Winding road leads into the mountains of Yellowstone
Personal Essay

Travel Confessions: “I’ve Visited All 50 States”

For TripAdvisor staffer and dedicated traveler Lindsay Jacobi, visiting all 50 states before 30 was never part of her plan—until one day, she discovered it was already within reach. Here, she shares a few highlights from this bucket-list achievement, including her favorite souvenir (so what if it's kitsch?), which national park lives up to the hype, and why Wyoming surprised her most.

Senior Editor, Jetsetter | @lindseytravels |

See recent posts by Lindsey Olander

50 states is quite the achievement. Was it always part of your plan?

It wasn’t! Two years ago, I planned a trip with one of my best friends from high school to drive Route 66. We met in Chicago, then made our way through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona until we reached our final destination: Santa Monica, California. Two days later, we turned around, this time following a more northern route through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa. In total, we hit 13 states. After that, it got me thinking: “I don’t have that many unvisited states left!” So I made it my mission to complete them all by the time I turned 30.

Chicago, Illinois
Taos, New Mexico
Santa Monica, California

What was your criteria for crossing a state off the list?

I just had to drive in it!

RELATED: 25 Best Stops on an Epic Cross-Country America Road Trip

Were there any standouts?

Before we saw the Grand Tetons, I was mostly looking forward to getting to Yellowstone, but when we stopped in Jackson Hole, I realized I wanted to spend much more time there. The region was so majestic and made driving to Yellowstone so much more enjoyable.

Attending the Alaska State Fair was just a spur-of-the-moment decision my friend and I decided to do after hearing about it from a couple at our hotel’s happy hour. I ended up having a really great time—thus beginning a newfound love of attending state fairs!

While driving through Georgia, we kept seeing signs for “See Rock City.” After the sixth or seventh sign, we figured we’d go check it out. The Seven States Lookout on Lookout Mountain was so unique to see.

I also loved seeing the Simpsons mural in Springfield, Oregon. I’m a huge fan of the show, so being able to visit the settings that inspired the show was pretty awesome to me!

Ski slopes in Jackson Hole with panorama of vintage houses.
Ski slopes in Jackson Hole with panorama of vintage houses.

Which state most surprised you?

Wyoming! No matter what road you were on, the backdrop was just amazing. I could have driven through that state all day. I can’t wait to go back.

RELATED: America’s 10 Best National Parks Worth Visiting

Is there anything you started to collect to remember your visits by?

I used to collect key chains, then postcards, and then I switched to coffee mugs. I now have a cabinet full of assorted kitsch-y looking coffee mugs. One of my favorites is from Flintstones Bedrock City in Custer, South Dakota (which has since closed).

Was there any destination that lived up your expectations? Anything that fell short?

I really loved Yellowstone. We visited during Memorial Day Weekend and I was pleasantly surprised that the park wasn’t super crowded. No matter where you looked, the landscape was stunning—mix that in with all the local wildlife (we even spotted a mother bear with her cubs!) and I couldn’t imagine a better experience. I also took a helicopter into the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, which was so fun and unique. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as in love with Portland, Oregon, as much as I thought I would be. I was expecting to be blown away by the food and the city vibe, but left feeling a bit underwhelmed.

Yellowstone National Park,
Yellowstone National Park,
Yellowstone National Park,

If you could fly back to one state right now, which would it be?

Even though I’ve already been there twice, I’d have to say Utah. I didn’t get to spend as much time there and I really want to see Zion and Arches National Park.


Arches National Park

What was the last state you checked off?

Hawaii. It was just such a long flight from the east coast and not a place I could go to on a long weekend. I ended up choosing Oahu and Maui, because anyone I talked to said I had to tackle the Road to Hana. Before flying out of Honolulu, I stayed at Halekulani (we have a conference room at the office named after the hotel, so I had to try it!) The price was totally worth it. The service was amazing, and it’s still one of the top places I’ve ever stayed. In the end, though, I felt so relieved because I had finally accomplished my goal.

RELATED: The Best Hotels in Honolulu

Halekulani, Honolulu, Hawaii
Halekulani, Honolulu, Hawaii
Halekulani, Honolulu, Hawaii
Maui, Hawaii

What’s next on your bucket list?

To visit all the continents! I still have Antarctica, South America, Africa, and Australia to get to 🙂


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