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  1. #1

    Default 12 days! Realistic distance? Bring dog/no? Where to?!

    Hi there all!

    I am a 26-year-old single female living in southwest Virginia. I'm on vacation from June 24 to July 7. I want to do a big road trip, but am wondering what is a realistic trip for this time period? The furthest I've driven by myself is to south Florida.

    I do plan on (and am excited about) doing this trip solo. I know that makes time constraint more of an issue since I can't just trade off driving duties with a friend.

    The big questions:

    1) What is a reasonable distance to cover in this time?

    It's easy to romanticize driving to the coast and back, but I'll freely admit being totally ignorant in this capacity, having only ever flown to the west. How far back and forth can I go in 12 days and still make a memorable trip?

    2) Book ahead, or do my own thing?

    I'm not *planning* on stopping at a ton of roadside attractions. The way I'm thinking, I have little problem with hauling myself through several states without seeing much at all, but would still like the luxury of traveling at my own speed and stopping off wherever I feel comfortable. It seems to make sense to, rather than book nights here or there in advance, to stop when I feel tired/interested in a place/whatever. Am I correct in this assumption?

    In whatever direction I go in, I have one or two destinations where friends can put me up whenever I arrive. The other stop-off nights, I'll just get a room.

    3) Any recommendations on where to go during this time?

    It's the summer. It's around Independence Day. It's the height of travel/tourist season. Where to go? I'll admit being a little more attracted to heading south/southwest than north, but I really am up for anything. I would also love to hear good recommendations on where to spend 4th of July, particularly as someone traveling alone.

    4) Any good tips/warnings for solo roadtrippers?

    I know it's a beautiful and fascinating world out there, but it can also be a scary one. While I've done some solo travel in Europe, I've never done a BIG road trip by myself. My Florida trip was just an A to B and back type of deal.

    5) Rental car advice?

    I don't think I'm going to take my own car on this adventure. Great car, but not sure about it doing this long-haul deal. Anyone have any recommendations as to good cars to take on a long driving trip? I currently drive a large sedan.

    6) What if I kinda want to bring my dog?

    Has anyone else traveled with their dog? Mine is a 17-pound adult mix who travels well, but I've never taken him on a road trip. I would LOVE to take him, but not sure if he'll be too much of an inhibition or not. I do have family to take care of him if it would be better to leave him in VA.

    Thanks everyone for any advice you can give me; I appreciate it greatly! Happy travels to all!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Some thoughts.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Whether there is just you, or 2 of you, we would not recommend driving more than 5-600 miles a day on a multi day trip. With 3 people, at least one can get a nap while another keeps awake, with one eye on the driver, no matter solo it is !

    With 10 full days of driving, just to get directly to the West coast and back, with only time for short stops for food, to fill with gas and stretch the legs etc, I think that might be a little to much to regard as fun for a 12 day trip.

    Lot's of people just "wing it" and see where they end up for the night, where other's prefer the security of knowing where they want to be for the night. Seeing where you end up is OK, but if you wanted to visit a popular tourist spot, such as a National park, you might have to hunt around a bit to find lodgings close by.

    As you are happy to "haul through several States" heading West, you could explore the Four corners region, possibly heading to Santa Fe NM, and heading up towards Moab UT and back through Colorado. Lot's of great scenery, small towns and National parks. If you decide to wing it why not head West and see where you end up, leaving yourself enough time to turn around and take a different route home ?

    If you use the same common sense you use when out alone at home, you will be OK. Use your "built in radar", and if some place doesn't feel quite right, it usually isn't. Remember every place is someone Else's home.

    Unless you have been told otherwise, I would get your own vehicle checked over by a qualified mechanic and tell them of your intentions. If it's reliable, fully serviced and checked there shouldn't be a problem. You could also join a roadside recovery club such as AAA. If you want to rent, a mid size sedan will do as good a job as any. You won't be able to pick an exact model as all the Companies state "or similar" in the rental agreement.

    I have not travelled with a dog in the US, so not much use, but you would need to find "dog friendly" lodgings and in State/National parks there could be restrictions, although you could balance the negatives with the fact you will have a companion.

    You can find a wealth of info by using the search button and looking in the tool bars above. Put key words in and there are routes, and articles on solo travelling, travelling with pets plus much, much more !

    When you have had a look around and made decisions that really only you can make, drop by with any further questions and we can help you "fine tune" your trip.

    Enjoy the planning !

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    If this helps, Motel 6 is a pet-friendly chain of budget hotels. They all accept one well-behaved pet with no additional charge. This is not an endorsement of Motel 6 in general, but I've generally had satisfactory experiences staying at them. They are no-frills with zero amenities, but it works for me when all I need is a place to sleep.

    If your car is roadworthy, I wouldn't even think about a rental. You know your car and are used to it. Traveling long highway distances is a lot easier on a car than local stop and go driving. Get it fully serviced and inspected before you go, and join the AAA.

  4. #4


    I have taken a LOT of very long road trips alone, and now take them with my teenage daughter. I am always a tad nervous before but once I hit the road, it is wonderful and I have a lot of huge memories. I hope that you have a great time.

    As to your questions ... I have taken some trips with small dogs. AAA puts out a thick book called "Traveling with your pet". The edition - 6th - that I have is copyrighted 2004. Personall, I like LaQuinta. They are pet friendly and have excellent breakfasts. Just personal preference....

    You must have a roadside service. I belong to AAA, and upgrade to the 100 mile towing plan before taking long trips. As the others have said, make sure you have your car checked out extensively before you go. I have a mechanic that does it for free when I tell him that I what I am doing. You should have your car checked out en route as well, such as if you are staying with friends, or perhaps the half way point.

    You really should drive just during daylight hours, though I have not always been the best at this.

    You can get a devise to attach to your laptop to have continual internet access (everywhere but the middle of nowhere). I have done this before, but on our forthcoming trip may just stop at WiFi hotspots like McDonalds or Starbucks. My plan is, when I have a feel for where we will stay the night, to check out the hotel prices of LaQuinta (or whatever chains you may be looking at) within a certain radius. Obviously staying outside major cities is cheaper than staying within the city limits.

    Personally, when driving alone, I find it hard to drive more than 400 or so miles per day. When I have someone to chat with, I can go much farther.

    It does without saying that you need to have safety flairs or triangles and perhaps pepper spray.

    Have a wonderful time!!!!!

  5. #5

    Default far more than a diary

    I highly recommend that you do something that I did on my longest road trip - driving to Alaska.

    Create a diary as you go along. It is actually far more than a diary. Get a large binder with pockets. Create a template for each day of the trip, such as miles driven, attitude, weather, etc. Create a separate log for expenses.

    For each day, fill in the template and write a diary-type entry of the sort that you do not mind showing your friends later. But here is the key - cut out the sections of your AAA Tourbooks, tourist information that you get at the state borders, etc. and scotch tape it on that page that night. Add postcards to that page or the next. I even scotch taped a small rock from the Alaska Highway! You can tape the section of the map where you have been, either from your extensive map collection or a print-out from the internet. Make sure you do this as you go, so that when you get home, it is complete. Voila!

    I did this when I drove to Alaska with my friends 30 years ago :) and it still brings me lots of pleasure.


  6. #6

    Default Thanks!

    Thanks for the advice, everyone!

    I am a AAA premier member, so I'm glad to hear that will serve me well in the case of bad car news. It's had a couple of break-downs in the past year, which is why I'm a little hesitant to take it on such a long trip. I suppose if I get it thoroughly checked and up to par, I can ease my concerns. A friend has offered his huge SUV, but the gas mileage is pretty bad. One pro is that it could double as a hotel room. :)

    I will pick up that book about traveling with pets! I'm sure that can give me more insight as to whether or not it would be a good idea. Since I'm more attracted to heading to the southwest and seeing the desert (in late June/early July), I'm thinking he might be best left in the comfort of the AC at my parents' house.

    I guess the biggest thing now is setting up a tentative route! There are places I'd like to see in NM and AZ, of course...and I might want to dip down to Austin, TX to visit a friend for the 4th of July, on my way home.

    I drew up a route today heading to Boulder, dipping down to the Grand Canyon, popping over to Santa Fe, going to Austin, then back home. I would need to decide where to stay on the way on some of the longer hauls, but it still looked a little too ambitious. I'll keep finagling and checking back here for advice. Thanks for everything!

  7. #7


    Toni, that is great advice...I definitely planned on writing during the duration, but having those folder pockets and places for snippets is a fantastic idea. Thanks!

  8. #8



    We live in Texas, and my sister lives in Southern California, so I can make recommendations about the Southwest. In the Austin area, go to Enchanted Rock, about 2 hours or so away. Go to the cute town of Fredericksburg and drive north. Pictures of Enchanted Rock do not do it justice. The climb is not hard, and the view from the top is beautiful, but take lots of water this time of year. It will be hot. Your friends can make lots of suggestions in the Austin / New Braunfels / San Antonio area. Go (inner) tubing in New Braunfels. It's great fun.

    West Texas is very unique. Friends from out of the country really like it. If you have time, go down to Big Bend, but it doesn't seem like you have the time.

    You can get tourist info from a number of sources about Santa Fe and the Grand Canyon. One place that you might not think of is the Alien Museum in Roswell, NM. If you are going from Santa Fe to Austin, you should go through Roswell. It is not large, and is really interesting. Another stop near there that I recommend is going sledding down the sand at White Sands, NM. It's fun, but I don't know how hot it will be this time of year.

    I also recommend Painted Desert and Petrified Forest between Santa Fe and the Grand Canyon, right off the highway. Again, there is tons of info out there about those places.

    Again, have fun!

  9. Default Take the pup

    Hey Cortknee,

    Last summer we did a 4800 mile trip with our two active 25 lb Schnoodles from Minneapolis to Rocky Mountain NP, Colorado Springs, Canon City, Grand Junction, Dead Horse Pt. SP, Arches NP, Monument Valley, Sedona, Tucson, Santa Fe, Chama, and Taos. Although the National Parks are not so dog friendly, most adjacent national forests and recreation areas are along with state parks etc. We had no problem finding hotels that accept dogs and offered very nice accommodations at reasonable prices. La Quinta was our main resource but stayed at a wonderful Hampton Inn in the middle of almost nowhere in Kayenta AZ south of Monument Valley and Arches NP. They had a blast being with us and hiking the trails and areas that permitted dogs. Plan well, be sure to pack things that make their lives fun and travel easy. Get the dog Lyme vaccination, apply flea and tick repellant and of course have water for you and dog available at all times. We invested in a backseat “doggy” hammock that protects the car and keeps them from jumping into the front seat (mostly). It was a lifesaver when one had a small “explosion” just as we were coming into Kayenta AZ one evening. Fortunately, that was the only incident the entire trip.

    We have two big trips planned this summer. The first will be heading up to the North Shore of Lake Superior in MN, the South shore in Wisconsin, Michigan’s, Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island and finishing up in Door County Wisconsin. The another heading out to the Bad Lands/Black Hills, Bear Tooth Highway, Yellowstone, Cody, WY, Grand Teton and Jackson Hole, and then to Glacier NP

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