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  1. Default Helps with planning a trip in winter break

    I have to admit that I haven't done any planning, but just wonder about the possibility...

    I have about 3-4 weeks after Christmas and simply want to get myself moving (for experience and also for health reason that I don't want to stay home). I'm a poor student so this won't be a grand trip; and I'm very likely be alone (a girl that I'm). Starting from Maryland, I've been to much of the east coast, so I'm thinking going west - by car or by Amtrak.

    I'm really in need for some suggestions: I don't have set goals (well I do but those are near the west coast so probably not for this time) but do want to see more of America. I haven't done (or planned) any trip in the US before, so I would appreciate some realistic estimation - how much should I expect to spend? It is safe for me to go around alone? How far can I realistically go with considerations on costs as well as experience (don't want to just drive through a state and say I was there) ? Suggestions as to which direction to go - straight west, southwest, northwest (I've been on a trip to the Niagara Fall before)?

    Sorry if this is somewhat vague; I don't have any set plan at all, so I also would not mind if I do two or three smaller trips or even not spending the entire 3-4 weeks in traveling. I just want to gather some idea and start planning.

    Thanks in advance!

    (I've traveled alone before, so this won't be my first; I spent under 2800 euro grand total for a 3-month summer in Europe - although not traveling on most weekdays while I was there since I have day-time semi-job; went for a 6 days trip in Italy while I was in Europe for around 160 euro; also once slept on night train seats for 3 nights in a row, so budget or extreme budget traveling won't be my first either).
    Last edited by polygonal; 11-09-2008 at 08:32 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default defining goals

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Unfortuantly, the kinds of questions you are asking right now are the kinds of questions we need answered from you before we can be of much help.

    Without knowing your goals, we can't begin to tell you what direction you should go, without knowing your transportation method and other travel styles, we can't begin to help you with your budget. Certainly, if you've got a specific dollar amount you can only spend, that can go into your planning.

    Having said that, I'm sure you have goals, but perhaps you simply haven't defined them yet. Goals are far more than listing places you'd like to see, its the basic element of why you are doing this trip.

    With 3-4 weeks, you've got millions of options. Even the west coast is pretty easily within reach. Obviously, in December weather can change the dynamics of things, so how does that play into your thinking?

    Safety wise, if you've traveled before, then you know what to do. If you follow the same prinicpals that you did in your previous trips, you certainly won't be any more at risk just by traveling the the US.

  3. Default

    Hi thanks for the reply! You are probably right about my goalless situation ;)

    I haven't traveled alone with a car before, and almost all my experiences with traveling alone and planning came from weekend/extended weekend trips to major cities in Europe with trains and lots of walking; so planning this trip is a completely different beast.

    I guess my main concern at this moment is the feasibility of such a trip (or am I just day dreaming?) The biggest concern is safety - how will I, a college-age, non-Caucasian (Asian) girl fare in this situation? Driving on highway is of course fine, but how about on some lesser populated roads, how about getting a room in motel, how about maybe sleeping in car from time to time? As I mainly been to the metropolitan parts of the US, how does the racial dynamics affects me in the more conservative midwest (sorry if my silly notion of the midwest is WAY out of dated!) And admittedly Baltimore isn't the safest city in the US, but I do know Baltimore; but how safe are the midwest cities, Memphis etc. for single, female travelers/strangers?

    My second concern is unfailingly the financial part. I think about $1000 is as much I can afford - even if that means a shorter trip - and I hope it would be less. So the west coast is out of question (gas or airplane ticket would be too much), and my question is how far $1000 can get me (time- and distance-wise)? I of course have no problem getting food from grocery store, sleeping in car from time to time, omitting too expensive sites, etc. - I had traveled cheap before and I don't mind it. I really don't have much idea how much traveling cost in the US, especially the lodging part. Does $15-$25 per night hostels exist in the US?

    As for why the trip, the main reason is I just want to hit the road and not stay at home, but I also want to see the part of America that I haven't known about, so yes I'll stop by the major cities, but I'm far more interested in smaller towns and the between. I would love to talk to the locals. I would love to see the national parks and like, although I guess the most interesting ones are out of my reach this time, and winter isn't a great time for nature sightseeing. Also I think I'll stick to the west/south since I'm not experienced in driving in snowy or icy conditions - but I don't have much idea how January winter is like in the midwest; how far south should I go to avoid bad wintry weather, typically (I know Florida can be quite warm in January ;) )?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Crescent

    There is an Amtrak route called the Crescent that I think would be just what you're looking for. This goes from Baltimore down the Piedmont Plateau through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and the deep South to New Orleans. It would get you to somewhere warm, and show you some major cities, small towns, and an area of the country you probably haven't seen yet, You can go either by car or train, but taking your car would give you the freedom to poke into some laces the train won't take you and let you travel at your own pace. Major cities would include Greensboro and Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Meridian, MS and New Orleans,

    I'm afraid $15-25 motel rooms cannot be had, but $50 rooms certainly can. Lower cost chains include Motel 6, Red Roof Inn, Super 8 and Travelodge. If you go to their web sites, you can probably find locations and prices for the areas you decide to drive through, and you can probably even get them to send you a brochure with their locations so you can find them while on the road. Here are some more tips for saving money while traveling. I would think that for a bit less than $1000, you can have a nice week's trip through the South that you'll find rewarding.

    As for safety, let your own common sense guide you. Baltimore is not particularly better or worse than anywhere you'll be traveling. If you can tell when you're in a 'bad' neighborhood there, you can tell the same wherever you are.


  5. #5

    Default Hi there!

    Hi ... I thought I'd jump in and try to answer your questions about safety ...

    I'm a young(ish) Caucasian female (I'm 27; been doing these trips since I was 21 or so), and I've taken many road trips across the US and into Canada alone. To give you an example, I live in Dallas and have traveled up to Maine, to Chicago, and over to Phoenix and Los Angeles numerous times by myself. I have to admit that there can be some shady people around -- you just need to exercise some good old fashioned common sense (stop in well-lit, well-populated areas at night, and fill up on gas BEFORE it becomes urgent -- that kind of thing). When I'm alone, I'm constantly on the lookout for "shady" behaviour ... if you're observant and present yourself with confidence, I'm almost certain you can do this!

    Good luck with planning the trip. I hope all goes well! Maybe I'll even pass you on the road -- I'm heading up to Washington state and into North Dakota over the winter break!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Thanks for your input

    Quote Originally Posted by vivianleighe View Post
    Hi ... I thought I'd jump in and try to answer your questions about safety ...
    Hi Vivian,

    It's great when we get first time posters offering advice and reassurance on the forums, so thank you and a big, Welcome to the R.T.A. forums.


  7. #7
    MaxxedMan Guest


    I'm from Kansas and have moved to Boston, I deal with questions like yours more than I want to. Truth is, in most of the mostly white mid-west, its being treated as special because you are different more than being treated badly.

    For most small towns you'll have to deal with assine questions that people mean as harmless that people who grew up around asians would never ask. If you respect their culture doesn't know yours and are polite, you'll find the same from most of them.

    That being said, don't get yourself in trouble by the exception to the rule and blame me, be careful always.

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