4 Mistakes to Avoid on a National Park Roadtrip

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Every trip I have taken has had things that went well, or things that maybe went not so great that should be avoided. The beauty of these mistakes or unfavorable experiences is that you can make each one into a lesson so you don’t do it again. 

Here are my four regrets from my national park roadtrip. I’m sharing them so that you can learn from my mistakes.

  • Don’t book a campsite where you can’t have a fire or use your propane stove. I read this before making the reservation, and I knew what I was getting into. However, the reality of this poor decision didn’t set in until we were sitting there hungry at the campsite, unable to cook anything. (Thank goodness for that Mexican restaurant in Moab!) One of the best parts of camping is cooking outside, and sitting by a fire before bed. If you can’t do those things, then you are just sleeping outside. Don’t stay at these kind of places.
  • Make a point to go into the national parks at night. Most of the Big 5, if not all, are certified Dark Sky parks, which means, according to the International Dark Sky Association, that these parks have “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” We went into the park early most days so we could beat the crowd, so we were usually too tired to go back in. This is something I really wish that we had done.
  • Don’t be afraid to CHANGE YOUR LODGING. Because sometimes at the end of the trip, when your campsite is not up to par and you have it booked for three nights and the forecast is saying rain, it is worth it to get the hell out and book a bed. Save your pennies other ways. Pay for a warm bed. If you can, build a little cushion into your budget to cover some of these costs should the need arise.
  • Eat at more iconic restaurants. I was really trying to keep this a budget trip, but one of my regrets was not having lunch or a snack on the deck at the North Rim Lodge.

For being on the road for two weeks, and for this being the first big camping roadtrip I have ever planned, I feel pretty good about having a short list of regrets. Hopefully this inspires you to treat yourself if roughing it just isn’t going well for you. A bed and a meal you don’t have to cook yourself makes a huge difference.

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