How to Plan a Road Trip

There are few things in life that I enjoy as much as hopping in a car and taking off down the highway to explore new destinations. With the wind whipping through my hair as I sing along to my favorite tunes, there is no greater sense of freedom. I live for those moments and I wouldn’t give them up for anything, but of course, it takes some planning to carve out two weeks from my hectic life and to figure out the details of the journey. With my trip now within the 10-day weather forecast (which is when it starts to finally feel real), I wanted to walk you through the steps it generally takes to plan my road trip. While it’s not necessary to know exactly where you’ll stop each day, it’s helpful to take a peek at the distance between cities on your route. Otherwise, you might find yourself driving through South Dakota during the Sturgis Bike Rally where the hotels are booked up for a 200-mile stretch and you end up paying a ridiculous amount of money to sleep in a run-down motel in Kadoka, South Dakota. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Step 1: Picking your ultimate destination

My hubby and I are both obsessed with the Tetons. They are majestic and wild and unadulterated. A previous trip was centered around a trip to the Grand Canyon. We like to pick something epic as our ultimate goal because it helps fuel the excitement leading up to the trip. After all, is there anything better than anticipation?

Step 2: Planning your route

This will be our third major girl’s road trip and we like to switch up our route each time. On the last trip, we went through Denver and up through Wyoming; this trip, we want to cut up the backside of the mountain range and drive through Utah and Idaho. While you can make mid-trip changes in your route, having an idea of which way you want to go will help keep you on track if you need to be back by a certain day.

Step 3: Getting there

We are road trip tourists so we prefer to drive the entire time, but you could certainly fly out to a specific destination and then rent a car from there. We typically bring a lot of gear so a car suits our needs. Even though we both have nice cars, we always rent one. As you can see above, we end up racking up more than 5,000 miles (a feat that typically takes me 6 months at home) and in my opinion, that wear and tear are exactly what rentals were made for. This time around, Budget Rental Car was offering the best rate and we’re renting a full-size car for two weeks with unlimited miles for $400. Not bad, my friends. Not bad at all. As a tip, certain credit cards will cover your rental insurance if you use them to book your travel so that you don’t need to pay the rental company for the coverage so see if your credit card company offers any benefits like that.

Step 4: Where to stay

On the way out and back, mid-level hotels serve us just fine. While their commercials are cheesy, you really can’t go wrong with a Holiday Inn Express. I almost always use to book our room thanks to their Welcome Rewards program which gives you a free night after 10 nights, plus, the reviews are typically pretty good. When we arrive at our “main event” destination, we like to switch up our accommodations. We’ll stay in a luxury resort for a couple of nights and then go camping for 3 or 4, then it’s back to a nice hotel. This not only helps the budget, but it also gives us the best of both worlds. Trust me, a bath has never felt so appreciated as it does after a couple of nights in a tent.

Step 5: What to bring

This step is entirely dependent on your destination. My road trip uniform for our long driving days is leggings, flip flops, and a flowy shirt. Comfort is king if you’re in the car for 12-15 hour stretches. I will say that most people way overpack in the clothing department, so less is more with an emphasis on layers. I usually pack one duffel bag with casual clothing and one duffel for technical clothing (hiking, running,…) so that I only have to bring in one bag depending on what portion of the trip we’re on. I’ll do a separate post on what to pack for hiking/camping later in the trip. We also like to bring our snacks (LOTS of snacks), a lot of water, coffee, french press, and electric kettle. I have a power strip that plugs into a cigarette lighter similar to THIS ONE and it’s great for charging computers and using the electric kettle (while stopped). The goal is ultimately to have everything we need in the car so that we only need to stop for gas and bathroom breaks. Oh, and always bring a road atlas. There are entire states with very poor cell reception so relying on your phone’s GPS is never a good idea. While your smartphone will come in handy –it is after all how we found that motel in Kadoka, South Dakota– it is not foolproof.

I should also add that the best thing you can bring on your road trip is a good attitude. It’s a good rule of thumb to anticipate that at least one thing will go wrong. You just need to laugh about it and figure out a solution. I will also say that you should choose your company wisely. I can count on one hand the number of people that I would willingly spend an entire day in the car with. I steer clear of people who are winey, anxious, or ‘always right’ and stick with my go-with-the-flow friends who are always up for an adventure.

By Andrew Schmidt

Book Review: Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It – JoAnn Deak

I happened upon this book and I walked through one of the American Museum of Natural History’s shops (they have several) and was immediately captivated. I am a big fan of explaining neuroplasticity and brain science to kids. An author, neurologist, and educator, Dr. Julia Willis, in one particularly fascinating article have stated:

I found that when students know about how their brains learn they are motivated to take action. Especially when students feel they are ‘not smart’ and nothing they do can change that, the realization that they can change their brains through study and review strategies is empowering. Children, as well as many adults, think that intelligence is determined at or before birth and no amount of effort will change their academic success.

It just isn’t so. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I hold little belief in inherent talent or intelligence. Carol Dweck’s research demonstrates that praising children for “inherent ability” as opposed to effort or hard work is not a good way to instill self-esteem, self-efficacy, or motivation in children.

JoAnn Deak’s book is a great tool if you are interested in explaining brain science to your child. I don’t know why you wouldn’t, quite frankly. Deak’s correct point that even when you don’t succeed at a task, your brain is learning better and better every time how to achieve it. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes practice. Your brain isn’t designed to know how to do anything perfectly the first time, and that’s okay!

Coconut Tapioca Pancakes

Pancakes are a huge thing at our house. I make them all the time, constantly trying different variations rather than good ’ole reliable. Recently my son has had to switch to being gluten-free (like me). Bless his heart, he is doing good with the changes & taking it all in stride.

Gluten-Free Flours can be tricky, my favorite is almond flour. However, I am learning to incorporate different combinations of Gluten-Free flours for various baked goods. (which should be no problem because I LOVE to bake!)

Deliciously Delectable & Gluten-Free!

This recipe is a combination of Coconut & Tapioca Flour. Truthfully, I just wanted to test out the Tapioca 🙂

Coconut Flour soaks up whatever liquid you add to it. In most recipes, you find a call for a high # of eggs. You need the egg to work as a binder, so save a little on calories here I used more ew’s than whole eggs, but you could easily use this with 4 whole eggs.

Mommy’s Panny Cakes as my son calls ‘em:

  • 3 egg whites + 1 yoke
  • 1 cup organic milk – (Lt Soy, Almond, etc)
  • 2 tsp. GF Vanilla Xtract
  • 1 tbsp. Truvia
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 1/4 c. tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • coconut oil or Earth Bal. butter for frying


Separate your eggs & whip the Egg – Whites until light & Fluffy + good pinch of Cream of Tartar.
In another bowl, combine your dry ingredients & sift together (C/T Flour, Truvia, baking soda, salt)
Preheat your griddle (or pan) to medium heat & add your Milk, Vanilla to your dry mixture
Combine both the wet & dry ingredients
Grease your pan with oil/coconut oil/butter & measure out pancakes about 3-4 in. in diameter.
Flip just past went the bubbles appear. These tended to be a little mushy on the inside, so cook PAST what you think for regular pancakes.

Serve with Butter, REAL Maple Syrup.

*Stay tuned,….I can’t wait to make ALMOND Flour Pancakes next

Easy Peasy Chili & Gluten-Free Cornbread

Okay, quick confession- I’m not good at “girl stuff”. This includes cooking, cleaning, decorating, etc. So, when my blogging friends decided we should have a Chili Party, I hesitated. But, I have a best friend who is a great cook and so I asked her for her chili recipe (which I love) and she obliged!!

The plan is for everyone to try these recipes and then come back and vote on their favorite. I know I can’t wait to try all of these- they look SO good!!


  • 5 lbs. ground beef, browned and drained. Season meat with 1 TBL. Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic, 1 TBL. Tastefully Simple Onion Onion, and 2-3 TBL. Tastefully Simple Wahoo Chili powder
  • 2 cans 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans 15 oz. black beans
  • 2 cans 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 can 11 oz. Mexican-style corn
  • 2 cans 15.5 oz. mild chili beans

Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. That’s it! Heck, even I could make this!

Cornbread (adapted from the Quaker Corn Meal container recipe)

  • 1 1/4 cups Pillsbury Best gluten-free flour blend
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. skim milk
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 egg whites or 1 egg beaten

Heat over to 400 degrees. Grease 8 or 9-inch pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil, and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Lightly cover with sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Drizzle butter over the top. Serve warm. 9 servings.