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  1. Default Dreaming of the open road...

    My best friend and I are currently in high school. Instead of doing a Euro trip or something like that after we graduate, we decided that we want to attempt a cross country roadtrip. We live on the east coast, (in DC, to be specific) and want to spend anywhere from 2-4 weeks traveling in the West. We know we want to visit smalltown America and in general, keep away from the big cities, traffic, and tourist spots that we're surrounded by now. We basically want to go off the beaten path, if not way off it.

    We're planning on keeping this trip anywhere from a very cheap to a little expensive (the little expensive meaning the occasional motel/indulging in good food) and very leniant in terms of a schedule.

    Is this realisitic? We are two teenage girls traveling across the US, and if we're not in extremely populated areas, is that safe? Any advice on convincing our parents about this? Should we get some other people to come with us? What kind of car should we have? Is 2-4 weeks enough time? Should we get a GPS system, or rely on our teenage minds to navigate by a good old map? Any idea how much the whole trip would cost in total (its ok if that's a broad guess)

    We really want to do this, and your help is MUCH appreciated!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Western/Central Massachusetts
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    1,703

    Default Welcome!

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!

    I'll start with the easy part - a regular paper atlas will get you to wherever you want to go. A GPS is good to have when you're in areas that need more detail, such as city streets. I must say that I have yet to use a GPS on any of my trips, and I've been able to find my way around just fine.

    As far as the vehicle - something reliable, that holds what you need to bring with you, and gets decent fuel mileage. Just as there is no perfect vehicle for everyone for commuting, there isn't one perfect vehicle for everyone for taking a roadtrip.

    In general, it takes five days to go from coast to coast, so you would need a minimum of ten days to do a round trip, two weeks being better, and four weeks would be even better.

    This is where we get into budgeting. We often discuss sleeping in vehicles on this forum. If you want to keep costs down, and especially if this is your first long trip, I would recommend instead playing it safer and mixing some camping in with motel rooms. Sleeping in the car involves a lot of variables that you probably would not want to put up with on this trip.

    I have found that a trip runs about $1000 per week, all inclusive. This involves eating right, having good lodging, and fuel and entertainment costs. Remember that everything comes with a tradeoff - you could get cheaper meals, for instance, but you probably won't be eating the healthiest choices if you do.

    Now - what is it exactly that you are expecting to find? And where do you plan on concentrating your trip - the West is a big (BIG!) place, with a lot of great areas to explore.

    Remember that every street is somebody's neighborhood. Beyond that, trust your instincts. If a place doesn't "feel" safe to you, then it is time to move on.

  3. Default

    Thanks for the advice!

    Well, we know we want to go to Northern California, Arizona, and New Mexico, and Oregon. That's a definite. But we also possibly want to stop in Colorado, and Utah as well. We want to go to some national parks, do a lot of hiking, but for the most part, stay in unpopulated areas and experience the cultures and the ways of life in each town we visit. I have NO idea how long it would take to visit all of these places.

    What are the variables you're talking about of sleeping in a car? And also, is camping out next to the car any different in terms of safety?

    And lastly, we really want to get out to the "West" as quickly as possible. How long do you think it would take us to jet it from DC to somewhere like Austin, Texas, or Kansas?

  4. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jamahaff View Post
    My best friend and I are currently in high school. Instead of doing a Euro trip or something like that after we graduate, we decided that we want to attempt a cross country roadtrip. We live on the east coast, (in DC, to be specific) and want to spend anywhere from 2-4 weeks traveling in the West. We know we want to visit smalltown America and in general, keep away from the big cities, traffic, and tourist spots that we're surrounded by now. We basically want to go off the beaten path, if not way off it.

    We're planning on keeping this trip anywhere from a very cheap to a little expensive (the little expensive meaning the occasional motel/indulging in good food) and very leniant in terms of a schedule.

    Is this realisitic? We are two teenage girls traveling across the US, and if we're not in extremely populated areas, is that safe? Any advice on convincing our parents about this? Should we get some other people to come with us? What kind of car should we have? Is 2-4 weeks enough time? Should we get a GPS system, or rely on our teenage minds to navigate by a good old map? Any idea how much the whole trip would cost in total (its ok if that's a broad guess)

    We really want to do this, and your help is MUCH appreciated!!
    That's great you are looking to take a trip across the country! My brother and I are currently doing the same thing (although we're a little older) and having an incredible time. There is a thread under "Roadtrip field reports regarding our trip and we also have a website with our pictures and info about the trip.

    First thing is it gets VERY expensive! Gas is a killer especially if you have a vehicle that does not get great gas mileage. We have a pretty good size van and it costs quite a bit in gas but the trade off is we have a good amount of space for everything. After gas comes food which we are able to get by on very little but we cook almost all of our food with very little eating out or fast food. We probably spend about $25/day total between the two of us on food, but I think most people on here will tell you you would need to budget more than that and they would most likely be correct. We started off thinking similar to you that we would like to check out some small towns and get a slice of life in different parts of America, which we have to a certain extent. However, you will find that towns/cities mean money, especially if you want to get a real feel for the place by eating in a local diner, etc.

    2nd thing is where you will stay. We do almost all of our camping in National forest dispersed camping areas that are free but have very few amentities. Sometimes this means nothing but a plot of land to throw your tent down but no bathrooms so make sure you have a shovel to dig a hole to do your business, no gravel pad for your tent to keep it from getting muddy when it rains, etc. Also, it is not always easy to find these places and we usually have to plan on finding the closest ranger station by about 3pm so we can get maps of the area to figure out where is a good place to camp and have time to get there and set up before dark. When camping like this often times you are the only people in the area and even for us it can be a little freaky sometimes. On our first night out on the trip we were at the Blue Ridge Reservoir in AZ and a couple in a beat up old car drove by our campsite 3 or 4 times, a couple of those after it was already dark out. It seemed odd to us that people who first of all looked a little shady would show up at a campsite after dark on a Sunday night with almost no gear and than camp at the site just one away from us when many other secluded spots were available. We slept in the van that night. Just a couple of nights ago in Montana my brother and I had a fire going after dark when we realized there were 4 sets of eyes staring at us from about 20-30 yards away. When you are all alone in the middle of bear country that can be a little unnerving and we slept in the van that night as well. Overall we have felt very safe everywhere we have been but listen to your instincts and act accordingly.

    So the bottom line is that your trip is realistic if you are properly prepared in terms of money, knowledge and the understanding that you will run into things that you never even thought to be prepared for and need to figure out how to deal with. One thing we have found out is that when we lived in Phoenix my brother absolutely loved the rain. It also rains very little in Phoenix so when it comes you are kind of excited for it. We have now been in rain for the last 3-4 weeks and he is getting better with it, but early on it was a struggle to keep his spirits up when it would rain day after day.

    Last, I would recommend figuring out a way to present it to your parents to somehow make them partners in your plan rather than letting it turn adversarial which is what usually happens with high school/college aged folks and their parents. They will be concerned and also have much more life experience than you do so listen to their concerns and work together to come up with a plan that everyone can live with. If you have any questions let me know!

    Scott
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 10-19-2007 at 12:41 PM. Reason: added the link to the on-going field report

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