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  1. Default California to New York City

    Hello Road Trippers!

    I'm currently planning a month long road trip across the United States, from the Central Valley of California all the way to New York City. Some of my close friends and I have always been adventurous and willing to drive anywhere simply for the road trip experience. We've taken several short day trips throughout California and spontaneously drove 11 hours in the middle of the night to Utah to surprise a friend going to school there. We are all separated at the moment, going to college in different places in CA. This July we'll all be taking a break from school and our jobs and pursue our highly anticipated trip across the country.

    We currently have plans to first travel along the top half of the country, making it to Mt. Rushmore, Chicago, New York City, and New Jersey. And then heading back down through Nashville, Mississippi, New Orleans, and finally camping inside the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and heading home. We're scheduling the trip over the entire month of July. We understand that with a trip of this length, we definitely won't be able to see everything everywhere we go. We're all in it for the experience.

    We will be traveling in a Ford Expedition, with camping equipment and lots of food and water. For accommodations, we're planning to do a combination of camping and staying in cheap hotels/hostels. We plan to stay 2 nights in Chicago, 3 nights in New York City, and 2-3 nights in New Orleans. Also, we're interested in going white water rafting down Colorado River and going sky diving at some point along the trip.

    Any comments, suggestions, tips, ideas? We would love some help/feedback. Wanna tell us we're CRAZY?! We want to hear what you have to say, so please leave a comment!

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to read my post, I look forward to hearing what any and everyone has to say.

    Best regards,

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Then We're All Nuts

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Most of the regular contributors here grew up living for trips such as you've outlined, and still look forward to making as many as we can (and making other trips vicariously through our advice to others). There is absolutely nothing wrong with the trip you have planned. You've got plenty of time. You've got a good list of major attractions and general routing. You've got good friends and a (presumably) road worthy vehicle. Go for it.

    We can't really tell you which specific sites you should add to your trip without knowing your specific interests. While you've listed a half dozen or so spots, they're the 'standard' ones that would fall on anyone's 'must see' list (not a term in much favor around here. Really, your best bet is to get your friends together over a few beers and a good set of road maps one night and start looking at what's more or less on your way. If you have personal interests that might not show up on a map, then we might be able to offer some insights, but you're not quite there yet.

    One very general piece of advice is that you build in a day into your trip every three or four days where you can just all go your separate ways for a while, either in a city or in a park with plenty to do that doesn't require that you all share the limited space of the car. Trust me, as goo of friends as you may be now, after a few days of enforced togetherness you will be aching for some alone time. Plan it into the trip and the trip will be a lot better for it.


  3. Default

    Thank you for your input AZBuck, I'm happy someone responded. And I think you are very wise in suggesting some alone time. We would hate for a trip like this to ruin any friendships.

    One looming question I have right now is whether we would be better off staying in hotels or hostels in the three cities mentioned previously- Chicago, New York City, and New Orleans. We are looking to spend 2-3 nights in each of these cities, and of course we are on a somewhat tight budget (anything over $150/night is out of the question). While researching, I have been able to find options for both hotels and hostels within our budget. However, it seems like the locations are a little better when it comes to hostels. Initially, we assumed we would be staying in hotels because none of us really knew much about hostels (they seem a bit sketchy at first). After doing a little research though, hostels seem to provide an overall better experience within each city if you find a good one. Also, since we are all 19-20 years old- booking hotels may pose problems for those that require a 21 year old. It appears that hostels are a more appropriate accommodation for people our age.

    Anyone have any thoughts?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default You Got Me

    It has been quite a while since I have stayed in hostels, and they have changed quite a bit in the intervening years. So my understanding of them is a bit dated, but I will say that they can be a unique lodging experience, sort of a B&B for the youth crowd where the house parents can offer some good local intel and your fellow travelers can share stories and their own experiences in the city. That said you need to be aware of the specifics of each hostel, which can vary wildly, particularly as to whether they are private rooms or dorm style accommodations, whether they offer secure storage areas for you stuff during the day while you're out, what (if any) meal preparation facilities they make available, and whether they offer parking. One possible downside is that hostels typically charge per person, whereas hotels/motels more often charge by the room. So there are cases where a hostel may be more expensive for a small group traveling together. One other option you may want to consider is staying at a motel well outside the city and using public transportation (subway, el, commuter rail, busses) to get into and out of the city, saving parking and driving hassles (and obviating the need for a designated driver).


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Hostels

    For the three cities mentioned above, I would heartily endorse a hostel stay. However, there are hostels, and then there are hostels. This site is probably the most comprehensive for researching hostels.

    Having stayed in hostels in all three cities, and spoken to many others who have, I would highly recommend, that for these three cities at least, you seek out the HI hostels. In every case they have great security, excellent facilities and a wealth of information for travellers. They also organise really affordable tours.

    In NYC in particular, the waiting list at the HI can be long, and you need to book in early. This is a huge hostel, and the last couple of times I was there was being renovated. That should now be just about finished. I don't always stay at HI hostels, but in these three cities, I would stay at no other.

    p.s. I should mention that my stay in New Orleans was pre Katrina, so not sure what there is now.
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 05-07-2011 at 06:24 AM. Reason: added info

  6. Default

    Hello again,

    Thanks everyone for the input. Our trip is now just a little less than a month away. We now have some reservations made, and a more reliable set of plans. I'm going to list our tentative schedule here and ask for any feedback.

    Most of our "driving days" are about 400-500 miles
    Day 1 (driving day)- Leaving our hometown and driving to St. George, Utah where we will camp
    Day 2 (driving day)- Driving to Rock Springs, Wyoming where we will camp
    Day 3 (driving day)- Driving to a campground in South Dakota near Mt. Rushmore where we plan on camping for two nights
    Day 4- Spend the day sightseeing, definitely seeing Mt. Rushmore
    Day 5 (driving day)- Camping somewhere near Austin, Minnesota
    Day 6 (driving day)- Arrive in Chicago in the afternoon, checking into a hostel where we will stay for 2 nights
    Day 7- Sightseeing in Chicago
    Day 8 (driving day)- Camping near Youngstown, Ohio
    Day 9 (driving day)- Arrive in New York City, staying in a hotel just outside the city that offers a free shuttle to the city
    Day 10- Sightseeing in New York (empire state building, statue of liberty, times square, etc.)
    ---Looking for some sort of package or tour bus to take us around the city?
    Day 11- Wake up early and stand in line for free Miranda Lambert concert in Central Park put on by Good Morning America.. Also, spend time in the city after.
    Day 12 (driving day)- Check out and drive to Seaside Heights (The Jersey Shore). Continue driving and camp somewhere in Virginia.
    Day 13 (driving day)- spend the night in Nashville, TN
    Day 14 (driving day)- Drive to New Orleans
    Day 15- Sightseeing in New Orleans
    Day 16 (driving day)- Camping somewhere along the mississippi river
    Day 17 (driving day)- Arlington Texas- 2 nights in a hotel
    Day 18- Spending the day at Six Flags
    Day 19 (driving day)- Camping somewhere in New Mexico
    Day 20 (driving day)- Camping by the Grand Canyon
    ---Any ideas here? Would it be better to camp next to the grand canyon or inside?
    Day 21- grand canyon
    Day 22- ??
    Day 23- driving home

    A couple of questions:
    1) There are a couple of nights during our trip that are simply to divide to driving distance and get some sleep. Where would be the best and cheapest place to stay? We definitely don't want to pay for a hotel, and we aren't sure that paying for a camp ground fee would even be worth it. While there are some spots where we want to camp, would it be unreasonable to get some sleep in the car at a rest stop for 1 or 2 of these nights?

    2) With 2 nights to spend at the Grand Canyon, how should we arrange it?

    Any comments or suggestions would definitely be appreciated!

    Best regards,

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

    Default well worth it

    Paying for a campsite is certainly well worth it. I didn't see any place where you said exactly how many people are going, but the fact that it is more than 1 or 2 means that sleeping in a car is simply not a reasonable option. There's just no possible way that all of you could actually get real rest that way, and trying would put a serious strain on your ability to continue enjoying the trip.

    A rest area is also not a safe place to sleep in any case.

    A campsite gives you a chance to move after a long day in a car, and it gives everyone a chance to walk around and get a break from each other if needed.

    There are places to try to save cash, but trying to save at the expense of sleep is not a wise one.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    St George Utah has several good places to camp, though I'm not sure if 2 of them take tenters or not (not all RV parks will accept tenters). However, just north of there, there is national forest land and I think there are campgrounds within reach of I-15.

    If you can camp in the Grand Canyon NP, you'll be better off cost wise. The parks just outside of the park (south rim) are a little on the pricey side and at least one of them doesn't take tenters.

    I agree with not trying to sleep in a rest area in a vehicle. Not safe! You'd be better off finding a cheap motel and splitting the cost of the room with your friends. That's a good place to catch a shower, which is refreshing as well.


  9. Default

    Day 20 (driving day)- Camping by the Grand Canyon
    ---Any ideas here? Would it be better to camp next to the grand canyon or inside?
    I figure you are going to be driving approx 500 miles to get to the Grand Canyon so you aren't going to be able to make it there early in the day to grab a national forest campsite or a campsite at Desert View inside the park. You would be wise to make reservations at Mather Campground inside the park to make sure you have a place to stay. Nothing like having to drive 50 miles more when you are tired looking for a spot. Summer is a busy time!

    I'd also recommend making reservations in the Mt. Rushmore area too. Custer State Park takes reservations.


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