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  1. Default First Road Trip(Flying from NJ to SF, road from SF back to NJ)

    Hello Folks.

    Honestly i have no idea what I am doing as this is our first family trip like that.

    It's 5 of us. 2 Adults and 3 kids(17,16, 12)
    We have booked a flight to San Francisco from Newark, NJ for July 30th. Arriving July 30th and we have until August 13 to be back home.
    We have booked a minivan car rental till August 13 in San Rafael and the hotel in San Rafael for July 30th. After all this we have no clue where to go and what to see and how book the hotels. We have an idea that we wanted to see San Francisco, some of LA area, like Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, after that some Utah, Colorado, from there to Chicago and then from there drive back home to NJ. Is it feasible? And what's reasonably possible to see in 14 days for this road trip? Or it's not enough time?
    I would appreciate any suggestions. We have never been to California before, the farthest we drove from NJ was New Orleans.
    Thank you in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,109

    Default Slow and Steady - and Realistic

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    As always, look at the bottom line first. You'll need to cover around 3,500 miles (depending on side trips to attractions) in roughly 12 days (NOT 14) to do it (depending on how long you spend in San Francisco. That means you have to average right around 290 miles per day. That is going to be a grind. No particular day will be too much if you plan it right, but a string of 12 such days back-to-back-to-back-...to-back is going to take its toll on your family, especially the kids even though they're teenagers. Indeed, you should plan to take a day off somewhere in the middle of this trip so everyone can just relax around a pool or at a lake - just to recharge. But then that reduces your days a available for covering ground to 11 meaning that you'd have to average about 320 miles per day. Again, doable but a grind.

    With a knowledge of how many miles you have to cover and how little time you really have, I would urge you to keep your expectation of what you can accomplish in the way of sight-seeing to a minimum. You can't, for example, plan on sending a day at the Grand Canyon and a day at Arches, and a day in Chicago. You simply don't have time. So what I'd ask you to do first is to sit down with everyone involved and prioritize the half dozen or so things you really want to see, knowing that you might only be able to spend three or four hours at each of them. Then we can set to work on finding the best scenic routes and a few excellent places to take shorter stops along those routes. While your plan is 'reasonable', you have to approach it with a realistic knowledge of the limitations involved in covering that many miles in that little time.

    AZBuck

  3. Default

    Thank you.
    Would it make much more sense to fly back from San Francisco instead of driving to NJ but still get to see Colorado and Utah?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,724

    Default why one way?

    I have to ask, is there a reason you're driving back to NJ?

    Based on what you've said you want to see - most of which is is California and the west, which makes perfect since being that you've never been to the west - I think you'd be far better off just spending 2 weeks doing a loop around California and the other nearby states. That would give you time to actually see and explore San Francisco, LA, the Grand Canyon, and parts of Utah. Rather than, as Buck pointed out, really having to pick and choose just a couple of things out west, before having to focus on cover miles to get back home.

    Doing a loop trip also would likely significantly reduce your car rental costs - renting round trip is usually far cheaper than one way, especially with a specialty vehicle like a minivan - that cost savings might even make up for the extra airfare costs.

  5. Default

    Honestly, now that I think about it, we don't really have any strong reason to drive back to NJ.
    We wanted to see Chicago a bit, but that can be done in a different trip. We definitely wanted to drive to Colorado Springs as we have friends there to see, but other than that we are just interested in California mostly, Grand Canyon and some of Las Vegas.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,109

    Default Better Botom Line

    A loop RoadTrip that included all your stated stops would still need you to drive at least 2,900 miles. Now you could drive that comfortably in six days devoted mainly, but not exclusively, to driving. That in turn means that you could (accounting for a travel day on either end) spend six days worth of time in several different spots.

    The other good thing is that car reservations are easy to change, and you don't have to cancel your already-bought west-bound plane tickets, just buy a set of east-bound ones. These days, there really isn't much, if any, penalty for buying two separate one-way tickets rather than a round-trip.

    AZBuck

  7. Default

    It doesn't really have to be a loop if we don't drive back to NJ, ultimately we could fly back to NJ from Denver.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,724

    Default

    If CO Springs is a must, then flying home from Denver would probably be your best. While you could do that as a loop from SF, it would be tough to get in all the things you mentioned in under 2 weeks.

    Really the only downside is cost, as you're now going to look at both one way drop fees and return airfare.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,665

    Default Time to actually enjoy your surroundings.

    I think you are going to have to narrow things down according to your priorities for the trip. Certainly a loop trip in and out of the same city would be the most effective and you could concentrate your energy around that area and enjoy time to 'smell the roses'. If you want to visit the areas of LA (and San Diego) you mention and the Grand canyon and Southern Utah parks you really aren't going to have any time to 'see' friends in Colorado Springs other than a 'Hello, goodbye' moment, even if you did end up there. For this trip I would head from SF > LA>SD>Grand canyon>Bryce canyon>Zion>LV>Yosemite (via a drive through Death valley) and back to San Fran. Honestly speaking, even this would be quite a hectic trip and I would consider heading as far as Santa Barbara down the coast and then head inland towards Grand canyon and avoid LA and San Diego altogether, purely based on time.

    If your car rental and hotel in SF can be cancelled and you really want to visit your friends this trip, you could fly into Denver and drive through Colorado into Southern Utah and the Grand canyon and loop back to Colorado Springs, again with so much on offer you will be limited for time and have to decide between attractions. As a family trip you really want to be able to get out the car and enjoy the places you visit rather than watching them flash by through the windscreen as you rush from place to place.

  10. #10

    Default

    There is so much to see and do! When I first started road trps they were fly and drive. The plans started big, but as I played out time and distance, and time for actually doing things, it worked out to be regional loop trips.

    That being said, a loop beginning in Denver or Salt Lake City would meet many of tour objectives. Or a Calif trip. The two area are virtually exclusive, too much.

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