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FL to LA Southwest Road Trip in Late December

St. Petersburg...
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FL to LA Southwest Road Trip in Late December

Thanks to all the experts who have shared such wonderful information on this forum - I've been able to do much planning based on all the knowledge found here.

On 12/27 (so soon!), I will be driving with my boyfriend as we move him from Tampa, FL to LA. My flight back to Florida is on 1/5 and I'd like at least 2 days in LA to help him get settled. I know we want to see New Orleans, GCNP, Sedona, and Joshua Tree, but that leaves us with big gaps from NoLa through Texas. We are both in our late 20s and are very active with an appreciation for natural beauty and a bit of quirk. Neither of us have trouble with long days of driving, especially if there are fun, quick stops to make (we've driven from 15 hours from FL to DC numerous times).

We have a bit of time to do some exploring so I tried coming up with a basic itinerary, however, I'd love any advice on how to improve it as well as suggestions on areas where I should try to make hotel reservations in advance or where we might encounter bad weather:

12/27 Day 1: Tampa to New Orleans (my bf has never been here)

Day 2: Explore French Quarter and Magazine Street, depart early afternoon (should we stay another night? I'd rather spend more time near GCNP).

Day 3: This is where I need the most help - do we stay on I-10 or do we cut up to Shreveport and then to Albuquerque via Dallas? I ask because my boyfriend and I have already been to Houston and San Antonio. We honestly have no desire to spend much time in Texas except for a quick stop to sleep. The route to Albuquerque caught my eye because we've never been to New Mexico and I thought it might be fun to drive along Route 66 from Albuquerque to Flagstaff.

Day 4: depends on what we decide for day 3

Day 5: Flagstaff for the night so we can wake up early and get to the Grand Canyon. Spend the whole day at the Canyon and stay in Flagstaff again.

Day 6: Flagstaff to LA via Sedona to get back on I-10; would love to stop in Joshua Tree, and are open to camping if necessary

We understand this is aggressive and certainly involves a lot of driving. As I said, we're okay with that and are just looking to see more of this beautiful country as we make the drive out to California.

Thanks for your time!

Edited: 23 December 2013, 13:35
Marina, California
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for Tucson
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1. Re: FL to LA Southwest Road Trip in Late December

You have some very long drives in your trip, and it's a little optimistic to think it's going to involve a lot of sightseeing, considering the long drives, the short daylight and the cold temperatures. I like the idea of leaving a full day for New Orleans and the Grand Canyon. That's too short for a first time in New Orleans, I think, but what can you do. You definitely want to spend two nights there to get a full day though. Realize that it's a ~10 hour drive from Tampa, so you'll likely be very tired, and there's really very little going on in New Orleans before about noon.

What do you want to see on Magazine Street?

Day 3 & 4, I would drive I-10 to I-49 to I-20 to US 287 (in Fort Worth) to I-40. This is the quickest way to do the drive and it will keep you clear of most of the problem traffic areas. The downside is that you have some potential snow issues around Albuquerque and Flagstaff, but you should be okay unless you have some particularly bad luck.

Route 66 between Albuquerque and Flagstaff is mostly interstate highway, with just a few side street loops remaining that serve that serve the small cities and towns. You will not have much time for side trips, because you have 22 hours from New Orleans to Flagstaff over two days, so you'll just be driving all day. Do stop in Albuquerque though, as their stretch of Route 66 is nice (Central Avenue) near Downtown and through the Nob Hill neighborhood (around Carlisle) and UNM campus (don't drive the whole thing; it's just not that great). Albuquerque has some great food as well. I also like the stretches in Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Gallup and Winslow.

For the overnight there, Wichita Falls is probably the easiest for accommodations. Not a particularly nice city, but it's large enough that there is some passable food and plenty of chain hotels that should be reasonably priced. But that means 10 hours + 12 hours, which is a very, very long drive, especially right next to each other. Virtually no time to screw around.

Do you need to get from Flagstaff to LA in one day, or do you need to get there on Day 7 during business hours? It's a long, rough drive from Joshua Tree, so I would get a hotel. Joshua Tree will be too cold for camping right now. Yes, it's the desert, but it gets below freezing often at night. Certainly below 40F.

Good luck!

Wednesbury, UK
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2. Re: FL to LA Southwest Road Trip in Late December


That's an ambitious trip as Colin says! As for Flagstaff to Joshua Tree, I don't see the point of going via Sedona and Prescott if your doing it in one day through to LA ( if that is what your suggesting)?

You won't have time to stop if you want a decent look at Joshua Tree, and I hope the weather is ok through Prescott NF. If it is in one day, better to go via I-40 and Amboy to Twenty Nine Palms, and a drive through look at JT.

Edited: 23 December 2013, 19:24
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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3. Re: FL to LA Southwest Road Trip in Late December

In attempting Tampa to New Orleans day one ... You may see some en route modifications may well be necessary ... carracar

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4. Re: FL to LA Southwest Road Trip in Late December

Hopefully, not towing a u-haul trailer, correct!?

Why not take 7 days driving out Dec. 27- Jan 2 instead of only 6? That would give you your desired 2 full days in LA, Jan 3 & 4, before flight out Jan 5.

Keep an eye on the weather channel, particularly for the Texas panhandle for ice storms, & alter route if need be.

Oregon Coast
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for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
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5. Re: FL to LA Southwest Road Trip in Late December

Assuming he continues to be your boyfriend and you plan to visit him a time or two in the coming months, why not see Joshua Tree NP then? It's only about 3 hours out of LA.

Wednesbury, UK
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6. Re: FL to LA Southwest Road Trip in Late December


I was thinking that as well about JT. If the OP has an extra night over the 5, it would be better to use that further East to ease all that driving.

7. Re: FL to LA Southwest Road Trip in Late December

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