One of the most common things I’m asked when I talk about my trips with friends and family is, “How did you do all that in X days?”. It’s a lot of work at first, but once I got the hang of it, I started spending less and less time planning and I’m getting even more fun in. These are the key things I’ve learned so far:
I travel one-way when I can
I used to fly into one state, and fly out of another. Rental cars only charge around fifty dollars to have a different drop-off location (and I often still end up saving money by flying out of a cheaper airport). Now that I’m based in the Bay Area, I travel in a giant loop when I can, so I can have different views and different stops on the return trip. It can be as easy as picking a different GPS route home from your main destination, or you can plan out a few stops.
I go during the off-season
That way I don’t have to deal with the crowds. I’ve been to Yellowstone and Yosemite during the on-season, and it’s amazing how full the park can feel. Double that with a bison jam (which happens surprisingly often in Yellowstone) and you can spend most of your time just in your car.
I’m okay with not sleeping in or hanging around the campsite too long
A lot of people love to sleep in while they vacation. I totally get it, and I do it whenever I’m visiting family back home. However, when I’m on an adventure, I want to get in as much as I can during those precious daylight hours (especially in the wintertime). I wake up early, go to sleep late (I usually get around 6-8 hours) and have action-packed days. I don’t make a hot breakfast (I prefer eating a few hours after I wake up anyways) and get to my campsite around sunset. I usually sleep in on the last day to recover, though.
I make an impossible list
I love getting to a national park, and being overwhelmed by the possibilities! I’d rather pick from my list and miss out on twenty other awesome hikes, than only plan for 3 and they’re closed or I’m not in the mood for any of them anymore. When I first started, I once planned a trip and did minimal preparation for hikes to go on. I spent more time searching for a hike I could do on the map, last minute on the day of, than actually hiking! Now, I keep a book of hikes and travel ideas on me, and am continually adding places to my list.
Vacation days are precious, and life is too short to not go to as many places as you can. I hope this helps you get the most out of your adventures!