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How to Plan the Most Epic Road Trip Ever!

For reference, Michelle and I currently reside in the Central Valley of California. For our anniversary, we decided to take a road trip to Seattle. In three days, we traveled over 2,000 miles (923 on our last day alone). Sound exhausting? It was not! Use these tips below to optimize your road trip experience!

1. Create a Plan/Budget

We started planning our road trip at least three months in advance. This allowed us to create a budget, save up enough for the trip, and to create a basic itinerary. A little research will keep things smooth and the trip less stressful.

2. Be Spontaneous

I know, I know. We are only on the second tip and we are already contradicting ourselves. Well, built into our preexisting plan is time and money to be spontaneous! Sometimes you won’t know what you want to see until you see it! Before our first stop, we decided to take a quick detour to Crater Lake. And we are so glad we did! The lake was beautiful and there is something special about standing on 20 feet of snow in June (at this time back home, it was 110 degrees).

Crater Lake

3. Take the Scenic Route

As long as you can stick to your plan timing wise, take the long way! The trip from Central California to Seattle is literally one road (Interstate 5). So, to break up the monotony, we took the long way (through Crater Lake) and saw some of the beautiful forests in Oregon.

Mt Shasta

4. Surprise Each Other

When planning the trip, Michelle knew that we were going to Seattle, but I surprised her with a special activity in between (see #5). Plan a stop or destination to surprise your fellow tripper. Surprise and unexpected experiences are what road trips are all about!

Wildlife Safari – Winston, Oregon

5. Be Prepared to Adapt

Remember how I said I planned a surprise for Michelle? Well, based on the time and distance off course this surprise was, I decided to shift to my second alternative. Almost every road trip will include a point where you must adapt from your original plan. Then again, that’s part of the fun!

What was the surprise? Michelle loves animals so we stopped at the Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. If you’ve never been, we highly recommend it! You basically take your own car and drive through a safari park filled with animals! I’ll admit it was pretty cool.

Wildlife Safari – Winston, Oregon

6. Jam Out!

Road trips and music go together like lamb and tuna fish (props if you got that). If you are on the road for a while, make sure to rock out! You can create a playlist before (which we did), create one on the go (did that too), or get nostalgic with some music from your childhood (a lot of boy bands and 90’s alternative rock was consumed). We suggest Spotify if you want to create your own playlists.

7. Know Where You’re Staying

The only problem about planning ahead is that if you choose to buy hotels before, you take a risk by not knowing how the area is around your stop. Read reviews of the hotels and stick to those close to the freeway.

8. Be an Early Riser

Because much of your time is spent in the car, you have to make the most of the time out of it. In order to maximize your trip, make sure to get up early to start your day! Sleeping is overrated and can be done while you drive (well, not if your driving of course, if you’re the passenger…you get it). You want to make the most of the hours you have at your destination, and depending where you go, you don’t want to compete for parking.

9. Know the “Must See” Areas

Neither of us had been to Seattle, but after a quick search, we knew we had to see Pike Place Market (yes where the first Starbucks is). Again, we knew that everyone visiting would likely have the same approach, so we made sure this stop was the first of the day. Because we were early risers (I’m telling you it’s worth it), we were able to see everything we wanted to see, and move on to the next thing before it got too busy.

Unfortunately, even we did not wake up early enough to get coffee at the first Starbucks, which had a line around the block before 8 AM. It’s okay though, we redeemed ourselves later in the trip.

Pike Place Market – Seattle

10. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Michelle isn’t one for heights (neither am I, but I pretend it doesn’t bother me), but seeing the Seattle Great Wheel, we just had to do it. Get out of your comfort zone and try some different things you may not normally do. Remember, road trips are all about adventure, so be adventurous!

Seattle Great Wheel


11. Be a Tourist – But Be Warned

Michelle and I try not to be too touristy, but sometimes you have to see certain things, just to say you saw them. When you talk about Seattle, most people’s first thought is the Space Needle. So while we were in town, we had to visit the top. After waiting in line for an hour (even after we prepaid for tickets months before), we spent about 10 minutes up at the top. If you are going to do the ‘touristy” things,  just make sure you plan for them and be prepared to wait.

Seattle – View From Space Needle

12. Find a Way to Tie Your Trip Back to Home

One of the main reasons we chose Seattle as our main destination was that they have one of our favorite restaurants, Il Fornaio. That was our first date (Sacramento, California), the place I proposed (San Diego, California), and now we can say that on our second anniversary, we kept the tradition going. Finding something that reminds you of home, whether that be a restaurant or anything else, has a weird way of connecting you to the new city. It just makes your trip much more special.

Anniversary Dessert – Il Fornaio

13. Visit the First “Blank”

One of the cool things about going on a road trip is that you can adapt quickly based on new discoveries. If you do some research or talk to some people from the area, you may discover some companies that are famous from those areas. For example, Michelle (a donut connoisseur) and I stopped at Voodoo Donuts in Portland and got to see the birthplace of Dutch Bros. Coffee (which has a cult-like following on the West Coast and has much better coffee than Starbucks which is why I said earlier that we made up for missing out at Pike Place).

Now, in my most hipster attitude I can do, I can say that I visited the very first Dutch Bros, while I sip from the travel mug I bought there (pinky out of course).

Dutch Bros HQ – Grants Pass, Oregon

14. Most Importantly, Create Memories

It’s not always about what you see, but rather the memories you create. Make sure to find a way to recount all the amazing things you saw on your trip. Michelle loves photography and creates some pretty cool scrapbooks based on the things we collect and the photos we take. Every once in a while, we will look through all our past road trips, which usually leads to planning our next one!

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