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A $25,000 road trip? Travel companies curating luxury road trips

One of EXP Journey's luxury camp setups. (Courtesy of EXP Journeys)

One of the perks of the great American family road trip — the reason we tolerate spending long days in the car and put up with the backseat whining — is because it’s affordable. A few tanks of gas are far cheaper than plane tickets for a family of four, and campsites or cheap motels make a road trip doable for those who may otherwise not be able to afford a vacation. So the thought of “luxury road trips” may sounds like an oxymoron, but several companies are now organizing them.

Such travel companies include EXP Journeys. Owner Kevin Jackson says they create custom itineraries and can even provide a driver and a guide. Road trips range from $10,000 to $100,000. For example, one recent trip they planned:

“It was a 20 day trip,” Jackson said. “They saw seven national parks, they got to have dinner with one of the last living Navajo code talkers, who was the ex-president of the Navajo nation, which isn’t something you can do by just Googleing online. We had a houseboat on Lake Powell prepared for them with speed boats, fully stocked with food and a cook, jet skis, paddleboards, kayaks. We set up a luxury camp for them in the Grand Canyon. African style safari experience with chef, showers, full queen sized bed. Then they went up to Jackson Hole where they saw Yellowstone and Teton National Park. They got to go behind the scenes at the rodeo and meet the cowboys. We had them stop at the sand dunes and do some ATV riding with sandboards. So just anytime you have a long drive, what’s the opportunity to do something to break that drive up that’s really unique and special.”

RELATED: A history of the great American road trip

Basically, EXP Journeys can make anything happen and get you access to just about anything. If you can to pay for it. Some trips include helicopter rides and if all the campsites are booked at a national park in peak season, they’ll set up their own luxury campground just outside the park just for you.

“Some of the requests we’ve have is to recreate a ‘Westworld’ experience at a ranch in Wyoming, bringing in actors and connecting all of these people together to write a story about a trip,” Jackson said. “So instead of it being just a trip, it’s actually taking people back in time to live an experience versus just going to a hotel.”

For the unfamiliar, “Westworld” is TV show about an old wild west park, where guests pay to dress the part and pretend they’re living in that era. The guests interact with robotic characters that seem very real, though there is no indication that EXP has access to that level of robotic technology yet.

Luxury road trips

Richard Ratay wrote the new book, “Don’t Make Me Pull Over: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip.” He’s dubious of these new luxury road trips, arguing that they’re designed to be cheap. He also thinks part of the experience is getting lost and planning your own adventure.

“My wife and I love to plan these things,” Ratay said. “We love to find those interesting stops along the way. Those little roadside attractions and cool museums. So that planning for me, I don’t want to turn that over to somebody else and I certainly don’t want to pay anybody else to have them do that type of research. It’s something I really enjoy. As for navigation, I just think that the give and take of looking at a road map or even arguing about whether we should go this way or that way. That’s part of the interaction, it’s part of that shared experience that I feel that family road trips should be all about.”

Jackson argues that luxury road trips encourage a certain sector of the population to travel within the US, to explore the more far out corners of America, instead of going abroad like they normally do, where luxury accommodations have existed forever.

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