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  1. #1

    Default Tips, Critiques, and hints for a 2.5-3 week road trip out west!

    Hi all!

    My gf and I are planning a 2.5-3 week trip from Illinois to the northwest area and back. We're on a budget so we're planning on camping and motels/hostels for our lodging and food is kind of an unknown to us at this point. We're both more into outdoors/active lifestyle so whitewater rafting on the salmon river in Idaho and seeing yellowstone is two of our main goals for the trip. I've looked up some things and tentatively put them on a route here: http://s8.postimg.org/hqigkmdad/Potential_Route_1.png

    We are unsure of how much or little to fit into the schedule, so I was wondering if you guys have any thoughts on the matter. Also if it's too much, is there an alternative route that would make it more do-able?

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

    Default busy but good

    You've got a nice outline of a trip that should keep you nice and busy.

    You are looking at 10-12 days just of driving to cover the miles, so the more time you can have the better, but roughly 3 weeks should be ok. Just keep in mind, Yellowstone is a huge place that deserves at least 2-3 days of your time. If you're planning to follow the Pacific Coast from Oregon down to California, that will also take several days.

    For detours, I would certainly include a little time in the Tetons, as you leave Yellowstone. I would also use I-70 across Utah and Colorado, instead of going back up to I-80. There would be several more national parks you could visit near the highway, even if only for a short stop. Even the freeway itself through Utah and Colorado is considered one of the most scenic highways in the world.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawaianhamster View Post

    My gf and I are planning a 2.5-3 week trip from Illinois to the northwest area and back. We're on a budget so we're planning on camping and motels/hostels for our lodging and food is kind of an unknown to us at this point.
    It sounds like you have a good handle on your trip, so far. If I might make a suggestion/comment: since hostels charge by the person, it just might be less expensive to hit a cheap motel when you are ready for a real bed to sleep on and a nice shower. You can use the motel finder on this website to find rates, or pick up coupon booklets for motels at state visitor and tourist bureaus as you enter each state. (These can be found at the first rest area in each state or at truck stops. Occasionally McDonald's or Wal-Mart will have them, but not always.)

    As for food ... to stay on a budget, this is what we do: we have a bag of snacks and a small cooler in the car with us. We pick these up at grocery stores along the way, to avoid the high cost of convenience stores. Are you bringing a campstove or burner with you? Making your own food when you camp out is also a big money-saver.

    For gas...if one of you has a smartphone, be sure to download the Gas Buddy app. One can search the highway for the cheap gas. We find that the cities usually have the less expensive gas (but often times, the higher priced motels, though not always). When in doubt, Flying J and Pilot truck stops are usually very competitive and serve cars, not just trucks.


    Donna

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

    Default More than a bed.

    Whereas hostels charge by the bed, and a cheap motel can be cheaper for two, your choice needs to be made on the experience you desire. Hostels offer much more than a bed. For one thing most have a full service kitchen, enabling you to cook a decent meal, not just a microwave heated meal. There is a much greater opportunity to interact with travellers your own age. Lastly most hostels organise local activities at bargain prices or even free.

    If money is the only consideration, by all means choose a cheap motel. But don't overlook the hostel experience.

    Lifey

  5. #5

    Default

    Hey guys, thanks for the helpful feedback! Because of the noted busy schedule, I've decided to further modify the trip by eliminating pretty much all of Cali and Washington stops to come up with this itinerary (I hope this is more feasible, but feel free to point out anything that might seem difficult):

    Potential route here.

    - Chicago-->Yellowstone (21.5 driving hrs/2 days)
    - Yellowstone (5 days)
    - Yellowstone --> Riggins, ID; stay in motel (9.5hrs/1 day)
    - Riggins, ID (White water rafting)--> (30mins) Hell's Canyon, set up camp (0.5 driving hrs/1 day)
    - Hells Canyon (1-2 days)
    - Hell-->Siuslaw Dunes; stay in motel (11 driving hrs/1 day)
    - Siuslaw Dunes (Dune buggy) --> Redwood forest (4 driving hrs/1 day)
    - Redwood forest (3 days)
    - Redwood forest-->Denver (21 driving hrs/2 days)
    - Denver rest (1 days)
    - Denver --> Urbana (14.5 driving hrs/2 days)
    ----------------------------
    Total: 20-21 days

    Donna, I actually haven't heard about the motel coupons! Is there a database for the state visitor and tourist bureaus/rest stops?

    For food, I was going to bring my propane stove as some campgrounds don't allow campfires. I was also going to borrow my friend's dutch oven to spoil ourselves a little while camping. I do have a question in regards to food though. For coolers, what is their limits and how much should I splurge to get a cooler versus to get THE cooler? For instance, I googled "top reviewed coolers" and other related search terms and the coolers that come up are easily in the hundreds. Because I'll be camping for a maximum of 5 days in the summer with 3 day trips spread evenly, would this be justified to spending that amount of money?


    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Whereas hostels charge by the bed, and a cheap motel can be cheaper for two, your choice needs to be made on the experience you desire. Hostels offer much more than a bed. For one thing most have a full service kitchen, enabling you to cook a decent meal, not just a microwave heated meal. There is a much greater opportunity to interact with travellers your own age. Lastly most hostels organise local activities at bargain prices or even free.

    If money is the only consideration, by all means choose a cheap motel. But don't overlook the hostel experience.

    Lifey
    Ah yes, I almost forgot about hostels! I agree, they're awesome in meeting people, living frugally and I can say they've been a highlight to my trips to Europe and New Zealand. Just wondering, would I pay for one or two beds if both of us just slept in one bed? or is this a case-by-case situation and I'd have to call in to each hostel to see?

    ps: Lifey, I noticed you're in Melbourne! I've studied abroad for a semester in University of Melbourne last year...it's cool to see someone staying there. :)
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 06-14-2013 at 01:35 AM. Reason: Link format.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Real world drive times.

    Some of your driving times are way off being realistic. It looks as though they have come from a mapping program that does not allow for real world delays. The need to fill with gas, to eat, go to the bathroom and stretch your legs are not taken into consideration and neither are possible delays due to construction or congestion.

    You should really add 20% to mapping drive times to get a realistic estimate of your driving time. For example it will take you 24 hours plus to get from Chicago to Yellowstone and from the coast to the Denver with the minimum of stops. I would add another overnight for each of these journeys and make them a 2.5 day journey for comfort, although you could make it to Yellowstone with 2 long days at a push. An option from the Redwoods would be to drop down to scenic I70 and take 2 days to get to Moab where you could have a little time at Arches NP and then from there to Urbana, split the journey into 3 comfortable days. In fact you could make the whole journey back more comfortable by just spending a day less at the Redwoods.

    Looks like you are in for a fun trip !

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default It's where I live.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawaianhamster View Post
    .... it's cool to see someone staying there. :)
    Buddy, I have lived in Melbourne for more than half a century. Love the place.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    I really have to agree with Dave that your Chicago to Yellowstone and Redwoods to Denver drives are pretty brutal. You'd be looking at back to back 700 mile days for each of those drives, which is tough in the best case. Both of these drives also involve a significant amount of slow of 2 lane highway miles. I actually think Dave's 24 hour estimate is optimistic. At best, trying to do those drives in 2 days will be exhausting and will make it difficult to enjoy your time in Yellowstone and Denver, at worst, they'll force you to drive drowsy, one of the most dangerous things you can do on the road. I would strongly recommend you plan for at least a 2nd night on the road for both of these drives.
    For coolers, what is their limits and how much should I splurge to get a cooler versus to get THE cooler?
    My main cooler is a Coleman I picked up at Walmart for $30. It claims to be a "5 day" cooler, which is a stretch, but it still does its job reasonably well. Using Block Ice will last much longer than cubes. Things I would recommend, make sure the cooler has a drain, if you're getting a larger one. I'd also consider getting 2 smaller coolers rather than one gigantic one. I find it is nice to have one cooler for things drinks, condiments, and other hardy well contained items, and a second smaller one for meat and other things that can easily be contaminated by cooler water.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Donna, I actually haven't heard about the motel coupons! Is there a database for the state visitor and tourist bureaus/rest stops?

    For food, I was going to bring my propane stove as some campgrounds don't allow campfires. I was also going to borrow my friend's dutch oven to spoil ourselves a little while camping. I do have a question in regards to food though. For coolers, what is their limits and how much should I splurge to get a cooler versus to get THE cooler? For instance, I googled "top reviewed coolers" and other related search terms and the coolers that come up are easily in the hundreds. Because I'll be camping for a maximum of 5 days in the summer with 3 day trips spread evenly, would this be justified to spending that amount of money?
    I'm not sure if there's a nationwide database of visitors and tourist bureaus. We've discovered on our trips that these were located on interstates and major highways just a few miles into the state.

    One of the coupon books that is the most common is at hotelcoupons.com. Just type in the city/town and state you're looking for, and it will bring up all the coupons for hotels/motels in that area. The motel/hotel finder on this site is usually pretty similar with prices, I discovered.

    Coolers -- Like Michael suggested above, two coolers is really the way to go. Food in one, drinks in another. Block ice is really preferable, especially for the food cooler. Unfortunately, though, we ran into a lot of problems over the last few years trying to buy block ice. We just use Coleman coolers, as they are well made. (We still have an old metal one made by Coleman about 30 years ago. We haven't used it much lately, because we like the larger plastic ones to have wheels.)

    BTW, Champaign-Urbana to Yellowstone is at least a 3 day trip. You'll like the results better....a relaxed trip.


    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    If you have to buy bagged ice, that's fine for the drink cooler. For the food cooler, I'd buy a small bag, leave the ice in the bag, and tape up any holes you find in the bag.

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