From a young age, I absolutely loved traveling. My parents started taking my siblings and me to the wild wild west when I was about 10 years old, and I absolutely loved it. My dad liked the national parks, in fact, he had wanted to be a forest ranger when he was younger, so we would spend as much time as we could driving from park to park and hiking.
Hiking is probably one of my favorite thing to do. Always has been, always will be. So you can understand my frustration when my parents decided to turn back in the middle of a trail because of various reasons, usually, my little brother was tired. My sister shared this frustration, here we were in the most beautiful places, but we couldn’t quite make it to the finish line. So we would turn back towards the car, but we made a promise to each other that she and I would one day return to these glorious places and finish the hikes.
Okay, you are probably thinking that these two little girls would never make it back… well, I am here to tell you that we did. It was an amazing adventure and I would not change it anything about it for all of the money in the world. I am about to tell you about one of my most favorite adventures of my life, I hope you enjoy reading about the 7,000-mile trip that my sister and I will never forget.
It all started with the planning because if you’ve read anything on this blog you know I love to plan. I kept it simple, for each day I wrote where we wanted to go, want we wanted to see and where we were going to sleep that night. I had a notes section at the bottom that included the highlights of my multiple Google searches. I also included estimated expenses so we knew what to plan for because running out of money is never a good idea.
We wanted to keep it as inexpensive as possible BUT renting a car as someone under 25 is just expensive no matter how you slice it. I was able to find on life-saving loophole though. I have an AAA roadside assistance card and because of this membership, I was able to get the underage driver fee waived. The fee is about 30$/day! So 30 times the 31 days we were on the road was 930$ saved, definitely worth it. Plus we had the AAA card in case something went wrong on the road. I checked as many rental car companies as I could, but Hertz seems to be the only one that does this. Although, when I got to the desk in Phoenix, the woman at the desk seemed to think that this was not an option even though I had confirmed on the phone with three Hertz employees that this 930$ fee would actually be waived because that is a huge amount of money to me. So I would recommend getting it in some kind of writing (email, text, fax, snail mail, etc.) in case this happens to you. I was still able to get the discount, but it was much more stressful than it should have been.
The next step was booking hotels. Honestly, my sister and I had originally wanted to camp most of the time, but due to a lot of drama between our parents about that we decided to stick mostly to hotels. Apparently, camping is not something that girls should do by themselves (HA, not true at all but sometimes you just have to accept that other people see the world differently than you).
So now we had to book a ton of hotel nights, which can get expensive. So I used a combination of Bestwestern.com and other booking sites to book the rooms. I would check the bestwestern.com first because I was already a rewards member and they have a pretty decent rewards program. In fact, by the end of the trip, I had enough points to take a weekend trip, which is a pretty nice bonus. If there wasn’t a Best Western close to where we wanted to be, then I would check out Booking.com. I would also recommend checking out airbnb.com. Although I did not airbnb.com on this particular trip, I have used it before and I had good experiences.
Also, I would highly recommend installing Ebates before booking your rooms online because it helped us save quite a bit of cash for fun things like movie screenings.
We did not just stay in hotels though; we spent a few nights with an uncle in Southern California and a few nights camping. Just because you are on a trip doesn’t mean you have to stay in a hotel every single night. Staying with friends or under the stars is a great way to save money.
The most important thing we needed to plan was where we were going!
This was the easy part, a lot of the places we wanted to see were actually places we wanted to hike. We mostly wanted to see natural beauty, so we tended to avoid large urban areas on purpose (AKA we skipped L.A. and Vegas because places like this were not the focus of our trip). National parks and state parks were our go-to favorites. I will give more details on where we went in part two!