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Road Trip across America question

Birmingham, United...
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Road Trip across America question

Hey all

Ok so im currently planning a major road trip across America (solo) for either next summer or summer 2016 and i have a couple of questions for you experienced travelers :)

First an idea of my route.... Fly into NYC from the UK, train to Washington, pick up rental car then drive the east coast stopping off at various destinations like Virginia Beach, Charleston, Savannah down to Miami, do the Key West drive before heading inland hitting Atlanta, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas City, South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Vegas, LA, west coast drive upto San Fran, North Nevada, Idaho, Montana into Canada doing a circle into Alaska then ending in Seattle before flying home.

Like i said a major once in a life time road trip

The Canada part of the trip will be mainly driving stopping off at only a handful of places for rest and a few sights, really dont want to spend more than a week getting to Alaska where i plan to stay for a week or 2 and hopefully see the northern lights (i aim to arrive beginning of winter/mid September) then finally driving to Seattle to come home.

As for North America i plan to take my time and experience some great destinations such as Grand Canyon, Whitaker Point, Death Valley, The Lost Sea, Mount Rushmore, Shoshone Falls, Going to the sun Rd, Yellowstone, Zion, Big Sur to list a few

So my questions:

First of all im not sure when to start this trip, i aim to hit Alaska mid Sep (will need to book my accom) and do NA during the summer but i dont really know how long a trip this size would take, i dont want to end up having to rush or not see certain places but at the same time i dont want to be driving for 6 months, at first i thought id start in June and aim to hit Montana (Going to the sun road) end of August time and hopefully it will be fully open to drive straight through. Would that allow me plenty of time to travel at my own pace or is it too short a time period?

Next would i be able to rent a car for such a length of time and if so will i have to pay a ridiculous price?

Also im not a millionaire unfortunately but i do have time on my side, saving has already started and ill make a decision later in the year on wherever or not i can afford it next summer or if its better to wait another year, can anyone give me a rough estimation of the sort of figure id need for such a trip, i dont mind camping, staying in hostels, cheap motels etc i dont plan to stay in luxury too often, maybe a nice hotel in New York and Alaska, maybe Vegas too lol ive read you can buy a national park pass that gains you entry into all national parks? Petrol/Gas im assuming is expensive like it is here in the UK, food-wise ill make a lot of my own, im not a stranger to fast food either but i do plan to visit a few local pubs/restaurants etc

Finally any little tips or advice to make it the greatest road trip ever

Thanks for reading, sorry it was a little long

Chris

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1. Re: Road Trip across America question

> I've read you can buy a national park pass that gains you entry into all national parks

Yes indeed, details here:

http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm

That covers all the US national parks, most (maybe all) the national monuments, and quite a few other national places of interest, so if you're going to visiting a lot of those places it will save you money. However, it doesn't cover US state parks, nor Canadian national parks, nor Canadian provincial parks.

Cleveland
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2. Re: Road Trip across America question

Baz, welcome to TA and the road trips forum!

Read the top questions in the right margin. Then read this forum for the past year and the trip reports in the trip report thread at the top of the forum.

Don't miss Yellowstone and Grand Teton NPs, collectively considered the top NP destination in the lower 48 states.

Have you considered tent camping and/or hostels to save money? Several threads in this forum also discuss discount hotel chains.

The summer is the peak U.S. summer school vacation travel season. Lodging is more expensive and reservations more necessary. Even state park campgrounds can be booked solid.

The Southeast is extremely hot and humid in the summer, and the risk of hurricanes and severe tropical storms escalates after June.

Good planning!

Green Valley...
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3. Re: Road Trip across America question

Have you used Google Maps to help plan this route? You know that you'll need to understand distances here, time required, etc. just on the open road much less at each destination.

Have you selected specific destinations en route? These need to be plotted on GM.

Have you calculated time in place for these destinations? It depends on your (unknown) interests. If wildlife and geysers, Yellowstone NP warrants at least 2 - 3 full days, so plan accordingly. If into hiking, you'd want to add at least a day for each National Park or other location.

Some cities can be seen in a day; others, a week. Again, what are your interests, and how do they fit into each city en route?

Really, trying to help you plan this trip but you have a lot of Googling to do, to help you decide where lie your strongest interests.

When you prepare an itinerary using Google Maps, share that with us; it will give us, and you, a better idea of what can be accomplished.

Especially as the only driver...

Edited: 04 July 2014, 18:35
Birmingham, United...
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4. Re: Road Trip across America question

@John259259 - Thanks for the link, have saved it for future use :) will be 1 problem solved

@TranscendentalEye - Going through the forum ATM, so much useful information, its a great help, Yellowstone is on my list of must sees, will google Teton in a little while. Hostels and camping are both perfectly fine with me and very likely something ill be doing a lot of during my trip. Ive read places tend to sellout quite quickly during the summer months so will book the big things i plan to do well in advance.

@Voyaging - Yeah i spent a good 5/6 hours on Google Maps the other night plotting and planning a route that will take me where i want to go and see what i want to see, also have a large wall map of North America hanging in the bedroom with a load push pins scattered around it aha. Ill paste a rough outline of the route i plan on taking in a little while for people to have a look at and comment on.

As for my interests ideally i want to hit all the biggest attractions, i love a good photo so places with great views like Whitaker Point in Ponca or Grand Canyon, Waterfalls, some of Americas tallest and longest bridges, little things like the tree of shoes and cadillac ranch, driving roads like Big Sur, part of Route 66, Going to the sun Rd etc and then ending my trip viewing the Northern Lights and Ice Glaciers (hopefully)

Do you think being the only driver will become an issue?

Ohio
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5. Re: Road Trip across America question

agreed- this is too open ended of a question to be of much help yet. Reading some of the forums will help you the most right now.

Keep in mind that the USA has very different climates depending on where you are. September can be winter in the north and still nasty hot and humid in the southeast. Southwest gets very hot, but is dry. Colorado at lower elevations will be beautiful and mild in September, but perhaps snow in the mountains.

You need to plot out your route first. Keep in mind the variety of climates. Decide upon what you want to see and then how many days you want to be in each place. THEN you can begin to come up with an idea of how much time is needed.

Gas prices? who knows? Right now, it's $3.53 a gallon in my town, but 2 days ago it was 10 cents higher. 2 weeks ago it was 30 cents higher. It varies from place to place within the US and no way to know what it will be 2 years from now. Comparing the cost to what you pay now-- at least that gives you an idea if it's more or less pricier than what you are used to.

Birmingham, United...
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6. Re: Road Trip across America question

http://goo.gl/f2wT9z

Ok so thats a very rough plan of the route as far as Canada

Birmingham, United...
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7. Re: Road Trip across America question

http://goo.gl/maps/LXzqj

Here is the exact route/plan from Canada to Alaska to Seattle. I plan to stay a week to 10 days in Alaska and no more than 1 night at the other locations, possibly adding another location to rest between b&c and l&m as they are long drives and ideally i dont want to drive for more than 5 hours a day.

Sorry for the double post just realised you cant edit previous posts.

Tacoma, Washington
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8. Re: Road Trip across America question

You are doing something that could be unrealistic. I Think the limit is 90 days for a tour visit.

You are looking to see 25 places over 890 days which will be alot of driving.

Green Valley...
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9. Re: Road Trip across America question

Thank you for providing the two maps. In short, I doubt many experienced travelers on this or any state forum would agree with selected portions of your route and would note what you'd be be missing.

You still have not said how many days you have available. I hear, too, that there are limits as to how long you can remain in the States.

You have selected area/locations that make me wonder about your selection criteria or how deeply you have looked into each of these places and alternatives that others might suggest.. Your list is an odd mix of places that, while interesting, might be skipped for possible lack of time or in favor of more interesting areas.

You have omitted scenic and historic areas (e.g., many spectacular national parks, the OR and CA coasts).

You include much time going to/from, much less inside, Alaska (I don't know what you expect to do there in all that time).

You've both selected and de-selected entire regions w/o any apparent rationale nor, I'll add, inquired of TA Forums about what to see and to do in their territory.

You have not apparently calculated or learned from state forums the number of days you'd need on site at any of the named, much less unnamed, locations.

If I were visiting the US I'd review Top questions about Road Trips, upper right, this page. Learn from others and what they say about their travel plans, costs, driving in the US, what to see or not, and so much more. Go to the State TA Forums for their Top Questions (plus "Things to Do", top banner of each page).

Right now you are winging it.

In the end, it is your trip, good luck to you.

Edited: 05 July 2014, 03:31
Birmingham, United...
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10. Re: Road Trip across America question

A visitor visa is valid for 90 days yes you are correct on that Dan P however you/I can apply for an extended stay by filling out another document on arrival to the states which if granted permits staying for upto 6 months. I plan to do this trip in 3-4 months, i dont have a criminal record or anything that would prevent me from obtaining an extended stay visa.

@Vayaging like i said the route across NA is a very rough route and only really a guide of the kind of direction id be driving, Google Maps only allows you to input places between A-Y which is 25 places so is impossible to list the driving route and places i want to visit, it simply doesnt allow that much info. I have said previously i have a list of must see places, these places are all relatively close (on the map) to the route which i have selected to drive for example:

Flagstaff - Oak Creek Scenic Drive - a circle through Coconino National Forest, Oak Creek Village, Sedona back to Flagstaff.

To

Hualapai Hilltop - Mooney Falls, Havasu Falls for sight seeing, swimming and camping

To

Grand Canyon Village - for a few days - hiikng - sight seeing and more

To

Page Az - Glen Canyon Dam - Lake Powell - Horseshoe Bend

To

Monument Valley - Sight seeing - Scenic Drive and more

To

Torrey UT - Capitol Reef NP

To

Bryce Canyon NP - sight seeing - hiking etc

The route in the middle of NA is open to change as i do more research, in fact the entire drive from Miami to South Dakota could change drastically but visiting Tennessee and Arkansas are must do's for me as is visiting Mount Rushmore and the Scenic Drive on part of Historic Route 66 between Amarillo and Flagstaff.

West coast Scenic drive from LA to San Fran taking Big Sur is a must do.

As for the amount of days i have to do this trip i haven't got a limit, im self employed so taking 3/4 months off work to do a once in a lifetime road trip wont affect me.

If you have some must see places you could suggest or even a driving route in central NA id love to read them.

Id also like to point out i have actually calculated how many days (roughly) id spend in certain places i just havent listed them as it would make my post extremely long winded but for a rough guide id be spending between 2/3 nights in big places like Grand Canyon Village.