Road Tripping the US Southwest


Monument Valley viewpoint

I like to think that Dave and I work so well together as travel partners because we each love and hate alternate aspects of the travel experience.

I am obsessed with the planning and research but am completely hopeless with directions and navigation and logistics. Dave finds the planning stages to be tedious and time-consuming but can navigate his way around a city with ease.

It works perfectly for us — I get to indulge in my wanderlust and spend days and days researching places to visit and itineraries to follow, and once I check Dave’s happy with the plan, he makes sure we actually end up where we’re supposed to be.

One of my favourite ways to travel, however, is when neither of us can decide where we want to go next. 

After an amazing six weeks spent in the Pacific Northwest, we had six weeks left on our US visa but weren’t sure where to go next. Whenever we’re in this situation, we simply split the time period into two — Dave decides where we’ll go for the first three weeks, and I do for the second.

Dave and I like different things when we travel — I love quiet towns over cities, whereas Dave prefers somewhere with lots of activities, I like tiny beaches and Dave likes to have somewhere he can run. However, we’re also not very fussy when it comes to travel and are always happy to try something new and go somewhere we’d never considered before.

Dave adores New York City and instantly opted for spending time on the east coast. The first time I visited New York, however, six years ago, I hated it and had no desire to ever return (spoiler alert: I loved it second time around!). I chose to spend my three weeks in the Southwest, road tripping from Arizona to Texas — a region I’ve been desperate to visit for years and a region where, aside from the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, Dave hadn’t heard of any of my planned stops.

I couldn’t wait to revisit New York to see if my opinion had changed, and I couldn’t wait to explore a part of the US that Dave had never considered visiting before.

It was going to be amazing.

Lauren at the Grand Canyon
Pretending to be a daredevil at the Grand Canyon

When it came to planning the road trip, it didn’t take long for me to come up with an itinerary. I’d been dreaming of this part of the US for several years so I immediately knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.

There was just one horrible aspect.

The car hire.

I couldn’t believe how shockingly expensive one-way car hires are in the US.

To rent the car for 10 days, from Phoenix to Austin was going to be $250.

Oh no, wait!

It was actually $1000 once you took into account the one-way hire fee of $750.

In fact, I calculated that it would be cheaper to rent a car for seven days in Arizona, return it, rent a new one to drive to New Mexico and return it on the same day, rent a new one to explore New Mexico and then return it, rent a new one to drive to Texas and return it the same day, and then rent a new one and explore Texas. That ridiculous itinerary of car-changing fun would have saved us $300.

We grumbled and complained and ended up paying around $100 a day for a little car I couldn’t park very well.

Lauren's terrible parking
At least I parked between the lines… right?

Yep, it had been seven years since I’d last driven a car. I had never driven an automatic and I had never driven on the right hand side of the road. Let’s just say it made for an interesting road trip that I found bewildering and Dave found terrifying.

Here’s our route, along with lots of recommendations, should you decide to follow in my footsteps:

The Grand Canyon

Lauren at the Grand Canyon

After flying into Phoenix, we jumped in our super-expensive rental car and drove straight to Flagstaff, our base for exploring the northern parts of Arizona.

Of course, our first stop had to be the Grand Canyon. I’d always felt slightly embarrassed whenever I had to confess I hadn’t yet seen the Grand Canyon and now I can finally say that I have.

We wisely decided to spend the day on the South Kaibab trail and within ten minutes of walking the crowd had dispersed and we had the path to ourselves. We probably saw around 50 people over the space of several hours, which was an unexpected delight. The trail takes you down into the canyon and gave you a completely different vantage point than the canyon’s edge. The hike was incredible though tough, and completely surpassed my expectations.

One of my fondest memories comes from just after I’d completed the hike. Dave had continued hiking further into the canyon without me while I’d headed back alone. Upon reaching the top, I made my way to the edge of the canyon, sat down and dangled my legs over the side and sat in peaceful awe for several hours.

Things to Know

  • We decided to stay in Flagstaff over Sedona as it’s slightly closer to the Grand Canyon, and we rented a private room in a house through Airbnb (£51/$83 a night, book here). Our hosts, Rob and Aude, were super-friendly and also keen travellers so had plenty of stories to share. They were extremely knowledgable about the entire Southwest region and were only too happy to offer tips for our itinerary. The house is located just outside of Flagstaff, which made for an extremely quiet and peaceful experience. We loved it.

  • Entrance to the Grand Canyon is $25 per vehicle for a 7 day pass.

  • Unsurprisingly, food at the Grand Canyon is mediocre and overpriced. Pick up a delicious salad or baguette at the New Frontiers Natural Supermarket in Flagstaff before you leave for much cheaper, and more enjoyable, option.

  • Diablo Burger in Flagstaff has some of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Expect to queue for half an hour as a minimum but it’s definitely worth it. They get extra points for actually cooking the burger medium rare when you ask for it.

Monument Valley

Lauren at Monument Valley
Monument Valley

Monument Valley was a last minute addition to our itinerary when I saw it was only a three hour drive from Flagstaff. I’ve always been keen to visit Monument Valley but assumed it would be too far to visit on this trip. Fortunately it’s right on the Arizona-Utah border.

We had two options for exploring the valley — either stand at the lookout, take photos and drive back to Flagstaff, or take our inappropriate-for-the-drive rental car into the valley  for an 11 mile expedition across the rough, rocky, ditch-filled-with-water-y terrain. Given the prices we were paying, we were obviously going to make the most of our rental car!

Monument Valley viewpoint
The Monument Valley viewpoint

As we inched our way down into the valley, I noticed we were the only ones brave enough to take such a tiny car through the valley — everybody else was driving 4x4s! This was probably for good reason given that it took us well over two hours to drive the 11 miles loop. It was so completely and utterly worth the bumps and terror, though, as we sped through mini-lakes that had water rushing up as far as our windscreen.

Just one day after a visiting the Grand Canyon, I was announcing that Monument Valley was, in fact, far superior, and one of the most stunning sights I’d seen.

Things to Know

  • Entrance to Monument Valley is $5 per person.

  • If you’re short on time you can take an overpriced, overcrowded jeep tour through the valley, though these didn’t look enjoyable. I recommend taking your own car down there for a fun-filled experience — just make sure it hasn’t been raining beforehand.

  • The visitor centre has a restaurant and gift shop. We bought average-tasting sandwiches from the gift shop and were then told the restaurant was only for guests who had ordered from a menu and had to eat our sandwiches in the car.

Arizona Roadside Attractions

Driving down to Tucson, we decided to break up the journey with a few roadside attractions.

Dave at Winslow Arizona
Dave getting excited about being in Winslow…

Our first stop was an indulgence for Dave — a stop in the tiny town of Winslow, famous for being mentioned in Take It Easy, a song by the Eagles. I had no idea what the fuss was about but yes, there was a corner in Winslow that was filled with nostalgic biker couples slow dancing as the song blared out from a nearby speaker.

Lauren and Dave at Meteor Crater
Because you couldn’t walk down into the crater, the visitor centre had an area where you could pose as if you had made it down to the bottom. It was very realistic!

Because Dave got to indulge in his inner music geek, I also indulged in my inner physics geek. Meteor Crater is the largest impact crater in the US (1.2 km across) and the best preserved on Earth, and it was badass. I loved it.

Meteor Crater, Arizona
Meteor Crater from above

Things to Know

  • The Meteor Crater entrance fee is a shocking $16 per person.

  • Finding the Standin’ on the Corner Park in Winslow that has the statue and plays the music can be tricky — it took us over half an hour of driving around in circles before we found it! After many GPS screw-ups, we finally discovered that it’s located on the northwest corner of Kinsley Avenue and 2nd Street.

Saguaro National Park and Sabino Canyon

Saguaro National Park
Cactus madness at Saguaro National Park

My time in Tucson was spent freaking out about the various terrifying creatures that were waiting to attack me — poisonous rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, black widow spiders, Gila monsters and more. Am I selling it to you?

When I wasn’t freaking out about my impending doom I was squealing with excitement at seeing so many cacti, thanks to our visits to Saguaro National Park and Sabino Canyon. I hadn’t ever seen a wild cactus before in my life, so this was particularly exciting for me.

Sabino Canyon
Even more cacti at Sabino Canyon

We hiked for several hours in the dry, desert heat until the water in my bottle was hotter than the temperature of my mouth. It was one of the most unusual landscapes I’m come across, too, with nothing around but cacti, sand, dirt and dangerous animals.

Tombstone

Cowboy in Tombstone, Arizona
A lone cowboy poses in Tombstone

Tombstone wasn’t really on our way to New Mexico, but once I had found out about this super-cheesy Wild West town I decided it was worth the detour.

It was even sillier than I had imagined and I loved it. We visited a cemetery with amusing gravestones, wandered the main street where only horses and cowboys roamed, and smiled politely at everyone who was holding a gun. Unfortunately, we didn’t stick around for their scheduled shootout reenactment, but I’m sure it would have been just as amazing as it sounds.

I have a feeling that Dave thought it was the lamest thing in the world but I absolutely adored it! I love cheesy tourist attractions and Tombstone was one of the best.

Things to Know

  • Tombstone is a 75 minute drive from Tucson and, like most destinations in this region of the world, requires a lot of driving on long, straight highways. Tombstone isn’t particularly well signposted but you’ll know you’re there when you see the huge sign for Boothill Cemetery.

  • The cemetery is definitely worth a visit. There’s no charge to get in and you’ll get to wander around the graves of famous cowboys in the region. Sadly, the original tombstones have weathered away and the replacement ones look… very fake. Still, it was fun to wander around and read the descriptions on the gravestones: “Six-Shooter Jim. 1885. Shot by Burt Alvord” and similar.

  • We ate lunch at the Crystal Palace Saloon and Restaurant and the food was surprisingly great for such a tourist town. Built in 1879 as brewery, the restaurant still has the original bar, though it mostly feels like you’re eating in a kind of Wild West Disneyland. Everyone’s dressed in full costume and the gunfighter actors regularly drop in take photos with people. I found it to be tacky yet amazing.

White Sands National Monument

Lauren at White Sands
Loving White Sands!

I developed an obsession with deserts after visiting the Sahara Desert in Morocco, and White Sands has been high on my list from the moment I first learned it existed. It was one of the strangest, prettiest places I’ve visited.

We rented toboggans that were essentially plastic dustbin lids, some wax and spent hours racing up the sand dunes and sliding back down again at surprisingly high speeds. With never more than around ten other people in the park with us it felt like we had it all to ourselves. We decided to return for sunset, an evening that had us feeling like we were the only people for miles around. We couldn’t see another person, couldn’t hear a single sound. It was one of the best sunsets I’ve experienced, and one of the very few times I’ve experienced total silence.

Things to Know

  • We decided to stay in Tularosa, located an hour away from White Sands. While it’s possible to base yourselves much closer — in Las Cruces or Alamogordo, we couldn’t find any decent affordable accommodation in either cities. Tularosa is a tiny village with a population of just over 2,000, which gave us an insight into small town New Mexico. The apartment we stayed in (£44/$72 a night, book here) was cosy yet spacious, located near to an amazing Mexican restaurant and was extremely quiet at night. My favourite part was being able to stargaze at night, thanks to the low levels of light pollution.

  • Entrance to White Sands National Monument is $3 per person for a 7 day pass.

  • We ate at Mexican restaurant Casa de Suenos every single night that we were in Tularosa. The food was surprisingly great for such a small town, with the chips and salsa being especially good.

 

Roswell

Alien Zone in Roswell
Posing with aliens at Alien Zone

Roswell was another late addition to our itinerary when I realised it would only add a couple of extra hours to our journey. I’d read articles in the past talking about how delightfully tacky Roswell is and I knew it would make for an amazing blog post.

There were aliens everywhere. Inflatable aliens outside of shops, alien t-shirts to buy, alien lampposts, alien parking spots, alien burgers for sale and alien-themed drink dispensers. My favourite part was the dozens of aliens you could pose with at Alien Zone.

Things to Know

  • Entrance to the UFO Museum is $5 per person, and to Alien Zone is $3 per person.

  • The Alien Zone is definitely worth visiting and was the highlight from my time in Roswell. It was tacky and cheesy and left us with our favourite photos from the entire road trip. It was hilarious.

  • The UFO Museum was a huge disappointment — but worth visiting for the comedy value. It’s poorly put together with hardly any information about the crash. Instead, it has dozens of posters with random physics terms thrown together to try and make it seem legitimate. There was even a dry ice/LED spaceship performance in the middle of the room. A visit to the museum is good for laughing at how terrible it is — but not if you want to actually learn about the crash.

 

Big Bend National Park

Little Lauren at Big Bend
Can you see me stood on the rock in the distance?

Big Bend National Park wasn’t somewhere I’d heard of before this road trip. The drive from White Sands to Austin would have taken an entire day and we needed to stop somewhere to break up the journey. Big Bend National Park is one of the largest and one of the least visited National Parks in the US.

Our day of hiking featured incredible scenery, gazing across the Mexico border, trying to cross a stream and ending up sinking to our knees in mud, and nervously stepping over wild tarantulas that crossed our path. Yes, wild tarantulas. It actually pretty much cured my fear of spiders.

Wild tarantula at Big Bend National Park
A WILD TARANTULA

Things to Know

  • There are a few options for where to use as a base for visiting Big Bend, and we decided to go with Alpine, one of the closest options (though still over an hour away from the park entrance). We stayed at the Maverick Inn ($92 a night, book here), which was lovely. We had an incredible free breakfast with so many food options, a swimming pool, daily cleaning, a huge shower and an extremely comfortable bed. I loved it.

  • We hiked the Lost Mine Trail after hearing it’s one of the best introductory hikes in the park. The hike is five miles long and climbs 1000 feet — it was pretty much all uphill. However, the views were absolutely incredible — and despite it being one of the most popular hikes in the park we only saw two other people.

 

Austin

After falling so hard for Portland, Dave and I were both keen to visit Austin — a place we were frequently told is similar. Fortunately, this coincided with Dave’s birthday, so I planned a kick-ass day that involved a tasty salmon-based brunch, watching a film at a super-fancy cinema, sunbathing in a park and then having a typical Austin BBQ where I experienced my first meat coma. There was so. much. meat.

Much like in Portland, all we really did in Austin was eat, as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t take a single photo. I didn’t see as much of the city as I had planned because by the time we arrived, we were so exhausted from the frequent 8 hour drives and having to move every day. The food was incredible, though, and I can’t wait to return to eat my way around all the food trucks!

 

And that was the road trip! I’d like to say that this is the best road trip I’ve ever done, mainly because it was. But I’ve only road tripped twice before in my life — in Australia and New Zealand — so I don’t think a statement like that holds much weight.

But I will say that this is one of the most spectacular regions of the world I’ve visited — and one that I can’t wait to return to. There was so much natural beauty, so many bizarre roadside attractions and so surprisingly few people at most of the attractions (Grand Canyon and Monument Valley excluded). It’s not often that you get to visit an incredible place and find that you’re the one of only a few people there.

So, if you’re considering road tripping in this part of the world, do it! 

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87 Comments

  1. December 7, 2013
    Reply

    Wow…This looks amazing! I would love to road trip America, it seems to be the best way to see the many highlights. Roswell looks interesting but it all does in its own way. Very jealous and I hope that in the near future I can do a similar trip :)

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      I hope so too, Natasha! It’s a pretty incredible part of the world, and yes, road trips are a great way to explore the US! :-)

  2. December 8, 2013
    Reply

    Wow, I actually thought $100/day was a good price for the one-way rental. I’ve often seen them at $250+ (yikes!). Not that I’d pay either, though…

    Anyway, glad you had a great time in the Southwest. It’s one of my favorite regions in the USA and I always love hearing others’ experiences.

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      Wow, $250 a day is pretty horrific! I think the shock came more from the fact that they were charging a $750 one-way fee, which seems ridiculous. If our visa hadn’t been about to expire, I’d have been tempted to drive it back to Phoenix at the end!

      I loved the Southwest and can’t wait to return :-)

  3. December 8, 2013
    Reply

    You’ve seen more of this country than we have. Funny, one of your favorite ways to travel is one I despise most – not knowing where we’re heading next. LOL.. drives me nuts. :P

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      Well, I always make secret plans for where I want to go next… but never end up sticking to them, so it’s all a bit pointless! :-)

  4. Andrew
    December 8, 2013
    Reply

    A rental car tip for next time, make your reservations very early, and then keep checking back. I started off at $830 for our rental from Seattle to San Diego, and by the end paid $430. There is no fee to cancel so you can always switch companies. Also, Fox Rent a car has very reasonable one way fees

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks for the tips, Andrew! We checked Fox rent a car and they were quoting $1500+ for the 10 days. It’s also hard to make reservations early when I travel without plans! It definitely increases the cost when the earliest I can book is less than a month in advance :-)

  5. Yvette
    December 8, 2013
    Reply

    Glad you liked it- I drove around the parks in Moab, Utah just after New Year’s last year and it was one of the best things I’ve done recently. Living abroad is fun, but it really makes me appreciate the diversity of my own country so much more!

    Btw Meteor Crater- I agree, very cool but overpriced, but it’s also a good lesson in just how awesome the US National Park System is (White Sands is under their umbrella too). Lots of land to manage on not much of a budget, but they do such an amazing job at a pretty reasonable rate if you get down to it.

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      I’d be keen to spend a month just in Utah — it looks so incredible and I wish I’d had more time to explore.

      And yes to Meteor Crater. I was expecting to pay a ton of money in National Park entrance fees but was surprised at how reasonable they were. Meteor Crater felt like a rip-off in comparison!

  6. William
    December 8, 2013
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Based on these pictures I have seen in your website, I think you should visit Alaska very soon. Driving on the Dalton Highway with a friend all the way up to Prudhoe Bay (where the Arctic Ocean is) from Fairbanks is one of my top traveling experience in the United States.

    Of course, some people want to drive all the way from Ushuaia, Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA. What they did not realize is that Darien Gap is impassable in Colombia so there is no road between Central and South America.

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      I’d really like to visit Alaska — it looks so beautiful! Dave is actually talking about buying an American school bus and driving it down from Alaska to Argentina :-)

  7. December 8, 2013
    Reply

    Living in New York means no one owns a car. I don’t even have a driver’s license. The last couple of times we tried to rent a car here, we would do so two hours out on Long Island. Because renting cars in NYC is a nightmare. It’s way over $100/day AND THE BONUS IS: you only get 150 miles a day and you cannot leave New York with the car. The price we paid the first time we didn’t realize the mileage limit, I can’t even.

    We always felt like we were getting an incredible bargain when we would be out West and it was “only” $75/day.

    That one-way fee makes every road trip turn into an insane planning mission. Let’s find some central airport so we can drive in a circle and hit all our spots and return the car to the same place…

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      Yep, it definitely seems to be more expensive in the US! In the UK, you could easily get a rental for £15 a day, and the one-way fees are nothing like they are in the US — probably something to do with distances though? :-)

      If we’d had more time I definitely would have done a loop and returned to Phoenix!

      • December 9, 2013
        Reply

        One year some company (I can’t remember which) was moving cars from California to Florida. You could go one way from Los Angeles to Florida for only $1 per day. I wish we had been able to take advantage of that. But it was year end, when we were out of vacation time. That was a great deal for anyone who could use it.

        • December 9, 2013
          Reply

          Wow, that’s a pretty amazing deal!

  8. Ali
    December 8, 2013
    Reply

    And now you’ve probably seen more of the US than I have, and I lived there for 31 years. I love the Grand Canyon, so glad you went there. And when I was visiting a friend of mine in Tucson in high school, his dad dragged us to Tombstone, totally cheesy. I’d love to see some of the other national parks you made it to though, they look gorgeous and I’ve always heard such great things. That tarantula…terrifying!

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      I find that a lot of people neglect to explore their home country — you know, I’ve never been north of London, never visited Wales, Ireland or Scotland, and I lived in England for well over 20 years!

      I’ll be writing lots more about the parks I visited on this trip :-)

      • Coral
        December 8, 2013
        Reply

        This post (wonderfully writing by the way) has just made me want to see more of the USA. And it is true about how we all can neglect our own country. The one thing we have done since our all too short RTW is explore the UK more. In the last year we have visited London, The Cotswolds, the Yorkshire Dales, the Derby Dales, and Brecon in Wales. Short UK breaks are working for us with longer trips to Malta, Turkey and soon Marrakech. Some of them are research (where to live when we downsize to enable us travel more) and some as downtime to recover from a stressful year. And, yes me and my husband will definately be found ‘standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona’ sometime soon.

        • December 8, 2013
          Reply

          Thank you so much, Coral! I’m hoping to return to the UK in 2015 for some time with my family and I have lots of plans to explore much more than I have in the past. It wasn’t until I travelled that I realised just how great travel is in Europe because of the huge amount of budget airlines — I wish I had made more of an effort to see the continent when I was younger!

  9. December 8, 2013
    Reply

    I loved White Sands and of course Grand Canyon. I’ll definitely refer back to this as I hope to visit out west again next year – great blend of storytelling and helpful info.

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      Glad you found it helpful, Raffaella. There’s so much beauty in this part of the world — I want to head back too!

  10. I took my spanish boyfriend on a roadtrip around the Southwest US, as my grandparents live in Mesa for half the year. I scoffed when he wanted to see Tombstone, but it was loads of fun and one of the most memorable days on the trip!

    • December 8, 2013
      Reply

      Isn’t it so much fun? I love cheesy tourist attractions :-)

  11. December 9, 2013
    Reply

    Sounds like an awesome road trip!

    I’ve been to some of these places (like the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley – which is indeed AMAZING), but I need to see more! I’m planning a mini New Mexico road trip sometime next year (I have a friend who just moved to Santa Fe), and I think I will definitely be coming back to this post for suggestions! White Sands and Roswell are already on our list.

    • December 9, 2013
      Reply

      Ah, that sounds amazing! I wish I’d been able to spend more time in New Mexico.

  12. December 9, 2013
    Reply

    Great! Grand Canyon is one of the places I would definitely like to visit someday. Nice and helpful tips for road journeys. You guys seem to have a wonderful time. :)

    • December 9, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Renuka! We had an incredible road trip :-)

  13. December 9, 2013
    Reply

    When we completed our USA Road Trip we really enjoyed the South West part. The Grand Canyon was great (you were lucky you had a day without much smog!) and Roswell was good fun. We were going to go to the meteor site, but as you wrote, it is ridiculously expensive!

    Unfortunately with limited time we had to bypass a lot, but want to make it back in the second half of next year. We really want to see Monument Valley. Can’t wait!

    • December 9, 2013
      Reply

      Meteor Crater’s entrance fee is particularly ridiculous when you realise you can get a 7 day pass to the Grand Canyon for just a few dollars more!

      I felt like I had to bypass a lot, too. Next time, I’m going to spend a lot of time Utah.

  14. December 10, 2013
    Reply

    I recently did a road trip through AZ & UT and loved it. If you ever go back you will need to stop in Utah. Arches & Zion National Parks are breathtaking.

    I loved Tombstone, it was beyond cheesy. I even mailed myself a post card so it would have the Tombstone Post mark. Ha1

    Sorry you missed out on Austin. I went to school at UT, and it is a crazy fun town!

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      That’s awesome! I would have done the same in Tombstone if I’d thought about it :-). Utah is so high on my list!

  15. December 10, 2013
    Reply

    I think you picked a great region for a road trip. The SW US is amazing and has such a mysterious and mystical appeal for me based on the history and geography of the area. If I’d known in time about your trip I would have put you in touch with friends in NM, AZ and Texas.
    Gotta say, though, that you’ve hit more of the SW than I did when we drove through years ago. Lucky you!!

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you! It’s funny because I felt like I was in a huge rush and didn’t see as much as I had hoped to. Road trips are exhausting :-)

  16. December 10, 2013
    Reply

    I think it’s funny you said you felt embarrassed because you had never seen the Grand Canyon. I’m from the US and I’ve never even seen it! That being said, I think once I move back to the US next fall, I’ll need to start planning my own mini road trip!

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      That sounds great! I think road trips are the best way to explore the US :-)

  17. December 11, 2013
    Reply

    Great roundup of your road trip! It was great that we got to meet up when you passed through to Tucson, and I am so happy that you didn’t get eaten by any gila monsters, scorpions, snakes or other lovely desert creatures (you forgot to mention javelinas!) :D

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Dani! I still remember being chased with a dead mouse from your swimming pool :-)

  18. December 11, 2013
    Reply

    I can’t believe you went to Meteor Crater! I had never even heard of it until I wrote about it for Answers last month and it immediately went on my list as a bizarre place I MUST see.

    I also like how you and Dave split your decisions on where to go. Usually with us I’m the only one willing to research so I just decide what we do and Mike goes along with it :)

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Meteor Crater was amazing, you’d love it! :-)

  19. Ryan Brown
    December 12, 2013
    Reply

    Wow. An extensive read, and I loved every bit of it! Brings me back to my own road trip through the Southwest. Many of these places I’ve been to but my trip was a blitz across the US and didn’t stay long in each place.

    And RIPOFF for that car rental! Geez! I think 30 days from St. John’s Newfoundland to Toronto with gas included one way was cheaper than that.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this Lauren, and I am so happy you got to experience the Southwest. It’s other worldly in some places, strangely beautiful in others. And so desolate at times.

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Ryan! :-) You summed it up perfectly, and I can’t wait to spend more time in this part of the world.

  20. Bill DeGiulio
    December 13, 2013
    Reply

    Great roadtrip. Sure brings back a lot of great memories. The US southwest is a great part of the country. Glad you finally got to the Grand Canyon. This was a great read.

    • December 13, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Bill! I can’t wait to explore this part of the world even further :-)

  21. December 15, 2013
    Reply

    It always amazes me that sometimes we have to leave home and travel around a bit in order to really appreciate what we have in our own backyard. I lived in the U.S. for 7 years and while I traveled around a fair bit, I thought I had seen most of what there was to see, or at least most of what I was interested in seeing. Now that I’ve been in Asia for 16 months and we are beginning to talk about our inevitable (if temporary) return to North America, I realize that there is a lot to get excited about because in truth I’ve only seen a tiny slice of what’s on offer. I mean, I haven’t been to ANY of the places you mentioned here… clearly I need to take an epic road trip of my own!

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      That’s true. I never imagined I’d be excited about traveling around the UK but I’m definitely warming up to the idea!

  22. Jeff
    December 15, 2013
    Reply

    Amazing road trip roundup. $750 fee one way! that’s ridiculous. Did you see that couple hugging on that window where Dave was getting excited about being in Winslow picture?

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      I hadn’t spotted that, no. Hilarious!

  23. December 15, 2013
    Reply

    While I live in the States, I have never been to the Southwest before. Will definitely be saving this post for future reference! Thanks!

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      No problem! Glad you found it helpful :-)

  24. December 16, 2013
    Reply

    Great photos!! I’ve driven through this area many times and it’s nice to see a more in-depth look. Yeah, watch out for those extra rental car fees! You can book online for $7/day but then they’ll hold hundreds of dollars on your credit card. And if you book with a debit card (if they LET you, that is), they’ll charge even more.

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you! I’d love to drive across the US for several months but after seeing the prices of rental cars I’ve been put off for a while :-)

  25. December 16, 2013
    Reply

    Found your blog recently and I’m glad this is the first post you’ve published since–I’m from the US and have been dreaming about a road trip just like the one you describe. Thanks for sharing!

  26. December 17, 2013
    Reply

    Am I the only one who noticed the Bald Eagle and the couple making out above Dave’s head in the Winslow photo?? Hilarious.

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Hahaha, I totally hadn’t noticed that!

  27. December 17, 2013
    Reply

    You two sound like loads of fun to travel with. I would love to have been in that car after 7 years of not driving! Sounds like a great U.S. road trip, and thanks for all of the useful information – this post must have taken you days! Love the picture of you at the Grand Canyon – beautiful!

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Jessica! :-) Yeah, I don’t think Dave found it particularly relaxing whenever I took over driving ;-)

  28. December 18, 2013
    Reply

    Tombstone and Roswell look amazing! Tombstone sounds like EXACTLY my kinda place – I need my cheesy touristy things every now and again! Although THAT SPIDER PHOTO SHOULD HAVE A WARNING. I’m terrified of the things. Terrified. I’m going to have nightmares tonight.

    Also, I can’t believe that your time in Tucson didn’t involve any Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion re-enactments. To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement.

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Ah, you’d love both places, Tom!

      Sorry about the spider! When I first took the photo I wasn’t able to look at it afterwards. Now that I’m all fearless I can stare at it all day.

  29. December 19, 2013
    Reply

    Glad you made a way to squeeze in the Grand Canyon and Morocco. We have yet to see these places!

    • December 29, 2013
      Reply

      Morocco? Did you mean Monument Valley? :-)

  30. Irene @ CuracaoRentalHomes
    December 19, 2013
    Reply

    Hello, Lauren! I don’t know where to start. First of all, congratulations on your blog, it’s very thorough, it has great photos, and most of all, it’s filled with honest thoughts. I was checking out the interactive map and reading about your next destinations. I saw that you’re planning on visiting Belize. Wouldn’t you like to visit Curacao, as well? It’s a small island, with a wonderful culture and nice people. If you decide to come, we will welcome you with open arms! Now I should get back to reading about your incidents :)

    • December 29, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Irene! I’m planning on a small island hopping trip through the Caribbean in a couple of months but haven’t decided on the destinations yet.

  31. kj
    January 22, 2014
    Reply

    Lauren…….just a bit of info for you and your followers. Meteor Crater is not part of the US National Park system. It is privately owned. Guess the feds didn’t want to own two holes in the ground in AZ so they stopped with the Grand Canyon.
    Next time you go thru Alpine,TX,(yeah,right) you must visit Kokernot Field. “The Yankee Stadium of the Southwest”. Google it.

    • January 22, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks KJ, I was aware it wasn’t part of the National Park system — that’s why I was saying how terrible the entrance fees to Meteor Crater are in comparison!

      • Nick Squires
        April 2, 2014
        Reply

        Hi Laura,

        Me and my girlfriend have planned a US road trip from New Orleans to LA.

        We have 33 days for our trip and after reading your brilliant blog post, I am worried we have given ourselves too much to do in such little time.

        We are spending some time in New Orleans to get started, then driving to San Antonio to stay on a Ranch for 2 days.

        From there, the rest is still unplanned and I am literally useless at planning these things.

        Car Rental is booked and so are the flights so all is set in stone :S

        Do you reckon we have enough time to see these great sights along the way or do you reckon maybe booking a flight for some of it, as I was really looking forward to exploring california!

        Great blog by the way :)

        Nick.

        • November 26, 2015
          Reply

          Well, we needed around a week to see everything. How long do you have?

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks for the tip, KJ!

  32. Kyoo
    January 23, 2014
    Reply

    I am very surprised that it costed you that much to rent a car!
    I went on a 7800 mile road trip around US for my 2 week vacation from NY and Budget only charged me $750 for the 2 weeks(about $50 per day) for a medium size car – an Impala. Unlimited miles too(I’m sure the owner of the car wanted to sue me after seeing the mileage lol)!

    • November 14, 2015
      Reply

      Was it a round trip, though? Because most of our fee was a one-way hire cost!

  33. April
    July 16, 2014
    Reply

    The famous Grand Canyon, wow! That is just an amazing place to go to and yes it has of the best views to see and how I wish I can come back to that place and maybe have a road trip there too. Thanks for sharing!

    • July 28, 2014
      Reply

      No problem! Glad you liked it :-)

  34. Oshrat
    May 24, 2016
    Reply

    Definitely, bookmarking your blog. I’m planning on solo road tripping the Southwest region, in a few months, and your blog is by far the most helpful one I’ve stumbled across

    • May 27, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Oshrat! :-)

  35. Holly
    June 20, 2016
    Reply

    I recently came upon your blog and I have to say I completely enjoy it! I absolutely love road trips so this post grabbed my attention. You made a couple of stops I haven’t so, I guess I’m going to have to head back to the southwest and explore some more. I was wondering when you were heading from Phoenix to Flagstaff did you go up I-40 or US 89 through Jerome and Sedona? Also, While heading to Roswell from White Sands did you take US 70 or did you head through Lincoln National Forest? Just wondering, because those happen to be on my top 10 list of drives I ever done:) Oh, and have you had a chance to explore Teton National Park and Yellowstone?

    • June 21, 2016
      Reply

      Yep, we went through Sedona on the way to Flagstaff but on the 17, so we didn’t do the whole 89, and the National Forest on the way to Roswell! No Yellowstone or Teton National Park yet, unfortunately!

  36. Tiffany
    April 26, 2017
    Reply

    Hey Lauren,

    I love your blog.
    My husband & I want to do a southwest road trip, maybe less stops than yours due to time.
    This will be my first road trip. I’m confused about camping permits. I found a cool site that lists free campgrounds to stay at near the national parks/monuments. Do I need a camping permit?
    When I tried looking the permits up- I can only find a camp permit site dedicated to certain areas (i.e. grand canyon, zion national park).
    I was hoping you can share some insights & tips about camping. Thank you in advance.

    • April 27, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Tiffany! Sorry, I won’t be able to help — I’ve actually never camped before!

  37. 79Lauren
    May 31, 2017
    Reply

    Thank you SO much for writing about Big Bend! We’ve just altered our entire road trip to pass through there now. Sounds amazing x

    • June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Wow! It’s definitely worth checking out :-) Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  38. Sarah
    May 31, 2017
    Reply

    Thank you so much for this itinerary, Lauren. Heading to the Southwest later this year and I’m planning on following in your footsteps!

    • June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Amazing! I know you’ll have a wonderful time there, Sarah!

  39. Christina A.
    February 1, 2019
    Reply

    I cannot count the number of times, as an American, that I have been at least semi-irritated with the fact that one way car rentals are so much in the USA–somehow they have it set up that round-trip rentals are how you seemingly must rent cars! I’ve needed a one-way rental so many times and opted not to do it because of price.

    Okay, but on more positive notes…lol…your adventure was wonderful! I live in a small town outside of Austin–come back to check out the Austin area. I would happily treat you guys to unique and tasty eats in Austin!

  40. Cathy
    March 25, 2019
    Reply

    Your trip is perfect and we are going to follow it for Arizona and New Mexico. We will be heading to Colorado, Utah, and Nevada after but your itinerary is exactly what I was looking for. Interesting, weird, and fun. We just wanted to take a road trip and not be so serious about it.

  41. Carla St John
    April 8, 2019
    Reply

    Can you tell me what time of the year this was?

    • April 8, 2019
      Reply

      Late August/Early September

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