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  1. #1

    Default Hartford, CT to New Orleans

    I'm planning my first ever solo road trip in a few weeks and I'm looking for some tips. I'm looking to cut cost first and foremost, and and am wondering if there's free campsites where I could sleep in my car along the way, or if I would be better off at truck or rest stops.
    I'm also wondering if there's anything of particular interest that shouldn't be missed en route. I'm trying to decide if I should take 3 or 4 days for the drive, so I don't want to go /too/ off course as once I'm in NOLA I'll have someone to stay with.

    Any advice would be so welcome!

    After NOLA I'll be driving across to Orlando, and then up back to CT through Charleston. My plan is to make the drive from Charleston to CT in one day, but I could push it to two if need be. Anything on any of those legs that shouldn't be missed? Or in any of the cities I'll be passing through or staying in? Any advice for where to sleep for a single female?

    I'm excited, but a little nervous!

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

    Default please rethink some things

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    At the very beginning, you need to seriously take another look at your trip, from a safety perspective.

    My plan is to make the drive from Charleston to CT in one day, but I could push it to two if need be.
    That's not just a dangerous plan, that's a homicidal one. You're talking about a trip that's nearly 900 miles, which is way too far for anyone to safely drive in one day. It's about 50% more than professional drivers are allowed to do in a day under safety laws. And to top it off, it's a drive through the busiest, most congested, traffic corridor in North America. Real world, even if you only see a relatively small amount of traffic, it could very easily be a 20+ hour drive. Not only do you need to "push it" to 2 days, you need to plan for 2 pretty full days on the road.

    Similarly, Hartford to NOLA is basically 3 full days all by itself, so if you want to do any exploring along the way, adding a fourth day would be smart.

    If you are using travel time estimates provided by online mapping programs, throw them out the window. They assume you'll be able to travel above the speed limit for every minute of the day, never having to slow down for traffic, and never having to stop for food, fuel, or rest. As a solo traveler, on your first big roadtrip, you would be wise to limit your travel days to about 500 miles. Even that is going to be around 9 hours on the road.

    For sleeping on the road, you're not going to find much for free camping in the eastern US, although with some work, you could probably find some sites for $10-20 a night. Highway Rest Areas are not a safe place to sleep. Truck stops can be a good choice - but keep in mind, the things that make them a safe choice like being well lit, and seeing plenty of traffic all night, can also make them a difficult place to get a good night of rest.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default If it is meant to be slept in.

    For a first time solo trip, please take good notice of the advice above. It can become quite fatigueing driving 9 - 10 hours day after day. To help stay alert be sure to stop every couple of hours, take a short walk to stretch your legs and clear your mind.

    There are many ways to cut costs on a road trip, but sleeping in your car is not a wise one unless your car is set up for it, and you can stretch out.

    You will find ample camping places like State Parks, which are low cost, and much safer than rest areas. They are also legal, which often rest areas are not. You will find in MS that some rest areas have night time security. These are the only rest areas where I - as a senior female - would (and have) slept. Speak to the guard on duty and you will be told where to park, and that he/she will keep an eye on you.

    Along the way you will see at rest areas and welcome centres the hotel/motel discount coupon booklets. I have often picked up a hotel for less than $50 all inclusive, though of course, that is not guaranteed. At welcome centres you can also ask where there is a BLM office. If anyone is going to know about 'free' campsites, they will. Most of my nights when I am going from one place to another, are spent at truck stops. My favourite is FJ. I like their facilities. Their showers are always clean. Since I never park my van in the back with the trucks, I do not have a problem with noise. Covering the windows takes care of the lights. Be careful though, that you do not get too hot. Try to leave a couple of windows open a little. Of course always speak to someone at reception and ask if it is OK. Be sure to give them some of your business before you move on.

    When staying in budget motels along the road, ask to see the room before you commit. Check not only for cleanliness, but that the smoke alarm has not been disabled and that the door has a lock which can not be opened from the outside, such as the chain lock.

    Carrying a cooler with ice to keep drinks cool will save on buying cold drinks, and doing all your shopping for food at normal supermarkets rather than convenience stores, will also cut down costs. You might like to read through this forum for further ideas.

    If you are not already a member of AAA (or some other roadside assistance program), I would highly recommend taking out a membership. It is a small price to pay for peace of mind, should anything happen along the way. You won't want to stop another car and ask for help.

    At AAA you can also get good paper maps. Be sure you have good maps when you hit the road. You might prefer a good road atlas, such as Rand McNally. These maps all show where camping on public lands is available, either with a little tent, or a small triangle. On the maps you will also see the attractions along the way, and which routes to take, should you long for a respite from the interstates.

    Although handy to find addresses etc., a gps is no substitute for good maps.

    Have a safe trip.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Saving Money on the Road:

    1) Fuel. If you travel with a smartphone, laptop or tablet, get the Gas Buddy app (or website). Look ahead, see what's less expensive. You may find that crossing a stateline will save you a lot, or cost more, per gallon. (For instance, California has 30c more in gas taxes than the neighboring state, Arizona.) Costco member? Many Costcos are located close to the freeway. Bring your card. There are fuel station loyalty programs, but always know what you're going to pay, or you may pay 10c more per gallon to save 3c per gallon – not what you wanted, probably.

    2) Lodging. A lot of tips for saving money on lodging are included above. Coupons work. So do RTA, Expedia,, or other consolidator, but be careful about cancellation policies. Think about what you REALLY require for a one night stop, or for a longer stay. Why pay for something that you may not use?

    3) Food. Eating out can cost the same as you pay when you eat out at home. One way to save money is to bring along a small cooler and picnic bag, and tote your own beverages and snacks. A grocery store is going to cost less than the roadside convenience shop. Really want to save? Many grocery stores sell hot foods like grilled or fried chicken, sausages, etc., and they do it at less price than the restaurant. If the motel allows it, you can usually do a microwave meal or even cook in a fry-pan. (Warning: some motels specifically ask you not to cook in the room. Even if it's permitted, though, don't cook fish or other smelly food in the room, out of courtesy to the next folks to rent the room.)

    4) Sightseeing. If you are going to 4 or more major national parks, consider purchasing an annual national park pass. Theme parks? Check your employer, AAA, or even Costco/Sam's Club or other wholesale warehouse. (If you're military – retired or active duty – check your local base.)


  5. #5


    You have me so scared now! I should clarify- I've done the drive up and down the east coast before, but I had a companion. She didn't help with the driving, just moral support. I have a place I could crash in Philly- its still a long day but is that more doable do you think?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You should not try to drive more than 600 miles a day if you are using Interstate highways, less on other roads. After more than 12 hours on the road, you are no longer driving safely. Your absolute limit driving from Charleston to New England should be Baltimore.

  7. #7


    The friend I'm staying with in Charleston makes the drive to CT on a regular basis. Is it really that bad? And is Philly really too far?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Yes, and Yes.

    It really is that bad, and it really is that dangerous. It is every bit as dangerous as driving drunk - the science, studies, and stats all show it. Fatigued driving kills, and it is impossible to keep your concentration at a level to safely operate a 2 ton machine at 70 miles per hour for upwards of 20 hours at a time.

    Most drunk drivers will get behind the wheel while under the influence 100 times or more before they get arrested or get into a crash, it doesn't mean the first 99 times were safe. Any one who tells you this drive can be done safely because they've done it before is using the exact same kind of logic.

    Charleston to Philly is still at least a 13 hour drive, on the busiest highways in America. Doing that solo, at the end of a long trip, means you will be beyond the limits of what anyone can safely. Even worse, your driving will be at its worst/most fatigued during the most stressful and congested part of the trip.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Sprint vs Marathon.

    Think about it this way, if you were asked to run a mile, you could probably do it without too much stress. If you were asked to do it again, and again and again, you would end up exhaused.

    When your friend chooses to drives this unsafe distance, is it at the end of other long days driving, or just as a one day drive? (Even as a one day drive, it is unsafe.)

    Fatigue is cumulative, and no matter how you feel when you get in the car, it will get you and your level of response time will be very low. Imagine that in an emergency. Fatigue on the road kills as many, if not more, than drunk driving.

    Be safe, stop half way and arrive alive.


  10. #10


    Thanks for all the input, folks. You have all been so helpful with planning and advice. I've got a list of all Flying J's locations along my route, and am also looking into couchsurfing.
    While I've done the drive down the coast by myself before this is the first time I'll be alone in the car for such a long trip. I'll have had several days off from driving while I stay in Florida so I'll be somewhat refreshed for my drive back north. That said, I've decided to add a day on either end of the trip- 4 days to get to NOLA and 3 to get back to CT from Florida (stopping in Charleston and then outside of DC in Virginia). I'm going from NOLA to Orlando in one day but I won't be alone for that part of the drive, so we can split up the longest drive day.
    Now that that has been settled, does anyone have any tips or recommendations of things that I shouldn't miss? I'm mostly looking for points of interest between CT and NOLA as that's a part of the country I haven't traveled before (western PA down through Tennessee). I'd hate to miss something by just a few miles now that I have a little more wiggle room! I'm thinking short nature walks or national parks or monuments that would allow me a break from the road and some fun.

    Thanks again :)

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