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  1. #1

    Default 3 weeks late June - Philadelphia to San Francisco

    Hi all,

    My husband and I are considering using 3 weeks this summer to do a cross country road trip. One of my good friends is out in California that we can stay with when we arrive. Is 3 weeks a realistic timeline? We are hoping to stop at some of the sights along the way. We've both been wanting to do something like this and figure now is the time - young, newlyweds, no kids, and still renting an apartment so no major bills to worry about (though we are saving for a house). Anyway, this will be sort of a first year anniversary trip for us as well (No better way to test your marriage that spending endless hours in a car together haha!).

    Any suggestions for a time frame? Is Camping a good idea or will late June be too warm? I have never been camping but am not opposed to it - as long as it isn't completely buggy. I do have fairly bad allergies so camping worries me this time of year but not sure what it is like further out west. My husband has been camping and is great at all that stuff - he would be able to handle the tent, fire, cooking, etc.

    Also, we are on a bit of a budget. Nothing specific, but we are trying to be cost conscious and not spend a fortune.

    Thanks in advance for any input!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Very Comfortable

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    It takes roughly 5 days to drive coast to coast, assuming that you put in 10-12 hour days on the road. So, assuming you follow Ben Franklin's advice ("Fish and visitors smell in three days." Poor Richard's Almanack. 1736) and spend 2 days (and 3 nights) with your friends, that leaves you 19-20 days to do what could be done in 10. Lots of time to wander and do more than spend endless hours in the car.

    A few bits of general advice. Be sure to take advantage of the fact that you've got to both get there and return home by choosing two completely different routes, thus maximizing the number of different places you get to see. Plan on mixing up days where you mostly drive, days where there's a good mix, and days where you don't do much driving at all.

    I'm generally not a big fan of camping as a way of saving money on a trip where putting down miles is a priority. There is a lot of time spent in setting up and taking down a campsite, not to mention driving to it in the first place. And as state budgets have gotten tighter, the availability of free or very low cost campsites at state parks has dwindled significantly. If you take some time to plan out your trip and do some comparative shopping and booking before you set out, you can often do pretty well finding modestly priced quality motel rooms, say on the order of $40-60 a night, that also include a decent, if not gourmet, breakfast. Maybe with your husband's expertise a mix of camping/motels would be in order and you would never have to go more than a night or two between clean sheets and a warm shower.

    At this point, then, get a good atlas of the US. You'll need it once you hit the road and there is simply no better basic planning tool. Start looking at the big US map in the front to pick out a couple of general trans-continental routes, then work through the appropriate state maps to find the points if interest that most appeal to you on the way. Plan on about 550 miles between stops on those days devoted to driving and appropriately less on days when you'll be making stops and see where you might end up. That's pretty much the basics of planning a RoadTrip. We'll be happy to offer suggestions, review you plans, or answer any further questions as they arise.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 02-18-2012 at 11:07 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    From one "allergy-sufferer" to another, let me offer my sympathies. It can go either way, because we all have allergies to different things. It seems that when I travel, some days I have "great days" where nothing bothers me, and then we'll drive into an area where something does and I'll sneeze. Take your allergy medications with you. If they are over-the-counter, you'll probably have no problem replenishing your supply. If they are prescription, either have a full 3-week supply with you, or make sure you can get them from a network pharmacy along the road. On that score, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and CVS are networked pharmacies. There may be others. When we travel, we try to make sure that we are in one place for 2 days where a prescription needs to be filled, in case there are transfer problems. But we've never had that problem. Carry a box of tissues in the car -- they're handy for many things besides sneezing and blowing your nose! I've never let my allergies get in the way of a road trip, camping or otherwise.

    As far as weather and camping, AZBuck suggested a mix of motels and camping, so that you will have access to shower facilities every few days. He's also correct in the statement that camping has become a little more expensive. Looking at state parks here in California, for instance, you can pay $30/night for a campsite, yet in the next town over you'll get a room for $45 that includes a real shower and real bed. I will also agree with him that setting up/tearing down campsites is a whole lot more time-consuming than checking in/out of a motel. That's 10 minutes to check in and bring in your luggage, 5 minutes out, for a motel....but pitching a tent and setting up camp can be a half hour or more! (We got ours down to a science, years ago, to break down in 30 minutes or less.)

    If you are a member of AAA, don't forget your "map benefits". Not only is AAA a roadside assistance help, it's also great for "free" state maps, tour books, and CAMP BOOKS! If you are not a member, it's definitely worth the money and the peace-of-mind (IMHO).


    Donna

  4. #4

    Default 3 week Pennsylvania to California Trip

    Hi all,

    My husband and I are planning a road trip form the end of June into July (right over our 2 year wedding anniversary!) for three weeks. We are just outside of Philadelphia and are hoping to go all the way to California. Any suggestions of must sees or dos along the way? My husband definitely wants to camp in Yellowstone. Is camping more cost effective than staying at hotels/motels? We initially were going to rent a car but then learned about all the fees if you go past the Mississippi. We are now thinking that my Honda Civic can handle the job with up to date AAA.

    Any suggestions are welcome!! We are super excited to do this. We have both always wanted to and this is kind of our last big trip before we start on having kids. Thanks! :)

    Moderator Note: Please don't create multiple threads about the same trip.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 11-23-2012 at 09:32 PM. Reason: merged

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    If you want to rent a car, I'd spend a little more time shopping around. Many companies offer unlimited miles anywhere in the US, and whatever east of the Mississippi fees you've found aren't what I would call standard. Taking your own car is fine too, but I doubt it is your only option.

    Camping generally is cheaper than motels - a basic campsite will generally cost about $20 a night, compared to about $50 for a budget motel room. Camping can also bring down your food costs as it is often easier to grill or otherwise cook your own food. Having said that, you need to have the gear, the space in your car to store that gear, and most importantly, you have to actually enjoy camping!

    As far as what to see and do, that's really up to you. This country is just too big and has far too many fantastic places to offer a generic list of "must sees." I will say that with 3 weeks is enough time to drive to California and back (you're looking at at least 5 days each way) but time can go by quickly.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Not That Many Choices

    Michael is right about the main choices being up to you and your husband and there not being a generic one-size-fits-all list of "must sees". However, you already have a number of constraints on your RoadTrip that the broad outlines are already fairly well determined. In order to make the best use of your three weeks, and get to the west coast and back, and see Yellowstone, and see a few other sights, here's what I'd recommend as a general route. Basically take the turnpikes west to Chicago, then I-90 west through South Dakota (Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower) to Yellowstone. Then use US-20/I-15/I-86/I-84/US-93 to drop down to I-80 into San Francisco.

    Then for the return drive, you can do something completely different. Head down the central Valley on I-5 and skirt the Sierra Nevada to the south through Bakersfield to I-15 up into Las Vegas. Continue north on I-15 into Utah before using UT-9/ut-59/AZ-389/Alt-US-89/AZ-67 to get to the less visited North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Backtrack onto US-89 north through Utah to hit Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks continuing up to I-70 eastbound in central Utah. I-870 will take you all the way home with some possible side trips to Arches and Rocky Mountain National Parks, and St. Louis.

    Obviously there's lots to see on those routes and three weeks, while enough to do it, will leave you a bit pressed for time and having to make choices about what to see. And even at that, there are other routes that you might opt for if there are other specific sights that the two of you want to see.

    Personally, I would probably opt to use my own car if it were up to it. Have it thoroughly checked out by a mechanic you trust, telling him exactly what you have in mind. Remember that highway miles are a lot easier on your car than the stop-and-go of daily commuting and the money you save on the car rental could run to $30/day - the difference between a comfortable bed in a warm motel room and the cold hard ground at a campsite.

    AZBuck

  7. #7

    Default

    Thanks for the info guys! Russ (my husband) was the one convinced on the rental car thing not working, so we'll have to research that some more. I do think my Civic would be up for the trip though. We have a great mechanic that would definitely check things out for us beforehand.

    Camping seems like a good idea, but definitely not for all the time. I went for the first time this past September. I did enjoy it, but I would definitely prefer a bed over the ground! It probably didn't help that it was a bit cold! We do have a few friends that have recently gone on road trips and both have suggested camping at some point so I definitely want to do it. It was cloudy the weekend we went camping so I missed out on checking out the stars which I love!

    The route/location suggestions are VERY helpful! I will get Russ to check them out. He is better at navigating than me!


    PS - Sorry for the double post. I didn't realize my old post was still around! Thanks for merging :)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    Camping is definitely a lot easier on the young. Still, I'd recommend getting a decent mattress. It can make the difference between cold-hard ground and fairly comfortable. Of course it will depend on how much space. Today's air mattresses are better than the old ones and you can carry a small pump.

    Be sure that your tent has a rain fly. It will help for the sudden shower.

    As you come into a new state, stop at the visitor center or tourist bureau. It's usually near the border on an interstate. In the welcome center, you can pick up free stuff like maps and hotel coupon booklets. (Those coupon booklets might help if the area you drive into is besieged by a good thunderstorm! Pull into a cheap motel that night instead of pitching a tent in the rain.)


    Donna

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