

There were many hotels to choose from, but we settled at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites. The staff at this hotel was incredible. They were so kind to our family, always going out of the way to make us feel special or help us. For example – while Connor was putting Bryn down for bed, I had the big kids out in the lobby running around. The lady at the front desk noticed us and brought snacks for the kids while we waited for their bedtimes. The heated pool at this hotel was so fun with a matching rock formation to the beautiful red rocks all around. Swimming was a welcome energy outlet after our long drive.

After swimming, we headed to the Moab Brewery for dinner. The beer was decent and the food was also good. There were a lot of dinner options in town.

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel (which was a standard hotel continental breakfast, but still perfectly fine). We wanted to do at least a tiny bit of hiking in the gorgeous Moab mountains before we hit the road to get home. We found a very easy hike that is recommended for families and that my sister also recommended – Corona Arch trail. I hiked with Bryn in our Ergobaby and the big kids were able to walk it. Since we were tight on time and wanting to get home, we hiked for about an hour round trip, but did not make it all the way to the arch. We were still able to check out the insane views and have a lot of fun.

We also can’t wait to go back to Moab! Only a 5 hour drive from Denver makes it a really easy weekend getaway spot. There was plenty to do for families and we would love to take our kids back for camping when they are older. We would also consider this an awesome adults only destination and would love to go back for that experience as well.

I hope you find this helpful in planning your next trip! These strategies can really be used for any type of trip. Let me know if you have any questions and happy vacationing!

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