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  1. #1

    Default Help me plan our road trip!

    Hi Guys,

    Had a little look round the forum to answer quite a few questions i've had, but i thought it would be best to tell you what my plans are and to see if you can help :)

    First of all, i'll be coming from the UK. I hope to bring a van load of other people.

    My initial plan is to go from Chicago -> Cali. Please find a map i have constructed of the 'sights to see' so far.

    Here's the dreaded bit, questions!

    - Whats to do between Chicago and Las Vegas (i don't mind bending the route a little)?
    - How many days would you say the trip would take?
    - What is the average $ for a motel?
    - If we were to camp, is there a website for locations and rules regarding where you can camp?

    Just working out fuel costs for an estimated 1800 mile trip.

    I have guessed an average of 25mpg for a rental car at a cost of $3 per gallon. This comes out as just over $200 in fuel.

    This is a direct route, so am aware that driving off the beaten path will increase the cost... but would $400 sound about right?

    Thanks!

    -Rob
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 09-21-2007 at 07:00 AM. Reason: Link Format + Merged Posts

  2. #2

    Default

    Just been looking at plane flights and i can't go direct to Chicago, pants! Looks like the start is Minneapolis instead!

  3. #3

    Default Comments..

    Hello englebert, and welcome to the RoadTrip America forums!

    My first impression is that you're starting in the right direction -- starting to list what you and the other folks you're traveling with might want to see. Keep going -- there are lots more places to see. I'm partial to natural sights, so I'll just note that while you got a first pass, there's quite a bit more from Carlsbad Caverns (a bit south of your route) to Canyon De Chelle, Petrefied Forest, Santa Fe, Red Rock country around Sedona, Saguro Cactus National Park, etc -- all within a couple of hours of your route, just in the state of Arizona alone. You might also look at some of the old "Route 66" guides, which was a famous highway from Chicago to LA. After you've put some more points on the map, the next thing is the hardest part -- lay out a route, realizing you'll not see all that you can or might want to see.

    Hotel prices depend -- upon location, upon demand, and upon quality. A typical rule of thumb is about $40-50 per person per night. I typically stay in the $80/ night range for 2 people. This is typically a good quality, but not fancy hotel, with usually a free continental breakfast in the morning (coffee, rolls and cold cereal). There are several good quality, but not fancy, chains that provide this. However -- if you want a hotel in a very high demand area, such as right on the edge of the Grand Canyon -- you may pay more. (I'd also advise early reservations for this, since these limited hotel rooms fill up quickly). Similarly, a high end hotel can run more than $200/ night with literally the sky's the limit on price.

    Don't forget food as well -- that can run as little as $10-15/ per person per day if you're preparing your own meals, up to $50 per day if you're buying all your meals in restaurants.

    Camping is somewhat cheaper -- a tent or RV site runs in the $10-30/ night range. I typically split my trips between campgrounds and moderate class hotels. There is no single website which provides a listing of all the campgrounds, and rules for where to camp. A good start however, would be to look at KOA (Kampgrounds of America) which are larger, RV-oriented campgrounds of usually good quality, or through the ReserveAmerica web site, which provides a centralized camping reservation site for many of the California and other state campgrounds, or through the US National Parks Website, for campgrounds in the National Park system. State, County and City governments may have their own sites for the campgrounds they operate, and private operators their own as well. In some areas it is possible to just camp anywhere off the road a ways, but those regulations are made on a site by site basis (eg, Anza Borrego Desert State Park allows is in most of the park, but not the Palm Canyon area because of the high use there. Angeles National Forest does not allow this, but Mule Mountain Desert Recreation Area has large areas that you can. etc )

    When I do my planning I use a paper map from the AAA (Automobile Association of America) which provides a paper map of California or another state and lists all the campgrounds they know about. Then I go look to see if there is a website for reservation, or call the phone number to get one. I've stayed in private, county, state and national park campgrounds, as well as BLM (Bureau of Land Management) remote area camps. Reservations are recommended if its a high demand or highly desirable campground (such as right on the beach, particularly in the summer or on a weekend.)

    If you've got a vanful of people, the van may not get quite that good of mileage. You may be seeing 18-20 mpg, depending upon the specifics of the van. For planning purposes, I'd tend to be conservative -- doubling the estimated cost for added side trips is a good start. $3/ gallon is a reasonable estimate for regular fuel, which is probably what a van will need. There are "premium" blends of gasoline which some cars need for a higher performance engine, and this can add another $0.30 per gallon or more.
    I have guessed an average of 25mpg for a rental car at a cost of $3 per gallon.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,319

    Default Welcome!

    Quote Originally Posted by englebert View Post
    My initial plan is to go from Chicago -> Cali. Please find a map i have constructed of the 'sights to see' so far.
    You have an arrow in Massachusetts. Are you planning on going there, too?

    - Whats to do between Chicago and Las Vegas (i don't mind bending the route a little)?
    There are thousands of interesting things to see/do along this route. And numerous routes to choose from. And what I like, might not jazz you at all. It's hard to recommend without knowing anything about you. I suggest getting a good, big paper map of the US and pouring over it, marking national parks, cities, and anything else on it that you would like to see. And then see if a specific route jumps out as the most logical to get you to the places you want to see most. Once you have some more specific ideas, come on back here for our advice.

    - How many days would you say the trip would take?
    Anywhere from a 2-day speed run that will be extremely tiring, stressful, and not allow you a second to play to....well, how much time do you have? It's about 1750 miles so I would want a minimum of 5 days for an average of 300 miles to travel per day. This leaves time to play in the day.

    However, bear in mind that this 1750 miles is on the fastest/shortest route and that might not be the route you choose. For example, if you followed old Route 66, it's closer to 2000 miles and, ideally, I'd want a 6th day for that route.

    - What is the average $ for a motel?
    It depends on what level of luxury/amenities that you want and if you'll be staying in cities or outside of urban areas. I have found lodging in the $40-50 range with a lot of web searching. But I would say that $60-70 is your more likely average. But if you stay in cities, that could quickly jump up to $100 night or more. Motel 6, Super 8, and Days Inn are just a few of the lower-priced chains you might check out if price is a concern.


    - If we were to camp, is there a website for locations and rules regarding where you can camp?

    Reserve America
    will help you find government-owned campgrounds (national parks, national forests, army corps of engineers, bureau of land management, state parks, etc.). Woodall's is a fairly good site for finding more privately-owned campgrounds. You might also check out the recommended books on this site for some good books you can purchase with a lot of good camping information.

    In a nutshell, for the most part you can only camp in designated campgrounds. An exception would be in national forests that do allow some disbursed camping in wilderness areas with strict "leave no trace" rules for campers to follow.

    Fees are usually about $15-25/night per campsite.

    Just working out fuel costs for an estimated 1800 mile trip.

    I have guessed an average of 25mpg for a rental car at a cost of $3 per gallon. This comes out as just over $200 in fuel.
    You said you're hoping to bring a van full of people. I'm not sure that any van will give you that good of mileage. It's probably best to determine what kind of vehicle you will need to rent to carry the number of people and their gear first, and then finding out what the estimated fuel consumption is. But bear in mind that few drivers actually get the mileages the car companies claim their vehicles get.

    This is a direct route, so am aware that driving off the beaten path will increase the cost... but would $400 sound about right?
    Again, this depends on what route you end up taking. It sounds reasonable if you're able to really get 25mpg but with a vanful of people, you might be closer to 15mpg. So it's really too early to say at this point, imho.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    London, England
    Posts
    1,364

    Default Big trip!

    Welcome to the site, nice to see another Brit!
    It is always next to impossible to negotiate a route when there are more than a couple of people involved. In these cases I usually recommend basing the journey on a route developed by a company whose job it is to develop a route which gives you a real cross section of destinations.

    Trek America is just one of many companies.

  6. #6

    Default

    Wow, thanks for the help so far! I will take this on board and share it with my friends :)

  7. #7

    Default

    Hi Guys,

    Had a chance to discuss this and one thing i meant to ask with the route change (starting from Minneapolis opposed to Boston) is that is 2 weeks still OK? I understand starting from Boston would of been really stretching it, but i'm worried two weeks is too long starting from Minneapolis?

    Having said that, if we continued past Las Vegas for a few days and as far as California would that make two weeks too short?

    Cheers! :)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,948

    Default Maybe Denver

    2 Weeks would be enough time to get from Minneapolis to California, but if you want to stop in Vegas for a few day, that will start to put a crunch on your ability to see everything else - Especially Yellowstone which is quite aways from the rest of the sights you want to see.

    To cut down on some of your driving time you might look into flying into someplace farther west. Denver would probably be the biggest hub, but you could also look into some smaller cities in the mountain west.

  9. #9

    Default

    Thanks Michael.

    Having done a quick itinerary of all of the places and how much time it would take to get to them, it kind of kicks Yellowstone out of the equation. It's pretty much a day's extra driving, or perhaps more, just to get to one place.

    There seems to be more things to do further West so i'd rather spend more time there!

    My next question is Aspen. I understand this is quite popular for rich folk, but is it possible to stay there on the cheap? Will it be too cold for camping?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,319

    Default When in the spring are you gonig to be there?

    Here's a chart showing Aspen's average high-low temps. It should give you an idea of what to expect.

    Good call on dropping Yellowstone. As wonderful as it would be to see it, I think it would make your trip way too rushed. I guess you'll have to plan a return trip to the US West?

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