Our close friends and family know we are always planning a trip. Whether it is a weekend in Savannah or a seven-week RV road trip across the US, we just about always have something that we are preparing for. As teachers, determining when to travel is easy for us – we travel during school breaks. Determining where to travel can be much more difficult. That is why we recently set some travel goals for ourselves.
Very broadly, we want to travel just about everywhere. There are a few countries we consider “off-limits” due to local conditions and travel advisories, but otherwise, we’re game to travel anywhere. So, how do we choose where to go next? Often times it is just an overwhelming desire or the timing feels right. Other times, it really is a tough decision.
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Our Travel Goals
In an effort to streamline our travels a bit, we decided to focus on US travel for the next few years. We have currently visited 41 states together. Our goal now: make it to all 50 states (together) before our 10-year anniversary. That gives us about three years to see nine states.
Nine states in three years doesn’t sound too bad, but those states are fairly spread out. We still need to visit Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii. That is four different regions of the US: Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, Northwest and Pacific.
Why this goal focusing on US travel? Because local travel is important. It took us nearly eight years of traveling together before we spent any significant time in the state next door (Alabama). While we love international travel, and are not completely ignoring it, we want to make sure we’ve explored our own country!
One thing we know is that every region of the US and, in fact, every state, is different. Experiencing each of these regions and states is important to us. We want to see what is here that makes our country unique!
And, while this will not be the easiest travel goal to reach, as it is four distinct regions of the US, it should be a fairly easily attainable goal. We really want to be able to say that we’ve visited all 50 states together. Ultimately, it may not mean much, especially to other people, but it means a lot to us!
Layovers Don’t Count
So, what exactly do we have to do for a state to “count?” For the most part, we have to spend the night and/or do something significant. Driving through doesn’t count; airport visits don’t count. And we have to go together.
For example, I (Bonnie) have been to Hawaii. But, Grant hasn’t, so it doesn’t count. We have both been to New Jersey, before we met each other, but we haven’t been together. Also doesn’t count.
Two of our flights have had layovers in Seattle. We even spent the night in a hotel one time, but we still don’t count it. The hotel shuttle picked us up late, we went to the Hampton Inn and slept for a few hours, then went back to the airport. I’m not even sure that we saw much daylight while away from the airport. So, that does not count as a visit to Washington.
In New England, we visited several National Park Sites in Rhode Island while we were staying in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. Since we spent several days seeing several different sites in Rhode Island, we do count it, even though we haven’t technically spent the night there.
We are still figuring out exactly when and how we will see all of these states. Based on where we live, in the Southeast, getting to the Great Lakes region and the Mid-Atlantic isn’t terribly difficult. A day or two of driving will get us to either of those regions.
We already have a plan to visit the Mid-Atlantic, focusing on New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia over our Christmas/New Year’s break this year (2017-2018). And we are tentatively planning to visit the Great Lakes Region next summer (June/July 2018).
We aren’t really sure when we will visit the Northwest. We would like to do a summer 2019 trip, but that will be dependent on having the funds for another long road trip. If that doesn’t work out, then we’ll fly out during one of our week-long breaks and see just the highlights of Washington and Oregon.
Hawaii, of course, is the most difficult and most expensive. We are tentatively thinking about going at Christmas 2018 or 2019. We could also decide to spend our 10th anniversary (July 2020) in Hawaii!
What to Expect from Our Wander-Filled Life
With each trip, we will, of course, share our tips and suggestions for visiting the area, so that your trip can be as good, if not better, than ours! We will continue to focus on National Park sites but will include any other interesting and worthwhile sites that we find.
Budgeting is always a big deal, so we’ll share tips on saving money before and during our travels. We plan to use Hilton Honors Points to pay for our hotel stays on our Mid-Atlantic trip this winter (December 2018-January 2018). Blog articles will include our tips for redeeming points and finding quality hotels in good locations at a good value.
We expect to use Ultimate Rewards Points (or our remaining Delta SkyMiles) for the Hawaii trip. We have been earning these points for about a year now, but haven’t redeemed any. You can certainly expect information from us on the redemption process and making sure you get the most rewards out of your points.
Other Travel Goals
We do expect to be able to visit these four regions on just four trips. And we certainly expect to take more than four trips over the next three years! I think we would go stir crazy if that was all of our travel. Not to mention, we wouldn’t have much to share with you, our readers!
While we are focusing on US travel and visiting these remaining nine states, we are still open to international travel. If the right opportunity comes along, we will take it and enjoy it!
Another travel goal for us in to increase our travel with our families. Hopefully, over the next year or two, we will be able to take some trips with our parents, siblings and nieces. With us traveling so much, we do miss out holidays and family events sometimes. We would love to actually enjoy a vacation with our family rather than missing out on time spent with them.
National Park sites are also still a big focus for us. We somewhat have a travel goal to visit all 400+ units of the National Park Service. A few of them are extremely remote and difficult to get to, so those may not happen. But, we certainly are going to do our best to get to all of them that we realistically can! And, we definitely want to visit all 59 National Parks.
Visiting national parks in other countries is also something that we are interested in. We visited a few in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia and are eager for more. Most every country has its share of national parks, and we’d love to see as many of those as we can!
Your Travel Goals
We encourage each of our readers to set travel goals for yourself. That may mean finally taking a big trip that you’ve always dreamed of or just getting away for a weekend visit to a nearby city.
If you’re not sure where to start with establishing your travel goals, you can look at some travel books for inspiration. My sister is using the book 1,000 Places to See Before you Die in the US and Canada for her travel goals. If you are looking to get out of the country, there is also the original, worldwide version!
Whatever wanderlust you have, we hope that you will find a way to make it happen. If funds are tight, check out some of our articles on travel finance to help you maximize credit card rewards and other ways to save money. If you can’t take time off work, find a day or a weekend to take a short trip.
Most importantly, we hope that you will get out and see the world and find something new to experience!