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!