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  1. #1

    Default 6 weeks around the country

    First of all, I want to say that I was amazed at all the information available on this site. I found out so much from people who are planning very similar trips to my own. My friend and I are planning a 6 week loop around the country next summer. We will both be graduating from college next spring and we want to take this opportunity to do something before we have to many commitments. We will be starting in Atlanta, Ga., heading to Portland, OR., and then making our way back home. We plan to take the southern route there and the northern route home by way of NY hitting all the national parks and big cities along the way. We will be leaving the middle of may driving a 2003 Impala.

    First question:
    Do you think 6 weeks would be enough to cover this kind of ground?

    Second quesiton:
    Is $5500 enough if we plan to sleep in a tent and truck stops, and eat out of a cooler? We are two college guys, so we can tough some stuff out, but we also want to have a nice time. Also, national parks interest us more than a night on the town, so that should help a little with cost.

    Third question:
    This one might be kind of weird, but how hard is it to eat out of a cooler. What I mean is, we are going to be doing this over the summer. It seems to me that ice and a hot car might not work so well. Any tips or experience about this?

    Last question(for now):
    how hard is it to find places to stay around national parks this time of year? I hear that camp grounds get pretty full around june and july. We probably won't know where we are going to stay more than one or two nights in advance, is this going to be a problem?

    Thanks for your help, we really appreciate it. Also, if you could think of any other posts off the top of you head similar to ours, that would help a lot. I've looked a lot myself, but there are so many post i know i am missing a bunch of them. Thanks again!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default The Elastic Quality of Time

    Quote Originally Posted by aroundthecountry View Post
    First of all, I want to say that I was amazed at all the information available on this site.
    Thanks and welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! Six weeks could be long enough to cover this much distance -- in fact, it seems pretty reasonable.
    Is $5500 enough if we plan to sleep in a tent and truck stops, and eat out of a cooler?
    Here are some tips for creating your budget.
    but how hard is it to eat out of a cooler. What I mean is, we are going to be doing this over the summer. It seems to me that ice and a hot car might not work so well. Any tips or experience about this?
    Here are some safety tips about how to pack a cooler and here are some ideas about what to put in one. And here are some tips about non-cooler snacks.
    We probably won't know where we are going to stay more than one or two nights in advance, is this going to be a problem?
    Flexibility can solve many of these types of problems. Here is a brief overview about camping -- we call it Camping 101
    Here is the sum knowledge of many of us here about how to pack for such a trip.
    Here are few photos to whet your appetite for National Parks...
    We tend to put most of the longer trips here and you will want to read this on-going field report as well.


    Happy Planning!

    Mark

  3. #3

    Default another question

    Thanks for the links, they helped a lot. My next question is about the best time/direction to go. We have a window from may 15 - aug 15. As i said, we want to make a 6 week loop/square around the county starting in Atlanta, ga. Do you think it makes a difference to take the clockwise loop verses counterclockwise loop to avoid crowds/bad weather? The same goes with when to start. Should we leave as early as possible or is later better? Does any anyone have advice/experience with this? Thanks!

  4. Default example trip

    Our trip last year was similar, but totally different :)

    We did 5 weeks, 7,000 miles, we took the route starting north (SD) then south through Cali, then back east through the south.

    Check out this site for our map, blog, etc.

    Check out the link for the big route map on the right. The blog obviously goes in reverse, so if you feel like reading that, start at the end.

    Eating out of a cooler is easy, but bring a dry cooler (rubbermaid container) for bread, crackers, etc.

    I got a gas rewards credit card for the trip because of all the gas we were going to purchase in such a short time.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-05-2008 at 10:45 AM. Reason: Preferred URL format herein

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default When to go?

    Quote Originally Posted by aroundthecountry View Post
    Thanks for the links, they helped a lot. My next question is about the best time/direction to go. We have a window from may 15 - aug 15. As i said, we want to make a 6 week loop/square around the county starting in Atlanta, ga. Do you think it makes a difference to take the clockwise loop verses counterclockwise loop to avoid crowds/bad weather? The same goes with when to start. Should we leave as early as possible or is later better? Does any anyone have advice/experience with this? Thanks!
    If you start in May, you will find the crowds are a tad less. When kids get out of school from end of May to about mid-June, the crowds tend to get bigger. I wouldn't anticipate any bad weather during that time-frame. But it will be getting hotter in the Southwest as you get more into summer. Because of that, I think I would start with the southern part of your trip and then do the northern part.

    Last question(for now):
    how hard is it to find places to stay around national parks this time of year? I hear that camp grounds get pretty full around june and july. We probably won't know where we are going to stay more than one or two nights in advance, is this going to be a problem
    ?

    I didn't see this question answered yet, so here goes...we have often debated here whether it makes sense to tie yourself down with reservations or not. The general consensus seems to be that it can be worth it in the most popular national park areas due to crowds. That said, this advice usually applies to people with a tighter time schedule than you have who might really lose precious sightseeing/playing time if they spend too much time looking for a campsite. You have time for some flexibility.

    There are some first-come/first-served campgrounds in all the national parks so, if you have time to search for a campsite on the day your arrive and are willing to drive elsewhere for the night if you are unable to find a campsite, go for it. If not, you may want to reserve a campsite for the nights you want to spend in the most popular parks. Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone are just a few of the parks that get VERY busy at the time you're traveling that I would recommend reservations for.

    But, really, it's your call depending on how frustrating you think spending time searching for a campsite might be. Of course, if you don't mind driving a bit away from the national park itself, it's far easier to find campsites without a reservation. So that's another option. Find a campsite outside the park and just do daytrips into the park.

  6. Default our thoughts

    I agree that earlier is better, for crowds and weather. We went north first because of the crowds. We did KOA's most of the time. When we checked availability at Yellowstone for mid summer it was booked, but not early in the summer. So we did that early. It was blazing hot in the south when we came around, but not at the important places. It was mild at the Grand Canyon, warm in Sedona, and mild again at Mesa Verde! But scorching at the Hover Dam (but who cares, you go inside).

    The only other thing to think about that I experienced is: if you go south last the rafting will be lame. If you don't care about rafting, don't worry. Or you can raft in the north too, like at Jackson Hole.

  7. #7

    Default Budget

    Thanks again for your help. I looked at the link Mark gave me for making a budget. I was hoping you guys could let me know what you think of this rough estimate.

    GAS - 12000 miles (a little high I think, but gives us a buffer), 25 miles to a gallon(I really get about 28 highway, but again a little buffer), at $3.00 a gallon = $1500 (Man that is a lot!!!)

    Food - We plan on getting 90% of our food from grocery stores so $10 dollars a day for 2 people = 20*42 = $850

    Camping - $20 a day = 20*42 = $850

    Fun - I figure $25 a day each should be enough for us to have fun. A lot of our days will be National parks, which is a one time $50 from what I understand. So we can save some for a more expensive day in a city. So 25*2*42 = $2100

    Thats a grand total of $5300. I know that doesn't leave anything for emergency funds, but we will have more funds available for emergencies. We are just thinking we shouldn't have to spend any more than this unless something really bad happens. Let me know what you guys think. Be honest!

  8. Default Camping fees

    I think your camping budget is a bit low. We only stayed at KOA's so maybe we paid too much, but even state parks are at least 25 I think.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default $7500 Minimum for six weeks

    Quote Originally Posted by aroundthecountry View Post
    I was hoping you guys could let me know what you think of this rough estimate.
    Honest assessment: I don't think you can do a trip of this scale for less than USD $7500. If you reduce the total mileage (spend more time at campgrounds and more time hiking and exploring on foot) you can probably shave $750 to $1000.
    Let me know what you guys think. Be honest!
    But if I were planning this trip, I would budget $7500 as the minimum needed. You asked...

    Mark

  10. #10

    Default National Parks...

    Just a little advice, I didn't see anyone mention it yet, have you looked in to getting a National Parks Pass? It's called the National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass and it could save you a ton of money- well, a good bit. It costs $80, is good for everyone in the car and valid for a year from date of use. You're gonna need the money you save here for NYC :)

    Which leads me to another piece of advice.
    I would say you should do the trip early, and do the northern part first. Get the east out of the way, because it can be a crawl to get through the cities in the summer traffic. Plus, it's a nicer unfolding of National Parks from east to west :)

    The only place I've found it hard to find camping spots is along California's coast. If you come early in the day to the big National Parks, you could probably get space- I got in to Grand Canyon North Rim, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park and Joshua Tree like that ;)

    Random advice- when you pack the cooler, put some ice on top- cold air sinks. You're starting from Atlanta- they have a bunch of Trader Joe's stores there- they have THE best trail mixes, cereals, granola bars, multigrain breads... etc. good on your tummy and wallet :)

    $10 a day for food though? I don't know...you might want to recalculate that.
    $20 for camping sounds reasonable, but in big cities...a bunch more.
    Fun money- in the big cities, there's always a ton of free things to do/see, especially in summer, so you could use the money you save elsewhere (like food :D

    all my two cents for now!

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