How to Explore Newport, OR

Newport is a quaint town on the coast of Oregon that is teeming with things to see and do. Located just 2 hours southwest of Portland and 5 hours south of Seattle, Newport is the perfect coastal escape. From rugged coastline to charming shops and some delicious food, Newport truly has it all. If it’s your first time visiting Newport, these are some of the top activities to make the most out of your trip.

Start your day with some coffee

Newport is home to a number of great coffee spots, so make sure to kick off your visit with a cup of Joe. If you prefer something quick, check out one of the coffee stands in town, such as Bonnie’s Espresso or Camp One. There are also a lot of roasters in town where you can enjoy a more laidback coffeeshop experience. My favorite is Surf Town Coffee – make sure to try their lavender chai!

Grab some treats

Another activity I recommend doing in the morning is paying a visit to Pacific Sourdough, which is technically 20 minutes down the road in Waldport. Pacific Sourdough is a legendary bakery that is well-known throughout the Pacific Northwest. They offer a wide variety of breads and both sweet and savory baked goods. I’ve sample the sourdough baguette, lemon rosemary sourdough, lemon bar, lemon poppyseed loaf, chocolate chunk cookie, marionberry muffin, and old-fashioned sugar cookie, and all were to die for! Warning: be prepared to wait in line if you don’t arrive before opening.

Go seal-spotting and explore some tidal pools

You can spot all kinds of animals throughout Newport, from eagles to whales and seals and so much more. One of the best places to do some wildlife-spotting is Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Near the Yaquina Head Lighthouse you can find a set of stairs leading right down to the rocky beaches below. At low tide, countless tidal pools of all shapes and sizes are formed where you can spot anemones, starfish, crabs, and other marine life. You’re also likely to spot some seals in the distance! The Yaquina Head area is not only beautiful but also an incredible opportunity to experience Newport’s biodiversity firsthand.

Enjoy some local grub

Unsurprisingly, Newport is known for serving up some exceptionally delicious seafood. You can find everything from small hole-in-the-wall joints to upscale culinary experiences, and almost all are sure to impress. Clam chowder, oyster shooters, and fish and chips abound in Newport, and there are some amazing restaurant options to sample some of freshest and most flavorful seafood I’ve had in the PNW.

Buy fish straight from the source

For seafood-lovers, Newport is a true paradise. There are several great markets in town where you can buy some incredible seafood. One of the coolest options for purchasing seafood is Chelsea Rose, where you can buy a variety of items straight off the boat! Just head down to the pier off of Bay Boulevard and keep an eye out for the vessel. Right down the road is Local Ocean Seafoods, which is another awesome spot to purchase seafood as well.

Get high (in the sky)

Just 15-20 minutes north of Newport you can find Cape Foulweather, a beautiful land formation rising several hundred feet above the sea. There’s a stunning view from this point and you’re guaranteed to get some amazing photos. I also think this would be an amazing place to go stargazing or do some astrophotography, which my dad is really into (you can see some of photos right here).

Despite its small size, Newport offers a surprising amount of activities and sights that make it the perfect weekend destination. I hope you find this guide helpful as you plan your trip, and if you’ve been to Newport before I’d love to hear your top recommendations!

5 Tips for Taking Your First Solo Trip

I’ve always considered myself fairly independent, and traveling solo is a huge extension of that. While I obviously love traveling with my husband, there are a lot of times that work or other outside circumstances make it easier for me to take trips alone. I honestly love traveling alone because you have complete flexibility and freedom as you plan and embark on your trip. I’ve undertaken a number of solo road trips (my most recent was to New Mexico – check out the vlog and blog), camping trips, and cross-country flights, and I’ve learned something new on each adventure. These are my 5 tips for taking your first solo trip!

  1. Consider your destination – do you want to stay fairly close to home, or venture to an entirely different state (or country)? Doing a “staycation” somewhat close to home, or to a city you’ve visited before, is a great way to ease into solo travel. Having a sense of familiarity with your destination makes the whole process a lot less intimidating. If you have your heart set on solo-traveling to a completely new area, do some research into how “solo traveler-friendly” the destination is. A great way to do this is by joining social media groups related to solo travel!
  2. Identify your intentions – maybe you want to solo travel to spend some time with yourself in solitude, or maybe you’re super social and plan to make friends along the way. Having an idea of your expectations and intentions when solo-traveling can help as you plan what to do and see on your trip. Some activites and areas are known for being great places to connect with others, while some destinations are perfect for those who want to keep to themselves. Thinking of what kind of solo-traveler you are makes a world of difference as you plan your trip.
  3. Travel safe and smart – I could do a whole separate blog post on how to stay safe when traveling solo (let me know if you’d like to see that!) but a lot of it comes down to common sense. Some of the biggest ways to travel safe and smart are: tell one or two trusted contacts your itinerary before leaving on your trip, don’t tell strangers you’re traveling alone, and do research on unsafe areas at your destination to avoid. Also make sure to “fake it til you make it”, aka try to project confidence as much as possible, because if you’re looking really confused or lost, you could come across as an easy target. At the end of the day, solo travel should be a fun and rewarding experience, so set yourself up for success by taking the necessary precautions to stay safe so you can truly enjoy your trip.
  4. Don’t feel awkward to do things alone – sure, some activities might be more geared towards couples, but you should never let anyone or anything make you feel awkward or inferior for doing things alone. Some of my favorite solo activities to do on my trips are going out to eat at a restaurant or cafe, going to the movies or a museum, browsing through some shops or local markets, and exploring a public park or hiking area. For some of these activities, I recommend bringing along a book or popping in your headphones to listen to a podcast/audiobook/music to keep you occupied. Besides, most people will be too focused on themselves to even notice you’re there alone, let alone waste time and energy on judging you for it!
  5. Be open to new experiences – obviously, you want to keep your wits about you and not put yourself in a dangerous situation, but go into solo travel with an open mind and a willingness to try new things. Sometimes, the most unexpected adventures end up being the most memorable! Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially if it’s something that will help you learn more about and/or experience the local culture of your destination. This could be anything from trying a new food or activity to spending a whole day with a local guide or tour group doing something you wouldn’t have planned otherwise.

I hope you find these tips helpful as you plan your first solo trip! I’d love to talk more about this topic so please let me know if there’s anything specific you’re curious about or would like me to cover. Thanks for reading, and happy travels!

A Weekend Exploring New Mexico

Happy June everyone! Over Memorial Day Weekend I embarked on a solo road trip to a state I’d never been before: New Mexico! I explored the towns of Santa Fe and Taos and had an amazing time. I was only able to stay for one night, so I’d love to go back to New Mexico and take some more time to see everything it has to offer. This is a little recap of everything I did and saw during my short time in New Mexico. If you haven’t already watched my road trip vlog, you can check that out right here!

Santa Fe

My first destination for my solo road trip to New Mexico was the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market. I arrived around 11:30am and was excited to see that the market was huge! There were a lot of people there because it was a beautiful Saturday morning, but I had a lot of fun wandering around and checking out all the vendors. I didn’t purchase anything this time around, but I highly recommend visiting the market if you want to pick up some local produce, baked goods, or arts and crafts.

After exploring the farmer’s market, I made my way over to REI Santa Fe. REI may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as a former employee, I find it interesting to visit the different stores when I travel. REI is also typically a great place to buy local goods, and especially souvenir items. While there, I grabbed a few freeze-dried foods and snacks to have for dinner at my campsite.

For lunch, I decided to stop by La Choza because it has amazing reviews, with some people calling it the best Mexican restaurant in the whole city. I had pretty high expectations, and La Choza did not disappoint. To start, I tried their house margarita with prickly pear, which was highly-recommended in reviews. The margarita was incredibly fresh and not too sweet – just my style! I also got an order of their chips and guacamole. While the guacamole wasn’t as chunky as I usually like it, the flavor was amazing and I loved the addition of blue corn chips. For my entree I tried the crisp taco plate with green chile beef. The taco itself was amazing and the green chile beef was super flavorful. The plate also came with beans and posole, a type of pork/hominy soup that I had never tried before and really enjoyed. I chose a sopapilla for my side item which was super simple but surprisingly delicious, even though I totally forgot to try it with honey!

After lunch, I made my way over to Kakawa Chocolate House, which was one of my favorite stops of the whole trip. Kakawa serves up drinking chocolate and all kinds of chocolate creations ranging from truffles to caramels and even brownie sundaes. I got their Mayan drinking chocolate with whipped cream which was the perfect combination of sweet, bitter, spicy, and creamy. I also tried a sampling of their truffles and caramels which were mind-blowingly good. The prickly pear truffle and pinon caramel were my favorites!

Next, I decided to visit the downtown Santa Fe area. I didn’t have a specific destination in mind, so I just wandered through the various streets and popped into a few shops. I stumbled across a beautiful church in the heart of the city that was an amazing find, and I loved the big park in the main square as well. The whole area has a very artsy feel, with lots of galleries, museums, and art vendors around every corner. I didn’t get to spend much time exploring, but would love to come back sometime.

Taos

My next stop on my New Mexico road trip was Taos, where I’d be spending the night. Taos was about an hour and a half drive from Santa Fe, and the ride there went by the Rio Grande which was beautiful. Taos is a pretty small town, and I immediately loved the atmosphere as soon as I arrived. My first stop after checking in to my campsite was the Taos Inn to try their world-famous Cowboy Buddha Margarita. The margarita was very fresh and delicious, and I took my time enjoying it.

As the night came to a close I returned to my campsite at Taos Valley RV Park and settled in for the evening. I had hoped to do some hiking while in New Mexico, but wildfires had sadly closed many of the national forests. All the more reason to plan another visit!

If you’re looking for simple and comfortable camping or RV accommodatioins, I definitely recommend Taos Valley RV Park. All the facilities were very nice and well-maintained, and the park was surprisingly quiet so I got a great night of sleep. There are also beautiful views of the surrounding mountains which made for a beautiful sunset.

The next morning, I started my day with a visit to Michael’s Kitchen for breakfast. The restaurant is clearly a favorite in town because it was very busy, but I was able to grab a table without any wait. I opted for the atole-pinon pancakes which were made of blue corn. I absolutely loved how hearty and almost savory these pancakes were in contrast to your normal buttermilk shortstack. On my way out, I also grabbed a freshly baked loaf of sourdough bread, a chocolate croissant, and an apple empanada. All of their baked goods were amazing!

After breakfast, I took a short stroll through downtown Taos. Like Santa Fe, Taos is full of shops, art galleries, and museums. I picked up some handmade margarita glasses, which I can’t wait to use, and enjoyed my morning walk through town before beginning the journey home.

All in all, I had an amazing trip to New Mexico for the first time! I loved all the art and history that was evident in each town, and would love to return to explore some of the state’s beautiful hiking areas as well. I definitely recommend paying a visit to New Mexico if you’ve never been. What are your favorite things to see and do in New Mexico? Leave your recommendations in the comments so I can be sure to incorporate them during my next trip!

3 Reasons Why South Dakota Should be Your Next Vacation Spot

South Dakota is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated states in the U.S. Most people associate the state with Mount Rushmore and little else, but the truth is, South Dakota has a lot to offer. I used to live in South Dakota and have visited many times since then, and I always thoroughly enjoy my time there. Here are 3 reasons why I think South Dakota should be your next vacation spot:

Outdoor Activities

South Dakota has a lot of awesome outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy, from hiking, fishing, kayaking, rock-climbing, and horseback riding. Badlands National Park offers some incredible hiking through crazy rock formations and features. It will seriously feel as though you’re on another planet! Custer State Park also has a plethora of outdoor activities to choose from, such as hiking the tallest mountain in the state, Black Elk Peak (formerly known as Harney Peak), fishing/swimming in Sylvan Lake, and rock-climbing The Needles. Spearfish Canyon is another great area for hiking and fishing, with lots of gorgeous streams and waterfalls to enjoy.

History

South Dakota has an incredibly rich history, and it’s amazing to learn about everything that has taken place in the state. While Mount Rushmore is definitely a must-visit, I would also recommend visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial which, upon completion, will be the world’s largest mountain carving. Other great areas to visit to learn about the history of South Dakota are Deadwood, where you can learn about the gold rush and visit the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, and the Mammoth Site & Museum, where you can step even further back into history by visiting the world’s largest mammoth research facility.

One-of-a-Kind Experiences

If you visit South Dakota, you’re sure to find some truly unique experiences and activities. For instance, Wall Drug, a massive general store located in the town of Wall, is a destination known around the world, featuring all kinds of shops and exhibits, like an animatronic T-rex and a massive jackrabbit statue. Dinosaur Park in Rapid City is another quirky spot, featuring large dinosaur statues on a hill overlooking the entire city. In Custer State Park, you have a really good chance of encountering herds of buffalo, which is an amazing sight. And of course, Mitchell, SD is home to the Corn Palace, an entire facility dedicated to (you guessed it) corn! There are so many unique and quirky spots in South Dakota that the whole family is sure to be entertained.

If you need some inspiration for your next family vacation, I hope you at least consider visiting South Dakota! It’s definitely a bucket-list destination in the U.S., and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Best Day Trips from Atlanta

Although I live in Colorado at the moment, I’ll always consider the Southeast my home. I grew up just outside of Atlanta and have spent countless days and weekends exploring the city and surrounding areas. Atlanta is a great city in and of itself, and it’s located near lots of other awesome towns, so here are some of the best day trips I recommend taking from Atlanta.

Chattanooga, TN – 2 hours

Chattanooga is one of my favorite cities in the Southeast for many reasons: it’s super walkable, has a large variety of activities, and is great for visitors of all ages. Whether you like hiking, photography, live music, food, or history, Chattanooga truly has it all. Although you can easily spend just a day exploring the city, I recommend taking a full weekend to stay in Chattanooga and see all the city has to offer. Click here for my full guide to Chattanooga, where I feature some of my favorite accommodations, restaurants, and activities.

Dahlonega, GA – 1 hour 15 minutes

Preacher’s Rock near Dahlonega

I lived in Dahlonega for several years during college and absolutely love revisiting this small mountain town. Dahlonega, a former mining town, is a quick drive from Atlanta, but you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to another state. The mountains surrounding Dahlonega are beautiful and offer plenty of hiking options, and the town itself is full of cute shops and lots of history. Dahlonega is also not too far from sights like Amicalola Falls and Mount Yonah, and there are a lot of wineries in the area which make for a fun day activity.

Clayton/Lake Rabun, GA – 2 hours

The Clayton and Lake Rabun area of Georgia is simply stunning, featuring beautiful mountains and lakes. This area truly shines during the summer where you can enjoy the outdoors by hiking, boating, fishing, and even horseback-riding. Clayton is a small but quaint town with lots of little shops and plenty of restaurant options (you must visit the Wander North Georgia store while you’re there!) If you’d like to spend the weekend exploring this area, I’d recommend staying at the historic Lake Rabun hotel, a beautiful spot located right on the lake.

Blue Ridge, GA – 1 hour 30 minutes

Blue Ridge is another small town that is perfect for a day trip. During the summer, I highly recommend visiting Lake Blue Ridge for boating, swimming, and kayaking. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat and do some shopping in downtown Blue Ridge or nearby Ellijay. In the fall, Ellijay is also a great spot for apple-picking, which is one of my favorite childhood memories. Another fun and quirky stop in Blue Ridge is Expedition Bigfoot, a whole museum dedicated to the elusive creature. It may seem a little silly, but the museum is truly a one-of-a-kind spot that’s worth a visit. If you don’t mind saying overnight or for the evening, Blue Ridge also has an old school drive-in theater which is a super fun and nostalgic spot.

Helen, GA – 1 hour 45 minutes

Helen is a quirky little town worth a visit because it’s modeled after a Bavarian village. I spent many days and weekends as a kid exploring the town of Helen, and even though it is definitely a popular spot for tourists, the town really does offer a unique experience. If you visit during the winter, Helen will be decked out with Christmas decorations which is truly beautiful. A summer visit, meanwhile, will give you the opportunity to try tubing, where you float down the Chattahoochee River in big inflatable tubes. There are lots of shops and restaurants in Helen making it a great spot for families to visit with kids of all ages.

I hope this guide helps you plan your next Georgia adventure! What are some of your favorite day tips from Atlanta?

How I Stay Healthy on a Road Trip

Ah, road trips. A classic American experience that some love and others hate. I, personally, love embarking on a good multi-day, cross-country road trip, but one of the hardest parts to plan for is how to stay healthy while you’re on the road. When you’re trapped in the car all day, it’s easy to reach for candy, chips, and soda, and even exercise is virtually out of the question. But trust me, there are ways to enjoy the journey while still treating your body well, and I’m here to pass along some of my favorite tips for doing just that!

Plan ahead

It may seem obvious, but planning out your meals and snacks ahead of time will give you the best opportunity to nourish your body without resorting to grabbing handfuls of gas station snacks because you ran out of food or are simply just bored. For my recent road trip from Colorado to Washington, I stopped by my local grocery store the night before leaving town and selected a few snacks and meal options I was excited to eat, that were still at least partially nutritious. Road trips should be fun, so don’t force yourself to eat a head of broccoli as a snack if you’re not actually craving it. On the other hand, be wary of over-indulging, or you’ll set yourself up for a long and painful drive.

Avoid fast food when possible

My personal strategy while road-tripping is to eat breakfast and lunch in my hotel room or the car, and then enjoy dinner out on the town. Fast food is undeniably tempting, and sometimes a greasy, salty, McDonald’s breakfast really hits the spot, but for the most part, I’d rather make the most of my time and money by enjoying a nicer, sit-down dinner in the evening than rushing through a drive-thru at the very beginning or in the middle of my day. Alternatively, if I’m passing through a town where I know there are food options I’m interested in, I will stop for lunch or a snack and then enjoy dinner in my hotel room at the end of the day. Eating locally is one of my favorite ways to experience an area’s culture, and I always like to try new food when the opportunity arises.

Stretch your legs

One of the most uncomfortable parts of a road trip is obviously the extended hours sitting in a cramped car. I will try to stop every 2-3 hours to give myself a break from sitting and take even just a short walk outside of my car (this is especially necessary when traveling with a pet, like I recently did). I also brought along some 5 pound dumbbells so I could do a very short workout in my hotel room in the evening. This isn’t something I always manage to stick to, but for me personally, it feels good to get my body moving for at least 10-15 minutes after a long day of driving. Whether it’s a workout with weights or even just a body-weight workout in the room, a quick walk through town, or a swim in the pool, getting in some kind of movement will make your body and mind happier.

Balance is key

At the end of the day, I’m a firm believer that everything has its place in moderation. If you want to indulge in some fast food or a snack you would normally deem “unhealthy,” then enjoy! If you don’t want to do any kind of workout and would rather just pass out at the end of the day, you deserve it! Road trips are truly one of the best reminders that the journey is often more important than the end destination. Allow yourself the freedom to enjoy your time on the road however you like, and it will make the experience so much more enjoyable. Listen to your body’s cues about what it’s craving in regards to food and movement, and you will feel emotionally, physically, and mentally satiated.

How to Explore One of Washington’s Iconic Islands

Whidbey Island is one of the most underrated destinations in Washington, offering a number of activities for history buffs, hikers, and foodies alike. Whidbey Island may not be as well-known as Mount Rainier or downtown Seattle, but the island and surrounding areas provide a beautiful escape from the hustle of the mainland. If you only have one day to explore Whidbey Island, here’s exactly how to do it to get the most out of your trip. 

Begin your day by hopping on the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry which will take you directly to Whidbey Island. If you’re not a fan of ferries or don’t want to pay the fee, you’re more than welcome to drive via Deception Pass Bridge, but we’ll take that route on the way home. Mukilteo is another cool area to explore as well – check out my photo diary from a recent visit! 

Pro tip: swing by Southern Cross Espresso in Clinton for a quick cup of coffee. I highly recommend their London Fog as well!

From Clinton, begin the drive north to an area known as Ebey’s Landing. Ebey’s Landing is a historical preserve with beautiful hiking/walking trails that educate you on the island’s rich history and provide opportunities to spot wildlife. The historical preserve spans a few hundred acres, and my favorite area to explore is the Prairie Overlook Trail. For specific information on this hike, check out my adventure guide on Outdoor Project.

Pro tip: some areas in Ebey’s Landing require a Discover Pass, so come prepared!

You’ve probably worked up an appetite after exploring the bluffs at Ebey’s Landing, so it’s time for a quick lunch break. It’s a short drive over to Coupeville, a gorgeous coastal town with a number of restaurants and shops. If you’re craving fresh seafood, Front Street Grill is a great option located right on the water. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll see otters or seals, too! I also recommend Ciao Food and Wine for delicious pasta and desserts. 

After lunch, your next destination is Lavender Wind Farm. I had never been to a lavender farm before coming to Washington, and it has become one of my favorite summer activities. Lavender Wind Farm is u-pick, so you can stroll through rows of flowers and pick lavender as you go. Before leaving, stop by the on-site store for more lavender goodies like soap, bath salts, and lip balm.

Pro tip: the lavender u-pick season typically runs from May to September, so make sure to check the farm’s website before planning a visit. 

Now it’s time to make your way off the island, but the adventures aren’t over just yet. Instead of returning home on the ferry, I recommend making the drive over to Deception Pass State Park. This area is absolutely beautiful and a great place for families to visit, either for the day or a weekend. There are lots of walking trails through the forests or along the water, and plenty of opportunities for spotting wildlife like eagles and otters.

Pass over Deception Pass Bridge, another iconic landmark that is stunning in and of itself, and you’ll find yourself on Fidalgo Island which soon connects you back to the mainland. Before driving home, swing by Snow Goose Produce in Mt. Vernon. Snow Goose Produce is a large country market with awesome local products like fruits and vegetables, hot sauces, seafood, beer and wine, and some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. There’s truly no better way to end the day! 

Pro tip: Snow Goose is another seasonal operation, so make sure they’re going to be open before making the drive over!

I hope you found this travel guide useful and incorporate some of these spots on your next visit to Whidbey Island! 

How Much Does it Cost to Drive Across the Country?

Aloha and hello! Today we’re talking all about how much it actually costs to drive across the country. Before we dive in, make sure you check out my video on this topic as well! Summer 2020 my husband and I embarked on a road trip from Georgia to Washington. We were on the road for 10 days with several stops and detours along the way, and I want to break down exactly how much this trip cost.

The four main categories we’ll be talking about are lodging, gas, food, and activities. I will preface by saying that we drove our own car (a Subaru Outback) which saved us a good bit on rental car expenses and also got pretty good gas mileage.
If you haven’t checked out the first part of this road trip series which talks all about big picture planning, check out the blog here and the video here!

Lodging, food, and gas are definitely necessities and should be the first things you budget for. Activities are where you’ll have some flexibility in how much you want to spend. Thankfully, there are typically a lot of free activities to do no matter where you are, but it can be fun to plan ahead and schedule some outings as well. Our overall strategy for this trip was to have fun and enjoy ourselves without going overboard on the spending, and I think we definitely accomplished that!

Lodging

We stayed in a variety of Airbnbs, hostels, hotels, and with friends and family. TIP: if you find yourself in a town where friends and family live, don’t be afraid to reach out and see if you might be able to stay with them! Of course you never want to impose or expect them to have a place for you, but it also never hurts to ask.
We did a lot of research comparing lodging options to make sure we were going to be in a clean, safe area for a reasonable price. We wanted a private room since we had a lot of personal belongings with us, but outside of that, we weren’t too concerned with how luxurious the room was!

Night 1: Airbnb in St. Louis, MO$91
Night 2: Airbnb in Sioux Falls, SD$89
Night 3-5: Grandparents’ house – FREE
Night 6-7: Hostel in Teton Village, WY$200
Night 8: Hotel in West Yellowstone, MT$117
Night 9: Airbnb in Spokane, WA$62

LODGING TOTAL: $559

Food

Our strategy for food was to buy groceries that would be okay in a cooler or not need refrigeration at all so that we could eat breakfast and lunch on the road and just splurge on dinner. Some of our favorite snacks were apples, peanut butter, Clif bars, beef jerky, tuna packs, trail mix, and sandwich supplies!
We bought groceries once in Georgia right before we left and then again in South Dakota about halfway through our trip. As far as eating out, we tried to enjoy local spots and we also treated ourselves to coffee almost every day which is, in my opinion, a road trip necessity.

Groceries: $100
Eating out: $400

FOOD TOTAL: $500

Gas

This one was a bit of a challenge to calculate because it will depend a lot on the kind of vehicle you have, current gas prices, and which state or area you’re currently in, but I did my best to provide an accurate estimate!

GAS TOTAL: $250

Activities

Most of the activities we ended up doing, such as hiking, checking out local parks, skateboarding, or walking through town, were totally free. We did, however, budget for some planned activities that were really special and created some great memories. Additionally, we do have a free annual national parks pass thanks to my husband being in the military, and we definitely took advantage of it!

Electric scooters: $10-$15
Hiking/national parks: FREE
Horseback riding: $130

ACTIVITIES TOTAL: $150

GRAND TOTAL: $1,459

Now, I won’t sugarcoat it: this is a lot of money. I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to take this trip, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. We did do a lot of planning and budgeting to make this trip happen, and I think we struck a good balance between enjoying ourselves and still being conscious of how much we were comfortable spending. I’ll also point out this total is for me and my husband over the course of 10 days, which works out to be $72.95 per person each day. I would say this is a pretty fair amount considering it includes lodging, food, gas, AND activities, and I don’t regret a penny that we spent.

Thanks so much for reading and don’t forget to follow the blog and subscribe on YouTube to stay tuned for my next installment in this road trip series!

Travel Guide: One Day in Yellowstone

In summer 2020 my husband and I found ourselves in Wyoming – we were driving from Georgia to Washington and were trying to see as many sights as we could without going too far off route. We decided to take a little detour and explore Yellowstone National Park, a spot we’d both been wanting to visit, but hadn’t yet gotten the opportunity to. The only catch was that we had a single day to explore the park which boasts a whopping 2.2 million acres of land. It took a good bit of planning and some clever scheduling to make it happen, but we managed to see almost all the major sights Yellowstone has to offer in just one day of exploring. If you find yourself in a similar situation and want to know exactly how to tackle the park, this travel guide is perfect for you!

Image courtesy of YellowstonePark.com

6:00am – breakfast offsite in Teton Village
We stayed outside of the park because most of the lodging options inside were either booked up or a bit more expensive than we were wanting to spend. Instead, we stayed in Teton Village, a town about an hour and a half south of Yellowstone. It definitely wasn’t ideal to be this far from the park, but it made the most sense for our particular situation. As a bonus, we got to explore Grand Teton National Park the day before as well (stay tuned for that travel guide)!

7:30-8:00am – arrive at Yellowstone
We tried to make it to the park fairly early in the morning to beat some of the crowds and ended up entering through the South Entrance a little before 8:00am. Starting early also meant we had cooler temperatures to walk around and explore, which made it a lot more enjoyable.

9:00am – Old Faithful
Our first stop was Old Faithful, probably one of the most iconic features in the park. We kept a close eye on the National Park Service website to see when the next predicted eruption would be, and in the meantime walked along the boardwalks of the Upper Geyser Basin. Seeing Old Faithful erupt was absolutely spectacular, and well worth the crowds. As soon as the show ended, we made our way back to the car to head on before there was a massive rush of people trying to leave.

10:30am – Grand Prismatic Spring
Another icon of Yellowstone, Grand Prismatic Spring is located just about 15 minutes up the road from Old Faithful. Unfortunately, we got a little lost while hiking around the area which meant there were some serious crowds once we actually made it to Grand Prismatic. Despite this, Grand Prismatic was absolutely worth the stop, and it was one of the most gorgeous sights we saw the whole day.

1:00pm – Mammoth Hot Springs
We were a little hesitant to visit Mammoth Hot Springs considering it is at the very northwestern point of the park, but we were so glad we ended up making the drive. I didn’t expect to be super wowed by this area considering how dramatic Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic were, but I was pleasantly impressed by how beautiful the Mammoth Hot Springs area was and how different it looked from the southern part of the park. The crowds were also a little better which made strolling through more enjoyable.

3:00pm – Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Unfortunately, the road connecting Mammoth Hot Springs to the Tower-Roosevelt portion of the park was closed, so we instead opted to head south and then east to explore the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We checked out both Artist Point and Inspiration Point, and this was one of my favorite areas in the whole park. The Yellowstone River is absolutely stunning, and the waterfalls were some of the biggest I’ve ever seen.

4:30pm – Hayden Valley
We opted to take the long way out of the park by heading south from Canyon Village so we could drive through Hayden Valley and past Yellowstone Lake. Hayden Valley did not disappoint as we encountered a massive herd of buffalo. I’ve seen buffalo before in other states, but it never ceases to be an amazing experience. We pulled off the road and watched the herd for quite some time before continuing on past the lake. We didn’t make any stops in this area, but it was a beautiful drive as the sun slowly began to set. We passed by the South Entrance we originally came in, as well as Old Faithful, before exiting through the West Entrance and even seeing some elk on our way out.

7:00pm – dinner in West Yellowstone
Once exiting Yellowstone, we got some dinner and spent the night in West Yellowstone, a Montana town not far outside the park. This town is a great option if you want to be close to the park but not actually stay within park boundaries. It was the perfect spot to rest up and enjoy some bison chili after a full day of adventuring!
I would definitely recommend eating meals outside of the park if possible, because food inside Yellowstone tends to be overpriced and a bit limited – we snacked on PB&J sandwiches and other snacks which saved us both time and money!

And there you have it folks! Yellowstone has so much to offer that I would definitely recommend taking more than just one day to explore it, but it can be done if you’re willing to do a good bit of driving! I’m so glad we made the detour to check out the park and I can’t wait for our next visit.

Road Trip Like a Pro | Planning 101

“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun.”

National Lampoon’s Vacation, 1983

Before reading this post don’t forget to check out the accompanying YouTube video!

So, you want to take a road trip… but where do you start? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I would consider myself a road trip pro: I’ve embarked on several multi-state road trips, from Georgia to Washington, Florida to South Dakota, Georgia to Colorado, and along the East Coast. All of these adventures have taught me some valuable tips and tricks for planning the perfect road trip that’s fun, low-stress, and budget-conscious. And now, I’ll be sharing all of my knowledge with you! I’m so excited to kick off this road trip planning series, so make sure you follow the blog and subscribe to my YouTube to stay updated.

Today we’re talking all about the first stage of planning your trip, aka the big picture stuff that you should, ideally, be considering a few weeks or even months before you embark on your trip. I have learned time and again that starting early and breaking down the process into stages will make it way more manageable and enjoyable in the long run. We’ll get more into specifics in future posts and videos, but today we’re just going to start with the basics.

What are your goals for this trip/what is your road trip style?

The first thing to consider is what you want to get out of your road trip and what type of road tripper you are. As far as goals, just jot down some preliminary ideas on what types of things you’d like to see or experience, and what memories you want to make along the way. Maybe you’re in a rush and don’t have the luxury of sightseeing, so you just want to efficiently get from Point A to Point B. Or maybe you have unlimited time and resources and want to see as much as you can!
Similarly, it’s important to think about what type of road tripper you are: do you want to travel leisurely and make frequent stops? Or would you rather crank out a 10-15 hour day and then take an off day to recover? For me, 8-10 hours is usually a good amount of time in the car per day before I start getting antsy and cranky. This also gives me the flexibility of starting early and making a few stops without getting to my final destination too late. But ultimately, it’s up for you to decide!

What route will you take?

We’ll get more into specific route-planning in another video (and I’ll even share some itinerary ideas!), but it’s still good to consider a general route you may want to take. Is there a certain region or area you have in mind? Do you have a set end destination but don’t mind taking some detours along the way? For instance, when we drove from Georgia to Washington, we had the flexibility of taking a bit of a roundabout route instead of cutting straight across the country. This gave us the opportunity to visit some national parks and see friends and family!

What’s your budget?

Again, I will have a whole video and post dedicated to road trip budgeting 101. But, it’s still helpful to start considering how much flexibility you have in your budget so you can start planning and saving. It’s always a good idea to have an emergency fund set aside in case of something unexpected like your car breaking down or an unexpected extra night at the hotel. I, personally, like to save way more money than I actually plan on spending during the trip so that I don’t have to stress about things being more expensive than I accounted for or situations arising that are out of my control.
Gas, lodging, and food will be your biggest expenses. Gas is probably the hardest to plan for because prices will vary greatly depending on the vehicle you have and where you are in the country. As far as food goes, I try to stick with breakfast and lunch on the road in the form of groceries I pack beforehand in a cooler, and then I’ll splurge and get dinner in whatever town we’re staying in. You’ll also potentially have some flexibility in your nightly accommodations which brings me to…

What kind of lodging do you prefer?

Lodging can be a pretty big expense, but it will depend a lot on how flexible you can/want to be. Hotels are the obvious choice, but there are also Airbnbs, hostels, campsites, and vans where you can just park and sleep. A lot of this will depend on your needs and what you’re comfortable with, so take the time to figure out what kind of lodging works best for you, and then start comparing prices. My mindset on lodging has always been that I’m pretty much just there to sleep and use the bathroom, so as long as it’s clean and safe, I’m not too picky.

STAY FLEXIBLE!

My final point is probably the most important because no matter how well or thoroughly you plan your trip, to be frank, sh*t happens. Sometimes it’s bad, like a blown tire, bad weather, or a road closure. In these scenarios, it’s important to keep your cool, and try to have a backup plan. A lot of times, though, I’ve found that unexpected changes create some of the best memories. Taking a detour to visit a national monument, meeting up with a friend who happens to be in town, and staying out to catch the sunset remain some of my favorite road trip memories, and they’ve all happened spur of the moment.
Similarly, don’t force yourself to do or see things just because you feel obligated to go. If you’re tired, take a nap! Cancel your dinner reservation! It’s going to be way more enjoyable if you do it when you have the energy and are in a good mood. Fear of missing out is definitely understandable, but you need to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs.

Thank you so much for joining me as I kickoff this series! Stay tuned for next time, and don’t forget to follow and subscribe!