Thursday, July 14, 2016

Road Trip: Setting Expectations

And we made it! At the beginning of June, Tyler & I set out on a 5 week road trip from Nashville, TN to Denver, CO & while it definitely felt like a marriage trial of 40 days & 40 nights at times, the trip was truly an experience that we will never forget, & I am going to dedicate the next few blog posts to our road trip experiences & tips we learned along the way. We did our road trip on a pretty tight budget, with 2 pugs, in a Prius & while everyone's trip is different (as it should be!), I hope that sharing our experiences will be helpful for any of you planning future trips. 

If you have any of your own road trip related questions or tips, please leave them in the comments & I will try to incorporate them into future posts. I posted a rough outline of our road trip itinerary here & will be doing a post on the final route we took soon. If you missed out on our road trip Snaps (username: jesshereandnow) or Instagrams you can catch up on the posts here: #hereandnowtravels.

Today's post is about setting appropriate road trip expectations. Before we set out on our cross-country move, both of us independently made lists of things we wanted to see/do, & then set about combining our lists so that that we would get a good mix of each person's top must do items! Below are 5 topics that should definitely be included in the discussion with your group before setting out. 

Having similar expectations means that no one gets their dreams crushed when it isn't possible to do everything or gets exhausted by a never ending roadside attraction photoshoot that they didn't sign up for.

1. What to eat. Tyler & I wanted to enjoy the regional flavors of each state/area we visited, but because we were traveling with our 2 pugs, we knew that dining out at 5 star restaurants every night would not be logistically or financially feasible. Instead we made a plan to try out Mexican food & burger joints, focusing on locally owned businesses that had great patios (& a decent beer list for Ty). Our plan to try out specific foods made it a fun challenge, & narrowed down the options when we were overwhelmed with possibilities in each new city.

2. Where to stay. Thankfully, there are a growing number of options when it comes to your lodging, including hotels, AirBnB, camping, VRBO, etc. In order to make our trip as budget friendly as possibly, we mostly planned our trip around visiting family & friends. In the cities where we did not have a free place to stay, we had to decide if that was going to be a splurge or save city. Our splurge cities were Austin, TX (stayed in a failed AirBnb experience that ended up being free), Marfa, TX (El Cosmico),  & Palm Springs, CA (The Saguaro). When looking to save on lodging, we first tried to camp (going to dedicate another post to that endeavor), or booked a dog friendly hotel that was cheap, but close to the action (Days Inn, Motel 6 & La Quinta were the most consistently dog friendly & not terrible). When it comes to where to stay, make sure that your group agrees on whether you are going to prioritize posh digs, or saving money to spend on things like eating out/shopping/seeing the sights. 

3. How much to see. The great thing about a road trip is that you get to decide how much you are going to explore & the amount of time you want to spend in each spot. Are you doing a road trip so that you can take a deep dive into a few special spots, or looking more for road side sightseeing? On our driving days, we never planned more than 6 hours of travel so that we could stop to eat, check out a few road side attractions, & walk the dogs a couple of times without having to drive sun-up to sun-down. For us, this felt like a great balance of pace + leisure. 

4. On the road jobs. After 5 weeks on the road, we had our in car situation figured out to a fine detail, but it wasn't like that from the start. Before getting into our groove, we first tested out who was going to do each of the on-the-road-jobs. I'm talking about the driver, navigator, entertainment manager & even packer/unpacker. You learn a LOT about each other while in the close quarters of a vehicle for any extended period of time, & it is necessary to let each person do what they feel most comfortable doing, while making sure that everyone is contributing to the cause of getting to where you are going & having a fun time doing it. My husband is great at finding podcasts & new songs to listen to (+ having the patience to hook everything up in the sound system), while I discovered that I was skilled at efficiently packing the car. We found that it was better to have a set person for each job, that way we always knew who was doing what.

5. Be flexible! Most of all, set out with the expectation that you are going to be flexible. Understand that plans change, & road side signs should be respected. After all, a road trip is all about enjoying the journey & being open to adjustments!

That is all for now! The next road trip post will be about our experiences with the National Parks system. The National Parks are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year & we had so much fun checking off some must see places from our list! If you have any National Parks/camping related questions, please leave them in the comments!

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