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Road Trip (Rewind) – What I Learned

Over the summer we took a last minute – I mean spontaneous road trip from Colorado to New York to see family. I have reflected on how the trip could be improved in the future if I wanted to do it again. Right now, I do not have plans of doing the trip again. This post are tips that can help me in the future – and you too!

Driving Start and End Times

The first day we hit rush hour traffic in the middle of Nebraska. Not a big deal. I did realize how fortunate we were and tried to take that into mind for the remainder of the trip.

We ended up hitting rush hour traffic somewhere kinda near Chicago. It was not fun! A do-over would be avoiding rush hour times entirely. The changing of lanes, not knowing where I was going, and almost missing exits would have been easier if the roads had been quiet. 

There was some night driving which was amazing! I’m sure we missed some beautiful scenery but it was just me and the big trucks.

Driving Duration

The trip was with a mindset of I will drive as far as I can every day and we will stop once we get there. It did make the trip more spontaneous but there were times that I was worried about stopping in the middle of nowhere, didn’t have Wi-Fi, or my co-navigators were unconscious sleeping. I also started saying, “I’ll just stop at the next exit.” Narrator Voice: She did not stop at the next exit. 

The longest I drove any day was about eight hours. I am not used to driving far. Eight hours started feeling like eight days. The kids were very unhappy about the driving part because it was so long and seemed to never end. I just wanted to stop driving. The logic behind driving so far was to get there faster, spend less on food, and less on hotels. 

While researching this post, there were a lot of other articles online that suggest eight hours a day. I think this may work for some people, but not me – and maybe not you either. 

What is an ideal time? For me, I would probably put a max of driving at 5 hours. I have driven this far on other trips by myself and still had energy (and happiness) to continue on with adventures during the day.

Hotels & Campgrounds

The original plan was to stay at campgrounds along the way and a hotel only if necessary. We ended up staying at hotels for the road trip but once we got to New York we stayed with family and a campground there. The campground came highly recommended to us. I was able to make the reservation along the way to ensure the spot.

The driving duration would have really helped here. If I planned to drive five hours a day, I could have a campground lined up all along the way. There would have been zero hotels. This would have saved a lot on cost for accommodations and food.

There was one campground we had stopped at that was in such a convenient area and looked so, so pretty. The campground office had closed literally five minutes earlier. This was a local town campground. I would not have considered staying at a local campground but this one has me reconsidering it in the future.

Food and Eating Out

The trip was a great opportunity to introduce the kids to some restaurants they had not been to. We stopped at Bob Evans and Olive Garden. 

There were many stops along the way. I called them bathroom stops. The kids called them snack stops. Either way, we were all happy to get out of the car and stretch our legs. Near the end of the trip, we started stopping a lot because I was tired and was developing back discomfort.

A do-over would have snacks more accessible, organized, and a healthier variety. The snacks were often in the trunk or missing in the car somewhere. How do snacks go missing? There were bags over snacks or something heavy on top.  Another thing I would implement is having everyone pick out the snacks they want, putting them in a container and having them be responsible for their whereabouts. 

Emotions and Energy

There would still be things that came up regardless of planned and thought out the trip was. I was proud of myself for doing this long trip on my own. I have had an avoidance of highways. This is where I officially conquered my fears. Over the course of the trip, there were so many emotions. 

Leaving people I knew I would miss was difficult. I think if I drove to someplace there was not family there wouldn’t be as many emotions leaving. This trip had me crying as I drove away down the street. It was tough feeling like that knowing I had 30 hours to drive.

This is truly where the five hours drive time, avoiding rush hour times, and having accommodations planned ahead of time would have helped. The last day driving became painful mentally. I vowed to never do a road trip again. Now eight months later, a road trip sounds potentially fun with some changes.

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