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  1. Default "Last Minute" Spring Roadtrip - Help!

    Help! My husband and I want to do a roadtrip in late April or early May - I know, not a lot of time to plan, and I'm so overwhelmed by the whole thing.

    The basics:
    -14 days in late April or early May
    -maximum budget $1500-$2000 (this is a BUDGET trip!)
    -roundtrip Indianapolis to SF
    -2 adults and (possibly) one very stupid beagle (might leave him with my parents)
    -camping and eating out of the cooler/grill as much as possible (we have all the equipment, and rarely use it :) )

    -Grand Canyon
    -LA (family there, so we could probably stay with them for a night or two)

    We want to ideally spend at least 1-2 full days in/around SF, and we're totally willing to skip things that are closer to home in order to get out west and have more time there. Husband has only been to SF and LA as a kid, but nothing between here and there, and except for one quick trip to Houston (when I flew), I've never been west of the Mississippi.

    Hubby is a history buff, and I LOVE photography and architecture, and we're both foodies (so we'd like the few restaurant meals we do to be memorable, though not necessarily expensive). I have no idea if this is even doable, or what routes/attractions would be the best for us. I bow down to your expertise, lol!

    Oh, and we have a relatively new (2008) car that (on previous long trips - visiting the in-laws in NJ and my family in FL) reliably gets 35 mpg on the highway, even loaded down.

    Help, please!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Well, I think you've got a lot more to work with than you that you are giving yourself credit for. First of all, you've got 3 months to plan this trip, which is really doesn't fall into last minute in my book. I'd say that's pretty average, if not more time than most people spend working on their plans.

    You're budget is also pretty healthy too. Its certainly not going to make for a lavish trip, but you're not going to have to live on rice and beans either. Particularly if you are camping, you should have a pretty healthy amount of money for the other fun items of your trip. I will note, however, that particularly in the mountain west, last april can still be quite cold especially at night, so I'd either be bringing some solid 3-4 season camping gear or plan to spend some nights in motels when the forecast exceeds the limits of your gear.

    If I were in your position, I'd be looking at a loop of sorts, going through Colorado and Utah one way, and then going the other way go a little more south, hitting the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. There are a whole bunch of national parks that you'd have to pick from and certainly no shortage of photographic sites. The hard part will be picking and choosing what you can fit into 2 weeks.

  3. Default

    Thanks, Michael - I'm such a planner, and the thought of taking this on in only a few months is daunting - I usually plan vacations YEARS in advance! But this is something we really want to do, and we would like to do it soon, so...

    Okay, after getting over the hyperventilating stage, I checked my work calendar, and it looks like the best time to do this is going to be 5/8 through 5/22 (forgot about the extra 2 days - yay for weekends!).

    Also, after much poring over NPS sites, phone calls to friends, etc, we've narrowed down some places - I think we're going to buy a national parks pass and make this a "national park tour", lol. The only MUST DO things on our list are SF (want to do Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Park, possibly Alcatraz, drive across the Golden Gate bridge! - anything I'm missing?) and LA (spend at least one night with family there, see the Hollywood sign).

    The Short List:
    -Mesa Verde (I've always been fascinated by the cliff dwellers)
    -Bryce (or should we do Zion? or both?)
    -Grand Canyon
    -Redwood (a little out of the way compared to our other sites, but it's a possibility)
    -Petrified Forest

    Okay, anything I'm missing? What would you do? What would you skip? How long would you spend in each place? Which places would you camp versus hotel (we have a tent and an air mattress-no sleeping directly on the ground-and our bags are rated to 40 degrees)? Also, we would prefer to have relatively modern camping facilities - I like my morning shower, lol!

    We have no problem driving 12-20 hours straight on the way out and back(we regularly team-drive to visit family anywhere from 8-17 hours in one shot, so we're used to that), but I know that we're probably going to have to stop somewhere at some point - it's just too long. Where would you stop? My thought is to go as far as we can, stop for 8 hours, and then hopefully get to the first location that same day, but I don't know.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    A few things, I just don't see any way that you fit redwoods into the rest of your trip. Its just too far and you just don't have enough time. Fitting in everything you've already listed is going to be a pretty good challenge, as 14 days just isn't that much time once you factor in the time you need to drive both directions.

    I would strongly advice against doing anything resembling a 20 hour day drive at either end of this trip. 12 is managable, but you start getting much beyond that and you're going to really just wear yourself out for the rest of your trip. Remember, when you are going to visit your family, you're doing a one day one shot trip, and you're not planning to get back out on the road for another long day again the next day, and the day after that. If you try to push much beyond 600 miles, you're going to really be exhausted by the time you get to California, and coming back, being in a position where you have to cover a lot of miles when you've already been on the road for 2 weeks can put you in a position where you feel you have no choice but to keep driving, even when you've got past the point where your body can safely focus on the job of driving.

    For camping, I would really play it by ear. There is no real definition for what a 40 degree bag is (every brand can set its own standard), but my rule of thumb is I want my bag to be at least 10 degrees warmer than the forecast temp - so if I've got a 40 degree bag, I don't want the temperature to be below 50 overnight. I suspect there will be several areas where it will be getting down into the 40s if not 30's at that time of May, but thankfully, you are also traveling early enough where you really shouldn't need reservations.

  5. Default

    Okay, I get that 20 hours is a bad idea. This is the tentative schedule I came up with. I split the "there" and "back" legs almost exactly in half, so 2 days each, and I left a "buffer" day at the end, just in case the trip back gets to be too much, we have the option to split it into three, if we're too tired. The "there" and "back" legs are still a little long, but I really don't want to split them any further. So here it is - comments, suggestions, and refinements are welcome! (All time estimates below are without stops).

    Day 1 - Drive Lafayette, IN to Ogallala, NE (901 mi/13.5 hr)
    Day 2 - Drive Ogallala, NE to Bryce (774 mi/11.5 hr)
    Day 3 - Spend the day at Bryce, drive from Bryce to Zion (85 mi/2hr)
    Day 4 - Spend the day at Zion
    Day 5 - Drive Zion to SF (732 mi/12 hr)
    Day 6 - SF
    Day 7 - SF
    Day 8 - SF to Hermosa Beach, CA (LA) (393 mi/6.5 hr)
    Day 9 - Hermosa Beach
    Day 10 - Drive Hermosa Beach, CA to Grand Canyon (508 mi/8 hr)
    Day 11 - Grand Canyon
    Day 12 - Drive Grand Canyon to Mesa Verde (278 mi/5.5 hr)
    Day 13 - Mesa Verde
    Day 14 - Drive Mesa Verde to Salina, KS (704 mi/12.5 hr)
    Day 15 - Drive Salina, KS to Lafayette, IN (688 mi/11 hr)
    Day 16 - "just in case" day

    My other options are to skip the day at either Bryce, Zion, or both and add that day or days to Hermosa Beach (free lodging!). What do you think?

  6. Default

    I should add that if we skip both Bryce and Zion, we would split the "there" leg at Grand Island, NE and Salt Lake City (have a friend in SLC - free lodging again!) and do it in 3 days (or maybe spend a day in SLC, making it four).

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


    I would urge you in the strongest possible terms to reconsider the start of your trip.

    There is no way on this earth you can cover 900 miles in 13 hours - try 16 if things work out perfectly and you do the absolute minimum of stopping, and you'll certainly be in no condition to be driving another 800 (14+ hours) the next day. Not only is that beyond the point where you can even think about having fun for several days afterward (and likely much of the rest of your trip), but that is really to the point where you are putting on a reckless and unsafe number of miles in 2 days.

    Even getting to Salt Lake in 2 days (and SF in a 3rd) is really pushing things far beyond what we recommend. 700 and 800 miles days on the road simply aren't sustainable day after day. It will wear on your body, and it will affect your ability to have any fun throughout your entire trip. Again, I think you are really overestimating your abilities, and forgetting that a one day sprint to see your family is just not anywhere near the same as a multi-day marathon of 2 weeks on the road. Also remember that if you are camping, thats also going to add some extra time into your travels, both finding a site and setting up/tearing down.

    Your route otherwise looks fine, unless you want to drive along the California Coast. That really makes the drive from SF-LA a 2 day trip - but its well worth it if you can make the time.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Heed the advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    It will wear on your body, and it will affect your ability to have any fun throughout your entire trip.
    Not to mention your ability to concentrate, and the consequences of that. You may like to check out this thread, and take it to heart.

    Really, to have a memorable trip, you can't do better than follow the advice from the experts here. Believe me, they know what they are talking about.

    Lifey who would take more time or fly

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