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Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

Stockholm, Sweden
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Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions


In about a year me and my brother plan to fly from Sweden to the US to go on a road trip. We plan to be in the US from September 1st to October 17th.

We have budget of around 20 000 dollars. That includes everything, rental car, flying tickets, hotels etc.

We like scenic roads, shorter hikes (a couple of hours maximum), food, fishing, cool cities, local culture

Our main problem is regarding our itinerary. We cant decide wether we should keep driving from New Orleans via Lafayette - Houston - San Antonio - Carlsbad - Albuquerque or catch a flight for that bit instead to get more time for national parks in Arizona/Utah.

If we fly to Albuquerque from New Orleans we'd obviously have alot more time to explore the national parks of Utah and Arizona. In wich case we would visit Archs national park, Monument Valley, Sedona among other places.

I have some how gotten it in my head that Texas isnt that much fun. Ive heard alot of good things about the big cities but other than that its supposibly mostly plain desert.

So we would like your advice on what we should do.Should we catch a flight or drive the entire route? Are there any big flaws to our plans? what are some great things along this route the we shouldnt miss? General advice and tips would be much appreciated

Our planned route is as follows:

NYC 1-6 Sep

WashDC 6-9 Sep

waynesboro/nära Blue Ridge pkwy 9-10

Roanoke 10-11

blowing rock/?11-12


Asheville - drive from asheville to some place closer to nashville

Nashville 14-16

Memphis 16-18

Clarksdale/? 18-19

Natchez/? 19-20

New Orleans 20 - 24

Laffayette/? 24-25

Houston 25-26

San antonio 26-28

Carlsbad/? 28-29

Albuquerque 29-1

Sedona 1-3 / Or go to monument valley, havent decided wich would be better.

crand canyon 3-4

las vegas 4-7

death valley 7-8

bishop 8-9

mammoth lakes 9-10

yosemite 10-12 2000

San Fransisco 12-17

Atlanta, Georgia
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for Road Trips
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1. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

Two places that you are missing that are musts if you like hiking, scenery, history and culture are the Great Smoky Mts. National Park and Vicksburg, MS.

After Asheville drive thru Newfoundland gap and into Towsend, TN and do the Cades Cove Loop Rd. in the GSMNP.

Instead of two days in Natchez spend one day after Clarksdale in Vicksburg. Vicksburg has one of the best Civil War parks, great downtown and awesome views of the MS River plus good choices for southern food.

I would go to Monument Valley. It has breathtaking views and a neat John Wayne museum.

Good luck with your trip planning!!

Salt Lake City, Utah
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2. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

Greetings Marcus and welcome to the States. Sounds like a fun trip.

First observation is you have too much time between DC and Asheville, IMO. I've never been to Clarksdale and I'm sure it's a fine town, but I might check it out for a hour or two and continue further south to Natchez or Vicksburg. I think you may have a day too many in New Orleans too.

Now for your question about Texas. I will preface by saying, I've never been to Houston and it isn't really high on my list of cities to visit. I'm sure I'll get there one day. San Antonio is great and I'd like to get back there. But if those are the only places you're stopping in Texas, then yes, you will see lots of flat desert. Same in eastern NM. Now a point to consider is the car rental drop fees. This is a one-way charge for leaving the car in a different city than you pick it up. If you fly, you will incur two of these fees on the trip, as well as the plane ticket. But you will be saving 300 dollars in fuel.

Next point. I lived in the Deep South for two years (Alabama), Blue Ridge Mountains (Asheville) for 2 years and New York City for over six years, but my favorite area in the country is the Grand Circle ( Colorado Plateau where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico meet). There are Native American ruins and culture like nothing anywhere else in the country in Mesa Verde. There is the iconic Western landscape from the movies in Monument Valley. Moab rivals Queenstown, New Zealand as the adventure capitol of the world, and is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands. The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Zion has some of the best hiking anywhere, from canyons like The Narrows to knife edge ridges like Angel's Landing. Amazing mountain towns like Telluride CO, which the old mining homes look like little doll houses painted in blue, yellows, and purples with accenting trim. And months worth of places to explore in between.

I would want to spend some time here.

I'm not going to tell you what you should do, because everyone likes different things. But here is a very short video of some of the parks I mentioned. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlKOcyf915M

I suppose it's enough to say that the country is so big and there are so many places to see that you can't do it in one trip. I still have many places I want to see or get back to. But whatever gets left out of your itinerary will be here when you visit again someday. Happy planning.

Edited: 19 October 2013, 04:10
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3. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

Is this a once-in-a-lifetime trip, or will you likely be back for another U.S. road trip? If this may be your only trip to the U.S., let us know, and we can perhaps focus on the best attractions, although that trip might not be as memorable as one focused on the nation's culture and people, and a healthy balance likely is the best option.

As you're willing to fly, obviously you're not fixated on a cross-country road trip, which is good IMO.

Have you read through many months of threads on this forum yet? Have you read relevant trip reports in the sticky at the top of this thread?

There isn't much on this forum about fishing, so you likely should find a fishing forum. There's some good ocean fishing in NYC and other good fishing in the extraordinary Chesapeake Bay area near Washington, DC, and likely on the Gulf Coast (I don't know how much damage was done by the BP oil spill). Perhaps post fishing questions on the NYC, Baltimore and Washington, DC forums.

As you like hiking, definitely check out the trip report in post 34 by rjr in the road trip sticky. It's a very unique trip report. I would heartily recommend a New River rafting trip in the New River Gorge. See post 6 in this thread.


Consider cutting time from NYC and from New Orleans. Fly from NO to LV and try to do at least part of the Four Corners' Grand Circle, including Sedona and Page. See OhioHick's excellent sticky thread at the top of the Utah destination forum.


You will have to make some very tough choices as it's a very big country. Just keep the trip manageable and at your own pace prioritizing your interests. The best road trippers will plan and even adjust their road trips based on their own experiences and desires. The "less is more" scales are the real challenge faced by all road trippers, as well described by Wagaitwag in his post 22 trip report in the trip report sticky thread. The trip report covered several destinations mentioned by you, as well as Vicksburg, mentioned by PeachBelle.


Keep in mind that September is hurricane season, potentially impacting the East and Gulf coasts and even inland to Tennessee. So plan alternatives after you finalize your primary itinerary. The odds are that you won't have to deal with a hurricane, but you don't want to mess with one if it becomes a possibility/likelihood at the time of your trip. A large evacuation can challenge lodging and fuel supplies for a multi-state region.

Also, the national park lodging books already are open for next September and October. Try to finalize a tentative schedule and make reservations ASAP.

Good planning!

Edited: 19 October 2013, 04:19
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4. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

I'm not certain I would do an ocean fishing excursion from NYC, given the other attractions in the city and the high cost of everything there.

Here's one of the top freshwater fishing websites in the U.S.


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5. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

Are you going to Mammoth Lakes for mountain biking? If so, check when the biking season ends. I wouldn't allocate two days there just to see the Mammoth Lakes area, especially at the cost of extra time in the Four Corners region, and especially if I was from Sweden.

Lewes, United...
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6. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions


Just a quick comment: I don't fish and don't have the bug, so perhaps you are unable to be away on such a long trip without adding fishing into the mix, but given that you are travelling all that long way from Sweden, a country with tons of fishing opportunities, if this were my trip, I'd focus on what the USA has to offer that isn't to be found in Sweden rather than try and incorporate a fishing trip. However, as I said, that's just my own view.

Otherwise, lots of great suggestions from everybody so far.


Uden, The...
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7. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

Well yes, you easily can skip the Bishop/Mammoth Lakes night. They are very close to each other.

For your visits to NY and DC you don't need a car. Take train between NY and DC and rent the car from DC. If you fly between Nola and ABQ you'll have to pay a drop off charge twice (between DC and Nola and between ABQ and SF). If you want to fly I suggest to fly Phoenix because no drop off charges for a rental car between Az, Nv and Ca if you rent with an European broker but you won't want to miss San Antonio and Carlsbad Caverns (and White Sands NM) They are real highlights.

Now for your budget. $ 20.000,-- is more than enough. We make travels like that, rent a full size awd SUV and stay at the better hotels average $ 150,-- per night and we even dont spend that much. Food is rather cheap in the USA and with a full breakfast you easily can skip lunch or just have a salade or so.

For the one way rental you can do with a $ 250,-- plus tax drop off (with National) to $ 500,-- plus tax (others)

Your trip certainly is doable but I'd spend more time in the West. From ABQ you can drive to Monument Valley, Page, Bryce, Zion and GC (north rim, it closes oct 15 and a reservation is needed) before Vegas.

Maybe skip overnight stays in Clarcsville and Lafayette. In Houston a visit to Johnson Spacecenter is recommended. And if you are a music lover you can't bypass Austin. Great city and great music there.


Atlanta, Georgia
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8. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

Agree with Tet about skipping Clarksdale for an overnight stop. You can easily see it on the way to Vicksburg. And also agree about Lafayette. We drive from New Orleans to Houston in one day all the time and there is not a lot to stop and see unless you are into swamps. In fact there is a bridge on I 10 that goes about 20 miles across the swamp- traffic will be slow!!.

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9. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

My understanding is that there also are no drop charges between LV and LA and SF for rentals booked through car rental brokers outside the U.S. Flights to LV may be cheaper due to the large volume. However, the drive from Phoenix to Sedona by way of Wickenburg, Prescott, and Jerome is a real treat, and one of the best exposures to the Old West IMO.

Time in San Antonio, Austin, Carlsbad, White Sands, and Santa Fe likely will come at the expense of northern AZ and southern Utah. I would opt for AZ and Utah, but that's just me, as would have less driving and more seeing, if nothing else, and as the geography is one of the most unique and spectacular in the U.S. My hunch is that you will most enjoy allocating as much time as possible for AZ and Utah, at the reasonable expense of all other destinations.

You might focus on this decision and even post the questions on the San Antonio, Santa Fe, LV and Phoenix forums for more local input. It would be an interesting exercise if nothing else, to just see how parochial the opinions would be from more local respondents.

If you'll be coming back to AZ and Utah, perhaps in the late spring/early summer to also explore Colorado and Yellowstone, then the drive through Texas would more appeal to me.

Chicago's North...
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10. Re: Road trip, coast to coast, Drive or Fly? General suggestions

my 2¢:

first, i see several USA not-to-miss destinations are missing from your itinerary:

yellowstone, teton, glacier, black hills, zion, bryce, niagara falls to name a few.... it would really be a shame to spend 1.5 months road tripping in the USA and miss these sights.....

second, since your trip will partly be in mid to late autumn, i would go from west to east on this trip.... from late sept, winter storms are a real possibility in the western mountain ranges.... IMO, better to get these out of the way early -on, then move onto the east in oct---plus, you'll get to enjoy some fall color, which usually kicks in around early oct into nov........

third, i would ditch the idea of doing a domestic flight(s).... i'd say, bite the bullet and pay the drop-off fee.... by the time you buy tix, go thru the hassles of airport security, stressing out over catching flights et al, IMO, you're better off just driving and enjoying the scenery.... you'll come out ahead....

that all said, my view would be to fly into the west coast, perhaps LA.... drive the coast to SFO, then go to yosemite..... drop down into the deserts and do the grand loop, using vegas as your base.... given the choice, i'd rather go north and check out y-stone/teton and other sights in that region before going to texas and NOLA, but that's just me.... but you could still swing it----from the black hills, you could put in 1.5 big days of driving to get down to san antonio... i've never been, but i friend loves it.... and i've heard austin is pretty cool too... you could then swing south towards houston (can't think of anything worth seeing except the johnson space center), then onto NOLA... from there, you could do the southern and eastern portion of your trip..... but personally, for more stunning scenery, i would take a northern route across the east half of the country to encompass the great lakes/niagara falls, upstate NY, then NYC and DC.... if you had a coupla days to spare at the end of your trip, you could delve into the blue ridge mtns from DC.... but after being in the western mtns, the eastern mtns don't compare...

you could then fly home from DC.....

PS--for fishing, using my itinerary, what comes to mind is yellowstone NP, a fishing mecca, and the great lakes, where you can hire fishing charters to fish the big lakes.... lake superior would be my choice, but lake erie is well known for its great fishery....

Edited: 19 October 2013, 18:13