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  • Writer's pictureJamie

The Plan - How to visit 50 states in 10 years

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Once I had my heart set on visiting all 50 states I had to put a plan together. I am the type that likes to know what to expect. To have control over the outcome. But how exactly do you visit 50 states? At first it was overwhelming. However, once I started putting together a game plan, I couldn't stop.


To start, I downloaded a blank map of the United States, and dropped it into PowerPoint. That may seem like a weird program to use but I know it and it's comfortable for me. Once I had my map, I placed a star into the states we've already visited. If you read the backstory you'll know that any state we've travel to since Matthew and I started dating in 2018 counted as a state visited. All vacations prior were obsolete in our plan. After realizing we had 8 states checked off our list, my map looked pitifully empty. 8 states. Out of 50. That is 42 states that I had to group together and plan to visit. My goal was to have everything done by 2029. That is 11 total years to see each state, but 2021 we didn't travel so it can be done in 10 years.

My next step was to add in the states that I already had booked for 2022. Once that was done I looked at what we could realistically complete on a camping road trip within 10 days.

After I had my camping states identified, it was much easier to see what states could be grouped together. I started by doing those that looked relatively easy to get through. For example, the upper northeast has many small states that are easily traveled between. Once I had a tentative plan, I went online and researched. I looked at a lot of blogs. Looked up must sees in every state. And started mapping it out in google maps. How long would it take? How many nights would I need to stay? It was a process but eventually I had every state outlined (and as you can see color coded).


Now is where the fun really began. After I had my outline and mapped out what year we will visit each state, I started planning each trip. When I made each plan I spent a ton of time reading through reviews, vacation blogs, and tried really hard to ensure we were truly going to be able to experience the states we visited. The plans I am showing are not actually going to be our exact trips. When booking hotels and campgrounds, I've already found it difficult to book exactly where I had expected. Challenges with what is available depending on the time of year we go is also a factor.


2022 Completed Trips:

Georgia - I didn't have individual trip slides when I took this trip but you can read about it here

See our Hawaii vacation here

See this vacation by clicking the link below


2023 Planned Trips:


March - Washington, Oregon, California

Destinations:

Seattle

· Chihuly Garden

· Kelly Park

· Olympic Sculpture Park

· Waterfront Park

· Pikes Place Market

· Underground Streets

Olympic National Park

· Port Angeles

· Hurricane Ridge

· Lake Crescent

· Sol Duc Falls

· Hoh Rainforest

· Ruby Beach

· Kalaloch Coast

Astoria

· Cape Disappointment

· Goonies House

· Oregon Film Museum

· Flavel House Museum

· Lower Columbia Bowl

Oregon Coast

· Cannon Beach

· 3 Capes Scenic route

· Otter Crest & Devils Punchbowl

· Heceta Head & Sea Lion Caves

· Oregon Dunes

Crescent City

· Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor

· Jedediah Redwoods State Park

· Prairie Creek Trail

Lava Beds National Monument

Crater Lake

Mt. Ranier

· Reflection Lake

· Nisqually Vista Trail

· Myrtle Falls

· Ruby Falls

· Narada Falls

· Christine Falls

· Crystal Mountain Gondola

· Tipsoo Lake

· Sunrise Point


I will start by admitting that I learned that I have to research weather a little better prior to booking my vacations. I booked this vacation for March during spring break. Being from Minnesota, I guess I just assume that everywhere else is warmer than here in March. After looking at details for places we planned to visit, we realized several key factors.


1. March is still very much winter. This is obvious at home, but I didn’t realize that it would affect us on a coastal trip.

2. Mountains are snowy. Duh right? Who would’ve guessed that the snow hangs on until July though?

3. Snow chains are required in the National Parks through May. Because we are flying there and then renting a car, we will have to purchase these somewhere prior to entering Olympic National Park

4. Crater Lake receives an average of 43 feet of snow a year, and the roads around the lake do not open until June or July

5. Mt. Ranier has limited roads open into the park in Winter, and even those that open are limited to weekends (luckily the day we will be at Ranier is a weekend)


All of these fun facts are part of the experience, and just pivoted my planning slightly. I ordered snow shoes, snow pants, and good snow boots. Yes, being from Minnesota I did already own snow gear but I don’t do a ton of outdoor hiking in the winter, so I invested in extra warm waterproof clothing. My niece, Matthew and I will be going on this trip, so I ordered these items for all three of us. We have to get in shape for more hiking, in snowshoes and less access via car. The fact that a lot of areas will not be open during this time of the year helped me narrow down our destinations considerably, which honestly was a blessing. The only places that I had to alter are the Olympic National Park, Crater Lake and Mt. Ranier.

We do still plan to do most of what we would have in Olympic National Park, but we will do less hiking at Lake Crescent and Hurricane Ridge, and hopefully spend more time at Hoh Rainforest.


Crater Lake is basically all on foot now. You can still drive to the park, and see the lake from the visitor center, but the roads that go around the lake are completely closed. Our plan is to drive in to the park and snowshoe a short 1.4 mile one way to a lookout.

Mt. Ranier destinations are all tentative, but we hope to see as much as possible in Longmire and Paradise, and potentially join a ranger led snowshoe tour.


Knowing that snow is still a major factor in all three of these destinations, we will have to be flexible and let the weather dictate those parts of our journey.





That looks crazy right? Who plans a vacation with that many itineraries? Again, these are guides. The times were entered so I was able to map and make sure I was being realistic in what I hope to be able to do at each place. We very well may miss some of our planned points of interest, and that is ok. I look forward to seeing how my plans work out or if I need to change my approach.


See how our Pacific Northwest Vacation turned out!


July Camping – Michigan Upper Peninsula

Destinations:

Pictured Rocks

Sault Ste. Marie

Castle Rock


The plan for Michigan is to mostly just enjoy the lake and camping. We will be going the week of July 4th, which means we will find somewhere to watch fireworks that evening. I booked a campground at Wells State Park, just barely across the Wisconsin/Michigan border in the UP on Lake Michigan. We will for sure visit the Pictured Rocks for a day, which is where I had originally hoped to find a campground that would work for this trip. I also tentatively planned a full day outing to head to Sault Ste. Marie on the far eastern side of the peninsula.


***Click below to see how our Michigan Vacation turned out!




July Camping- Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa


Destinations:

Dane County – Wisconsin

Dunes National Park - Indiana

Mammoth Caves - Kentucky

J. Percy Priest Lake - Tennessee

Hawn State Park – Missouri

Waterloo KOA - Iowa


This will be our very first multistate, thousand mile road trip with our camper. Planning a multiple destination camping trip is much harder than a trip to a state staying in hotels and renting a car.


1. Many campgrounds have a minimum of 2 night stays. This doesn’t work when you are stopping to camp on your way to your next destination. Wisconsin was my most difficult place to find a campground, and we were close to just scrapping the stop and driving straight to Indiana (which would have been a full day of just driving)

2. Campgrounds in each state vary on release times for reservations. Some allow you to book a year in advance, some 6 months, some far less. There are campgrounds with first come first serve only option, and that will not work for my sanity for a trip like this.

3. Amenities vary greatly, and each website is laid out differently, so making sure our camper length will work, they have amenities we will need, etc. takes much more time to determine than a hotel would.

4. Driving times are a bigger consideration. Driving and exploring in a car is vastly different than exploring while pulling a 30ft trailer. Planning this trip had to include arriving at the campground, then allowing time to explore the areas and visiting our desired destination. We didn’t plan anything on route between destinations.




See how we did on our first camping road trip by clicking below!


Future Trips:


Now I wasn't kidding when I said I have every state tentatively mapped out. And I am going to post the rest below. I obviously don't have the same detail as those that we are doing this year, where I've already had to book most of this year's accommodations. Hopefully this guide that I've spent countless hours putting together is helpful to someone other than myself. It feels a waste to spend so much time obsessing over my plans not to share it.


Each slide has tentative destinations and the drive time between stops listed.






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