Our Pandemic Cross-Country Road Trip

By Sarah Potter

July 23, 2020

We go to Michigan every single summer. When the pandemic hit earlier this year my husband was super concerned we wouldn’t be able to fly to Michigan, and honestly he ended up being right. We had to come up with a Plan B if we wanted to continue on with our annual summer trip. 


I have a lot of experience with road trips. Back before blended life, Fox and I used to go on road trips two or three times a year to California, Washington, and other places. It’s always a ton of fun, so I suggested that we take a road trip up to Michigan. 


Here’s how we prepared for our road trip: 

We planned TF out of our route. 

Ted and I really focused on finding a route that avoided the cities with the highest (or higher) cases of COVID. The fastest route to Michigan takes you through Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan. Not ideal, but it is only 30 hours. 

The next route takes you through New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan. This route is 32 hours. AKA two and a half loooong days. We were really interested in making it in two days or fewer. Which meant we had to have 13-15-hour days. To me, this seemed doable. But it was difficult on my body, so while I did our trip to Michigan in less than two-and-a-half days, the way home we split into three days. 

We avoided highly populated areas. 

Part of planning TF out of our route was picking pit-stops along how are sparsely populated. We stayed the night in Oakley, Kansas. The first night is by far the most Podunk town I have ever been to. The other areas we stayed the night in were also low key compared to my more urban lifestyle, but all things considered, I’m thankful for the low key hotel stays. 

For getting gas and stopping for bathrooms, we avoided gas pumps in breakout cities and searched ahead while driving to make sure we made it to all the gas stops. For the bathrooms, we opted for rest areas and chain restaurants who had very strict COVID-19 cleaning policies. We masked up going into the bathroom, went to the bathroom in shifts, and hand sanitized TF out of ourselves. It was totally stress free during the trip, but planning this all out took a lot of time. 

We pre-made ALL our food. 

Yes, you read that correctly. During our socially distanced campaign trip, I honed my skills for multi-day ice cooler meal planning and translated that into easy to make road trip meals. I made PBJ for the kids (sadly each meal because Fox and Arya are picky AF) along with an apple sauce packet or banana, and a bag of chips. For Ted and I, I created a variety of sandwiches, wraps, and easy to eat meals. Since I’ve been vegetarian because of my Fibromyalgia and Gastritis for the past four months, I focused a lot on healthy fats, and energizing greens and sprouts. For Ted I had to make sure his sandwiches, which contained meat, were chilled throughout the road trip–which was challenging being that it was summer and temperatures were 90-100.

Ted and I need our coffee to make it through the morning. We’re not morning people in the slightest. We opted for a Sweetz Cold Brew growler again and reusable cups for iced coffee. Saved us about $100 in coffee expenses and time spent waiting in a drive through. 

How we packed two weeks of luggage in my Jeep Patriot

The ice chest we had took up half our trunk, and our luggage took up the other half. Fox and Arya ended up being squished into the back seat between suitcases, bags of snacks, pillows, blankets, and luggage that didn’t fit in the back.  In the future, we’ll be looking into getting a top hatch to fit onto my Jeep, should we have to travel again. 

Needless to say, it was a tight fit in the Jeep and when we got to Michigan; we were glad for the space–especially away from one another! We honed in on packing clothes for any climate since temperatures were all over the place once we got to Michigan with only one pair of sandals and sneakers per person, and a limited amount of clothing per person as well since we’d be able to do laundry once we arrived in Michigan.

Fox and Arya are both summer babies and we celebrate their birthdays both at home and in Michigan each summer. So, our packing also forced us to consider how much extra space we needed to leave in our bags and around the car for the return trip. The drive back to Arizona was significantly more packed, to say the least. 

We stayed in hotels with high ratings, and ate the extra cost.

It was really difficult to swallow the pill of $100+ hotels per night, but we kept in mind that we didn’t need to save a ton of money if we wanted a clean, COVID-19 free hotel room. We stayed in chain hotels (normally I stay locally or in Air bnb’s) and paid ahead of time for each nightly stay so we could avoid a longer than needed in-person check-in. 

When it comes to staying the night somewhere during a pandemic that isn’t your home, opt for the highest quality you can afford.

Was all the planning worth it? 

Absolutely. Ted and I questioned whether it was worth it the first few days we were in Michigan and while we were driving, but definitely agree that it was worth it! Just look at some of these photos. Wouldn’t you drive 32 hours to stay in this haven? 

How my body coped with the long drive.

Ultimately, my body did not cope well on the way up to Michigan. I ended up having a few flares-ups while we were there and visited a chiropractor to get myself back in alignment and feeling okay again. This was an unexpected cost of about $80, but worth it to help me stay healthy and enjoy our vacation. 

The drive back home was more tolerable and I could do more stretching with more frequent stops and a focus on comfort versus trying to get to our destination as quickly as possible. 

Cost comparison: Driving vs. Flying 

On average, it costs our family of four around $2,000+ to fly to Michigan and back. That’s a lot of money. For our cross-country road trip, the total cost was a little less than $900 for hotels, gas, and some splurge meals when we were tired of eating home made sandwiches that had gotten soggy by the last day.  

We saved $1,100+ overall. Well worth it and forces us to consider our travel plans when our future baby comes along. 

No one got sick. 

We were overly cautious, very focused on being safe, and taking the time to mask up and sanitize. You can absolutely take a cross-country road trip, or even a safe short car trip to a vacation spot safely without getting sick. You just have to put in the time to keep yourself healthy and plan out your trip. 

Did you take a road trip this summer or maybe you travel a different way?


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