Category Archives: Itinerary

The Upper Midwest & Pacific Northwest – Part 1

This is the first in the New Adventures series.  In this series, I will be outlining plans for future trips. I expect this series will cover most of 2019 and perhaps spill into 2020.

These posts will contain a variety of information based on location, modes of transportation, budgets, etc.  I plan to have a Stats section at the top of each post to provide a snapshot of what’s to come.  Each trip will come in a set of posts. There will typically be an itinerary post like this one, followed by one or more posts about what to do in each location, and, when needed, a packing post. 

I’m starting with the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest for two reasons:
1. It is close by, relatively speaking.
2. There seem to be a few states that I haven’t seen, as in nearly all of them.

Where I've Been

Let’s head out, shall we?

Stats

Mode of transportation: Personal vehicle, road trip!
Miles: roughly 5,100 + 500 for extra excursions further off of the highway.
Hours in the car: roughly 83
Days:  22
States: 11 (I am not counting our home state.)
Travelers: 2 adults, 1 teenager, 1 tiny dog
Visas/paperwork: None. All of the humans are US citizens and our dog is not a restricted breed anywhere.
Overnights: 21
Airbnbs: 6
Hotels: 6
Campgrounds (tent camping): 2
Estimated Cost of Transportation: $560 (5,600 miles at 35 mpg and $3.50 per gallon. We drive a hybrid sedan and usually get 37-40 mpg so this is a conservative estimate,)
Estimated Cost of Lodging
:  $2,700  (I pad the costs a bit to help with budgeting but it comes out to about $130 per night for private, pet-friendly spaces with kitchens, real beds for everyone, wi-fi, usually a washing machine, and parking included.)
Estimated food costs: $1,000 (This assumes that we will mostly buy prepared food.  With included breakfast and cooking for ourselves, we can bring this way down.) 
Running Total Cost: $4,260
Major Points of Interest for Our Family: Chicago, University of Wisconsin- Madison, Minneapolis, Glacier National Park, Seattle, Portland, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore

The Route:

We live near Indianapolis so we will start there.
1. Chicago, IL – 3-hour drive – we’ll leave home early and the time change will work in our favor – overnight – Airbnb ($200).  BTW, options include a Harry Potter themed apartment!

2. Madison, WI – 2-hour drive – stop for lunch and wander around Univ. of Wisconsin campus to stretch our legs. 
This is a point of interest for us since a dear friend attended this school.  Since it is on the way, we want to stop. 

3. Minneapolis, MN – 4-hour drive – 2 overnights – Airbnb ($300)
We have friends who live here now so we’d love to visit with them. Besides, it’s a pretty cool city.

4. Bismarck, ND – 6-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($100) Country Inn & Suites

5. Minot, ND – 2-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($80) Microtel by Wyndham

6. Havre, MT – 6.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($120) AmericInn by Wyndham * Time Zone Change to Mountain Time Zone

7. Glacier National Park – 4.5-hour drive – 2 overnights – camp in the park ($46 – $23/night at Many Glacier Campground.  We can make reservations ahead of time and though there are no showers at the campground, it is a short walk to a motel that has coin-operated showers. Not luxury travel by any means but adventures come in many forms!)

8. Spokane, WA – 5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($100)  *Time Zone Change to Pacific Time Zone

9. Seattle, WA –  4-hour drive  – 3 overnights – Airbnb ($500)

10. Portland, OR – 3-hour drive – 2 overnights – Airbnb ($400)

11. Wallace, ID – 6.5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($100)

12. Yellowstone National Park – 5.5-hour drive – 2 overnights – camp in the park  ($47  – $23.50 per night.  Reservations required for Bridge Bay Campground.)  *Time Zone Change to Mountain Time Zone

13. Gillette, WY – 5.5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($150)

14. Mount Rushmore – 2.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($250).  This is a bit high for us for one night. We might actually keep going after our stop at the monument.  This is a gamble though, South Dakota has wide stretches between population centers. 

15. Jackson, MN – 6.5-hour drive – overnight  – Hotel ($160) AmericInn by Wyndham   *Time Zone Change to Central Time Zone

16. Davenport, IA – 5.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($130) My Place.  This is a chain I haven’t heard of and this is a newly built facility but it comes highly rated.  

17. Indianapolis – 4.5-hour drive – home (We already pay the mortgage so it costs us nothing extra.) *Time Zone Change to Eastern Time Zone

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

This is, admittedly, an ambitious trip.  Driving 5,100 miles in 21 days is quite a bit.  This breaks down to about 4 hours of driving per day.  Since we will not be changing location every day, some days will require more driving than just 4 hours.  Luckily, my husband likes to drive, my daughter and I are excellent passengers, and my dog settles down within 30 minutes. 

Why Airbnb vs. Hotels?
(Please note that I did not list individual homes for Airbnbs above. I did extensive research and that is what we would pay but since they are people’s private homes and that seems wrong.)
We like Airbnb for several reasons.
-We get to live like locals so we have a more authentic experience of what life is like there. We do like points of interest now and then but we really just want to get a feel for the place. 
-We’ve always had good luck though we do expect that our luck will eventually run out.
-If we have a whole place there are fewer people to annoy if our dog barks for a few minutes when we need to leave him for a few hours if we are headed somewhere we can’t take him.  He is crated though so we don’t worry that he destroy anything.**
– We can cook for ourselves to keep costs down.
-We can get a washing machine pretty regularly.
**It is very important that when you initially contact hosts you tell them you have a dog with you. I usually describe ours as a “house-trained, crate-trained, 14-pound cutie pie who is in his crate at night and whenever we can’t be with him.” It is best to be upfront with people, so much trouble can ensue if you are not. 
Lest you think we are big meanies, we’ve tried for years to get him to sleep out of his crate or to be able to wander around the house while we are not home but he REALLY likes his crate.  Therefore, we respect his den animal ways. 

Airbnb filters used for this trip:
-Entire Place
-3 adults (Our teenager is over the age of 12 and counts as an adult.)
-Pet-Friendly
-2 actual beds (This is a long trip and our child is taller than me so we do not ask her to sleep on a pull-out, futon, or air mattress  unless it is absolutely necessary.)
-WiFi
-Washing machine at least every 3 or 4 days though most places I found did have one. (We bring 5-7 days of clothes and wash as we go.)
-Superhost
I also scour the reviews looking for the words clean, kind, and awesome as well as dirty, not what I expected, and difficult.  We have excellent guest ratings because we work hard to leave homes in great shape. We are usually able to give excellent ratings to the hosts as well but we have to be honest.  It is best to be prepared for what you may encounter rather than ding someone for something you could/should have known before you booked. 

So why are you staying in hotels instead of Airbnb sometimes?
This is usually for one of two reasons. 
1. There are no viable Airbnbs available in that location. This is almost always the reason on this trip.
2. We will be a bit unpredictable in our arrival making it hard to meet a host.
When booking hotels, I like to Booking.com because I can filter much the same way as on Airbnb. A word of warning though, I had to click “pet-friendly” for each new search in each new city. 

Why do you sometimes camp?
In some of the National Parks, we have little choice but to do so if we want to stay in the park.  Also, our daughter enjoys camping and all family members have a say on what we do and where we go when we plan trips. My husband and I have done lots of camping and don’t mind doing so now and then. Besides, you can get some AMAZING views from campsites in National Parks. The fresh air makes for great sleeping too just be smart about where you book. For tent camping, you will want shade and a generator free zone. No one sleeps well in a hot tent surrounded by exhaust and noise.

Should you rent an RV instead?
Well, let’s see.
I checked that out at a few places around Indianapolis. I found that the cost of renting an RV would be:
$3200 for the smallest vehicle (there are only 3 of us plus a small dog)
$2,000 for the mileage. I eastimate 5,600 miles and they usually charge 35 to 40 cents per mile.
$1,650 for the gas (5,600 miles at 12 mpg and $3.50 per gallon – here’s hoping the gas mileage would be that good)
$735 for campground fees averaging around $35/night (The actual average range for campsites fees is $30 to $50 but there are some ways around that including being able to park at a Cabela’s or a Wal-Mart for free overnight. You have to run climate control/fridge/etc. off your battery though and you have no water or sewer hook ups.  If you plan to stay at either of these stores overnight, you need to ask the manager’s permission.  There are a few that do not allow it for one reason or another.)
$500 for food (we’d be able to cook a lot more)
Comparable RV total: $8,085*

*This does not include transportation into the cities and/or wasted time looking for city parking that would accommodate even a small RV. 

 

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Want to figure out who you are? Take a trip!

Well that’s a tall order for a vacation, isn’t it?

Hear me out.  Travel is one of the best ways to figure out what you’re made of.  It is life, concentrated.  Lots of activity, locations, emotions all in a short period of time. No matter how much planning goes into your trip, something will go wrong. When things go wrong you figure out how to make the best of it and just how resilient you are. When things go right, you find great joy in unexpected places.

You Are Stronger

  • Your missed flight turns into a 7 hour layover, so you learn to find fun in the airport. You play silly games with your kids or treat yourself to that bestseller everyone has been talking about and enjoy the peace and solitude you never get at home.
  • Your hotel overbooks or loses your reservation. You learn how to find another quickly and how to get a refund.
  • You get stuck in a cab in a monster traffic jam. You learn to use the subway system.
  • You’re super hungry and can’t find an English menu, you learn to guess at the local language and enjoy the pulse of life in a new place.
  • The attraction you have traveled so far to see is closed.  You learn to laugh at your misfortune and go looking for other adventures.  At the very least, you learn not to swear in public.

Next comes the things that go right.

  • You visit museums and realize there are a few artists or schools of thought you just adore!  Yay, a new hobby.
  • You score tickets to a play, concert or ballet and find a new passion.
  • You climb to the top of the tallest thing in the city and you are grateful for your health. Maybe you find out you aren’t so scared of heights after all.
  • You happen upon a warm local restaurant on a cold night and find a brand new cuisine that you didn’t know you enjoyed.
  • You sit next to a stranger on a plane and meet your soulmateNight Sky with Stars by Juskteez Vu - unsplash
  • You go camping for the first time and learn that you sleep deeply and fully outside. You find that you love to hike and that everything tastes better when cooked over a fire.  You realize just how MANY stars there are and stare at the heavens for hours each night.
  • You keep up with a packed itinerary and you find that your legs are much stronger than you thought.
  • You test out your new camera and find out that you have a knack for photography.
  • You say yes to new experiences and learn that you are still young and fun after all.

No matter what happens you will come back changed.  You will be stronger, wiser, and more self-reliant.  You’ll have victories to remember for the rest of your life.  Share them if you can, you will change other lives too!

Text Added Road to sea by Gerard Moonen - unsplash