Summer of 2020 hasn't been what any of us had planned. But rather than dwell on the fact that we may not be doing this kind of trip again any time soon, we're going to reminisce about our amazing Summer 2019 trip. We'll share our favourite parts, give recommendations and provide some useful tips for those planning a trip across America after everything has got back to normal. So here it goes...
Our plan was a little less conventional than the usual 'American Road Trip'. We decided against the traditional routes of Route 66 or the West Coast, not because we don't want to do them but because we had some spots in mind that we wanted to visit first. So rather than miss out, we made our own route. We would highly recommend doing this if you have the time and flexibility! Planning the trip was just as fun as the trip itself. My bedroom wall became an Ops room with maps, sticky notes and pins - I loved it!
I planned the majority of the trip while my partner was away with work, and as we had been apart for so long he decided to book us a treat… Tickets to Mumford and Sons in Denver, Colorado! We had both wanted to visit Colorado so this gave us a great starting point when mapping out our journey. We decided to schedule this in the middle of our trip so we could stay in a hotel and reset, as well as give us the opportunity to clean clothes as we were planning to wild camp as much as possible. I'd recommend doing this as it was nice to know a shower was in sight when we were setting off!
Most of my research was done via social media. I searched tags, read blogs and checked out profiles for specific areas, such as Zion National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Since going to America I have joined a Facebook group called 'Girls Love Travel'. If I had been a member of that group when I was planning it then it would have been a great source for first hand information.
Since I have only been to the US once before I decided to use a travel company to help with booking our flights and car hire. I did this because we weren't doing a standard trip so it gave me the chance to compare everything and get the best deal! One thing we learnt very quickly from our quotes, and one to note if you're planning to do the same, van hire was out of the question for us! When we first started talking about our Summer plans we had that stunning Instagram 'van life' in our heads, but unfortunately the budget didn't quite stretch to that. It turns out that most van hire companies are on set start and finish routes and if you aren't finishing near one of their off hire locations, or doing a loop, the price skyrockets. So we went with plan B and while it still wasn't super cheap it was much more affordable for us. We hired a car from one of the more well known companies that had bases at most big airports. This gave us a much better chance of a one way trip within budget and more flexibility on where our final spot would be.
Another thing to note, especially if you're going on a road trip, is that you'll need to give an address for your visa. Normally this would be the hotel/place you are staying but if you are travelling across the country like we were it's best to have the address of someone you know as a point of contact. I asked around and used the address of a friend of the family, nothing a post on Facebook or a few messages can't sort out.
Having made a smaller list of 'MUST SEES' we decided to map our journey via Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, Colorado and Texas and filled in our trip around those locations. We booked our flights into Seattle and our return flights from Houston, Texas. It was a 2,314 mile journey, if you were going direct that is... so we had a lot of ground to cover in our 28 days!
Before we set off we made ourselves a rough schedule in order to make the most of our time in each location and make sure we didn’t rush through, we also gave ourselves some wiggle room just in case we wanted to stay longer in a particular place. Although we planned an awful lot it still didn’t prepare us completely, our only booked accommodation was an AirBnb for our first night and the hotel in Colorado. The best bit of information we got when planning was that across America there are various free and cheap campgrounds which are first come first serve, we planned to utilise these as much as possible, you can find a lot online but be prepared as they fill up quickly and they do tend to be off the beaten track.
One last thing I forgot to mention…. This was mine and my partners first proper holiday together, we were together a year and that year had been spent living separately long distance and with a 4 month stint apart… would I recommend going on a 5000 mile road trip with one tent and all in 28 days in a country neither of you have been to as your first holiday, yes I absolutely would, you’ll soon know if it’s meant to be! Next stop, Seattle....
I’ll be posting every week about our American road trip until I reach the end, I’ll keep each post as brief but helpful as possible and if you would like to know more please email Amber on firstname.lastname@example.org we aren’t travel experts but are happy to give advice where we can!