At the beginning of the summer, my husband approached me about a little vacation he wanted to take–and I am ALL about vacation. However, this one freaked me out a little bit. He wanted to travel across the country and visit his siblings in Los Angeles. LOS ANGELES. It’s a whopping 1,800 miles away, plane tickets are SO expensive, we would have had to rent a car (and neither of us is 25 yet), and we just got a puppy.
Needless to say, I nixed the idea.
Almost immediately, I felt conviction. I know what you’re thinking. “Conviction? That seems a little extreme.”
But it was straight up, no question conviction. You see, we had the means and we had the time. The only problem was that I wasn’t comfortable with spending that kind of money. On anything. One day, while Austin was at work, the Lord almost audibly reminded me that this was about something bigger and better than what we would spend. It was about giving my man the chance to see his family. It was about spending time with Him day after day without home’s distractions.
It was also about being good stewards of our money.
So without hesitation, I texted my siblings-in-law and asked for their help. How could we make this happen without breaking the bank? After weeks of research and a little bit of guessing, I had a game plan and we were jumping in the car–yes, we decided to road trip 1,800 miles. Here’s what I learned so you can do the same.
Break your travel up. A lot.
The trick to a road trip is not becoming exhausted by spending too much time in the car. You’re gonna get car-crazy. I may have made that up, but trust me, it’s a thing. When I plugged our destination into maps, it gave me two routes. To keep the drives from becoming boring, we decided to go the long way on our way to LA and the shorter way on the way home.
Our first journey was broken up into four days: Dallas, El Paso, Phoenix, and finally LA!
Our second was suppose to be broken up into three days: Williams (Grand Canyon), Oklahoma City, then home! (That actually didn’t happen. We booked it home after the Grand Canyon).
Our first trip was AMAZING. We took our dog with us, so we explored the dog parks of each city, discovered the hidden secret that is El Paso–and now my favorite city in the US–and got to eat different types of Mexican food all over the country. Our longest day was ten hours, and our shortest was six.
Our second trip was much harder. Clearly, we were tired from all our excursions, and we were ready to get back to our own bed. The 20-hour ride from Williams to Nashville was right for us, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it if you are the least bit uncertain.
Choose cheap hotels.
Okay so if you are staying in Hiltons all the way to across the country, you probably aren’t gonna save a ton of money. We went the under $70 route. Also, (again) we had our dog, so we had to take that into consideration. Our favorite chain we stayed in was the Quality Inn. It was super clean and perfect for our pup!
Don’t think about it too much.
If you have made it this far, you’re thinking one of two things: they’re crazy or sign me up! Here’s the thing: it is a lot of hours in the car, but those hours don’t seem so bad if you’re with your favorite person. Over the last two weeks, I have gotten to know my husband more intimately and intentionally than I have before. Had I focused on hours in the car or strange cities, I would have missed on an experience of a lifetime.
Air BnB (the smart way).
So we tried Air BnB twice: once in Phoenix and for our stay in LA. I’ll start with the bad.
The first Air BnB we stayed at looked great on paper! It was in the heart of Phoenix, spacious, and an awesome price. However, when we got in, the AC was working–but only a little–and the ceiling fan was about to come down. Oh, and it was 115 degrees that day.
Needless to say, we called that money a loss and headed to the local quality inn.
The second Air BnB was awesome! We splurged a little on it, but it was so worth it. The host also owned a dog resort where we let our puppy play during the days while we were exploring. It had plenty of room for hosting our siblings to come hand out, and there was a washer and dryer so we could catch up on laundry throughout the week.
The best part is that it only cost what the cheap hotels did for each night. The moral of the story is this: if you go for Air BnB, stick with ones that you KNOW are legit. No looking at the price before triple checking that the basic needs will be met.
Be realistic about eating out.
Y’all, food is the best part about traveling! We ate at Vietnamese Cajun, Korean BBQ, all the taco joints, and had gluten free snacks everywhere. I would absolutely recommend that you spend more money on the food you enjoy than the place you sleep (just be safe).
See all the stuff. This is not a vacation. It’s an adventure!
When you’re in a city of that size, there are more things to do than just lay around at a beach. Don’t get me wrong, I am the world’s best beach layer, and we did spend a couple of days in the sand. But my favorite experiences were the ones where we hiked up the hills of Hollywood to look out over the city. They were getting up at 4:30 am to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. They were driving an hour to eat at a BOUJEE restaurant on the beach at Malibu and biking down three miles of beach on janky bikes and spending a little too much money to tour the Warner Brothers set.
Remember, the point of this trip is the memories you will make.
But seriously, go to the Warner Brothers set. Did you know that Rosewood from Pretty Little Liars and Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls are the exact same set?! Like the gazebos in the middle of the towns are the same thing. And you get to sit in the coffee shop from Friends. Mind. Blown. Go see the stuff.
Take your dog.
Or don’t. But we did, and we didn’t have to pay to board her or miss out on loving her for two weeks. My vet recommended a great calming tablet to help her out with the first little bit of the car ride each day, but she acclimated beautifully. Enjoy this baller picture of her owning the back seat of our Corolla.
Put social media away.
With the exception of snap chat. I used snap chat to document each thing we were doing and posted some of them to my story. Mostly, though, I just saved them to my camera roll. A few days after we left, I let the world into the highlights of our journey in a Facebook album.
Yet throughout the trip, we decided to keep our joy to ourselves. We decided not to focus on likes or page views or anything in the virtual world. I even hopped off here for a week or so! A trip like this should not be about how many times someone looks at your picture and wishes they were in your shoes. It should be about enjoying one another’s presence and experiencing the world in a new way.
Just do it.
The point of this post is not to say that everyone needs to get up and go across the country randomly. It is not to convince you to take the vacation we did. It is to remind us all, myself included, to get up and do something. Get out of your house and take an adventure with your spouse–or family or best friend or whoever.
Spend this year putting money back.
Choose not to upgrade your car.
Don’t buy the new iPhone when it comes out.
Trust me. Time spent with family is of much more value than the next gadget or a new rug or whatever the world is telling us we need.
We need to get out of ourselves for a little while. We need to lather our loved ones with intentionality. Responsibly, of course. But none-the-less, regularly.
Don’t copy our vacation verbatim, but do let our adventure inspire an adventure of your own. Maybe it is a cabin an hour away or maybe it is a twist on your usual time at the beach. Get out. Go see the world.
For all my believers out there, there is so much creation beyond the hometown you love. There are mountains and valleys and prayer to be done in every crevice of the earth. Be a good steward of your money while being a good steward of your relationships. Value the experiences that build your love rather than the new couch that your friends will see. I am stingy. I am learning to open my hands. This was the first step. We will be saving up quite a bit over the next year, but you better bet that a portion of that will be going to another intentional get away with my man. And probably my dog too.