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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Dresher, Pennsylvania, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default Advice for this cross-country road trip itinerary

    My son and his friends are trying to plan a cross country road trip for this summer after they graduate high school. Any feedback on the itinerary will be very much appreciated!

    Basic parameters -
    Starting in Philly area
    Farthest point is Las Vegas
    Camping as much as possible, weather permitting (all are 18, can they get hotel rooms if they need to?)
    Trying to spend a maximum of $100/person/day, will be either 3 or 4 boys
    Trying not to drive more than about 6 hours a day (obviously will vary)

    Here is what we came up with on Google maps. How long would this loop take? The destinations with asterisks are the ones they definitely want to go to, the others are ones that looked like they were in good places to break up the trip.

    Philly
    Pittsburgh
    Sandusky, OH (Cedar Point)
    Chicago
    Minneapolis/Mall of America
    *Mt. Rushmore
    Denver
    *Arches National Park (or another similar park in Utah - suggestions?)
    *Las Vegas
    *Grand Canyon
    *Four Corners (one of the kids is set on this, I think it's kind of silly myself)
    Albuquerque
    Amarillo, TX (Cadillac Ranch)
    *Dallas
    Houston (have family there)
    *New Orleans
    *Tuscaloosa (one of them is a Bama student)
    Bristol, TN
    Philly

    Total mileage is approximately 6200. Are there points on this trip that should be changed/eliminated? Points where they should spend more than one day? Any reason to do it in one direction vs. the other? They are somewhat flexible on time but really cannot exceed 3 weeks.

    We really appreciate any guidance!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Just a glance at this tells me that a month would be about minimum to do this trip. Three weeks is going to skim it a bit, considering it will take the better part of 4 days if you just wanted to cross from PA to Grand Canyon without stopping, and about 5 to return. (That's 9 days right there.)

    Points to be changed or eliminated: nothing jumps out at me. The beauty of the road trip is that you can include what you have time for and want to see.

    Cedar Point - a full day
    Mount Rushmore - a few hours. Many drive up, look at it, and move on within an hour.
    Arches - will take at least 5 - 6 hours, more if they want to hike out to Landscape Arch or Delicate Arch. Tell them to bring a picnic lunch or grab a sandwich from take-out place as Arches has no restaurant within.
    Las Vegas - as long as they're all 18 they should be okay. Anyone younger will find it difficult there. It is also HOT and camping may be very, very uncomfortable (and there aren't a lot of places close to town that handle tents). They can probably find a place to stay off-strip that may be cheap anyway.
    Grand Canyon - at least one day to do it justice.
    Four Corners - worth about a 20-30 minute stop. It may seem hokey or silly, but I remember feeling pretty cool to be able to put myself in 4 states at the same time.
    Cadillac Ranch - 30 minute stop, probably.
    New Orleans - depends on what they want to do there, like Las Vegas.

    As long as they are all 18, they should not have trouble getting hotel rooms or medical care (should something happen). Does the $100 per day include gas?




    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    I have to agree with Donna, this is probably a bit too much of a trip for just 3 weeks.

    You've already listed 18 places, many of them really would require a full day all by themselves to really see or enjoy. Also, if these were all the places they were stopping, then they'd have a lot of drives that are a whole lot more than 6 hours. I think looking to trim off some miles would be a good idea, but I don't see any huge spots that stand-out as being problematic.

    I will say, I do disagree with Donna a bit about Vegas. If they are all 18, then it might not be a very enjoyable place to stop. You really have to be 21 to go in to nearly anyplace there, including most of the hotels. They could drive down the strip, and check out the lights, buildings, and things outside, but beyond that, they would be very limited on what they could do.

    4 corners on the other hand, is a silly stop. However, roadtrips can and should be about silly, if that's what they are looking for. I drove right on by, without stopping, on my last visit, but you or I aren't going on this trip, your kids are, and it is about where they want to go! There really are no right or wrong answers.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Dresher, Pennsylvania, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Thanks for the responses. Midwest Michael - Which drives are substantially more than 6 hours? Google maps had one 8 hour and one 9 hour, I think, and the rest under 6 hours. That was mainly why there were so many stops listed, to try to break up the driving.

    Also, they understand what they can't do in Vegas, but they want to go to the Pawn Stars store LOL.

    Donna - they were hoping to have the $100/day include gas. The total fuel cost for the trip, according to the calculator, should be around $1300. So it will depend if there are three or four of them and how many days the trip ends up being.

    So if they really only have 3 weeks max, how do we make that work?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    You need to add 20% to the Google Maps drive times to reflect reality. Google never gets caught in traffic, never encounters construction or other delays, doesn't have to stop for red lights or stop signs, doesn't have to eat or go to the bathroom.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    OK, I stand corrected on the Las Vegas thing. You can tell that I've only "done" LV once in my life, and my kids were both in their early teens at the time.

    Where to cut -- that depends a lot on what the boys really want to cut. Maybe try playing with the * places on the list and see what you could come up with, leaving out the non-asterisked places. If this were my list, I'd concentrate on seeing the natural sites of the world and leave the cities as places I must pass through.

    We have a forum here on RTA called Saving Money on the Road. Reading some of the threads can help figure out road costs and how to shave them. The biggest 3, of course, are gas, food, and lodging. The only thing you can do about gas costs is watch how you drive and then use an app called Gas Buddy while you're on the road, to find the cheapest gas in the area. Food and lodging are a little easier. Camping can be cheap for 3 or 4 boys, especially if they can get into the state and national park campgrounds along the way. (Note: for GC and Arches, reservations are necessary!) If they have to get a motel room along the way (and that's recommended, if for nothing else but to take showers), they can find coupon booklets either online or at state visitor centers/tourist bureaus that have good values in lodging. Split between the boys, it would be a nice respite. Food also can go many different ways. Cooking out at the campground, eating a microwavable meal at a hotel, sandwiches and chips, always keeping drinks in a cooler in the car, can keep prices down. Even fast food gets old (and expensive) after awhile!


    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Dresher, Pennsylvania, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default

    OK, rethinking this a bit. Seems like it might be better to do a few longer drives but be able to spend more time at the places they care about. One big question mark is the first part of the trip between philly and Mt Rushmore. There is nothing along the way that they really "have" to see, we just picked random places at what seemed like good intervals. Should they try to get to Mt Rushmore pretty much directly and then commence the real sightseeing from there? If so, where are good places for them to stop along the way (it's 1700 miles, so should they plan 2 days to get there? 3 days?)? Are there "must see" places along that route? I would think they would want to see some other things around Mt Rushmore also, Badlands, etc.

    I am also thinking that they should add Yellowstone if they can swing it - everything I am reading says it is awesome. I might also suggest that they cut out New Orleans/Houston/Tuscaloosa and stay further north, what do you think? That seems like it will cut down some mileage and free up some time. They could hit Memphis or Nashville instead on the way back home.

    Thanks again for the feedback! What a great resource this site is, especially for us clueless first-timers!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default 3 days minimum.

    (it's 1700 miles, so should they plan 2 days to get there? 3 days?)?
    That is a bare minimum of 3 days driving to give them a little time out of the car to stretch and freshen up and have something to eat, get gas etc. If they want to do it in 3 days they should divide the journey into 3 near to equal sections, perhaps on the last of them, camp in or near to Badlands NP before continuing to Rushmore. On a multi day trip, 550-600 miles is what we recommend as a full day on the road, after this people can get cranky and tired and safety becomes an issue. You will most likely start off the next day a little cranky and tired with another long day ahead. With appropriate rest stops etc, allow 9-10 hours to travel 550 miles on main routes for planning purposes.

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