I love a good road trip. I don’t mind endless hours in a car. Stopped still traffic. Detours. Give me it all if it means getting to adventure somewhere new, eat all the food, and scratch off places to visit on my list.
For the last decade that I’ve been traveling, I’ve taken 3 multi-state roadtrips. The first was of ten states mostly on the east coast and the south. I wrote a bit about it when I first started my blog which you can read about here, Travels with Carlie-Planning a Road Trip. My next multi-state road trip was Fall 2017 of the New England states which I have not written about quite yet. Stay tuned for details on that adventure! New England speaks to my soul unlike any other place I’ve been to yet.
Now for road trip numero tres. Allow me to tell you how this trip was planned, then rescheduled, then rescheduled again, then almost didn’t happen.
If you are familiar with me, then you know I work in education. Well I planned this fabulous road trip of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas for my husband and I to take over spring break. I spent a great deal of time perusing pinterest, tripadvisor, and roadtrippers planning out a well balanced itinerary of city experiences, nature adventures, and food- food is always a priority to my plans. I had everything set and then the Navy happened. My husband got orders to relocate EXACTLY when I had our roadtrip planned. It’s as if they knew it would but a damper on my day. Since we would be moving him, but then I would go back to Texas, I simply rescheduled the roadtrip to do solo at the end of the school year. With this change to the plan, I also did some reorganizing of the trip since I would no longer need to return to Texas at the end and would simply keep driving to Florida instead. So I started counting down the days to June 1. My last day of work. Fortunately enough, I wouldn’t have to wait that long. My school was able to find a replacement for me to finish out the last two weeks of school, which meant rescheduling the trip again, but being able to see my cats, I mean husband, even sooner than originally planned!
So the trip was on! Allow me to introduce you to the itinerary:
As the date of departure approached, I must honestly say I considered canceling the trip altogether and just driving straight to Florida to be reunited. I really missed my cats. But I told myself I had to take this opportunity to explore multiple states I may never have the convenience of being relatively close to again. So I loaded up my Rav4 and embarked on what was a truly memorable solo experience.
To be continued…..
My first adventure into solo camping was quite the experience. When I brought up the idea with friends and family, the majority of responses included:
- That’s not safe!
- Aren’t you scared?
- Do you want to die?
I did get one:
- I’m so excited for you, and jealous!
Now either I’m too naive or stupid to be scared of solo travel, or there’s nothing to be scared about. I guess time will be the judge of that conundrum!
You can read how I prepared for my trip here, but I’m so excited to share where I went in this post!
I started my trip right after work Thursday evening. As soon as I had my little chitlins(students) on the bus and I was free of responsibility, I filled my cooler of ice from our break room, jumped in my Toyota RAV4 and hit the highway. 4.5 hours later I reached my first destination where I would camp for the night. An amazing little (free!) campsite, Cedar Point Recreation Area, was the perfect spot to sleep for the night. This location is first come, first serve, so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a spot in one of their 9 campsites, but when I arrived at 8pm with the sun setting and deer frolicking in the fields on either side of the drive, only 3 of the 9 sites were claimed. I backed into site number 9, directly on Lake Buchanan, and started to set up camp as the camp host pulled up to write down my tag number and let me know about the rules of the campsites. This elderly gentleman was so kind and reminded me of my grandfather as he let me know not to try to drive around the speed bumps when I leave and if I planned on drinking to make sure I do it from a koozie. Reasonable requests in my eyes. And can you be mad about the view?
I honestly cannot rave enough about this lucky find for my first night camping. They are grossly undercharging for their product, but don’t tell them that.
Some lessons learned from my first night:
- The temperature drops significantly at night in the spring in Texas. It was 90 during the day, 40 when I woke up.
- Leaving the windows down is a mistake if the temp is going to drop 50 degrees.
- One quilt is not enough to provide warmth if the temp is going to drop 50 degrees.
- Why didn’t you check the weather and temperatures you would encounter, knowing you would be camping?
- Add to shopping list: sleeping bag for cold temperatures.
This may have been my first time camping in my car, but it wasn’t my first time camping. Apparently I was so excited for adventure I forgot about common sense things like: it’s cold at night.
Any questions on my setup or experience?
More on day two coming soon!
My name is Carlie and I am a travel addict.
It feels good to get that out.
This time last year I made a list of a few destinations I wanted to experience in 2017. You can read the original post here.
Let’s review what did and didn’t happen.
- New Orleans – check
- Overlanding the TransAmerican Trail – didn’t happen =(
- Camelback Mountain Resort and Waterpark– check
- Pensacola, Florida – check
- Washington – check; Alaska – didn’t happen =(
So these were what I planned to do for 2017. As you can see, most of my plans did happen! Some didn’t. But I was able to add some destinations that weren’t on my original list! Such as:
- Corpus Christi, Texas
- San Antonio, Texas
- OBX, North Carolina
- Road trip: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire
- Big Bend National Park-Texas
2017 was a great year of traveling for me. I experienced so much more than I thought I would and it inspired a few of my travel goals for 2018.
- Visit 30 states before I turn 30 in November
- I was able to check off 7 states I never visited before in 2017. I have now visited 23 states in the USA, so I hope to visit 7 more states to bring my total to 30 states before my birthday.
- March 2018- Spring Break Road trip Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas
- Moving We may be moving again this summer. Wherever we end up should give me the opportunity to add another state to my list. Will it be Mississippi? Will it be New Mexico? We shall see.
- Nevada Long weekend in Vegas? I’m hoping I can make this happen.
- New York: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Weekend Vermont– since I’ll be in the area
- Learn Latvian in LatviaMy husband is from Latvia. He lived there until he was a teenager and Latvian is his first language. We’re approaching 8 years together and I’ve always said I wanted to learn the language. This is the year I make it happen!
- The University of Latvia offers a free intensive language course over the summer. So I’m hoping to make the journey to Latvia to spend 3 weeks finally making strides towards learning the languange of his people!
- Dirty Thirty Cruise
- I didn’t get to take a cruise in 2017, which is one of my favorite ways to vacay. I’m due. And I’d love to relax in Mexico with a margarita for my thirtieth birthday.
Do you have travel goals for 2018?
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In 2015 I planned the most awesome road trip of the southeastern part of the United States. My husband was going to be submitting his application for Officer Candidate School soon, and we knew flight school is held in Florida, so I wanted to meander our way down there to scope out the area, and also take advantage of touring other parts of the U.S. along the way and back. Never having been on a road trip before I picked some popular and random cities in states along the way and did some research thanks to my ole pal google. To the seasoned roadtripper, they may be able to plan a road trip in a few days or hours, I don’t really know what would be customary; I however, spent a few weeks picking locations, planning our route, figuring out the budget, and trying to jam pack 12 states in 10 days of traveling. I definitely overplanned, had tons of fun (planning and doing), and learned so much for our next time road tripping. Here are some tips and how-to’s on how I did it (with my lessons learned built in):
- Destination Picks
- Since we would be starting from our home in Delaware and trekking our way down to Florida, I picked at least one stop in each state along the way for us to experience some sort of activity or adventure. I picked locations based off of what I knew was popular, some I already had my heart set on (Orlando) and some I did a little googling or trip advisor-ing to identify spots. Trip advisor-ing.. hmmm, pretty sure I just made that verb up. It’s pretty handy though. Just download the app, or go to the website: www.tripadvisor.com, plug in your destination, you can be as vague as a country, state or narrow it down to a city if you have one picked out. You can search for things to do, restaurants, accommodations, the works.
- Planning your route can be a bit tricky. How far should we travel in a day? Which route should we take? There were some days we only had to drive 3-5 hours total and some days we drove 8-10 hours. The 10 hour drives were a bit much. So I’d recommend keeping it between 5-8 hours if you have a lot of distance to cover, but if you have the time and can fit in stops with cool things to do and see, plan to do so.
- In my research some road tripping enthusiasts recommend bringing two GPS options on your trip. This is because not all GPS know the same routes. We had a TomTom GPS in addition to our phones, so we thought we had this covered. However, it had been a few years since we needed to use the TomTom, so we discovered the hard way that the charging cord was no longer functional. We discovered this because in the mountains of West Virginia, if your cell phone carrier is Verizon, you will get ZERO service. So cell phone GPSs weren’t an option and the TomTom wasn’t an option either. What did we do? We stopped at a library and begged them for a map of the area to get us along our route. In my mind map reading was this immensely difficult task that only navigators knew how to do; turns out, it isn’t that hard. But yes, I also advocate for double GPS options, just make sure they are both functional before hitting the road! In addition to having the GPS options I also printed map quest directions because it’s 2006 and that’s what we do here, K? It was a waste though, I don’t recommend doing it, and won’t be doing it again. It didn’t help us when the TomTom died, the TomTom had taken us a different route than mapquest and there is NO redirecting on paper mapquest. So I recommend two GPS options and a map. Maps are handy even if your GPS and cell phone doesn’t crap out like ours did because if you plan on following any scenic drives, it’s a challenge to get your GPS to follow that route. GPSes tend to take you the fastest or shortest distance, not the prettiest. So unless you want to have it direct you to a pinpoint of the scenic drive and then wing it to your stopping point, a map will be handy. Better to be over prepared.
- Busy Bees along the way–
- Sightseeing, scenic drives, and quirky stops. There is so much the U.S. of A. has to offer and many of these treasures are a little hidden. So if you’re interested in seeing what there is along the way of your already pre-determined route check out www.roadtrippers.com and/or download their app. This nifty little do-dad will give you lots of info on places within a certain mile radius of your route so you can be sure not to miss all those giant rubber band balls, dinosaur parks, and dives your heart desires. There are even pre-planned trip guides you can peruse for free if you want to let someone do all the work for you! Work smarter, not harder my friends.
- Car games, audiobooks, and playlists. You spend a lot of time in the car when on a road trip, so be prepared with ways to help the time go by more pleasantly. You can find tons of car games like license plate bingo, yellow car, I spy, the list goes on and on. Here’s an infographic with some ideas:I also recommend creating a playlist on your phone, or making a cd of music you’d like to hear on your travels. Audiobooks are also a great way to pass the time and you can get them for free from the library if you’re looking for budget friendly options. Lastly, we killed time in the car by pulling up Netflix. Now before you start blasting me about it being dangerous, we didn’t watch movies or TV shows, we pulled up stand up comics so we could listen to a little bit of comedy on some of the long stretches of travel. Some favorites are Mike Birbiglia, Jim Gaffigan, and Aziz Ansari.
- Food- My favorite subject. Now to save money on our budget I made sure all of our hotels offered a complimentary hot breakfast to get our day started. This saved us from having to make an extra stop which is time, and it saved us money. The first couple days I was able to pack sandwiches to get us through for lunches. I couldn’t do this the whole trip because I didn’t want to keep having to refill our cooler with ice. So after the sandwiches ran out we either did lunch by stopping along the drive at fast food, or eating at an already pre-planned destination, or sometimes we were still full from breakfast and snacks which held us over until dinner. I think every day is different, so just do what works for you for lunch. Dinners were fairly similar, we’d either grab something along the drive at fast food, or eat at an already pre-planned destination. I found our pre-planned spots using Trip Advisor. Love Trip Advisor.
- Budget– When planning this trip I knew there were some more expensive items on the itinerary we would be doing. I had to spend the day at Universal Studios in Harry Potter World, which was going to be more pricey than kayaking in Charleston, SC or taking a hop on hop off bus in Savannah, GA. So there were some days that I budgeted more expensive excursions and balanced out with days of free adventures or fairly low cost. I also tried to find hotel accommodations for between $50-$90 bucks a night, making an exception for Nashville, TN because I knew I wanted to stay downtown to avoid driving around in city traffic. Again Roadtrippers and Trip Advisor are great tools to use to find things to do within your budget. But make sure you figure this all out so you can make adjustments to your plans ahead of time to avoid breaking the bank. This goes for excursions, restaurants, and gas stations. Many restaurants share their menus online or on trip advisor so you can see their prices prior to going. I also recommend the app gasbuddy to help you find gas stations near you with the lowest price. This will definitely help you save some bucks.
So there you have it. Five tips to help you plan your next road trip. But where did we go on our trip and what did we do? Allow me to show you:
Have you been to any of these destinations? What did you think?
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