Road Trip Tips

My MBA program is in full swing and time is flying. Between classes, group projects, individual homework, job applications, networking, extracurriculars, and socializing I spend more time doing business school activities than I ever did at my full-time job. While it’s tough, I’m more engaged than I’ve been for some time, and my Seattle crew is already “lit” as the youth say. These things aside, on this stormy Seattle evening, I need a distraction. I was reflecting on my summer and some of the happiest weeks I had on a cross-country road trip with one of my besties.

As I’ve said before one of my favorite phrases is “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” or… something to that effect. So clearly I did my best to plan every detail of the road trip. But I had never done an extensive road trip as an adult, so despite my planning, there were a lot of things I didn’t consider or that couldn’t be planned. So if you’re thinking about going on a road trip, here are the things I didn’t know that you might not know too.


Camping Reservations vs. No Reservations: My friend can tell you I was obsessed with making reservations for our trip. The fact that we were only able to make reservations at a few sites caused me immense anxiety. The first thing to be aware of is the season (obviously). We were going during the peak camping season (July-August), so the big spots like Yosemite, Zion, and Grand Canyon were booked months and months in advance. Winter and spring are considered offseason. On the bright side, these popular spots also have first-come, first-served sites. It varies from state to state, but Google “first-come first-serve camping spots [location]” and you’ll get the deets. These sites are usually cheaper than the reserved sites, but you have to get to them EARLY. They are often more remote, thus further away from stores and “attractions”. The only first-come, first-served site we weren’t able to get a spot at was in Telluride, namely because there are only two sites total (about 60 spots). So we decided to go on to Mesa Verde instead, and had a great time. Some of my favorites from our trip:


Foil is Your Friend: bring heavy-duty foil, pot for heating up water, and a skillet (maybe), you’re set as far as cooking goes. I thought I’d be making all these crazy intricate recipes I found online, but the best food we had involved fire roasted veggies and meat/fish (or hotdogs) cook in foil. Keep it simple.

Double Your Drive Time: Whatever Google Maps tells you is a lie (or any map app, not hating on Google). Though we were cruising pretty fast through most of our trip, our time on the road was ALWAYS longer than expected. There’s traffic, construction, weather, and many other factors technology can’t account for. What surprised me the most was how much time it took to drive across the state parks. It would usually take us an hour (one-way) to drive from our campsite to “town” at the Grand Canyon. And this was the case at many of our other sites, especially when we went in search of trailheads. My surprise may be due to my own naivity , but felt it was worth mentioning.

WATER: Anything written about camping, ever, stresses the importance of water. But seriously, bring all the water you can cary in your car (if you’re car camping). You’ll need it for washing dishes, drinking, bird bathes, cooking and so on. Don’t expect to be able to get all the water you need from your site.

Camp Fam

Adventures with Dogg-o: We got to bring along a 40lb lab mix for our trip, and while she was a complete angel and always put a smile on my face, National Parks are not really dog friendly. We pretty much couldn’t bring her on any of our hikes. The parks will tell you  that dogs are allowed on paved paths, but… there are very few of those (at least where we went). So if you’re trying to bring your four-legged friend, this is something to consider, as well as whether your site even allows dogs.

Glamping: So, we did do an evening of glamping and were somewhat disappointed. This has nothing to do with the site we stayed at, as much as my misunderstanding of glamping. When I hear the term “glamping”, I see it as a 5 star hotel, but outside. In retrospect, I now see why this isn’t actually possible, but that’s what I was expecting. I thought there would be personal bathrooms, AC, mini fridge, bathrobes, the works. Really, it’s very comfortable beds, nicer bathrooms, fans that spray water, and like… purified water. I suppose for people who really don’t like setting up camp I can see how this would be more convenient, but aside from that I probably wouldn’t do it again.

Pizza Ranch

Miscellaneous Tips:

  • If you’re driving through Iowa, find your closest Pizza Ranch Restaurant, it is magical.
  • You can never have too many snacks or baby wipes.
  • Don’t forget your mallet.
  • You won’t read as many books as you think you will.
  • The trip will go faster than you can imagine.
  • If things don’t go as planned, it’s okay.

Our trip went too quickly for my liking, I could’ve spent another week out there, but thus is the pace of life.

Stay Wild


Zion National Park