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Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Sydney, Australia
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Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Hello,

I am a first time poster on trip advisor. I'm an Aussie taking eight weeks out in Jan/Feb 2014 and have a whirlwind idea to take my wife and 7 yr old daughter on a USA road trip..sounds great eh? Only challenge is...I haven't a clue where to start. Questions

Drive from LA to Washington...Sounds OK? Or just plain stupid? Any other ideas?

Transport: RV and Campgrounds? OR Car and Motels?

Weather: Will it be freezing?

We enjoy national parks, more than cities and also would like to get a few days on the snow somewhere.

We are are on a 'average' budget and have never been to the US so any advice would be great

How does that all sound?

Would the trip be a whole lot of fun or an arduous journey?

Thanks for reading,

Henderson, Nevada
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1. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Eight weeks on the road is a long time... The US (like Austrailia) is a very big place. You are proposing a winter trip, (at least at our side of the planet) so there will be snow, and some of our national parks will be either closed or limited. You understand your traveling style and your family and may be a better judge of how it will be... I spent 6 weeks on a family car trip, once around the US in 1971 or so, and still have good memories...

Eight weeks gives you more than sufficient time to drive coast to coast in January. I needed to get a car from San Francisco to Washington DC 4 years ago... the goal was moving the car... We took 6 days (passing through the northern edge of LA the first day) to make the drive, stopping along Rt66, visiting Graceland in Memphis, we had an afternoon in Nashville, stopped at Monticello, before DC. I blogged during that trip... starting with a post at …blogspot.com/2009/12/packing-madly.html .

We needed to get the car back in May, and took 7 days, via Chicago, Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. (this route wouldn't work in January or February... just too much snow and parks which are largely closed to vehicles. That blog starts at …blogspot.com/2010/05/new-journey-begins.html

Being winter I would strongly suggest car and motels... Its off season and you should see some deals... freezing weather isn't much of an issue when you have a heated motel room, but is in a campground, even in an RV.

Being winter, you need to be flexible enough to avoid the occasional snow storm, either by shifting south, or being willing to change your schedule and hang out somewhere. Staying close to the coasts will mean generally higher temperatures... even in DC... Of course Florida is semi tropical...

What do your wife and daughter like? (don't leave yourself out) There are gulf coast beaches... The home of the Mouse... (one on each coast) The museums in DC are arguably the best in the world.

My wife and I (and a couple of sister's in law) were in Australia a couple of years ago (including Sydney, which we loved) Prices in Australia were much higher (at least in Sidney, Melbourne and Ullaru) than generally here... prices outside of bigger cities is much less, but lodging in National parks is expensive.

I hope I have answered the questions you have asked... more of course welcome.

Randy

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Randy, awesome response, thanks. You have given me the confidence that we can do it. Certainly sounds like we'll need to bring some warm clothes and plan the journey. You have also cemented the idea that the car is the way to go.

One last question, do you think I'll have any problems with accommodation on the way? Having done a few road trips in Australia and Europe, we have a history of 'flying by the seat of our pants' and often arrive in towns early evening looking for a place to stay.

Thanks for the things to see trips....this sounds great !

Uden, The...
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3. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Plenty of lodging on your way. With 8 weeks consider to start San Francisco, maybe snowy Yosemite (check the Yosemite NP forum) head down the coast to Los Angeles and even maybe San Diego. Drive LA to Joshua Tree NP, Death Valley NP and to Las Vegas. Make a wintry loop via Zion, Bryce, Page Monument Valley and Grand Canyon SR. Head south to Sedona, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Cruces, White Sands NM, Carlsbad Caverns, Big Bend NP to San Antonio and Austin. Drive to New Orleans and on to Florida. Then along the coast north to colder DC via Savannah and Charleston. Deliver car in DC, take train to New York and spend your time there.

Or drive from Austin to Memphis, Nashville, even detour New orleans and to Florida.

There will be drop off charges for the rental car between the coasts. We always travel without making reservations and always can find a place to stay. For some National Parks it maybe good to make a reservation like for Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Big Bend.

Snow? There's a fair chance there will be snow at Yosemite and also Bryce and Grand Canyon. In New Mexico is a snow area near Cloudcroft at 9000' You can visit it on the way between White Sands NM and Carlsbad caverns NP. Also snow in the Santa Fe area if you should take another route,

Tet

Edited: 11 November 2013, 10:28
Atlanta, Georgia
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4. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Further south you take the warmer it will be-

San Antonio will be nice in winter and so will gulf coast of the south and Savannah and Charleston.

Memphis is usually nice also.

Have made multiple trips to these areas in winter months.

Also look at Amelia Island, FL- nice beach, history, etc. just south of Savannah.

Cleveland
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5. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Ben, welcome to TA and to the road trips forum!

It would very helpful if you told us your family's other interests: theme parks, art museums, history, music (what type?), skyscrapers, culture, other types of museums, oddities, zoos, aquariums, etc. E.g., check out the National Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, or the NASA space attractions such as in Houston, Huntsville, Alabama, and the Kennedy Space Center.

You need to firm up your trip ASAP because you likely will have to troll for cancellations to get in-park lodging at Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc., at this late date. Post on the destination forums for each of those parks for suggestions. Check out the possible need for chains for your tires at Yosemite. Perhaps you could take a bus from SF to Yosemite, if available in the winter. Skiing is available in the winter.

Check out Palm Springs, a possible stop between either LA and SD and Las Vegas. A big attraction there is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, with the largest tram cars in the world. Palm Springs is popular in Jan. and Feb., so check out that destination forum about whether or not you need advance reservations, although the Tramway may take only 3-4 hours (best visited in the afternoon). There should be snow to decorate the beautiful pines and boulders around Mountain Station, where the surrounding area has paved walkways.

Pay special attention to footwear, gloves, insulated underwear, and outerwear (Gore-Tex), if you plan on a lot of hiking. Plan on carrying winter emergency supplies, just in case.

Use the search engine above to search for "black ice." Otherwise, search the web for winter driving tips, e.g., the California winter driving manual.

Read through this forum for many months for relevant threads. Read through the trip reports at the top of this forum.

Why are you skipping New York City? You could drop your rental car in Washington, DC, and take a bus or train to NYC.

Good planning!

LA
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6. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

It would be a much nicer trip in the summer months when the parks are all accessible.

You are really compromising by having to avoid a great deal of the mountainous parks.

Penticton, Canada
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7. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

hI

'flying by the seat of our pants' you can take some of the stress out by using a GPS which will give you locations of hotels. It is best to purchase one before the trip to get use to the device. Downloading US maps is eay and economical. We have upgraded to looking at our next destination the night before so we have an idea and book ahead if we are sure we will be there the next day. or stopping at a coffee shop when we get there to use the wifi for a Skype call to reserve (buying Skype credits give you access to land lines at about 4 cents a min.) no data plan required using airplane mode.

Uden, The...
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8. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Yes, but with 8 weeks just bring the gps with you and if that's not possible buy one in the USA for app $ 100,-- Much cheaper to do that than to rent one with the rentalfirm.

Sydney, Australia
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9. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Tet, Peach Belle, Trans Eye....a huge thanks. Your advice is invaluable. There seem to be a consensus it'll be very cold, there is a huge amount to see, planning in advance will greatly improve my chances of accommodation and in some cases it'll be mandatory. I must say, I completely underestimated the challenges of accommodation in the national parks.

I'm securing vehicle hire and flights now. The next week we'll studying the locations of your recommendations and the big must see's.

Whilst we are a big outdoors adventure family, the museums in DC sound excellent.

This really is great information.....the beauty is the planning and the not knowing what we are going to experience.

Seattle, Washington
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10. Re: Road Trip West Coast to East Coast USA. Guidance required !

Arriving late to the discussion, but one thought that might be worth considering would be to combine two separate car trips - one in the west and one in the east, flying between.

A western loop might start in southern California and head up the Pacific coast to the San Francisco area, then east to Lake Tahoe or Yosemite, then back down through Nevada to Las Vegas, a spur trip (weather permitting) to Zion National Park (not that far from Las Vegas) then maybe the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and back to LA. Beautiful coastline, snow in the Sierras, warm desert... not a bad big loop. (And your daughter would probably love to see all the marine mammals along the California coast - big elephant seal breeding colonies near Hearst Castle, lots of wildlife at Point Lobos, the migrating Monarch butterflies in Pacific Grove and the amazing Monterey aquarium.)

Then fly east for the second portion that could include New Orleans, the Gulf coast and Florida, then up the Atlantic coast through Savannah and Charleston, and ending up in Virginia and Washington DC. If you still wanted more winter, you could leave the car in DC and take the train up to New York or even Boston, for a few days of late winter, before flying home.

Just thinking out loud.

Edited: 12 November 2013, 15:26