Summer Road Trip Ideas for Adventure Seekers

Summer Road Trip Ideas for Adventure Seekers

Summer is in full swing, and we know this is the prime season for an epic family road trip!

When planning your road trip adventure, you’ll likely be searching for road trip hacks for kids, summer road trip ideas, a car camping checklist, anniversary trip ideas, or a combination of the above. As artists and illustrators who make a point to travel to the places we make art of, our team at Anderson Design Group can go on the record as folks who’ve put more than a few thousand miles on our automobiles! That’s why we thought we’d take a few brief paragraphs to share our cross-country road trip tips.

National Park Road Trip Ideas

Every summer, millions of Americans hit the road. As they travel, they open their favorite search engines and type in phrases like “waterfalls near me,” “kayaking near me,” “mountains near me,” and “dog friendly hiking trails near me.” Each of these searches may reveal great results for spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment adventures into nature spaces nearby, but the best way to enjoy a National Park road trip is to be methodical and plan it out. (The website for the National Park Service is a great place to start).

When Anderson Design Group artists, writers, creative directors, and employees venture into the National Parks in search of reference material for future art, we always have an itinerary planned out and everything we need to have a good time no matter the conditions (contingency plans in the event of inclement weather definitely help!) Following are five National Park road trip ideas and tips we use when driving from park to park:

1). Hike past the pull-offs. There, we said it. We believe it isn’t enough to just pull over, get out of the car for a few minutes, take some great photos, and then get in the car and drive away. Sure, this is a great way to see National Parks when short for time, but the best National Park experiences come from fully immersing oneself in the park. Sometimes all it takes is a short walk a few hundred feet down a National Park hiking trail to see something truly miraculous and otherworldly.

2). Show up early, leave late. The parks are often the most beautiful and least congested around sunrise and sunset. We highly recommend folks arrive at the park as early as possible. Camp in the park if you can get a reservation. Be there for the sunrise, and explore for a few hours after. When tourists come rushing in between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., that’s a great time to return to the campsite and relax, read a book, make brunch or lunch, or even take a nap. Then, from 4 p.m. to sunset and beyond, that’s the perfect time to get back out and explore more.

3). Don’t ignore the paths less traveled. Every National Park has iconic “must-sees” attached to them (think the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone). However, we’ve found that some of the best adventures and experiences occur on the paths less traveled. They tend to have fewer people on them, they offer more peace and quiet, and they invite a closer connection with nature.

4). Check out the visitor center! Visitor centers are there to help folks have the best experience possible in the park. Such centers often provide crucial safety information and weather reports, so checking in at the visitor center and chatting with a Park Ranger is a wise practice. Plus, rangers can provide excellent insight into things to do, places to see, and wildlife to be on the lookout for.

5). Always have a map! U.S. National Park maps are a great way to keep track of which parks you’ve visited and which you have yet to cross off the bucket list!

Car Camping Essentials

When planning a road trip, the big question is, “What should be on the family road trip packing list?” To make way for the best summer adventure while following the iconic Boy Scout rule of “Be Prepared,” we like to always bring the following items on a summer road trip:

Water in a reusable bottle
Food (including snacks)
Travel documents
Cash + debit/credit cards
Annual national parks pass
Cooler for food storage
Picnic tablecloth
Reusable cutlery/utensils
Reusable plates/cups
Day bag/fanny pack
Comfortable shoes
Insulated jacket
Rain jacket
Camera + batteries
Phone + phone charger
Sun hat
Mosquito repellent
First aid kit
Park map

Packing lists for National Park road trips will differ based on what park one is traveling to (a trip to a park in the northern U.S. will be quite different from a journey to a southern park, for example). But we’ve found the above items are universally useful (and needed) no matter one’s destination.

Road Trip Hacks

There’s nothing more American than a road trip, but how does one put together a road trip budget? Or find road trip games to keep the kids entertained? Or put together a list of solo road trip essentials? Following are some simple road trip hacks that have worked for us in the past:

1). Prepare the road trip vehicle for long-distance travel. Most automobile breakdowns can be prevented by servicing one’s vehicle before the journey. Simple diagnostic checks and maintenance, like checking tire pressure, fluid levels, examining brakes and lines, and so on, can go a long way in keeping the vehicle running smoothly throughout the trip.

2). Plan stops in advance. Rather than just “winging it,” folks should research the places they are traveling to and what interesting points of interest they might pass along the way. Start by identifying the places to see and do, then plan the stops around those highlights.

3). Don’t be afraid to take frequent breaks! As a general rule, when ADG is on the road, we would rather take 3-4 days to travel 600 miles and see a lot of interesting things in-between while stopping several times, rather than taking 3-4 days to travel 1,200 miles and only stopping one or twice each day.

4). Bring the essentials. As mentioned in the previous section, a road trip packing list will differ depending on where one is going. Still, some things are truly essential, like a cooler with water and other beverages, healthy snacks, sun protection, insect repellant, pillows and blankets, maps, and a first-aid kit.

5). Set up entertainment in advance. Audiobooks, podcasts, playlists, in-vehicle movies for the passengers, whatever the road-trip entertainment happens to be, it’s a good idea to set it up before embarking on the journey.

Tips for Road Trips and Exploring Nature with Children

A road trip to a National Park is an iconic family adventure, but how can one keep the kiddos entertained between stops? Five tips include:

1). Be sure to bring road trip games for kids. Fun road trip games can include a number of things, from playing cards to bubbles and plush toys or action figures. And not everything needs to be a game they can play in the car. Bring things kids can play with during stops, like hula hoops and jump ropes. Finally, toys and games don’t always have to take up space! Something as simple as a handful of pipe cleaners could keep kiddos entertained for hours!

2). Bring a coloring book! Few toys and games are as workable for a road trip as a good ole’ coloring book. They take up very little space, and yet they can provide endless hours of fun for children (and adults, too, for that matter). ADG artists created the 63 Illustrated National Parks Coloring Book for this exact purpose! We took our award-winning National Park poster art and redrew each composition by hand to create 64 coloring pages that feature all 63 of the National Parks plus one bonus wildlife page. We also included eight full-color pages with reference imagery of our original poster designs, plus quotes from famous nature lovers like Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir. This deluxe 8.5" x 11" coloring book is printed on gallery-grade drawing paper with perforated pages so you can easily tear out your masterpieces and display them with pride. Created for use with crayons, colored pencils, or felt tip markers, this beautiful and educational book offers hours of coloring fun!

3). Get the kiddos involved in the adventure. A family road trip should involve the entire family, so get the children excited about the destinations by talking about where the family is headed, what is at the destination, and what’s interesting and exciting about it. Tease out what the kids most want to see and do once at the destination, and add those activities to the itinerary.

4). Help the children get involved in the journey with the assistance of the National Parks Adventure Guide! ADG’s best-selling National Parks Adventure Guide is a super fun and USEFUL guide, a must-have for any trip to the National Parks. The updated version includes information on recently-added parks, including New River Gorge, White Sands, Indiana Dunes, and Gateway Arch. The guide features information about each park, tips on things to do in the parks, space for note-taking, fun facts about each park, and of course, a plethora of Anderson Design Group vintage National Park art! The guide also has stickers for each park, so you can place a sticker on the insert of a park every time you visit a new park!

Road Trip Gift Ideas and Souvenirs

Road trips evoke a sense of nostalgia for American travel and a bygone era, the period of the early-and-mid 20th century when the highway system was first put in and American families took to the open road to explore a country that they and generations before them had no affordable or realistic way of seeing and experiencing. Thankfully, we and future generations can live out that nostalgia and that sense of wonder and adventure thanks to the Works Progress Administration infrastructure initiatives and the post-World War II-era industrial boom that gave us our valuable interstates.

For those who come back from a road trip and who want something to celebrate and remember the trip by, our award-winning poster artists created several special collections of original illustrations, all fashioned after vintage poster art, retro art, art deco, mod art, and the “old school” poster designs that were initially created in the 1900s to promote National Parks, national monuments, state parks, and the wonder and joy of American travel.

If you need some inspiration for an upcoming road trip (or if you just returned from one and you’d like a souvenir or road trip gift idea), the following collections have hundreds of original designs that highlight all the best that America has to offer:

American Travel

American State Pride

Legends of the National Parks

63 Illustrated American National Parks

American National Monuments and Natural Wonders

The art in the above collections is available as art prints, canvases, metal signs, notecards, postcards, or mini canvases. Choose from different sizes and framing options to create the perfect medley of art and decor to complement your home, office, studio, man cave, workshop, porch, or workplace. We hope you have a fantastic trip, and we hope you find the art in our collections that inspires wanderlust for the next adventure!

See you on the road,

-Ren Brabenec
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer

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