With little vacation time, I try to make the most of my vacation days. Driving from Seattle to Yellowstone and back Memorial Day weekend last year, we figured out a system that helps save vacation days and visit national parks by driving through the night.

Why hadn’t we thought of this before? Taking red-eye flights, trains, and cruises, has been done for years. Of course you do not have to be attentive and let someone else do the work, but it could be done. After doing a similar long weekend road trip to Glacier National Park for the 4th of July, I decided to let you all in on Andy’s and my secret. Here is how we drive through the night.

Driving Partner

Are you an early to bed, early to rise person? Find a driving partner that is a night owl. Maximize drive time and save some money by sleeping on the drive and avoiding that cheap, dingy highway motel.

Road Trip Vehicle

Not required, but it is easier to schedule red-eye road trips when someone can have a good rest while the other is driving. Pack the car like someone is already sleeping; it will save time and and keep you organized. We have Jeep Cheroke, so we fold down the seats and lay out a sleeping pad and bag for the person that is not driving to sleep on. All the gear and baggage is stored along one side of the Jeep and moved to the front seats if both passengers are sleeping in the back.

Baker Climb


Plan the driving schedule ahead of time. After work, early bird drives out of the city until early evening. After stopping for dinner and filling up on gas, we switch. I then go to sleep in the “bed” that was already set up while the night owl drives. The night owl then drives until 2 or 3 am (sometimes even through the night) before joining early bird for a few hours of ZZZs together. Then the early bird wakes up around 5 or 6 am and finishes the drive while night owl sleeps.

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Drive through the night with these red-eye road trip tips.


  • Maximize vacation days and  time at destination.
  • Get an early start to the first day at the destination. The first day is usually getting familiar with the area before the long days start.
  • Less traffic.
  • Catch the sun rise.

Lake McDonald Sunrise


  • If it is a scenic drive, then you may be missing the best part of the road trip.
  • Wildlife is more active.
  • Limited food options.
  • Sketchy/closed gas stations with locked restrooms.
  • Tired for first day of trip.

Even though the lack of sleep can catch up to me, I will always love the red-eye road trip system we have created. It does help that I have a night owl to do the hard part of the drive.

What are your road trip tips?

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