Planning Our 2020 US Road Trip: 26 States/31 National Parks!

Our 2020 Plans

2020, what a year (so far)!

We had to cancel our 5-month Latin America trip, which led to an unexpected 5 months at home in Virginia, which has led to buying our first house, spending more time with family and friends, and shifting gears to working on lots of other projects!

Since international travel seems to be out of the question this year, we’re now shifting our focus to domestic travel.

We were already planning to take another road trip this fall after returning from Latin America, since our 2019 road trip was such a hit! But now that circumstances have changed, we have even more time to dedicate to planning our US road trip and more weeks to spend out on the road! We are excited to make this one even more epic than 2019!

But, of course, traveling anywhere in 2020 is different than traveling in 2019. We have a lot to consider and be conscientious of even while traveling between states. Fortunately, a big part of our road trip plan already was to hit a bunch more national parks. So, now we’re almost solely focusing our road trip on national parks and socially distanced activities. We will not be hitting as many cities or public activities on this trip as we did last year. Exploring Mother Nature & keeping to ourselves will be the primary objective!

Most importantly, we are going to remain as flexible as possible with our planning this time. In past trips, we’ve always planned everything out in advance, including our exact dates for each location, plus booking accommodations and transportation in advance. Because things are changing day by day, week by week, with state policies, we know that a lot could change in the next month before we head out for our road trip. So, this time we are going to have a rough outline on where we’d like to go, but we are not going to book anything in advance.

We have to admit, this feels a bit weird to leave it open ended. But, after getting burned on having everything booked for our Latin America trip, then having to cancel all of it, each painful phone call after phone call after message after email at a time… for Airbnbs, hotels, flights and buses… we’ve learned our lesson. This is not the time for planning things precisely, it’s the time for flexibility and being able to change plans according to the circumstances.

So, if we find that National Parks or beaches are suddenly closed again, or cities are overwhelmed with cases, we will have to change our plans, and that’s okay. We’re in it for the adventure and along for the ride this time!

Our Road Trip Plans

With all of that said, below we’ll give a general outline for where we are planning to go. Our plan includes nearly 13,000 miles of driving, through 26 states, visiting 31 national parks, over the course of 8 weeks! Our previous road trip was only 3 weeks, so this is going to be nuts!

We’re planning to leave around August 7th, and return around October 1st.

In addition, this year we are planning on traveling in a mini-van!

What? #VanLife?!

“But didn’t you just write an article/do a video about how Van Life wasn’t ideal?!” — YES but if you paid attention, we said we didn’t think it was an ideal long term living solution for travel therapists! We did say that at some point we thought about doing a road trip in a mini-van, so here we go!

We plan to camp out in the van for much of the road trip, and we hope to be able to van-camp inside many of the national parks. We won’t be staying in the van all the time though. We will do Airbnbs or hotels every few days to get a reprieve from van life, sleep in a real bed, get a good shower, and do our laundry!

On the van camping days, we’ll rely on campground facilities, gas stations/truck stops, and probably a national chain gym membership (still trying to decide which one- Planet Fitness or Anytime Fitness?) for showers and cleaning up! And possibly occasional workouts at the gyms!

Our Rough Itinerary

Below are the stops we are planning to make! But, as I mentioned, we plan to be flexible on this as things move along!

Check it out, and please give us your feedback as we are still in the planning stages!!

  • Roanoke, VA (home)
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Ann Arbor/Detroit, MI
  • Upper Peninsula/Great Lakes, Michigan
  • Isle Royal National Park, Michigan
  • Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
  • Badlands National Park, South Dakota
  • Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
  • Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  • Glacier National Park, Montana
  • Spokane, WA
  • North Cascades National Park, Washington
  • Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  • Poulsbo/Seattle, Washington
  • Olympic National Park, Washington
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  • Redwood National Park, California
  • Redding, CA
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Napa Valley?
  • Yosemite National Park, CA
  • Kings Canyon National Park, CA
  • Sequoia National Park, CA
  • Pinnacles National Park, CA
  • Route 1: San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, CA
  • Channel Islands National Park, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Carlsbad/San Diego, California
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Possibly Joshua Tree & Death Valley – but may leave for next trip due to existing reservations in Carlsbad & Vegas (hotel stays planned in 2019)
  • Grand Canyon again?
  • Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Saguaro National Park, AZ
  • Tucson, AZ
  • White Sands National Park, NM
  • El Paso, TX
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
  • Big Bend National Park, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Austin, TX
  • Dallas, TX
  • Shreveport, LA
  • Hot Springs National Park, AR
  • Jackson, MS
  • Tallahassee, FL
  • Everglades National Park, FL
  • Dry Tortugas National Park, FL
  • Biscayne National Park, FL
  • Florida Keys
  • Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • Jacksonville FL or Savannah GA
  • Congaree National Park, SC
  • Back home to Roanoke, VA!

Give Us Your Feedback!

So, what do you think? Is it going to be amazing? Is it going to be the worst? Are we crazy? Let us know!

  1. If you’ve been to any of the national parks listed, what do we need to know???
    • Are there any that need reservations in advance?
    • Where can you camp or not camp inside?
    • What day hikes do you recommend?
  2. If you’ve been to these states/along this route, what do we need to see/do?
    • Please keep in mind our main focus is social distancing
    • We’re not going to do too much in the cities (like museums, etc)
    • Preferably outdoor, just driving by/sightseeing, or take-out food recommendations!!
  3. If you’ve experienced traveling in a mini-van and van-camping, we would love your feedback!
    • What are some things we need to know/consider?
    • What are some things we can’t forget to bring?!
  4. If you’re going to be along our route during August-September and would like to get together for a socially distanced/outdoor meetup, please let us know!!

Let the countdown begin for our next adventure!

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

10 thoughts on “Planning Our 2020 US Road Trip: 26 States/31 National Parks!

  1. You’re not giving yourselves much time at each location. To do this trip justice, you would need to either double time our cut half of the parks. I’ve done basically the same routes, but in four different segments, and those were six weeks per leg/average. Also, kinda like European travel, you get “castled” out after awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback! Definitely still working on the route and will have to take some stuff out due to closures/etc. But the goal is to see a little bit of a lot of places in the 8 weeks we have. We can always go back and do more at places we like a lot. But it’s a big country and we want to hit all 50 states, plus so many more countries!

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  2. Just spent five days in my mini van that I bought for a 4-week road trip out west that turned into five days in VA due to covid. However, I learned a few things!

    For that long of a trip—GET A MATTRESS and DO NOT reply on a pile of blankets between you and the floor. It was manageable for five days, but wasn’t going to be my solution for four weeks. But nice thick foam and cut it to size. Unfortunately, vans are about four inches too narrow to squeeze a full mattress in. I tried lol.

    As for storage, I put tubs between the bed and the seats. You can even put more on the bed during the day and move then to the front seats at night. Mind you my partner is only 5’11” and one of you looks taller than that! (;
    An alternative is building a platform up and sliding things underneath.
    Always use the crazy amount of compartments you have. I drive a Grand Caravan and it has a TON of overhead storage and storage in the front/amazing middle console. I don’t think Odyssey’s have as much overhead but the seats DO come out and you can use the storage in the floor between them (most have that feature). I am she other common minivans are similar.

    Always sleep with your head higher.

    MAKE VENTS FOR YOUR VAN. I made some DIY vents that slipped into my sliding door following a YouTube tutorial (not hard to find, they did it to an odyssey). They added computer fans to the vents to make in and out flow. My partner and I just used battery/USB fans plugged into portable batteries (didn’t want to kill the car battery!)

    CHECK YOUR BED FOR ANTS. Kid you not, I must have parked on an anthill at the National Forest because two days later, when taking apart the bed, we found ants between the sheets making a home! They were NOT in the food. NOT upfront where we ate. It was BIZARRE. We suspect they were just opportunist. Luckily not many and only between a couple of the deep sheets. But not fun. They can get through vents and doors and whatnot like it’s nothing, and parks/outdoors are happy places for them.

    Use a sunshade for the front window! Cannot emphasize how that saved us. Kept the car cool. Mind you, some locations will be cool and the car will get COLD. It’s summer but doesn’t feel like it everywhere. My partner, an outdoorsman, still messed up on our trip. He thought our trip was mind but even at 4500ft, it got COLD.

    I’m sure you know all the basic stuff (curtain, what to cook on the road, etc.), but these are tough lessons we learned recently. Even if you knew all of them, hope the ant story gave you a laugh!

    Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like an awesome trip. WA/OR are my stomping grounds and have some experience in CA as well. If you guys have any specific questions on each of your destinations through those areas, shoot me an email!

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  3. The Upper Peninsula is amazing, especially this time of year. Be sure to check out pictured rocks in Munising and if you are heading to Use Royale be sure to check out Copper Harbor before you catch your ferry.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You forgot to include my favorite state of Nebraska! How’d that happen? j/k. Maybe another road trip you can hit up football games and state parks in between and then you’d have a reason to knock out the midwest! 😉 Looks like a cool, but way fast-paced trip!

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