3 friends and I (all college sophomores) are planning on a 10-night loop around the Northeast, departing from Toronto. We're on a tight timeline so we want to keep it to 10 nights maximum. And we'd like to see as much of the Northeast as possible in that span.
Here's our Road Trip plan, at present:
Pittsburgh, PA - sightseeing
Washington, DC (2 nights)
Baltimore, MD - sightseeing
Philadelphia, PA (1 night)
New York City (3 nights)
Providence, RI (1 night)
Boston, MA (2 nights)
Syracuse, NY (1 night)
We've budgetted about $1000/person for this trip, taking into account food accomodation, car rental, entertainment expenses, and gas (we're splitting motel costs and fuel).
Our primary concerns are:
1) finding cheap accomodation
What do you think? Can it be done? Could it be possibly be done for less than $1000, and if so how?
Any advice with respect to cheap accomodation (where to find!?) and avoiding traffic (particularly along the NYC-Connecticut stretch) would be appreciated.
And any other suggestions/recommendations/advice would be GREATLY appreciated!
Lodging and traffic
First of all, you have to consider that lodging in big cities, especially in the north east is very expensive. You should look for lodging in the suburbs. Don't expect to find something decent under 100$ a night in Boston, Providence and NYC.
If you're into hostelling, order a directory over the internet to help you find them. But again, don't expect to find a dorm or private room under 25-60$ night per person. You could look for YMCAs, they sometimes have basic rooms from 30$. Toronto will be a little cheaper, check out for YMCA, hostels, B&B's, university residences.
Of course the best way to save money in the north east is to camp, depending on when you want to go (it's still pretty cold in March and April). However, you seem to be interested in big cities so campgrounds will be a little hard to find:-) If you have two vehicles, you can still sleep in the car (2 in each car) in truck stops parking lots, it's not as comfortable as a motel room, but it's free.
Now traffic, hum, you'll be hitting a lot of met cities and traffic is a very legitimate concern. Try to avoid rush hours in the morning and in the afternoon, try to avoid construction... Of course you never know, because an accident can happen at anytime. If you hear about something, take the next exit, have breakfast or lunch or try to pick a different route, ask locals. I've been stuck once in Washington, D.C. for 4 hours because of construction. A 3 lanes interstate merged into a 1 lane for only 3 miles and I was stuck 4 hours for that!
If it ever happen to you, stay calm, listen to music, don't be stressed. The worse that could happen is that it'll take you longer to get from point A to point B. Always carry a State map with you to help you choose a different option. NYC in some places and at some hours can be a great big parking lot, everyone is honking, very stressful. In Boston, traffic is not as bad as NYC, but it is so easy to get lost. The best way to avoid traffic in met cities is to take the subway, commuter train or bus. Leave your car in a safe parking lot (your hotel, carpool) and visit the city by feet.
Good Luck and have a safe trip!
Thanks for the tips! I knew I could come here for help! And yes, the trip is indeed planned for the last 2 weeks of April (I'll add that into the initial post!)
As for accomodation, since we're all students on a shoestring budget, we're going for CHEAP lodging! So the plan is to find as many Motel 6 joints as possible along our route. We actually contemplated Hostelling, but it can get up to $30/bed, and it's far cheaper to book a budget motel for ~$50/night, sneak the 4 of us in and split the cost 4 ways.
As for NYC, the plan is to find a cheap budget motel in the Jersey City-New Jersey area (was advised to avoid Newark), then take the PATH/MTA transit into Manhattan. This way we should save on parking and avoid the hassle of driving in the urban jungle that is Manhattan...
What I'm most worried about at this point is the traffic from Northern Jersey to NYC thru to Hartford. The timing of the departures is crucial because the last thing we want is to be caught in a jam on I-95 during rush hour!
Yup - I think your route will have LOTS of traffic jams. Traffic is always an issue between these points.
If worst comes to worst & your timing is all off, best I can suggest is head home after NYC...
You could easily spend another night or two in Washington DC - there's so much to see and do there.
You're going to have a hard time I think even finding $50 motels in the big cities.
Use the subway to get around (esp. in D.C. & NYC) if you can leave your car parked for "free" at the motel. You'll not find parking in Washington D.C. either AT ALL, or certainly not FREE.
I-95 -- Corridor to Adventure
I know that the subject line of this post sounds like a bad corny ad line -- but hitting a Jam on I-95 isn't all that bad. Turns out there there are plenty of little known stops in that stretch of road that can make really make a roadtrip memorable. I just <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/read/Drive95.htm">read and wrote a review on the newest I-95 guide book<a/> and even though you are on a shoestring budget -- I would suggest getting a copy and exploring a bit. There is another good reason to check out this book -- many of the rest areas provide discount coupons for local motels and information about when and where are listed in the book -- some of these "deals" are hard to beat and you could probably stay in a pretty nice place for less than the roach-motels you are considering.
As to the matter of cheap motel rooms -- I have never found a town/city in the states where one could not find a $25/night motel room (which isn't to suggest that I would personally stay in some of them) but they do exist.
Just about my favorite urban city to drive in is Manhattan -- assertive driving is the preferred mode and it really can be fun. However, if you tend to be intimidated by aggresive taxis and buses -- not a good place to test your skills. Parking is also tough and expensive, so the public transporation is always a good choice.
TO- DC & NYC Parking
I drove TO - NYC - WASH - TO in October. It was a great trip thanks to all the help I received on here !! A word of warning though..... the roads b/n TO & DC are not the best - very little interstate, and you go through some towns, up mountains etc !!! I know there is some great sightseeing etc, but we drove at night and really just wanted to get to the destination - allow more time than is listed in route planners, etc.
Alos, when we visited NYC we drove into the heart of downtown Manhattan. I was driving a Yukon XL (a huge vehicle compared to my Scottish car at home !!) and we parked in our of a chain of garages which cost $35. This may seem expensive to you guys but for valet parking in Manhattan, I was happy to pay
Best of luck - and heed those warnings about DC hotels - we paid $170 for a dump.... we were later advised to stay in Georgetown and use the subway - but dunno if this was good advice
thanks for the field report!
I really like driving in Manhattan -- my vehicle of choice is a 32-foot custom truck -- it is a hoot jockeying for position with the buses and taxis.
$35.00 seems like a bargain for garages in NYC.
Glad you had a great roadtrip!
More NYC to Rhode Island travel advice
I have driven from Manhattan to Providence via I-95 in just about 3 hours on a weekend afternoon. Mid-afternoon or late evening would be recommended as the best times to do so. Another option from New Jersey, to avoid Manhattan altogether, would be to take the Parkway (Palisades I think) up to 87 North (NYS Thruway). that will hit I-84 in Newburgh where you can hop on 84West which will take you straight to Hartford. Definitely not as direct, but a good second option if you are seriously concerned about taking 95. Also a good option if you decide to skip Rhode Island and go straight to Boston...
You mentioned staying in Jersey City in NJ. I live in NJ & very congested area. Almost like driving in Manhattan. Hoboken, next to Jersey City, or even in East Rutherford area are quite a few hotels. But from Hoboken you can get a ferry to either Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, also to NYC. The ferry is not supercheap but less than garages at NYC. Also hotels & food will be cheaper than NYC.
Thanks for the local report! (Always the best information!)