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  1. Default College Road Trip: Ames, IA to San Diego, CA

    I have been scheming for the past couple days on going on a road trip next summer with some of my friends (all guys), and I just need some advice on how to make the trip as least expensive as possible, attractions along the way we should see, and possible camping grounds to sleep at that are either free or inexpensive. We are all going to be freshmen next year in college and the plan is to put aside some money each week in order to go towards the trip. Here is the trip that I have planned.

    Start:
    Ames, IA

    to (We have to drive through Nebraska uhhh...)

    Littleton, CO: My Aunt has a place out there and would let us stay there for a few nights. While we're there I would like to visit Rocky Mountain National Park and maybe Boulder. I plan to stay there about 2 days from there we would leave

    to (driving through a bit of Utah to check out Arches National Park and Four Corners Monument along the way.)

    Grand Canyon National Park, AZ: I would like to stay there 2 days but the problem is we need to find a place to stay, so here is where the camp grounds/ inexpensive motel comes into play. Anyway we obviously are going to check out the Grand Canyon, but if you have any ideas as to places that we should check out along the way, I would appreciate it. We would leave there

    to (Checking out the Hoover Dam on the way.)

    Las Vegas, NV: Plan is to stay there a day, check out some stuff there. Probably would need to find a hotel. Leave there

    (hopefully taking the Death Valley Route on the way) to

    Los Angeles, CA: Stay there for around about a day and then leave there

    to

    San Diego, CA: My Aunt has a place out there and would be able to let us stay for about 7 days. Then from there we would finish at Ames, IA. (hopefully taking a different way back to mix it up a bit)

    Trip would be about 4,200 miles and would take about 3 days to drive. So I'm thinking that we go for about 2 weeks(3 days driving, 2 days in CO, 2 days in AZ, 1 day in NV, and 7 days in CA.) (Max of 5 people)

    Costs:
    Food: $20 a person each day. So $240 a person for 2 weeks.
    Lodging: Unknown? Hoping that if at worst it would be around $100 or $20 a person. (Luckily we would have housing in some stops along the way.)
    Gas: I did the gas calc. thing and it said it would be about $300 so split that among 5. $60 a person.
    Souvenirs: $100 a person.
    I'm thinking about maybe like $420 a person. (Please tell me if that's realistic.)

    Again I need help on attraction along the way/places to eat, inexpensive places that we could stay in Utah/Arizona and Las Vegas area(totally down for camping)/ Would prefer to take scenic route, any suggestions there would be nice/ and any other thing i haven't thought of.

    I would like all the advice you can give me, so just let me know. Thank you very much!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Welcome!

    A couple observations - a 4200 mile trip is not a 3 day drive. It's 8 days, driving 10 to 12 hours a day, and that does not include any sightseeing, that's driving on Interstate highways from point to point with little more than gas and bathroom stops. No matter how many drivers you have, it is NOT SAFE to drive around the clock, and you can't SEE anything after dark! Your car would have to get over 50 miles per gallon to be able to drive 4200 miles on $300 worth of gas. I think you may want to review your math!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default The best advice we can give.

    Hi, and Welcome to The Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aces13 View Post
    I would like all the advice you can give me, so just let me know. Thank you very much!
    Are you planning to drive from Ames to Littleton straight through, on your first day? Because if this is your plan, you will be torpedoing your trip right at the start. This is more than 700 miles, and would leave you on the road for around 14 hours, without any stops other than the bare essentials. You would arrive in Littleton so tired from all that time in the car (even those who have not been driving), that you would most likely spend the next day recovering and not sightseeing.

    On a long roadtrip, make sure you limit your day's driving to around 500 miles. Taking turns at driving does not significant increase this distance. The fact is, sitting in a car, even as a passenger, is exhausting.

    As glc said, this is eight days of driving, and you need to divide the trip up accordingly, regardless of where your relatives live. As well as that, you need to reconsider your budget, as outlined above. There are free campgrounds around, but they are few and far between, and often not along the route which you want to travel. Best you budget for campgrounds and carry tents and sleeping gear.

    Remember, a roadtrip is about memorable experiences and great memories, not about how far you can get in the shortest possible time. Re-adjust your plans and make this a trip you will never forget.... for all the right reasons.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Using the fuel calculator on this website, I did 4200 miles at 25mpg at $4.00/gal (since gas is likely to go UP within the next year). Your gas would cost about $675 using those numbers.

    Campgrounds should be budgeted at $15-20 per night. Hotels will be $85-100 for four people that all share the same room. Food - - well, you CAN save considerably if you use a cooler. However, with 4 people's gear plus tent, sleeping bags and a cooler, I hope you have a decent vehicle to carry it all!

    As far as places to stay to camp: get a GOOD road map or atlas of the USA. Look along your route for state parks, as most have a campground or two. If you're not sure whether a given state park has a campground, Google the name of the state park and look at its website. If there's a campground, chances are it will have a price listed, which will help you budget.


    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Computer maps don't have that information.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    As far as places to stay to camp: get a GOOD road map or atlas of the USA. Look along your route for state parks, as most have a campground or two. If you're not sure whether a given state park has a campground ...
    As mentioned above, you need to get good maps. All decent maps, such as Rand McNally and AAA will have all this information on them. In fact, I was just looking at my 2009 Rand McNally, and between North Platte and Ogallala (+/- 500 miles) within a stone's throw of I-80 there are at least four State parks and Recreation Areas which indicate campgrounds. They're not that hard to find, but you are not likely to find them on computer mapping programs.

    Lifey

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