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  1. Default California/Florida/NewYork/Chicago Cross Country RoadTrip 2010

    Hello everyone!

    My friends and I are planning to travel from LA, California to Miami, Florida to New York City then to Chicago in July 2010 (Approx 7,000 miles). We need experienced advise, suggestions, pre-cautions, and facts. There are going to be three of us total, myself at being 22, and two others who are 21 and 20.

    We will be using my Honda Civic 97, manual engine. Since funding will be limited, due to being college students we are planning to sleep on camping grounds or cheap motels. Fortunately, we have family and friends in Florida, Miami and NYC and planning to stay in those cities for about 3 days each.

    We estimated around 900 to 1k dollars for gas for the round trip. My car's average MPG is Approx 30-35. (

    All three of us are very experienced drivers. We have drove to Las Vegas (4 hour trip) and to San Francisco (8 hour trip) many times. We plan to rotate drivers every 6 hours to 8 hours. Of course, we are definitely going to take many breaks throughout the trip. Were planning to drive at least 12 hours a day.

    Our whole trip timeline is 3 weeks. We plan to bring our food and resupply at grocery stores on the way save money.

    Things were planning to bring with us in the car:
    Emergency kit
    A spare tire, and a jack.
    Plenty of water
    a small propane grill
    A tent
    3 GPS (yes all three of us has one, but are not going to rely on it so much)
    A small cooler

    As of right now, we plan to save and bring around 300-350 dollars each to share for the gas (total of $900-1050) and about 300-400 dollars more each for food/camping/motels/shopping.

    Please help us plan! We might of overlook on the amount of money we need for gas.

    This is our route right now, but it will change as we start to plan throughout the year for the stops and places we want to visit on the way.,57.084961&z=5
    Last edited by ThisFob; 11-25-2009 at 12:49 PM.

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

    Default focus

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    You say you're experienced drivers, having made trips to SF and Vegas, but that's really not the same kind of experience as multi-day travel. Simply put, making one 12 hour trip is easy, but it not nearly as easy to try to do that sort of driving day after day.

    I note this because you are looking at a very enthusiastic plan for 3 weeks. Its not impossible by any means, but really if you spend just 2 days each in Miami, Chicago, and New York, that means you really will be looking at 10 hours a day on the road for the rest of your trip. Once you factor in setting up/taking down camp, stopping at a grocery store, or cooking a meal, that's really not going to leave you any time to enjoy the traveling portion of your trip. If you did 3 days in each of those places you would have to cover 600 miles a day, every day you are not in those cities, and that really leaves you in a position where you have to drive and drive and drive every day you are not in one of those cities. Sounds fine on paper, but in practice, its probably not going to make for a very fun time.

    If it were me, I think I would look at picking between Chicago/New York (maybe add in Boston or DC?) or Miami and Florida. That's going to save you more than 1000 miles of driving, which I think will make a big difference on a tip of this duration. Simply put, its going to let you see more, have more time for fun, and less time just logging mile after mile to stay on schedule.

    Your gas budget is good, but I also think the rest of your budget is pretty low. I'd bet you'd be spending at least $500 on camping fees and the occational motel alone, and you might be able to eat for a little less than the $400 or so you've got left, but that will leave you almost no money left for anything extra, like going out to clubs, shopping, even just little things like parking. I'd try to save up a little more. I'd say about $800 each (300ish for gas and 500 for everything else) would be better to give you a little more wiggle room. You'll still have to be very frugal, but I think it would be workable.

    Overall, I think you are off to a very good start. I just think a few tweaks will make for a better trip.

  3. Default

    Thank you so much! We are just in the beginning part of our planning, so this is going to really help us out.

    I totally understand about how its so much different from making trips to SF/Vegas, making this trip much more exciting. Thats why we do plan to rotate drivers for this trip. 3 drivers total, hopefully a 4th.

    We are spending about 3 days in Miami and NYC so we don't burden our host (family/friends) and about 1 day in Chicago (most likely a stopby). You are right that 3 weeks might be a little bit too short since we do have to spend a lot of our time driving. Ill see if we can extend our plan to 1 month from 3 weeks. My two other friends and including myself are full time workers and full time college students, 3 weeks in our head sounded fair amount of time but I just realized that it might hinder us from the fun out of traveling. We are probably going to save up more than 1,000 for this trip but we wanted help to know the cost.

    I will try to recommend a month for the trip to my friends but probably going to stay 3 weeks. Driving over 600 miles a day is going to be hard but its do-able. Also, to be honest we are planning to drive throughout the night since we are rotating drivers and occasionally camp to fully rest. The road trip to us is already worth it. We are doing it to visit our family and friends and to enjoy being out on the road.

    Please continue to give more insights! Thanks!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default You might as well be on a bus or train

    If most or all of your planned driving time is going to be at night -- you'll be missing the views of the country you're driving through. You'd almost be better to do this trip by train or bus and at least you'd be more refreshed when you go to the various in-line destinations. Your trip is doable, but with the route you've outlined, it's rapidly going to feel like work. On the other hand, doing such a trip when you are in your early 20's is the perfect time -- you'll not want to do it on that pace when your're in your 30's or 40's. My first major solo trip was undertaken when I was 20 and I drove 10,000 miles in about two weeks.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default counterproductive

    Driving through the night is about the worst thing you can do on a trip like this.

    First of all, rotating drivers is helpful, but only to a pretty small degree. It doesn't magically mean that you can drive forever. Basically, its going to make driving those 600 miles in a day safe and relatively tolerable. However, its still going to be a tiring day, and that still needs to be the upper limit of how far you are traveling. Simply put, you're going to start putting your safety at risk very quickly by ignoring how draining even being a passenger for hours at a time can be.

    Second, driving through the night is extremely counter-productive on many levels. The biggest is that it means that all of your are going to be perpetually over-tired, and whenever you do arrive at your destination for a day, whoever has been driving (and passenger who is making sure the driver is awake) will be exhausted, while the other will have just had some rest. So someone is going to be unhappy. The lack of proper rest will impact your ability to have fun being with each other. Even being the best of friends can quickly become enemies when being crammed into a car together for 3-4 weeks (and those who say it will never happen to them are the most likely to have serious problems.)

    On top of all of that, if you are driving through the night, you miss out on everything! You can see anything, you can't do anything, and you can't enjoy and explore what's out there - and if that's the case, then why bother heading out on the road?

    I'm sure you're excited about this trip, but its a lot easier to have a great trip as an idea. Trying to push too hard, doing things like driving through the night, can very quickly turn that idea which sounds like it will be "worth it" into a trip that is remembered for all the wrong reasons. Don't underestimate the importance of getting rest, and having time to be spontaneous, so you can have a real road trip, not just a trip in a car.

  6. Default

    Thank you Mark and Michael, once again you guys made me realize that its important to getting rest and actually enjoying the trip instead of our original plans to rush through cross country.

    I have been talking to my other two friends and I brought up some of the things you guys mention.

    We decided that we are not going to drive at night. We might do a few motels here and there but mostly planning to go camping for most of the nights. Traveling from California to Florida, we are going to take our time and plan to arrive in Florida within 6-7 days. Then planning to stay with family in Florida for about 3-4 days, then take 1-2 days to travel to NJ and stay with family there and spend 3-4 days in NJ to explore NYC. After NYC, we are going to take our time, 8-10 days, going back to LA, while major spots at Chicago and Vegas.

    This is just an outline of our planning. Please continue to give recommendations. Each of us agreed that we are going to have a budget of at least $1000 each(its the bare minimum we are bringing but all three of us are planning to bring more). The only problem is that our time is limited to maximum of 4 weeks, due to work and school.

    I have a few concerns though, is it common to pass by camping grounds after driving around 500 miles a day. Is it better, cheaper and ideal to stay at motels than camping? What caution should we take while entering new states? (We plan to stay at the speed limit). Will this trip overwhelmed my Civic 97 (Manuel) or it should be fine as long as we don't push it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Get it checked over.

    You will pass hundreds of campgrounds after travelling 500 miles, It's whether you will find on at the end of the day ! ;-) You should be OK, but I find it helps to take campground details with me in an area I think I might be in that night, especially in more remote areas and then call ahead. Camping is going to be a cheaper alternative to Motels but of course you have to set up camp and pack it down again which takes time.

    I can't think of any precautions you should take, other than recognising the State law and abiding by it.

    The kinder you are to the car, the kinder it will be to you. I would make sure it is serviced [fluids, belts etc] and properly inspected [Tyres, brakes, wiper blades etc ] before leaving and inform whoever does so that it is to embark on a long journey. If it leaves in good shape with a clean bill of health then you should be fine although no guarantees with any car of any age. Make sure your spare tyre is in good shape and you have basic tools including a jack and wrench. Also check tyre pressures and set them to mftrs spec for passengers and luggage.

    An AAA membership or similar would help give piece of mind but it pays to have an emergency fund for unexpected repairs, even a puncture that could require a new tyre.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default camping etc

    Camping should certainly be cheaper than going with motels, but there are a few downsides you should think about. Camping does require a bit more work. You have to look a little bit harder for a site, and usually campgrounds are going to be a little bit of a drive from the interstate unlike motels which are going to be found right off the exit ramps, and of course you have to set up and tear down a site (which is much easier to do during daylight). With 4 people in civic, you're also likely looking at a pretty tight fit to pack in everyone plus their luggage and camping gear.

    Of course, there are some great positives too. It can be a great money saver. You'll likely spend $20-30 a night, as opposed to at least $50 a night for a cheap motel. Its also a lot easier to cook your own meals at a campsite, another money saver. And after a long day in a car, you usually have a lot of room to move around or just relax around a campfire, which to me is a whole lot nicer than going from being in a crammed car to being in a small motel room where a tv is about your only choice for entertainment.

    For finding campgrounds, my first choice is always to go with a public park (state park, national forest, etc) since I find they are usually cheaper, and are more condusive to tent camping, unlike a lot of private campgrounds which focus on getting the most lucrative RV crowd. The nice thing is that State Parks and other such facilities will usually be marked on a good map, and with highway signs, so it can be pretty easy to find them.

    For your car, you really should have it checked over to make sure that it is in good running condition and there is nothing obvious that can be prevented. Generally, roadtrip miles are a lot easier on a car than daily in town driving, but sometimes things just break (especially on a 10+ year old car) so having a backup plan to pay for towing and repairs will be important.

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