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  1. Default 6 Week Coast to Coast road trip (Southern Route)

    Hi everyone :)

    My partner and I (24 and 25) are planning a 6 week road trip across America mid way through June and all of July. We are from New Zealand and it will be our first time visiting the USA.

    We both have very wide interests - we enjoy exploring cities as well as doing more adventurous activities such as hiking, scuba diving etc. We really want to cover all the big cities and also get a flavour of the South!

    Our rough plans are as follows:
    Fly into San Fran - 3 nights
    Yosemite National Park - 1 night
    Monterey - 1 night
    Down the Pacific Highway to Los Angeles - 2 nights
    Las Vega - 3 nights
    Grand Canyon - 2 nights
    Phoenix - 1 night
    Albuquerque - 1 night
    Sante Fe - 2 nights
    Amarillo - 1 night
    Oklahoma City - 2 nights
    Dallas - 2 nights
    Memphis - 1 night
    New Orleans - 2 nights
    Panama City Beach - 1 night
    Orlando - 2 nights
    Miami - 3 nights (we will be going a week cruise of the Bahamas/Caribbean departing from Miami at this point but this is not included in the 6 week timeframe of the road trip)
    Once we are back from the cruise we would fly to Washington DC (2 nights) and take a train to New York City (4 nights) and fly to Chicago (4 nights)
    I also have relatives in Toronto (4 nights) so was hoping to fit in a good few days in Toronto

    I would really appreciate any comments or suggestions. We have only started planning so the above plan is very flexible.

    I have a few more specific questions also;
    - We are going to be on a relatively restrictive budget - would you suggest renting a car or an RV to take this trip? Any suggestions regarding the most economic rental company would also be great. I have also had a look at the buses which seem very reasonable - I realise this is a road trip forum so people are unlikely to suggest buses as the better option but any comments welcome.
    - My partner is very keen to get along to some sports games (NBA, NFL or baseball). What are the best cities to do this in and is it very expensive? It would be cool to even go along to some high school or university games.
    - Are there any festivals or events around this time that we should not miss?
    - Does anyone have any clue how much we should account for, for gas? I understand the trip I've outlined above is approximately 5,000 miles, plus inner city travel. Petrol is pretty pricey in New Zealand but I understand that it is a lot cheaper in the USA.

    Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this post :)

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

    Default at first look

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    At first look, to me, your plan is way too heavily focused on large cities... especially based on your goals of doing outdoor activities and experiencing the south. Really, other than Yosemite, the Pacific Coast, and the Grand Canyon, your entire trip is just bouncing from one big city to the next.

    If I were you, I'd start looking at adding some time visiting the many national parks of Utah and Colorado, where you really will find unique places unlike you'll find anywhere else on earth, with lots of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, rafting, etc.

    I would also look at some more small and midsized towns, especially if you want to get the feel of the south. I don't have any specific places in mind, but I just think you'd get a lot more variety, and you could save some miles, over the zig zag route you've got to get to a long list of well known cities.

    As far as your questions, a car/hotel trip is almost always going to be cheaper than renting an RV, when you factor in the extra costs of gas and campground fees. RVs also are not a very good choice when you want to spend a lot of time in cities. However, also note that a 24 year old driver typically means a significant extra fee ($25 per day is normal), so you might consider just having the 25 year old do all the driving. You should also look at various overseas consolidators, which can offer better deals for international travelers, and sometimes can get the young driver fees waived/reduced. Also note that by going one way across the country, you will also be looking at several hundred dollars in fees, compared to returning at the same place you started.

    I wouldn't recommend bus travel for this trip, not because this is a roadtrip forum, but because long distance bus service in the US is less than ideal. There are limited schedule option, service is slow, and there are a lot of locations - especially places like national parks - that you simply can't get to by public transit. Even in larger cities, public transit options generally aren't all that good either, except in a few major cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and the major cities in the Northeast (NY, DC, Boston).

    For sports, at the time of year you will be traveling, Baseball is pretty much your only option. The NBA Finals are in mid-june, and Football doesn't really start until September. Baseball tickets can usually be found pretty cheap (less than $20), if you're willing to sit in the upper deck. Another option to look at would be minor league baseball which is a completely different experience, that can be a lot of fun, and you can often get very close to the action for $10 or less!

  3. Default

    Wow thank you so much. What a comprehensive reply - I really appreciate that!

    We are a wee but worried about going to smaller towns as we weren't sure how safe they are for tourist? Do you have any recommendations?

    Also do you think we are trying to fit in too much in a short amount of time? Should we be allowing more days per place? We just wanted to avoid all day drives - although if we change our route as you suggest we may cut some time anyway!

    Thanks again

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default There are choices, but they are yours to mkae.

    What you have to remember is that every place is someone's home town where they raise children and go about their daily lives and typically the US is a very safe place to travel. Of course there are areas in most City's that are undesirable but you would normally have to search for them as they are, for obvious reasons, not in the areas that attract tourists. Just use your built in radar/instinct the same as you do at home, if something doesn't feel right it usually ain't right, just move on, get out of Dodge. ;-)

    I agree wtih Michael that going from one big city to another is not the ideal way to discover the US and all that it has to offer, but it's your trip and if that's what appeals then so be it. Right at the start I think you are going to regret the decision to spend so little time in Yosemite, what will amount to a few hours by the time you take in drive times. This is one of natures finest creations and one of my favourite places on earth !

    As well as visiting a City you don't have to join them via Interstate all the time, you can get on some of the Highways and Byways that will take you through small towns, forests, State parks and so on. As you say you are in the early planning stage I would recommend you do some more research by searching around the forums and trip planning pages in the tool bars above and study a good map. [You can scroll down this page and find 'Similar threads' and repeat as often as you want.] You can then get a feel for what is possible between your destinations and whether or not you think it's worth breaking a journey and spend one less night in a city and spend it elsewhere. I don't think you are trying to fit too much in and if you want to stop in say Oklahoma for 2 nights, or head south to Phoenix for one night [just an example] that's great. All I [we] are saying is that there are many other options out there that you might want to explore more and fulfill the need for "wide and varied interests".

    Enjoy the planning ! We are here to answer any further questions you have along the way.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I wouldn't say you are trying to do too much, but I do think you might benefit from trimming some areas where you are traveling quite a few miles to visit one or two places.

    For example, Phoenix is a pretty big detour south between the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque. Or going from Amarillo over to OKC, down to Dallas, back up to Memphis, and then down again to New Orleans, is a lot of zig-zagging.

    Now if all of those places are high priority stops for you, its still very doable, but trimming off some places like that would be places to stop if you do want to add in more time at natural areas or small towns.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default That's a bit how I was before my first visit.

    It sounds to me that you are much like I was, for my first visit to the US. There are all these places which sound fascinating and interesting, and you want to experience them. And I don't blame you.

    However, you could visit cities, small towns and wonderful natural attractions - like nothing else on earth, not even in New Zealand - by simply concentrating on a smaller area, travelling fewer miles and seeing fewer places, but seeing more of them.

    On a budget, you may like to check out to see what these people have to offer. I have heard of a few people who have used them successfully in NZ as well as the US.

    My first two visits to the US (I am now on my seventh - it gets addictive) were all travelling relocating vehicles. Because I knew so little about the place, I always chose a destination of which I had never heard. Over the two visits I relocated some two dozen vehicles, covering around 45000 miles, visiting five of the great national parks and every attraction and small town along the route...... just to see what was there. The people I met, the lifestyles I experienced and the unexpected sights I saw were amazing and unforgettable.

    It does mean travelling virtually without an itinerary, and seeing where the vehicles take you. If you have a spirit of adventure, it is a great budget way to travel.

    My plan is to do a couple of trips with them in OZ, but to date I have not had the chance.


  7. #7


    I do not find fault with you wanting to hit mostly big cities. That is what you want to see then that is what you should go to see.

    For me a road trip is taking the old roads. Whether US routes or State routes. However not taking the interstates will usually though not always cause you to not cover as many miles in a day. Thus you will need more days to get the distance covered.

    For three weeks you seem to be having goals that may not be attainable.

    It takes 5 full days of driving to go coast to coast. Does not allow time for stopping much to sight see.

    To get a feel for how much time your trip will take you should go on google maps. You will be able to type in destinations get route suggestions and the mileage and times to drive. You can play around and plan your route in a loop to minimize driving time by avoiding back tracking. Then seeing the projected total trip time you then can add or remove destinations to get a trip that will fit your available time.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Adjust for the real world.

    To get a feel for how much time your trip will take you should go on google maps. You will be able to type in destinations get route suggestions and the mileage and times to drive. -
    For planning purposes you should add 20% to Google times to allow for 'real world' drive times. They tend to use 'perfect world' for planning where there are no construction and congestion delays, not to mention the needs of a human like time to stop for food, drink and rest.

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