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  1. Default Planning road trip days

    I've seen old posts on this subject and most of them ended up going sideways. Thought I'd try again, with a specific question or two. I understand that this is a matter of personal taste and capability, but I'm looking for general, "best practice" here. Thanks in advance for any input.

    I'm planning a long road trip, basically from Ohio to Eastern Washington state, to Coastal Oregon, East across the California border and on to Reno, Ely, Pueblo, then back to Ohio, roughly via I70. I will be stopping for a day or two in several locations along the way, but the general purpose of the trip is to get an initial "quick feel" for the selected stopover areas.

    I have not driven long distances in quite some time and I will be driving solo.


    1. How many miles a day should I use for planning purposes? I'm thinking around 500, with 15-minute breaks every 2 hours or so and a 1-hour lunch and/or longer stay for casual sightseeing. Does this make sense?

    2. If I assume an average of 60 miles/hr in Midwest interstate driving, should I consider the same for interstate driving int eh West, where I hear such average might be higher?

    3. This trip will likely occur in mid may. How is the weather generally in the mountains, on the interstates, that time of year?

    4. I have unlimited time but limited financial resources and am thinking of mixing car camping and cheaper motels. Any thoughts on that would be appreciated.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default In General...

    I'm not sure what you mean by discussions "end[ing] up going sideways", but your questions are pretty straightforward and are relatively easy to answer 'in general'.

    1) 500 miles/day is a perfectly fine daily average. You can fairly reliably plan on doing a bit more, say around 550 miles, even with stopping for 15-20 minutes every couple of hours for some fresh air and a little exercise. That's in fact the exact way I generally plan out my longer RoadTrips.

    2) Yes, you can plan on a making good a few more miles on days when you're driving on the High Plains where towns are smaller, fewer and farther between. But that will not be the case in the mountains of the west where long grades and trucks may slow you down a bit. Basically the dividing line between the plains and mountains is I-25, and the difference won't be great - maybe ±50 mi/day.

    3) This comes down to the difference between climate and weather. While on average you can expect mild sunny days and cool nights at that time of year, there is no guarantee that that's what you'll see. You'll need to be prepared to see at least one major spring snow storm while you're in the mountains. And in any event you can count on it getting quite chilly at night west of the Front Range and so you should pan on doing most of your camping on the plains rather than in the mountains and make sure that you have a good cold-weather sleeping bag at a minimum.

    4) Other ways to minimize expenses include stopping at the Welcome Centers usually available on the Interstates as you enter each state. They often have coupons and other discounts for motels and restaurants that are well worth the few minutes it takes to pick them up. Also, of course, plan on bringing a small cooler with you and buy most of your food at super markets rather than at restaurants or convenience stores. It's not only cheaper but healthier as well. If you plan to visit more than a few national parks, buy an annual pass at the first one you come to. If you belong to AAA, AARP, or some other organizations, be sure to mention it at every attraction, restaurant and motel you stop at. More often than not, one of them will be good for a 10% discount.


  3. Default

    Thank you, I appreciate. Not trying to start anything, but the thread I was referring to on how many miles to drive in a day ended up being about driving records and such. Your answers here are right on point. Thanks again.

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


    I agree you're right on target. 500 miles a day is a very solid, sustainable average. I really wouldn't worry too much about even bothering to estimate your times for breaks, and just accept that such a day will be about 8-9 hours on the road, plus whatever time you spend for a longer lunch or exploration beyond the quick fuel/rest stop. That's a very sustainable pace, and should give you time to get off the road an find a place to camp at the end of the day. (Where things tend to go "off the rails is when people insist that they can drive 800, 900, 1000 miles a day and/or make those kinds of drives day after day).

    I wouldn't assume more than 60mph as an overall average even out west. One, most people are generally most comfortable driving in the 70-80 mph range, and they don't tend to go much higher than that, and higher limits are often more strictly enforced. Also, the faster you go, the more likely you are to need more stops (you'll certainly use more fuel) and your stops may end up being a bit longer.

    As Buck mentioned, I'd be prepared for cold temperatures overnight if you're going to camp, especially in higher elevation areas. I camped in Colorado last year at the very end of April, and there was still snow in shady areas and it was down near or below freezing many nights. That said, while I used to frequently use the interstate coupon books - and I still tend to pick them up when I'm on the road - it's pretty rare when I actually use them anymore. I usually can find better deals by searching the various hotel search websites/apps, and I've also become a pretty big fan of airbnb for finding cheap rooms, especially just for a night. Just keep in mind with airbnb, many listings require you to be approved by the host, so you can't just wait until you roll into town to make your reservation (at least a few hours in advance is a good idea).

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Coupon booklets

    The coupon booklets mentioned can also be found at many rest areas. Some cover just one State, some have hotels for several States. The thing is to try and turn up early, at least before dinner time, so not all the cheap rooms have been sold. Once you know the names of the organisations which put them out, you can also get the coupons on the internet.

    However, do not rely on them in busy tourist areas, such as the NPs, nor at times of national public holidays such as Memorial Day. It also pays to check up if the town where you're planning to stay has a conference or other large function going on. I once got to a place where every bed was booked out and had to go to the next town. That's not so bad in CA, but could be if you are a fair distance from the next place.


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