Earlier this week, we returned from an 18 day road trip. I thought I’d wrap up this trip with a few statistics and some of the lessons I learned.
- Departure – Thursday May 25th, 2:30pm
- Return – Sunday June 11th, 3:00pm
- Days of Travel – 18
- States Visited – 15
- Total Miles Traveled – 5,765
- Miles Per Day – 320.28 (The car sat idle for 3 days in California while we visited my brother, and we traveled minimally for most of 1 day while we visited my wife’s sister, so technically we had 14 days of driving. Miles per day based on 14 days of driving – 411.79)
- Total Gas Money – $285.54
- Avg MPG – 39.8 (according to my rental car data)
- Highest Gas Price Seen – $4.19 (just over the boarder in California)
- Lowest Gas Price Seen – $1.99 (several locations in Tennessee)
- Most Expensive Meal – $220 (for my brother’s birthday)
- Items forgotten in a hotel room – 2 (a swim suit and a phone charger)
- Fast Food Stops – 1 (It was on the last day and the kids weren’t doing well, had to be done.)
- Car Screen Time – 50 minutes each
- Total Cost – $3,978.54 (Roughly $600 of that was from our normal grocery and gas budget for this 2 week stretch of our life.)
What Would I Do Differently?
In my last road trip update, I wrote about my acrophobia. Unfortunately this was a bigger factor than I expected. Had I known my acrophobia had gotten so bad or that it’s be so problematic during large portions of our trip I would have changed 2 things.
- Ensure that my wife had the ability to drive the rental car. This would have been nice to break up the longer stints of driving as well.
- Talked to a doctor before leaving and seen if there was some sort of medication I could take to help with the intense bouts of anxiety.
Did We Do Too Much?
Looking back, I’m really happy with how much we were able to see. However, I think we crammed too much into 18 days. Had I to do it all over again, I would have organized it to spend far less time in the car. Which would mean seeing less.
I think I was overly ambitious at the romantic idea of a family road trip and didn’t account for the reality of spending large portions of most days in the car.
Some locations I was happy to move on after an hour or two, but most of our stops were too short. We didn’t always get to see the things I wanted to see and we certainly didn’t get to experience life in the locations we visited.
What Impressed Me Most
We saw some very impressive things on this trip: The Grand Canyon, Temple Square, Mount Rushmore, and The Gateway to the West just to name a few. Everything sight we saw met or exceeded my expectations.
However, what impressed me most, wasn’t something we saw, but rather something we experienced: my kids behavior.
I was blown away by how well my kids did. The last day of our trip wasn’t great, but they did amazing every other day. The few moments of misbehavior that did occur during the trip were because they were either hungry or tired. After food or rest, they returned to their amazing behavior.
I expected a fair amount of complaining. Especially in the morning when we had to get back in the car each day. However, they didn’t complain once. They played incredibly well together. And they had amazing manners when we ate out at restaurants.
I’d love to say this behavior was a result of our amazing parenting, but the reality is they aren’t the best behaved kids. I think they’ve already developed a reputation at school (and they’re only in first grade and kindergarten).
Every day I expected things to fall apart, but day after day they were great. It was a marvel to watch. But most importantly they seemed to learn one of the major lessons I had hoped they’d learn through traveling…flexibility.
Plans changed constantly. Bathroom stops and food stops weren’t always at the most convenient times, but they dealt with all the changes with aplomb. (I think using aplomb in my blog is the scrabble equivalent of a triple word score.)
Will We Do Another Road Trip?
This was technically the 4th road trip I’ve embarked on, but the first one as a father.
- The first road trip was when I was a kid with my family and we traversed 5 states. It was more of a baby road trip.
- The second was after I completed my Master’s Degree and went by myself on a 14 State trip through the South, South-East, and Midwestern States.
- The third was our honeymoon and covered 10 of the North East States and Washington DC.
So, will there be a fifth? Absolutely. I likely won’t do another road trip through the Western United States again. Although I’ve been eyeing a train trip through the Pacific Northwest and that might be followed by a road trip down the West Coast (Seattle down to San Diego).
In all likelihood, our next road trip will be a recreation of our honeymoon trip. This was one of my favorite trips. I loved the history, the sights, and the ease of driving (no more then 2-3 hours in the car before you’re at your next destination with plenty to see along the way).
I want my kids to see everything the East Coast has to offer. Ideally we’ll match this trip up with when they are studying American History in school, so it could be quiet a few years before this happens.
When you autopsy a trip like this, you’ll always find areas for improvement. I could have done a better job on the budget. I could have been less ambitious, spending less time in the car and more time enjoying each location.
These are beneficial observations as they’ll help with the next trip. But for me the point of traveling isn’t to completely optimize every detail. I don’t travel with the expectation of things going perfectly. I travel for the unknown.
It is these unknowns that birth the best experiences, the best stories, and the opportunity to discover what you are truly capable of. You will learn things about yourself through traveling that you never will never find from the comfort of your home.