Last year we put 6,000 miles on our car just from travel. The majority of those miles were from our epic road trip last summer. As I reflected on our travels and the time we spent in the car, I came up with a list of my top car travel tips.
1) Look for scenic byways. Scenic byways represent many of the nations scenic and yet often less traveled roads. Check the list of America’s Scenic Byways to see if one is in an area you will be traveling. Don’t be afraid to stray from the fastest route. You may spend more time driving but the drive will be more enjoyable.
Centennial Scenic Byway in Northwest Wyoming
2) Do some research on the areas you will be driving through to learn about the history of the area and to find fun roadside stops. Remember: the drive is 1/2 the fun.
I never would have known about Wall Drug had I not researched the area prior to starting our trip. There are signs all over the highway for Wall Drug but I’m not one to stop just because a sign told me to. The drugstore is a tourist trap but it was a fun stop and one we’ll always remember. It’s not everyday you get your picture on a jackalope.
Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota
Some of Utah’s rest stops are public/private partnerships. This particular rest stop was a truck stop and had a petting zoo. And not just any petting zoo. Many of the animals appeared to have been crossbred. This guy looks to be part donkey, part zebra – so, zonkey? I wish I would have taken more pictures because it was a riot. A stinky riot but it gave us a lot to talk about when we got back in the car.
Zonkey at the Eagles Landing Flying J at exit 188 on I-15 near Scorpio, Utah
89A is one of three possible routes out of Northern Arizona but the map applications never suggest this route. Not only do you drive through Marble Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs but you get to cross the Colorado River via the Navajo Bridge. There are actually two bridges – one for driving and one for walking. We’ve stopped at the Navajo Bridge many times but it’s not something you’ll cross unless you take the route less traveled. If you’ve never been this way, take 89A next time for a change of scenery.
Navajo Bridge on Highway 89A in Northern Arizona
3) We look for parks to stop at for lunch. We save money by packing a lunch rather than eating out and it allows everyone the chance to run off some energy. Last summer we took a frisbee and the entire family played frisbee at every park we stopped at.
Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah
4) Don’t over pack. We completely overpacked on our first road trip. We let the kids take way too much stuff. The entire backseat was covered in toys, books, movies, stuffed animals, and art supplies. Little Miss even brought along a fairly large plastic horse (which can be seen in the picture below). She never once played with the horse and it was in the way the entire trip. 10 hours in a car sounds like a lot but the reality is you are not driving for 10 hours straight. When the kids were younger we stopped every two hours to let them stretch their legs. Now we are able to drive for slightly longer stretches. We fill our time with conversation, movies, books, car games and video games (this is the kids reward for being trapped in the car for days at a time). I am always amazed at how quickly that 10 hours goes by.
Tip: I usually keep a few surprises stashed away in case the kids get cranky. Pulling out a new coloring book, book, or car game usually turns that frown upside down and gets you to your next stop.
5) And most important, make the most of the time you are spending together. In this fast paced world we live in it can be hard to slow down and spend quality time with those that we love. Put down your phones and video games and spend time with each other. Those sweet kids grown up so fast.
Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming