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  1. Default Opinions and advice for Summer 2011 cross country trip

    First, hello everyone and forgive me for this lengthy first post. I found this site fairly recently in looking for advice on a trip I've been considering and it's been rather helpful. I'm a 21 year old male and will be graduating college in May of 2011. The idea for this trip came from not having an immediate job lined up and not being ready to be stuck in an office just yet combined with just going through a pretty bad breakup and having a bit of an epiphany about life in general. So I figured what better way to figure myself out and enjoy life than traveling across the US. The following is really just a quick very loose itinerary/plan i came up with with just some place I'm fairly interested in.

    Day 1: From my house in suburban Philadelphia, PA to my uncle's house outside Charleston WV
    Day 2: Spend the day with my family in WV
    Day 3: Travel to Daniel Boone National Forest, hiking
    Day 4: Travel to Hoosier National Forest, hiking
    Day 5: To St Louis to pick up Rt 66, side trip to Lake of the Ozarks/Osage Beach
    Day 6: Spend day at Lake of the Ozarks/Osage
    Days 7-19: Traveling Rt 66, definite 1 day stops at Grand Canyon and in LA
    Days 20-21: To Santa Monica and spending the day in Santa Monica
    Days 22-25: Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway
    Days 26-27: Getting to and spending day in SF
    Day 28: To Sacramento, time in Sacramento
    Day 29-30: To Lake Tahoe/Day in Lake Tahoe
    Day 31: To Reno, afternoon in Reno. to Battle Mountain
    Day 32: To Bonneville Salt Flats, time in Bonneville, on to Salt Lake City
    Day 33: Day in Salt Lake City
    Day 34: Side trip traveling to Denver
    Day 35: Day in Denver
    Day 36: To Omaha, NE
    Day 37: To Chicago
    Day 38: Day in Chicago
    Day 39: To South Bend, IN, time on ND campus, to Pittsburgh
    Day 40: Day with friends in Pittsburgh
    Day 41: Hop on the PA Turnpike and go back HOME

    Notes: -The routes were given by google maps after I just plugged in a few points of interest.
    -This is a solo trip as of now but I'm hoping to recruit some people, but in all likelihood will remain solo due to a lack of friends with sufficient time/money/sense of adventure
    -I'm driving a '04 Mitsubishi Eclipse (tiny car)...roughly 27 mpg highway
    -These points are just over 6300 miles total, I'm guessing closer to 6500 or 6600 after side trips?
    -I don't my long driving days
    -Don't mind sleeping in the car occasionally (I have seen the debate on here about that topic)
    -Not opposed to camping to save some money
    -Guessing between 800-900 for gas
    -I love photography so of course will be wanting to stop and shoot places too
    -I realize this is a bit ambitious for a first real road trip but I'm trying to get all the adventure I can in.

    So, I was just wondering how in the ballpark I am on this. Any cities/places not worth the day or time I gave them or maybe some worth more? All said and done is this trip comfortably doable for like 3000-3500? I have more than that available but that was a rough range I was guessing, not trying to drain my entire bank account haha. Any other general advice the experts can give a first timer?

    Again sorry for the long post and thanks for any help!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default In the Ballpark(s)

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The exploration/adventure you've laid out above is certainly doable within the both timeframe and budget you've listed, although I will note that you have a lot more wiggle room on time than you do on money. About $100 a day allows for a modest but by no means extravagant lifestyle - if all you have to pay for is food and lodging. Once you throw in gas costs of about $25/day (rough guesstimate from your figures), it's going to start getting pretty bare bones. Yes, you can keep expenses down by camping, preparing your own meals from items bought at full service discount food stores and carried in a cooler, even (VERY) occasionally sleeping in your car, but if every day is a race to see which runs out first, daylight or your money, it won't be a very rewarding or enjoyable trip. I'd recommend at least $4,000 as a base budget, but otherwise you should be in good shape.

    And there's simply no way for me to tell you where you should spend more or less time. That's entirely up to your tastes and your decisions of who you are and what you want out of this trip.


  3. Default National Parks?

    With 41 days, you sure have a lot to choose from, although a May trip might rule out the still snow-covered parks at higher elevations. I don't think you can go wrong by focusing on some of the National Parks, weather permitting.

    You could focus on several main destinations, and have a list of alternates. If you decide to stay several days at let's say, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, or Death Valley, fine. If you've had your fill, then you could head out to the alternates. You won't be rushed or stuck to a schedule, as long as you leave enough time to get home safely.

    Looking through the forum, you'll see many examples of great itineraries set in an unrealistic time frame. Fortunately, you HAVE the time.

    Wish I was in your place!

  4. #4


    I'm planning the same trip basically except I'm going from the west coast to the east coast. I too will be sleeping in my truck (camper) at least two days out of 3. I hear you can stay overnight in Walmart parking lots without much trouble and campgrounds are fairly inexpensive if you have a little tent. Sometimes I pull into a nice neighborhood after dusk, climb in back and get back on the road at dawn. Never had a problem with this. You must be respectful of the residents of course. Now about the west coast. I think Santa Barbara is a must if you're down that way. I never stay anywhere between Santa Barbara and San Diego which are both beautiful. I would skip Sacramento and continue on to Lake Tahoe. It's only a couple hours further up the highway. If you like to hike that's the area to do it in. I would then take Hwy. 431 (I think it is) over Mt. Rose into Carson City/Reno. Some fantastic hiking trails at the top on that hwy with views of the lake. Skip Reno unless it's just a lunch stop. Nothing to see there if you've been through Vegas already. I'm going to go to the Bonneville Salt Flats too. Very much looking forward to seeing some serious speed while I'm there. I hope this helps. I'm traveling with a guard dog and a little Jack Russell, my favorite travel buddies. Just now in the beginning stages of determining what route I want to take and how much gas will cost me. What I'd like to do is stay on the interstates and then take frontage roads and other detours to get a better taste of the real America. Most of all I'm interested in seeing West Virginia and Tennessee, the places my family comes from. Looking forward to some serious summer weather you guys get out there. If you have any suggestions for me I would be grateful and since I've lived in California most of my life I may be able to answer any questions you have. Have fun planning and good luck on your adventure!

  5. #5


    Sorry, but there's one more thing someone on a tight budget needs to know. National Parks are getting expensive to visit. I took a cheap (I thought) trip over the mountains from Nevada, through Yosemite Park and back down to the California side. It cost's $20 to use that road. Dogs are not allowed in the park so the poor things had to hold it till we were out of the park. Really made the the trip less enjoyable for me as beautiful as that park is. Make sure you find out the costs of visiting National Parks if you plan on visiting a lot of them.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    If you plan on visiting several national parks, just spend the $80 at the first one for an annual pass. If you are 62 or older, you can get a lifetime pass for $10 if you are a US resident.

    Your statement about dogs is not true - dogs are allowed in Yosemite with certain restrictions. Each park has their own rules, which can be looked up on the site for each park.

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

    Default A great value

    Quote Originally Posted by lgoldsmith64 View Post
    National Parks are getting expensive to visit. I took a cheap (I thought) trip over the mountains from Nevada, through Yosemite Park and back down to the California side. It cost's $20 to use that road.
    I really just have a fundamental disagreement with this opinion.

    It cost you $20 to use Tioga Pass Road, which is one of the major features and attractions of Yosemite National Park - a site known worldwide as one of the most scenic places on the planet. $20 for everyone in your car to visit a site like that for up to a week, is an incredible value.

    $20 won't even buy you 2 tickets to a movie in many places any more, much less provide a truly unique experience for a carload of people.

    If you just wanted to drive across the Sierras, there are plenty of other scenic routes/passes you could have enjoyed that would have been free, but they wouldn't have allowed you to experience the unique beauty and attractions of Yosemite.

    As GLC mentioned, your statement about your dog having to wait to go, also is simply inaccurate, so its a shame if you allowed that belief to impact your ability to enjoy the trip.

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