Posted in 30 Challenges, Road Trip, Travel

Road Trip Recap- Part 3

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This is going to round out my series of road trip recaps (Check out my Itinerary in Road Trip Recap- Part 2 and my Trip Overview in Road Trip Recap- Part 1).  In this last road trip related post, I am going to focus on the planning and preparation for the trip to highlight some of my Tips and Tricks for an AWESOME ROAD TRIP!

Planning

  • Map out your route and review alternative routes. While we were planning for this trip we went through many itierations of our route… This was actually fun and got us excited as we talked about cities and stopping points.  But from a planning standpoint, it was really helpful by thinking through fastest/shortest/most interesting routes and best cities to stop in.
  • Make a checklist. And check it twice (at least)
  • Make a budget. Think about all your likely expenses: food/gas/hotel/excursions/tolls. Determine if there are any opportunities to save money.
  • Check weather. Our trip went from Orange County (FL) to Orange County (CA) in January and we saw temperatures as high as 80 degrees and as low as 30 degrees.  Having an idea of what the weather would be was critical to know what to pack.
  • Don’t forget time zones… When traveling across the country, it is really helpful to know when you will be crossing time zones and when they will be advantageous to the trip.  Also, there were parts of the trip where the time went back and forth as we crossed back and forth time zones, so that was fun (and confusing)
  • Look at blogs/websites/articles- Here are a few I recommend: For some roadside attraction ideas, tips, tricks, more tips and packing suggestions
  • Do your research! Not only is it fun to think about, it really helps maximize the trip. Decide what cities you want to stop in and consider what roadside attractions/food/activities would be fun.
  • But be flexible.   While we planned the majority of our stopping points along our itinerary we had enough room to stay flexible, which provided us great surprises like a singing musical revue steak dinner in Flagstaff, AZ or a live jazz performance at Preservation Jazz Hall in New Orleans. Don’t forget, it’s not just the destination…it’s also the journey. 🙂

Packing

  • Use packing cubes. I am convinced packing cubes are part fabric/part mesh/part witch craft magic! I can fit so much in them. Also… roll your clothes (don’t fold!)
  • Freeze water bottles. If you are going to bring a cooler, freeze water bottles rather than packing ice packs… once the water bottles have melted you can drink the water.
  • Use all available spaces… Use the spaces under the seats, in the glove compartment… we even hung bags on the backs of our seats to maximize vertical space.
  • Don’t forget extra chargers and batteries.
  • Prioritize! If you are like me you will pack more than you can bring/can fit in the car. Make sure you determine what are the Must-Haves and what items you can live without so that if you reach critical mass you don’t have to redo all your packed items.

Preparations   

  • Must have apps! Here are some that I recommend: Gas Buddy, Hotel Tonight, iExit, TVFoodMaps
  • Make sure your vehicle is road-trip ready. My car is 9 years old with well over 100,000 miles. As much as I love her, I didn’t want to risk her on this extensive drive. Tom’s car is stick shift (and I am a non-stick shift driver). We reasoned that a minivan from a rental company made the most sense for our trip.  It was incredibly reliable (virtually no mileage), nice and roomy and one less thing to worry about.
  • Snap a photo- Take photos of essential reservations, IDs and insurance cards. That way if you lose something you have it on your phone.
  • Figure out what you will use most. We learned quickly that if we put the stuff we would need each night in a place in our minivan that was easy to grab, it made for a much less chaotic load-in process at the hotel.

Saving Money

  • Bring your own food. On the few weeks before our trip, I scoured deals at the grocery store and bought snacks when they were on sale. We made sandwiches for lunch, had apples, breakfast bars and muffins for a quick breakfast on the road and lots of healthy-ish snacks packed.
  • Compare prices and shop around.
  • Ask for trip-related gifts… Our trip was right after the holidays. Knowing we had this trip we asked family and friends things that would benefit us for the trip like gas cards or cash
  • Invest in a National Park Annual Pass. If you plan to visit any National Parks, this is a great way to go… $80 for two people good for all National Parks and many National Landmarks and Monuments for a whole year!
  • Make a cash fund. I always like having cash for vacations. Try a savings challenge to jump start a cash fund for extra spending money on your trip.

Other Trip Essentials

  • Music is a must! Make new playlists and if you need some inspiration I found lots of road trip playlist recommendations like this or this
  • Audio Books. I rented a few audiobooks from my local library that I downloaded onto my phone for FREE using apps like Overdrive or Hoopla. I loved Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which was funny and entertaining, keeping me great company through the long drive of Texas. Here is another list of some good audio books to keep you going on long drives
  • Keep your car tidy. By Day 2 of the trip our rented Kia Sedona minivan felt less like a vehicle and more like our home. If you keep it cleaner, it will make you feel much less gross. We packed hand sanitizer and paper towels and set up a designated trash bag to toss all of our trash to keep the car clean.
  • Stay comfortable. You are going to do a lot of lounging/sleeping in the car. Pack blankets and pillows, and rock those sweatshirts and yoga pants like a champion.
  • Last but not least- HAVE FUN and ENJOY THE RIDE! 🙂  

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Posted in Road Trip, Travel

Road Trip Recap- Part 2

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Part 2 of my Cross Country Road Trip recap is going to focus on my specific itinerary from Orange County (FL) to Orange County (CA).

  • Day 1: Orlando, FL to Pensacola, FL6 Hours, 30 minutes/450 miles (I-75 to I-10)
  • Day 2: Pensacola, FL to Dallas, TX9 Hours, 45 minutes/650 miles (I-10 to 98 to 49 to I-20)
  • Day 3: Dallas, TX to Albuquerque, NM9 Hours, 30 minutes/645 miles (287 to I-40)
  • Day 4: Albuquerque, NM to Petrified Forest to Page, AZ- 3 Hours/211 miles (I-40); 3 Hours, 40 minutes/232 miles (I-40 to 89)
  • Day 5: Page, AZ to Grand Canyon, AZ2 Hours, 30 minutes/133 miles (89 to 64)
  • Day 6: Grand Canyon, AZ to Anaheim, CA7 Hours, 15 minutes/484 miles (64 to I-40 to I-15)
  • Day 7: Anaheim (no driving!)
  • Day 8: Anaheim, CA to Las Vegas, NV4 Hours/264 miles (I-15)
  • Day 9: Las Vegas, NV to Wickenburg, AZ3 Hours, 30 minutes/232 miles (I-515 to 93)
  • Day 10: Wickenburg, AZ to San Antonio, TX14 Hours, 30 minutes/1046 miles (60 to 303 to I-10)
  • Day 11: San Antonio, TX to New Orleans, LA8 Hours/543 miles (I-10)
  • Day 12: New Orleans (no driving!)
  • Day 13: New Orleans, LA to Orlando, FL9 Hours, 15 minutes/ 642 miles (I-10 to I-75)

The trip took 13 days, traveled across 9 states, and over 6000 miles. So how did we not only survive but actually enjoy our cross country road trip? I will go into a full set of tips and tricks we used to plan the trip in my next post, but here are a few of my essential lessons and recommendations for a long drive…

  • Plan your route! Leading up to our trip we mapped out every leg of the itinerary to make sure we knew we were never over-extending ourselves
  • Secure accommodations in advance. We went back and forth about reserving hotels in advance versus driving as far as we could and just finding what we could on the road but I am very glad we went with some advanced preparations. It made for a much saner trip and gave us a little bit of extra security knowing we had a reserved destination with a bed/shower after a long day of driving
  • Don’t forget time zones!  Driving across country means you will be driving through time zones and while most navigational apps will include time zones in the ETA, it is helpful to know when they will happen
  • Have things to look forward to and enjoy the journey. As much as I enjoyed the trip and the changing scenery I will also admit that there were periods where the long days of driving felt daunting. What made those drives much more palatable was knowing that we always had so many exciting destinations and things planned throughout the trip and not just at our final destination… from National Parks to an excursion to Las Vegas to see a Cirque Du Soleil show to Disneyland to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert!
Posted in 30 Days, Road Trip, Travel

Road Trip Recap

I am taking a slight break from my 30 Day Routines to talk a little bit about my incredible vacation.  We took a cross country road trip from Orange County (FL) to Orange County (CA)… and back. In total the trip comprised: 13 days, 9 states, 6000 miles driven, 3 national parks visited, 1 (incredibly) reliable rented minivan, and too many memories and adventures to count.

I will break up the recount of my road trip in a series of updates: summary of the trip itself,  planning for the trip, and details of the itinerary.

Day 1-2 was comprised primary of driving as made our way out of Florida into Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and then Texas, enjoying the changing sites and landscapes from the car window.  It was a delight watching as the trees changed from palm trees and cypress trees to heartier oak and pine.  As we made our way into Texas we started to see those long stretches of flat land, which everyone had warned us would be incredibly boring. In truth, we never felt stifled with the view. In Amarillo, TX- right off the I-40 highway we stopped and visited Cadillac Ranch… a roadside attraction that features old Cadillac cars inverted and planted upright in the ground, for people to take pictures with and spray paint all over.

Day 3-4 brought us into Albuquerque, NM, where we had authentic Mexican tacos from a local hole-in-the-wall taqueria. For breakfast we ate at the Range Cafe and had delicious Huevos Rancheros served with the iconic green chile of New Mexico.  From Albuquerque we headed into Arizona where we visited the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Parks.  The air was crisp and the colors of the rock beautiful.

Day 5-6 continued our exploration through Arizona. We stayed in Page, AZ for an early tour to Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon created over thousands of years of erosion that has slowly warped the sandstone rock into curved cuts that you can walk through. In order to visit Antelope Canyon, you have to have a Navajo tour guide. Our tour guide, Rosie was a delight and visiting the canyon, was incredible. From there, we ventured a short drive to Horseshoe Bend where the Colorado River takes a sharp curve and provides impressive photo ops… especially if you are brave enough to perch at the very rim of the canyon and angle yourself over edge (we were not quite that brave). We ended our day in the Grand Canyon, where we enjoyed the incredible sights of the South Rim and had a warm dinner at the hotel lodge located within the Grand Canyon National Park.

Day 7-9 we made it all the way to California!  We visited Disneyland, celebrated the wedding of two good friends and then headed to Las Vegas where we had some incredible meals including a very late night dinner at Mon Ami Gabi of fresh French Bread, French onion soup and steak (sorry no picture, we were too excited and hungry to snap a pic).  The following evening we saw the Cirque Du Soleil show, LOVE.

Day 10-13 we had a few long drives which comprised of a lot of audio books, music, napping and drive through food. By Day 11 we made our way to New Orleans where we got to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Smoothie King Stadium and then had the next day to enjoy exploring NOLA, where we had Beignets from Cafe Du Monde, and crawfish etouffee.

It has been a few days since we have gotten home. While the car has been subsequently cleaned and turned back in to the rental company, suitcases unpacked, clothes washed… I still find myself thinking about so many of the moments from the trip and hope they stay fresh in my mind for a long time.