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We really enjoyed our trip!  Sure there were moments of frustration when someone would be a little grumpy from being over tired or cooped up in such close quarters for too long, but they really weren’t that often.

Here are our pictures before we left and after our return.  See, we survived!

Before

After

With most things in life I like to reflect and analyze things afterwards in an effort to learn for the next time.  This trip is no different.  So, what would I do differently next time?  Well perhaps the biggest thing to note is that I would definitely do something like this again without hesitation.  I guess that’s a good sign and a great overall evaluation, but there are a few things I would tweak.  Some we ended up doing along the way, but I’ll mention those as well so that we keep them in mind for next time.

What I would definitely do again

  • Do research ahead of time to know what we might like to see and do
  • Have a rough game plan of what we want to see and do
  • Have a summary of all those things with addresses, hours of operation, costs, parking info, etc. so we have the info handy if plans need to change
  • Plan to visit friends and family along the way to break things up a bit.  These people are also great resources, providing local travel advice.
  • Bring along my cell phone and GPS.  These were obviously a couple of my most valuable tools on the  road, giving me Internet access and directions.
  • Utilize Walmart to the max!
  • It was a great policy to start looking for a gas station once I hit the half way mark.
  • Love, loved, loved the platform at the back of the suburban and window screens.  We used them all the time.
  • My laundry system of using two XXL zip lock bags and sorting clothing into loads as we went worked really well.  Glad I brought detergent packets and dryer sheets with me as it was convenient and more economical.
  • Have enough flexibility in the schedule to add things in to the agenda, even if it adds in days.
  • Leave no stone unturned!  Do everything along the way that you think you might want to do!  We have no regrets that way at all!
  • Ask EVERYONE for advice on what you should do and see before hand.
  • Eat as many meals as possible on a budget, but once and a while have a nice meal out to keep your sanity.  We avoided fast food for most of the trip.
  • The bag we used for theme related activities on the way was super for collecting the various ephemera we wanted to bring back home with us.
  • Packing certain items all together, such as bathing suites & towels, toiletries, coats, and hats really worked.  Normally we would pack things by person and not by item, but in doing these things together we could access them more quickly and therefore easily.
  • For breakfast it worked well to buy a liter of milk and have cereal.  We were able to drink the remainder of the milk, so we didn’t need to store it and it was always cold.

What I would do differently

  • Make sure my younger kids have velcro or slip on shoes from the beginning!  We spent far too much time tying and re-tying shoes.
  • I brought too much food and water from the start.  It was good to have some, but it is best to replenish along the way.
  • I would take advantage of hotel reward program sooner.
  • Our privacy system for the back windows of the suburban worked out alright, but we ran into a better solution along the way, black curtains that are mounted to the window using a 3M stick on rod.  We found these at “Wonderful Walmart” and used them along the back window.  For next time I would use them along the side windows as well.
  • I would also have different kids responsible for different aspects of vehicle organization.  For example, one for organizing laundry, another for bedding, one for food, and another for luggage.
  • I’d also assign responsibility to go along with stops.  For example every time we stop, one is responsible for emptying the garbage, one for cleaning the windshield at gas stations, etc.
  • Next time I’ll be sure to have shoe deodorizer close at hand in the car as the kids tended to take off their shoes during the drive 🙂
  • I’m not sure how yet, but I think I need to devise a better storage system for those frequently used items in the car, like paper towel, cameras, water bottles, etc.  We utilized the suburban’s built in features and had organizers for the back of the seats, but it wasn’t terribly efficient.
  • I would pack the suburban much sooner allowing more time to figure out where everything is going to go.  I did this to some degree, but as we drove it became apparent that we needed access to certain things more regularly, so they needed to be more accessible.  Luckily we got a packing system down pretty quickly.
  • From the on-set I would pack travel toothbrushes and toothpaste in my purse.
  • I wouldn’t book as many campsites ahead of time.  We found our needs changed while on the road due to unbearable bug infestations, poor weather and just our level of tiredness.  It’s much better to go with the flow and only book things you are really set on.
  • I would bring along a basic map, just to give me a better sense of where we are as it can be hard to tell with the GPS as you really can’t zoom out to see how far across the country you are.
  • I’d bring fewer travel games.  We really didn’t find a need for too many games, there was so much to see and do, and in between we were tired!
  • Develop a better system for garbage.  The bag always seemed to have things toppling out.
  • Some gas stations offer reward programs, research them and take advantage.
  • Research sales tax rates ahead of time to take advantage.
  • I would consider a smaller cooler next time and not plan to store anything that requires refrigeration over night.
  • I think we could improve on our shoe storage system for next time as well.

Things to remember

  • Some hotels have laundry facilities you can use, for example Super 8.  This can save time during the day, but remember there are often curfews for these facilities.
  • Not all areas have cell phone service, gas stations or places to eat, so plan ahead.
  • Remember to account for time zone changes.
  • Many areas have a lot of deer or other wild life along the road, so try not to drive after dusk.
  • The further north you go the more day light you have in the summer, so you can take advantage of this.
  • Ask about special rates for auto clubs, etc. at hotels and attractions.  Look for coupons.
  • Plan to stop in at visitor centres to get travel advice.
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