8-10 Months Out: Fine-Tune the Itinerary
With a list of possible destinations, it was time to start finalizing the trip and assemble a day-by-day itinerary.
Besides Yosemite, I’d always wanted to drive the Pacific Coast Highway but didn’t have much desire to see anything else in California (I can’t believe I once thought this way! I absolutely love California now!). However, realizing that we were so close to San Francisco, we just had to visit. We couldn’t go that far west, almost to the Pacific coast, and not see the Golden Gate Bridge. Jeff wanted to visit the Exploritorium so San Francisco was added to the list. I briefly considered adding Los Angeles as I would have loved to visit Disneyland and we’d be quite close, but there wasn’t enough time nor the desire to deal with the traffic.
California is also known for its large Redwood and Sequoia trees. Seeing these in person became a must. The Mariposa Grove at Yosemite would’ve been the perfect solution but it was closed for “renovation” (I’m still wondering how a forest can be “renovated!”). Our route would take us right by Sequoia National Park, so we added it to the itinerary instead to satisfy our big tree goal. I also wanted visit Muir Woods on the coast north of the Bay Area, but time was limited and there were opportunities to see redwoods further down the coast.
Another drive-by that was added to the final itinerary was Las Vegas. I’ve never had a desire to vacation in Vegas and have always said I’d like to just drive down the Strip to see what it’s like in person. The Hoover Dam had already been added to the itinerary so we would pass within miles of Vegas and my simple drive down the Strip could be a reality!
The far-west California portion of the trip came together pretty quickly. Sifting through all of the options in the desert southwest, however, would be more difficult. As we would be traveling through the southwest twice, on the way to California and back, we could stay for a few days both ways. Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks – there were too many locations to cover on this trip so we reluctantly edited some out.
The Grand Canyon was a no-brainer. Of course we have to see the Grand Canyon! Bryce Canyon was also at the top of my list as my family had raved about it since I was a child. Monument Valley was also important to see, especially since the boys had been obsessed with the movie Cars for years. That left Sedona and Zion National Park to get the axe for now.
Arches National Park wasn’t initially a serious consideration. I thought we had enough red rocks on the itinerary already, but it would again be a location that we would be driving by and as timing became more defined, I realized we’d be in Moab overnight and there was room in the itinerary to spend some extra time there. I’m so glad that Arches fell so seamlessly into the schedule because it ended up being one of my favorite days of the entire trip!
With a route home on I-70 through Colorado, I originally tried to add a longer stay in the snow-capped Rockies and researched Rocky Mountain National Park for quite some time. However, this was scrapped due to time and we decided that the beautiful I-70 drive through the mountains and brief overnight stay in the middle of the range would have to satisfy our Rocky Mountains experience for now.
Nine months away from departure day, we had a rough trip itinerary that looked like this:
- Drive from Raleigh to eastern Tennessee
- Drive from Tennessee to Texas
- Drive from Texas to Arizona
- Drive to and explore Grand Canyon National Park
- Drive from the Grand Canyon to foothills of Sequoia National Park
- Explore Sequoia National Park and drive to Yosemite National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Drive to Bay Area and explore
- San Francisco
- Jasper’s Birthday – activities around Monterey Bay
- Pacific Coast Highway
- Drive from California coast to Hoover Dam area via Las Vegas
- Visit Hoover Dam, drive to Bryce Canyon area
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Monument Valley
- Arches National Park and drive to Colorado
- Drive from Colorado to Kansas City
- Drive from Kansas City to southern Indiana
- Drive home
Next week: Fine-Tuning the Cross-Country Road Trip