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  1. #1

    Default Trip of a Lifetime?

    Hello there,

    I am new to the forum and also to the great American road trip, so please bear with me and excuse my naïveté! I have been perusing this great site for about a week or more now and I would greatly appreciate any advice.

    I'm at the extremely early stages of planning a trip to the USA from Ireland with my new bride in March or April 2015. We hope to be able to do a grand 3-week road trip, culminating in 7 days of relaxation in Florida (Gulf Coast) and flying home from there. The goal of our trip is to see as many natural wonders (national parks etc) as possible, while experiencing real American culture along the way, giving ourselves time to relax for a few days in some places and soak up the world. Basically this would be our "trip of a lifetime".

    At this early stage we have come up with a couple of sketchy potential route options;

    Option One:

    (a) Our original idea was to fly into in Portland, Oregon for a couple of days and make our way East along the Columbia River toward Yellowstone, Big Horn and the Black Hills/Badlands.
    (b) Head across South Dakota and down into Omaha, Kansas City, Memphis, and through Mississippi (taking in Natchez) to New Orleans.
    (c) Then East to Florida via Mobile, Alabama and down the Gulf Coast.

    We considered that this might be completely undoable given our time frame, so we came up with Option 2;

    Option Two:

    (a) Begin in Portland for a few days and make our way East along the Columbia River toward Yellowstone and Big Horn.
    (b) Head South into Colorado to the Rockys and Denver.
    (c) Fly from Denver to New Orleans, and rent another car for the drive to Florida.

    Or a very different option;

    Option Three:

    (a) Fly into San Francisco, and spend a few days. Drive toward Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and Mono Lake before heading toward Las Vegas.
    (b) Head towards Grand Canyon and Lake Powell and Mesa Verde and on to Albuquerque.
    (c) Fly from Albuquerque to New Orleans, and rent another car for the drive to Florida.

    That's all I've got for the moment, and I look forward to your thoughts. As I mentioned, these ideas are very raw at this stage. I have a feeling you might say that none of these trips are realistic unless we spend 3 weeks on the road, so I'm open to any and all suggestions at the moment. Portland v San Fran? Yellowstone v Yosemite? Great Plains v Grand Canyon?



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Welcome to RTA!

    One item that will probably help you with your decision - Yellowstone will still be in winter mode in March and April, the roads will not be open to wheeled vehicles.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Timing Determines Route

    Céad Míle Fáilte! Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    I have to agree with glc regarding your choice of route. Early spring is not a time to be exploring the northern Rockies. It's still ski season in a lot of places, even down into Colorado. So what I'd suggest for a route that will let you see a bit of a the many different faces America has to offer is a more southerly route that has you landing in San Francisco, following the Pacific Coast Highway down to north of Los Angeles, across the Mojave Desert to Death Valley, into Las Vegas, through the Grand Canyon, up to the Four corners area with Monument Valley and Mesa Verde, down through the Spanish and Pueblo heritage of Taos and Santa Fe, through the Cowboy and Indian country of the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma, through the Ozarks and down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and around the Bayous and Gulf to Florida. Such an adventure would require about a half-and-half mix of driving and out-of-the-car exploring and would make a good prelude to your time in the Miami area.


  4. #4


    glc and AZBuck, thanks for the welcome!

    This is great advice - exactly what I need!

    So by the same logic that it would likely be too wintry to visit the more northerly area, would we also avoid the sweltering heat in the South-West and South by travelling in March/April rather than June/July??

    Considering we have 4 weeks in total (3 weeks travelling +1 week in Florida) and the actual Road Trip part is our biggest draw, is 3 weeks a comfortable enough period of time for the journey suggested by AZBuck, or should we break it up with a flight?

    Thanks again - I will have plenty more questions to follow!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default A nice bit of time.

    As roadtrippers, we would rarely suggest that you take a flight midstream. Besides, it only adds another one way drop fee on your rental car. In your case, you have ample time, considering that route could be driven in six day, without sightseeing.

    Do your research and decide which places you would like to spend quality time. If that includes the Grand Canyon, I would highly recommend staying within the park. That however needs to be booked months in advance. You can find those details on the national parks website.

    Sounds like a wonderful trip.


  6. #6


    Thanks Lifey.

    I think I have a more detailed potential route at this point having taken previous advice onboard;

    San Francisco - 3 nights - (4hr to next destination)
    Yosemite NP - 2 nights - (4 hr to next destination)
    Santa Cruz - 1 night - (1.5 hr to next destination)
    Big Sur - 1 night - (6 hr to next destination)
    Ridgecrest - 1 night - (3 hr to next destination)
    Death Valley NP - 1 night - (2 hr to next destination)
    Las Vegas - 2 nights - (4.5 hr to next destination)
    Grand Canyon NP - 1 night - (5.5 hr to next destination)
    Mesa Verde - 1 night - (5.5 hr to next destination)
    Taos - 1 night - (1.5 hr to next destination)
    Santa Fe - 2 nights - (4 hr to next destination)
    Amarillo - 1 night - (4 to next destination)
    Oklahoma City - 1 night - (4 hr to next destination)
    Eureka Springs (Arkansas) - 1 night - (5.5 hr to next destination)
    Memphis - 2 nights - (6.5 hr to next destination)
    Natchez - 1 night - (3 hr to next destination)
    New Orleans - 2 nights - (6.5 hr to next destination)
    Appalachicola - 1 night - (5.5 hr to next destination)
    St Pete Beach - min 5 nights
    Fly home from Miami

    What do you think?? Coming from a country as small as Ireland we wouldn't be used to driving long distances, so I think the 5 and 6 hours journeys will take a lot out of us. So maybe, we might split the Mississippi journey with a night in Clarksdale (e.g.), and Ridgecrest is used to break up the journey from Big Sur to Death Valley.

    Any place on this route to avoid in favour of someplace else?

    Thanks again.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Not like driving anywhere else.

    One thing I should mention - Driving in the US is nothing like driving anywhere else. That country is made for the motor car. I doubt that you will find it difficult or tiresome driving the distances you have planned. Despite coming from a small place like Ireland. Though my home is similar in size to the US I would not be able to cover the ground at home which is so easily done in North America.

    You have laid out a nice trip, though I am not sure I would go all the way up to Ridgecrest before Death Valley. Bakersfield might be a better option.,

    You are not giving yourself much time at Mesa Verde. It is a large park, (an hour driving just to get to the visitor centre.) and much of the value of experiencing that park is to do the Ranger led tours. There are two popular tours - Cliff Palace and Balcony House - which both take time It pays to book into the tours a day or two ahead of time.. Though in April it probably won't book full as much as in summer. I'd 'borrow' a night from somewhere else to add to this destination.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default And That's a Good Thing

    I concur with Lifey's assessment that you can cover more ground in the US than you might be used to in Ireland, but I wouldn't recommend that you change your plans because of that. Instead, use the time to your advantage outside of the car. Your itinerary should allow you to do just that. At this point it's hard for an outsider to quibble with your choices. After all, you made them on the basis of what appeals to you. So they are, by definition, the 'best' sites for you to see. That's the beauty of a RoadTrip. I actually like the fact that you don't have too much driving at either end, leaving you time to get accustomed to America at the beginning and to simply relax on the beach at the end. Nice work!


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Tweaks to consider.

    You will have a wonderful trip and being from the UK I can confirm the comments above regarding driving in the US are spot on. It's a complete pleasure and driving for 5-7 hours will leave you plenty of time to break the journeys and get out of the car for all those unexpected wonders you will undoubtedly stumble across. You could consider the Cambria area as your second night on the coast, perhaps even Monterey on the first night after Yosemite. From Cambria you could make Ridgecrest comfortably and head into DV on the Trona Wildrose road. I would actually consider visiting Death valley and continuing on to Vegas and use that extra night at, or near to the Grand canyon. What with travelling from Vegas to GC and then next day to Mesa Verde it won't leave you a lot of time at the canyon and be able to detour through Monument valley. Instead you would arrive lunchtime [?] from Vegas and be able to explore the area from the village up to Hermits rest, stay the night and the following day enjoy more viewpoints around the village area and along Desertview drive as you exit via the east kiosk. You could then spend that night either at the Cameron Trading post a little way out of the park, a pretty cool place, or actually in Monument valley, shortening your journey to Mesa Verde. These are purely meant as alternatives for you to consider as what you have will also work well.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Default Taos Pueblo

    One thing I should mention about Taos.

    Taos Pueblo might not be open while you are there. Every year, the pueblo closes during the late winter / early spring for religious observances and “quiet time”. From the Taos Pueblo website:
    Late winter to early Spring the Pueblo closes for about ten weeks.
    Please call ahead if you’ll be visiting during this time. 575-758-1028
    As far as I know, the dates and duration of this spring closure vary from year to year – sometimes they close the pueblo in February, sometimes they close in March. I’ve seen different websites say different things. Taos Pueblo has a calendar you can check, but there’s nothing about next spring on there yet.

    I'm not trying to say that you shouldn't go to Taos if the pueblo is closed. There are plenty of other things to see, and the mountains are beautiful.

    Have fun!
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-16-2014 at 09:35 AM. Reason: added quote format to make it clearer

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