I'm so glad I stumbled across this site, as it seems to be full of highly knowledgeable and helpful people! I am in the process of planning a fairly ambitious road trip for me and my girlfriend in a window of 7 weeks from June through to late July. I will also be the only driver....
Please bear with me here as I'm just going to summarise the whole trip:
Starting St. Pete in Florida, the plan is to drive to Orlando and take the Amtrak Auto Train up to Lorton, VA just south of Washington DC.
Q1 - Has anyone had any experience of using this Auto Train? Any thoughts?
We're then planning 7-8 days to cover DC, Philadelphia, and NYC ideally staying in as cheap hotels as poss. From here we're heading west via stopover in Cleveland to Cedar Point amusement Park, then on to Chicago for a few days.
From Chicago will be the mammoth drive to Rocky Mountain NP, via stopover around Omaha.
Q2 - Are these mountain creek roads particularly troublesome for small cars? (I'll be driving a US Kia Rio, a small 4 door sedan)
From RM NP to Glen Canyon NP to Monument Valley to Grand Canyon to Vegas - roughly 7 days from arrival RMNP to arrival into vegas.
Prob just the 1 night in Vegas as we're not exactly gamblers! Then a drive-thru of Death Valley to get to Yosemite NP.
Q3 - Again concerned about the car, is it sensible to drive through Death Valley at that time of year (end of June) with relatively few stops in order to reach Yosemite the same day?
Q4 - Can you see the Sequoias and other awesome landscapes of Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon NP from the Highway 395 North to Yosemite?
From Yosemite NP we'll head to Sacremento where we'll have a 10 day window for California. There appear to be many threads here for California road trips, so I'm pretty confident I can find some good spots. Prob head across to San Fran and down Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur.
Q5 - Should I stay on Highway 1 all the way down, or cut over to 101? I'm wondering if there's only so much coastline you can take :P
Q5 - Is there really anything unmissable between Big Sur and LA?
Prob stay in LA for a few days once figured out again what's unmissable. From there head down to San Diego,
Q6 - I-5 or I-15? Is the Marine Corps base worth driving through?
Q7 - Any opinions on whether Disney World here is better than Orlando? We'll prob have the option of going to either, if we even decide to go to any.
Basically the trip then heads east ultimately back to Florida via Tucson, Austin and Houston (Warped Tour!!!), with possibly New Orleans, over the final 8 days.
It will be 7 weeks with a lot of driving, but I think it is realistic. The main concern I have is having to book campgrounds etc before we go, forcing us to stick to a rigid schedule. We are planning to stay in KOAs for most of the 1 night stopovers that will be necessary, as well as for main stays in some cities. I want to have the flexibility to not have to book before I leave...
Q8 - Has anyone had experience with KOAs? I know I'm going in high season, but do they really fill up? I phoned them to ask and they couldn't advise either way. I'm just looking for any advice from anyone who may be a seasoned KOA user!
Q9 - Depending on KOAs, are there any other recommended ways of sleeping cheap (sub $50 per night) with flexibility?
Q10 - Trying to keep the flexibility theme, my research suggests that there are enough first-come-first-served campgrounds at all the national parks we'll be staying at, so I am planning on not booking. However, I have had conflicting advice - to book, or not to book?
Q11 - I am happy to book the East coast accommodation before I go, as it is unlikely that plans will chaneg so early on. However, I will need to keep flexible with booking nice-ish accommodation in Vegas, San Fran and LA. Any recommendations for how long I can feasibly leave before booking anywhere to stay in these areas? Suffice to say we'll have a big list of possible hotels with us for my GF to call while I'm driving!
Anyone who has stayed this long, I congratulate and thank you!!! If anyone has any advice covering any of the questions I have raised, I thank you even more! Anyone who hasn't got this far, you obviously won't be reading this, but I'm sorry I rambled on so far and forced you to click the 'back' button :P