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  1. #1

    Default First time Brit road trip!

    Hi - coming to the States in the summer to celebrate my son’s graduation. I have so many questions and don’t want to bombard anyone straight away, so a couple of general ones to start with. Apologies if they are dumb ones!

    To strike a balance between covering the miles and having some time to see the places en route:
    - is there a recommended maximum driving time per day?
    - how long should I be looking to spend in cities like Washington, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle?

    To provide some context, we have 5 weeks, split by a week in Miami. Other than that week, the only fixed elements at the moment are arrive in Washington on June 11, and fly out of Seattle on July 24.

    Many thanks


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default So Far, So Good

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The problem with general answers to general questions is that they're so....general. We actually pride ourselves here on giving requestor-specific advice as much as we can. But generally speaking, on a day devoted primarily to covering ground, you should expect to be able to drive about 500-550 miles comfortably. Much more than that gets to be a grind and your attention span and reaction time behind the wheel will begin to get dangerously short and long respectively. Keeping to that sort of pace on multi-day drives allows both time to take a couple of short R&R breaks each day and to do the same the next day, and the next, and...

    On days which will be more devoted to visiting major scenic, historic or just plain interesting sites, you'll have to cut down significantly on the number of miles driven. Perhaps a more generally useful rule-of-thumb is to assume that you'll manage to average about 50-55 mph (80-90 kph) when accounting for food, fuel, and restroom breaks as well as inevitable traffic delays. And note that it is illegal in America for professional long-haul drivers to spend more than ten hours in the cab due to the safety considerations mentioned previously.

    How much time to spend in various cities is a very personal choice. I, for example, don't much care for cities at all and try to spend as much of my time as possible in smaller towns and the countryside. But once you decide which cities you want to see and what sort of things you'd like to experience, we can certainly offer suggestions to help you make the best use of your time in America.

    I've had great experiences driving through the British Isles and one of our other members is British himself. Yet a third is Australian. We all very much enjoy sharing our experiences and the knowledge gained from them. Ask away.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 12-29-2019 at 06:35 PM.

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

    Default So much more to see away from the City.

    Hello and welcome to RTA ! Fellow Brit here.

    As Buck mentioned, driving between 500-550 miles in any one day is the maximum we would recommend for safety (and possibly sanity) issues but to make it a day that's other than a 'work like' experience we try and keep our maximum mileage to around 350 miles which gives us time for a couple of attractions along the way to make it interesting. I too don't care much for Cities so that will depend on what you want to do which will become clearer as you research. We much prefer the wilderness and small towns etc, after all we do have some amazing Cities at (and closer to) home, but some of the scenic wonders (especially found in the west) are much more unique to us visitors from across the pond.

    You have a nice amount of time to travel and to research your options over the next few months with the help of good maps, this site and of course by asking as many questions as you wish in this thread. What I would urge you not to do is rely solely on electronic maps to get you from city to city via Interstates. Create your own routes that takes you to places of interest on some 2 lane highways and through small towns. It's these journeys that bring the most cherished memories for us. Out west there is a large number of National parks and unbelievable contrasting scenery that will leave you amazed !!

    Enjoy the planning and ask away when you need to.

  4. Default

    Miami to Seattle is approximately 3500 miles. That is 7 full days of driving with no stops for sightseeing. You might want to consider flying from Miami to somewhere out west and continue your vacation from there. You could save considerable the expense of a one way drop off fee by renting a car in Seattle and making a loop from there. You could even fly to an intermediate destination such as Las Vegas, make a loop to several national parks in Utah, then fly to Seattle.

    You’ll still have plenty of driving to do, but it will be scenic and close to many great destinations.

    BTW. If you want a unique experience out of Miami, drive the overseas highway to Key West and maybe stop at some State Parks. The water views are gorgeous and where else can you drive over a Seven Mile Bridge? Once you get to Key West, take the 75 mile ferry trip to Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson. You need reservations! If you are adventurous, you can even camp on the island. Reservations are required months in advance and sell out quickly.

  5. #5

    Default What a start!

    Thanks everyone - I love this forum, it makes the world seem much smaller!

    I had already considered flying west from Miami, to give us half a chance of driving up the west coast to Seattle. The first half of our route (current draft!) to Miami is from Washington via Nashville and New Orleans (son is a musician). I am thinking of flying from Miami to Denver, then back in the car and south to Santa Fe, then loop west through the parks in southern Utah, then Grand Canyon, Vegas (I’ve been and would happily give it a wide berth, but my son hasn’t!), Yosemite, San Francisco, then up the West Coast to Seattle.

    We want to see as much of the natural wonders of the country as we can, and what everyone calls ‘real America’, but want to do the tourist must-sees in the cities as well, so the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, for example. Not looking to linger anywhere too long though.

    Do the 2 halves of the trip seem realistic for the roughly 2 and a half weeks we have for each?
    I discovered the drop off fee phenomenon a little while ago - do any companies not charge? We are using a car, rather than RV, and a midsize rather than compact for space and comfort.
    Can you recommend a map brand? I have heard of Rand McNally but am not sure about availability over here. How about an online resource/app for motels and truckstops?
    Am I likely to need to book accommodation ahead, given the time of year? I want to do this as little as possible, to stay flexible, but don’t want to struggle to find anything that isn’t top dollar as all the affordable stuff has gone.

    Thanks for the Miami suggestions - my wife and other son are joining us for that week, so likely to be a bit more restful, with a couple of days in and around Miami, and the rest down along the Keys. We were looking to do it that way round, but this would mean driving back to Miami on the day after 4th July, and on a weekend - is that route likely to be lively? Can you recommend towns to stay in the Keys? We are planning to go all the way down to Key West, but I am sure there is more to the Keys than Key West!

    Sorry about the random questions - they have been coming to mind as I type!

    Thanks again, and I look forward to ‘chatting’ again soon


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    While there are lots of touristy destinations in the US you might consider a theme for the trip. It could range from National Parks to the American Civil War to the Fur Trading exploration of the west to the Oregon Trail to the building of the transcontinental railroad and many, many others.

    Consider a snorkel-diving trip while in the Keys. When the water is clear it's like being able to FLY!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Good start.

    Can you recommend a map brand? I have heard of Rand McNally but am not sure about availability over here.
    Randy McNally atlases and maps are popular and I tend to opt for State by State maps such as this one. Lots available on line.

    I am thinking of flying from Miami to Denver, then back in the car and south to Santa Fe, then loop west through the parks in southern Utah, then Grand Canyon, Vegas (I’ve been and would happily give it a wide berth, but my son hasn’t!), Yosemite, San Francisco, then up the West Coast to Seattle.
    That's a lot to fit into 2.5 weeks and would be too much if it were to include time in Denver and Seattle. Heading up the coast is slow going and this would be a full week of purely driving from Denver to Seattle and time will soon be eaten away if you plan to spend any time at the National parks and SF etc. I would at least start by forgetting Santa Fe and take a more direct approach into Southern Utah along I-70. Flying into Vegas and doing a loop to the Grand canyon, Bryce and Zion NP's before heading across to Yosemite via Death valley and SF before heading up the coast would reduce time and mileage, or starting in Denver and finishing in SF or LA is another consideration. It all depends on what pace you are happy travelling at but sometimes, less is more.

    Am I likely to need to book accommodation ahead, given the time of year?
    National parks are very popular in the summer and without bookings you could add considerable cost and/or mileage to your trip trying to find suitable lodgings.

    Sorry about the random questions - they have been coming to mind as I type!
    Hey, that's what we're here for ! Besides it helps keep us sane while we are not on the road ourselves. ;-)

  8. Default

    OK. Now I’m going to ruin your whole vacation!

    Now that you’ve included the Utah National Parks, head down to ZION and do the Narrows Walk up the Virgin River! This will ruin the rest of your vacation because everything you do and see before and after it wii PALE in comparison! It is as close to heaven on earth as you’re likely to come. YES, that includes the Grand Canyon! (Unless you hike down and across the bottom).

    You walk down a paved walkway along the shallow Virgin River. After a mile, the path ends and the fun begins. Wearing hiking boots or special water shoes, you step down into the Virgin River and walk up stream as the 2000 foot high sheer canyon walls tower above you and narrow ahead. The experience is just surreal.

    You will initially be joined by hundreds of families making the trek, but with every mile you hike, the crowds will lessen. Walk an hour or ten hours. It is worth every step. The really adventurous can instead start at the top of the canyon and take the two day hike back.

    Here is a video that, as good as it is, cannot come close to doing justice to what you’ll experience.

    There are other magical places to hike in Utah. Bryce Canyon National Park has wonderful towering sandstone formations throughout an easily walked canyon. To really experience this, hike down Sunrise Point, walk along the canyon floor, and hike out Sunset Point, or visa versa. Here is a video of another trail.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Big Picture

    As you start to fill in the details of your trip, you will also need to keep the overall time and distance constraints in mind. Yes, I think you can do both halves of your trip in two and a half weeks each, but things can, and will, get tight.

    Looking at the eastern leg first, you'll have four days of workmanlike driving to include Washington, Nashville and New Orleans on the way to Miami. A week in Miami would leave you roughly five or six days to sight-see in your urban destinations: say a day to get over the jet lag in Washington, and two days each in Nashville and New Orleans. That's not a lot, but it should be enough to hit a few clubs, visit the Grand Ol' Opry and Preservation Hall (both historic, but both surpassed by newer music venues). Without adding too much to the driving, but requiring a day less in one of your main cities, I'd also suggest the Beale Street music scene in Memphis TN and then perhaps using the Blues Highway down to New Orleans. But again, with only 2˝ weeks, and spending a full week in Miami, there's not a lot of wiggle room for adding things.

    The western leg isn't a lot different. Again, you're looking at about six days worth of driving spread out over 2˝ weeks. That's not bad. But it does mean you only have ten days or less to fit in all your sight-seeing. That's really not a lot considering all the cities and scenic sites in your wish list. A few things I would point out as you plan your itinerary for this leg:

    As you will see, there will be ample reason to by an annual pass to our national parks. These are good for free admission to all national parks and monuments that charge an entrance fee, for a year, the year starts at the time of purchase, and they're available for sale at any park that charges an admission, so just buy one the first time you need one.

    The lesser known, and far less visited, north Rim of the Grand Canyon would be better for you in terms of maintaining a more direct driving path between Santa Fe and Las Vegas while hitting a couple of other major national parks such as Canyon de Chelley, Bryce Canyon, and/or Zion. I certainly wouldn't try for more than those.

    Between Las Vegas and San Francisco, besides Yosemite, there's also the unique Death Valley. Then working north from San Francisco, you may have visions of following the coast. However, the main highway along the Pacific coast, US-101, is a winding (to follow the narrow shoreline) two-lane road that gets traffic-clogged in the summer and using it would eat into your already limited time, so I-5 up the Central Valley would be your better choice for time management.

    And there's the rub. While five weeks total may seem like a lot, when you start looking at the details and actually laying down a timeline, there is far more to see and do than you really have time for. Choices must be made.


  10. #10

    Default Nice problem to have

    Thanks to everyone for their suggestions and ideas - this is going to be harder than I thought, but, per the title, a nice problem to have.

    I may have not been clear enough in the description of my schedule, specifically the first half eastern leg. Our time on the road for this leg is 2 and a half weeks to get to Miami from Washington, with a week in Miami on top of this, so 3 and a half weeks in total. AZBuck, I think I may have given you the impression that the 2 and a half weeks included the week in Miami - if so, apologies.

    Are there any additional ideas for that leg, given that I have ‘found’ another week?! Also, does anyone have any thoughts on the New Orleans to Miami leg? Hug the Coast going east, or inland, Gulf Coast v Atlantic Coast, or down the middle? I feel that we can cram in as much as possible to get the most out of our time in the South, given that we’ll have a week to recharge in Miami before ‘coming out for the second half’.

    Thanks again to everyone - I am going to digest everything and come back with more questions in the New Year, hopefully based on slightly firmer plans.

    Happy New Year


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