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  1. Default First trip; Birthday surprise roadtrip from Los angeles to Orlando

    Hello! I have been planning a huge surprise bday gift since October for my bestie. A trip to Orlando, Florida to finally meet a great mutual friend of ours. She works at Disney world and we've planned a fun week for our friend and us, tons to do! She is turning 21 so fun times haha. She and I have never been to Florida(or any of the southern states before; Well I have been to Texas and back.)
    I have never driven that far before. Furthest I have done is Vegas and back to San Bernardino. I just wanted to know if there are any tips for the drive. I plan on taking the I-10 into Texas before sidetripping up to Abiline where my sister lives to stay a night there before getting back on the road.
    As of right now that is the only place we plan on actually stopping to rest. Sleeping at rest stops every so often and switching drivers. We plan on rest stopping to eat and such but not too much. (Making another stop in New Orleanes to Visit cousins and the memorial of my Uncle)
    I plan for leaving around midnight next sunday, March 13/14th to try and make it to Pheonix before rush hours hit haha. The car we have is a 2012 Ford, Focus Hatch back(yes, a ford XP) But this little guy is a trooper. We are planning to get there by the 17th. Hopfully we can make it. I am trying to keep the budget to 200 for this trip and 200 on the way back. Here is to hoping! Just got an oil change and getting fresh tires this week. Any tips or tricks is appreciated! And maybe some cheap Things to do along the way? (the Abiline Zoo in Texas is on my list, I get in free!) I am not against spending a little more money.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Please re-think.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    It's clear that you haven't done a multi day long road trip before. You really need to rethink your strategy here, as what you have planned is dangerous to you and others that share the road with. I doubt your budget will pay for the fuel never mind food and you need a bed each night to make sure you are well rested to travel long distances the next day. You can not get rested properly in the car by the roadside and overnight parking in rest stops can be illegal. Planning on one sleeping while one drives also doesn't work as you can not get proper rest in a moving vehicle and no one would be awake to keep an eye on a fatigued driver. This is a minimum of 4 days travel and that really is too much for beginners, plus starting out at midnight is going to leave you exhausted and fatigued the rest of the drive. At the start the adrenalin and excitement will give you a boost, but then your bodies will crash even harder when the fatigue hits. You need a bigger budget to include Motel rooms and take at least 3 overnight stops, even then you will arrive in Florida pretty beat. It's obvious you are excited, but make sure you arrive safe and well and in a frame of mind where you can enjoy meeting your friend. Safe travels.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default No, Please, No

    I completely agree with Dave here, you need to go back to the drawing board. Your current plan is just a very bad idea on so many levels.

    As Dave mentioned, your current plan will make you a danger to yourself and everyone else on the road. Rest is not optional when driving across country - and the idea that you could safely drive more than 1200 miles - starting in the middle of the night no less - in one sitting is foolish. The idea that you could then drive another 1,300 miles only by getting in a naps at rest areas isn't just foolish, it is extremely dangerous. Fatigue kills, and there is just no way you can safely do anything close to what you've laid out.

    For comparison sake, a professional driver (trucker) in your situation would be required to take a minimum of 4.5 days to make this drive, each way- as they are required to completely stop and get off the road about every 600 miles. Please ask yourself why you think someone who has never driven more than a few hundred miles at a time could safely do what professionals who do this every day can not.

    Even if you managed to do this trip without hurting - or killing - yourself or someone else, trips like these generally don't end up being fun. In fact, they more often than not destroy or damage even the best of friendships. Pushing yourself to (and beyond) the brink of exhaustion, while being stuck in a tin can with another person day after day, after day leads to friction.

    BTW, sure, maybe your adrenaline will carry you across the country, but have you thought about how difficult it will be to drive back again, after your blitz east and presumably an equally busy visit with your friend.

    On top of it all, a cross country trip should NEVER be a surprise. A fun surprise roadtrip is going from LA to some place like Vegas, San Francisco, or the Grand Canyon - where you are in the car for a few hours, maybe even a full day. To do the trip you are talking about SAFELY, you need a minimum of 2 weeks, and most people don't like being surprised with the idea that they'll have to be gone from their lives for 2 weeks, but beyond that, to have a successful roadtrip you both have to be on the same page. You both have to be on board with everything from how far you want to drive in a day, to where you want to stop (notice, you've mentioned several of your family members you want to stop and see, but if this is a surprise, your friend will have had no opportunity to say - or research - which places she might want to add to the itinerary), to what you want to spend in terms of a budget.

    Speaking of budget - $400 will cover your gas, and basically nothing else. The idea that you won't need money for food or anything else is just a rookie mistake of the highest order.

    It just can't be said strongly enough, while you've got good intentions, the idea you've laid out is not safe, not realistic, and is not going to be a good time. If you want to celebrate your friend's birthday in Florida, on this timetable, you need to look at plane tickets - realistically, it's not going to cost much more in terms of dollars, and in the big picture - where you would otherwise be putting both your lives and your friendships in danger - flying would be much less expensive.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Like MWMichael and SWDave, I agree that this needs to be rethought, and turned into a plane trip. My husband and I have driven from southern California to Orlando (also with a side-trip, but ours was to see friends near Fort Worth), and it is 4.5 days, almost all of them being around 600 miles. I've also done, in my young days, what you've done - cross country swapping drivers. There was a difference, though, as we had FOUR drivers and set a rule that no one drove for more than 2 hours at a stretch. But I can tell you, we all arrived at our destinations and were VERY tired. I would never, ever do that again.

    I also agree that a cross country trip is not a surprise. It has to be planned for, by everyone, diligently.

    Perhaps it's time to price plane tickets? Other than the consolidators, also take a good look at Southwest Air. Their planes are never on the consolidators (Orbitz, etc), and they don't charge extra for luggage unless a bag goes over 50 lbs.

    Hope your friend in Orlando has a car, though. At 21, you aren't likely to find rentals available to you except, perhaps, at a big premium.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Surprise or nightmare?

    To support all of the above, what you are planning is not a surprise roadtrip, it is a nightmare!

    As mentioned, you will be not only putting your lives in danger, but your friendship as well. As a rookie roadtripper, take the advice on board, and either fly, or plan to be on the road for at least four days each way. With less than a decade driving experience, it would probably take you closer to six days each way. Do not underestimate the fatigue of sitting in a moving vehicle. At each stop you will be wanting more and more to go for a walk/run or some other activity to just get the body moving again, and the blood flowing, and get oxygen to the brain.

    How well do you know this friend? Are you sure your idea of fun is hers as well? Will she be comfortable staying with your relatives?

    When friends/buddies go on a road trip they need to plan that trip together, and discuss every aspect of it, to be sure they are on the same page. You may benefit from reading this quiz - even if it only opens your eyes to the many aspects of a roadtrip.


  6. Default

    Thanks for the advice everyone. I unfortunatly dont have money to fly but I am gonna push the trip back and save up more for hotels. I am thinking still leaving in the midnight time frame and staying at a hotel in Pheonix and then somewhere else before Abiline, I don't know those cities well but I'll do research. This is why I came to you guys. Cause I know nothing! Haha. I would in fact rather fly so I will look into that more. If it put everyones mind at ease I will tell you again I am postponing indeffinatly right now. So no worries!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    There are still major problems with leaving in the middle of the night.

    First, presumably you are leaving at that time because you will have been busy all day prior. That means, you're going to be getting on the road exactly when your body is crying out for rest. Add in the fact that once you're out of the LA/Palm Springs area you're heading into remote desert, with few places to stop and very little light - making it all that much more likely that your need to sleep will overcome your desire to keep driving.

    Second, beyond the fact that you're throwing off your sleep schedule and body clock, if you roll into Phoenix at 6am and look for a hotel room, you're going to have problems. A place might rent you a room, but they're not likely to change the checkout time - so you'll have to be out of your room just a few hours later, without having got the sleep you badly need to get back out on the road.

    Trust me when I say that we're not a site that's typically looking to convince people to avoid a roadtrip. However, I still think you are really underestimating the costs of driving across country. If you are flexible with your travel dates, you can easily find round trip airfare from LAX to Orlando for $300 each or less - and there is no way you will be able to drive to Orlando and back for under $600 total.

  8. Default

    I am looking into flights and cheapest I can find that fits the dates I want is southwest at 760 about for round-trip. I think I will do that. If not I am planning the road trip differently. Again, this is why I came here! It's really a big help.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I am thinking still leaving in the midnight time frame and staying at a hotel in Pheonix and then somewhere else before Abiline, I don't know those cities well but I'll do research.
    When we did a similar journey, our first overnight was in Phoenix, because we have family there. It is about 7 hours from LA to Phoenix. If this trip eventually works out for you, I'd recommend starting not at midnight, but perhaps at 3 or 4 am. You'll then pass through Phoenix without doing so at rush hour, and can stop perhaps in Tucson for your first night. Your next stop could be either Van Horn or Fort Stockton, TX (I'd recommend Van Horn, as motels are generally cheaper). Then Austin. From Austin, Gulfport, MS would be about the halfway point between your sister's house and Orlando. Bear in mind that there are three time zone changes to go through. During the summer, southern California and Arizona are both on the same time zone. But you'd have to lose an hour going east, first in New Mexico, and then another hour just before Van Horn. The third one isn't lost until somewhere just before Tallahassee, FL. When you lose an hour, it will make a big difference in your arrival time at your destination, especially that day when you lose 2 hours. The good news is, of course, you get them back going the other way.

    Here's another thought: pick up or borrow a tent, sleeping bag, and a cooler, and camp your way across the country. It would be a matter of finding some state parks or national forests with campgrounds, but it would be safer and far more restful than trying to go almost the whole way without sleep or staying in the more expensive motels. Of course, you have to like camping at least a little.


  10. Default

    Why not fly FOR FREE?

    Provided that you have good credit, both of you should sign up for the FREE SPIRIT MASTERCARD. You will get 15000 miles, enough for a free round trip ticket from LA to Orlando, provided that you fly during OFF PEAK days. SPIRIT will nickel and dime you to death with additional charges for baggage, seats, etc but it can be downright cheap if you are flexible and plan wisely. There is also a small redemption charge that varies with how far in advance you book your flights. It is small if you allow 3 weeks and free if you book 180 days out. If you are not at all flexible, a round trip could require 75000miles.

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