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  1. Default 6800 Mile; 1 Month; 2010 Subaru Forester w/ 52,000 miles

    I'd like to plan a summer trip, either with my girlfriend or with another good friend. I live in Buffalo NY and hope to go to Atlanta, and from there head through Texas and to California. Then I'd like to make it to Portland Oregon, as the farthest point from our start and end destination. From there, I'd like to pass through Colorado on my way back towards Western New York. I plan to drive East and take a detour North to Chicago. From there, I would make my way back to Buffalo. The trip totals at 6800 miles.

    I won't be 18 until July 6th, but since my license has the date which I turn 18 listed on it, I should be able to use it as valid ID after that day to book motel rooms or get campsites. Still, I'd like to set out on or before July 1st, so I have enough time to make the trip without worrying about missing details involving college prep (although I do plan on buying all essential college supplies before leaving). Because I'll be spending nearly a week under the age of 18, I'm worried about whether I''' need to bring along parental consent notes to be able to rent motel rooms or campsites. I'm aware that many motels have strict policies that minors aren't allowed to rent rooms, but I don't know if campsites do the same thing. I very much like camping, and I would be open to spending as many nights as possible outdoors in tents. I understand that tent camping will be nearly impossible on the west coast and in the far south.

    I would like to visit at least one large music festival along the way, but I don't care to go clubbing or to spend more than a few days total at specific tourist destinations. If I spend 20 days driving throughout the month, at an average speed of 55 mph, I'll need to drive 6 and a half hours a day to keep pace. Depending on the destinations along the way, we could visit landmarks for a few hours during the day, or we could drive to a specific destination from 4pm-10pm the night before and explore our surroundings until 4pm the next day. This way, we'd have equal time in and out of the car during driving days, and up to 10 days to spend at festivals or at specifically awesome cities. My only concern is that fitting in time to go sight-seeing on days when we do drive 6+ hours will be difficult. Many places are only worth seeing in the daylight, and motels/state parks/campsites might not have somebody there to check us in or give us site passes after, say, 9-10 pm.

    The car we'd be using is a 2010 Subaru Forester with 55,000 miles on it. We would bring jumper cables and a jack, and we would get it looked at by the mechanic before leaving. My budget will be around $5,000 and if my friend or girlfriend joins me, they'll each be asked to contribute $300 for gas and $1000 for their own food. For breakfasts, I'll bring portable skillets with pancake ingredients and lots of cereal with powdered milk.

    Breakdown of spending:

    Total: $5000

    Gas: $1800 max

    Food: $1000 ($30/day mostly for lunch and dinner. lunches can be simple and cheap, whereas dinner can be more expensive if needed. Expensive, memorable dinners can be considered part of the souvenir fund)
    note: cheap food shouldn't be hard to come by in the city. As Hunter S. Thompson said, Don't judge a taco by it's price.

    Souvenirs/Festivals/Taxis/Repairs: $2200

    Let me know if anything sounds less-than-feasible. This planning is all in the first stage, and can be easily altered if the trip sounds too crazy. For any cross-country road-trip experts, should we worry about bringing along extra gas? If we stick to interstate routes, I doubt we'll travel more than 100 miles without a chance to refuel. We'll probably plan on refueling every 50 miles.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A couple of resources

    Sounds like quite the adventure! Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! First things, you and your would-be travel buddies ought to take at least one warm-up trip -- maybe a long weekend and see if you are really compatible on the road. Failing that, have each of them take the road trip compatibility quiz and then talk about their answers and yours. A road trip is quite different from driving around town with your friends.

    18 years old might be old enough for some motels -- but most chains require 19 and sometimes even 21 to rent a motel room. I don't think are similar restrictions on camping places.

    I would also have your parents read this article about teenage road trips and plan to follow some those tips.

    Stopping for fuel every 50 miles sounds a little crazy -- stopping for fuel when your getting low makes more sense. Some people like to keep at least 1/4 tank of fuel in the tank -- In most places (along Interstates) I am comfortable with considerably less fuel. Exceptions are those situations when severe weather is possible -- always keep the tank topped up in case you reach an area with no available fuel due to lack of power or other damage.

    I am sure you'll receive more tips as our members read your thread.

    Happy Planning!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default some hurdles ahead

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you've come up with a decent start to your plan, but I also see some potential problems.

    The first few problems involve lodging. One, I don't see where you've included the cost of lodging into your budget. If you stay in budget motels every night, that's $1500 you haven't accounted for. You could potentially bring that down somewhat by camping, but that's a huge thing to factor into your budget.

    The other issue will be finding a place to stay at all before you turn 18. Almost no hotels will allow you to stay under 18, even with a parent's note, and even many campgrounds may turn you away. Camping should be easier to find a place to stay, but even there, you'll have to research places and find out what their rules are. Also keep in mind, if any of your friends going along on this trip are under 18, you could also have a problem, even after your birthday, as most places have rules about unrelated minors staying with an 18 year old.

    Also keep in mind that motels are not the only challenge of traveling under the age of 18. You'll have things like curfews to consider, and if you were in even a minor accident you could run into some serious issues, because you can't authorize things yourself.

    I would also caution about your distance estimate. While an online map program likely shows you that it would be 6,800 miles to do a loop from Buffalo to Atlanta to California to Oregon and back across to Buffalo, those are only point to point distances. Once you start driving around cities... going to festivals... looking for places to stay... etc you'll start adding up quite a few extra miles. Realistically, you'll end up driving 8-9,000 miles or more to complete a loop like this. When you factor in that extra distance, and really try to plot this out, I think you'll find your time disappears much faster than you are expecting. If I were you, I'd sketch out a day by day plan for where you think you would be each night of your trip. You certainly don't have to stick to it, but that will give you a better idea of what you can actually do in a month, rather than trying to guess based on abstract averages of X hours driving on x number of days, which might not match up with what you want to see.

    Finally, about gas, no you shouldn't bring any gas with you - it's dangerous, and unnecessary. It's also completely unnecessary to stop every 50 miles for gas (and doing so would make it impossible for you to complete your trip as planned, because you'd be wasting hours of your day at gas stations.) Your Forester should be able to go more than 300 miles between fill-ups, be smart and finding fuel won't be an issue at all.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    With camping, it will really depend on the sites you want to camp at. Public sites, like state parks, are a little more lenient since often you just fill out an envelope, slip in the money, and deposit it in a drop slot some place. Motels are going to be an issue, as will be getting treated if you are a minor and you get sick or have an accident. (That was a problem for me years ago, too.)

    I can't think of any place where it would be necessary to stop every 50 miles for fuel. If on an interstate, it will tell you if you have a long way between services. Then you'd want to make sure you have enough to get across that space and still have some leftover. (The longest one I'm familiar with is on I-70 between Salina and Green River, UT, where there are 108 miles with no services.)

    Definitely, take the mileage you figured out and add 20% for your sightseeing and "other" miles. 6800 + 1360 = 8160. THAT should be what you use to figure out your fuel.

    To figure out camping and overnights - camping will average $20 in public campgrounds, $60-75 for cheap hotels (less in some areas).


  5. Default

    Thanks everyone for pointing out the areas that I didn't consider. I've heard about parents calling and booking rooms for their children ahead of time in this kind of situation, but I'll definitely have to do some research. I think I'll have to start by estimating where i'll end up at the end of my first day of driving, and then my second and third. I'll check with hotels and campgrounds to see what rules to expect and what I can do to get around those rules.

    The problems with bringing my a friend who could be considered an "unrelated minor" could be tough to get around, but I'll see what I can do. Public campgrounds seem like my best bet, although the heat could prove to make reliance on public campgrounds unbearable in California. Maybe climate will be something serious for me to consider, assuming that I wouldn't be allowed to rent rooms for my friends.

    If I do find that motels allow me to rent my own rooms at the age of 18 or with a call from my parents and payment over the phone from their credit cards, and that trend continues, it could really help me out. I wouldn't count on this without looking into it, but sharing single person rooms with friends without declaring that they are there might be nothing more than a liability risk for the motel management. I wouldn't want to count on anything risky like that more than I need to, but it would help a lot given any impromptu detours.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Cheaper places abound.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    To figure out camping and overnights - camping will average $20 in public campgrounds, $60-75 for cheap hotels (less in some areas).
    That all depends on how much research you do and how fussy you are. On my recent trip, The most I think I paid was $16.05 for a public campground and less than $50 for a cheap motel..... including taxes, etc. Most of the public campgrounds at which I did not stay, but which I enquired about were $15 or less.

    But other than unattended public campgrounds, I don't like your chances getting accommodation as a minor.

    Definitely up your mileage as suggested by Michael. If you don't want fuel stress, fill up when it gets to quarter full.


  7. #7


    Issues I see:

    1. You have not budgets for hotels or campsites (if you opt to camp, do you have all the equipment you need?)

    2. Under 18 rules are because under 18 you cannot enter into a contract, as some have noted already, some hotels (Radisson comes to mind) are almost all 21 years to reserve a hotel room; most however are 18

    3. Driving for a month, doing things until 4:00, then driving 4-10 PM will get old quick. I'd suggest looking at destinations along the way and planning longer drives with longer stops in between so you can really enjoy an area, then continue on. That also gives you the mental break from road fatigue that happens when all you're doing day-in-day-out is drive.

    4, Your mileage will be 15-25% higher than the map program says - that's because you'll actually drive around different areas you stop, you're not just going point-to-point, but getting off the exit and driving around too

    5. Your average highway speed will likely be higher since speed limits in the midwest and west are significantly higher than the east coast (Utah has areas it is 80, Kansas is 75 for most of I-70, etc.)

    6. Why get gas every 50 miles? A tank drives you at least 250, if not 300-400 miles, no? My car takes me 625 miles on a tank - want to know how often I fill up? Every 500 miles - I have enough of a buffer in case I'm mistaken as to where to get gas next, and also enough should I hit one of those areas without gas for 100 miles (they do exist and are signed so you know in advance before proceeding). NOTE: These days, even gas stations that close often allow fill-up with a credit card at the pump in the after-hours.

    7. I think one investment you should make is a AAA membership if you don't have one, that'll reduce your repair costs should you need a tow. A 2010 Subaru with just 55,000 miles should be fine though - have your oil changed before you leave and a mini-tune done, have your tires checked/rotated and if you need new ones, buy them before you go.

    I'd suggest leaving when you turn 18 - it's only a few days from when you planned to leave, so do things you'd be doing when you get back before you leave in those days and have less to do when you return.

  8. #8


    One option to consider is going to Europe - there the age kids travel alone without issue is generally 16, so finding accommodations isn't difficult and a summer abroad is a fantastic adventure. You'd not be able to rent a car, but the EuroRail system is fast and efficient and easy to use. If you wanted to rent a car when you did turn 18, the rules in the EU for short-term leases are favorable if you're 18 - it's the minimum age to do a short-term lease (at least 17 days), unlike the US that wants you to be 25.

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