I need to travel from New Jersey to California but I only have 5 days to drive for this road trip. Anyone have any suggestions where to stop, to eat, and to sleep? Of course I am on a budget too and I am driving solo. Any suggestion and recommendation would be helpful for this would be my very first time driving cross country.
California is a large state!
Which end of CA do you need to travel to? If LA:
Take I-76 to I-70 all the way to St Louis, then I-44/I-40 to LA. Start early, and quit at a decent hour each day -- you don't need to plan your stops ahead of time, there are cities and towns from one end of this route to the other that will have more services (gas, food, lodging) than you can use. You can do this in about 37 driving hours -- so that's about 3 days and some change (driving at normal highway speeds and 6 AM to 5 PM, not including any breaks or other stops. I say start and stop early because this is the summer travel season -- it makes it easier to get a decent room if you beat the crowd (and driving in the early morning is very nice). Other than that, keep it loose, and enjoy the drive. Getting there is ALL the fun! Bob
Bob gave you great advice! But, if you need to go to the northern part of California, you might start out on I-76/I-70 until you can merge onto I-80 just west of Youngstown just after crossing the border into Ohio. I-80 will take you all the way to San Francisco.
Even though most everyone is familiar with Route 66, few people are aware of the Lincoln Highway. I-80 follows the general route of the defunct Lincoln Highway which was the first trans-continental route from coast to coast. YOu can learn more about it if you'd like at http://www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org/ It should be a great trip.
This route is 2900 miles (averaging 580 miles/day for 5 days) and is estimated to take about 46 hours to drive (about 9 hours/day).
Frankly, I think the scenery you would see going through Bob's route would be more thrilling but this is a fine alternate if you are heading to northern CA instead of the southern part of the state.
For hints on solo driving and budgeting, you might read through some of the various threads on this website and do a search for key words like "solo", "budget", etc.
Some quick recommendations:
* Just enjoy the drive and don't worry. There are helpful people and services most anywhere.
* Get your car serviced before you leave and carry a cellphone and, preferably a membership card for AAA or a similar road service.
* Stock a cooler with food at deli-sections of grocery stores, etc. Fruit, sliced luncheon meats, cheese, bagels and cream cheese, granola bars, etc. are healthy and will save you a lot of money over restaurant meals all the time. Also make sure you have lots of water and other drinks when driving through the desert. You will get thirsty in that heat and need to keep hydrated. Keeping hydrated also keeps you cooler.
* Camping is always cheaper than hotels and there are numerous campgrounds along any route. You might check out Woodalls directories (both on the web or, if you decide you're interested in camping, their directory is great). KOA lists all their campgrounds on the web as well and you can make your reservations via the internet if you want to plan ahead. KOAs are relatively expensive compared to most other campgrounds though usually running about $17-24/nite while most other campgrounds are usually about $12-18 for tent sites.
* Cheap hotel chains to watch for are Motel 6, Super 8, Days Inn, Budget Inn, Econolodge, and mom-and-pop small hotels which are also often relatively cheap.
* Entertain yourself, if needed, with good CDs, books-on-tape, etc. Satellite radio is very cool if you can afford it. You can "rent" books-on-tape at Cracker Barrell restaurants and return them and get your money back, minus a small fee, at another Cracker Barrel restaurant. You can check out their website for locations to see if you are going to be going by enough of their locations to plan on doing this.
* Explore along the way and enjoy it. Solo roadtrips don't have to be lonely. They can be a hoot if you enjoy your own company and take advantage of the opportunity to stop when you want, for as long or as short as you want, at whatever you want.