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  1. Default LA-MIAMI, summer 2016 (1st US rt ever)

    Hello all fellow roadtrippers! We are a Finnish couple in our late 30's planning our first ever US roadtrip. This forum has been a truly awesome source of info, thanks for that! Since we're newbies, we'd like to hear Your thoughts and advice on our (yet unfinished) plan.

    Ok. We'll be arriving to LAX on May 31 afternoon and we'll be renting a small car for the first 3 days in LA. Our hotel for the first night should be near LAX (jetlag, unfamiliar car/streets) so we could start fresh the next morning to explore LA. On Jun 3 we'll be switching to a rental campervan for the next 3 weeks. It's a modified Ford E-150 with a bed, small kitchen, cooler, utensils and what not. For the last 3-4 days we thought of renting again a smaller car for the Miami/Key West part and staying in motels/Airbnb, after returning the van. Flying back to Finland from Ft. Lauderdale on Jun 27, dropping off the small car there.

    This is our (very rough) draft for the 4 weeks (3 in the van):

    L.A-Barstow/Baker-Las Vegas-Hoover Dam/Kingman-Grand Canyon South Rim-Sedona/Gallup-Albuquerque-Amarillo-Wichita Falls/Arlington-Parker/Dallas-Shreveport-New Orleans-Biloxi/Mobile-Panama City Beach-Orlando-Lake Worth/Coral Springs-Miami-Key West-Miami-Ft. Lauderdale

    We plan on sleeping in the camper for the most part (national parks/camping sites/truck stops), and in motels maybe every 3 days (comfier bed/shower/laundry). Our itinerary is quite flexible, maybe a bit more driving on certain days (NM, TX) and chilling on others. The route is not the fastest nor most economical, as we prefer highways to interstates in some parts of the trip. Google maps calculated roughly 3200 miles, which is of course too conservative.

    How does all that sound? Not too tight a schedule? Sorry for the long post (I still have a ton of questions!), but let us know Your thoughts - still got 6 months to plan. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Not Tight at All

    Tervetuloa! Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Just looking at the three week van portion of your trip, I wouldn't call that tight at all. I make it about 3500 miles (plus side trips), but even so that's only a week's worth of steady driving which gives you a full two weeks' worth of time to be out of the van actually hiking, visiting sites, and generally enjoying yourselves. Just a few things to note in these early stages of planning.

    A one-way van rental with pick-up in L.A. and drop-off in Miami is going to be fairly expensive, so I'd price that out now and make sure that you can find a firm that will actually do it. Your best bets are the large national rental companies such as CruiseAmerica, El Monte, and others.

    If you hope to camp in national parks, then you'll need to get your reservations in early. Not being a camper myself, I don't know when they start accepting reservations for next summer, but I'd make finding out a top priority and then applying early and often, and keep trying if not successful at first. Then, be aware of 'backup' camping possibilities, particularly state parks and national forests.

    As for your occasional motel stays, over three weeks and with your out-of-van time at both ends of your trip you'll be spending roughly 10 days in motels. At that level it's worth your time to do some homework and research some of the major motel/hotel chains in America to find one that fits your tastes and wallet and has a rewards program that will allow you to earn a free stay or two out of all those night.

    As you continue to plan don't hesitate to ask specific questions. Just remember that the more information you can give us about your interests and goals both for the trip in general and for any particular location, the more useful our advice can be.


  3. #3


    Moi FinnTraveler!

    (Mina oon puoliksi Suomalainen, mutta asunut ulkomailla jo yli 20 vuotta, Suomen kirjottaminen on jo vaikeaa... Mutta varmasti teille tulee hieno matka!)

    (To the other folks here: I'm half-Finnish, hence the above comment...) You have a nice amount of time for this trip (we drove at a very easy pace from NYC to SF via LA in less than three weeks. In fact, I think you have enough time to consider going up the Utah and Colorado way (up to Denver and then back down) for some spectacular roads , gorgeous National and State Parks and general scenery - certainly something that you wouldn't get to experience in Finland. But of course, you may have chosen your route for personal reasons, and that would be perfectly understandable. Just something to think about.

    And as AZBuck said, get on the NP accommodation booking asap (although we didn't camp in them either). Also, you'll be driving by Death Valley NP - the hottest place on the planet and one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

    Turvallista matkaa!


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Good maps for the big picture.

    One of the best things you could do right now is to get hold of some really good detailed maps, to help you plan this trip. If good maps are not available locally, you could order a Rand McNally road atlas from the RTA store via the link at the bottom of this page. If you order it now you will have it in a couple of weeks.

    Maps are invaluable during the planning process, to see much more than a small screen will show you, and essential when on the road.


  5. Default

    Thanks for the good tips! Yes, a detailed paper map is a must. We'll preload the maps of all the states we'll be crossing into the cell phone's GPS app, but still. We didn't know the national parks fill up so fast, so better book them asap then. Any suggestions for good/scenic parks along our route? We are not the hiking type per se, but any sights within decent walking distance are ok.

    The one-way dropoff fee and unlimited miles are included in the van's renting price, but comprehensive insurance is not. That and 24h roadside assistance is to be added. We've got our personal travel insurance covered, of course. GPS unit costs extra also, but won't be needed. We'll probably need somekind of road toll prepaid card also, at least the Florida Sunpass? And local SIM cards for communication/data. AT&T has the best coverage?

    About the weather, yes. It'll be the hottest time of year (in some of the hottest states) and we were wondering if buying a small rechargeable fan would be a good idea for the nighttime? The car could heat up pretty quickly when not running the a/c. As for motels, we are members of Autoliitto (Finnish AAA), and there are some discounts on certain motels/hotels. How early should we book the rooms in advance? We wouldn't like to limit our choices too much though, plans can (and probably will) change.

    Keep them ideas coming! Kiitos :)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default It's on the maps.

    Quote Originally Posted by FinnTraveler View Post
    Any suggestions for good/scenic parks along our route? We are not the hiking type per se, but any sights within decent walking distance are ok.
    That is why you need good maps, especially during the planning stage. Those smaller parks, State Parks, State Forests, Recreational Areas and Wildlife Reserves. are on the maps. You're bound to find the atlas invaluable.

    Have you checked with Autoliitto to see if they have a reciprocal arrangement with AAA. If they do you will be able to pick up tourist information and maps on your arrival in LA - too late for the planning, but valuable for on the road. Or ask Autoliitto if they stock any of the AAA maps.

    It is quite possible to travel through FL and around Miami without a Sunpass. Unless you are on the road at rush hour weekdays, you will find the other freeways as fast as the toll way. At rush hour times they seem to carry about the same amount of traffic.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Which National parks ?

    We'll preload the maps of all the states we'll be crossing into the cell phone's GPS app,
    You shouldn't rely solely on electronics when travelling, you need good old paper maps as well so you my as well purchase some during your planning stage to see the 'big picture'. It's also a necessity as people have been known to blindly follow their GPS without maps as reference and perished. Although that may be rare it's not quite so rare that a GPS guides you to a different place than the one you want and most of the time they will put you on Interstate where you will miss the small towns and attractions.

    You mention camping and National parks, but your itinerary is made up of all City's other than the Grand canyon, so I wonder what your real interests are and what attracts you to the places listed, or are they just a list of City's along a route ? You have travel time to look further afield if you wanted to, or your plan is great if it's taking you where you want to go, but in that case I am not sure a camper would be a great choice in the city. Not to mention the fact that a high concentration of amazing National parks are located in the west, that's why I am a little confused about your goals for the trip. As mentioned previously mentioned, Southern Utah and Colorado are two fine examples of natural beauty and National parks.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    You shouldn't rely solely on electronics when travelling, you need good old paper maps as well
    We definitely won't, will be packing a good paper map also. In Here maps (nowadays in Google maps, too) you can preload the maps to your phone's memory, so even if there is no 3G/4G coverage, there's always GPS coverage. Navigation is mostly needed only within cities, and in the app it's also possible to set the navi to avoid interstates and toll roads.

    Yes, the route (as is) points out mostly cities, but just to give a rough clue of the overall progression of the trip. Like we said, we're not that much into hiking but sure appreciate nice views. The places we definitely want to see are L.A. in itself, Barstow station, Baker's world's tallest thermometer, Vegas' attractions, Hoover dam, GC of course, stretches of ol' 66, the town of Sedona, Albuquerque tramway, Amarillo Cadillac ranch, Dimebag's grave in Arlington, Southfork Ranch in Parker, City of Dallas, NO's clubs & Bourbon street, Panama City beach, friends & relatives in Lake Worth and Coral Springs, Miami's nightlife, the southernmost point of continental USA in Key West etc etc... And of course, a lot of road ahead.

    Big van in the cities is not the most convienient, true, but it is on the open road. Wouldn't want to cross Texas in a Kia Rio or similar (which we will be driving in LA & Miami) :) Plus it's our home during the trip.
    Last edited by FinnTraveler; 11-20-2015 at 07:13 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Nothing to do with coverage.

    Not relying on electron9ics, has nothing to do with cell coverage..... but everything to do with electronics sending folk astray. If you do not have the BIG picture, you won't know where that little screen is sending you.

    Google 'death by gps'.

    Paper maps are essential, and a bonus for all the detail they give you along your route.


  10. Default

    Sorry if we didn't express it clearly enough already: we WILL have paper maps also. Detailed ones. And a compass. And gallons of water. Somebody recommended this book on the interwebs, is it good?:

    Since we're not in a hurry, we'd absolutely love to see those rural, off the beaten path places that may not even be found in any books.

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