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  1. #1

    Default First Road Trip - 50 days!

    I'm new to the forum :)

    My wife and I are coming to the states next year in May/June. We just booked our flights this morning and we are so excited that we are actually going to the states. We've been dying to come to the states but we first had to tick off a few countries before doing so and we didn't want to rush the states. It's still a while away but I like getting things sorted as soon as possible and getting in on good deals etc.

    Over the past 2 weeks we've been researching and we’re feeling quite overwhelmed by all the different options, transport means, vast landscape, costs and everything else involved.

    Our initial plan was to rent an RV for the duration but soon scrapped that idea after finding out just how much it costs. I am a keen driver and I’ve got a fair bit of driving experience in South Africa and Australia. My wife wants to road trip but not as much as I do and thinks that we should fly to a few places to save time. My initial plan was to do a massive loop trip, LA – NY – LA, but I’m starting to think that might be a bit too much.

    We want to avoid one-way rental fees by doing loop trips only.

    I have a few starting questions:
    1. Where should we and shouldn’t we rent a car? I’m assuming New York?
    2. Is it advised to get a navigation device and pre-load the maps?
    3. What are possible things to look out for when we’re over there? Any festivals and traffic delays etc?
    4. Is a train trip NY – Washington DC – Philadelphia – NY easily doable and convenient? Or better to rent a car?

    Must list:
    • New York
    • Los Angeles
    • Albertville, Alabama
    • Grand Canyon
    • Portland
    • Las Vegas
    • Seattle
    • San Francisco
    • Chicago
    • Yosemite
    • Yellowstone
    • Philadelphia
    • Washington DC
    • Vancouver

    So far we’ve come up with a rough initial plan.

    Land in LA – Pick up car rental (4 nights)
    Drive to Yosemite (1 night)
    Drive to Napa (1 night)
    Drive to San Francisco (4 Nights)
    Drive to Portland (3 Nights)
    Drive to Seattle (2 Nights)
    Drive to Vancouver (3 Nights) (Can we drive there from the states?)
    Drive to Yellowstone (1 Night)
    Drive to Grand Canyon (2 Nights)
    Drive to Las Vegas (2 nights)
    Drive to Los Angeles
    - Drops off rental
    Fly to New York (5 Night)
    Train to Washington (2 Nights)
    Train to Philadelphia (1 Night)
    Train to New York (6 Nights)
    Fly to Atlanta
    - Pick up car rental
    Drive to Albertville (2 night)
    Drive to Atlanta (2 Nights)
    - Drop off Car Rental
    Fly to Chicago (4 nights)
    Fly to LA (4 nights)
    Fly Home

    Any tips and advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank You,


  2. #2

    Default Road Trip

    In the Northeast, you'll have no issues using Amtrak. If I recall correctly, the Acela Trains have WiFi on board. Enjoy your travels. It certainly sounds like a fantastic adventure.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default I'm thinking the loop would work better.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    With your initial plan you seem to be underestimating just how amazing and large the National parks are and heavily lean your time towards the City, which can start to look the same in my opinion. For example, by the time you have driven to Yosemite and then leave the next day for Napa you will only have a few hours in this natural wonder. Yellowstone is not worth driving all that way for 1 night, you will spend all your time driving through a small part of the park [very slowly] to get to your lodgings. Yellowstone deserves 3 to 4 days and at the very least, 2 days and 3 nights nearby. To be perfectly honest I think you have more than enough time to complete a loop as you first thought and most likely by the time you have gone up and down here and there, it might not add many miles with careful planning, plus you will drive through so many more wonderful places.

    You will get the best car rental deals searching on line and booking before you arrive, we have found to be competitive but do your homework. Having your own Sat Nav with pre-loaded maps will be better than renting one with the car but you should never travel without good paper maps/atlas so you can see the bigger picture and navigate the way you want to go and not where a device wants you to. They will often add many, many miles to guide you to Interstate where you could find a quieter highway that will save a lot of fuel and only add a small amount of time and enjoying small towns and scenic stops.

    Before you know what festivals may be happening you need to work out when you will be in certain areas and check it out. You need to research and first decide what will work for you, but it's a trip that screams out 'LOOP' to me with the time you have and I would aim for more of a balanced trip with the amazing natural wonders and some small towns. It's your trip though and it's what you want that counts. Once you have worked on it and new questions arise, just ask. Enjoy the Planning !

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default You have the time for a loop

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

    Thanks for jumping in with your comments. Always much appreciated.


    J tend to agree with Dave, your trip screams out for a loop. If you were to fly from city to city, you would miss any national parks, state parks and other wonderful attractions between all of them. It is true that a rental car in NYC and DC is more of a handicap than an assett, but for the economics of it, it is still worth doing the loop trip.

    There are no places in the US, as there are at home, of long distances of nothing between cities. There is so much to see and experience wherever you travel. Having covered almost 200000 miles across North America, and currently on my eighth trip, I feel there is still so much I want to see and experience. Once I get to my initial destination, I do not fly anywhere, including Alaska

    Do you actually have a good wall sized map of the US? and maps of the individual States?. They would help a great deal in helping you plan this trip. Maps have most of the attractions to be seen along the way, highlight scenic routes and give you much more information than a small screen ever will. The large National Geographics wall map is my favourite for all the detail it shows. You could use that to lay out a route.

    For the States, if those maps are not available locally, I suggest you purchase 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. It is probably the most used road atlas in the US. You are going to need maps when on the road, so may as well get them for the planning stage.

    If you already have a satnav, you can purchase US maps for it, but I found that it was cheaper to purchase a satnav in the US. However do not rely on their accuracy, as it is far from that. There are many stories of folk who have been led the wrong way by a satnav, some have even lost their life. Only a month ago when I was looking for a park, it led me up a solitary mountain road.

    Be sure to bring your WA automobile club membership with you, it will give you access to tourism information from the AAA anywhere in the country.


  5. #5


    Hi Todd and Heather,

    Thanks for the response.

    That sounds great, we'll definitely look into that.

    Marco :)

  6. #6


    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for your great response, some real good advice and information there.

    We definitely have a lot of planning to do and we're definitely open to all the best options. We have a lot to think about as we feel that it may be just too much driving doing the loop. It just feels so overwhelming knowing how many miles we would do but when you spread it over 50 day it's not too bad i suppose.

    I've found a few great deals already for rentals, if we get onto it soon we should be fine.

    i'll definitely will be asking a lot of questions as I don't want to arrive there figuring what/how to do it all and wasting a trip.


  7. #7


    Hi Lifey,

    Say we did the loop trip LA - NY - LA (oh and we actually want add on Disney World), is the 7 weeks enough for time wise, would that be really draining? and would you spend most days travelling or are there many direct roads to places? The last thing I want is to need a break from our break.

    I'll get onto those maps, I love maps and following their directions, old school :)

    Some great advice there, thank you so much.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Basic Time-Distance Numbers

    As you continue to plan here are some basic numbers and other points to keep in the back of your head. A drive across America, from one coast to the other, can be done in five days. Seven days lets you stop at a handful of attractions for several hours each. Longer stays, in cities or at major national parks, should be bookkept separately. Similarly, 500-550 miles is a solid day of driving but still allows for decent stops to eat, stretch your legs, and just generally take your hands off the wheel and your mind off driving. The mileages you will get from mapping software are reliable, but the driving times are total fantasy - do NOT rely on them EVER.

    If you plan to cross into Canada, you need to let the rental car company know. This usually isn't a problem, but it will be a bit unusual for a car picked up in Los Angeles and you'll need to get documentation (often nothing more than a card in the glove box) that the car is insured in Canada.

    Your plan as currently constituted is weighted a fair bit towards the western states. That's fine. You could have a fine RoadTrip and never get east of the Rockies. But you also have a number of eastern cities and Disney World on your wish list. And, of course, there's a whole lot of America in between the coasts. As others have pointed out, your itinerary screams for a loop. Here's a rough outline of one that hits all your destinations: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Atlanta, Orlando, Washington DC (and cities northeast by train), Chicago, Yellowstone, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Napa, San Francisco, Yosemite, Los Angeles. Just the driving portion of that will take roughly two and a half weeks, leaving you plenty of time to explore your destinations as well as many of the places in between. And no internal fight$ or multiple car rental$ with one way drop-off fee$.

    Finally, you should give some thought to down time. Nearly two months on the road can get exhausting. You might want to pick a place or two where you rent a home for a week and just relax, do laundry, catch your breath, take small day trips, and explore an area in some depth. There are a number of outfits that let homeowners rent to travelers/visitors and it can often prove no more expensive to take an entire home than to just stay in a single motel room for a comparable period. To start, you can check out VRBO, Home Away, and RedWeek.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I'm sort of assuming that you mean Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, since there is no mention of Florida on your scheduled list. (Walt Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida. Disneyland is the original park, in Anaheim, CA.)


  10. #10


    Hi AZBuck,

    Such helpful information, that's really given us some good pointers and makes me want to loop that much more.

    I definitely think that we needs chunks of time off to rest up and recover from driving, great idea.

    The other idea I had was to do two loop trips. ( I know, more expensive)
    First west -LA to LA where we would go up to Vancouver and then back down to grand canyon then to LA
    Second east - (Fly to New York, do the train trips for the northeast) and then to do a loop in the east coast, NY - Orlando - Atlanta - Chicago - NY. Then fly back to LA. Thoughts?

    I'll check out the websites, thank you so much.


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