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  1. Default 2 Week Road Trip Out West - Advice?


    A couple of friends and I are planning a trip out West, starting from outside Philadelphia. I was wondering if anybody had any advice/comments on the feasibility of our road trip.

    We have a class C RV, and we are very prepared to rough it. The RV runs on diesel, and gets approx. 10 miles to the gallon. To be short, the trip goes from Philadelphia to our most northwest point (Yellowstone) to our most southwest point (Grand Canyon), and back to Philadelphia - I'll go over specific details below. Below is a rough itinerary.

    Day 1: Philadelphia to Badlands NP (25 hours driving). We know this is a long drive, but it could be split between our drivers. If anybody here strongly advises against it, we might choose to split this up into 2 days, staying over in Chicago between.
    Day 2: Drive through Badlands and visit Mount Rushmore.
    Day 3: Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone. (9 hours)
    Day 4: Yellowstone Day 1.
    Day 5: Yellowstone Day 2 (partial) - leave for Salt Lake City after dinner (5 hours). Arrive there at night.
    Day 6: Rest up in Salt Lake City.
    Day 7: Drive to Moab (4 hours). Canyonlands or Arches National Park.
    Day 8: Canyonlands or Arches National Park (AM). Drive to Zion (Springdale) (5 hours).
    Day 9: Zion Day 1.
    Day 10: Zion Day 2 (AM). Drive to Grand Canyon NP (5 hours)
    Day 11: Grand Canyon.
    Day 12: Grand Canyon to midwest City #1 (TBD).
    Day 13: City #1 to City #2 (TBD).
    Day 14: City #2 to Philadelphia (Cities to be determined, just to break up the total 35 hours of driving).

    Budget (6 people):
    -6,000 miles, 10mpg, $4.50 diesel, $2,700 total
    -Lodging: Only KOAs, other campgrounds, and in-park campsites. Avg ~ $50, $640 total
    -Tolls: $200 (this is a complete estimate - more? less?)
    -National Park Pass: $80
    -Daily Avg. Food (individual): Total individual cost $300 (5 dinners at $15, 10 lunch/breakfast at $10, 27 meals at $3 each, $50 snacks, and food brought from home: $21 daily)
    -Things to Do: $50-$100 (individual)
    -Extra budgeting: $50 - $100 (individual)

    Total Cost: $6,000 ($1,000 per person).

    Sorry for the length of the post! Any advice, suggestions for improvement, or the pointing out of unrealistic goals in our trip are much appreciated. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA! While it sounds like you've attempted to figure this all out, we're glad you came to us for help. A couple of things bother me about your trip, and most of them are in the first five days:

    Day 1: Philadelphia to Badlands NP (25 hours driving). We know this is a long drive, but it could be split between our drivers. If anybody here strongly advises against it, we might choose to split this up into 2 days, staying over in Chicago between.
    Day 2: Drive through Badlands and visit Mount Rushmore.
    Day 3: Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone. (9 hours)
    Day 4: Yellowstone Day 1.
    Day 5: Yellowstone Day 2 (partial) - leave for Salt Lake City after dinner (5 hours). Arrive there at night.
    Philadelphia to the Badlands is 1600 miles, which should be thought of in days, not hours. You're driving a Class C RV, which is going to be driven at about 60-65 mph, not 70-75, because of traffic laws and safety issues. Go faster than 60 and your mileage is going to tank very quickly, lower than the 10 mpg you're counting on. With fuel stops, stretch-your-leg stops, etc., you'll be lucky to average 55 mph, which works to about 30-32 hours, not 25. (The travel times that electronic mapping programs give you, do not count for those types of stops. Add 20-25% to those times to get the right one.) Even rotating drivers isn't going to make it much easier, especially if you're not used to sleeping in the back of a MH while it's moving. (Which, btw, is illegal in most states. That's why seat belts have been part of most MH's for the past number of years.)

    Mt Rushmore to Yellowstone in 9 hours is another example of an electronic mapping problem issue. Assuming you want to use I-90 to US-212 (Beartooth Highway), you'll be 6-7 hours on I-90 to Laurel. Then it takes more hours than that to get into Yellowstone, depending on your destination. (It's a BIG park.)

    Assuming you might be leaving West Yellowstone, MT after dinner on the day you're leaving Yellowstone, count on SLC being about 7-8 hours, not 5. The first 100 miles is on US-20, not on interstate, and if it's dark, you're not going to want to be speeding along. Hubby and I found out the hard way: danger! You've heard of "Deer in the headlights" expression? We've seen them for real -- while towing an RV. Once you're on the freeway, the rest of the mileage (220 miles or so) is at freeway speeds. However, after a full day of getting in and out of the RV, you may not want that "full day's drive" to do!

    Another thing about your trip: remember that it will take a lot longer to get 6 people, plus an RV, ready to go every morning, or back into the rig to depart from a rest area or fuel stop.

    The one thing going for an RV for you: one campground will be cheaper than 2 hotel rooms per night and you can cook in the RV as long as you have the equipment in it.

    BTW, the National Park Pass is good for 4 adults in a vehicle. Be prepared to buy another pass if you have 6 adults in the vehicle.

    Another piece of advice: If you can stay somewhere besides KOA, you'll probably save a ton of money on campsites. KOA's *will* run you over $40 per night. You might want to look into independently owned RV parks, state parks and national park/forest campgrounds. Not all state and national park/forest CG's will have hookups, though.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    It's very unrealistic to expect to keep the RV in motion around the clock, regardless of the number of drivers. You must stop and park somewhere for people to sleep, even if it's in a truck stop. You can park in most truck stops overnight free, with permission, but you can't "set up camp". It's customary to give the truck stop some business in exchange - buy a tank of fuel, get food and supplies, etc.

    If you are using an online mapping program to get drive times, add 30%.

    Looking over your itinerary, you are about a week shy of time to safely and enjoyably make this trip.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default lacks realism

    I'm sorry, but your plan is just not going to work. What you've laid out simply doesn't give any respect at all to time, both for the amount of time you can safely be behind the wheel, and how much time you need to see the places you are driving to.

    There is absolutely no way you can safely drive from Philly to South Dakota non-stop. Frankly, you can't do it safely with just one overnight stop. It's a drive that is over 1600 miles. Even with multiple drivers, you can not drive 800 miles on back to back days and expect to be getting enough rest to operate your vehicle. This is especially true in an RV where you will be traveling at slower speeds. Your estimate that it will only take you 25 hours just isn't close to realistic either, as this is going to take you at least 30 hours of real world drive times, once you factor in basic stops and slowdowns (and in a diesel RV, that's probably optimistic).

    Similarly your plan to drive back from the Grand Canyon to Philly in 3 days is just as unrealistic and unsafe. Your expectation of 35 hours isn't close, and would only be true if you drove at or above the speed limit for every minute of the day, and never ever had to stop or slow down for anything, including fuel. These aren't the kinds of distances that can be measured in hours anyways, these are trips that you should be measuring in days, and 2400 miles is 4 hard days on the road.

    You've done better on the attractions, but you aren't respecting Yellowstone. It is a huge park, and you really can't even scratch the surface when you're only giving yourself a bit more than a day. It is a park that really deserves 2-3 full days, just for a quick look around the high points of the park.

    But unless you give yourself at least 3 more days for the actual drives, you're not going to be safe, and even if you avoid getting into a crash, you will all be so exhausted, you won't enjoy any of it, and it won't be a trip you'll remember - it's a trip you will wish you could forget.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Ditto.

    I guess you got the message already ;-) but 1600 miles in an RV is going to be tough over 3 days, never mind a non stop attempt that will end in misery. Remember that no one will be able to go to bed in a moving RV, by law you have to be buckled up in a seat. Those bench seats are not as comfortable as in a car and being half slumped over a dining table will not let anyone get rested. They are not designed to cover ground quickly, they are about taking it easy and getting along with nature. Simply put, you need to cut way back and make this a northern trip and leave Utah and Grand canyon etc for another day [or vice versa] or find a heck of a lot more time.

  6. Default

    Thank you very much for the advice Donna, glc, Michael, and Dave - it is much appreciated. All of the tips are very helpful. In hindsight, the 1,600 mile drive does seem very far-fetched, and we'll be changing that. We'll also be adjusting/adding days here and there to allow for the problems with the unrealistic nature of electronic mapping, and realistic driving time. Thanks again, everyone.

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