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  1. Default FL to WA in February - Lots of questions

    I'm hoping to get some help and advice. I've done this trip before (in reverse), but it was at the end of August and not well-planned at all. Basically we just packed our Penske and drove. I'm hoping to be a little more organized this time around.

    First a few facts that may help with your advice.
    - Vehicle is a 2006 Dodge Stratus (basically a mid-size sedan)
    - Will have a car-top carrier
    - Two adults, however due to me being pregnant, only one of us may be able to drive
    - Dog and pregnant lady make stops every 3hrs or so a requirement

    First and foremost - in your experience, what would be the best route to follow? I realize that avoiding winter weather is going to be nearly impossible, but I'd like to try and stick to milder forms of it for as long as possible. Our initial thought was to try and stick with the southern states, until like NM or so, and then start heading up - but that's about as specific as I've gotten. I think the biggest thing I'm trying to avoid are mountains/passes for as long as possible, especially ones that require special equipment or may wind up closed due to weather.

    Second, we'll be getting a car top carrier for our car. We don't have a roof rack, so we'll either be getting one that can be used without it or investing in a set of the car clip straps. The only thing I haven't been able to find an answer to is what sort of things can be packed into those carriers. I mean, can I plan on packing a few hard-sided suitcases or would it be smarter to use duffel bags and maybe even some of those vacuum pack bags, since most of what will be on the roof is clothing?

    My next question is about hotels. The last time we did this trip, we basically drove until we were exhausted and wound up at whatever hotel/motel we saw first off the highway. As you can imagine this didn't work well, and we wound up paying high prices (80+/night) for motels that made Super8 look like the Ritz. This time I'm toying with the idea of booking ahead of time - but how far in advance should I book? Is it even realistic to book more than a day in advance without knowing driving conditions or how far we'll be able to get? My original thought was to book at least 3-4 nights worth of hotels in advance to give us daily 'goals', but I'm starting to think that may not be realistic.

    My final question kind of relates to the one above - are there any good web applications that can help me map out hotels along the route? We'll be getting AAA before we leave, and I know they'll provide a Trip Tik, but I don't remember how useful it was the last time around. I've also got no clue about how much we can have them customize the route and information for us. Anyone with AAA able to shed some light on what we can or can't expect? Otherwise, any good website that could help with the planning would be great. I've tried mapquest and google maps, but haven't had much luck getting something that's really helpful.

    I think that covers it :) I really do appreciate any help and am sorry if any of this is extraneous or has been asked a million times before. I'm just trying to be as thorough as possible.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Keep It Simple

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    And following that advice, I'll just work my way through your questions one by one and offer what advice I can.

    First of all, it is quite possible, and my preference for both enjoyment and safety, to stop every few hours along any Interstate in the country and enjoy some nature, history, or scenery as well as the facilities.

    A single, always and everywhere, 'best' route does not exist, but you are almost always best served by planning to take the shortest route possible, and build in sufficient time to do everything you want to, and need to, do along the way. If the 'need to' category includes sitting out a day due to inclement weather, so be it. But planning this far in advance to use a different route in the hopes that it will have better weather is wishful thinking. Both I-40 and I-10 are subject to occasional winter storms that can, in fact, be worse than those seen farther north both because icing is more likely and because the road crews are less experienced and equipped to handle it. In your case the shortest route, assuming Orlando to Seattle, is I-75 to Chattanooga, I-24 to southern Illinois, i-57/I-64 to St. Louis, I-70 to Kansas City, I-29/ NE-2 to Lincoln, I-80 to the Salt Lake City Area, I-84 to Hermiston, OR and I-82/I-90 to Seattle. Trying to do an end around through the 'southern states' to Los Angeles and up the coast would add at least a full day to your time on the road AND your time exposed to possible bad weather. Remember that Interstate highways are built to designs that limit both the steepness and curvature of the roads. Also, if special equipment is required (temporarily) you are probably better off not driving that day anyway.

    For the car top carriers of the type you're looking at, I'd recommend that you keep the weight of whatever you put in there as low as possible. So I think your idea to use duffle bags, vacuum bags, large Ziplocs and the like is the way to go. These can be better packed in tight and are less prone to slide around on curves and while breaking as well.

    There is a difference of opinion among RoadTrippers as to whether booking ahead or just finding a motel on the fly is the better strategy. In your case and for the reasons you state, I think the scales tip decidedly in favor of booking ahead. You can plan on taking about 6 days (5 nights) and covering a bit over 500 miles a day, even with frequent stops and letting the dog get some exercise. That should let you figure out roughly where to stop. Then use one of the many motel review websites, such as and,to look at what's available in each area. In larger cities, you can often do quite well on bidding sites, such as Hotwire and Priceline, but in any case find something that suits your tastes and budget. The best part of motel reservations is that they can almost always be canceled on 24 hours notice without a penalty. So you'd start out on your trip and watch the weather. If it seems like you'd be heading into a storm the next day. Call ahead and cancel the next night's reservation or move it back a day. Stay where you are and let the storm blow by and set out again, now a day late but far safer and far less nerve wracked than you would have been by trying to drive through it.

    I recently dropped my AAA membership, but not because I was dissatisfied with their service. Quite the contrary. I used them often and to great effect. I simply learned enough in my travels to do my own planning. That said - Do not rely on their on-line services but make the time (and an appointment) well in advance to go in to your local office and sit down with one of their travel planners who can prepare a detailed and personalized route for you, help you find suitable lodging and eating establishments, and explain their emergency roadside services. For someone who is not used to planning and executing RoadTrips, they can be a great help.

    One final spice of advice. All of your concerns are normal, but should not get in the way of what should be a great trip. Relax and enjoy.


  3. Default

    AZBuck: Thank you so much for your detailed response!

    - I totally understand what you're saying about the northern road crews versus the more southern ones. As as well as not wanting to add more time onto the trip than necessary. I guess I just have this fear of being snowed in in Wyoming or Colorado for days. As nice as the vacation would be, at 30 weeks pregnant and on a budget, I don't think it'd be such a good idea. I think the original plan we'd had was to try and find a viable route that would take us through the lower states (AL, MS, AK, OK) and eventually have us cutting up through NM or AZ. I'm just so unfamiliar with the routes and such that I feel like I'm randomly picking roads with my eyes closed (lol). However, as I said, I totally see your point in trying to go with the shortest distance and will definitely re-consider.

    - Thanks for the input on the carrier - I had a feeling that's what we'd need to do, but wasn't sure. When I've traveled I've always either had a moving truck or not needed more than my trunk space. This is totally new territory for me.

    - Thanks for the input on the hotels and AAA. I'd tried using their online tools (the free ones at least) and had no luck. I figured my husband and I would need to plan a morning to go down and actually go over the trip with someone. We had them when we made our original trip from WA to FL, and while we just went in and picked up the TripTik, it was still a HUGE help. This time around I just need to be able to customize more and wasn't sure if that was within their realm of servics. Based on their online apps, it definitely wasn't. As for the hotels - I'll probably feel more relaxed knowing I have a room waiting for me at the end of a day of driving, but at the same time worry that it'll cause unnecessary worry if we're running behind schedule. For the record, I don't suggest trying to plan a cross-country trip while dealing with pregnancy hormones.

    I also appreciate the advice to remember to enjoy this trip. I really enjoyed our initial drive from WA to FL, despite driving a huge Penske, towing a minivan and having all of our animals (except the fish) escape once. I think I keep letting myself get so caught up in my husband's 'rush rush' attitude that I forget that sometimes. I think if he had it his way, we'd simply drive straight through without stopping (sleeping only in the car). I told him if he wanted to actually make it to WA and not be left in the middle of Kansas somewhere, he should really re-think that.

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