When one prepares for a cross-country adventure, one packs her patience and her sense of humor. However, nothing in my years of traveling across this great land of ours, could have prepared me for this year’s “adventure.”
Over the next few blog posts, I’ll share my family’s stories and our tips as we road-tripped through 21 States and visited 22 National Parks (Monuments/Military Parks/BLM’s) on our family’s summer “vacation.”
I would love to tell you, that I planned every minute detail of this trip; where we were going to stay and which parks we would be visiting. I would love to tell you I planned every excursion and family activity. I would be lying.
I learned very early in my marriage that I would fare better to just enjoy the ride and not ask too many questions until we were about to depart on, what I lovingly refer to my husband’s adventures, Jack’s Death Trips.
This was our family’s 2nd cross-country adventure with our children. In 2014, we packed up our family truckster and set out for a “northern National Parks” tour with Yellowstone National Park as the highlight. We traveled from Connecticut out to 13 National Parks and stayed in camping cabins and motels. We saw the geysers. We hiked the mountains. We watched the buffalo. It was an amazing trip, but what we learned was how much the children enjoyed and valued the experience. And better yet, that they wanted to do it again.
So this year, we decided to pack up our “new to us” camper and set out for a “southern National Parks” tour with Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon as our highlights. Jack began planning our trip November 2015, knowing we would have to schedule summer camp in January and reserve campsites up to 6-months prior to arrival. He chose our itinerary based on our driving route and altered our route as necessary to add parks to our itinerary, especially when I complained we HAD to visit such and such since “we were driving right by…”
- Get an early start on planning: The popular parks lodges and campsites fill quickly – especially since 2016 is the 100 Anniversary of the National Park Service. Also, premier hikes require special permits so it is important to know the reservation windows and policies.
- Know your booking and cancellation windows: But more importantly keep track of what you reserve and your reservation numbers. Also remember to bring a hard copy with you because you’ll never know when you need to reference a reservation.
- Get buy-in: Sit down as a family to discuss what are your “must see’s” and “do’s” together to set expectations. My daughter wanted to experience a mule ride. My son wanted to go on another rafting trip. I wanted to stay in the old lodges, run a marathon and go to the top of the St. Louis arch…
- Set a budget: Trips are expensive. Excursions are expensive so the sooner you can begin planning, the sooner you can begin saving for those once in a lifetime experiences.
What are some of your tips when planning a National Park trip?
Next Up….And we’re off – Day 1…