About two weeks ago, I decided that it was about time I start planning and getting excited about a trip. My daughters and I went on an epic road trip a couple years back and MONTHS went into that planning. My atlas was on the nightstand all the way leading up to our departure and I would pick a leg of the trip and go through it in my mind. As the trip came and went, I found myself wildly connected to the intention behind each of the places that were picked – explored – enjoyed – and slept in.
So. We are doing it. We are taking a trip next summer and as I find myself thrilled I have an active trip to which I can apply my imagination and resourcefulness, I figure I will offer here what I have found to be key steps in the magic making.
1. Pick Your Destination Based on Your Vibe
Our trip is going to be rooted in Sacramento, to visit my oldest cousin and just get that Northern California vibe right into our bones.
And that’s just it – the vibe – the last time we traveled like this, the destination was Sedona, AZ. And that was to connect with a place my Grandmother always visited.
For me and many others, travel plants seeds or gives you the sun and the water to grow. I feel like I always come back different. So picking your destination based on what you want more of in your life, or where you want to be reinforced, is a wise choice.
2. Planning Your Anchors
After deciding to drive instead of fly (that was a family vote), I plugged in the start and end point into Google Maps and looked at the immediate option presented back to me.
From there, I ask myself:
a – Who could I see (friends, family)
b – What could I see (National Parks, Botanical Gardens, Cool Cities)
c – How could this be ridiculously just awesome (Take yourself out of the straight shot mentality.)
From there, I play around with the route like it was a story. I move the line around, trying to find the anchors of the road trip. Obviously, checking with people you want to see or stay with to make sure they are around. To me – this part is the most creative part of the planning.
Also, here is kind of a practical hint when planning: think of drives you are familiar with in order to prep how you can mentally do the trip. For me, it’s 3.5 hours to Kansas City and 5 hours to Chicago. As I am planning the legs of the trip, I think “that’s to KC and back” or “thats to Chi Town and back and then back to Chi Town”. Then, I plan my stops in those increments. Secondary hint: I don’t do more than one 15 hour leg in a journey. Unless it’s totally necessary. (And I have an audio book.) Highly recommending David Whyte’s Poetry of Self Compassion for early morning departures when kids are sleeping. It’s life changing. I promise. It’s got that prayer flag, fresh coffee, open road vibe.
3. Give Your Family Options
On our last trip, I let the girls pick our route home after providing them three options. (North through Utah? Garden of the Gods? Or back the way we came?) For this trip, however, I picked the route because – let’s face it – we are going to drive to Sacramento and hit at least four National Parks, I just needed to be the boss. But, their options will come in in terms of what bucket list things they want to hit. For Ellen, it is parasailing.
Cue a pin of parasailing in Lake Tahoe.
4. Search Terms to Use When Googling Lodging
Don’t get me wrong, I spend *plenty* of time on sites like hotel.com. But here are some of the best search terms I have found to get you those memorable places to stay.
Best Place to Stay, Inn, Boutique, Ranch, Historic, Bed and Breakfast, Gardens, Organic, Good Nights Sleep, Host, View, Traditional, Comfortable, Beautiful, Stars, Spa
If you didn’t already know this, you can search in a formula. So just pick some words that relate to your vibe set in #1 and use plus signs in your search. For example,
Yellowstone + Best Place to Stay + Stars + Good Nights Sleep + Spa
5. Sketching the Budget
Before you jump off this post because those search terms sound expensive (and, guess what, they are), let me offer you a few pieces of advice.
When you are planning a road trip, you have some flexibility. Use it to pivot your anchor places on off days, so if there is a really awesome place to stay – maybe try to hit it on a weekday when rates are lower.
Think about how much you’ll be driving that day and when you are departing the next day. If I am going to do a 15 hour leg, I splurge on a really good bed at a place I know is clean that has a farm to table breakfast or something of the sort. Those terms and those expectations are what landed me here on my way to Arizona. (PS: It’s heaven).
If you are departing early and don’t have the morning to max your time relaxing at breakfast, taking some laps in the pool and letting your kids burn some energy, then don’t splurge. Look for a more functional place with a good quality standard and helpful reviews. If you see a review that it was dirty, weird or questionable – I don’t care how many other good reviews I see, I don’t stay there. No. Freaking. Way. It’s just not worth not being able to sleep when you’re driving that much.
6. Giving Your Trip Purpose: A Mission Statement
On our first trip, it was about a year after my divorce. I wanted to “see under the hood” of my kids by getting them on a different back drop. We did no phones or video games in the car. More on that in Planning the Drive. But my Trip to Love, was all about giving myself to them FULLY present and see how they were and stepping into any kind of faulty wiring that I noticed.
This year, the current name of the trip is “Witness the Lit-Ness” (named by my teenager). I am pretty sure this trip is all about us straight up kicking it. My kids and I strike our own chords wherever we go, so I’m pretty excited about this trip being rooted in being comfortable with yourself, willing to go on an adventure, and being kind to people we see and meet along the way.
Oh – but I also plan on teaching them some basic feminine, minimalist style tricks. More on that in a future post. Basically – I want to teach my kids how to wear no makeup, a white tee shirt and jeans like an Italian super model.
7. Planning the Drive
This is the best best best part of the trip to me. It encompasses the following:
Picking what you want your car to sound, smell and feel like. Our trip to AZ, we had audiobooks, whiteboards, crosswords, maps with stickers to mark new states. We had playlists and water bottles (limiting trash, always) and – of course – essential snacks. (More on that in a future post as well).
Planning mile markers. I spend months looking at my atlas before bed, praying about certain parts of our trip. I’ll look at one leg and find my mental increment (see #2) and then search all the towns off the interstate at that increment for “best tea” or “best breakfast” or “best coffee” or “best yoga” << where there is good yoga, there is usually good other things. Based on where I am in my drive, I may search for juiceries or college campuses. (<< PS: Student Centers can be GEMS with bowling, cool gear for your trip and used books!) Last trip, I used my atlas to look for things about 15 minutes off the interstate and found the Amarillo Museum of Art which was a) beautiful b) just a different type of place to stretch the legs and c) really great for about 20 vinyasas and some backbends before finishing the drive.
I also use mile markers to plan gifts for the girls. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I reach out to friends and family to write them notes, wrap up a little gift or whatever for them to open when we get to certain places in between our stops. This builds excitement. And, honestly? Last trip, I talked about the trip so much to people while shopping that even my local shops put things in bags for the girls – lotions, kleenexes, headbands. I mean, how cute is that? People are nice when you open the door.
Okay – so – now I am even more super pumped about our trip, Witness the Lit-Ness. I am strongly considering the budget for this trip. I am still on the fence about the vehicle I am going to drive on this trip. I am considering a camera. And I am thinking about how to include you all in this adventure. I mean.
You know you want to come along with us!
Talk to you later!
PS — THIS IS THE BEST ATLAS