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  1. Default Road-trip from Boston to San Diego

    Hi all! I am moving to SD the last week of November from the Boston area. I have been trying to plot out the best route for me to take but I keep getting stuck. I would like to take an enjoyable drive with some sight-seeing but I am MOST concerned with taking a route that is direct and takes a lesser amount of time to reach California. I would also like to avoid tolls and long, civilization-less roads as much as possible (I do not want to drive long stretches of unpopulated areas for safety purposes). Also, I am driving a sedan, so avoiding rough road conditions would also be a plus. So far, I've found that my best bet is I-90 W > I-71 S > I-70 W > I-44 > I-40 > I-77 > I-87 > I-10 > I-15. Has anyone ever taken this route or could recommend a better one for me to take with the preferences I have? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Good maps will show all the towns along the way.

    Hi daniii, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    In the US there are very few roads which are isolated for long stretches, without civilization.

    A few years ago I drove from SD to Boston using my maps to pick and choose my route as I went. Much depends on how much time you have for this trip.

    You might find you will be better off, if you follow the advice in this paragraph, even though it is not a sightseeing trip:-

    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 along the lines connecting the dots. Repeat until you've got as many sites and roads as you think you want.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Changes that Fit Your Style

    If you world "like to avoid tolls", then I-90 to Cleveland is not the way to go. That would take you nearly the entire length of both the Mass Pike and the NY State Thruway, both expensive. Instead, leave the Mass Pike at Sturbridge and take I-84 to Scranton and I-80 west to just past Youngstown and there switch over to I-76. You'll actually just stay on the same road when I-80 exits to join the Ohio Turnpike. Then get on I-71 west of Akron. This routing is actually five miles shorter than taking the toll roads.

    I'm not sure how you intend to get from I-40 to San Diego. Note that I-77 goes from West Virginia to South Carolina, and I-87 follows the Hudson River and Champlain Valley in New York, so I'm sure that's not what you meant. On the other hand, note that I-44/I-40 follows the old alignment of 'Route 66', famous in song, story, and TV. To get from I-40 to San Diego, and given your desire to 'avoid long, civilization-less roads', what I'd suggest is that at Flagstaff (remember - at this point, a tour of the Grand Canyon would be a half day detour) take I-17 south to Phoenix, Loop-101 around the northwestern suburbs, and I-10 west. But at Buckeye, take AZ-85 south to Gila Bend and I-8 the rest of the way west to San Diego.

    You'll need at least five and a half days to make the drive comfortably and safely. If you have significantly more time than that, and once you have decided on a final route, we can suggest some sight-seeing options to make the trip more enjoyable. As long as you stick primarily to the Interstates (and out of west Texas) you will never be that far from civilization. The roads suggested above are all well-traveled and typically have motorist's services, food/fuel/lodging, at most exits.


  4. #4


    Picking up on above, leave the Mass Pike at Sturbridge and take I-84 to Scranton. At Scranton, consider taking I-81 down through Pennsylvania and Virginia and Tennessee to Knoxville where you turn right heading west on I-40. I-40 will take you through Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, and Flagstaff. You can continue on I-40 to Barstow, CA, where you would pick-up I-15 and/or I-15/I-215-I-15 south towards San Diego, skirting the outer fringes of Los Angeles.

    Based on my recent travels (Oct 2015):
    - western portions of I-10 and I-40, I definitely would favor I-40. I-10 was really the pits
    - the Texas stretch of I-40 isn't so great either for road conditions AND rest areas
    - highway conditions (US and Interstate) were not that impressive in Indiana and Arizona
    - I-44 in Oklahoma is a toll road
    - I-70 in Colorado and Utah were scenic and great condition

    I can give you some hotel recommendations on I-44 (Central Missouri); Oklahoma City; I-40 (Santa Rosa, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Lake Havasu, AZ). Affordable and clean. The bargain was the simple, but super clean hotel in Santa Rosa and a very affordable, basic but complete motel in Lake Havasu City.

    My "express trip" from Santa Barbara, CA to Maryland, took 5 days. Plan on seven days for a more comfortable ride from Boston to San Diego and add a couple of days if you will be making stops along the way (e.g., Grand Canyon).

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    At the end of November, you will definitely want to keep these recommended routes in mind and choose the one with the "best planned weather". Have paper maps available in case you have to make a last minute diversion.

    I've done the I-80/76/71/70/15 route. The best things about that route is the beautiful scenery on I-70 in western Colorado and throughout Utah. However, in a snowstorm, that I-70 route west of Denver should probably be avoided. The bummer to that route: going through San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The traffic can be awful, depending on when you go through.

    We've gone the I-81/40/15 route. Not bad at all, but the advice given to you on dropping down towards and around Phoenix to catch I-8 is good advice. It avoids going through the San Bernardino/Riverside County mess that I mentioned in the above paragraph.

    Going down to I-10 means a lot of driving through sparsely populated territory, especially in western Texas and in some portions of Arizona east of Tucson. It also would be a bit out of the way.

    My daughter used I-44 last year when she and her family came from mid-Missouri out here to San Diego. The toll was not obnoxious. She told me that they would never stay in the America's Best Value Inn in western Oklahoma City, but liked the Day's Inn there in OKC.

    PS Welcome to San Diego!


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The toll on I-44 from MO to OKC is $8.00 for a passenger vehicle, add another $2.30 if you take the Kilpatrick Turnpike bypass around OKC. On the Kilpatrick, you will need exact change, two $1.15 booths.

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    The toll on I-44 from MO to OKC is $8.00 for a passenger vehicle, add another $2.30 if you take the Kilpatrick Turnpike bypass around OKC. On the Kilpatrick, you will need exact change, two $1.15 booths.
    Great advice, glc. The Kilpatrick connects from I-44 and is a good bypass to avoid OKC - well worth the $2.30 toll charge. I also liked Donna's advice on taking I-8 south of Phoenix to San Diego. The scenery on that road is a lot neater than the I-10, too.

  8. Default

    Thank you all so much for all the input, I'm definitely going to avoid spending too much time on 90 and stay out of cleveland (my original plan). I've decided that I want to add a stop to Denver as I have a friend out there-after plotting a bit and taking some of your advice I've come up with this route (rough first draft): start out on I-90, take I-84 at Sturbridge, I-81 at Scranton, pick up I-76 in Carlisle, eventually get onto I-70 then stay on 70 until I hit I-15 and move south. What are the thoughts on this arrangement? I am leaving the first week of november, not at the end of november, so I'm hoping the weather will be in my favor but I know e are entering the dicey weather season. I'm also open to alternatives for this route now that I'm trying to include Denver in the trip. Thanks again to all!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    You would save money on tolls by taking I-80 across PA and then use I-76/I-71 to connect to I-70 in Ohio, rather than I-81 to I-76, which involves considerable tolls on the PA Turnpike. The two options are basically the same distance.

    Of course, with the weather, it is always good to keep your options open, and make your final routing decisions based on which roads look like they will see the best conditions based on the weather forecasts - which will only be available just before you leave.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Another option is stay on I-81 to Hagerstown, then I-70 to Hancock, I-68 to Morgantown, I-79 to Washington PA to pick up I-70 again.

    If the weather is bad on I-70 west of Denver, you can either wait it out or take I-25 to Albuquerque and then I-40.

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