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  1. Default senior roadtrip ideas

    I have been thinking for a few weeks that I want to go on some sort of trip after high school graduation. I turn 18 in the beginning of July so I was thinking about leaving around mid-july. I plan to go with 4 other people so money is not that big of an issue (somewhere around $500-$800 per person). I really want to go somewhere scenic like Yellowstone or Yosemite but I am just thinking about how crowded it will be. does anyone have some advice as to where I might venture to? I plan on driving, I would like to keep the trip within the US. My other question pertains to lodging, would I have a problem finding places to stay on my way there since I would only be 18 (two other people would be 17)?

    thanks for your input.

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    You didn't say where you are starting from, so its really going to be tough to offer ideas on where to go.

    With your budget, you can realistically only be gone for a week - maybe two - if you really stretch your money.

    Traveling before everyone is 18 is also a little problematic. It won't be uncommon for places to refuse to let you have an unrelated minor stay in your room. Camping is an idea where you're likely to have fewer problems. There are also other issue you likely will not have thought of - for example if you have an accident or have some sort of medical issue - the minors will not be able to authorize their own medical care.

  3. Default

    starting from charlotte, nc. I know there are things I wont have thought of, that is why I came here for ideas :)

    I have no problem camping. On another note if everyone looks 18 or older, would the motel/hotel ask for ID to check and make sure everyone is 18? I mean the two who wont be 18 practically have full beards ahaha.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Yes, it is entirely possible that you'll find a place that checks id's. Even worse, if you try to sneak people in that violate the motels policy, its entirely possible that you could be kicked out of the complex with no refund. Not every place will have this policy, but its something that could become an issue.

    With your budget, I really think you'd be pushing too much to try to make it all the way out to the west. I think you could have a very nice time focusing on the southeast - places like the Smoky Mountains, and continue out maybe to the Mississippi River, head down to New Orleans, and make a loop like that. It might not sound as glamorous as a Yellowstone or Yosemite, but i think that's much more realistic and will allow you to focus much more on having a good time.

  5. Default

    Well I figured that between $2500 and $4000, we could get out that far. I get about 27 mpg on the highway so I was thinking that it would take roughly $500 in gas to get there and back. If we took 2 days to get there and 2 back thats say $400 in lodging, thats $180 a person so far (not including meals). I am not trying to second guess someone with infinitely more knowledge than me, but thats where I am coming from budget wise. Because even if it cost $1500 for a place to stay at the park for 5-7 days thats still only $480 /person.

    Feel free to correct me, I am sure I am leaving something out, ahah, and you guys are the one with the knowledge.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Lets start with your time frame.

    Charlotte to Yellowstone is 2100 miles there is no way at all that you can safely drive that distance in 2 days. Homicidaly Reckless is the phrase that comes to mind. You need a minimum of 4 days each way to safely drive that distance. So you're at a minimum of 8 days right there - twice as much as you've figured.

    Yosemite is about 2600 miles - so an extra day each way.

    Your $500 fuel estimate is a best case, driving only point to point, and gas prices remain at their current levels. Realistically, your car will get worse mileage when fully loaded, you'll add a significant amount of miles driving in towns, through parks, etc, and gas prices are going to shoot up during the summer. $750 is a minimum number for a trip to Yellowstone.

    You also haven't factored in food, but when you are still living at home, its very easy to underestimate just how much you'll be spending on groceries. $15 per person per day - if you are cooking some of your own meals - is a good starting point in terms of a number. If you are eating in restaurants for most of your meals, that number can easily be chewed up in a single family restaurant quality meal.

    I'll also say that 5 people is a tough number for a roadtrip - it means 2 motel room at each stop, and frankly, trying to fit that many people into a car that's small enough to get 27mpg means you are going to be packed into the car like spam in a can. That is going to be uncomfortable driving thousands of miles - which means you actually should be looking at even shorter days with even more stops.

    Its very common to look at things on paper in a best case, perfect world situation, but realistically $500 per person for a week on the road is a pretty frugal trip, and to get out as far as you are talking and still have time to see anything, you need to be gone for at least 2 weeks.

  7. Default Reminds me of a similar trip 40 years ago.

    Some personal experiences, and our trip was considerably shorter than yours.

    I was around 19 at the time, when I talked two friends into a two-week trip from Detroit to Yellowstone. This was in a 1970 Chevy Chevelle. We had a lot of fun, and a lot of arguments along the way.

    We drove from Detroit to Yellowstone taking in the Mitchell S.D. Corn Palace (so dumb, you gotta love it), Wall Drug (still dumber and more lovable) and the Badlands, Rapid City and Mt. Rushmore. We camped everywhere except in Yellowstone; we rented the rustic cabins for four nights. We spent four days exploring Yellowstone. It is 2.5 million acres! We drove many, many hours throughout Yellowstone. DO NOT underestimate how long you'll be there.

    Since the thousands of miles was going to be a lot of wear and tear on my friend's car, my other friend and I paid ALL the gas for the trip and any toll roads. This was only fair, and something you'll have to discuss with your friends.

    Everything was fine at first. The three of us took two-hour shifts. One tried to sleep while one drove and the third attended to the needs of the driver. Waiting four hours for the next turn at the wheel was boring through the plains states. Driving past the two-hour mark became an unending source of friction from the others. EVERYONE wanted to drive ... at first.

    It got more interesting when we hit the mountains. Even at 19, I had several years of experience pulling a trailer through the mountains on vacations with my family. At the first sign of drop-offs, I unexpectedly became the Designated Mountain Driver. Nobody wanted anything to do with mountain driving. Do any of you have experience driving in mountains? Oh, you know what will happen to your gas mileage at 12,000 feet ... right?

    Food also became a problem. Initially, we planned to make a lot of our own meals to cut costs. We all agreed to that, and packed a camping stove and canned meals. Soon, we tired of that and wanted to stop at MacDonalds or real restaurants. However, one of us was on such a tight budget that we ended up buying some meals for him!

    All in all, we were such close friends that we still had a wonderful trip, but these experiences were enough to test the strongest friendships. And, there were only three of us.

    Just food for thought. Been there, done that.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    you know what will happen to your gas mileage at 12,000 feet ... right?
    40 years ago with carbureted vehicles, it went in the toilet. With today's computer-controlled fuel injected vehicles, it actually gets BETTER. I get my best gas mileage at high elevations.

  9. Default

    Hey there,

    I'm not going to dispute what other members have said here, because they do have more experience than me- I'm just going to tell you what our cross-country trip was like-

    Two friends and I (in our early twenties) took a trip in June/July from Western NY down Route 66 through Amarillo, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Zion, Salt Lake, and Yellowstone, and then back home. It totalled two weeks and 5000 miles. We had 3 days in there where we did no driving at all- at the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Yellowstone. Other days we drove between 6-10 hours, and longer the last 2 days.

    We spent ~ $3000 total. Camped 2/3 of the time and stayed at hotels the other 1/3. We even splurged $400 on 2 nights at a Zion Lodge Cabin. Gas at that time was around $2.50/gallon, and we ate out for almost every meal. Food really wasn't that expensive, about $20/day each person --For some reason, we were only hungry twice a day and were craving the lightest (and cheapest) things on the menus- salads, soups, sandwiches. We also cooked over a campfire sometimes. Now, note that we didn't do any extra "activities" that would have cost us-- we mainly enjoyed the camping and hiking.

    If we camped more and avoided souveniers it would have all been much cheaper. How cheap can you get? This will be my experiment during my next planned 5000 miler--in July 2011. ;)

    Here's a link to my trip report:

    See you on the road!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default a perfect example

    Thanks Puff for sharing your perspective - and I think it really shows exactly what we were talking about.

    Your trip cost you about $500 per week per person. Yes, there were things you could have done to cut that down more, but you were by no means being extravagant with your trip. Camping 2/3rds of the time likely saved you quite a bit of money, and even cooking your own meals and eating light at restaurants you were spending about $20 a day. That's very reasonable and fairly typical for a basic roadtrip.

    (note for the original posters planned trip, fitting camping gear plus luggage for 5 people into a small to midsized car could be quite difficult.)

    Yes, it is possible to squeeze things down a bit more than that, but there does get to a point where you try to do things so cheaply, that you have to spend all of your time worrying about your budget and can't enjoy your trip. For a first time roadtripper, especially, its better to have a little more money than you might need just in case, and then in future trips it will be easier to know what things you can cut based on experience.

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