Road trips have been a mainstay for Americans seeking to travel to exciting places and have adventures on their own terms. And with the summer finally upon us, millions of American are planning their vacations and preparing to hit the road.
According to a recent AAA Travel survey, nearly 100 million Americans – 4 in 10 U.S. adults – are planning to take a family vacation in 2019, slightly more than last year. The great American road trip remains a major draw for these families; more than half of traveling families are expected to pack up their cars for a road trip this year.
“In this day and age, what people are looking for is experiences,” said Sam Highley, founder and CEO of All Roads North, a California-based, road trip-focused luxury travel agency. “I think that’s what’s great about a road trip, it still has that sense of discovery and serendipity that most forms of travel just don’t have.”
All Roads North was launched in 2015, to help cater to the growing segment of Americans who seek unique travel experiences, but on their own terms.
“Our main focus is luxury American road trips. We plan multi-destination itineraries throughout the [continental] United States,” said Highley.
Though there are many different ways to travel, and road trips may not be to everyone’s liking, they do offer an experience unlike any other. “Everybody’s road trip experience is going to be different, not only what you see or do on each trip, but you also have the flexibility and space within that itinerary to do your own thing.”
The U.S. has a rich history of incredible journeys and road trips, and according to Highley, these are deeply ingrained in the American culture, which is why he chose to focus his agency on organizing and facilitating cross-country journeys for his clients.
“The clients that we work with tend to be very well-traveled, independent and curious. They’re not looking for a guided tour that has a very rigid schedule. I think a road trip really appeals to them because it has that sense of discovery to it,” said Highley.
But if all you need for a road trip is your luggage, a car and a plan, why bother hiring a travel agent? Well, with so many options available for road trippers, deciding what to do can be an overwhelming task.
“Planning a [traditional] holiday is relatively simple … [but when] planning a road trip, there’s a lot more to consider. You can do as much online research as you like, which is very time-consuming, but ultimately you still don’t know whether you’ll enjoy an area, or an experience more than another. So, I think that side of things is challenging, there’s a huge amount of crawling through information to planning a road trip, Highley said.
“There are so many component pieces to designing a road trip, and I think that can be a little daunting when you’re faced with so many options, to know what the right one for you is.”
All Roads North arranges a very detailed journey guide for clients, which includes not only the fixed component pieces, like hotel accommodations and guided experiences, but also directions, scenic routes, points of interest along the way, places to hike, where they might want to stop for lunch, and even taking care of dinner reservations for them.
“That’s what we’re always trying to do, strike that balance between planning a trip that we have a high degree of confidence will be fantastic for the client, but also continuing to push the boundaries of challenging them and surprising them. That’s what I hope all of our clients come back with at the end of the trip, and that’s often what they say.
“We may, for example, schedule a day where our client is spending time with a local expert learning about something or experiencing something. That’s a fixed part of their itinerary. But the next day, they might be driving from point A to B, and we might give them a framework with information to guide them, but they have the flexibility and independence, during that time, to really explore.”
Wherever their itinerary takes them, Highley hopes that the trip leaves them surprised and gets them thinking about America in a different way. “What I hope and what our clients say after they experience a trip is, ‘Wow! I really didn’t expect Utah, South Carolina, Louisiana, or Maine to be like that. It really surprised me. What an incredibly beautiful area.’”
Highley said the most satisfying part of the process is when he hears from his clients while they’re having a great time. “Hearing from our client, either on the road or when they get back, we’ll get an email or photo of them having an incredible time, and I just love it when people get in touch and share their unique experience.”