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  1. Default Chicago to California and back 5-6 Weeks

    I am planning a road trip for the entire month of July and into August. We will leave Chicago and plan on at least visiting South Dakota, California (LA, San Diego, Fresno, San Francisco), Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. We will spend about 5 days in Fresno visiting family, 3 days in LA visiting friends, and as much time as needed to enjoy the other places (we will be visiting people in most of these places). There will be only one adult on this trip and therefore only one driver. Here are my questions................

    1. Would we also be able to go to Seattle and Portland for a few days or would that not give us enough time to enjoy the other places?

    2. What sites should we see? We plan on a day or two at Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo. Besides that we are planning on sticking to outdoor/nature related places (although I would love to hear additional suggestions).
    Planned so far.......Mount Rushmore, Grant Canyon.
    Everything else is open!
    Suggestions Please!

    3. We plan on spending about 13 nights at friends/families house, about 13 nights camping, and about 10 nights staying at hotels.
    What should I budget for sleeping arrangements?

    4. I am a single mom and will be traveling with one child. Safe camping locations suggestions would be great!

    5. I have never done this. Do I book campsites in advance? If so, when?

    Thanks everyone!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Don't Be Overwhelmed

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    1) Sure, you can throw in Seattle and a drive down the coast before turning for home. With roughly 5 weeks quite a lot is possible. You will have to keep your eye on the calendar, but not on the clock.

    2) This is entirely up to you and the child(ren). Start now by picking a basic route that hits the highlights and get everyone's involvement in what they would like to see near that route. A very rough outline of your trip would include Badlands, Yellowstone, Seattle and Puget Sound, Crater Lake, Redwoods, San Francisco (Alcatraz), Los Angeles (La Brea Tar Pits), San Diego (Balboa Park), Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Zion, Arches, Rocky Mountains, and the old Oregon Trail. There isn't enough room here to list everything, and many locations will appeal to you but not others and vice versa.

    3) If you can all fit in one motel room or one camp site, then budget around $75-100 for the motel and around $20-40 for campgrounds. That should keep you on the safe side. But don't just assume that staying with friends and family is free. You should at least bring a small household gift or perhaps offer to take your hosts out for dinner rather than expecting them to cook for you as well as putting a roof over your head.

    4) National and state park campgrounds are generally safe, especially if there are rangers patrolling the park. Commercial campgrounds may not have the 'official' presence, but campers are generally a friendly lot and the presence of that many people and eyeballs should help give you a warm fuzzy.

    5) If you know when you're going to be in an area and where you'll want to camp, then go ahead and make reservations. Many campgrounds will have openings well into twilight hours, but if you're going to try to camp near a major national park or other attraction in July, then you will absolutely need reservations.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Very ambitious for a first-timer!

    Quote Originally Posted by jsherwood View Post
    I am planning a road trip for the entire month of July and into August. We will leave Chicago and plan on at least visiting South Dakota, California (LA, San Diego, Fresno, San Francisco), Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! Sounds like a really fun adventure.
    1. Would we also be able to go to Seattle and Portland for a few days or would that not give us enough time to enjoy the other places?
    I would save the Pacific Northwest (Seattle and Portland) for another trip.
    2. Planned so far.......Mount Rushmore, Grand Canyon.
    Everything else is open!
    That is rather a large "blank slate".
    I much prefer Badlands NP over Mt Rushmore -- but we have dozens of articles that begin to fill in the gaps for you. Two places I would start your reading:

    Peter Thody's Series (he also started in Chicago and followed a path like you might go) but even before that -- this article about South Dakota.
    Day Trips from major hub cities -- You will pass through some of these cities.
    Here is a thread that looks at a few of the thousands of attractions you can reach from the Interstate highways.
    3. We plan on spending about 13 nights at friends/families house, about 13 nights camping, and about 10 nights staying at hotels.
    What should I budget for sleeping arrangements?
    The rule of thumb I use is $100 per person per day for road trip expenses. You can do it for less and there are several hints in this article here.

    Mark

  4. Default Thanks for the info so far

    Very helpful so far. Thanks! I am definately visiting the badlands, just didn't mention it. I have done several week road trips before, but not with kids and it's been years. As far as manners and staying with friends and family. I am visiting many people, staying with only 3, my parents, a brother, and my best friend since we were 12. I can skip anything formal as they are all like second homes to me. I'm a single mom so even if I tried to take them out to dinner they wouldn't let me, they just want to see us. Everyone else I am visiting I will camp or hotel it, I like my privacy.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default National parks.

    As Buck mentioned the NP's are a safe place to camp and in wonderful settings ,but they would need booking in advance.
    While in CA I would also reccommend a visit to Yosemite [not to far from Fresno] and Sequoia is a wonderful place to explore. A trip across Death valley on the way to Vegas/ Grand canyon is also worth it, the landscape is something else.

    If you are planning on visiting 4 or more NP's then it is worth buying the annual parks pass for $80 as it will save you money. This will not include other fees such as camping.

    Have a good look around the place and as you start to put your itinerey together ask questions as you need to.

  6. Default My 5 week Chicago to California and back Road Trip. Advise please!

    OK, here is what I have planned out. Please advise me if I'm missing anywhere I must visit. Is this a reasonable schedule? It will only be myself and my 6 year old son, we will be meeting others along the way. Below the schedule is a list of places we hope to visit. Thanks for your input!


    June 28th, Sunday. Drive 8 1/2 hours. Stay in Sioux Falls.
    June 29th, Monday. Drive 5 1/2 hours. Stay in Rapid City.
    June 30th, Tuesday. Badlands/Mount Rushmore camping
    July 1st, Wednesday. Badlands/Mount Rushmore camping
    July 2nd, Thursday. Badlands/Mount Rushmore camping
    July 3rd, Friday. Drive 5 hours. Stay in Billings MT.
    July 4th, Saturday. Drive 6 hours. Yellowstone/Jackson Hole camping.
    July 5th, Sunday. Yellowstone/Jackson Hole camping
    July 6th, Monday. Yellowstone/Jackson Hole camping
    July 7th, Tuesday. Drive 2 hours. Rexburg ID Visit family.
    July 8th, Wednesday. Drive 7 hours. Stay in Winnemuca.
    July 9th, Thursday. Drive 7 hours. Arrive in San Francisco.
    July 10th, Friday. San Francisco.
    July 11th, Saturday. San Francisco.
    July 12th, Sunday. Drive 3 hours. Arrive in Fresno. Stay with family
    July 13th, Monday. Fresno. Stay with family
    July 14th, Tuesday. Fresno. Stay with family
    July 15th, Wednesday. Fresno. Stay with family/Yosemite
    July 16th, Thursday. Fresno. Stay with family/Yosemite
    July 17th, Friday. Drive 4 hours to LA. Stay with friend.
    July 18th, Saturday. LA Stay with friend.
    July 19th, Sunday. LA Stay with friend.
    July 20th, Monday. Disneyland
    July 21st, Tuesday. Disneyland
    July 22nd, Wednesday. San Diego Zoo
    July 23rd, Thursday. Sea World
    July 24th, Friday. Joshua's Tree camping
    July 25th, Saturday. Drive 3 hours to Vegas.
    July 26th, Sunday. Vegas
    July 27th, Monday. Drive 4 hours to Grand Canyon. camping
    July 28th, Tuesday. Grand Canyon. camping
    July 29th, Wednesday. Grand Canyon. camping
    July 30th, Thursday. Drive 6 hours. Telluride
    July 31st, Friday. Telluride
    August 1st, Saturday. Drive 6 hours to Denver.
    August 2nd, Sunday. Drive 7 hours to Lincoln NE.
    August 3rd, Monday. Drive 7 hours HOME!

    NATIONAL PARKS (Annual Pass)
    Badlands National Park
    Mount Rushmore
    Yellowstone
    Yosemite National Park
    Seqoia and Kings Canyon National Park
    Joshua Tree National Park
    Muir Woods
    Grand Canyon National Park


    ATTRACTIONS
    Golden Gate Bridge
    Hollywood
    Disneyland
    Alcatraz Island
    San Diego Zoo
    Last edited by AZBuck; 03-21-2009 at 08:14 AM. Reason: Please do not start new threads for the same trip.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Other Stuff

    Your plan looks generally well thought out and is certainly at a relaxed pace that should suit you and your son. Be sure, when you visit the national parks, to inquire at the visitor centers about the Junior Ranger program. This will involve a set of activities for your son and will earn him a badge for each park that will serve as a great souvenir. Also, when you're in an area for a while, ask at the local information center for other activities besides the big 'must see' for which they're famous. Often, some of the lesser known venues are at a scale that is much more within the scope of a young child, and multiple activities in an area will change things up a bit.

    The one thing I would caution you on are you driving time estimates. They seem to be coming directly from overly optimistic mapping software. Now, there's nothing impossible about the number of miles you plan to drive on a given day, I'd add at least a couple of hours to each estimate to account for time spent in traffic, eating, stopping for gas and rest room stops, and time outs for relaxation. That will give you a much better idea of when you can actually expect to reach your destination each evening.

    AZBuck

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