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  1. Default wisconsin to pacific coast and back, 3 weeks, 8 teens

    Hello - I'm planning a road trip for next summer, probably end of July / early August, from Madison, WI to the Pacific coast and back. I'm hoping to be able to take ~3 weeks (20 days) to do the trip, and make a loop from here, heading through South Dakota and the Badlands, through Wyoming to Yellowstone and Grand Teton NPs, then north to Glacier NP, across Idaho and Washington to Seattle, down the Pacific coast, mostly on Hwy 101, to Eureka, CA and the redwoods, then through Nevada and Utah to Rocky Mtn NP in Colorado, then home through Nebraska and Iowa. I don't want to plan much more of a route than this, so we can change our minds about it once we're on the trip and be able to explore without being focused on getting from A to B. I'm hoping to end up with 7 or 8 people on the trip - I have around 10 right now who are interested. We'll all be 18 years old when the trip takes place. The compatibility of the group is obviously an issue we'll have to sort out before the trip - we're all fairly good friends and pretty easygoing people, but to make sure we'd be able to stand each other for that long a trip, we'll take at least one regional trip next spring, maybe two. We'll also sit down and discuss the specifics of the trip - what each of us wants/expects/can deal with, etc. (and, yes, take the quiz), as well as work out the trip's details and logistics. My plan right now is to spend most nights camping, with as few nights as possible in hotels. We'll have a two-burner camp stove and probably a grill, and will cook most of our own food (with occasional stops at restaurants). What vehicles we take will depend on how many people can go - if we have the target 7 or 8, we'll be taking two midsize cars, if less, we can take either a conversion van or a single car, depending on numbers. My main question at this point is whether this plan is feasible time-wise, and whether we'll be able to find campsites without booking ahead (state parks? KOAs?). Also, I've estimated around $720 for gas per car (25 mpg, 5200 mi, $3.20/gal), $10 average per person per night for lodging, $15/person/day for food, plus a little extra for miscellaneous expenses, giving a per person total of around $750 (37.50 per day). Am I missing anything important and is my estimate reasonable?

    Also, btw, I've looked through the thread in "Saving Money on your Trip" about 4 teens in a Passat, and realize that I might get some similar replies to that thread. Mostly, though, I'm looking for advice about camping availability and the timeframe/costs of this trip. As for being young and understanding travel and driving, I've traveled extensively regionally and overseas, and have undertaken medium-distance road trips, all without "adult" supervision, and I am familiar with camping gear, first aid, etc. I'm fairly confident that I can deal with the challenges faced by this trip and that the people I've invited along will also.

    Thanks in advance for your help!
    Last edited by killerrabbit370; 12-23-2007 at 06:33 PM. Reason: changed planned route

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Within Reach

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    I think your basic estimates are almost on target. I would make the per person target for lodging about 50% higher assuming 2 nights camping with 4 people per $20 camp site and 1 night in a motel with 2 people per $70 room, and I think that even with cooking many of your own meals in the morning and evening $20/day/person is more like it. Travelling on a budget is fine, but once the trip becomes too much about saving money and not enough about enjoying the experience, it kind of loses its appeal. So I make it around $900/person just for gas, food and lodging. Then you have to add in the price of admission to the sites along the way. Do get a couple of National Parks Passes, one for each vehicle. They will save you a bundle and can be taken care of before departure. Also, realize that at 5500 miles over 20 days, this may be more driving than you're really anticipating. Especially if you camp, you'll want to be off the road and setting up camp before nightfall. With 8 people, you are not going to be getting early starts, and every stop is going to take longer than if you were just 1 or 2 people, if only from the simple logistics. Then many of the roads you'll be on through the parks and down the coast will be very slow going, especially at the height of the summer season. By the same token, I would think that you would be able to find a campground with room almost every night. Be particularly careful to start looking for one early on the weekends, and have a plan B (i.e. enough money to 'splurge' on a motel) if the need arises. All in all, I think you'll have a great adventure, but go in with your eyes wide open to the reality of the time, money, and effort required and I think you'll enjoy it even more.

    Ooops - final thought, but it's a showstopper. When you say 'teenagers', I assume you mean that the bulk of you are at least 18. If not, such a trip could become quite a bit more difficult.


  3. Default

    Thanks for your help! We'll all be 18 or older by the time of the trip, so thankfully that's not a concern.

    Though our route will likely change considerably between now and July, and even while we're on the trip itself, my preliminary outline has us driving for 3-6 hours on most driving days (according to google maps, which I know may not be the best indicator of driving time). By this estimate, if we can leave by 10AM on these days and spend no more than 2 hours stopped, we can be at our destinations by 6PM, giving us at least an hour of daylight to set up camp. Is that a reasonable estimate, or will it prove unrealistic once we get on the road? That estimate does assume that we have a few days of hard driving (10+ hours) - from here to the other side of South Dakota, from the Redwoods back to Colorado, and from Colorado back home - and that the real road trip will be the parts in the mountains and along the coast. With enough drivers, I'm hoping these days will work out OK, and that we'll probably find a cheap hotel instead of setting up camp after that long a drive.

    Also, my idea was to camp as long as we can stand it and then look for a motel, which hopefully would put us in motels only 1 night out of 5 or so. With that estimate, a $32 campsite (2 tents, 2 cars) for 7 people would be less than $5 per person per night, which would leave $25 per person (by the $10/person/night estimate) for a hotel - a $75 room if we can sleep 3 to a room. Would we be able to have that 3-4 people to a hotel room, and is my estimate for 4 consecutive nights camping overly optimistic?

    Again, thanks for your help!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    The Netherlands

    Default Very long

    You're packing too much imho. For Badlands/Black Hills you already need at least 2 full day to see a bit of it. Same goes for Yellowstone/ GTNP. Even 3 days is very short here. Why don't you try SD-Yellowstone/GTNP; drive to SLC and to Moab. Stay Moab for a couple of days, do some rafting etc. visit Arches, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point. Then drive through Colorado to Rocky Mountain NP and back home. This will fill your 20 days.
    I know, you're young and adventure calls but in your original plan you will be driving most of the time without seeing anything.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Within Reach

    I think your plan is within reach and feasable, although you will be doing a lot of your sightseeing out of the car window, and your time to get out and explore will be limited.

    I think your budget is within the bounds of reason, and you could probably make it work for $750 each, but you will probably be pushing things. Budgeting closer to the $900 would give you a margin of error in case gas actually costs $3.50+ (which I would fully expect this summer), your cars get less than 25 (especially with a car fully loaded with both people and gear), or you start spending a little more time in motels.

    But actually, I don't think that any of that will be your biggest problem. Your biggest problem will be dealing with the size of your planned group. Because of the shear numbers, you are going to have a much harder time simply getting everyone to agree to do the same things. Since much of your sightseeing is also going to be via car window, you are also going to have to make sure that all of the cars involved are on the same page all day. While having more people does help spread the costs out, beyond about 4 people you stop saving much because you also will have to double your expenses. You'll have to find at least 2 campsites or 2 hotel rooms, 2 national park admissions, etc. While I almost never make reservation for lodging on a trip like this, its going to be a little more difficult to find places because of your groups size. Also, while I don't know you or your friends, I do know what my friends were like in high school and college (and still today to a degree), and a trip like this always sounds great on paper, but then getting everyone to actually be on board with the realities and responsibility, like getting enough money saved, tends to be a little more difficult.

    There is one advantage of the group, and that you'll be taking 2 cars, so at least you can mix and match who is spending time with each other in which car, and that will allow some opportunity to split up on the few days where you aren't covering a lot of miles.

    In the end, I think you certainly can make this trip a reality, but there are some significant challengers ahead. Good Luck!

  6. Default

    Thanks for your help everyone! Early next year (next month hopefully) I'll get the group together and we'll discuss all of this - route, expectations, budget, cars, lodging, etc. and finalize everything then. I think I'd like to try and make it all the way to the coast, but part of the trip - for me - is being open to improvisation and not being set on getting to any one place. I'm also planning to have everyone who's going pay me up front around $800 each and then I'll pay for everything on the trip - gas, food, lodging, parks, etc. - and divide the remaining funds equally between everyone (or have them pay the deficit if there is one) at the end of the trip. One of the cars, almost for sure, will be my family's VW Jetta wagon - it should get at least 26 mpg (stick shift) with the gear and a box on top, but unfortunately it takes premium gas - should I estimate closer to $3.50 / gallon for premium???

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default at the very least

    At this point, I think $3.50 is probably a conservative estimate for summer travel, and that is if you are using regular. Figure at least 20 cents more per gallon for premium. I'd probably be looking at a $4 figure for planning purposes. Hopefully it won't get that high, but especially when you factor in the premium cost, it is within the range of possibilities that you should plan for.

  8. Default

    So, an update as to where this stands: many of your predictions came true, the full 7-8 people trip failed to materialize; as of right now, there are two of us committed, and we're trying to find a 3rd person. Gas has gone up significantly (as we all know) - I filled up my Civic at $4.10 a gallon - regular - today (yikes!). I was reading through this thread thinking how nice it would be to have $3.20 a gallon gas... The trip has also been shortened a couple of days due to commitments at home. I guess my question is, is the trip still feasible in 19 days, with 3 people, $4.50 a gallon gas, for under ~$900-$1000?

    edit: If we have 3 people though, we can probably take the Civic, which gave me an average 35 mpg on my last long trip. Even with 3 people and gear, it can easily do 30.
    Last edited by killerrabbit370; 06-11-2008 at 09:24 PM. Reason: update on car

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