Boulder to Banff: 7 Road Trip Tips from 3,600 Miles on the Road

Road trips have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Every year, my family and I would drive cross-country to visit family down in North Carolina and out west in Colorado. My fiancé is no stranger to road trips himself. He grew up taking similar voyages from Pittsburgh to Florida every year. Over the summer, we decided to take on our most ambitious trip yet, traveling from Boulder, CO to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Over ten days, our trusted Subaru racked up over 3,600 miles as we made our way through the wild west. We drove from Boulder up to Banff and back down through Glacier, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone National Parks. It was truly an adventure of a lifetime.

Banff National Park – Alberta, Canada

But you don’t have to take on an international road trip to have an epic journey. If you do it the right way, even the most boring of drives can turn into an adventure. Here are a few tips for the next time you hit the open road:

  1. It’s about the journey, not the destination

Your attitude will make or break your trip. Thinking only about the end destination will make every mile to get there feel incredibly painful. But if you focus on the in-between; the wide-open spaces, the car games you’ll play, the throwback playlists you’ll rock out to, each step of the way will be memorable.

Somewhere in Wyoming
  1. Pit-stops don’t have to be boring

One of the best parts about long drives is experiencing multiple places within a trip. Within only a few hours your surroundings can change drastically. Every stop along your route is an opportunity to experience somewhere new. Plan your route through places that you’re excited about. Grabbing a meal or stretching your legs there will help keep your adrenaline up throughout your trek.

Great Falls, MT
  1. Schedule flexibility

One of the biggest road trip mistakes is over-planning. Tight deadlines are not only stressful, but almost sure to fall apart. Give your trip loose guidelines; allowing for bad weather or the chance you stumble upon somewhere that surprises you. Driving from Glacier to Yellowstone, unexpected construction rerouted us on a two-hour detour out of our way. Without a strict schedule, we were able to enjoy the epic views from the unexpected route, taking in sights we would’ve never found from the main road.

Detour through Idaho to Yellowstone National Park
  1. “While We’re Here” vs. “Must-See” Lists

Stumbling upon hidden gems doesn’t always just happen. That’s why doing your homework before you hit the road can payoff big time. Jot down a handful of recommended local spots (coffee shops, restaurants, parks, etc.) in areas you know you’ll be passing through. That way if you’re ready to stop somewhere, you’ll have an idea of where to go that won’t disappoint. We ended up being blown away with the small town of Great Falls, MT after spending the day hiking and exploring some local spots we had found beforehand.

Hiking in Great Falls, MT
  1. Use Your Resources

Planning a road trip can be daunting. But the good news is, you’re not alone. If you’re traveling with a pet, Gopetfriendly is a great tool to find dog-friendly restaurants, hotels, and dog parks to help plan your best route. Roadtrippers is another tool that visually maps your route for you and recommends attractions along the way. These tools do a lot of the heavy lifting so you can have a less stressful drive.

  1. Plan for off the grid

We live in a world where we’re continually connected, until we’re not. Dead spots are a real thing on the road. Always keep a traditional map on hand, or print out directions before you hit the road. Make sure to have offline playlists or throwback mix-tapes ready for when you’ll need them most. Ed Sheeran’s new album on repeat was our road trip soundtrack through Wyoming.

Somewhere in Alberta, Canada
  1. Don’t rush it

Lastly, there’s a difference between road trips and “amazing races” for a reason. Don’t rush it. Enjoy it. With every mile, you never know what you’ll come across next.

Somewhere in Wyoming

Published by From the Road I'm On

Hi friends, I'm Kim. I started writing at an early age, mailing short stories and song lyrics cross country to my favorite penpal, my grandfather. As a journalist and editor by profession, he didn't go easy on me and equipped me with revisions well beyond my years. I credit him with both giving me the writing bug, and challenging me to push my work. Since then, I've written anything and everything I can get my hands on. Articles, social media posts, songs, short stories, academic reports, to-do lists, journal entries, and everything in between. In addition to my own travel blog, From The Road I'm On, I am a regularly featured contributor for Visit Pittsburgh.

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