Going from Alaska to the Atlantic – A dad’s notes on planning an epic summer family vacation

     The Bogles' cross-country trip (Photo Courtesy Author)

    The Bogles' cross-country trip (Photo Courtesy Author)

    We’re not intentionally trying to outdo ourselves, I swear.

    To onlookers though, mainly the readers of my blog and any extremely dedicated followers of my Instagram feed, it might appear that way.

    This all began with a two-week Pacific Northwest road trip in July of 2014 from Seattle to the Redwoods and back again, with time in-between to splash beneath the towering waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge and climb down into Crater Lake and up Wizard Island. Next came a one-way, three-week cross country drive from our driveway in Chester County up over the Rockies, through the sea of orange in southern Utah, into the famed Yosemite valley, and with just enough time to strike a pose in Hollywood before catching a redeye flight home from LAX.

    Last year, my wife and daughters met me in London after I’d spent a week hiking across the north of England for charity with 11 of my dad blogger friends. Together as a family, we visited a good portion of England, Ireland and Northern Ireland over a span of 20 days.

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    We have a hard time with the idea of doing the same vacation twice.

    All of that brings us to this.

    I’m calling it: Alaska to the Atlantic.

    This is not simply another one way cross country road trip, west to east this time, from Seattle to the Jersey Shore. We couldn’t just do that again. Before we pile into a Kia Sedona minivan in Seattle, we will climb aboard the Carnival Legend cruise ship to spend time with the grizzlies, glaciers, whales and wildness of Alaska.

    What might surprise you to learn, if you’ve ever planned a vacation involving more than one location, is that we researched, routed and booked this 3 1/2 week adventure in about four hours one evening toward the end of 2016. We may not have so much as blinked. It was fast and furious and so much fun.

    Sure, some hotels have since been swapped for a better value or bigger space, Hamilton tickets were added for the night we knew we’d be driving through Chicago, and I stubbornly keep looking for a soccer match — ANY SOCCER MATCH — to include along the way, but for the most part this 24 night trip in 13 different locales was signed, sealed and delivered in one marathon night on a pair of dueling laptops and with the old school aid of trusty hardback world atlas.

    But that didn’t mean my work was finished.

    As we inch closer to this start of this trip, I need to chart out a laundry course covering the vast portion of America we’ll be exploring this summer because while I never want us to overpack, we will need to pack for a variety of weather we will probably encounter on this trip — from the chill of an Alaskan glacier to the summer heat lurking in the Badlands. Therefore, I must have a plan in place for doing at least one load of laundry every 3-4 days. That need might dictate where we stay (more hotel changes, possibly) and/or the downtime we will build into our days in each location. I also am going to need a couple rolls of quarters and a handful of detergent pods!

    In addition to locating conveniently positioned washers and dryers, I’m also cataloging independent record stores from coast to coast to fulfill my road trip dream of buying at least one album in each state we visit by a band from that state. Strange I know, but I’m hoping to take advantage of the space afforded to us by a minivan that will end up in my driveway this time as opposed to needing to pack up everything we acquire along the way to fly home. We may or may not have a gaudy cheap piece of luggage acquired on Hollywood Blvd still in our attic from a couple years ago!

    Non-vinyl entertainment is also a consideration for this cross-country road trip because while a lot of the drive will be scenic (I’m looking at you, Glacier National Park!), a lot of it will also be kind of dull (sorry, North Dakota), and a fair bit will take place in the dark of night.

    To keep the kiddos copacetic for long stretches of drive time, we are packing book lights, back issues of a variety of Cricket Magazines and some lightweight paperback books for sure, but also downloading a ton of content from Netflix (yep, you can download certain movies and shows now to watch offline). Screen time limits are generally tossed out the Sedona’s windows on ambitious trips like this once we hit the ‘boring’ states (no offense intended, eastern Wyoming, Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana, much of both Dakotas and of course our dreadful PA turnpike).

    It won’t be all screens all the time though, because we have intentionally been deferring our listening to any of NPR’s Wow In The World Podcasts episodes, so that we can take Mindy Thomas of Kids Place Live and Guy Raz (from one of my favorite pods, How I Built This) with us on our Alaska to The Atlantic family vacation! We also have our fingers tightly crossed that new episodes of WHYY’s brilliant serialized family podcast Eleanor Amplified will drop before or during our adventure! Pretty please?!

    In between all the family-friendly watching and listening, and record shopping, here’s just some of what we will actually be out doing on our Alaska to The Atlantic summer journey:

    Standing atop glaciers in Alaska via a helicopter tour excursion during the Juneau port call of our Carnival cruise, driving our Sedona on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park (this is what I am most excited about!), taking a guided hike well off the beaten boardwalk path to see the ‘Serengeti of North America’ in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, being among herds of bison and big horn sheep in Custer State Park, standing in awe of Mt. Rushmore, visiting Standing Rock and Fargo, exploring the thoroughly American indoor experience at the Mall of America, getting tattoos together (adults only, of course) at an all-female tattoo shop in the Twin Cities, seeing Hamilton in Chicago (this is what my girls are most excited for), taking goats for a walk in a meadow in Holland Michigan, treetop zip-lining at a Go Ape adventure course near Pittsburgh, and finally, concluded the whole shebang with a classic summer day spent at the Jersey shore.

    With any luck, we’ll never run out of clean clothes to wear, find a few bottle of really good root beer and some sweet vinyl, and hopefully, stumble into at least one live soccer match.

    And if tradition holds, we’ll begin to plan for summer 2018 while still enjoying our 2017 adventure.

    How’s the weather in Australia in July? Asking for a friend 😉

    Follow along with us this summer on Instagram!

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