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  1. #1

    Default First Road Trip - Bucket List One

    My husband and I would like to drive from Washington, DC "to and around" New Mexico (Native American sites), Arizona (Grand Canyon), Colorado, stopping in Steamboat Springs, CO to meet up with family. If time allows we would take a side trip from Steamboat for 4 days or so (with a 6 year old) and then start home going through the Badlands. We have about one month to do this starting in late May. From DC to this area we probably want to drive no more than about 6-7 hours per day and would like to make stops but don't know what to see (yet). Our focus this whole way will be on nature, national parks, and culture-not so much on cities. I am beginning to think this is complicated to plan. Is it better to drive highways to make good time and then stop and explore at a few points? I am concerned that a month is not enough to enjoy the southwest, see family and return through the Badlands. Are there guides that suggest times to get from a-b, perhaps suggesting a few side trips, and how much time to allow to see a specific area? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Error made -- posting here now

    chtraveln: A few years back I did a 3 week road trip from Cleveland, OH to the S.F. Bay Area. Although this is not as far East as D.C., we did Chicago, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Painted Forest in Arizona, traveled Route 66 and before crossing the border into California, spent our last 4 days of the road trip in Vegas baby! :-) It was a trip of a lifetime and I always say, if I had to get stuck in Groundhog purgatory, it would be that road trip, IT WAS THE BEST !!!!!! I do think a months time is enough, but plan to be moving most every day. If you're not driving, you are seeing the sights, so again, you'll be moving most every day. We spent 3 days in Chicago seeing friends and family. The Flagstaff and Sedona areas you can see in 1 day, so there are some days you will be able to see multiple things, which will allow you to spend more than 1 day in the areas you choose to decompress and take a break. Plan the trip. Most importantly, be open to flexibili
    ty and going off "the plan". We did that. There were some things we would see signs of from the highway and made the choice to get off the highway and explore a bit. So be open to that. Don't fret so much about what you NEED to see, and embrace the experience with your family and the memories you will have for life. Remember, life is not measured in the breadths you take, but what takes your breadth away. Go for it, and Safe travels.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    The easiest way to find out if you've bitten off more than you'll be able to chew, is to start putting together a day-to-day plan. If you want to drive no more than 6-7 hours per day, then plan on no more than 350 miles (on an interstate), or 300 miles (if on two-lane highways). If you wish to stop somewhere just for an hour or so, along those 300-350 miles, plan your time accordingly and realize that this will extend your day by that amount of time. However, I will say that this can be nice and relaxing, and good for the brain to get the mind off of solid and striped lines and lots of different vehicles!


  4. #4


    I made a somewhat similar road trip this past July, 24 days total. Even for a 28-day trip the 4-day side trip may be pushing it. Major destinations included Badlands (drive through, small hike); Wind Cave; Yellowstone and Grand Teton; Bryce Canyon; Grand Canyon (North Rim); Mesa Verde. Also some national monuments in-between the NPs. And doing a number of scenic highways which take longer but were well worth it. My bee-line days were mostly from Mayland to the Mississippi River and from Denver back east.

    Camping or hoteling makes a difference as well although not always a huge difference as many non-camping lodging opportunities are outside of the national parks. One thing to consider, if camping, is that most or all camp sites are likely booked up already for a late-May/June trip.

    As suggested above it is a good idea to begin mapping out your trip. Most travel days are just that, not sightseeing at your destination days. Although stopping off for an hour at minor sites along the way make sense. Google maps (and others) provide good route options with mileage and travel time approximations (however most travel times are near 20% overly optimistic due to fueling, meal stops and such). I populate a spreadsheet with my point-to-point information to get a handle on the practicality of what I can do or not do. It is very easy to modify if you are familiar with basic spreadsheet operations.

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