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  1. Default What's Your Advice?

    My friends and I are planning to go on this huge roadtrip right after highschool. We're thinking about travelling from coast to coast. You know, its that teenage ambition that we have. It's our first roadtrip. Is this a bad idea? Maybe, but we're going to go for it.

    See, we really have no idea what to do right now. We know we have to have money, some food and water, clothes, and a big enough car to support the at the least, semi-comfort of 3 teenagers. We really want to just go out there and experience great scenic stuff, but also big landmarks and cities. Graceland, Niagra Falls, Mount Rushmore, Zion National Park, and even some little towns too for that close comfort where everyone knows everyone. Once we get to the east coast we'll be staying at my friend's aunt's house.

    What routes should we take? How much should we pack? How much money should we bring? How much food? What are cool things you like to see? Landmarks? Cities? Towns? Shops? Anything?
    Last edited by Occupied By Tim; 01-01-2007 at 10:37 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Keithville, LA

    Default Let's Set some Parameters First

    Welcome to RTA and the wonderful world of roadtripping!

    Ok - down to your post.

    1) How long do you plan to travel? One month, six months, a year?

    2) Where are you starting from?

    3) Is everyone of the age of majority (at least 18)?

    4) What do you like to do? Culture, history, partying, etc?

    5) Are you going to camp or stay in hotels? This will affect how much money you need.

    Kind of narrow down what you're going to do and then we can help with specifics.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default "Can do" goes a long ways

    Quote Originally Posted by Occupied By Tim View Post
    It's our first roadtrip. Is this a bad idea? Maybe, but we're going to go for it.
    I took my first solo roadtrip from California to Florida a few months after high school -- it is certainly possible, but there are some legal considerations that your parents might be liable for if you go these days. I would suggest you read this article about teenage roadtrips and also have your three friends take this roadtrip companion compatibility quiz as part of your pre-planning effort.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default I think you have lots to do to be ready for a trip like this!

    Sorry but, to me, it doesn't sound like you have enough experience for a trip like this. But, don't despair! You can easily learn the skills you need to have a memorable adventure like this.

    When my kids were in high school, I let them go on roadtrips of increasing distance and complexity so they could learn the skills necesssary to plan a big roadtrip once they graduated. They started with daytrips to the city (about 2 hours away), then overnight trips to visit friends/family, then 2-nighters a bit farther away, etc. By the time they had done several of these and could plan their routes, find their way, budget themselves, etc., they were ready for big trips like you're planning. I suggest you start now so you'll be experienced and ready.

    I sure hope you will all be 18 years old by the time you go. If not, you might have some problems in some hotels and problems if you have any medical emergencies and other unforeseen events.

    As for planning the trip itself,

    First step: Get a big map of the US that has national parks on it and then start marking on it the places you really want to see. Then see if you can figure out a logical route to take that will take you to all of these places. (While we can give you some hints for this, you really need to make these decisions yourself so you can go on YOUR dream roadtrip, not OUR dream roadtrip.)

    Second step: To get an idea of the miles your dream roadtrip will cover, you might use a website like Mapquest or a software like MS Streets & Trips. Plug in your destinations in the order you want to visit them, and see what the total miles are. Then figure out how many hours you will need to drive to do your entire trip. Divide that figure by 55. This will give you a good idea of how many hours of driving you'll need. (Yes, I know that speed limits are higher than that on the interstates but there will always be traffic jams, construction, and other things that slow you down so you might as well use this slower speed as a factor. Experienced roadtrippers here figure you can average 57mph in the west and 53mph in the east so 55mph gives you a good country-wide average.)

    Third step: How many days do you need? Most of us here do occasional speed runs where we might cover 400 or even 800 miles in a day. But these should be rare on a long roadtrip. Even with your youthful energy, these long days of driving will wear you out and, as the hours go by, your ability to drive safely will lessen. Yes, even if you take turns driving! And, if you do decide to do some 400+ mile days, try to plan for not doing much driving the next day. Save these long driving stints for the day prior to arriving at some destination where you want to stay a day or two and explore. Anyway, some fooling around with the maps and distances between the places you want to visit should give you a rough idea of how many days you need.

    Now, onto budgeting. Check out this post for hints on that.

    After you've spent some time wrestling with these issues, please come back here and ask some more questions. We'll be glad to answer and help you all we can. But you really need to do some of this planning yourselves. We can't plan your whole trip for you.

    Anyway, your idea isn't bad at all. You just have some work to do to make it a reality. And, remember, the planning is half the fun!

  5. Default

    At the very very most we'll probably travel for a month.

    We're starting from San Jose, California.

    By the time we're finished with highschool we will all be 18.

    We can all easily agree that we love the beauty of nature, but personally I would say the thrill of big cities and new things to do would be a big plus. Maybe a party here and there too.

    We'll probably camp out in our car the majority of the time, if we really really feel the need to though, we'll rent a room in a motel.

    On this trip we just really want to get out and explore and experience. Scenic routes would be amazing and we're definitley up to try anything that we cant do here in California. Or just anything in our hometown. Honestly we're just going out on a whim with this roadtrip.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 01-01-2007 at 08:21 PM. Reason: Format for conversational flow

  6. Default

    Awesome, Judy! Thanks for the help. Yeah, I absolutely agree with you now that I really think about it. Since we're just Juniors in Highschool we'll probably take a smaller in-state roadtrip this summer and work our ways up. But it's just time to convince the other two guys to really plan ahead of time.
    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-01-2007 at 09:46 PM. Reason: Quote of entire long post removed.

  7. Default A douple more suggestions

    Ahem.. this is based upon my own personal experiences, a long time ago..

    First, get your buddies togther and take a couple of small (several day) road trips around. Basically these are dry-run rehearsals for your longer road trip. They let you figure out roughly how to pack stuff, who snores in the back of the car all day, why someone has to have a bag of corn chips in the back seat, etc. It lets you work out a lot of the bugs you'll find in putting together the trip planning and fine tune some of your equipment and planning. And lets you know if you one of your buddy's snorning in the tent means he really should have his own tent.... (some bit of tongue-in-cheek there, but its a real consideration).

    Secondly, plan on some days off the road during the trip. Crash at a relatives place, or somewhere and do laundry for the day, get out of the car and hike, stretch your legs, get away from your friends 24/7 and take a short break -- even if its just sitting in the laundromat getting your clothes clean.

    Third, give some thought to that "oh sh!!" moment, when the car breaks down, or you need some extra cash, or someone needs to find a doctor. Every teenager who sets out on a roadtrip (including myself, in ancient history) tries to do it on a shoestring budget and assumes everything goes right all the time. 90% of the time its no problem, but its that 10% that's an issue. Talk with the folks about having an emergency only credit card, and a cell phone, and a AAA (or equivalent) road service membership, and a copy of your medical insurance coverage card, etc. If you need it, it will be absolutely invaluable -- but if you don't need it, its just another piece of paper crammed into the bottom of your daypack or journal.

    Lastly, take a camera or keep a journal or something like that. I never did, and I regret it...

  8. Default

    Once again, some great help. About the camping thing though. I'm guessing some of you brought along some tents and stuff, but the buddies and I were just planning to sleep in the car pretty much the whole time. Do you think it'd be just another thing to pack or something thats worth the packing?
    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-01-2007 at 10:42 PM. Reason: Quote of entire long post removed.

  9. Default

    One more BIG question about camping. Do ALL National Parks charge for camping there? Even if it's just parking your car and sleeping in there? Is there any place we can maybe rest for free?

  10. Default Depends upon the park...

    Seriously, it depends upon where and what park and where in the park you're camping.

    As a rule of thumb, if its a developed campground with sites and water and bathrooms and the like, you'll probably have to pay something to help cover the upkeep. Similarly, if its a very popular place (like the campgrounds at Grand Canyon National Park, or Yosemite), you'll pay for a site (around $20 a night on average, I'd guestimate). If its really popular, then you may need to get reservations ahead of time (although just about every campground keeps a few spots for drop ins -- but they may go quickly).

    Other places, if you're camping off the road and not in an environmental sensitive/ popular area you can sometimes just camp whereve you can find a spot. Mojave National Preserve, Anza Borrego Dessert State Park, and Mule Mountains Dessert areas are places I've camped where you can just find a spot out of the way and off the road and camp. You still have to be somewhat careful -- check the regs before camping. At a minimum, don't have a fire on the ground, be careful about leaving any trace of your campsite when you leave, and pack out all your trash.

    As for a tent or not -- my suggestion is to get a cheap 2-3 person camping tent and use it. You'll want to get out of the car where you can stretch out I think. I've slept in my car (now have a SUV with a 6' flat bed if I tilt the back seat forward), but I like to sleep in a tent much better. I don't have to unpack the car to stretch out, I get better ventilation in the tent and a more comfortable night's sleep, and its actually faster to set up and take down the tent than unpack the car, spread out my sleeping stuff (backpacker pad and sleeping bag), then put my sleeping stuff away, and repack the car.

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