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  1. Default HELP! Road trip starting in Philadelphia, need advice!

    Hello everyone!

    I was looking for some insight from past roadtrippers on a future road trip I've planned with my boyfriend for next year. We are planning on leaving the last week of august from the Philadelphia area. We have devoted 3 weeks for our travels/sights and our budget is tight - we would like to spend $2500 each.

    What we want to see:

    1. Badlands National Park
    2. Mount Rushmore
    3. Grand Teton National Park
    4. Yellowstone National Park
    5. Glacier National Park
    6. Olympic National Park
    7. Portland, Oregon
    Then venture down the Pacific Highway in California making sure to see
    8. San Francisco
    9. Big Sur
    10. Yosemite National Park
    11. Joshua Tree
    12. San Diego
    We wanted to also hit these spots along the way home
    13. Grand Canyon
    14. Horseshoe Bend
    15. Zion National Park
    16. 4 Corners
    17. Denver

    We feel like we are being WAY too ambitious - with the amount of stops, the time frame and our budget. We plan on camping most of the trip, at national parks or camp grounds nearby to save on hotel expenses. Right now it says our travel route is about 9000 miles. I don't know the first thing about road trips, but I feel like that's a lot of miles for 3 weeks. If anyone could provide any type of insight on:

    - a better itinerary (any places we could do without or should see instead)
    - travel roads (most of our route is I-90, coming from Philadelphia and I heard that's not scenic)
    - would it be cheaper to rent a car and fly back at our end destination?
    - should we expand our trip another week?
    - how much SHOULD we budget to spend throughout this whole trip (We plan to buy a national park pass and keeping a cooler stocked with water and snacks)
    - also, has anyone ever road tripped in a Lancer - any insight on that?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Yes, you're being a bit ambitious for 3 weeks. Basically, it's a 5-day trip just from Phila. to the coast, and then you have the return (10 days in the car). To venture off to Glacier, and some of the other places, are going to add driving time. That doesn't leave you much time to actually see anything. Here's a couple of ideas, the first of which is what I do when I'm trying to plan a vacation that appears to be too much for the time limit:

    Lay out the 21 days that you have. Figure on driving no more than 500 miles per day if you are going to camp on the way, because you have to find the campsite (tent camping is not usually right next to the highways like motels are), set up, and then tear down in the morning, all of which takes TIME. Plan on a half day for Badlands, half day for Mt Rushmore (and they are about 50 miles apart), a day for Grand Teton, three days for Yellowstone, a day for Glacier, a day for Olympic (and there is driving time needed between all of those) and you'll start to see that you are planning too much.

    Scale back your trip and see what might work better. Maybe stick to Badlands/Mt Rushmore/Devils Tower/Yellowstone and Teton and go home.

    To answer some of your questions:
    - travel roads (most of our route is I-90, coming from Philadelphia and I heard that's not scenic)
    No, it's not particularly scenic but when you're on a time-budget, it's quick. It's not particularly budget-friendly, though, with all the tolls!

    - would it be cheaper to rent a car and fly back at our end destination?
    It would save you time, yes. But somebody is going to charge you a one-way drop fee and then the flight you need may be out of an airport where it's more expensive to fly. What it might be more budget-friendly and time-friendly to do, is fly to Salt Lake City or Denver, rent a car, do a loop trip with a few of those destinations you'd like, return the car to where you borrowed it, and fly home. You still won't get ALL of those places into your vacation, but it would save you a little driving.

    - should we expand our trip another week?
    We took 7 weeks to do a 9000 mile trip, and it was action packed. Another week might get you another destination or two.

    - how much SHOULD we budget to spend throughout this whole trip (We plan to buy a national park pass and keeping a cooler stocked with water and snacks)
    To figure your gas, take your intended mileage, add 20% for sightseeing (Yellowstone is a huge park), then go to the Fuel Cost calculator on the right hand side of this page and calculate how much fuel you are going to use and how much that will cost you. To figure camping, estimate $20 a night (at least). Food? That depends a lot on how you eat, and yes, a cooler and a snack bag work wonders. Stop at big box stores to restock if needed. Buying the national park pass will pay off IF you end up going to more than Badlands ($20), Yellowstone/Grand Teton ($25 for two) and Mt Rushmore (no pass needed, but parking was $12 and you cannot use the pass to cover that; these are 2014 prices). Add Devil's Tower ($10) and you still haven't reached the $80 it costs to buy the pass. The way the trip was aligned in your original post, though, says that the $80 would pay for itself several times over.


    - also, has anyone ever road tripped in a Lancer - any insight on that?
    I can say truthfully that hubby and I have done camping trips, just the two of us, in a Subaru sedan back in the early 80s. It was as small as the Lancer. We did borrow a friend's car-top carrier to make sure we had plenty of room for the equipment we liked to use in camping.


    Hope this helps, and feel free to ask more questions!


    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default I think you need to choose, North or South.

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    I think you have every right to be concerned that you are taking on [far] to much in the time you have. Personally speaking I would be looking to decide whether to head towards the Northwest or the Southwest, but certainly not both. From PA to San Fran would be a full 10 days of driving and to see the sites in that area you have listed would be pushing things. To go to Olympic NP would take another day at least and the park would need 2 days to do it any type of justice, so that's almost 2 of your 3 weeks gone before you look elsewhere.

    If you rent a car and fly back you will have the added fees for a one way rental that could be significant. An option would be to fly out and back and renting a car while in the west and returning it the same place in a loop trip. If you can find an extra week it would help as long as your budget can cope with another week, but even then I think it's a case of North or south. That ultimately has to be your choice, but both are great options. If you want to go to Yellowstone and decide on that you should allow at least 3 days in the park just to have time to get around to the main areas.

  4. Default

    Thank you for your helpful reply. Yes I knew I was over ambitious - I'm just so excited to embark on my first road trip!

  5. Default

    Southwest Dave - thank you for your reply! I think you're right, I didn't want to admit to myself I had to scale back and cut out portions of my trip. I would prefer to do the northern part of the country, Glacier being my #1 point of interest.

    Do either you or DonnaR57 you have any itinerary suggestions if I just had these points of interest:
    - Badlands
    - Mount Rushmore
    - Yellowstone
    - Teton
    - Glacier
    and wanted to keep Olympic NP and Portland?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    The other issue when it comes to the fly-drive, your camping equipment would be tough to pack out and back. You would be extremely limited, one box perhaps for 2 sleeping bags, a small tent, and a cooler -- you'd almost have to buy some of that stuff there and then donate it to a thrift organization store before you headed back.

    I would sincerely suggest picking a few places, driving there, around, and home, and that way you'll be comfortable with your own gear. Do plan on a motel every few days, for cleanliness purposes. You can buy showers at a truck stop but you will be paying $15-18 per person. You may find cheap motels for under $40, if you watch your coupon books and try not to stay in the heart of the city. (These can be found at state visitor centers, some rest areas, and some truck stops.)

    Do you have paper maps??? Time to pick some up -- free at AAA if you're a member, or low cost if you're not, or stop in Walmart and pick up a road atlas. Don't be tempted to rely on electronic mapping programs or a GPS of any type. They aren't detailed enough AND they get you into trouble easily!


    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default A rough outline to work from.

    Quote Originally Posted by LiGlee View Post
    Southwest Dave - thank you for your reply! I think you're right, I didn't want to admit to myself I had to scale back and cut out portions of my trip. I would prefer to do the northern part of the country, Glacier being my #1 point of interest.

    Do either you or DonnaR57 you have any itinerary suggestions if I just had these points of interest:
    - Badlands
    - Mount Rushmore
    - Yellowstone
    - Teton
    - Glacier
    and wanted to keep Olympic NP and Portland?
    You would still be looking at a lot of driving heading out to Olympic NP and down to Portland which would then limit your time in the other places listed. Extending the trip by a week would certainly help. It would be 3 hard days of driving to the Badlands. Then perhaps 3 to 4 days to see Badlands, visit Rushmore and drive through Glacier NP. You would have to allow a day and a half to drive to Olympic NP and perhaps 2 days for the park and the drive to Portland. Another 2 days from Portland to West Yellowstone with perhaps a little time spent along the Columbia River Gorge. So that's the best part of 2 weeks gone at a brisk pace and it's going to take 4 full days to drive home from Jackson WY, leaving perhaps 3 or 4 days to explore Yellowstone and the Tetons before heading towards I80 and homeward bound. Of course that's just one way of doing it among many, but if you had an extra few days at your disposal you could take longer with the driving out and back and see a few more things at a slower pace, rather than large parts of your trip feeling m ore 'work like' behind the wheel.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by LiGlee View Post
    Southwest Dave - thank you for your reply! I think you're right, I didn't want to admit to myself I had to scale back and cut out portions of my trip. I would prefer to do the northern part of the country, Glacier being my #1 point of interest.

    Do either you or DonnaR57 you have any itinerary suggestions if I just had these points of interest:
    - Badlands
    - Mount Rushmore
    - Yellowstone
    - Teton
    - Glacier
    and wanted to keep Olympic NP and Portland?
    You have made a good start at cutting back. I honestly think if you want to have any quality time at the first 5 parks on your list, you will still need to cut out Olympic NP and Portland. Cutting these two places will save you well over 1,300 miles. Driving long hours day after day can be exhausting. You can spend a week in Yellowstone and hardly scrape the surface of this wonderful park. I think you have enough to keep you busy, but if not, you might consider making a day trip to Waterton National Park in Canada from Glacier if you have your passports. I would also add Theodore Roosevelt National Park on either the way out or the way back.

    I would do a circle tour starting out with three days of just driving around 560 miles a day and reach Theodore Roosevelt on the 4th day. Day 5 see a little of the park and drive the rest of day 5 and day 6 to reach East Glacier National Park. If you are going to be here over the Labor Day weekend, you will need camping reservations. I suggest Glacier first because some of the campgrounds start to close after Labor Day. Glacier has many wonderful areas to explore and lots of hiking. Three full days here is not unreasonable.

    You could make it from Glacier to West Yellowstone in one long day of driving. We never stayed less than a 7 days here but you could get a good idea of the park in three full days. There is that much to see and do in Yellowstone. Grand Tetons is just a short drive from Yellowstone. We usually spend just a couple nights here but many others love to hike here.

    It's a long days drive between Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore. I would consider spending a night on the road and make the short detour to see Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Mt. Rushmore can easily be seen in a couple of hours. Badlands can be seen in a day. From Badlands you have another 3 long days of driving to get home.


    Utahtea

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    Another option that would be more economical with time and money would be to 'replace' Olympic NP with Rocky mountain NP and go from the Tetons to Colorado and then home.

  10. Default

    Thank you everyone for your suggestions, it's all much appreciated!

    So we've officially given up on trying to see the pacific this time around, we'll save that for another trip! I am looking for more insight/advice on my updated idea:

    - Badlands - 1 day
    - Mount Rushmore - half day
    - Glacier NP - 3 days
    - Yellowstone - 3 days
    - Teton NP - 1/2 days
    - Arches NP - ?
    - Zion NO - ?
    - Grand Canyon - ?

    I originally was just going to end at Teton, but part of me still wants to see as much as possible... which I know is because I'm a rookie at this. Please let me know if you think this plan is feasible, and if so, how many days would you estimate? I only included days I'd like to venture at these destinations - I did not account for driving time.

    Also what suggestions do you have for places to stop/things to see and explore between Philadelphia and Badlands and between our end stop (whether it be Teton or Grand Canyon) and Philadelphia? That's A LOT of driving to do with nothing to do in-between! Looking for things outdoorsy, touristy, anything must see for a classic road trip.

    Alterative route plan are welcomed - I'd like to try to fit all these in but if it's not practical then I will go back to the drawing board again.

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