Planning an #Unminivan Road Trip from Denver to Seattle

…. And we’re back! Already! We traversed 5 states, drove more than 1,700 miles, had a snowball fight in July, took a dip in a geothermal hot spring, got lost, experienced the Oregon Trail, saw a man’s bare-naked butt in Portland and had many impassioned sing-alongs on the open road. It was a dream trip (except maybe for the man’s butt) and it’s over all too fast. The best times always are.

Want a preview? Check out our dramatic video trailer!

I have so many fun photos to share of our #OrthAmerica exploits in the Wild Wild West, but for now, here are some tips for planning your own epic road trip.

Here we go!

Here we go! 

 Before the Trip

Choose the perfect road trip ride. I was fortunate that for this journey, my awesome ride chose me. Ford invited me to participate in its #Unminivan Moments campaign, so I was tasked with charting a route across the West in a Ford Transit Connect. You may have noticed Ford’s #unminivan moments campaign on social media already this summer. Several bloggers have been out exploring the USA in the one-of-a-kind Transit Connect Wagon, and this trip was my turn.

I’m used to driving a tiny coupe at home, so I was blown away by how roomy the Transit Connect was. Like, really, really roomy. We joked that we didn’t even need to get a hotel because we could’ve lived inside. The spaciousness came in handy considering all the stuff we brought, too.

I mean, we had a dedicated suitcase for costumes, folks.

At Red Rocks outside of Denver, one of our first stops

At Red Rocks outside of Denver, one of our first stops

One needs a roomy ride when one has an extra suitcase full of Napoleon Dynamite attire and wigs.

Pick great passengers. If you’re going to be spending a decent amount of time in a vehicle (even if it is spacious), you’d better pick some folks you get along with. That’s why I chose my brother and sister. Hanging with them is no stress and we get along like a house on fire. They are two of the only people I know who are game to goof off, sing loud, help with social media duties and take dozens of jumping photos. Plus, they know I get cranky at about 3 p.m. so they can take the reins when I need a minute.

Want to meet them? Watch this quick video.

Plot the perfect route. I didn’t realize it until I sat down to plan, but I’ve never really coordinated a road trip before. Sure, I’ve driven from here to there, but usually with the express purpose of getting there – not to experience everything along the way. So this was a fun new project for me.

I used Roadtrippers.com before the trip to find quirky and offbeat attractions that fit the #unminivan ideals along the way, and it was my lifeline all week. Once we were en route, I downloaded the Roadtrippers app for iPhone to get directions and info for each stop along the way. As long as we had connectivity (which wasn’t as often as I’d like in many remote places), we had access to the app and all our route info within.

Our trip route via Roadtrippers.com

Our trip route via Roadtrippers.com

My siblings and I have a wide variety of interests spanning a 12 year age difference from oldest to youngest, so you’d think we might have trouble agreeing on what to see and do. Curiously enough, we’re all into the same random things like dinosaur footprints and Oregon Trail museums and geological formations and filming locations. Roadtrippers.com made it easy to sift through a million options until we had a manageable, fun, quirky, #unminivan quality itinerary.

Yeehaw! We made it to Wyoming!

Yeehaw! We made it to Wyoming!

Pack cool tech gear. And costumes. After a rather expensive trip to Best Buy, I was the proud owner of a new GoPro, tripod and an iPhone bracket for the windshield. And as a result, now I’m also the proud owner of about a bazillion bytes of photos and video that I’m editing like a fiend. Stay tuned for some really fun posts!

Of course, tech gear is secondary to costuming. Rachel and I scoured Orlando after opening Diagon Alley on July 8 for cowboy ensembles, hipster chic and Napoleon Dynamite attire. We did a pretty good job of outfitting our expedition, don’t you think?

(How we convinced Alex to wear skinny jeans and a tight T-shirt in Portland will always be a mystery to me. He’s a good brother, isn’t he?)

Costumes make the road trip. Mark my words.

Costumes make the road trip. Mark my words.

During the Trip

Be flexible. Every morning at (free) buffet breakfast (mostly at Holiday Inn Express), we’d go over the day’s itinerary. I’d ask everyone if they were cool with my tentative plan and we’d decide whether certain things were in or out. Then we’d make our way in our own sweet time to each activity. Keeping the schedule light and fluid contributed a lot to our general fun level. Only having a few scheduled stops throughout the day made it easy for us to follow storm clouds down dirt roads to get great pictures. It also helped us to feel relaxed even though technically we were working.

Refuel often. Alex was great about never letting us get under about ½ a tank, and it’s a good thing. Often we found ourselves going hours without seeing a gas station. The West is so expansive!

Another #unminivan moment

Another #unminivan moment

Eat well and hydrate. Well, we stayed hydrated. It’s much drier out West than what we Floridians are used to, so I made sure to buy bottled water at every stop. Somehow every stop also included a refill of Sweettarts, Laffy Taffy and Twizzlers. Whoops.

Get off the highway. Every time we took the scenic route, we were glad we did. Highways get you there faster, but there’s nothing like taking the long way around.

Exploring the Snowy Mountains - a brilliant detour if ever there was one

Exploring the Snowy Mountains in the rain – a brilliant detour if ever there was one

Take risks. There were a few times when we came to a crossroads. For instance, we almost skipped the Snowy Mountain Range in Wyoming because it looked stormy and scary. What if we couldn’t see anything or couldn’t drive all the way through due to bad weather? Thank goodness we went for it – that was one of the best experiences of the trip and likely a memory we’ll never forget.

After the Trip

Reflect & give thanks. We spent much of our road trip just basking in the luxury of hanging out… just the 3 of us. While I’ve traveled quite a bit with each sibling individually – Alex in California, Europe & Hawaii; Rachel in Europe, The Bahamas, Miami, Nashville, etc. – we almost never get the chance to coordinate a trip for all three. Mostly it comes down to scheduling. We’re all busy adults – Alex works and plays in his band, Rachel is in college and I’m all over the place, literally. It was nothing short of a blessing to get away from life for a week and just spend time together.

We made it to Napoleon Dynamite's house in Preston, Idaho

Pedro, Deb & Napoleon Dynamite in Preston, Idaho

We made an amazing social media team, too. We each had our jobs and everything flowed so smoothly. Now I’m pondering how to take them everywhere with me — three heads are better than one! I suspect this won’t be the last time you see the #OrthAmerica crew on AngieAway.

I wish there had been a camera crew to capture some of our more ridiculous moments… like every time we saw a yellow car and the ensuing trash talking and bickering about rules. (We never did settle on rules, even though we tried. Thus every day the loser was sure he/she had been cheated!)  And the moment we first saw snow in Wyoming… let’s just say if you’ve never seen Floridians in snow, it’s pretty ridiculous.

Stay tuned for posts from Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon & Washington

Stay tuned for posts from Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon & Washington

Like I said, I have a million photos and videos to sort through and edit, so watch this space for some really fun posts over the coming weeks. Thanks to Ford for giving us the opportunity to spend quality time with each other while exploring the West. It was a dream!

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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  • July 21, 2014

    Looks like a great trip! And of course you have to have a whole suitcase for costumes. Sounds like my kind of road trip!

    Hadn’t heard of Roadtrippers before, so will definitely be checking that one out. Thanks for sharing. And looking forward to hearing more about your trip as you post it 🙂
    Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog recently posted..It’s Ok To Be HomesickMy Profile

    • July 23, 2014

      Roadtrippers was a total game changer! Thanks for reading, Katie!

  • July 22, 2014

    That looks like so much fun! The pictures had me smiling. Would love to do the exact same thing with my fam.

    • July 23, 2014

      It was such a blast – I suspect we’ll try to do more trips like this in the future. Where to go?

  • July 22, 2014

    Loved the trailer – looks like so much fun!
    Ayngelina recently posted..A Day at the AbattoirMy Profile

  • July 22, 2014

    I am heartbroken to report that the wifi at my 50 euro a night hostel (yup, for a dorm) has wifi so weak I can’t watch your videos! Sob. But I finally got the photos to show up and they had me cackling. Alex can jump so high, and darn if you and Rae aren’t the cutest! Can I be an honorary Orth next time?
    Alex recently posted..A Scuba Playground: Diving in MauiMy Profile

    • July 23, 2014

      You’re already an honorary Orth! You fit right in 😉

  • July 22, 2014

    You packed a suitcase filled with costumes?!? I WANT TO GO ON A ROAD TRIP WITH YOU!
    Diana Edelman recently posted..Getting to Slovenia from ItalyMy Profile

    • July 23, 2014

      Oh yes! If I could bring ONLY costumes I totally would. It makes the pictures so much more fun! I’ll add you to the passenger manifesto for the next road trip =)

  • July 23, 2014

    You guys sure know how to have fun! Your road trip looks like it was awesome and I love your video trailer.
    Jennifer recently posted..Drivers…and Jennifer…Start Your Engines!My Profile

  • July 23, 2014

    Love the UnMiniVan idea, road trips are such a great way to explore….I want to hop in a Ford transit now and head out on the open road! Looks like you had a ton of fun, Oregon and the PNW are high on my travel list too…..super fun.
    Red Hunt recently posted..Hiking Along the Lycian Way to Oludeniz Blue LagoonMy Profile

    • July 28, 2014

      The Transit Connect was seriously the perfect vehicle for us! Lots of space, big windows for sightseeing and an awesome sound system for rocking out. We are so grateful to Ford!

  • July 23, 2014

    Fantastic!!! Looks like you had a great time!! We’re planning an American road trip as well.
    You’re right, there’s nothing like taking the long way around. It’s always more beautiful!

    • July 28, 2014

      Where are y’all going on your road trip? Looking forward to reading about it!

      • July 31, 2014

        We haven’t quite mapped it out yet, but New Orleans, Austin, Death Valley, and Chicago are definitely on our list!

  • July 24, 2014

    We’ll be moving to the U.S. soon and a road trip (with costumes!) sounds like a fantastic idea 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • July 27, 2014

    The FOMO of all FOMOs just happened after I watched your movie trailer. a) that was AWESOME and b) I like really, really, really want to be an Orth. c) Can I come next time? PRETTY PLEASE?
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Helicopter Ride Over Glacier National ParkMy Profile

    • July 28, 2014

      a. THANK YOU! We want to be in a movie about ourselves now, having watched the trailer, haha
      b. Done. Honorary Orth-dom granted. You join the ranks of Alex in Wanderland!
      c. YES! OF COURSE!

  • September 30, 2014

    Looks like you all had a great time in your road trip. What a fun way to celebrate the beauty of life through traveling because that is just the best.

    • October 01, 2014

      Traveling IS the best! Thanks so much for reading, April!

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