Global Studies: Advice From the Road
These teachers and AAA Members share travel lessons they’ve learned over the years.
Bonnie and Grant Sinclair describe themselves as normal folks doing extraordinary travels on a limited budget. It’s all true.
Whenever school is out, they hit the road to somewhere. And when they return, they write about their experiences on their travel blog, Our Wander-Filled Life.
Here are their top travel lessons, and how they get the most from their AAA Membership.
Advice for visiting national parks
- Consider more than the big-name parks. Lesser-known parks—like the North Cascades National Park Complex in Washington state—can offer just as profound an experience as their more famous counterparts. “We have learned things that we’re confident we never learned in school growing up,” Bonnie says.
- Do your research. Some tours need to be booked in advance, while some places are off-limits (or have reduced hours) in certain seasons, especially winter.
- Consider an annual pass. It’s a good value. Pro tip: Get it around the first of the month because you can use it through the end of that month the next year (nearly 13 months later).
- Don’t skip the visitor center. Bonnie and Grant almost always watch the video about the park before exploring it. It helps them see the park’s backstory and inspires them to visit places they hadn’t considered.
- Get on a trail. Most parks offer a range of trails, from simple 30-minute walks to multiday hikes. A park ranger can help you find a hike that suits your ability and available time.
- Give animals room to roam. Grant loves taking photos, especially of wild animals. But he is aware of their unpredictability, so he makes sure to keep his distance and follow park wildlife rules.
Travel lessons: the value of AAA
Bonnie has had her AAA Membership her entire adult life; Grant joined in 2010 when they got married. They love the peace of mind roadside assistance offers, though thankfully they haven’t needed it. Here is how they benefit from their AAA Membership:
Hotel discounts and AAA Approved campgrounds. “The amount of hotels that we stay at with a discount more than pays for our membership every year,” Grant says.
Maps and TourBook Guides. Bonnie and Grant use a GPS to navigate their vacations, but they carry paper maps on some trips in case they don’t have a cell signal. They request the guides online to help them plan a trip.
International Driving Permit. They needed this for a trip to Eastern Europe, and AAA made it easy to get one.
The RV life
A great road trip is as much about getting there as about the destination itself. When practical, Bonnie and Grant use their pull-behind RV because it offers the convenience of bringing a second home with them on their vacation.
“You’ve got your own bed, a kitchen, a bathroom,” Bonnie says. “You’re not having to worry about whether it’s clean or comfortable … it’s just yours, and it is what you want it to be.”
The RV also helps them enjoy the outdoors and find comfort amid a busy vacation.
“There’s something so appealing, especially after we tent-camped for years, about being able to put the awning out on the camper, sit in a camp chair, kick your feet up, and just relax and read a book and enjoy a nice, pleasant afternoon outside,” Grant says.
Two keys to travel
Be flexible. Of course, this includes keeping a level head when the unexpected happens (because it will happen). Bonnie and Grant have also benefited from staying flexible in their planning. When they fly, they add extra time so that if the airline seeks passengers to take a later flight, they can volunteer in exchange for travel vouchers. They’ve used vouchers on flights to Phoenix and to Eastern Europe.
Set goals. For a couple who want to see just about the entire world, their 10-year 50-state goal became a helpful vacation-planning tool. “It gave us a way to narrow down, from all the places in the world that we want to see, where we should go next,” Bonnie says. “You may still have to choose from among 10 different places, but at least you have 10 places instead of a thousand.”