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  1. Default 3 months coast to coast

    First of all great forum and lovely to see all the people helping.
    Me and my wife are planing a 3 month trip from east to west. We read lots of information including an old post here of a similar trip but it is from 2009 so I believe things has changed :) this is why I would love and advice on most of the things were,when,what not? So far we are thinking to rent a car somewhere in Chicago or Detroit basically were is cheaper to do so or take a train through nearby cities to New Jersey and rent a car there (but we will be with large language so probably not) we know we want to visit most of the iconic places in America. Definitely Chicago - Boston - New York - Miami - New Orleans - National parks and California. We were thinking spend 2 months traveling to California and then explore it.
    So what would you suggest? Scenic routes, what not to miss, were not to go, when is best time to go as we are flexible but were thinking around April next year.

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I am really confused by the little information you've told us. Where are you from? Do you live near Chicago or Detroit and that's why you're thinking of starting there?

    Having a car in places like Boston and New York can be an expensive hassle, so there could be advantages of taking a train for that part of your trip, but again, I'm so confused by some of your statements that I'm not sure really what you are even considering.

    Similarly, there isn't a generic list of "most of the iconic places in America," and there are hundreds of National Parks, and while many of them are in the west, there are lots of them in the east too.

    I will say that for time to go, if you are thinking 2-3 months, then April isn't a bad choice, especially if you are starting in the Northeast. It could still be cool/rainy when you start, and there may be a few mountain areas in the west that are still snowbound in late May/early June, but otherwise, very generally it's a pretty good time for comfortable weather, and you'd be wrapping up your trip before the peak travel season gets underway in mid-june.

    Beyond that, I think we need to have a better idea of what you actually hope to do, and some more specific questions - answering "where to go" when you're planning to travel across the entire country is kind of impossible because there are millions upon millions of options - before we can do much to give you more.

  3. Default

    Thanks for you reply I figured that I need to have more information before writing but since we are quite in early stage of planing I thought it would be good to gather general suggestions and tips that could help plant the trip better. We are from Europe so will be flying in to any airport that would suite our plan best but we definitely want to end our trip in California. We would like to experience nature and food on our trip :D but also see some interesting cities. Initially we are looking at this map but this one has same point return so it needs some changes as we want to go just one way. As gor the parks as you mentioned there are a lot of them so if you have some suggestions about which ones are definitely worth to visit considering the time have would be great. So far we only thought about yellowstone and crand canyon. I know that car could be expensive in the city but there is always an option to leave it outside and travel by public transport to the center. I think it is more convenient than going around with the bags :) but I could be wrong. I know it not much but maybe it will get you an idea of what we are gunning for :)

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


    A few general thoughts:

    First, by all means look at lots of articles, books, etc to get ideas for places to go and things to do, but completely ignore the idea of the article you linked to that there is some magical, computerized, way to plan the perfect roadtrip. The beauty of a roadtrip is that it is not a mechanical process where you have to follow a perfectly laid out plan - quite the opposite really. A Roadtrip is the opportunity to see what you want to see, go where you want to go, when you want to go there.

    And realistically, all the article is really talking about is a professor who used math to optimize the shortest distance between a list of points. There's nothing wrong with that at all - but there are many times on "the perfect roadtrip" that the shortest distance would not at all be the best route.

    As far as the specifics for your trip, If you are coming from Europe, I really don't see why you'd fly to Chicago or Detroit and then backtrack to the east coast - especially if you don't want to do this as a loop. Having said that, doing a loop very well could be much cheaper and really not cause much extra driving. You've already said you want to do things in both the north (Yellowstone) and south (Grand Canyon) so doing a loop could be just as easy as zig-zagging north and south to get to all the places you want to see.

    I could certainly see using public transit as being an easier option, especially in the northeast, but if that's the route you're going, it wouldn't make much sense to me to pay for a rental car, and pay to park it, while you're not using it. Instead, it would make a lot more sense just to fly into the Northeast, use transit to get around the Boston/NYC/DC corridor, and then pick up the rental car and head off on the road from there.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California

    Default Starting to plan a road trip

    Hi, and welcome to RTA!

    First thing you need to do, to plan a road trip, is to get hold of a road atlas or some detailed US maps. Since your trip isn't until April, you could order an atlas from the RTA store, if you can't get one locally. That would give you a good start.

    There are 59 national parks in the USA, and most of them are in the West. But there are quite a few in the eastern area. There are 119 national monuments, and they are spread out across the US. All of them will be on a good national map in an atlas, and listed on the individual state maps in the atlas. So will some of the larger, or more meaningful, museums and theme parks as well.

    Once you get that map/atlas, you can start to flag some of the spots that you'd like to see. Go with an east coast city that has reasonable airfares. If it's NYC, don't rent your vehicle until you are done seeing the city, as a car is a liability there (as well as in Boston and Washington DC). If you rent once you're done in the first city, you can arrange to stay outside of the other cities in a place with access to public transportation, and use that to get into the city.

    Bear in mind that renting a vehicle in one city and dropping it off in another will likely cost you a hefty fee, called the One-Way Drop Fee. Sometimes, if you arrange your rental via an overseas consolidator, they can get those fees waived. Otherwise, with 3 months, you have an ideal amount of time to actually make a huge loop in the US and drop your vehicle back in the original city of rental.

    Iconic places -- Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Arches, Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, Everglades, are all well known national parks and considered by some as things you should see in your lifetime. Consult the National Park Service website which will contain links to each of these, and about 50+ others.

    Other planning things: To make your trip more enjoyable, plan to drive 500 miles per day or less. Plan to spend at least one day in each national park (Yellowstone needs at least 3 days, as it's huge). Get reservations for hotels in/near the parks as soon as you get your dates, particularly for any of the above parks as they are the ones that reserve quickly. Same if you plan to spend time at any of the US theme parks, particularly DisneyWorld (FL), Disneyland (CA), Cedar Point (OH), Universal Studios (FL or CA) which is where Harry Potter Worlds are each located, or Six Flags Over Mid-America (St Louis, MO). This is especially true of the theme parks on the weekends any time of the year!


  6. Default

    Thank you so much guys for your replies. Bith are very informative and inspiring. Definitely helps us to get a better view of how to plan things and not stick to calculated routes. We just bought a big flat map of USA just to pin locations that we would like to visit. Its better too see the overall picture on the plane map but we will by the road atlas as well 100%. Thank you for your input and teachings :D we will write again once we have a better view of out trip!

  7. Default


    It has been a while and we had some plan changing events in our life but we are ready to get back to the trip. It would be great if you could give us some pointer on what roads to take and maybe what other places to visit or not to visit. We are mostly looking for a scenic route with lots of nature and food ;] We are still planing to go in end of April and spend 3 months travelling through USA. I think we are still keen to rent a car, but maybe as suggested before we would rent it not for all the route. Also not sure if we should visit any theme parks as it seems we will run out of time quickly if we do ;]
    So far we planed this route: Chicago – Detroit – Buffalo - Niagara Falls – Portland – Boston – New York – Philadelphia – Washington - Blackwater Falls State Park - Fayetteville – Mount Cammerer - Weaverville – Atlanta - Wormsloe Historic Site - Orlando – Miami – New Orleans – San Antonio - The Narrows - Wichita Mountains – El Paso – White Sands National Monument -
    Colorado Springs - Maroon Bells - Badlands National Park - Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Yellowstone National Park – Salt Lake City - Antelope Canyon - Zion National Park – Las Vegas - Joshua Tree National Park – San Diego – Los Angeles – San Francisco – Portland – Seattle – Vancouver
    Also is there anything worth visiting in Kansas, Missouri and other mid USA places?

    Thank you for your help.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    You've picked out some beautiful spots, that's for sure! Bear in mind that at least one of those, Antelope Canyon, you'll need to take a guided hike. So plan for that when you're laying out your trip day-to-day.

    As far as places worth visiting in Kansas and Missouri, here are some of my favorites:

    * Cosmosphere, Hutchison, KS - a Smithsonian-supported space museum - within this one lies Apollo 13's splashdown capsule, all put back together after they took it apart to find out what's wrong.

    * Dwight D Eisenhower Presidential Library and final resting place, Abilene KS. Nearby is a Russell Stover chocolate factory tour.

    * Independence, MO -- home of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, the Truman home, the National Frontier Trails Museum.

    * St Louis MO -- Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center #1 (actually across the river in Hartford, IL), the Gateway Arch. (Unfortunately, the Museum of Westward Expansion is closed for renovations until further notice. Some of the artifacts can be seen in the Old Courthouse across the street.) Grant's Farm.

    * Mansfield, MO, where Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote all the "Little House..." books. Such wonderful history on that property!

    * Marceline, MO, which was Walt Disney's self-proclaimed hometown. (He was actually born in Chicago, I believe.) You can see where all the Disneylands got their Main Street USA design from this little town.

    * Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake, MO. These are resort areas. You can rent a boat if you like, take a boat tour, tour Bagnell Dam. Go a little further south to Ha Ha Tonka State Park, or see some of the Caverns in the area.

    Other mid-USA places: Illinois is quite full of history, particularly since our 16th president Abraham Lincoln considered that his home state (though he was born in Kentucky). There are also lots of native American mounds all over the state. Closest to St Louis would be Cahokia Mounds near Collinsville, MO. A hoot, if you're into that kind of thing, is the World's Largest Catsup Bottle outside of Collinsiville.

    Those are just highlights -- I'm sure I left out a lot of things!


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A loop trip?

    Your question really is too broad as there are thousands of route and attraction options to chose from, but as you begin to fill in the blanks and you have specific questions about an area we can be of more help. As for your car rental, it will get really expensive if you drop multiple cars in different locations from where you picked them up from as you will get charged one way fees. What Michael suggested in an earlier post was to fly into the east coast and check out NY etc before renting a car for the rest of your trip. I'm pretty sure the flights into NY would be cheaper to. I also agree that a loop trip could work really well and you have plenty of time to do it in. By the time you have gone north to south in the east and south to north in the east it wouldn't add significant time or miles going NY>Miami>LA >Seattle>Chicago>NY and work out the two different routes out an back to include the other places.

  10. Default

    Southwest Dave

    Thank you for your reply. I was thinking how long would you say our planed route would take, not including longer stays in some cities. We calculated around 11000miles/17800km and it adds up to around 123miles/198km per day. We don't want to rush it and we were thinking that we will have no time to make a loop trip. I know some places will be just driving for a long time but as I don't imagine that and never drove in USA it would be great to hear your opinion ;]
    As for the specific areas you are right the question is to broad I guess I anted to ask more or less if the route we chose is good or are there any suggestion to amend it and make it better for now.
    We chose Chicago because flights are cheaper and car rent seem to be cheaper than in NY or NJ so we are leaning towards renting a car for the whole time and just leave it outside bigger cities and explore them by public transport to avoid parking fees and traffic.
    Thank you.

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