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  1. #1

    Default Spreading Our Wings - the ultimate summer road trip

    Hello all!
    I'm sure you have had many inquiries in the past from many hopeful post high school grads wondering where to go on a senior road trip - so being a post high school grad I am asking for your expert advice on the subject of road-tripping! Myself and three other friends are looking for an exciting, different and magical road trip plan for later on in the summer before we go our separate ways to college. Our starting location will be in Iowa, which is sadly rather in the middle of things making driving in any direction rather long. We have gotten the "ok" from our parents and are ready to take an exciting trip that will get us away from the Iowa/Minnesota region. We are all willing to split the driving and gas four ways, but are wanting to spend nothing much more than $150 per person for a roundtrip. We have 9 days open, and a few ideas, but I found this wonderful community and couldn't pass up asking everyone here for some killer road trip destinations. We are trying not to do too much long driving, but breaking it up with fun stops would be an option. Of course being quite landlocked, it is always great to see a little ocean action, but both options are rather far away as it is. If anyone has any exciting and magnificent ideas for destinations, routes, trips or tips in general we would all be very appreciative. I have been browsing around the forms and looking at other senior trip posts, as well as various road trip tips ect. and have found some neat things - thanks to all who make this site possible!

    Extra info:
    • we are willing to camp
    • would prefer locations other than ia, mn or ut

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri


    $600 for 9 days isn't going to take you very far. The gas will be a major expense. Camping helps, as does a cooler filled with food, but with suitcases and camping gear, I hope your vehicle is of decent size for 4 people.

    You might take a good USA map and a compass, and draw a circle around your hometown that will extend about 500-750 miles. Then take a good look within that circle, and see what's available. (My hubby and I did that when we were trying to come up with an inexpensive vacation one year.)

    You have Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky within reach of you. Also South Dakota, Kansas, and perhaps Colorado.

    When you come up with a basic plan, pop back in here and we can help you a little more.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Sad Truths

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Your hopes and dreams are not terribly realistic at this point, unfortunately. The reality is that $150 per person will barely keep you fed for 9 days. Ask your moms what their weekly grocery bills are! Add on a minimum of $5 each per night for a camp site with no amenities - showers will be 'high cost extras' - and you're probably over budget already. And that would be just to go to the local state park. In order to go anywhere, you would have to live on such a tight budget that you would all be miserable. I know, I've been there. If you can scrape together another $50-100 each or so, you can start to look at some places within a day's drive, but no farther. The Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota/Wyoming is probably the best fit for you. No salt water is even remotely close enough.

    Another aspect of RoadTrips by recent high school grads is that if any of your party is under 18, they will need to be carrying written and notarized permission from their parents or guardians for such a trip and similar permission authorizing medical treatment in the event that it is needed.


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

    Default starting with you

    The "ultimate" roadtrip plan is always going to depend in very large part on the person/people making the trip.

    You've left off two very big details of your plan. First your starting point. "Iowa" is a target that's couple hundred square miles large. Where you can go if you are starting from Sioux City is very different than if you are starting from Burlington.

    Second, you said you already have a few ideas, but you didn't say what any of them are. The ideas that you have already come up with are going to provide the best insight into what kind of things you'd be interested in.

    Now having said that, I'm afraid the previous posts about the logistics are right. $150 each for 9 days is barely enough to survive, much less go out and have a fun, grand adventure that's far away from home.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Spread your wings, but don't fly too far

    Let's take a lesson from nature. All young birds fly the coop... eventually. But none fly very far, those first few trips. So whereas I can see your desire to spread your wings, I would urge you to stay close to the nest.

    When planning a road trip with your friends, to spend some time together and have a little independence and adventure, it is not necessary to travel far. Why do you want to get away from IA?

    From my recollection there are so many things in IA, that each visit, I have to leave some unseen, for the next visit. And there is a very good selection of campsites in Parks.

    Why not do, as stated above, draw a circle around your home town... though I would not make it 500, I'd probably make it no larger than 250 miles. Check out where the campgrounds are and plan on spending three nights at each. The local visitor centre, and folks you meet in the campground, as well as locals to whom you talk, will tell you what treasures there are to be found. True, it won't be the Grand Canyon, but you would be surprised what gems of history, culture, architecture and natural attractions there are to be seen..... almost everywhere. (Have you seen the Matchstick Museum?)

    If you check out the One Tank Road Trips, you might get some ideas on how to go about this, and making it a trip to remember.

    Of course the great benefit will be, when you run out of money, you will not be far from home.


  6. Default

    $600 divided by 9 days = $66.66 per day and so divide that by 4 people, it's only $16.66 per person per day.

    What kind of gas mileage does the vehicle you are going in get? You need to know how far you can go on a tank of gas so you can figure out how much of the $600 will go towards gas.

    You might be able to raid your parent's cupboards and refrigerators before leaving to help with the cost of food. Shhhh...I didn't just say that!

    It might help to know where in Iowa you are starting from because as someone else mentioned before, you might not even be able to make it out of the state!


  7. #7


    Thank you to everyone that replied so quickly! I need to clarify one item that keep popping up. The $150 was simply regarding gas - we are certainly expecting to have food and lodging costs on top of that! Predicting worst case scenarios where gas is $4/gal and our car receives 24 miles/gal I believe that gives us a roundtrip mileage of around 3600 miles to stick with our gas budget.
    Addressing some other ideas and questions:
    We are all over 18, and have full permission from all our parents and guardians.
    Because I prefer to exercise caution on the internet I'll just say we are starting from the NE area of Iowa if that helps anyone!
    We are have been out of the state before on various trips some with parents, some without, and feel that some of the most exciting destinations are outside of our own state - you know the typical teenage "anywhere but here" attitude.
    We are getting a little help with food as one of our trip members works at a restaurant and is able to take the unsold day old bread ect.
    It's true that we have come up with some plans, but we were looking for some other alternatives, and I was hoping to get some completely new ideas, unbiased from our previous plans (this is where all you helpful folks come into play).
    Thanks again to everyone who has replied - I know that there are some great states around us, but I'm just not very aware yet of what hidden awesomeness they might hold. If anyone knows any other specific places not much farther than 1700 miles (one way - 3600ish roundtrip) away from Northeast Iowa I would be very appreciative!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default the one word that matters

    Well, your responses still leave a lot of questions.

    First of all, gas is just one small part of an overall budget, and it really doesn't make sense just to try to segment that out without looking at how much money you'll actually have for the trip. If anything, it makes me think you're probably severely underestimating how much money it actually takes to live on the road. So realistically, how much money do you actually expect to have total for this trip?

    Second, We can't give you an "unbiased" answer on where to go, because your biases are exactly what will make the trip perfect for you. We have no idea what kinds of things you like, and that's really the only thing that is important and the only way you can determine what suggestions to start giving you.

    We simply can't start listing off specific places because the possibilities are simply too endless. Assuming your thoughts that you can go anywhere up to 1500 miles from home are accurate (and that may or may not be true), draw a circle with points 1500 miles from Northeast Iowa and you'll find your options include Everything on the east coast from Canada to Florida, to Arizona and Alberta, and everything in between. The "specific places" you could go in that circle are in the billions.

    I understand using caution on the internet, but you're really just giving us too vauge of answers for us to give you specific help. We don't need to know your real names, addresses, and social security numbers, but we do need some level of detail and so far you are really leaving us guessing. Your trip is about you, and the more we know about you, what you and your friends are interested in, and what your work so far has come up with, the more we can help you build your "ultimate" roadtrip.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    If you are budgeting $600 just for gas, use 3000 miles to be safe - and that doesn't mean 1500 miles each way. You need to allow for sightseeing detours and "running around". I'd draw the circle on the map at 1000 miles.

  10. #10

    Default How about the UP?

    Michigan's Upper Peninsula, or UP, is but 600 miles from Des Moines, and offers literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of acres of State Forest, National Forest, National Parks and a sprinkling of small towns. Next door is Wisconsin with the Apostle Islands and more hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands.

    On the UP, Wisconsin Electric Power owns and operates a number of campgrounds surrounding some of the larger hydroelectric reservoirs.

    Primitive National Forest (NF) campgrounds are no-cost to low cost. Likely little to no cost at Wisconsin Power campgrounds, too, but it's been +30 years since I've visited.

    Isle Royale National Park is out in the middle of Lake Superior and is accessed by tour boat. With proper arrangements and permits, one can backpack camp on Isle Royale. On the UP, the Keeweenaw Peninsula is home to Copper Harbor and other neat little towns. East of Munising is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. On the east end of the UP are the Soo Locks and the Mackinac Bridge, and Mackinac Island. Going down the west coast of the Lower Peninsula you see the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It's a shame the Lake Michigan Ferry from Ludington, MI to Manitowac, WI is so expensive, as that'd be a great way to get back on the homeward leg to IA.

    If forested hills and a multitude of lakes and streams appeals to your group, and as long as you're equipped for some primitive camping, you can surely do it on the cheap on the UP.

    Have fun planning the RoadTrip!


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