How I Plan a Trip

Planning a trip can be stressful especially when all your friends constantly want you to be the one to plan it. That’s a lot of pressure. Not only are you in charge of all plans, but also you feel some responsibility for the safety and fun of the trip. So where do you begin?


First you have to pick a place and activity. Do you want to camp, hike, swim, climb, mountain bike, or all of the above? Nail down the location and activities and go from there. I use a lot of different resources for trip ideas.

  • Rootsrated  -has a lot of good articles on state specific hikes and camp spots.
  • AllTrails - can help you find a ton of trails that are accessible in your area
  • National Park Service - the NPS and NFS websites have everything you need to know about national parks, forests, and recreation areas that you might be interested in.
  • State Park Websites - Every state in our country has some sort of state park tourism website that should tell all the parks, campgrounds, lakes, and rivers that are open to the public
  • - This is a government run site that is a great resource for finding campsites
  • Instagram - I can’t even tell you the amount of trips i’ve been on that were initially inspired by instagram posts. Follow some outdoorsy folks in your area and metaphorically stalk their movements. You’ll find some awesome places!
  • Local Outdoor Stores - Last but not least, go pick the brains of the employees at your local outdoors store. Nine times out of ten they’ll have a great recommendation for you.

Now that you’ve scouted some locations and activities, make a rough budget and a detailed list.

Your budget doesn’t need to be complicated. Just the basics of how much gas you’ll need for the entire trip (hello google maps!), food budget, spending money, extra wiggle room in case anything comes up like you need to unexpectedly book a hotel cause your camp site is sketchy.
Side note: especially if you are on a ladies only trip: trust your instincts. A woman’s intuition is NOT a joke. If something feels “off”, trust it. Pack it up and get out. 9 times out of 10 there’s a logical reason for you having those feelings. Better safe than sorry even you miss out on a dope campsite. End Side Note.
This will allow you to divide all your expenses between however many people are on the trip and have everyone plan accordingly.

I’m a huge advocate of absurdly detailed lists. I create a google doc with bulleted lists of GPS coordinates, campsite information, grocery lists, and packing lists. It’s also a great way to have a collaborative lists in case your travel companions want in on the planning process. I also make sure that I have my rough timeline sketched out on that same google doc with links to each location/activity so I can easily click into them in case of confusion (and there will be lots of confusion if you’re on a trip with me…)

I think the key to dealing with confusion and stress on a trip is to be well planned in the beginning. If you KNOW you’re going to be okay because you have appropriate plans and supplies in place, it takes a huge burden off you as the trip planner because no matter what, you know survival is possible.

Now that the main logistics are out of the way and you are super psyched to go on your trip. Start the packing and shopping process. I have a usual set of road trip/camping snacks that I stick to, but I also make sure that I meal plan for each day of the trip. If you’re going to be close to groceries/civilization I don’t worry about three meals a day, but I nail down dinner plans (with a rain backup) for every night. It gives me a sense of comfort to know what I’m eating every night along with where I'm sleeping.


My go to food and snacks for all weather include fresh fruit, cliff bars, cheese and crackers, and some freeze dried meals. I would eat the backpacker’s pantry chicken and rice every night of my life it was acceptable. You don’t have to spend a lot to eat well on a road trip. Grab some fruit, raw veggies, and some crackers and you’ll have it made. It’s really easy to eat bad and feel terrible on a road trip so as I’ve gotten older it’s become important to eat well so you can play well.

When you have your bag sitting empty on the ground surrounding by a pile of gear and food it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Don’t freak out. You made a list! Print it out, pull it up on your phone, I don’t care how you do it, but just check off the stuff you’re taking one thing at a time. I usually even have a list of exactly what clothes I’m taking. And so far (knock on wood) I’ve never left an important item at home. Sure I’ve forgotten a few things but these lists are going to make sure you have the essentials. Oh and by the way, If you’ve got all your gear in one place this is the time to take the cliche flat-lay shots of all your gear...we’ve all done it…no shame.

Alrighty. You’ve got the plan, the people, the supplies, and the highway  in front of you. Make sure you have the killer playlist to carry you through all the ups and downs and winding back roads. Spotify is my favorite because you can download your playlists offline so internet isn’t a necessity. Also you can make collaborative playlists so all your friends can add jams to the trip soundtrack.


Lastly, check the weather like your life depends on it. Or at least like the trip depends on it. Keep an eye out especially if you're going to the mountains where weather can change instantly. Be prepared and make sure you don't let rain or storms kill the mood. It's uncomfortable in the moment, but you'll laugh about it later on. 

PHEW. You’re done. All that’s left is to start the car and grab some coffee on the way out of the city.


all photos from Washington State trip 2016

Advice for the First Time Backpacker

I am by definition a novice backpacker. So don't think i've been on some incredible life changing thru hike. I've literally been on two trails. That's it. Though I will fight anyone who says the Fiery Gizard Trail is easy....

My first two trips were such a great learning experience and they've set me up for years of more prepared backpacking. I thought I would share some of my (extremely limited) wisdom for the first time backpacker. 

Go with someone who knows what they are doing.

Make sure you aren’t stuck in the backcountry with someone who hasn’t done the appropriate research about your trip. Make sure you have proper water sources, enough food, you know precisely what paths you are taking, etc.

No matter how tempting it is to go on a jumbled, thrown together, “let’s just GO!” backpacking weekend, I don’t recommend seeking out THAT big of an adventure if you are just as inexperienced as the dumbo planning it. My first trip was planned and executed with incredible precision by a trusted, experienced Boy Scout leader. That’s the type of trail captain you want for your first trip.

Don’t overdo it on your first trip.

You don’t need an expedition the first time you’re dipping your toes in the backcountry waters. I’d suggest keeping your total mileage between 10-15 miles (or less! My first trip was only 6!) with minimal elevation gain. This is most likely your first time carrying all of your belongings on your back for an extended time. Don’t ask too much of yourself.

Borrow. Don’t buy.

Now this is a suggestion I didn’t follow. I knew that when I went on my first trip that I would be using my gear for years to come. But if this a completely new activity for you, I encourage you to try borrow a friend’s gear instead. You can spend anywhere from $250-$1,000 on backpacking equipment (frighteningly easy to do, no matter how absurd that seems), so save your cash and borrow or rent some equipment until you’re ready to make the investment.

For locals, I know that there is backpacking equipment available to rent through ORAC at WKU!

Don’t pack your bag alone.

Ask questions at your local outdoor store, or the ask the trip leader how to pack efficiently. I promise you there will be no judging. Backpackers love to nerd out about their kit. Make sure you learn the method of weight distribution when packing. It’ll make your miles a whole lot easier to bear.


Don’t over pack

If you’ve done any backpacking research you’re going to have already read about weight, weight, weight. Your base weight is important. This includes your entire pack and contents minus your consumables (your food and water). You don’t want to be staggering through the woods with a 7 pound tent, 4 pound sleeping bag and a 2 pound sleeping pad. Keep your essentials lightweight so you have enough room/energy to haul your water and meals. Clothing takes up a TON of room. Try to plan out what you’ll wear each moment of the trip

Subpoint: layer, layer, layer. Make sure all clothing works together and is multipurpose. Bring lightweight layers you can piles on in case of colder temperatures, and then ditch when the sun comes out.

Don’t be so worried about weight that you leave out a few comfort items.

I know this seems to contradict the previous point, but just listen. There are a couple things you might want to bring along to make “roughin’ it” a little bit less…rough! My biggest things are:

Extra pair of camp socks for the evenings. Keep those feet dry and warm at the end of the day!

In-camp shoes. I am partial to Birkenstocks (they are lightweight and easily lashed to your pack) for my camp shoes, but a dollar pair of flip flops are great too. Believe me, after you’ve been walking miles in a day, you are going to want to ditch those chunky hiking shoes and let those barking dogs breathe.

Extra bras and underwear. I’m going to be real (and we haven’t even gotten to pooping out doors yet…..) I’m a sweater. And if I’m hiking or backpacking in temperatures above 75, it’s not going to be pretty. Being able to change into dryer clothing for the night is a major blessing

Share weight when possible.

Coordinate with your trail peeps and make sure you all aren’t packing multiples. You don’t need five stoves, ten canisters of propane, four bottles of sunscreen (well, if I’m with you that may be necessary – redhead problems.), and three water filters. You only need one of each with maybe a few backups depending on the trip. Communication is key.

If you’re cool with sharing tents, split up the poles/rainfly/tent into two or three hiker’s packs. That way one person isn’t stuck with the full weight.

No bathrooms. Don’t freak out.

Pooping in the woods is inevitable. And it’s weird. But here’s the thing, you’re going to be way more uncomfortable if you try to hold it. Fight through the fact that you’re going to be naked and feeling a little too vulnerable. It’s honestly not as bad after the first time. Make sure you learn how to dig a “cat hole” and bring a tiny trowel to share with the group. You’re gonna feel super proud of yourself after you take care of backwoods business. And for you ladies who may be dealing with Mother Nature on a trip, bring plenty of plastic baggies to carry out your trash, don’t bury that non-biodegradable stuff.

Attitude Issues (This one is for me)

I’m mashing three points into one title here.

  • Stay positive and keep complaining to a minimum (unless there’s a legitimate problem obviously!)
    • Everyone is hot, everyone is tired. Point out the great things instead of dwelling on momentary discomfort. No one made you come on the trip!
  • If you are truly struggling, don’t keep it to yourself.
    • You’re companions have no idea If the pace is too fast or you need to break for extra snacks or water. They won’t be able to help if they don’t know! I’ve had full blown panic attacks on trips before, and It was totally okay to take a while and get back to normal. Everyone is going to be so kind and helpful if you give them a chance!
  • If the first trip is awful. Give it another chance.
    • Learn from what made it bad and make the appropriate changes for the next outing. Remember, second or third time’s the charm!

Maybe this list was a no brainer to some, but hopefully it was helpful for someone who's never ventured out for more than a day hike. I think everyone should carry their belongings on their back for a few nights and see how little you actually need to survive.

Happy packing!



It's just the elevation. We aren't this weak.

     This is not the view you want to see when you’ve been on pins and needles waiting to see REAL mountains for the first time in two years. Wet, rainy, and unbelievably cloudy was what Denver had in store for Melissa and I as we landed on the saturated tarmac.

     We planned this trip back in November for Melissa’s birthday. She’d never been this far west before and when we found $50 plane tickets, it was a no brainer that this was how we would celebrate. I talked it up big time how the mountains greet you on the way into Denver International. Yet, all we could see was white fog the entire flight. It was the most underwhelming way to start a hyped up mountain vacation. We prayed that the weather would clear and in the morning we would wake up to the snowy peaks greeting us in the distance.

     We grudgingly stared down the sky as we took the airport bus to the car rental terminals. Unsure of what the weather would be like for the entirety of our trip, we traded up our standard rental car for something more adventurous. There was no hesitation when they offered us a pristine Toyota Highlander. Luxurious, yet rugged. It checked all the boxes.

     Day two did not bring the sunshine, and mountains we had hoped for. It was almost impossible for us to turn our sour moods around. Driving from Longmont (where we were were crashing with friends) into Denver, we screamed at the sky and hurled insults about Colorado in the key of “THIS LOOKS LIKE HOUSTON”,  “I DON’T EVEN THINK WE ARE IN THE RIGHT STATE”. (We both have an unhealthy dislike for the not so great state of Texas).

      As I mentioned in the last post, I am a planner, and a trip not going to plan is extremely stressful for me. I had spent so much time planning different places, parks, and activities for this weekend and almost all of them were getting postponed, cancelled, or switched around. I don’t know why I ever expect that a plan will be executed properly. No matter how meticulous I am, nature doesn’t really care about my agenda. It does what it wants. End of story.  It’s us human’s job to make the best of it and not be a sourpuss the entire time.

     Breakfast helped. And a trip to REI really helped. You just can’t be upset in that place. We stopped at Patagonia, Topo Designs, and had breakfast at a place where the biscuits were as big as my face. Next, we trekked through the Denver Art Museum. It happened to be a day with free admission so we actually lucked out! Art museums have a knack for improving any rainy, dreary day. When we stepped out of exhibits, we had a brighter attitude that matched the sunshine peeking out of the rain clouds. Maybe this place wasn’t as lousy (worthless, useless, trashy……….) as Texas.      


     Rocky Mountain National park greeted us with the sunshine we had wished for. We packed up, grabbed two pairs of snowshoes from a friend (we owe you, Ben!) and headed up to Bear Lake.

     Neither of us had snow-shoed  before, but I think we did pretty well. Except I totally fell within the first ten minutes on the trail. It wasn’t that it was very difficult, I just tried to take a stupid photo with me kicking my leg in the air like an idiot. It resulted in my tumbling over the side of the trail and landing in a snow pile. Got a great photo though.

     I dusted myself off and we marched on to what we thought was Emerald lake. We misread the trails (I’m great at that) and ended up going to a much less trafficked, Bierstadt Lake. No complaints here. We reached a pristine blue lake surrounded by snowcapped peaks, and we had it completely to ourselves. We hung out with the mountain ducks and took a well-deserved break, basking in the views.


      We stayed up there until clouds started rolling in and the skies began spitting snow on our wind chapped faces.  Pizza and warm drinks were waiting for us at the end of the trail. But RMNP wasn’t done blessing us yet. 

     Melissa and I were on cloud nine as we descended from the Bear Lake trail head towards the park’s exit. Spirits could not have been higher, or so we thought. We casually remarked, “the only thing that could make this day any better, would be seeing an elk”. Not even thirty minutes down the road and entire herd of majestic elk began crossing in front of our Highlander. 

     I almost cried. Maybe I did. It was all a blur. These gorgeous animals with their cute little heart shaped butts, hung out where we had stopped our car and we both hopped out to take a better look. I could barely take photos I was so overjoyed. I just wanted to take it all in. The herd finally decided to move on to another area of the park, and we moved on to pizza. What a day.

     Originally I planned to visit Colorado Springs during this trip, but since the weather didn’t cooperate for the first day and a half, we cut that from our itinerary and penciled in Boulder instead. First up was a morning in Red Rocks. I felt like a part of the landscape with how well my hair blended into the desert color palette. We hiked around a few trails near the visitor center and started of more of a major hike before deciding that we were too hungry and slightly dehydrated to continue. Saving energy for a better view later in the day seemed wise.

     We refueled in downtown Boulder, made a return at the local REI, and then headed to a local favorite, The Flat Irons. This hike was not a joke. It was a struggle fest. We had been sleeping at elevation for two nights and we’d been trying to drink as much water as possible, but let’s face it. That Colorado air is thin for “at sea level” dwellers like us. We kept saying, “It has to be the elevation. We aren’t this weak!” as we coughed, heaved, and sputtered up the trail.

     The trail was only about three miles long but it was steep and rocky ascent up 1500 feet with less than ideal oxygen levels. Readers are probably scoffing at us for thinking this hike was hard (and believe me, we felt ridiculous as trail runners blew past us as we heaved), but give us a break. Kentucky and Tennessee are vastly different from arid Colorado.

     Anyway, we continued up, spirits still high even with our ridiculous struggling. We met a nice guy on the trail who warned us a rattle snake was just spotted in front of us. Thankfully we didn’t run into any slithery friends, and instead we got to pet that guys adorable pup. 

     Scrambling up the last hundred feet was a blast. We perched on top of the jagged landscape and ate some cliff bars to ease our stomachs. There was a fair amount of hikers at the top so we all took turns grabbing photos of the view. A girl offered to take a photo of both Melissa and I and we got to talking and even ended up hiking down the trail together. Brenn happened to be visiting from Philly and was hiking on a broken foot. She made us feel like weaklings with all our limbs intact, struggling up the hill. She was a firecracker and it was great to meet and photograph her. Trail people are always the best people.

     We weren’t ready to call it a quits yet. Coffee was in order, and then we drove around trying to find another small hike to end the day. We found a beautiful inner city park and strolled around until day light started to fade.

     Our time in Colorado was finally at an end. The trip didn’t pan out like I’d painstakingly planned, but all the experiences we had were priceless. Don’t let unforeseen circumstances and uncooperative weather steal your joy. Nine times out of ten things will work out and leave you with better memories that you could have hoped.  

P.S. I vlogged the whole trip if you'd like to see more of what we saw!