Cross-Country National Park Road Trip

A cross-country road trip through national parks is one of the best family vacations you can do with kids!

BBV was thrilled to publish your “Plan B–Making Lemonade Out of Lemons” stories. Now, let’s find out how BBV members’ Plan B trips turned out–or rather are turning out. Summer is not over and plans are unfolding as we speak! 


We have all experienced frustration and heartache postponing and canceling our summer 2020 plans. Meet Pri Walker,  the curator of Adventure Somewhere, a full-service travel company based in Orlando, FL, and see how she and her globe-trotting family including husband Chris,  senior sales manager for an engineering recruitment firm, eight-year-old son Jude, and five-year-old daughter Elle made the best lemonade ever from the COVID lemons. Their plans to Europe upended by the pandemic, but Pri and her family were undaunted. Instead, she took charge orchestrating an impressive marathon-like cross-country 6,000-mile  road visiting seven national parks across 17 states.  Discover how thanks to meticulous planning, Pri organized what probably will be one of her family’s most memorable trips ever. Our original summer plans were to go to Europe! 


Anyone watch National Lampoon’s Vacation and then want to do a big American road trip like the Griswolds–antics and all? 

I always did! When Covid-19 came along and interrupted our original summer plans– spending a few days in London before heading to Copenhagen, Denmark, to embark on a cruise to Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Sweden. We scrambled to find a Plan B. We devised a last-minute option, pulled out of the hat in an attempt to salvage the spring break that we didn’t have and the summer vacation we were still uncertain of. 


Departing from Orlando, FL, 0ur itinerary eventually took us 6,000 plus miles across 17 states–including Tennessee, Nebraska, South Dakota, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana–and visiting many new sites we hadn’t seen together as a family. Our goal was to hit a handful of national parks, but also to take our time getting there to explore states we didn’t always have a reason to go to.  We knew the time spent in each place would be limited, but our visits were meant to be an appetizer, not the main course. And we decided that if we fell in love with any place, we could always come back at a later time for more. 


We opted to take our personal car on this trip, which is low in mileage and has been healthy. An RV would provide us both with lodging and transportation in one. As we are not RV-versed, we decided that a cross-country trip was not the place to learn first-hand about one.  And at less than $2 per gallon in most places for gas, refueling was a steal. Even though traveling during a pandemic may not be on the top of your list, there were many factors that made this appealing to us! 


Plus, I am in the business of hospitality. I’ve been in the industry for two decades and I have never seen it struggle the way it is now.  I sell travel for a living, but if I’m not doing it, how could I ever tell anyone else that it’s okay to right now?  So, this was also a great opportunity to go out and experience the industry, see how businesses are running and let everyone else decide for themselves based on firsthand experience. 


We chose to stay in major hotel chains during our trip.  We’re hotel people, to begin with. There’s an element of surprise taken out of knowing what you’re going to get, especially if you’re loyal to a certain brand.  As corporations have a lot on the line right now with making sure that they’re ensuring guests feel safe,  we knew that brand standards would be even more dependable. 


And let me tell you, they were! Every place we stayed at did a great job of making sure that we, all other guests, and employees were comfortable while still operating a service-based business. I applaud them all for their efforts to adapt and improve standards during this time.  Before even deciding, you can review each hotel chain’s commitment to safety on their site and review their cancellation policy for a change of plans. Most have a flexible rate available to allow you to adjust as needed! 

A cross-country road trip means lots of family hikes!

Was it hard?  At times.  We fought, we cried, the kids didn’t listen.  But that’s all expected at home too.  Yet you don’t remember any of those bits.  There are so many bigger memories being made! 


We took four days to reach our first national park– Badlands in South Dakota from Florida–so we wouldn’t be exhausted.  The short drives made it so much easier on our bodies with the goal at each stop of something to do and a memory to make.  Also, we had fun along the way allowing them to watch movies themed to the drive (their idea), stopping to eat at regional fast-food restaurants to do like the locals did, and making roadside stops to check out anything new to us!


So yes, this did deviate the course a little from just going to visit national parks, but it also allowed us to see how other cities are doing.   And let me tell you, our hospitality partners are taking this seriously! They are looking for a way back to regular life, and I applaud how businesses, big and small, are handling the situation. I hope that many of these standards don’t disappear because the intimacy and attention to detail of it all is a welcome change from the hustle and bustle we just left behind.


We visited altogether six national parks and the biggest win on this trip was purchasing National Park Service’s annual America the Beautiful Pass ahead of time. For $80, you will get a year’s worth of admissions at national and participating state parks. With each park costing about $30 an entry, we got our value back pretty quickly. And still have 11 months on it!

Our stays in the parks were short, but it allowed us to see what we wanted to and decide which ones we wanted to return for more.  We visited Mount Rushmore National Monument, Badlands, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Canyonlands, Arches, and Grand Canyon (Southern Rim).  We spent two days in each park and fell in love, but definitely felt more time was needed to truly explore some of them.  Now,  it gives us an excuse to go back, especially when our youngest is ready for more challenging hikes than we did. 


Advice if you’re considering this trip?  If you feel adventurous, do it!  Have a goal in mind for each stop and make sure to do at the very least that.  Anything more is an added bonus!  Come in with a back-up plan, should plans change. They did a little for us, but nothing to stray the course.  And most of all, have fun!  If you had never anticipated doing a trip like this, maybe this is a chance to try something new.  It was great for us to social distance but also spend quality time together, taking what my  eight-year-old called “the best trip ever!” Who would have ever thought?


Oh, and don’t forget your face masks!


You may also like these articles from the Bébé Voyage blog:

Planning An End Of Summer Family Road Trip? Here Are Our Top Safety Tips!!

Stay The Night In A Conestoga Wagon Outside Of Capitol Reef National Park

Hiking With A Baby In The Scottish Highlands



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