Planning a Road Trip in Covid Times

Well, perhaps this would be better titled: Planning ANY Trip in Covid times…. such is the level of uncertainty about what will be possible and when…… however…. I personally find planning trips enjoyable, rewarding and uplifting. The planning in itself makes me happy. If the trip happens, then clearly my happiness will blossom and grow even further as the plan becomes reality…. but… even if it doesn’t, I will have extracted happiness from the process that is not negated by disappointment in the postponement or even (surely, not….) cancellation of my plans.

In the autumn of 2019 we undertook a long road trip through the American Rockies.

We had the most amazing time and of course resolved to undertake another one, as soon as possible. 2020 was a write-off for any long trips…. difficult for any trips at all. 2021 wasn’t going to be a picnic…. therefore, we have started to plan our trip – this time to the Pacific North West for the summer of 2022. A long way in advance. But then, we know from our previous trips, that certain things – national park accommodation, for instance, needs booking a year in advance.

We are looking at a trip of just over 2 months and the planning is underway, using much the same process as I used before. A lot of reading. A lot of online research. Guide books. Tripadvisor forums and the expert advice available from locals there. Maps. A hugely enjoyable way to fill a bit of time in lockdown. A lot of time if I’m honest.

The books are:

Pacific Northwest: 1999 (National Geographic’s Driving Guides to America): Devine, Bob, National Geographic Society: 9780792273677: Books

Moon Pacific Northwest Road Trip Second Edition : Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, the Olympic Peninsula, Portland, the Oregon Coast & Mount Rainier Travel Guide: Williams, Allison: Books

Oregon Road & Recreation Atlas 9th Edition: 2020 (Benchmark Recreation Atlases): National Geographic: 0767020001010: Books

Benchmark Washington Road & Recreation Atlas, 8th Edition (Benchmark Road & Recreation Atlas): National Geographic Maps: 9780929591407: Books

What do I mean by the Pacific North West? A round trip starting and ending in Seattle, Washington. A road trip that takes us through Washington, Oregon, and briefly into Idaho and California in the U.S.A. and then a good foray across the border into British Columbia, Canada, including Vancouver Island, from north to south. We will visit several national parks, follow national scenic byways, cross mountains, see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Baker. We have some wildlife opportunities – whales and dolphins and also grizzly and black bears, eagles. We hope to see the grizzly bears feeding on salmon as they leap upstream….. We hope to go to the Pendleton Roundup – the largest rodeo and Native American gathering after the Calgary Stampede, and to see at least one show at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. We want to walk in the higher altitude wildflower meadows, visit the giant redwood trees, see the mighty Columbia River reach the Pacific Ocean as did Lewis and Clark, follow parts of the Oregon Trail as it reaches its end, raft through Hell’s Canyon, a deeper gorge by several thousand feet than the Grand Canyon and which confounded early explorers including Lewis and Clark.

I have used itineraries and ideas in all the books to link together a trip that hits everything we want to do.

Anyway, planning is ongoing. The route more or less decided – probably with some trimming still to go. Over 4000 miles in all.

Nothing can be booked as yet. On the assumption that travel restarts, we can start making bookings in August 2021 for August 2022… The first thing to book will be flights to Seattle. Then, from August of this year, we will need to make hotel bookings for any nights we are planning to spend in the national parks. They book up extremely quickly.

So… I hope that before we set off on this epic trip – inshallah – that we have other trips to write about. However, from time to time over the next year plus, I’ll update the planning for this mega trip as and when there is something of interest to report. Hope you find it of interest and useful.

In fact, we have remade the itinerary 3 or 4 times now as feedback and ideas flow in from the the Tripadvisor forums – ones for each state and also the roadtrips forum. Some amazing people up there and they have really enriched the trip with their ideas. Well worth seeking out their expertise. Some new destinations were added and order of visits were re-arranged so that we hit locations at as peak a time as possible. For instance, the wildflower meadows on the high slopes are largely finished by mid August, so we moved our visits to Mt. Rainier and Mt Hood to the beginning of our trip so that we could see them. Bear spotting in the BC salmon rivers is peak around the last 2 weeks of September, so that part of the trip had to go in there…..

In the end, nothing is perfect. If we arrived earlier, say in July, best for flowers and to avoid smoke from wildfires, we would finish too early for the bears and would miss the autumn colours. If we came later, we would run the risk of snow as October progresses and the rain which is omnipresent in all months…. So, the plan is not perfection, but it’s as perfect for us as we can reasonably get.

Pacific Northwest Trip Roadtrip – Roadtrippers This map will give you the general shape of the trip although the named hotels are just there as placemarkers to the location.