To Top

How to Take an 18-Day Road Trip: Where You’ll Go and What You’ll Eat

It was my first time in Miami when she popped the question.

“Do you wanna go on a fully planned road trip?” was the jist of it. The momentous day had finally arrived – I had to answer a question that required absolutely no thought. Instead, all the work was in imagining what I had never imagined before. The pictures of my friend’s hand-scribbled notes were sending my mind racing.

Every glimpse was better than the last. My eyes darted from “The Grand Canyon” to “14-17 hour car ride” to Zion to “San Diego” to Yosemite.” Everything I read had me asking myself a new question.

But before all these, “Can I afford it?” took its usual place at the head of the table. The specter that haunts 99% of the population.

My life had been a little too good recently.

I had just finished an eventful eight-day trip in Costa Rica, and was winding down on South Beach, in front of beautiful blue water. I wasn’t expecting “Do you wanna go on a fully planned road trip?” when I looked at my phone.

I didn’t even realize what that really meant at the moment. I mean, I did, but I couldn’t see the the scope – the potential of it all. After all, I didn’t plan it, I just said I’d go along for the ride, if my wallet could too.

I was still nowhere near as excited as I should have been.

This wasn’t just any road trip, after all, because my friend is a grade-A planner. We were going from New Jersey to California, and passing through 15 states along the way. I was going to camp (for my first time) at several national parks, and see what I knew would be some of the most beautiful sights my eyes would ever be able to see.

And trust me, they’re more beautiful than you could ever imagine. So beautiful, in fact, I had to constantly remind myself that what I was looking at was real.

That probably sounds exaggerated, but it isn’t. You’ll understand a little more the meaning of “breathtaking” after laying your eyes on something like The Grand Canyon for the first time.

It would actually be nice if you could lay your eyes somewhere. At times on the trip, I wished I could just leave my eyes in different places and pick them up later, when they felt satisfied. But I was still in Miami, both aware and wholly unaware of what was to come. I lay back down to continue sunburning, happy as I possibly could be.

Fast forward from January to the month of May. Our lists were made, equipment bought and food shopped. We loaded the car at 5 a.m. and took off. Ahead of us was 18 days of pure adventure, coffee and Red Bull.

Now I’m going to tell you how we did it, and more importantly, what we ate along the way. Every hard part was easier than I thought it would be, and every single part was more enjoyable than I ever could have imagined.

Here’s some information to get you planning your own:


Food We Brought or Bought Along the Way:

  • Canned fish/chicken
  • Actual chicken
  • Beef jerky (try toasting it over the fire!)
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Peppers/onions/tomatoes/other vegetables to cook with and make into salads (you can buy these along the way so they’re fresh)
  • Rice (we measured out the rice and water with a ladle)
  • Sausages
  • Peanut butter
  • Oatmeal packets
  • Tea/Instant Coffee
  • Honey
  • Ingredients for S’mores
  • Spices: garlic powder and cumin (bring whatever spices you like, these are two that I like and are versatile)

Camping Checklist:

  1. Backpacks
  2. Tent
  3. Ground tarp
  4. Sleepings bags and sleeping pads
  5. Water bottles
  6. Fire starter
  7. Fire steel
  8. Headlamps
  9. Tent flashlight
  10. Whistles
  11. Towels
  12. Collapsible sink
  13. Small cutting board
  14. Cookware and cooking utensils (spatula, tongs, ladle, etc.)
  15. Plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery
  16. Aluminum foil
  17. Garbage bags
  18. Hot gloves
  19. Toilet Paper (in case things get dicey on a hike–we never needed it at the campsites)
  20. First Aid Kit
  21. Knife
  22. Rope (always comes in handy–helped us out when the storage unit we tied on the top our car broke open)
  23. Gorilla tape
  24. Scissors
  25. Water-tight bag
  26. Cooler
  27. Lots of ice (you’ll be buying more all along the way)
  28. Propane grill and several propane tanks (we used at least four or five)

Other Tips and Info:

  • Our road trip spanned 18 days. In that time we travelled from New Jersey to California, stopping at several national parks along the way.
    • For those in the tri-state area, your trip may look similar to ours. We went from New Jersey → Pennsylvania → Ohio → Illinois → Indiana → Iowa → Nebraska → Colorado → Utah → Nevada → California → Arizona → Utah → Colorado → Kansas → Missouri → Indiana → Illinois → Ohio → Pennsylvania → New Jersey
  • The gas for the entire trip costed just over $800. This was split among four people (the more the merrier). We were driving a 2005 Honda Pilot for the space, though it isn’t a fuel efficient car.
  • I spent about $150 food shopping for the trip. This was enough food to last the whole trip, though we actually had a lot left over. Don’t make the mistake of buying too many canned foods and dried goods. Cooking while camping is one of the of the most fun parts! You don’t need any recipes, just simple food that you’ll enjoy more than you can imagine after a 17 mile hike.
  • We spent under a $100 each for motels along the way, though we did spend four nights at a friend’s house in California. Camping reservations were very cheap, and buying an inexpensive America the Beautiful pass will cover all of the parks’ entrance fees.
  • We stopped and camped in White River National Forest, Zion National Park, Great Basin National Park, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia/Kings National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park.
  • We were allowed to make fires at most of the campsites, but have a propane grill handy to be safe.

This isn’t all the information you’ll need, but it’ll prevent a lot of mishaps. Though, even the mishaps were fun. Problems don’t feel so big when you’re standing in front of El Capitan or the General Sherman Tree. They have a unique way of putting you in your place, making you small, while helping you to realize the grandeur of it all.

If you want to take a trip you’ll remember for the rest of your life and you’re strapped for cash, a road trip is what you were looking for.

Be like my friend. Plan it, and don’t forget to ask me if I want to come.

Images provided by Josh Guirguis

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Be Fun