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  1. #1

    Default 3 month Washington DC circular, mid-Sept to mid-Dec

    Hi RTA,

    My partner (22), Georgia, and I (26) have now committed to one of our life goals - to road trip around the USA! We are to fly in to Washington DC in mid-September and out in mid-December, 89 days total. Washington DC is our start point as we have family there who are kindly lending us their car for the trip, a 2010 Honda Accord, which should give us 22 City, 31 Highway MPG. With these costs arranged, we are aiming to take at least $15,000 for fuel, accommodation, food and other expenses.

    The only two commitments we have for dates are to spend Thanksgiving in Dallas, TX as we have family there, and somewhere nice for Georgia's birthday on November 10th. We are happy to camp across the journey but would like to break up camping with motel/hotel stays every 3/4 days. We get family rate discounts at Marriott hotels across the country due to another family connection.

    We are both restaurant managers, and one day aim to open our own place, so a major interest for us is food and hospitality wherever we go; we would also like to include at least one big restaurant experience, The French Laundry is top of my list. Physical Geography is another keen interest, so we are looking to get the NP pass and do many of them, camping and hiking as we go along. We are also very keen to fit in a handful of sporting events both franchised and at university level in some of the cities that we travel through.

    Our draft route, with a contingency day each week post-Washington DC, is currently as follows:

    Day 1-4: Washington DC
    Day 4-8: Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah & Great Smoky Mountains NPs
    Day 9: Asheville, NC
    Day 10: Nashville, TN
    Day 11-12: Memphis, TN
    Day 13: Contingency
    Day 14: Springfield, IL
    Day 15-19: Chicago, IL
    Day 20: Milwauke, IL
    Day 21: Contingency
    Day 22: Driving to Rapid City, SD
    Day 23-25: Black Hills, Badlands & Devil's Tower NPs
    Day 26-27: Denver, CO
    Day 28: Contingency
    Day 29-31: Moab, UT (Canyonlands & Arches NPs)
    Day 32: Salt Lake City, UT
    Day 33-38: Yellowstone NP
    Day 39: Contingency
    Day 40: Boise, ID
    Day 41: Crater Lake NP
    Day 42: Redwood NP
    Day 43-44: California State Route 1
    Day 45: Contingency
    Day 46-50: San Francisco, CA & Wine country
    Day 51-53: Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon NPs (too much?)
    Day 54-55: Las Vegas, NV (via. Death Valley NP)
    Day 56-59: Grand Canyon NP (via Hoover Dam)
    Day 60: Contingency
    Day 61: Petrified Forest NP
    Day 62-63: Santa Fe, NM
    Day 64: Driving to TX, anywhere good to stop this way?
    Day 65-68: San Antonio, Austin TX
    Day 69: Contingency
    Day 70-75: Dallas, TX (We could move a few days out of this into somewhere else!)
    Day 76: Driving to New Orleans, LA
    Day 77-79: New Orleans, LA

    We need to be back in Washington DC by day 87 so days 80-86 are in the South but we don't know much around here. Very keen to go to Athens, GA (probably for University sports as my brother used to work there), Savannah, GA & Charleston, NC. Any suggestions how to link this up/what is good to see in the South? We're aiming for a more cultural/historical experience here & lots of good BBQ, I hope!

    We realise that we are starting with a full plate and recognise that we may need to trim off some edges to avoid the risk of burn out. Having family across the UK we are used to regular 4/5 hours drives as a starting point.

    I have lots of questions but we'll start with this: what are your impressions and considerations?

    Really look forward to hearing from you all,


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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you've got the start of a pretty amazing trip.

    My first warning is in regards to the car. While having a relative offer to let you use their car is a great deal for you, be aware that you really are putting them at a significant amount of risk. If you were to get into some kind of accident, it's likely it would impact their insurance costs for years to come - and if it was a major crash, where somehow their insurance didn't cover everything, your relative's assets could be at risk. At the very least, you should be added as named drivers to their insurance policy during your trip, which could increase their rates. It's not to say you can't do it, but it isn't as simple as them handing you the keys, and there are some things you should be talking about (and they should be talking to their insurance agent) before your trip.

    My thought for your actual plan is that you've got a good approach. Having an extra day each week is a very good idea. I wonder if you couldn't shave a few miles off your route in a few places, by doing a little less north/south zig-zagging. For example, if you're planning to visit the south on your way back from Texas, you might save places like Nashville and Memphis until then, or it might make more sense to do South Dakota then Yellowstone, and save Utah and Colorado for after the Grand Canyon.

    None of those are critical things, and they might not even make much of a difference, but its a couple things that you might think about.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    A couple of things popped into my head, in reading what could be an incredible trip:

    First, if this trip starts in mid-September, you will be arriving in Yellowstone National Park in mid-October. Unfortunately, most things will be pretty well closed up and shut by then. (If I have mis-read or mis-interpreted your timeline, please forgive.) Much of Yellowstone is shuttered by the end of September. The rest goes by Oct 10th, usually. Here are the opening and closing dates for Yellowstone this year.

    Another thought -- you could allot more time in the Black Hills area. Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave and/or Jewel Cave, and Custer State Park, all take more than a day. Badlands would also best be served on your way into Rapid City from points eastward. Otherwise, you're backtracking.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Donna and Michael make some good points. I'd do the northern part of your trip first, get out to Yellowstone, Crater Lake, and Yosemite as soon as possible to beat the winter. Then you can zigzag your way back. The Blue Ridge and Skyline stay open a lot longer, winter comes a lot later in the eastern mountains than in the western mountains.

  5. #5


    Hello everyone!

    Georgia here!
    Thank you so much for all of your replies. It's really kind of you to offer us the advice and we are definitely taking it all on board!

    With regards to the insurance - she's taking care of it for us but yeah definitely these are things that we will raise with her - thank you!

    We have sorted out accommodation in the big cities but are hoping to camp/ stay in the car in between. How easy/good of an idea is this?

    Also with regards to money! We want to some of it out there and are planning to send it ahead so that we can't spend it all so early on! But there's a few ideas being flown around of how to have it out there and any advice would be great!
    1. Pre loaded credit card
    2. Credit card - get someone in the UK to pay it as we go
    3. Travellers cheques

    Also any other info of good road trip advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you all again xx

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Sleeping in the car is not a good idea. I would go over to Walmart and buy basic camping gear. When the trip is done, give it to the folks that were kind enough to loan you the car - or donate it to Goodwill/Salvation Army.

    Traveler's checks have fallen into disfavor over here with the transition to a "plastic" society. Probably the easiest thing to do is use your UK credit (not debit) card (Visa or Mastercard), when you need cash, go to any bank and get a cash advance (there will be a fee, and your bank will probably start charging interest immediately). The only downside to this is you will probably have to go inside to pay for fuel, as the pump reader probably won't accept your foreign card (but the inside readers should). They are set up for a 5 digit ZIP code verification, and debit cards use a 4 digit PIN. No RFID chip verification here yet.

    It wouldn't hurt to also get a prepaid Visa card over here to use where your foreign card may not be accepted. There is a fee involved to purchase and reload them.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Managing Money

    Go to your bank(s) and ask each one how much they charge for international transactions on credit/debit cards. Contact Visa or Mastercard (which ever your card(s) are) and check their conversion rate. Then go to all money changing organisations in your area, and see how much cards with preloaded foreign currency cost per $1000. That all varies quite a bit. Don't believe it if they say there are no fees, as you will find these built into the currency conversion rate Then sit down together and decide which is most beneficial for you..... or as I prefer to call it, to which bank do you want to make a donation for doing nothing! Be aware that cards preloaded with foreign currency have strict condition. Find out how much it costs to get your money back at the end of your trip.

    For all of these reasons, I have decided to carry cash for each of my almost yearly six month long trips. Securely kept and carefully managed there is no reason why it should not last a whole trip. I have never had a problem, nor lost a cent.

    I have often had my credit card rejected on the grounds that it is not US issued. Many places are not capable of dealing with advanced technology.


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