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  1. Default Wisconsin to West Coast and back in 3 weeks

    Hello - it's been a while since I posted here (4 years!) and I'm once again attempting to put together an epic 5,500 mile road trip, from Wisconsin to the West Coast and back this August. Unlike 4 years ago, this time it's actually happening: I have a total of 4 people (including me) committed, we have an ideal vehicle (new VW Jetta wagon diesel - 35 mpg city!), and 3 weeks to do the trip. My plan is to spend 3 or 4 days doing 'speed runs' so that we can take it more slowly for the rest of the trip. It will be a fairly low-budget affair: I'm planning $700-800 each, camping most nights with hopefully at least one night at a family friend's and occasional stops at cheap motels. I've had a look through other budget threads and am fairly comfortable we can do the trip within our budget constraints and that it's all pretty realistic. As for the group, we're all experienced tent campers, able to drive, and have travelled extensively around the world. I've also lived with or travelled with each of the other 3 people for significant periods of time and am confident we'll all be able to get along with each other for the duration of the trip. I've done solo and group road trips before, so I understand the challenges and pressures of being on the road for extended periods of time (I once drove Wisconsin - New York in a day by myself, and then did the same in reverse 5 days later).

    So basically, I'm looking for advice on just a couple points (which I'll obviously need to discuss with the group as well):

    1) Whether we should book hotels/campsites in advance? I've thought about 3 main options: booking the whole trip in advance; booking as we go (1-2 days in advance); or taking our chances and hitting the road without reservations. Is it possible to find sites on-the-day in prime August travel season? In particular, we'll probably be travelling through some fairly popular places: Yellowstone, Pacific Coast Highway, San Francisco, Colorado Rockies...

    2) Any cost-saving tips for along the way? In particular, how to see Seattle and San Fran on a budget.

    3) Any practical tips for life on the road: how to share costs, do day-to-day planning, settle disputes, etc.

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated! Thank you :)
    Last edited by killerrabbit370; 06-05-2011 at 09:31 AM. Reason: Fixed some grammar

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Tight

    All the caveats we gave you when you last contemplated this trip still apply, except that prices have only gone up. After setting aside reasonable amounts for fuel ($650) and lodging (assuming cheap camping 2 out of 3 nights and cheap motels the third night, $950), you're planning to live on $25/day each. That includes all food, entrance fees, detours, souvenirs, everything. As we said before, it's possible but it will be extremely tight with no margin for error or splurging on an occasional treat.

    Make no bones about it, such restricted and confining living conditions will wear on your friendship, and long before you reach even the halfway point of your trip. I think you know this in your gut despite the typical protestations about your confidence that "we'll all be able to get along with each other for the duration of the trip." thus your query about how to handle conflict resolution. The simple answer is to build in several days throughout the trip where everyone gets 'alone time' in a park or city. By the same token,

    I will tell you that in my experience Speed Runs are over rated, especially by those who have never done one. Not a one of you will get any useful sleep in a Jetta backed with luggage and camping gear. And besides, what's the point of a RoadTrip if you're just going to sleep through major portions of it?

    So those are my concerns about your trip. Now yours. For the most part, it is not necessary to book ahead of time, In most areas you can simply show up and find a room. However, there are exceptions. Places like Yellowstone and RMNP which are far from 'civilization' and have very short tourist seasons are generally booked up in advance of that season. Those you should definitely book now if not sooner. By the same token, paying 'rack rate' - what you'll be charged if you simply show up at a front desk or campsite - is not the way to economize. You can find much better deals by shopping around well before you arrive at any destination when you have the time to comparison shop from the comfort of your home rather than at the end of a tiring day when all you want is a place to sleep.

    In the larger cities, you should plan on staying well outside the downtown areas where rooms cost more and even parking the car can turn into an expensive nightmare. Look for low cost motels near major commuter systems (trains, busses, light rail) and head into the city each day on those rather than use the car. This also let's each of you set your own schedule on those days and return to your lodgings at your own convenience.


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