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  1. #1

    Default Illinois > New York > Florida > Louisiana > Illinois For Two

    Hello,

    My significant other will be traveling from Australia to visit from Dec. 20 - mid to late January before returning. I will be returning to uni on Jan. 14, so it really gives me a window of Dec. 27 - Jan. 13 for a road trip (I can push to Jan. 15 if needed because the first few days of school is just intro's anyways, but I rather not due to work and research obligations). I figured starting the road trip a week later would be needed because she would be getting over jet-lag, Christmas celebrations, avoiding the after-Christmas traffic, and just general getting used to the colder temperatures since it would be summer in Australia.

    PS: This is actually the first road trip I've planned by myself.

    I think the big things for us are money, certain locations, and interests. Because we are both not as rich as we would like (both studying in uni and she's paying $1.4k out of her own pocket for plane tickets alone = we're broke), money is a big issue here. Certain locations are somewhat necessary because I'll be trying to hit two birds with one stone and visit potential universities that offer the programs she may be continuing her studies in, and these schools include Illinois, Indiana, New York, and potentially other east coast states. Interest is mostly because all I read from travel magazines and forums are great places to eat, historical sites, and national parks. This is great and there is a definite need for those flavors, but I want the road trip to include something more action-packed (yes I know, I'm a bit selfish here...but hey, I'm paying for the other half!)

    Anyways, the rough outline would be to start in Bloomington/Champaign/Chicago, IL and head to Indiana (sorry I can't give a more specific location, I haven't really asked about the schools yet). Go to NYC a day or two before New Years to watch the ball drop. After a few days with the city, we'll head to the Florida Keys to enjoy the warm weather and beaches and round about to New Orleans to enjoy the food. Afterwards, head back up north via the Great River Road back to Illinois to complete the circle.

    In order to cut cost, I have arranged free lodging in NYC with a friend and is looking into other places. For the colder temperatures, I'm thinking we'll have to cut costs by going with hostels and B&B and for the southern states, maybe bringing a tent to go camping or again, a B&B. I'm thinking about sticking with interstates in the northern states to cut gas costs and due to snowy conditions.

    I know some of the key destinations would be NYC area, Florida area, and New Orleans area so we might be staying there for longer than a day and will probably be open to day drives as well (like going to Niagara Falls before or when we stay in NYC).
    -------
    That is what I have in mind so far at least^

    So, I guess what I'm trying to say is:
    - Is there any interesting/fun/unique things to do or see along the way to those destinations? and in the destinations?
    - Is the trip even feasible?
    --- If it is feasible, how do I plan how much to drive, gas cost, etc.? (I've driven for 12 hours at a time before, but I rather not do that again. 5-8 hours is definitely a comfort zone for me though, with breaks of course)
    --- If it isn't feasible, how do I shorten the trip?
    - In terms of weather, do you think it would be okay to camp in the southern states? I looked up Florida's average temperature and it said the avg high was in the 60's and the avg low was in the 40's
    - Any recommendations for cheap, but decent housing?
    - Will there be any driving difficulties in the winter - mountains, road closures, etc.?
    - Any other tips on the trip?

    Cheers,
    Jordan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default details details

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you have a few things that might make it difficult to do everything you're hoping to do.

    First, I'm not sure you have enough time to do everything you want to do. Based on your goal of not wanting to drive more than 8 hours a day, 500 miles is really the maximum distance you can look to travel in a day, and even that is going to be very much at the top end of your limits. From NY to Key West you need at least 3-4 days just for the drive, other 2-3 to NOLA, and then 2 more back to Illinois. Basically, you need about 9 days just for the driving after NY, and it would seem you've only got 10-12 days total with your goal of being back by the 13th. You might want to look at cutting NOLA, or looking at other beaches that aren't as far away as the keys.

    Lodging. First, you should understand that in the US, a B&B is generally not a budget lodging choice. They tend to be aimed more towards romantic getaways, and typically cost more than a budget motel. Hostels could be an option, although they charge per person, so for 2 of you, they might not be cheaper than motels either. Camping could work, however, you'll really have to watch the forecasts, and you'll need some good cool/cold weather gear. It can and does get down below freezing, even in Florida. If you don't already have this gear, it may not be worth it considering the relatively few number of days you'll be in Florida.

    Weather is simply unpredictable, you could see winter storms that force you to slow down, or even delay your traveling for a day or two, you might also see perfect conditions.

    As far as things to see, you've listed a bunch of things that you aren't really interested in, but didn't say much about what you are looking for, other than to say you want "action packed." What does that mean to you? Theme Parks, Active Sports, something else?

  3. #3

    Default

    MM, thanks for the detailed response. It really brought up a lot of issues I have overlooked.

    In terms of distance, I'm thinking about cutting Florida out and maybe traveling from NY down to Conneticut, then New Orleans and finally heading back home in IL.

    What about this route? (I checked the boxes for tolls and seasonal roads): http://i.imgur.com/nncoa.png
    - I'm worried about driving in the appalachian mountains in winter. Does this route go through the mountains and if it does, how difficult is it to drive through it? I've driven in the mountains a lot, but never in the winter and I know there is a lot of elevation on narrow winding notes.

    In terms of lodging, I'm looking at removing the backseats of the vehicle (2004 Toyota Highlander) and just converting the trunk into a bed for the places where it's warmer and we're not spending much time in (probably the leg heading towards New Orleans and back to home). Is there areas where you can park that can be safe and not a lot of observers? Church parking lot, Meijer/Walmart, etc.? Also, I do have camping gear if that helps.

    To the entertainment/excursions, I guess I just mean anything that you don't passively observe. For instance, when I did the New Zealand road trip a few months ago, a bunch of us went glacier hiking, bungee jumping, canyoneering, and surfing.

    Also, I made a more detailed portion of the road trip to New York here (again, tolls and seasonal roads were checked): http://i.imgur.com/qLjt0.jpg
    The plan is this:
    1. Arrive in Indianapolis preferably 1-2 hours minimum before bartending class, which is on Saturday at 5-9PM. Stay the night in the city or nearby towns/suburbs at hostels or B&B.
    2. Wake up early and drive 316.5 miles (5 hours, 12 minutes) to Cleveland, OH to view music hall of fame, grab lunch, and explore. Expect a minimum of 1 hour delay due to weather and traffic.
    a. Example Plan: Leave Indianapolis at 8AM and arrive at 2PM. Explore for 2 hours until 4PM

    3. Head to Niagara Falls to attend the “Falls at Night” event (5PM-midnight). This leg of the trip is 213 miles (3 hours, 14 minutes) but expect a minimum of 1 hour delay due to weather and traffic.
    a. Example Plan: Leave Cleveland at 4PM and arrive at 8PM. Explore for 1 hour until 9PM.

    4. Head to Syracuse, NY for sleep. This leg of the trip is 162.5 miles (2 hours, 49 minutes) but expect a minimum of 1 hour delay due to weather, traffic, and poor night vision.
    a. Example Plan: Leave Niagara Falls at 9PM and arrive at 1AM.

    ---Is there any complications that's seen here? There is a time limitation because I bought a bartending class for two from Livingsocial that can only take place on Saturdays 5-9pm. If I want to go to NYC for the ball drop, that means doing the class on the 29th and continuing the trip there. I chose Syracuse as a final destination because my younger sister studies at Syracuse Uni and may have an open place to stay for free. That would leave Dec. 31 to travel from Syracuse to NYC. I know, it's a tight schedule.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Truck stops.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawaianhamster View Post
    In terms of lodging, I'm looking at removing the backseats of the vehicle (2004 Toyota Highlander) and just converting the trunk into a bed for the places where it's warmer and we're not spending much time in (probably the leg heading towards New Orleans and back to home). Is there areas where you can park that can be safe and not a lot of observers? Church parking lot, Meijer/Walmart, etc.? Also, I do have camping gear if that helps.
    These days not all that many of the Walmarts, etc. will allow parking overnight. This year I have only found two places. And it is not always the management who will not allow it. Some store managers have told me that I am free to park, but not to be surprised if I am woken during the night, and asked to move on, by the authorities.

    A far better place is to seek out 24 hr truck stops. These places are well lit, have people coming and going all night, have security onsite and many of them make room for RVs. Always mention at reception that you will be parking overnight, and ask where the best place is to park. You will normally be directed to the RV parking area. That has two benefits. Parked between two large RVs cuts out much of the light and the passing traffic (observers).

    This publication shows which truck stops make RVs welcome.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    As far as sleeping in your car, I certainly wouldn't recommend it. I'd say its doubtful that you'd have room for 2 people to sleep comfortably, unless it is completely free of any cargo. However, more importantly this is a winter trip and a car provides basically no insulation, other than giving you a wind break. Especially now that South Florida is out of your plans, You'd still need to have serious winter camping gear, such as sleeping bags rated down to about zero degrees. Your average sleeping bag is going to be pretty much useless below 40-50 degrees.

    I'd say your plan to drive 700 miles from Indianapolis to Syracuse, and have time to stop at the RRHoF and the Falls, and be in any condition to drive until 1am is not at all reasonable. Simply put, you're trying to drive far too much, and you aren't giving yourself nearly enough time to see the things you're stopping at.

    That doesn't even get into the problem of the next day. Not only are you still going to be exhausted from overdoing it the previous day, but you'll have 5 hours of driving to get to NYC, and that doesn't even include the extra delays, security, and traffic you'll be dealing with because it is New Years. While the ball doesn't drop until midnight, if you want to be anywhere close to being able to actually see it drop, you need to be in Times Square in the early afternoon, at the latest.

    If you have to be in Indy on the 29th, and you want to be in NYC on the 31st, you can certainly do it, but you need to look at a much more direct route through Pennsylvania. Going via Syracuse simply adds too many miles that you just don't have time for.

  6. #6

    Default

    Hey guys, thanks for being patient with me. I know these past few threads probably sounds like things everybody should already know, so thanks again!

    Life, I looked up your suggestion for pit stops and compiled a list of sites in the case that this winter proves to be unusually warm in the south.
    If you or anybody want, here's a few that show free campsites free of charge:

    Michael, in the likely case that the weather proves to be too cold, I'll most likely have hostels lined up.

    Here's the new plan, what do you guys think?
    http://i.imgur.com/AY3jI.jpg

    • Arrive in Indianapolis preferably 1-2 hours minimum before bartending class, which is on Saturday at 5-9PM. Stay the night in the city or nearby towns/suburbs at hostels or B&B.
    • Wake up early and drive 316.5 miles (5 hours, 12 minutes) to Cleveland, OH to view music hall of fame, grab lunch, and explore. Expect a minimum of 1 hour delay due to weather and traffic.
    o Example Plan: Leave Indianapolis at 8AM and arrive at 2PM. Explore for 2 hours until 4PM
    • Head to New York City. This leg of the trip is 463.5 miles (8 hours) but expect a minimum of 2 hour delay due to weather and traffic.
    o Example Plan: Leave Cleveland at 4PM and arrive at 2AM.


    Also, out of curiosity I checked and unchecked the toll roads and found that they both have about the same distance and the routes look very similar, if not the same for the most part. How is there an additional 2 hours added when you don't pay for toll?
    http://i.imgur.com/AY3jI.jpg versus http://i.imgur.com/K1spG.jpg
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 07-21-2012 at 03:01 PM. Reason: New Members may not post off-site links

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    You've decided to take my advice that you're trying to do much by driving 700 miles from Indy to Syracuse, and then make a plan to increase your drive to nearly 800 miles?

    Your new plan is actually worse. Driving 800 miles in one day is not safe, not fun, and will leave you in no condition to enjoy yourself on NY Eve. Its also very odd considering you originally said you were not interested in driving more than 5-8 hours in day.

    If you plan to visit Cleveland, than State College PA is about the farthest you should even think about getting that night. Of course, that still puts you several hours from NYC, and leaves the challenge of getting to Times Square early enough to really watch the fun. It will be up to you to decide what things are most important, your bartending class, the RRHoF, or NYE in Times Square. Right now, it would seem like you just don't have time for it all.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
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    Default

    What exact route you take in and out of Cleveland depends on exactly where in the city you are going to and exactly where you are leaving from. No matter what, you will be approaching Cleveland on I-71 from Columbus, and you will be leaving via I-80.

    You also need to choose the appropriate route to get from I-80 into NYC. This also depends on exactly where you are going.

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    You've decided to take my advice that you're trying to do much by driving 700 miles from Indy to Syracuse, and then make a plan to increase your drive to nearly 800 miles?

    Your new plan is actually worse. Driving 800 miles in one day is not safe, not fun, and will leave you in no condition to enjoy yourself on NY Eve. Its also very odd considering you originally said you were not interested in driving more than 5-8 hours in day.

    If you plan to visit Cleveland, than State College PA is about the farthest you should even think about getting that night. Of course, that still puts you several hours from NYC, and leaves the challenge of getting to Times Square early enough to really watch the fun. It will be up to you to decide what things are most important, your bartending class, the RRHoF, or NYE in Times Square. Right now, it would seem like you just don't have time for it all.
    5-8 hours at a time, not in a day. As in, I can do 5-8 hours without breaks minus bathrooms. I've driven all day and all night before.

    How about this plan? http://i.imgur.com/avqBm.jpg

    • Arrive in Indianapolis preferably 1-2 hours minimum before bartending class, which is on Saturday at 5-9PM.
    • Drive 174.5 miles (2 hours 51 minutes) to Columbus, OH to budget hotel. Allow 1 hour delay due to weather and traffic.
    o Example Plan: Leave Indianapolis by 9 and arrive at 1AM and go to sleep.
    • Wake up early and drive 143 miles (2 hours 27 minutes) to Cleveland, OH to view music hall of fame, grab lunch, and explore. Expect a minimum of 1 hour delay due to weather and traffic.
    o Example Plan: Leave Columbus, OH at 8AM and arrive at 11AM. Explore for 2 hours until 1PM
    • Head to New York City. This leg of the trip is 463.5 miles (8 hours) but expect a minimum of 2 hour delay due to weather and traffic.
    o Example Plan: Leave Cleveland at 1PM and arrive at 11PM.

    I'll have 1 hr 10min of buffer time in the first day for 175 miles and the second day I'll have 2 and a half hours for 600 miles. I'm not sure how to predict buffer times as well, so this is also up in the air.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    Default

    I think you should defer the Cleveland stop until your return from the South, or do that some other time. You have a hard scheduled stop in Indy for the bartending school, and if you want to be in Times Square for New Year's Eve, you need to get to NYC as quickly as possible.

    Spend the night after the school in the Indy area, then get as far as you can the next day taking the fastest route - somewhere in northern PA, then the rest of the way in to NYC the next morning.

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