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  1. Default Philadelphia to Las Vegas in February

    Hello all -
    This is my first post here, though I really should get settled in because I don't like to fly. So much so, that I am planning to either drive or train to Las Vegas from Philly, round trip, in February, for a convention. I've priced and looked at Amtrak itineraries and may go by train, but there is no direct train and I'd have to bus it from AZ or LA. In any case I enjoy driving. So my questions -

    1. I would plan to go I-95 to I-81 to I-40, and stick to 40 cross country. I've checked February weather along the route and know that there might be snow problems. I do not want to drive in snow or ice (!). For the most part is this the best route? Are there mountains in the east around Nashville?

    2. Google maps says it will be a 42 hour trip, so I figure 3 days of driving with 2 hotels/nights along the way. Is that realistic? I would take lots of Stephen King books to keep me awake, and I'm good about pulling over if tired :)

    3. I would rent a Prius to cut down on gas costs. But should I opt for a 4 wheel drive/ AWD instead?

    4. Am I insane?

    Thank you in advance for any feedback or experiences. I've driven long distances before - most memorably a road trip to a convention in Denver, which I really enjoyed, but that was in July. I really thought I'd be able to fly this time, but honestly am already getting anxious and would rather stay on the ground.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    The first thing you need to keep in mind is that Every route between Philly and Vegas has the chance of seeing winter weather, and the route you've picked is really no more or less likely to see snow. Certainly the appalachias are east of Nashville, but the southern plains see plenty of winter weather, and I-40 gets up above 7,000 feet in NM and AZ. The route you've listed is about 100 miles longer than taking I-70 to St. Louis and then down on I-44 and I-40, or taking I-70 all the way across Colorado, which of course does go across the heart of the rockies.

    2 - No matter which way you go, this is a 2500 mile trip, and you certainly can not make this trip in just 3 days. First of all, computer travel time estimates do not factor in any stops or slowdowns, even for things like fuel or food. Second, even if those estimates were accurate, you certainly can't plan to drive 14 hours a day for 3 straight days and expect to be in any condition to be a safe driver by the end of your journey. Trips of this distance need to be measured in days not hours. 600 miles per day is roughly the maximum that professional drivers are allowed to travel by law, because of safety, and that's really the same guidelines you should follow. That means, this is a minimum of a hard 4 days, and frankly you really should be looking at 5 to 6 days considering the chance of weather.

    3- 4 wheel drive can be a handy tool. Its great to use to get out of heavy snow. But when you are driving at highway speeds, it is virtually useless. 4 wheel drive does nothing to help you stop faster, and that's the real danger of slick roads at highway speeds. That's a big reason why in a winter storm, you'll often see more SUVs and their overconfident drivers in the ditch than anyone else! Having said that, the extra costs to rent a specialty car like a Prius will likely vastly exceed the amount of fuel savings you'd get vs. renting a regular sedan.

    You're certainly not insane for attempting a cross country trip - but you do need to give yourself more time to make it a sane and reasonable trip. If you do that, you should be good.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Yes, No (No! No! No!), No, No

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    1) Yes, this is the best route. I-80/I-76/I-70/I-15 is shorter, but the chances of hitting bad weather are a bit greater if you try to cross the northern Plains and the central Rockies. The Interstates are the primary cross-country arteries and are the last closed and the first cleared. They are also built to specs that limit the grade and curvature of the road as you cross any mountains, making them the best choice by far. If there's snow or ice while you're driving, simply put up in a warm motel while the road crews work, get some sleep, and get back on the roads when they're clear.

    2) No! No! No! 2600 miles is not a three day drive. Period. When a software routine says 42 hours, that's 42 hours behind the wheel. Stops for gas are extra. Stops for meals are extra. Stops for bathroom breaks are extra. Delays for traffic are extra. Delays for construction are extra. Delays for weather are extra. Sleep is extra and absolutely non-negotiable. You need to budget an absolute minimum of 4½ days for this trip, PLUS have another day available should you need it to sit out any weather you can't handle.

    3) No. The best car for any trip is the one you are most familiar with and feel the most comfortable driving. Renting a top-heavy SUV with more torque than you're used to is a bad choice, particularly as it is likely to give you a very false sense of security and cause you to press on into weather you just can't handle. I would think, however, that the rental fee on a Prius would be high enough to offset any fuel savings. In general, a good compromise is an intermediate front-wheel-drive sedan.

    4) No. Just a bit overly optimistic on what this is really going to take.


  4. Default Thank you for your rational replies! :)

    Thanks to both of you -- the information is appreciated, and your messages about length of trip and likelihood of winter weather are well taken. The Prius, by the way, I believe would be $32/ day so it's not terrible (directly through a Toyota dealer), but it still does add up. I would rent regardless of the type of car, because my minivan is a little too unpredictable for this trip.

    It's looking more and more like I'll take Amtrak. Unfortunately it doesn't go into LSV, so I'd have to take the Amtrak bus/van from either Kingsman, AZ, Salt Lake City or LA, but that's doable, too (of course I'm nervous that the drivers won't be safe or they'll fall asleep - anxiety much?). Patching an itinerary together now and will see if it's realistic. At least it would give me the chance to see and enjoy the views.

    I'm so glad to have found this forum - I'm a huge fan of road trips and have gone cross country twice, one of those times alone (but during the summer, and with lots of camping and relaxing on the way). Again, thanks for your responses.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Why don't you take the train into SLC and rent a car there? This way, you could combine a scenic "loop" road trip with your business in LV. There is some awesome scenery between SLC and LV.

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