There were only a couple of more weeks to go before the start of our trip and we were getting anxious. We were still debating on which day to leave as our 1st couple of stops at Great Basin NP and Cedar Break NM might still be snowbound before Memorial weekends; but we didn’t want to wait too long as Utah could get very hot in June. We adjusted our itinerary countless number of times but, with the help of Microsoft Streets and Trips, it was easy.

As a part of our planning, we joined the AAA so we could get all the paper maps we needed for the trip and roadside emergency service if necessary. Even with the two GPS devices we were bringing and a laptop with digital maps, we still felt safer and more comfortable with paper maps. We also tried AAA’s trip planner online (triptik) but didn’t find it to be useful for such a long trip. However we brought our itinerary from Microsoft S/T into an AAA office for them to prepare the triptik for us and, to our delightful surprised, within a few days we received a heavy box from the AAA. In it, it had of 8 spiral-bound triptik books with our itinerary, direction, regional maps, and some brief descriptions of towns near our route. It also had tourbooks and maps for all the states/provinces we would be visiting. I especially appreciated that someone manually with a highlighting pen, traced our route and stops on an United States map. We made a duplicate of it and gave them to our parents so they would know where we would be going. That was great.

We didn’t actually use the triptik books much as sometimes they were buried in the van and we couldn’t find them. We also didn’t use the directions from Microsoft Streets and Trip as we liked the challenge and adventure of finding our own ways. We mainly used paper maps to figure out where we would like to go and kept the Garmin GPSMap 60C on to keep track of our position and for detailed maps when our paper maps weren’t sufficient. That worked out well. The tourbooks were helpful to locate campgrounds a couple of times at the beginning but as we got used to finding places (by signs on roads, by symbols on maps or just by asking) to stay, we didn’t use them much anymore.

Also we were struggling with the idea of taking a toddler and a baby on this long trip ourselves, not to mention our parents were not encouraging us either. We have never even taken such a long trip ourselves as adults. The longest trip we had taken so far was our two-month-long honeymoon around the world. Then when Kadia was a baby, we took her on trips to Banff, Caribbean, and Greece. Now with two, the responsibility doubled. What happened if they were sick? Were they too young to be traveling so far? Would they be able to enjoy the trip? Would Susan’s parents need us because Susan’s dad had a heart attack a couple of years back? Should we wait for a few years? Would I lose my job even though FMLA was supposed to have job protection? There were many reasons not to go. So should we?

Another thing we worried about was the financial burden of the trip on us. Three months without pay would not be easy. The California FMLA would be of some help with 6 weeks of money equivalent to unemployment pay. However, for this to work, we would need to keep our budget to a reasonable amount. We knew that in order to stick to our budget of $100 per day, we would have to camp and cook a lot ourselves. Luckily we had a lot of experiences with camping and have done a couple of 10+ days camping trips to Southwest and Northwest with Kadia and we enjoyed the trips. We might be able to do it.

With a workable budget, we listed out our reasons to go:

  • It is a great opportunity to spend quality and quantity time as a family.
  • Kids are too young to complain or said “are we there yet?”
  • Kids still think spending time with their parents is cool.
  • We may not have another opportunity to go again.
  • We want to do it before kids may not want to spend time with us and before we are too old to travel.
  • We are a little crazy sometimes

Finally, we decided to go for it and what a great decision that was. We had such a wonderful time that we are already planning for our next long trip to Alaska maybe in another couple of years. Kadia still often mention about THE trip and want to go again. If you find yourself debating on going off to a trip like ours, I would highly recommend it. We had a dream and we fulfilled it; we will never have regrets. Send me questions if you don’t find what you are looking for in my blog yet. I have a lot of other things I want to write but I may not get to your topics, if ever, for a while.

A few pointers for now:

  • Don’t over-plan. We only had a rough schedule just to gauge the amount of time we need. We never intended our itinerary to be our bible.
  • Keep a flexible schedule and be open-minded. Something unexpected will always come up on a long trip. Welcome them and adjust your plan.
  • Don’t drive at night in unfamiliar places. We didn’t go to cities much but out in remote areas, we avoided driving at night as animals can be deadly as a light pole in the dark.
  • Always carry paper maps; don’t depend on electronic maps completely
  • Enjoy yourself and let the trip to take you places you have never heard of before.
  • Finally and most importantly, bring your common sense with you. Safety always comes first. Trust your gut feeling and err on the safe side.