North American Road Trip!

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  • North American Road Trip!
  • eltonerino
    Member

    The Mrs has been talking about a North American road trip and I like the idea too. But we don’t know much about it.

    We’re thinking about hiring an RV and driving about 300 miles a day and visiting various sights. We have two girls under 5, so don’t want to spend too long driving each day. They are good at travel though.

    We want to spend most of the time around California, visiting places like Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Death Valley, LA, San Francisco etc.

    We don’t really know what sort of costs to expect for RV hire, fuel, parking/camping etc.

    Where would you go/not go?
    Where would be good to rent a bike for a day? πŸ™‚
    What haven’t we thought about?

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    RV hire is hideously expensive. Camping is a much better option IMO. You can buy good cheap stuff over there. Lots of sitting around camp fires eating smores by the lake and such.

    300 miles a day won’t get you all that far. Be prepared to put in some big mileage days. Better when the kids are older. If you don’t want to drive too far then you’d be better off going to a base or two.

    Oh and LA is a proper shithole. Like a hot Birmingham with far less class.

    sweaman2
    Member

    Spend a bit of time on Google maps to get an idea of distances…

    Personally I’m not a fan of RV’s. I find that the cost of hiring, fueling and using an RV to be too close to actually just going into a hotel. The pros (having everything with you and not needing to pack / unpack) are not enough to outweight the cons (slow, pain in the neck to park in car parks).

    I’d either hotel or tent (or do a mix). If you’re thinking of going in the peak summer then you’d have to book RV sites as well I’d expect.

    TrekEX8
    Member

    We hired an RV in the US a few years ago. We had a great time, with lots of adventures along the way.
    But it wasn’t cheap, if there are four of you a family room at a reasonable hotel/motel will probably work out a lot cheaper.
    Pre-kids we had a different holiday which started in LA, drove to Palm Springs, Vegas, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Bryce, Yosemite, San Francisco and back down the Pacific highway via Santa Barbara. We loved it, but we covered a lot of miles in doing so; my kids wouldn’t have enjoyed that!
    If I was doing it again, I’d start in San Diego and ditch LA, but that’s just my preference.
    That whole part of the States is fantastic, you can’t fail to have a great time.

    LHS
    Member

    As the others state do not do LA.

    Road trip suggestion:

    San Diego – Joshua Tree National Park – Santa Barbara – Monterey – San Francisco – Napa – Yosemite – Vegas / Grand Canyon

    Premier Icon slackman99
    Subscriber

    Yosemite is amazing. If it’s busy or you fancy a touch more civilisation can I suggest Lake Tahoe. It’s where i’d move to if I was one of the two Β£33M lotto winners at the weekend.

    Just note that 300miles is 6hrs driving as a lot of it will be 55mph limit. Vegas to Yosemite is 450miles so a day and a half at 300 per day. We did Vegas to Tahoe in a very long day. Epic scenery but almost bored of seeing mountains after 10hrs!

    mamadirt
    Member

    Sounds awesome – go for it! Did our first when the kids were 3, 5 and 7 . . . flew to Baltimore, told them we were going to Disneyland (LA) . . . cue 4 weeks of are we there yet πŸ˜† – coast to coast FTW! 300+ miles a day is easily doable and there will be plenty en-route to keep the kids interested, just stop as and when. Second the motel idea too – affordable and easy to find accommodation if you don’t want to book in advance. San Francisco, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Moab, Salt Lake City, Reno and Tahoe would be an fantastic round trip 8)

    Premier Icon howsyourdad1
    Subscriber

    Best thing about road trips in the US or indeed anywhere are the small little towns that you’ve never heard of . The weirdest and most memorable situations usually occur

    Premier Icon mattstreet
    Subscriber

    Was fortunate enough to do a 4 week roadtrip a few years ago and covered 4000 miles, so on average less mileage per day…. wish we’d had more time at certain places though, so I’d say to stay around a smaller number of places and enjoy the surroundings. You could easily fill a week just moving round different bits of Yosemite. And definitely camp out if you can.

    How long are you thinking of staying out there?

    kcr
    Member

    Depends what you want to do with your holiday. If you like driving, you’ll enjoy a road trip, but 300 miles a day is going to be 5 or 6 hours of driving – that would be far too much holiday time sitting in a vehicle for me. I drove from Denver to Moab on a mountainbiking holiday, but only drove an hour or two each day between riding centres and spent most of each day out on the bike. I spent a week in Moab, and then drove back to Denver in a day and a bit. My folks went to Canada and the USA on holiday and covered a lot more ground, but got a bit fed up with all the driving in the end.

    It’s a huge place. I’d recommend picking a more limited area and having the space and time to explore outdoors and enjoy yourself doing interesting stuff, instead of trying to see too much by doing an epic motoring holiday.

    p.s. I did do a 2500 mile road trip from NY to Montana many years ago, by bicycle. That was entertaining, even across the mid western plains, because of the random small towns I rode through on the way (as remarked on above). Doing the same trip by car wouldn’t have been the same fun at all.

    dave661350
    Member

    We did it in the late 90s with a 4 yr old and an 18mth old. Flew to Seattle, did Vancouver (whistler for the day..shorts, sun and snow) PCH around Washington, Oregon down to San Fransisco, then Yosemite and back up thru Nevada and Idaho (Boise)..then Back to Seattle. Nearly 5 weeks, the whole of May into early June. Cheaper as it was off season, weather was OK. We took push bikes and bought a trailer in Seattle, just pottered about with some 300 mile days but generally less. Made the mistake of going to San Fran which really wasn’t great with two little kids.
    We loved it, great memories, met some great people in smalltown America
    Wait until they’re older and you’ll be able to do different things but will no doubt have to do it at peak time which may well double the cost. (And trips to Disney/Universal can take 2 weeks just to see/do it all so a holiday all on their own)

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Plenty en route to entertain kids? Really? If they like sagebrush, I suppose.. or fast food restaurants.

    I find that the cost of hiring, fueling and using an RV to be too close to actually just going into a hotel.

    Fuel.. ah yes.. single figures MPG over several thousand miles soon offsets the cheap cost of fuel.

    I’d aim to camp in state parks – not only are they the cheapest accomodation ($20/night is an expensive one) but they are really what we go for. There are places you can rough camp just off the road, which is fantastic – but perhaps kids might need to be just a little older.

    We’ll be going to the US this summer for a family wedding, and taking a road trip with our kids who will be 7 and 5. Unfortunately we’re starting in Wisconsin so we’ll have to manage the long drive down to the South West.

    Last roadtrip was to a place near Boulder which I’d heartily recommend. Tons of outdoorsy stuff to do from stay in your car and marvel at the wildlife and scenery to family walks to MTBing to 14,000 footers; and Boulder is a really lovely town too, even strolling around it to visit the numerous outdoor and bike shops was pleasant. Bike shops that hiring Mavericks, a cut above your usual hire fare πŸ™‚

    mamadirt
    Member

    Plenty en route to entertain kids? Really? If they like sagebrush, I suppose.. or fast food restaurants.

    πŸ™„

    Tons of outdoorsy stuff to do from stay in your car and marvel at the wildlife and scenery to family walks to MTBing to 14,000 footers; and Boulder is a really lovely town too, even strolling around it to visit the numerous outdoor and bike shops was pleasant.

    Well, there you go! πŸ˜‰

    mikewsmith
    Member

    300 miles a day is tough. Did a chunk of driving out there last October and it was hard going on some bits. Did the 4-6 hr stuff in a camper April time through Oz and they are long days, sitting in the back would be worse and it’s knackering. They also squeak and rattle a hell of a lot.

    I’d pick a few places where you can do 3-4 days and go between them.

    I have nothing useful to add other than the USA is an amazing place to see in the flesh.

    Don’t stress too much about an itinerary. There’s something to see in every direction. Skip LA.

    I was lucky enough to spend 6 weeks driving from Vancouver to San Diego and back 5 years ago and I’d do it again in a shot.

    mikewsmith
    Member

    lol JoeG great representation πŸ™‚ Just clocked what the timings were for some of my trips out there

    We have two girls under 5, so don’t want to spend too long driving each day. They are good at travel though.

    Moab to Virgin was 330 miles, mostly on 60/70mph roads, Google says 5hrs, plenty to see en route but not sure how much of it would entertain kids under 5. I think with stops it took me nearly 7hrs. Including sections with nothing in them for 100 miles at a time.

    I looked at the cheaper end of RV’s and for 12 days it was coming in near $1000, that didn’t include any miles they were extra, so was the cookware, and the cutlery and the bedding… Fuel is cheaper but the exchange rate can be a killer (about 2 quid a gallon but the hopeless fuel economy of stuff soon makes that feel pricey)

    In contrast I was finding motels for $50 in small towns, $110 got you something decent in a bigger/more popular town. Wallmart had camping setups that would work for a family for decent value.

    Premier Icon beanum
    Subscriber

    Monterey is worth a stop for the aquarium alone…

    Vegas is cool in it’s own way but I’m not sure I’d want to drag two 5 year old girls past the lines of Mexicans giving out porn flyers..

    I agree with howsyourdad1 above, the small towns you see on the way can be great. We were heading back from Yosemite and tried to join the 101 in a small town called Gilroy which appears to the be the garlic capital of the US. We did three laps of that town trying to escape.. πŸ˜†

    Premier Icon mrl
    Subscriber

    Try renting a camper van and buying a tent when you get there. Small van will give you lots of benefits and you still get all rage upsides of camping. Go fine mono lake and camp near June lake. I did it in the snow in september, really fun.

    Premier Icon andygreener
    Subscriber

    Check out koa and super 8 motels

    konagirl
    Member

    What haven’t we thought about

    Time of year (some roads in the mountains close over winter, also very hot in the desert in summer, during holiday periods, summer and weekends campsites may be booked up).

    Length of time you can take – thinking about cost as well as holiday. I am also in the ‘travel less see more’ category. IMHO, better to travel 300 miles one day followed by 2-3 nights at a location, to actually experience it rather than just tick it off the list. To do all of the places you listed, I guess I would want at least 3-4 weeks.

    Campsites are generally $5-$20 in National Forests or National Parks. Some State Parks such as beaches around LA / Santa Barbara might be $30 a night. But dispersed (wild) camping with a tent is free and allowed in most National Forests. Motels/hotels in off season can be really cheap and may include a kitchenette but lodge within National Parks or motels on the boundaries of parks like Yosemite in summer will be $300-400 per night. Same with RV hire – it will cost you more during holidays and summer / peak periods. Last time I looked, it was 3-4 times the cost of a car rental.

    If you really want to travel long distances for the scenery, I would do Pheonix-Grand Canyon-Death Valley-Sequoia (Independence side)-Yosemite-San Fran.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Oh yeah.. national parks – these places are actually like parks – you pay to get in, and there are facilities like restaurants, expensive lodges, tour guides and such. Many do allow you to go off-piste, but that can be tricky sometimes. The on-piste is very much a managed (and often very busy) tourist attraction.

    Other state or federally owned land is more like what you’d expect as a European, probably. State parks near cities tend to be like a local beach, some in the sticks are for outdoor pursuiters.

    Premier Icon DaveRambo
    Subscriber

    We went to California a couple of years ago,a few days in San Fran then hired a rather large SUV and did a small road trip, ending up just outside Yosemite. We went into the park for 3 days then meandered back to SF.

    Highlights as others have said are the places you come across and we stayed in motels every night – there are loads around and we tended to start looking mid afternoon

    We enjoyed Monteray – as beanum says the Aquarium is rather good, drove up the big Sur, lunched in Carmel (weird place), stayed in San Jose (with an afternoon at the Winchester Mystery house)

    I’d happily go back and do more travelling around with no real timetable but a general idea – distances are very big and the kids will need some entertaining, so plenty of stops to look around places.

    trail_rat
    Member

    no need to travel so far- youll spend to long driving and not enough time seeing.

    we did northern california this summer. the travel agents all wanted to arrange trips going from LA to mt st helens so we would see loads……as we passed in the car.

    in the end we did san francisco – yosemite – mammoth -lake tahoe – lassen(volcano) national park – fort bragg – marin – san francisco over 3 weeks.

    it was just right imo.

    Unless its really a driving holiday you want.

    i would also reconsider the american dream of hiring an RV as even the car can be a pain in the arse in town/city….. and in places like yosemite – a mare to find parking for(i dont mean a sleeping pitch i mean just parking)

    eltonerino
    Member

    Thanks folks, you’ve given us a lot to think about.

    Oh and LA is a proper shithole. Like a hot Birmingham with far less class.

    That’s LA off the list πŸ™‚

    I think we might do 2 or 3 nights at a place and go to fewer places for less driving and more fun. We can always go back another year. It looks like hiring a car and staying in hotels/motels and maybe some camping is the way to go. (although, I haven’t been camping in over 20 years and haven’t been in a tent since 2000).

    I don’t know if this is still the case but you might want to look into it. An RV hire company (it may have been CruiseAmerica) spruce up their RVs every couple of years and they have a a couple of sites where they do this. You pick up the vehicle from where it is and take it to the workshop, one of which IIRC is in Arizona. You can take a month to do it but you have a date to get it there. The vehicle is a bit shabby, obviously, that’s why it’s going for some TLC, but still usable. You still pay but it is (or was) cheaper than full price hire. And once you have the restriction of A to B in a certain amount of time, you can start focusing on where you want to go within that corridor.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Re camping: we fly over with camping gear which includes a 4 person backpacker type tent and a separate tarp to sit under. A campsite in the US includes a park bench type thing so you probably don’t need chairs. All our gear fits in one big holdall more or less, and since our kids now need full adult tickets we have the baggage allowance to enable this.

    You can get quality camping gear for less in the US, most of ours was bought at REI in the US which is brilliant.

    Marmot Limelight 4p is our tent.

    lemonysam
    Member

    We’ll be driving from Las Vegas to Vancouver over the course of six weeks later in the year. I’m, massively looking forward to it. The thought of doing that with kids in tow sounds fairly awful though.

    Premier Icon AlasdairMc
    Subscriber

    I’ve not been to the West Coast but I spent about ten days touring around Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. Fuel costs are basically nothing, I could fill up for about $25 so I did a lot of driving.

    mikewsmith
    Member

    Fuel costs are basically nothing, I could fill up for about $25 so I did a lot of driving.

    Just checked because the price of fuel surprised me when I was over there, current California average is 2.85/US Gallon which is about 50p/l, cheaper but not that cheap (only 15p/l cheaper than here in Oz) the big problem was finding something that didn’t drink like George Best on a session.

    ebygomm
    Member

    We were paying just over $2 a gallon in Washington State earlier this year. Worked out about 36p a litre, a third of the UK price at the time.

    Premier Icon v8ninety
    Subscriber

    Car and motels FTW. There’s a free magazine you can get in all Denny’s eateries that is basically a token book for the local motels. They give you a good start on which towns are best to aim for next. I’ve done two west coast road trips; first in a car, second on a Harley. Both I didn’t book (or hard plan in) more than the first nights accommodation, just had a loose route that I mostly stuck to. There’s so much distance to cover around there that there’s ALWAYS cheap places to stay. Makes it a proper adventure too.

    TheBrick
    Member

    RE:55 mph. I’ve not been all over the state but worked in three, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. In all three all the insterstates and most mutli lane road outside of town the speed limit was 75 dropping around some junctions.

    trail_rat
    Member

    i hired a 2l petrol NON ecoboost focus from avis…..

    i got 52 UK converted MPG over 2000 miles – mostly because we were avoiding the main interstates and sticking to smaller roads on cruise.

    so economic cars do exist.

    mikewsmith
    Member

    so economic cars do exist.

    Yep, they were just in short supply on the rental lists when I was looking, where as the big engine lumps that measure in l/10km rather than l/100km were much easier to find.

    For the RV/motorhome prices and economy I was looking at Car and Nice hotels were cheaper

    Premier Icon nickdavies
    Subscriber

    Have family out there who say the way to do the states in a Rv is start somewhere where Rv holidays aren’t a big thing, buy one, then end somewhere where they are more in demand and break even on a sale.

    TooTall
    Member

    I’m a Brit and have been living in the US for the last 2.5 years. My daughter is nearly 6.

    A long road trip in the US with 2 such young kids sounds awful. We have American friends here who really have to work up to driving to see her folks who live 7 hrs drive away. The kids are 5 and 3 and they really don’t like doing the journey. Keeping kids at that age happy in a car seat (you’ll need them as well) for 6 hrs every couple of days is a big ask. After a day like that on the road you’ll not want to do much, so a day on the road followed by a night of a ‘family restaurant’ and a motel room is a bit of a waste about 4 times in a 2 week holiday.
    Have you flown with the kids? My worst flight ever was with ours when she was 2, and she’s a good kid. Put that on each end of a driving holiday and it sounds even less fun.
    Yes, it’s a grim assessment but it’s a realistic and honest view.

    jordie
    Member

    High MPG ….lol if no nippers are with you get a Corvette get the roof off and enjoy the sunshine and cheap fuel.

    thecaptain
    Member

    I’ve done a lot of road trips like this, but with much older relatives who like sitting in a car for much of the day! Even so, 300mpd is way too much, you really won’t get far from the car park like that. We always go car/motel though if you want to spend more time and less money, camping would be well worth doing for some nights at least. It’s frustrating for me that due to our passengers we don’t get enough time outdoors. Wife and I will do it by ourselves some time…

    We have always started and finished in Denver for our own reasons, there’s a lot within easy reach to the west, from grand canyon in the south to glacier in the north. We didn’t do both on the same trip! Yellowstone is my personal favourite, a truly amazing place and well worth a few days.

    Don’t try to do it all, there is too much.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Yes, it’s a grim assessment but it’s a realistic and honest view.

    Depends on the kid. Ours are fine on planes πŸ™‚

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