Griswold-Worthy Road Trips: Our Deal Experts' Tales

Jun 30, 2015
National Lampoon’s latest installment of the “Vacation” movie series is set to hit theaters just as temperatures rise and households across the country pack their SUVs and station wagons (family trucksters?) in preparation for a time-honored tradition: the summer road trip.

In anticipation for the film’s release – and your chance to win a VIP experience and passes to the premiere – Travelzoo Deal Experts relive their favorite memories from the highway, some worthy of their own Griswold movie:

Last June, two friends and I set off on an eight-day road trip across the U.S. from Chicago to Los Angeles. With only a rough itinerary but no set plans, we stopped at Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. We were enjoying a picnic and game of Frisbee on a grassy knoll near the Grand Prismatic Spring when we noticed a female park ranger -- in her olive green uniform and matching hat -- waiting for us near the parking lot. She scolded us, explaining there was no trespassing and pointed out a signed we’d failed to see, as we were sitting on unstable thermal ground! There was a brief moment where I thought we would wind up in a National Park jail (if that even exists), but luckily, we were just told to leave. -- Meghan Callaghan, Senior Associate Producer

I insisted on taking my mother on a self-guided, two-day road trip around Iceland’s Snaefellsnes peninsula. We got caught in a wild wind and snow storm and had to drive in white-out conditions over the tiniest bridges and cliff-side roads. Our little Suzuki rental was shaking so hard my mom had her fingers gripped on the door handle and eyes closed in prayer! I also got mildly electrocuted by a fence at one point while petting some Icelandic horses. The gorgeous, alien landscape was worth it all. Those views will stay with me forever. -- Jen Lee, Associate Producer in Los Angeles

Every summer my family piled into our SUV and drove 11 hours from New Orleans to the highlands of North Carolina. Every day we would go hiking to different waterfalls or scenic overlooks. One day my parents decided the whole family would go on an aggressive seven-mile hike to a waterfall. As we dried off from swimming and made our way back to the car, the typical tween in me nagged my father for a piggyback ride until he gave in. It wasn’t until we reached the car that my dad realized the keys were no longer on his belt loop. We tried calling OnStar but were out of range, so we were forced to retrace our steps for two miles until we found them in the dirt. -- Mary Walker Baus, Associate Producer in San Francisco

During my last trip to Brazil, I hitched a ride with a friend from Rio de Janeiro to visit the colonial town of Paraty. The BR 101 highway hugs the coastline, offering unparalleled views of the jungle and ocean … during daytime drives. Not wanting to miss a minute of beach time on Copacabana, we hit the road as the sun dipped behind Corcovado. The three-hour drive ended up taking us over six as we were detoured by jaguars and armadillos blocking the road, giant toads and insects falling from trees onto our windshield and finally a police checkpoint where I spent almost an hour alone while my friend was questioned and his car searched. -- Elisabeth Barker, Associate Publisher

When my husband and I booked a Tuscan villa and hired a rental car, I envisioned cruising through vineyards while a light breeze blew through my hair and scarf around my neck as the highlighted route on our map easily guided us to our destination. The reality turned out to be quite less romantic. Our bright red fiat stalled out three times as my husband retaught himself to drive stick in Florence rush hour traffic and the GPS reprimanded us in a terse British accent with each wrong turn. Finding ourselves lost on a desolate mountain that looked nothing like the sprawling villa-dotted destination we saw online. We stopped at the first market we found and used sign language to communicate with the knife-wielding butcher -- who didn’t speak a word of English – only to realize San Giustino Valdarno is different from the San Giustino that I asked our GPS to take us to. An hour apart different.

The upside: Jeff mastered driving stick quickly, we found some amazing sites along the way and after a drive like that, there’s no place better to grab a drink than Tuscany. --  Jaime Freedman, Group Publisher

I’ve been lucky enough to drive historic Route 66 and its many decommissioned-but-accessible sections on more than one occasion. I can say without reservation that my favorite part of “the Mother Road” cuts through the desert southwest from Albuquerque to Barstow, California. In that stretch of road you see some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world, but you’d be missing a truly unique opportunity if you didn’t see one of the quirkiest features of old Route 66: The Wild Donkeys of Oatman Arizona. Oatman is an old mining town that is located along a defunct section of Route 66, and the town’s main draw are the wild burros that are descendant from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors. You may see a lot of tourist-traps along Route 66, but nothing compares to the strangeness of this particular gem on the edge of the Mojave Desert. -- Kevin Kitchen, Producer

Exploring the narrow, backcountry roads is, in my opinion, the best part about being in Ireland, because you never know what you’ll see around the next corner. On a recent trip to the Emerald Isle, we hopped in a car and did the three-hour drive from Dublin to the west coast. The highway is sandwiched by gorgeous, lush fields of green, packs of roaming sheep and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Leaving Galway, we turned off the major roads and mastered driving on the “right” side of the road passed castles, quaint villages and dramatic curves with spectacular views of the Galway Bay. -- Jonathan Rougeot, Senior Producer

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