Before I can tell you all the amazing places we went on our road trip west, I need to tell you all the things that helped us survive. I’m not even kidding, we would not have made it back in one piece and all alive if not for these seven things. (OKAY, some are a lot more important than others, but whatever. I love all of them equally.)
This wonderful book of maps was used multiple times daily when we traveled (I accidentally bought the large print version and highly recommend it.) So many of the places we went didn’t have cell service. Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas, Utah, all national parks–beautiful places, but you are literally in the middle of nowhere and your phone won’t work. Having this map book, which also has maps of state and national parks, was extremely helpful. Plus, I think road tripping with a real map makes your trip much more legit.
The Next Exit, 2016 edition
Speaking of no cell service, you need this book. Once you get out in the middle of nowhere, there are not many exits and a lot of those exits don’t have anything at them. Pulling a camper in a big, truck-like SUV eats up your gas like nobody’s business. When we were in South Dakota fighting 30-40 MPH winds, we averaged 120 miles with our 25 gallon beast. It was horrible. It felt like we were stopping for gas every hour. With this book, we knew where to stop for gas, who had a restaurant we wanted to eat at, where the Walmart was if we needed to stop for the night, and what exits to avoid. I bought this book on a whim, and I am so thankful I did. I’m not sure how we would have survived without it.
We traveled over 4,700 miles in sixteen days. I have no idea how many hours in a car that is, but it was a lot. The weird thing I want to whisper so I don’t jinx myself for the next trip is our girls were amazing all those hours in the car. I mean, hardly complained at all. One of the things that made it so easy was a DVD player and a constant rotation of Redbox movies they had never seen before. Downloading the Redbox app meant we knew exactly where to go to get a new movie and what options we had. This magical little app was our best friend while we were on the road. Highly recommend downloading it before your next trip.
United States sticker map for the camper
You know we’re hitting all fifty states by the time the girls graduate high school so we’re keeping track on the back of Betsy Ross with this fun, colorful sticker. Nothing makes me happier than traveling to a new state and putting that sticker on. It’s the simple things. Sort of.
Flexible tripod for your smartphone
I’m not going to talk bad about you if you own a selfie stick, but just know we could never travel together. I am against all selfie sticks. I think the Bible even talks about it being a sin to own one, but I’ll have to double-check to be sure. I just can’t do a selfie stick. But I did buy a small flexible tripod to hold my phone so we could take pictures with all four of us together. If you follow me on Instagram and saw any of the national park entrance pictures I posted, all those were done with the tripod. I have a timer app on my phone so I’d set the phone up and then run to get in the picture. The tripod I’m linking to is the one we bought and it comes with Bluetooth remote, but I just used the timer. When we were in Badlands National Park and the wind was outrageous, I was able to wrap the tripod around the windshield wiper of our car and take the picture that way. It worked perfectly for family pictures and reinforced my desire to NEVER OWN A SELFIE STICK.
Knowing the ins-and-outs of a park before we got there was important because we didn’t have unlimited amounts of time to spend and we needed to have a plan before we got to the park. This National Geographic Guide to National Parks book was all we needed to do that. It was up-to-date and informative, plus the girls loved looking at the pictures. Also, just a really neat book if you’re into parks. (We also bought a national parks passport so we could keep track of all the parks we visited. This isn’t something just for this trip, but will be used whenever-for years to come-when we visit a national park. We just happened to buy it this summer which is neat because it’s the 100th anniversary of the national park system so we feel a little fancy.)
I have two of these, one for each daughter. For now, I fill them out, and add stickers, memories, and pictures to the pages for each state. Sometimes I’ll interview them as we leave a state so I can write down their memories for their journal. As they get older, they’ll be over to take over the job of filling them out. I searched for months to find travel journals that cover all fifty states and this one is the closest to my vision. Maybe one day I’ll make my own travel journal, but until then, these are pretty good.
What do you think? What do you have to have on a road trip? I almost put junk food on the list, but I felt like that was a given. I prefer sour gummies, Runts, and Sprees like any mature adult does.