Senior Trip...any suggestions?
After graduation in Spring of 2004, I plan on driving to New York. I am leaving June 1, from Arizona, and returning August 1. We are going to New York, then to Washington, and down to San Francisco. As far as I know, I will be accompanied by 3 or 4 of my friends.
I've got ideas of what we could do, and which highways and such to take. However, I am worried about space. I have a 2003 Kia Rio, and I know that 5 people in one tiny car will be two months of Hell. Some suggestions I've heard are to rent a van. Problem: I'm not 21. I've also heard that we should buy an old bus or VW van. Does anyone know where one would be able to buy a bus, or generally how much they cost?
Also, are hotels/motels fairly welcoming if you don't have reservations? We've yet to decide how long we will spend in each of our Roadside destinations, so I wouldn't want to rushing just to reach the hotel.
And is two months an appropriate amount of time? Can we see some of America in that time? I figured 15 days for actually getting to New York, 20 days for coming home. Does this sound like a reasonable amount of time? Or enough time to get a taste of America?
I can't help with the vehicle question, but can address the reservations and time parts of your query.
Summertime is the busiest time of year for most lodging facilties along the highways -- but in MOST places you should not have any trouble finding a room. Be aware that in certain places at certain times, everything can book up because of a local festival or event, but this usually means you just have to drive a little farther that day before you find something. Between NY and Washington State, next summer, you may find some Lewis and Clark bicentennial events that could result in higher than usual tourism -- maybe. I can't imagine a motel that wouldn't be happy to see you, if they have rooms available, reservations or not.
The time you mentioned is enough to do the trip and to get a "taste" of the country, and you should have plenty of time to get off the main-traveled portion of the roadway and sample the local flavor, if you want to.
I agree with Bob. Unless there's a special event going on, you shouldn't have any problems finding hotels along the way. It would be a good idea to get a AAA membership in case of breakdown. They also have several services for travelers. You can order free guides to the various regions/states you'll be traveling in. Plus order their free hotel/campground guidebooks that give you a list of accomodations in various areas that offer AAA discounts. I always ask if they have a AAA discount even if they're not listed in the book. Sometimes they will honor it anyway.
As for the bus...I would think your gas/diesel costs would sky-rocket. Any kind of van should work nice. It doesn't have to be a VW van. The VW Camper Vans are very cool but they may not offer enough seating for 5. But I sure agree that a Kia Rio isn't gonna cut it for space.
www.vanagon.com is a good site with lots of info on VW bus/vans. Be sure to check out the links as there are numerous sites with info and that have vans for sale. You may be best, however, to just check out used car lots in your area. I don't think they're all that hard to find.
Personally, as much as I love the nostalgia of the old (pre-1975) VW busses, you may want to avoid something that old and focus on the 1980+ VW Vanagon. It doesn't have quite the nostalgic panach but I think you will have better reliability for a long trip. Oh, I shouldn't say that. I'm big into VWs and I know some older ones that are well-maintained and quite reliable, however, they do often require constant vigilance to keep them this way. Also, unless you find one that's been modified with a more powerful engine, you will find your top-speed to be very limited and going 55+ to be quite an adventure. :-)
suggestions and thoughts
I'm not trying to sound like a mother here nor am I trying to dissuade you from going on a senior road trip, but I think you may be biting off a little more than you can chew. Two months might be long enough to do thing things you want to, but I'd suggest looking into taking a shorter trip and focusing your journey to one area of the country.
This is why I say this.
You're young, 17 or 18 years old. Granted it is the best time to travel when you are young but you still have many more young/fun travel years ahead of you. If you are going on to college, it is a GREAT time to travel. You'll still have long breaks and you'll meet many fun people at school. I just graduated college a year and a half ago and had many fun road trips during those years and I still am having many fun road trips at 24.
You're probably inexperienced with road trips. A two month road trip is a big deal. It would just suck to get a few weeks in and realize 2000 miles from home, you wish you were home – o r even worse, having a car break down or stolden. But if you have the financial and moral support from home this may not be an issue.
You may get burnt out after a few weeks, which can make the last half of the trip not as fun. And being that this is probably your first major road trip, you have no idea how you will react.
Another thing you may not have thought of, is how well are you going to get along with your travel mates? They may be your best friends now, but you're not spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with them. And you want to do this for 2 months? Things can get rocky.
My personal suggestion is to cut your trip down. Maybe go 1 month and focus on one part of the country. Like the northwest, north east or south east. I think you'll have a much better time.
That being said, you are obviously free to make up your own mind. And if you go I have some suggestions.
Being under 21, you may have problems finding hotel rooms. Not every place has this rule, but I've run across several places that would not rent, unless someone who was 21 would sign. But one thing you want to make sure you, and your travel mates, have is a major credit card. Even if you pay with cash, hotels want a major credit card for incidentals. And the credit card is good for emergencies. Just be careful if you are on a budget.
Definitely do no go with 5 people in your Kia Rio. I would say limit it to 3 people in a car that size (keep in mind luggage situations also). You most likely won't find a place to rent a car from. What about the possibility of taking 2 cars? Or borrowing a parents van/SUV? If you are buying a car, make sure it's reliable. Don't forget to change the car's oil every 3000-4000 miles and other maintenance that most people overlook.
That's my 2 cents