Soon, Bruce and I will be hittin’ the road in Scarlet (our Prius V) on a six-week adventure that meanders through 18 states in an odd-shaped loop.
It’s been in the planning stages for six months, and now we’re excited to see our plan through, especially since most of the states we’ll be visiting will be firsts for us. (I’ve been to 26 states so far.)
For the longest time, I couldn’t quite figure out how to plan for such a trip. We had a (very) loose idea of where we wanted to go; however, I just didn’t know where to start.
Is there a right way to organize this long of a road trip? As the old saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat. (Where did that saying come from? The visual in my mind when I hear that… oh, never mind.)
After reading several blog posts and internet sites, I learned there are as many ways to plan a road trip as there are people who have done it. After I pondered them all, I hit the delete button and decided to do it my way. Bruce agreed—
a good thing since he’s leaving all the planning to me anyway!
The first place I started was sending an e-mail to my family and friends asking for recommendations after giving them a loose idea of the states we hoped to hit. As it turns out, most of those recommendations made the cut, and we are planning our travels around them. (Take Niagara Falls, for example. More than one of them said, “Bring your passport and see the falls from the Canadian side, because the American side is TACKY!”)
While researching on the computer, I also visited the tourist bureau of each state and requested a map and guide. Sure, all of the same information is available online, but the paper guides were for Bruce who spends as little time on the computer as possible, thanks to burnout from a computer-intensive career.
As for the maps, they’re going with us in a file box with a folder dedicated to each state. I will be adding AAA maps where needed, and I plan to file keepsakes that I collect along the way such as chocolate labels from chocolatiers I hope to visit (and sample!).
My favorite source for planning this road trip has been Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com). You can find my reviews there as “ElaineK-SunCity-GA.”
Skeptics out there will claim that many of the reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp are fakes posted by friends and family members of the business owner. Sure, there are probably plenty of restaurant reviews posted by the Aunt Bobbi Sue’s and Uncle Billy Bob’s of the world to help out their entrepreneurial nieces and nephews who just opened up rib shacks off some godforsaken highway. I’ve seen them myself, and those reviews are easy to spot. Type in the restaurant’s name on the site, and you see ten restaurant reviews giving the joint a perfect rating. Not one of those reviewers has ever written a previous review about anything else. That should be your first clue.
Now, type in “Boldt Castle” (located in Alexandria Bay, New York) into Trip Advisor’s search engine. The castle was recommended by two friends, so I thought I should check it out. Bingo! 590 people have reviewed it, and it gets a 4-1/2 out of 5 rating. In addition, many reviewers posted photos, so I can see for myself how beautiful and photogenic it is. I immediately added Boldt Castle to our itinerary.
When reading reviews, I give the most credibility to other top contributors who are experienced travelers and have posted a lot of detailed reviews. I also make sure to read a selection of the positive AND negative reviews on a particular listing, so I can evaluate whether a particular restaurant or hotel is worthy of our business. (I will ignore one bad review of a Mexican restaurant, for example, if the reviewer criticized the margaritas, especially if all of the other dozens of reviewers raved about the excellent food.)
Thanks to Trip Advisor, I now have a seven-page Word Document filled with recommendations for places to see, things to do, restaurants to dine in, and accommodations where we can crash each night (if we don’t stay with other Affordable Travel Club members www.affordabletravelclub.net ). I organized it in itinerary order, and I’ve included the driving time required to get from place to place. Finally, using www.SwimmersGuide.com , I found pools to train at throughout our travels and listed their locations, and lap swimming times.
The itinerary is just a loose guide; weather and our moods will dictate how closely we follow it. One thing for sure, though; we will definitely be visiting the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and Boldt Castle!
Stay tuned for future posts from the road IF/WHEN I have time and feel like writing. Otherwise, I’ll catch up with y’all when I get to it! A big THANKS to my friend Cynthia who will be watching over the house while we’re gone!
Elaine, this sounds like a fabulous trip! I know how much planning is involved for a trip of such length. You guys will have a wonderful time, no doubt. I look forward to living vicariously through your posts and pictures!
Thanks, Toni! Thanks for your recommendations, too!
A great article on how to tell the difference between a real and a bogus review. I would be lost without Tripadvisor (and I am a “top contributor” myself!). Bon Voyage!
Yes, and you’re the best, Laura! You write better reviews than anybody else on there!