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  1. Default Family road trip from Boston to San Jose

    Hi, I'm a senior in high school in Boston and after graduation, before I go to college, my parents will be moving to San Jose. My mom had the idea for a roadtrip (instead of plane) because she wanted all of us to have a last nice adventure together as a family before I leave (and we've had experience driving down to the Key West and back a few summers ago). Sometime this July or August, with my 19 year old sister in tow as well, we'll be taking some of our belongings (for the move but not much), and we're planning to take about a week for the whole trip. I'm planning to get my driver's license before we go and we're planning on alternating drivers throughout the trip. We're interested in stopping by natural scenery/parks in particular. I'm interested in some of the national parks in Utah because we heard it was wonderful for stargazing, and I'm hoping we might be able to stop by Yellowstone along the way. Neither of my parents are particularly fluent in English so they are relying on mainly me and my sister to plan most of the trip and I found this website during a google search and thought it would be nice to ask experienced road-trippers directly.

    So let me break my post down into a few questions:

    1. What's the best route to take that would stop along places like Canyonlands in Utah (for stargazing), Yellowstone, and other scenic areas? More recommendations for parks/places of interests would be great.
    2. What is there to see in the Midwest (basically from Boston to Nebraska-ish that is of interest?
    3. How often, and where should we stop for nights, somewhere that is safe while interesting? Hotel chains or small motels?
    4. Would it be dangerous to bring valuables along in the car such as money and jewelery? What are the dangers/risks?
    5. The car we're taking is 10 years old (just hit 100k mileage two weeks ago) and has had some engine problems in the past few months that we've gotten repaired. One of the auto repair guys said that we definitely replace our tires as well. Would it be the better bet to sell the car before we move and go on the road trip with the new car, or should we take the old car?
    6. Anything else we should know/consider? What are some resources we should take advantage of, besides this awesome website?

    Thank you sooo much! :)

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

    Default More time would be needed.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    1] You won't have time for Yellowstone with your current plan, a cross country trip like this is 6 days of driving, requiring 5 overnight stops while not exceeding 500-550 miles per day to make it reasonably comfortably and more importantly safe. So unless you can find a few more days you won't have much time at all for National parks etc.

    2] Will leave that to others.

    3] See 1.

    4] Do not leave any valuable on display in the car. Either in the trunk or take them to your room at night.

    5] Your mechanic is the best person to ask, but if it's thought to be mechanically sound then it might be best to take that and then register the replacement from your new home.

    6] There are lots of trip planning pages here at RTA including the map centre, but having some decent maps to look over is also very useful. If you can find more time, info on the National parks can be found at

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Between Boston and California, I have driven many different routes. My least favourite have been the interstates, with just one exception. But with a mere 7 days you won't have a lot of time to get off the interstates and explore the magnificent States of Pennsylvania and Nebraska (2 of my favourites) and Iowa.

    If you can find more time, then you should look at the old US highways, 20, 30, 40 and 50. These pass through small town America. Look up the maps and see which towns and attractions along those routes strike you all as interesting, and read up about them, so you have some idea of what you will be seeing. Read up a little about their history - the settlement of these places before European arrival, the early explorers, where they travelled, and the pioneers who despite unbelievable hardships opened up the land. As well as the modern farmers who supply so much of the food needed today.

    The Midwest is rich in history, if you take the time to learn it, and observe it as you pass through.

    Have a great trip.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Limits, Goals, and Decisions

    As Dave points out, It will take a minimum of six days to safely cross the continent by the most efficient route with only the most necessary of fuel/food/bathroom stops and getting a solid ten hours off the road each night. Then there are aspects of your trip that will add to that. You say that you'll "be taking some of [y]our belongings". If that means a small trailer, then you'll be driving slower on average than the six day estimate assumes, and if those belongings are sharing cabin space with you, you'll want to stop more often for short breaks out of the car than normal. And having multiple drivers won't help. You will all still get just as tired and in fact will need to stop more frequently if for no other reasons that everyone's bladders will not be synchronized and/or to change drivers. Also, meal and fuel stops will each take longer, driven by the slowest person at each stop.

    So if your goal is to have a great RoadTrip and experience something of America along the way, then you need to start with a fairly direct routing and choose your major stops carefully to make the best use of your 'extra' time. The objectives that you and your parents have will drive those choices, but for the most part you should be looking at using national and state parks for your major stops, and getting away from the Interstates exit ramps and into some smaller cities and towns for meals. But mainly, if you want a good RoadTrip experience, don't try to pack too much into this trip. A relaxed pace, with far fewer stops and a more direct routing, will be a much more rewarding experience than driving hundreds of miles more to get to places that you'd only have time to briefly look at before getting back in the car for yet more miles.

    So, some answers to your specific questions:

    1) As Dave noted, you simply don't have time to include both those objectives. As a basic route, you should be looking at I-90/I-80 the whole way. There are a couple of places where other routes are options such as using I-84/I-81 out of New England and/or using I-271/I-71 in Ohio to drop down to I-70 as an alternative cross-country route, but you must stick to basically east-west Interstates if you're going to make San Jose in a week.

    2) That will depend on your decisions regarding your basic route, but I will note that even if you take I-80 the whole way, you'll really only have time for a couple of major stops. In the eastern half of the country, I'd lean towards a stop at an historic Mississippi River port town, and in the western half I'd lean towards a Rocky Mountain OR Red Rock country stop.

    3) For planning purposes, look to stop each night after about 500-550 miles of driving on those days without one of your major stops and about 250 miles on those days when you do make a major stop. There are several hotel chains in the U.S. that include franchises at various levels of cost/amenities. I'd probably pick one of those (Choice, Marriott, Best Western, La Quinta, etc.) that looks like it has franchises along your route that meet your needs, and join their program. You might be able to earn a free night's stay during your travels.

    4) The same rules apply on the road as apply at home. Park in well-lit areas with lots of passersby (eyeballs) and don't leave valuables out in full view.

    5) Only you (and your mechanic) can answer this, but note that California has different emission standards for cars than the rest of the nation. Check with them about whether your older, out-of-state car will be 'grandfathered' in when you go to change license and registration.

    6) The main thing is what I've repeatedly mentioned above. You don't have as much time as it looks like you think you do. Scale back and make the most of your most limited reource - time.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-21-2016 at 06:46 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    As others have mentioned, Yellowstone and Utah really wouldn't work if you've only got about a week. Based on what you've said, I'd think a route where you end up taking I-70 across Colorado and Utah would probably be your best bet - making Arches and Canyonlands both easily accessible. You could also potentially then take US-50 across Nevada - aka, the loneliest road.

    In regards to your car, if you were planning to buy a new car anyway, then it would be tempting to buy it before your trip, just so you can enjoy it while on the road. The big thing is that you will have to check into the potential hassles and costs of buying the car in Mass and then potentially having to re-register it in California. As others have mentioned, California has special emmissions rules which make buying/selling a car there a bit different than other states - so that really should factor into your decision.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I believe that new cars sold in MA now have to meet CA emission standards. The only hassle will be having to re-register it with the accompanying costs. Trying to sell an out-of-state car in CA can also be a real hassle.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Californian here ...

    Cars "imported" from other states will have to go visit a smog station and pass an extensive test before California will register it. Now, our 14 year old cars have both passed that smog test this year, both with flying colors. But both were originally sold, new, in California. If you import a car with intentions of selling it, you will have to ensure that it passes smog before you sell it, and then the buyer has to take it in to be re-tested (just to ensure that nothing "funny" was going on; this is the "nanny state".) I've had friends tell me that the only way they could get loose from their out-of-state car that wouldn't pass smog was to trade it in at a dealer. Often times they wholesale older cars, taken in trade, south of the border anyway.

    My husband and I prefer the Wyndham and Choice chains of motels. We usually end up either at Super 8, Days Inn, Travelodge or Knights Inn for Wyndham, and either Quality Inn or Econo Lodge for Choice. I think our upcoming trip is a mixture of Super 8, Quality Inn and Econo Lodge. You can build up your points, but be sure to use them when you can. Wyndham will let you build your points, but Choice expires them after so many months of non-use.

    Later edit: I goofed. Wyndham takes your points away, Choice lets you keep them. Sorry about that!

    Last edited by DonnaR57; 05-20-2016 at 07:56 PM. Reason: Wyndham vs. Choice, points

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Quite the opposite.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    .... this is the "nanny state".
    I would call that the "responsible State". Wish we had those strict regulations downunder. the air would be a lot cleaner. Look on CA as setting the standard.


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