With gas prices their lowest in more than a decade, our family decided a summer road trip was the budget-friendly path to the perfect summer vacation. We drove 175 miles from the brights lights of Chicago to the serenity of Traverse City, Michigan, home to Sleeping Bear Dunes, named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America viewers. Along the way, we passed some of the Great Lakes most adorable seaside towns and learned the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is a great car for the whole family.

Delightful Dunes

64 miles of Lake Michigan coastline make up Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

64 miles of Lake Michigan coastline make up Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Lake-to-table cuisine: fresh Michigan walleye at Grand Traverse Resort's Aerie. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Lake-to-table cuisine: fresh Michigan walleye at Grand Traverse Resort’s Aerie. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Midwesterners have long known about the 64 miles of pristine coastline and mountains of sand that make up northern Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. But when tens of thousands of viewers voted it “the most beautiful place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America, our best kept secret was out. DespiteTMOM Travel Disclosure our hidden treasure being shared with millions, we still decided Northern Michigan had all the ingredients for a perfect summer family vacation- pristine beaches, peaceful hikes, world class cuisine and as an added perk for Mom and Dad… Northern Michigan’s basically the Napa Valley of the Midwest, with its own wine trail. Here’s to summer at the Great Lakes!

We stayed at the Grand Traverse Resort. A spa, indoor water park and outdoor pool, golf and its own beach club meant there was something for everyone in the family. My husband and I had an elegant meal with breathtaking views at the resort’s fine dining restaurant Aerie’s.

Northern Michigan’s Wine Trail

Bower's Harbor Vineyard in Traverse City, Michigan. Photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Bower’s Harbor Vineyard in Traverse City, Michigan. Photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Didn’t know Michigan had some world-class vineyards? Again, it’s a secret Midwesterners like to keep to themselves. With more than 100 wineries spread across 15,000 acres of scenic vineyards, Michigan truly is wine country. What about the kids, you ask? Although kids should not be standing by the tasting counters, they are welcome to walk the grounds and come inside. Some wineries even have toy baskets for kids!

We spent an afternoon visiting a couple of the eight vineyards that make up the Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail. Friendly Midwesterners and breathtaking scenery. What more could you ask for on your Great Lakes Getaway?!

Third Row’s a Charm

We wanted to take a family road trip to the Great Lakes without losing our minds. Since we have three kids and a dog, that meant a third row was a must. Kelley Blue Book named the Outlander one of the “10 most affordable 3-row vehicles”. The Outlander is a smaller SUV, which meant it was a bit cramped in the third row, but it was just fine for our 7-year-old and her buddy, Huckleberry, the family golden retriever. The Outlander’s third row is really best for kids under ten years old.

Mitsubishi Outlander is a good choice for teen drivers. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Mitsubishi Outlander is a good choice for teen drivers. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Teenage Dream

Since I have two teenagers, I also wanted to make sure the car was great for teens. Here are a few tips from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on what to look for in a teen-friendly car. Luckily, the Mitsubishi Outlander had all of them:

  • Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. The Outlander has a 224 horsepower, so there won’t be any drag racing going on in this car.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. No small cars on IIHS’s Best Choices for Teens’ list.
  • Electronic stability control (ESC). It helps a driver maintain control of a vehicle on slippery roads, and extreme conditions. An absolute must-have for Midwesterners, like me, during the winter!
  • Get best safety ratings possible. The all-wheel-drive 2016 Outlander earned a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), receiving four stars in the front crash test, five stars in the side crash test and four stars in the rollover crash test. While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn’t rated the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander yet, the 2015 Outlander received the revered top safety pick.
We enjoyed exploring the maritime history of Traverse City, Michigan. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

We enjoyed exploring the maritime history of Traverse City, Michigan. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

With a 17-year-old occasionally behind the wheel during our drive to the Great Lakes, we particularly enjoyed the lane departure warning and the forward collision mitigation systems. If you’re asking, “What the heck?”, let me explain. The Outlander has a faint sound that goes off if you stray even slightly out of your lane. No need for you to keep pestering your teen about it, the car does the nagging for you! Thanks, Mitsubishi!

The forward collision system is an incredible radar based advancement which means if you get too close to the car in front of you, the car will automatically start to brake. You can adjust it to different distances. Needless to say, with a teenage drive on board, we had it set at the farthest distance. What we really like during our road trip was how it made cruise control a breeze. If another slower car comes into your lane, the Outlander will automatically slow down, and then return to your set cruise control speed, once you’re far enough from the car.

Another automated perk is the wipers turn on automatically and adjust their speeds according to the severity of rain. All these automated features make a road trip truly enjoyable.Standard safety equipment on the Mitsubishi Outlander includes antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag. Optional safety equipment includes lane-departure warning and forward collision mitigation.

Dashboard of the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander. photo courtesy: Mitsubishi

Dashboard of the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander. photo courtesy: Mitsubishi

PROS:

  • 7 passenger seating
  • Remote power liftgate- when you’re hand are full you’ll be grateful! Or when you’ve forgotten where you’ve parked your car!
    easy to use navigation system
  • Heated side view mirrors- great perk when you live in the Midwest!
  • Lane departure warning system
  • Front collision mitigation system
  • Automated wipers
  • Rear-view camera

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