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  1. Default East to West coast round trip

    I'm currently a 17 year old girl in NC, but when I graduate in May of 2017 I want to take a road trip across the country. None of my friends seem interested in going and/or saving any type of money for it. I already have some money saved and I am extremely responsible and independent so going by myself is just another part of this adventure. I am planning this trip over a year in advance and have my families full support.

    I don't care about nice hotels, I'm planning to stay in cheap motels and not eat out very often at all. I want experience and adventure, not comfort.

    Some things I thought of seeing starting from NC,
    (VERY rough ideas, going to drop some)

    New Orleans
    Monument Valley
    Grand Canyon
    LV Strip at night (I know I'll only be 18 but I want to see it)
    Hollywood area
    Golden Gate Bridge in SF
    MAYBE a stop in Yellowstone
    Mount Rushmore
    Chicago
    Niagara Falls
    NYC (already been, so I just want to see a couple new things not everything there)

    I am not really planning to be anywhere longer than a day, as I want to see as much as possible in a short time. Would 3-4 weeks be enough time for the majority of this, and roughly how much would I need if I am very willing to live cheaply? Also my car is a small suv.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Once Around the Block

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Such circuits of the US can be made, enjoyably and safely, in as little as three weeks. When you're young. I did a similar trip many years ago, taking a bit more than three weeks, but then I spent close to a week visiting friends on the west coast. So you time-line is appropriate if, as you say, you're just interested in catching a brief glimpse of as many places as possible, don't want to spend too long in any one place, and can keep up a steady pace of 400-500 miles most, if not all, days. You will need a fair bit of money though. Even if your car gets great mileage, you prepare most of your meals from a cooler you restock at a super market instead of a 'convenience' store, and stay in fairly cheap motels - you'll still need around $100/day just to cover the basics, so roughly $3000 for a month-long trip. And that's kind of a basement figure. The more you can add to that, especially the first several hundred to a thousand, the better the trip you can have. There are lots of discussions and articles on this site about how to keep costs down and you should continue to poke around for ideas, but with over a year to plan and save, you should be able to put together a very nice RoadTrip

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Following on from Buck.....

    Buck has given you some great advice drawing on his own experience. I'd like to share some of my experiences as a solo female roadtripper - albeit a septuagenarian. My first couple of trips to the US were similar to what you are planning. At the time I was relocating cars, and as such had a schedule to maintain. Rarely did I stay in one place for more than one night. It gave me a good overview of the country - especially the west - for places I might want to visit again.

    I too was on a very tight budget and found hostels some of the best places to stay. Benefits are, you meet other travellers and you can cook your own meals. It is great to have others to share your experiences, when you have been on your own in the car all day. Another benefit of hostels is that they often have discount tickets to local places/attractions, most have a good knowledge of their area, and can answer all your questions. Often they will also arrange tours, such as arranged by the USA hostel in LA, the walking tour to the Hollywood sign. You can also often find some one to go with. I met a nice gent from NZ and we walked the LV strip together. In Tucson a room mate and I rented a car to visit Biosphere II.

    This is the most comprehensive site for hostels.

    The USA hostels on the west coast, are not the cheapest, but they are from my experience by far the most secure, having lockers for every bed, and power outlets inside the lockers so you can securely recharge your electronics, and leave the room. However, because of this, they are also very popular, and you need to book a week or so in advance. Never stay in a hostel which does not provide a locker for each bed.

    A few tips about accommodation. At hotels/motels be sure you inspect the room before you commit. They have to let you, if you ask. I have never been refused. As well as cleanliness, etc. be sure you check if the smoke detector is working ( a long umbrella comes in handy), and that the door has a lock which cannot be opened from the outside, such as the chain lock. And for all accommodation, always wear footwear, such as flip flops or crocs, in the shower.

    A drive through of most national parks will give you an overview, not much more. But you still have to pay the entrance fee. So if you plan on visiting four or more major parks, it will be cheaper to get the annual pass at the first park you visit.

    You can get a very good feeling for even Yellowstone, by a well planned drive through. But beware that it will take you the best part of a day, just to drive through, and maybe stop at Old Faithful. That will be a day you won't want to plan on 400 miles. Don't expect to find any cheap accommodation anywhere near Yellowstone.

    Here are lots of money saving hints.

    Lifey

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

    Default

    Adding onto what AZBuck and Lifey have already contributed:

    The Las Vegas strip at night IS amazing. However, it is also *expensive*. A couple of tips about doing that on a budget: first, you might stay off the Strip and take one of the modes of public transportation. It will save you a lot of $$ as the Strip has a "resort fee" of $20/day added onto the nightly fee at the motels along there. That includes the Rodeway Inn. If you do decide to stay on the Strip, get your reservation ahead of time so that you can check the price. Also, nightly rates on the Strip are cheaper Sunday through Thursday, going up for Friday and Saturday night. Some places, like the Venetian, include Sunday night in the weekend rate. (They did that to us.)

    Second, there are plenty of places on the Strip to eat that will not cost you an arm and a leg. There are a couple of fast food places, for instance. There is also a CVS drug store right under the Venetian that sells sandwiches, bowls of potato salad, jello, fruit, etc. One of the McDonald's on the Strip is also right under the Venetian. Some of the freebie sites along the Strip, other than the neon eye candy: the Volcano at the Mirage, the fountains at the Bellagio (they're okay), and many street musicians.

    Hollywood area: shop carefully for your place to stay, but I'd suggest the hostel that Lifey suggested. A lot of places in the area can seem cheap until you see where they're at. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is free, and you can spend hours on that finding the celebrity names you're looking for. Do this on a weekday and don't dress provocatively, as this is a less than wonderful area. (My 19-year-old daughter went up with me and was whistled at constantly - I know they weren't whistling at ME!) The Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Bowl. Venice Beach. Area grocery stores include Target, Pavilions or Vons.

    For Mt Rushmore, camping might be available in Custer State Park. That's about the closest public campground. Or stay up at Rapid City and just go down to Mt Rushmore for the morning.

    Now....I'm gonna be (grand)motherly and suggest this: if you are traveling, you have to use the bathroom, and you pull into an empty rest area (or one that only has one car in it), keep on going. You're better off stopping at a busy truck stop, McDonald's or other fast food place, than at an empty rest area. There, I've said it. It's advice my parents gave me when I drove across the country by myself at a young age, and advice I gave my daughters as they each started to drive long distances.


    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Not my experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    The Las Vegas strip at night IS amazing. However, it is also *expensive*. A couple of tips about doing that on a budget: first, you might stay off the Strip and take one of the modes of public transportation. It will save you a lot of $$ as the Strip has a "resort fee" of $20/day added onto the nightly fee at the motels along there.
    I stayed at a hostel on Fremont, which at the time was part of the USA hostel network (swimming pool and secure parking), and did not spend another cent anywhere in LV. It need not cost you anymore than a bed at a hostel - $20!

    Now....I'm gonna be (grand)motherly and suggest this: if you are traveling, you have to use the bathroom, and you pull into an empty rest area (or one that only has one car in it), keep on going. You're better off stopping at a busy truck stop, McDonald's or other fast food place, than at an empty rest area. There, I've said it. It's advice my parents gave me when I drove across the country by myself at a young age, and advice I gave my daughters as they each started to drive long distances.
    I've never heard of that. Never heard any of the women with whom I speak express such a thought. In all my almost 200000 miles alone I have never seen or met anyone at a rest area who looked/was suspect. Usually I am only too glad to be able to park close, instead right at the end of the parking lot. In general they are very safe areas. On the other hand, it has happened that a truck driver has harassed me at a truck stop. But if you just keep walking, don't respond/react, walk with a purpose and look confident, they get the message. Most folk are friendly, but even if you should have one negative experience, don't let it rub off on all the rest.

    If I had allowed my first hostel experience to affect me (it was horrendous), I may never have had all those wonderful hostel experiences which followed.

    Don't get paranoid, nor suspect all you meet, it will ruin your trip.

    Lifey

  6. Default

    A drive through of most national parks will give you an overview, not much more. But you still have to pay the entrance fee. So if you plan on visiting four or more major parks, it will be cheaper to get the annual pass at the first park you visit.

    You can get a very good feeling for even Yellowstone, by a well planned drive through. But beware that it will take you the best part of a day, just to drive through, and maybe stop at Old Faithful. That will be a day you won't want to plan on 400 miles. Don't expect to find any cheap accommodation anywhere near Yellowstone.
    Thank you! After reading and doing more research, I know that I want to stay in a couple of places a little longer than others. I have been researching some "how to spend a day at _______" and gotten really great ideas and have decided to spend another day in a couple of my destinations. The national park pass is a good idea though.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 01-17-2016 at 10:16 PM. Reason: added quote format

  7. Default

    Do you have any suggestion of places I could stop at or see between New Orleans & canyons in Utah/Arizona ?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    What route had you intended to take between those things? There are probably a ton of places!



    Donna

  9. Default Through Texas

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    What route had you intended to take between those things? There are probably a ton of places!



    Donna
    So I know I want to go into San Antonio after New Orleans. But after that I am stuck until Utah. I am considering stopping in either Santa Fe NM or Albuquerque (which do you guys prefer?") but do you know of anywhere inbetween those places and San Antonio?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Have you thought about Carlsbad Caverns National Park, in southern NM?

    As for Santa Fe vs. Albuquerque, it would depend on what you want to do. Albuquerque has Old Town, Rio Grande State Park, Petroglyphs National Monument, and the Nuclear Museum (to name just a few), plus a gondola ride up the mountain. Santa Fe is more artsy, and has some history as well as the state capitol building.

    Down in the SW corner of Colorado, on your way to Utah, there is Mesa Verde National Park. This is made up of native American cliff dwellings. To really see these, you need to schedule at least one tour, so it's not really a "drive through" national park.


    Donna

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