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  1. Default Planning first cross-country, need some advice

    I'm planning my first cross-country road trip with my best friend. I've been done with college for a couple years now and regret not doing this earlier. I drive a very reliable 2003 Corolla that has almost 100k miles on it and gets 35-40 highway mpg, and has been on several nice shorter trips without any problems, each around 1,000 miles round trip.

    I need a little help from some seasoned travelers figuring out how much this could cost in time and money. For a few destinations, I have family and friends to stay with to help ease financial costs, and I'd like to spend somewhere between 2-6 days at each place. I'm also not limited to going in the summer; I may go in the fall or spring when gas is usually a bit cheaper.

    So far my destinations are as follows:
    Red Bank, NJ (start)
    1. Charlotte, NC (have family here)
    2. Kennesaw, GA (near Atlanta, have family here)
    3. Little Rock, Arkansas
    4. Austin, TX (have family here)
    5. Albuquerque, NM
    6. Boulder, CO (have a friend here)
    7. somewhere between Boulder and...
    8. Chicago, IL
    9. Pittsburgh, PA
    Back home

    Does 2 months max sound reasonable? I tend to be prone to "sidequests" and distractions, but that shouldn't take away too much time.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default General Rules of Thumb

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    There are two components to any RoadTrip, and they are not somewhat separate. The first is the fuel cost, and that is determined by the miles driven, the efficiency of your vehicle and the cost of gas. We generally recommend that you add about 20% to the miles that mapping software gives you for point-to-point distances to account for 'sidequests', and that you overestimate the cost of gas since it is so prone to significant fluctuations currently. But with that information you can use the Fuel Cost Calculator to get a handle on a gas budget. The other component is food and lodging, and that depends more on the number of days spent on the road than on the miles driven. For this, our recommendation is to assume costs of about $100/day. Yes you can do better on both counts, but consistently skimping on these components, or relying on the kindness of others, can quickly take the joy out of your travels. Hope that gives you an idea of what you'll need to put aside.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Small world - I grew up in Red Bank.

    Let's see - your costs shouldn't be too bad as long as your friends and family are okay with you 2 mooching. To be conservative, figure your fuel costs at 10 cents a mile (they could be half that, but best to be safe, and that's a nice easy number to multiply with). Don't forget your EZ-Pass.

    Red Bank to Charlotte is 615 miles, doable in 1 long day.
    Charlotte to Kennesaw is only 255 miles, that's half a day. Perhaps an opportunity to do some sightseeing.
    Kennesaw to Little Rock is another long day - 540 miles. Looks like you will need a hotel here? Figure at least 50 bucks a night for someplace reasonably clean and safe.
    Little Rock to Austin - 515 miles, a full day.
    Austin to Albuquerque - THAT is a stretch - 850 miles. Plan on a night on the road in Van Horn or El Paso. It's only 715 miles via non-Interstates, but the time on the road will be pretty similar, plan on a night somewhere. Hotel in Albuquerque? Same applies - $50+.
    Albuquerque to Boulder - 475 miles - that's a full day.
    Boulder to Chicago - 1025 miles. You will need a night on the road, Omaha is around the halfway point. To find an affordable hotel in Chicago, you will need to stay out in the far suburbs, unless you want to use a hostel near downtown.
    Chicago to Pittsburgh - 465 miles via toll road, 545 miles avoiding tolls. One day is fine. The suburban recommendation on hotels probably applies here too.
    Pittsburgh to Red Bank - 375 miles and tolls - no sweat.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Stinky?

    and I'd like to spend somewhere between 2-6 days at each place.
    Ben Franklin famously said "Fish and visitors stink after three days." Just something to keep in mind. :)

    Seriously, don't consider these places freebies. Even someone happy to see you and have you stay with them would appreciate you pitching in to buy groceries and/or taking them out to a nice dinner or something else fun as a way of thanking them. So make sure you budget for this.

    Buck's suggestion of $100/day is a good general guidelines. If you want to work out a more individualized budget, check out these tips.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    To find an affordable hotel in Chicago, you will need to stay out in the far suburbs, unless you want to use a hostel near downtown.
    The large HI hostel downtown Chicago is absolutely fantastic. Very clean, extremely secure, dorms and private rooms, great lounge, dining and kitchen. Parking is nearby in a parking station.

    The hostel is walking distance to the Mile, the Lake, Navy Pier, etc.

    Lifey who has fond memories of her stay there

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