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  1. Default Pittsburgh, PA to Valencia, CA

    Hello! I just found this wonderful website in my attempts to plan my first cross country road trip. I would love advice, route suggestions and recommendations for stops along the way. This will be a long message, but any wisdom would be MUCH appreciated.

    Some of the details:

    My best friend was accepted to Cal Arts for drama, but she's got a phobia of flying, so my boyfriend and I have volunteered to drive cross country with her sometime in mid August.

    We plan on renting a vehicle (we are 21, 23, and 24 respectively) but are not sure what kind (space and gas mileage are obviously an issue...but in the end price has a huge say). Where do you recommend we look at renting? This will be a one way trip for all of us. My boyfriend and I will fly back from California at the end of the trip. I would like to find a place that won't charge me an arm and a leg for a one way trip (if possible)!

    With three drivers, what kind of schedule should we make for each driver? We do want to make stops, but I would like to optimize our trip as best as I can.

    We're going to be starting out in Pittsburgh, PA. We don't have a set trip yet, but I would like to hit Route 66 at some point and I have some places I have in mind like the Chicago, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas , but has anyone discovered any amazing places on the way we should try?

    I work, but I'll probably be taking at least 10-11 days off for the trip. With three drivers how long would it take to drive straight through? Once I know that I'll be able to start scheduling in entertainment and sights to stretch that time out. I would really like to spend most of the day driving with either short side trips planned in or one night in places like Chicago and Las Vegas.

    We haven't made up a budget yet, but do you know what the ideal amount would be to take? What about roadtripping on a budget? Any advice?

    I would like to take as much with us as possible to reduce costs, like food etc. What kind of emergency supplies should I bring? What kind of food stores well for long trips?

    I know I'm asking a lot, but if anyone has any advice I'd be absolutely grateful! I have a lot of time before we head out, but I'm a born planner, so the more I know before hand the better.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default But You Can't Plan the Unexpected

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    First off, I'd say that your friend is very lucky to have you and your boyfriend (and you're lucky to have such a great excuse for a cross-country RoadTrip!)

    Unfortunately, you're looking at two of the most costly 'add-ons' to the cost of renting a car. All the drivers are under 25, and you have to pay a sizeable daily surcharge for each and every driver. This could be as much as $75/day for the three of you. The other big hit will be the one-way rental drop-off charge. This will be anywhere from $250 and up. Those charges typically don't change much with vehicle size. Depending on how much 'stuff' your friend is planning on taking with her, I'd say you probably should be looking at a mid-size or intermediate at least, and more likely a full-size or standard for the trunk size. We have heard from a couple of people that Enterprise Rent-A-Car has somewhat better deals on the underage driver and drop-off charges, but be sure to read the fine print on every company's offer.

    Generally we recommend that people don't try to cover much more than 500-600 miles a day, no matter how many drivers there are. I tend to drive in 3-4 sessions a day, with each 2-3 hour driving session broken up with a half hour to hour break out of the car. one of two breaks will be for meals, and the rest for sight seeing - even if only a walk through a cute town or local park. With that kind of schedule, you can drive for day after day, and in your case, no one has to drive more than one, or possibly two, short sessions a day. That way you can all relax and enjoy the scenery most of the time.

    As far as 'amazing places', that will depend on what your basic route is. with Chicago and the Grand Canyon already on the list, then the general alignment of old US-66 would be one very real possibility. But you do realize that US-66 has been decommissioned and so technically doesn't exist any more. It has been replaced by I-55/I-44/I-40/I-15, but still much of the old concrete is still out there, even if it now carries different, state designations. What usually works best in route planning is for the three of you to sit down together one evening and go over a good US map and just start highlighting those places that you really want to see. Hopefully a route that connects most of those dots will start to emerge. Once you have your basic route figured out, we can be of more help on specific great stops along the way, depending on what most appeals to you of course.

    The trip itself will probably take 5-6 days for the driving, depending on how often you want to stop, how many side trips you add in, and the like. Add a day in Chicago, a day in Las Vegas, and a day in LA to help your friend get settled and for you to catch a plane home and you still have a a day or two to spend in sight seeing along the way. As for budgeting your money, have a look at these tips for starters, and at this post for estimating how much your trip is going to cost. Gas prices are changing daily, and your mileage will vary, so have a look at the Fuel Cost Calculator to try to get a handle on that aspect of the spending.

    Well, that's a ton of stuff to consider and a load of work, but you are definitely on the right track to figure out as much of this as you can before you hit the road, so that all the surprises you encounter on your trip are pleasant ones.


  3. Default

    Thanks! That's a lot more information in one minute than I've gotten in hours of searching the web. It's always good to hear directly from experience. Unfortunately, I'm all too aware of the under 25 overages, but my friend may actually end up buying a car anyway to drive, so I guess I'll have to wait and see. I don't think we have many other options, but I will keep investigating. I know my boyfriend has some sort of special waiver for some rent a car place to rent under 25 because he is in this honor's society (I guess they let smart people off the hook lol). If only I were a year older!

    I've been thinking of trying to follow the historic Route 66. I was just looking at the Caravan 66 website and getting some ideas. I just bought Roadtrip USA and I hope to do a lot of research before putting down a concrete route. I'm thinking that the entirety of our trip will take about 9-10 days that and we'll spend about 6 days driving with a buffer of 1-2 days. That would leave a day or two to relax before heading back home.

    It's a little overwhelming to think about, but I think my biggest concern is how to keep us all from being bored and really making this an amazing experience.

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

    Default Bored?

    You will be driving past some fascinating scenery and seeing changes in landscape repeatedly throughout your trip. There are times when you might drive a whole day or two with little change and there are other places where the changes will happen at least hourly. The variety of landscapes in this country is amazing. I see no way that you could get bored even if you don't even get out of your car to explore anything. Just the changing views from the car windows will be a thrill.

    There are a lot of optional routes to take but I would probably go to Chicago and then follow Route 66 all the way to LA area. Well, actually, Route 66 has been decomissioned and only parts of it still remain but you can drive the highways that parallel the old route and still have an awesome trip.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Three is optimal (with a huge caveat)!

    Quote Originally Posted by Steel City Dove View Post
    With three drivers how long would it take to drive straight through?
    I concur with AZBuck, we generally recommend that no one drive more than 500-600 miles per day (even with the additional drivers) However, it just so happens that three is the optimal number of drivers for a speed run. AS LONG AS the non-driving duo is diligent about their roles and the 3rd member really sleeps during their sleep cycle. The problem with most first-time speed run roadtrippers, is that they do not follow the "rules" about off-time and sleeping and then all of the advantages of three drivers are lost. So... if you only stopped for fuel, rest-stops and diligently followed the three-driver rotation schedule suggested in that article -- you could cover this distance in less than two days. It is five days if you drive about 8 hours per day and stopped to look around a little.
    I would like to take as much with us as possible to reduce costs, like food etc. What kind of emergency supplies should I bring? What kind of food stores well for long trips?
    Here are some excellent tips and more ideas than probably could come up with on your own.


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