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  1. #1

    Default Cross Country Roadtrip from NC to CA...

    Is it unrealistic/unattainable for two or three 18 year olds to take a roadtrip from NC to CA and possibly all throughout the West? I was thinking from LA to Seattle, and then driving back through Minnesota or South Dakota. Any suggestions/tips from traveling veterans?

    I'm planning this trip for our graduation gift when we graduate high school, so summer of 2012. Obviously I realize that it is going to be very expensive and I'm working on that.

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

    Default not impossible

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I wouldn't say what you are talking about is unrealistic or unattainable, but it is quite ambitious.

    Time wise, you'd be looking at needing a month to do that kind of loop and have time to see things too, and you are right, you're going to need a pretty significant amount of funds to do this.

    Here are a few basic thing to start with:
    First get on the same page with your friends. Figure out how much time and money each of you can realistically commit too. The summer after graduation can be a very busy one as you transition into college/work/etc, and its not always easy to actually be able to get away for an entire month. You'll need to figure out things like budget, transportation, lodging, and travel styles. You also need to work together to figure out where it is you want to go - based on where all of you want to go. The more you all work together, the more invested you'll all be, and the less likely you'll have someone decide that they can't actually go through with such a major trip (which may be the single biggest killer of the grand teenage roadtrip plan).

    It's also a very good idea to start by taking some small, weekend type trips where you get a feel for being on the road, what you like, what you don't like, how much things cost, etc, on a smaller scale instead of making these discoveries when you are on your trip and are on the other side of the country, with no real way to correct the issues.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Just checking.

    Presumably one of you have your own vehicle ? It's just with your ages, you would have trouble finding anyone to rent you one to start with, and if you did, the cost would be enormous which is a potential stumbling block !

  4. #4


    Thank you both for the tips! Your messages were very helpful. We do have our own car that we could use, we would not need to rent one. It gets about 38 miles to the gallon, so gas isn't as much as it could be if we drove a vehicle with worse gas mileage.

  5. #5

    Default On The Road

    Hello ilovehistory427,

    A trip such as you propose is entirely do-able so long as you're all willing to join in on some careful planning. The tips as to such provided thus far are good ones. Here are a few more.

    Most high fuel mileage vehicles are very sensitive to carrying heavy loads and traveling at high speeds. West of the Mississippi, most Interstates post 75 mph speed limits and traffic, even tractor-trailers, routinely runs 75-80mph. Higher elevations will adversely affect fuel mileage as will driving through the mountains. A small car's handling is very adversely affected by being loaded to or near to capacity, and high-speed Interstate travel out west often includes high winds, further complicating the driving issue, especially for inexperienced open-road drivers. If the vehicle you're considering taking gets "about 38 mpg" under ideal conditions, I'd run my fuel numbers at, say, 28-30 mpg and would be delighted to see 31-33 mpg in real life.

    Your travel costs will be far less if you're willing to incorporate camping much of the time and preparing some meals out of a cooler. From the Rockies to the Pacific, tens of millions of acres of National Forest (NF) lands occupy the more mountainous and forested parts of the western states, and NFs are generously sprinkled with campgrounds. They're mostly somewhat primitive, offering only a vault toilet, clean water, and a picnic table, but mixing in 2-3 nights camping with 1 or 2 in motels can work out for you. You can even purchase inexpensive solar shower bags and let them heat up during the course of a day's drive in order to enjoy a warm, if brief, shower at a primitive NF campground. All said, an easy to erect dome dome tent, a Coleman stove, or backpacking cooking gear, and a good cooler would make for some fairly cheap travel.

    If you do contemplate camping, first purchase a good US highway atlas and study it. Most atlases clearly show NFs in the western states. Follow that up with some study of the various NF's websites for detailed info on the camping facilities offered in each. You'll find most of the National Parks (NPs) are literally surrounded by NFs.

    Speaking of National Parks, if your travel plans include classic spots to visit such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons, consider purchasing a season's pass to all of America's National Parks. The pass allows admittance "by the car-load" for up to four to six passengers per vehicle, and if you plan to visit more then 3-4 NPs, you come out cheaper with the annual pass. Details concerning the annual pass and what is included in its cost are readily searchable.

    You've got a lot of time to plan and you should get together regularly to do exactly that. For many of we RoadTrippers, the planning is a big part of the fun.


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