By Amanda Huffman
Guest Blogger

A military PCS is tackled in different ways by different servicemembers and their families. Some people drive as quickly as possible to their destination. Others divide and conquer — one person takes the kids, the other takes the car and sometimes the household goods. Some people visit friends along the way. And some people take advantage of seeing places they have never been before. My family always tries to make each trip across the country an adventure. We try to squeeze in visits with friends when we can and see new places. Oddly enough, each move we have made has been over 1,000 miles of driving so we have a lot of practice when it comes to road-tripping — and our last three road trips have been coast-to-coast, giving us a lot of opportunities to see new things. 

If you are about to move you and your family to a new location this summer, consider these tips to make your adventure to your new location. 

Plan Your Route

It is important to map out where you want to go. Last summer we drove from Virginia to California —  a drive we had done four years earlier in the opposite direction. And while we saw a lot of cool things on that earlier trip, we didn’t want this trip to be the same adventure. Also, we were not sure when we would be back on the East Coast, so there were a few spots my husband and I wanted to see before we left. Since, we did a Northeast Road Trip in May before we left so many of the things we wanted to see were already checked off.

We used Google Maps to put in our start and end points and then added the spots we wanted to visit to our Google map tracker and kept refining the route as we did more research. This was a multi-step process and I will go into more detail on the steps we took in the next tip. 

I also want to add that, in this last move, we had an electric car to consider, which made planning our road trip an additional challenge. On our original route, we realized there were no charging stations at one of the locations we wanted to visit. And while we could have found a way to make it work, instead we decided to change our route entirely and go north instead of south. 

Don’t Drive Too Far Each Day

I recommend planning for four to six hours of driving each day, depending on where you want to go and what you want to see along the route. I like trying to hit a goal of four to six hours because you can cover a good amount of distance forward. But also don’t be afraid to include an extra day at a location so you can take time to see and enjoy each place you visit. When we drove cross-country, we made sure to only stay in any one location for two nights. But sometimes, because of hotel locations in relation to what you want to do and see, you will need to drive further or shorter distances. Find the right balance that works for you and your family. 

Book Hotels in Advance

My parents like to drive without a plan and while this works for them, when you have a cat and two kids and you are working your way across the country, knowing you have a place to stay along the way gives you peace of mind and a destination to head for. Also, if you book in advance you may be able to lock in a military rate. This may not be available when traveling or booking at the last minute. During my parents’ travels, they have occasionally found hotels booked and have had to continue driving despite wishing they could stop for the night. Do what works for you and your personality. But I recommend knowing where you will stay each night. It will help you answer the infamous question of, “Are we there yet?”

Use Technology

There are great apps that can help you find different things to see along or near your route. I really like Roadtrippers. It allows you to put in where you are going and then shows you tourist destinations along the way. You can also select cities and see what’s available. There is a paid option for the app, but the free option is the one I used and I found it to be a valuable tool. Using internet search engines at home is also a great way to find things. And don’t be afraid to just follow your gut while driving. I have found a number of great unexpected spots that were not part of my plan and were not suggested to me by an app. Instead, we just follow the road signs and keep a look out for tourist spots. 

Don’t Be Limited to the Route the Internet Gives You

Internet maps are focused on getting you to your destination on the fastest route and, while some major interstates have things to see, getting off the main highway and exploring new areas not only lets you see different things, but also get you away from the crowds. However, if you want to go way off the main freeway or your route, make sure it is part of your plan before you head out. You don’t want to end up with a really long drive that could wreak havoc on the rest of your road trip adventure. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Take an Extra Day or Two to See Something New

Lastly, take your time if you can. Spending an extra day or two in a city to do something fun is really worth it. We decided to visit Cedar Point in Ohio on our last road trip and my only complaint is that I wish we had a day to recover from such a fun adventure. We had no rush to get anywhere. We just hadn’t planned it beforehand. 

We ultimately spent 16 glorious days driving through 13 states as a family of four along with our cat adventuring across the country. It was stressful but I also feel it was worth every extra mile we drove. So if you can, take the time to see our beautiful country. 

Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Serviceis the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more. 

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