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  1. Default Road Trip Opinions Needed

    I am traveling with a friend to San Francisco CA from Norther Virginia. During the trip I wanted to make it somewhat of a vacation as well and want opinions on the schedule/budget (is it do-able/enjoyable). We have seen San Fran. many times, so the time spent there is not a real objective (I know its not enough time to "see San Fran." =) ). Also, we are fully prepared to camp (in fact we love it)!

    Time: 17 days
    Budget for 2: $3400.00 (with $ for oil change, car fluids, and emergency set aside)
    Vehicle: 2005 Chevy Cobalt

    1.Drive times/mileage I rounded up for stops
    2.***= "Vacation Stop"

    Day 1:
    Virginia to St.Louis, MO (13hrs 850mi)
    Sleep= Family (No Cost)

    Day 2:
    St.Louis to near Denver, CO (12hrs 855)
    Sleep= Hotel/Motel outside of Denver (possibly Castle Rock) in order to keep price down.

    Day 3:
    Denver to West Wendover, NV (10hrs 645mi)
    Sleep= Camping ($35)

    Day 4:
    West Wendover to San Fran., CA (9.5hrs 620mi)
    Sleep= Camping ($35)

    Day 5:
    Day in San Fran
    Sleep= Hotel outside San Fran. (possibly Stockton or Modesto)

    ***Day 6:
    Hotel near San Fran. to Yosemite NP CA (4.5hrs 220mi)
    Sleep=Camping in or near Yosemite (whatever is available)
    ---Not sure on price or availability???---

    ***Day 7/8:
    Yosemite NP

    ***Day 9:
    Yosemite to Zion NP UT (10hrs 560mi)
    Sleep= Camping
    ---Not sure on price or availability???---

    ***Day 10/11:
    Zion NP
    ---Possibly 1 day to save $?---

    Day 12:
    Zion NP to Denver, CO (9.75hrs 645mi)
    Sleep= Hotel outside of Denver

    ***Day 13:
    Sleep= Hotel outside of Denver
    ---Possibly skip day in Denver and leave in order to save $?---

    Day 14:
    Denver to Columbia, MO (10.5hrs 735mi)
    Sleep= Camping or Hotel Near Columbia, MO

    Day 15:
    Columbia to Cumberland, MD (13hrs 830mi)
    Sleep= Friends (No Cost)

    Day 16:
    Cumberland to Northern Virginia (3hrs 180mi)

    Day 17:
    Extra day somewhere if needed

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I can tell you right out of the gates that you've made the rookie mistake of believing travel time estimates of online mapping programs - which don't account for any stops or slow downs for fuel, food, traffic, construction, etc. All of your travel times will require much more time than you've planned.

    You've also got more than a few days that are unsafe and unreasonable. You can not plan to drive 700 or 800+ miles a day, and expect to arrive safely, certainly not back to back days. Those drives in real world conditions would take you much more like 16+ hours, which is far more than professional drivers are allowed to do by law, and before you ask, No, having a second driver will not make such drives safe.

    There really are too many problematic days on your plan to go through them individually, but I can say you need to rework your entire plan so that you are keeping your longest driving days to about 600 miles (which is still going to be 10+ hours on the road) when you are on the freeway. Also remember that when you're camping, you'll need even more time to find a campground and then set up camp.

    You can have a good trip driving coast to coast and back in 17 days, but you are going to have to make serious changes to have both a safe and enjoyable trip. I would also suggest you might want to rework your plans so you are looking at a different route coming back, rather than just retracing your trip from Denver.

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

    Default Agreed.

    I would second everything Michael has said, your trip is neither doable safely and those drives would not be enjoyable, quite the opposite. It would be very work like and not a lot of fun to try and make it to SF in 5 days, but 4 days is asking for trouble. If you got there safely you would be too exhausted to enjoy anything other than to catch up on sleep !

    I would consider visiting Zion and Yosemite after Denver and on the way to SF, taking 8 to 10 days overall and then after a day or 2 in SF, head home via a different route as suggested by Michael, over . You could head down to I40 and make stops at places such as the Grand canyon, Petrified Forest, Albuquerque, Memphis and so on over a period of 7 days. If you cut down on the long days behind the wheel and break your journey up into manageable portions, you can have a great time !

  4. Default

    Thank you for your honesty/opinions. However we have made almost the exact same drive there before and had no problems or concerns, also camping reservations/hotel will be made in advance. That being said what if I add an extra day both ways for traveling and reduce drives to 600mi approx?

    Also, why the change in route on way back? Just for change of scene or for practical purpose?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Chris, I'm sure most of us have driven 700+ miles in a day on a road trip. However, trying to do it day after day is very unwise and tiring. If you stick to the Interstates and Interstate-quality highways, you can do 600 miles a day several days in a row, but not if you also want to get off the highway and do some sightseeing too. If you are going to do that and also camp, you need to break camp at the crack of dawn and get on the road so you can arrive at your next campground with enough daylight left to set up camp. Setting up and breaking down is NO fun in the dark.

    The change suggestion was for change of scenery, for the opportunity to see different things.

  6. Default

    What do you think if I add an extra day both ways for traveling and reduce drives to 600mi or less approx? Also if we do hotels except for the camping in Yosemite and Zion???

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Vacation or speed run?

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisBP View Post
    I am traveling with a friend to San Francisco CA from Northern Virginia. During the trip I wanted to make it somewhat of a vacation ...
    Even 600 miles a day leaves very little time to get off the interstates or for spontaneous visits to places of interest along the way. Not all those can be pre scheduled. There will be times when a sign or sight sparks your interest. If you want this to be 'somewhat of a vacation' make sure you have the flexibility to enjoy these attractions. As it is, you will be flying through some of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet. Would be a pity not to enjoy them.


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


    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisBP View Post
    What do you think if I add an extra day both ways for traveling and reduce drives to 600mi or less approx? Also if we do hotels except for the camping in Yosemite and Zion???
    I would say that reducing the drives to 600 miles a day is the minimum you need to do to keep this a safe trip. If you've made such a trip before doing 800+ mile drives, you've simply gambled and won, it certainly doesn't mean that you'll be so lucky next time. The statistics for crashes when people have been on the road for the hours you are talking about are frightening, which is why professionals are forbidden from trying them.

    As far as Hotels except for Yosemite/Zion, I'm not sure I know what your question is. If you want to camp, enjoy camping, and are looking to save some money, you could camp every night of your trip. You just need to factor in the extra time, both to setup and tear down, but also that most campgrounds aren't right off a freeway exit like a hotel, and often you aren't allowed to set up camp much after dark.

    As far as a different route coming back - it's not specifically practical, but if you want this to be a vacation/roadtrip, why wouldn't you take advantage of being able to see something different, if it didn't add a significant amount of miles?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I'll chime in here - we have made a similar trip across country several times. St Louis to Denver will take you a LOT longer than that 12 hours. We go from Columbia MO (2 hours west of St Louis) to the east side of Colorado and it takes us about 11 hours. All we stop for is gasoline, breakfast, and pit stops at the rest area.

    My husband is an ex professional driver. 600 miles is our limit. We will occasionally do 650, but the next day will be 550 to average it out.


  10. #10


    Is there a reason you're going to San Fran if you've already seen it & aren't planning to do much there? You could always cut it out, and that would free up some time (and money!) to use other places.

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