Lessons Learned from Two Weeks on the Road

Over the summer we spent two weeks on the road traveling from Southern Arizona to Northwestern Montana. If you’d like to read about our trip you can check out these posts – Great Basin National ParkGlacier National Park, & Route of the Hiawatha Mountain Bike Trail.

We had a lot of firsts on this trip. This was the first time we camped for two weeks straight, the first time we lived out of a cooler for two weeks, the first time we spent three days driving to a destination, and the first time we decided to drive to a remote destination over a holiday weekend without reservations. Overall we consider this trip a success but we did learn a few things.

  1. Always have reservations. Even if you make them on the fly. We changed up our plans and left Glacier National Park a few days early so that we could ride the Route of the Hiawatha Mountain Bike Trail. We were having trouble making reservations for the new area due to a lack of internet access in and near Glacier National Park. Our plan worked out in the end but it was a super stressful day. This experience reenforced why I spend so much time planning and why we always opt for locations that accept reservations.

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    Our eventual destination, dispersed camping near the Route of the Hiawatha Trailhead

  2. Don’t overpack food. It’s easier to control food costs when I can shop sales and stock up before we leave town. I finally realized that I need to stop taking so much food. We usually come home with quite a bit of extra and sometimes we get sick of eating a specific item I had purchased in bulk. For our next big trip, I will plan meals ahead of time but buy the ingredients every couple of days. The following two pictures are what we took on our trip this summer and it filled two large plastic containers, two bags, and two coolers. I think I might have overpacked. 😉
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    Dry goods

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    Cooler food

  3. Long drive days are only good for the first day or two. We typically drive one to two days at a time, but this trip we drove for three. Three full days on the road was one day too many. By the time we made it to our destination we were all really cranky (me more so than the others :/). The first part of our next day, our first day in Glacier National Park, was spent recuperating from being in the car for so long. If we ever choose to go so far away again I will make sure to find a destination to stop at for a day or two along the way.

    Welcome to Montana: The Big Sky state

    Welcome to Montana and blue sky for days

  4. Know what activities you want to do ahead of time. I typically know what we want to do ahead of time and have it mapped out before we arrive. This time around I decided to be a little less rigid and thought it would be fun to involve the family in planning a little more so than usual. My plan was to huddle around the park brochure at our campsite and plan our hiking and boating excursions. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. At Glacier National Park, our first destination,the hiking brochure is separate from the park newspaper. At every other of the 25 national parks we’ve been to the brochures are one in the same. Of course we didn’t know this and spent the first half of our time in Glacier trying to figure out what to do. Our first trip to the visitor center resulted in only a park newspaper and Junior Ranger packets. I am disappointed that the ranger did not tell us there was a separate brochure for hiking. Typically I don’t care about internet connectivity in parks but since I didn’t plan our activities and the brochures didn’t have the information we needed, internet connectivity would have been nice. We even drove out of the park to try and use the internet but we did not have service. Long story short, I will resume preplanning so that this doesn’t happen again.

    Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road is the one activity we knew we wanted to go ahead of time and it did not disappoint.

    Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road is the one activity we knew we wanted to do ahead of time and it did not disappoint

  5. Lakes have mosquitoes. We live in the desert and hardly ever visit lakes. Thus, we were not prepared for the large numbers of mosquitos at the Fish Creek Campground in Glacier National Park. The campground was gorgeous. It was wooded and green and only a few steps from Lake McDonald, but there were so many mosquitos. When I made the reservation I thought it’d be neat to camp on the edge of lake. It was, but next time I’d probably choose a campground not right on the lake.

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    Our gorgeous campsite right on the edge of Lake MacDonald. The lake is just on the other side of the trees.

If you would like to share any lessons from the road please do so!