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  1. Default Cross-country trip advice

    My brother, cousin, and I (each in our early 20's) are planning a road trip from NY to CA and have roughly planned the following route: New York, Nashville, New Orleans, San Antonio, Grand Canyon, San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Yellowstone NP, Mount Rushmore, Chicago, and back home to NY. I have travelled up and down the east coast but have never even been out of the eastern time zone. I am eager to see as much as possible so I hope we are not being too ambitious here.

    Having no experience with a trip of this magnitude, we estimated the trip would take about 3 weeks. Does this sound like a reasonable goal to the more experienced road trippers out there? We have been considering cutting out 1 or 2 of the California cities.

    I would appreciate any general advice that you are willing to give. Also, suggestions of things to do or places to visit along the way would be a great help. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    Considering it is possible to travel across the country in 5 long days, or six days, three weeks does not really leave you enough time to visit and enjoy all the places on your list. It would literally mean you would spend two of the three weeks driving. To my way of thinking and going that far, it would not make an enjoyable trip. If you could make it four weeks, you would be in a much better way.

    Here is a paragraph which may help you in the planning process.

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck
    Start with maps. Not GPS, not software, not Google, but real honest-to-god paper maps that show you your entire route, that you can mark up (and erase), that you can stick pins in, and that show something about the land you'll be driving through. Those are your essential tool in any RoadTrip planning process. Start by marking all the places you know you want to visit. Then connect the dots. Then look for more places of interest and scenic routes and along the lines connecting the dots. Repeat until you've got as many sites and roads as you think you want.
    If any of you (or someone in your families) are a member of AAA you will be able to get all the State maps there. If not, then it would be wise to purchase a road atlas such as Rand McNally. While planning you really want to aim for a 50/50 mix of driving and exploring.

    Allow at least a full day at the Grand Canyon, preferably an overnight stop so you can experience a sunset/sunrise over the canyon. Allow three days for Yellowstone to see all the main attractions in this huge park. Note that there are more than 100 miles of road in Yellowstone and the going is very slow with wildlife on the road getting right of way. Right by Mt Rushmore in the Black Hills is Custer State Park with all its attractions, and nearby Badlands NP which you may want to check out. Then there are all the NPs in Utah and the Californian NPs of Yosemite and Death Valley as well as Crater Lake and Sequoia NP.

    And I have not even mentioned all the sites in the southern States.

    When is this trip to take place?


  3. Default

    Thank you for your response, Lifey. I like the advice about using a real map vs. gps; the ease of navigation would take away from the thrill of exploring.

    We would like to leave at the beginning of July. Time may not be a huge issue for us and we may very well be able to extend the trip but funds may then become a problem.

    Do you have any recommendations for saving money along the way? We are already planning on bringing a tent and camping out where we can; we figure that would be the cheapest option in many cases. We are also into fishing (if we get lucky it would also save us on food costs) but we were not sure whether it would be worth it to bring poles with us.

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


    I wouldn't recommend fishing as a way to save money. You'll need a fishing license in every state you plan to visit, and that's generally going to cost more than a nice fish dinner at a restaurant. Now if you want to do it just because you enjoy fishing, that's another story.

    Camping can be a very good way to save money, although I will note your itinerary is very city-heavy, and finding places near a city to camp can be difficult. Staying on the outskirts of a city will usually be much cheaper than staying near downtown.

    I will say that I agree that 3 weeks would be difficult for a trip of this size. You could cover the miles no problem, but you'd have hardly any time left over to explore the places you've listed. Even your idea of dropping 1 or 2 of the California stops wouldn't be all that helpful, as it's the miles it takes to get to California that's a big part of the time problem - once you're there there's not a ton of difference between visiting 1 town or 3.

  5. #5


    In looking at your itinerary, I see that you have Yellowstone listed. That is a 2-4 (or longer) trip in itself. If possible, I would advise CA stops and Yellowstone be saved for a future trip.

    Get a good US map. Stick it on a wall. Start marking places that you would like to see along your given route. Look for short stops as well as longer stops. (short stops make a good leg stretching place)

    Then know that if you are going to do several activities in a city, then that makes it a short drive to the next destination (under 150 miles). If you are only doing one major attraction, then it is possible to drive up to 300 miles. Days were you are "just" driving, don't go over 600 miles or 10 hrs.

    Have fun. Look for places that peak your curiosity as much as experiencing new places. (IE: I love carousels. I have found several OLD ones on my route.)

    Now take it as advice, and plan as you wish.

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