Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

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Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby bethrc » Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:22 pm

Hello,
I was hoping to do a roadtrip across the US next Spring for up to 4 months with a few of my friends. Well that plan fell through but i've already pre-booked a flight on my RWT (landing LAX, departing Newark for UK)
Unperturbed i'm still wanting to do the road trip. I'll be 19 and a girl travelling solo so i keep getting told by friends and family that if i go on my own i'm sure to be...a mixture of violent crimes to be inserted here...
Any advice on whether this plan is feasible and safe?

All suggestions welcome. Thank you, Beth.
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby JaliscoJudy » Thu Sep 02, 2010 4:42 pm

I could give a better answer if I knew what kinds of things you are interested in doing, what kind of transportation you will be using, and what kind of accommodations you are looking for. Are there any places or activities in particular that are must sees/dos? Mountains? Whitewater rafting? Deserts? Camping? Coast? Surfing? Big cities? Museums? Concerts?

Renting a car can be expensive if you don´t have insurance that would cover you in the US -- $100 for full insurance. The US is a great place to drive though and it gives you ultimate flexibility.

If camping interests you, that´s a great way to see the Western United States. There are lots of national and state parks with great campgrounds. I´d be careful about pulling off in remote rest stops and campgrounds with no other people around.

In general, the US is like anywhere else -- there are places and activities to avoid as a woman traveling alone.

More info please!

(BTW, I´m moving your post to the North America Forum.)
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby Zuleika » Thu Sep 02, 2010 7:02 pm

Hi Beth - I've sent you a private message.
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby bethrc » Thu Sep 02, 2010 8:45 pm

Hey JaliscoJudy- information you shall receive :
I'll be adopting my expat cousins old car: so I'll be driving this road-trip from just outside LA. I'll be sleeping in A) the car or B) low budget motels/ hostels occasionally and C) camping when visiting parks that deserve more than a days trekking in and out.
I'm hoping to see big cities, art galleries and museums and definitely mountain and parks when possible- art student by nature. I originally planned to do a knd of 'N' shape across the country but the middle pArt is a bit of a grey area that I know little about- where do you think the '\' bit should hit ?
Thanks so much, Beth.
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby graybeard » Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:27 pm

Could be a good trip. Not sure the sleeping in car is a very good plan. The more time you spend in the cities the more expensive it will be and you definitely will not want to do any car-sleeping then.
Modestly priced motels mostly cost $50 a night and up, which clearly adds up for a solo traveler. Don't even consider the supercheap, dive motels in the major cities. Just not safe areas, esp. for someone who doesn't know the territory.

The US is a very, very large country with lots of open space "in the middle". If you want art, there is not of that there. At least not the manmade kind.

Sounds like you need to do a lot of research and planning to make this happen. The more specific your questions, the better the answers you will get from other forum members.

And I see that Zuleika sent you a PM. She has a wealth of knowledge.

Finally, no you are not crazy. You most certainly can do this safely, but could be pricey. Remember, even camping in parks is not free. But, sure, give it a shot. YOLO!!!! :lol:
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby ExplorerWannaBe » Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:38 pm

Given what you just described, I'd go north from LA up the Pacific Coast Highway through Portland to Seattle. Along the way you can see the central California coastline, sealions, Hearst mansion, Napa valley, etc. Lots of cute farmers markets and arts and crafts in Santa Barbara (as well as small towns along the way). From Seattle, you can head eastward through Montana to the Dakotas and hit the Badlands and Mount Rushmore then cut back west to pass through Cody and Cheyenne Wyoming.

Follow the Front Range south through Colorado and you'll pass through Fort Collins, Denver (or Boulder/Golden) on downward through Colorado Springs (Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs artistic community, Air Force Academy). Continue south on I-25 and you can visit the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe and Albuquerque before you cut south or eastward toward Texas. If you go south on I-25 and then east on I-10, you'll pass through El Paso and then on to San Antonio (The Alamo, Riverwalk, etc.) but pass through a lot of flat brown boring country to get there. If you go east on I-40, you pass through the panhandle of Texas to Oklahoma City.

Personally, I'd take San Antonio then head to Houston and continue on along the Louisiana coastline until you can take I-55 north to Memphis. From there, you can continue north to St. Louis and see the Arch as well as the city that launched much of the exploration of the American West (watch the mini-series "Centennial" or read Michener's book before you go if you can).

From St. Louis, you can continue north to Chicago then up to Milwaukee and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Cross east from the UP to the Lower Peninsula and take in Mackinaw Island along the way. Stop in Petoskey for some pasties and to look at the Petoskey stones along the shoreline then continue south to Detroit.

Now from Detroit you can cut south and west to Indianapolis then southward through Nashville and southeast to Atlanta. From Atlanta, head south to Tampa then either south to Miami and the Keys or east to the Space Coast (Melbourne/Cocoa Beach). Either way you then go northward -- stop off at St. Augustine, the oldest inhabited city in the US and reputed home of the Fountain of Youth. This will let you take I-95 north through the Carolinas or US-1 if you prefer a slower more scenic pace.

Stop off at Williamsburg and see what Colonial America was like then you're into Washington, DC and Baltimore. Have some Chesapeake Bay blue crab while you're there -- Phillip's restaurant in DC or Baltimore's Inner Harbor is a great place to eat although perhaps outside your budget. On a budget, you can go to DC's waterfront and pick up shrimp, crab and clams from a fishmonger and have them boiled while you wait.

Continue north to Philadelphia and see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and get a good authentic cheesesteak at Pat's or Jim's or Abner's. Head north and pass by New Jersey and New York to get to Boston then continue north to finish up at Bar Harbor or Kennebunkport, Maine.

That's a pretty full itinerary, might be rushed to do that in 3 weeks so ways you could shorten it might be to

- bypass Florida altogether and save that for another vacation time when you can fly directly into Orlando or Miami
- bypass New Mexico and Texas by driving east from Denver (or Colorado Springs) to St. Louis
- forget Colorado through Texas and go directly from South Dakota to Minneapolis and then pick up the itinerary in Milwaukee
- ignore Indianapolis and go from Detroit to Toronto then cut over to Niagara and explore the Northeast before heading south down through Philadelphia and DC.
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby onyx007 » Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:14 am

Or follow this road:
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I did it with a guided tour within four weeks and it was great. If I had the choice to do so, I would go from LA to San Francisco and then Yosemite N.P., from there through Death Valley to Las Vegas. There you can go to Grand Canyon and Brice Canyon and from there just follow the road on the map.

Finally on the end of the trip instead going directly to New York go to see Philadelphia and Washington D.C. is just great. Especially the lots of free museums.
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby thecakeisalie » Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:53 am

Something else to consider is the weather, which may have a great effect on your itinerary. You mentioned spring, which is notoriously unpredictable in much of the northern states, so specific dates of travel may help. For example, early spring in the midwest is typically cold, wet, potentially icy, and pretty drab looking. Late spring in the same area sees warmer temps and a lot more color, flowers in bloom, people outside enjoying the entrance to summer, etc. Also, spring in the mountains can mean lots and lots of snow. If you've never driven in snow, the mountains are not a good place to start! Because of this, a more southernly route might be a better option.
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby bethrc » Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:11 pm

Thanks so much to everyone for the very helpful information and ideas! Made me realise that i can't just stagger into the country and hope for the best. The ideas for routes are great thank you ExplorerWannaBe and Onyx007- making them my itinerary (haa if only i was that well planned) right now.

Not sure the sleeping in car is a very good plan. The more time you spend in the cities the more expensive it will be and you definitely will not want to do any car-sleeping then.
Modestly priced motels mostly cost $50 a night and up, which clearly adds up for a solo traveler. Don't even consider the supercheap, dive motels in the major cities.


- When visiting cities should i be prepared to spend a lot more on accommodation then or is there no cheaper/safe alternative? I'm just a fool, didn't think about the fact you have to pay for camping lol!
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby graybeard » Sat Sep 04, 2010 11:39 pm

The larger the city, the more expensive. To give you a feel, just try a hotel search on Kayak.com (or any other of these type) for a specific date and city. Of course, some of the small, independent hotels/motels are not on the net. But it will still give info. Some places, though not as many as in Europe, do have hostels which would be a good, less expensive option. One could join one or more of the international hostel groups and do a search. 30 or 40 miles out of some large cities, one can find commercial (and ugly since they cater more to RV's) campgroups, like KOA. The scenic places to camp are in the backcountry. There's a lot of that, but doesn't sound like your primary interest. With good stealth skills, one can find some free-camping spots. No facilities of any kind, just a piece a land to put up your tent. And, having some awareness about the local critters is always a good idea. For instance, shaking out your shoes in the morning to check for scorpions if you are camping in the desert. (See: Bear Grylls! :lol: )

If you were a touring cyclist there is a website called warmshowers.org.

Still, despite all of the above, I would still encourage you to go for it.
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby ExplorerWannaBe » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:37 am

I would advise against trying to stay in cities anyway. I was assuming you'd park at something like a KOA campground, pitch a tent, grab a shower and then be on your way the next morning. That's not free but it's a lot cheaper than going to a Super 8 or equivalent. Closer in to the cities, sleeping in the car could be safer than being in a tent but bear in mind they can see into the car. The KOA campgrounds are generally not very scenic but they tend to be safe and I generally get my scenery while I'm touring cross-country and the only thing I do at the campground/motel is sleep!

Colorado in particular has nice state campgrounds and you can reserve a site online. Site fees at CO state campgrounds are usually between $8-15 per night. If the campground you want is full, you can often hike into the nearby National Forest and pitch your tent as long as you're at least 50 ft from the trail.
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby JaliscoJudy » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:29 pm

The weather is a big consideration. Which months will you be traveling? If you're starting, say, in April then I'd stick with a southern route across So. Cal, Southern Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. These are amazingly beautiful places anyway and, although I love the Pacific Northwest, we used to go to Southern Utah in the Spring to get warm (from Idaho). In Arizona, most tourists just go to the Grand Canyon (north rim is COLD in the spring as is Bryce Canyon in the spring -- both are over 7,000 feet; Zion Canyon is much lower and warmer). There are lots of other options.

River rafting is intense in the Spring but there are some amazing runs. The Colorado River books up way in advance but check on the Green River in Utah or the Salmon or Snake Rivers in Idaho if this interests you. I did Hell's Canyon in Idaho in May and it was quite a wild ride!

If you go the Northern Route, don't shortchange Idaho. Personally I'd go LA to Seattle to Spokane, then across the mountains to Missoula. Montana, or south to Utah and cross over to Colorado. If you plan to take back roads, make sure that they are open and not still closed by snow. The road to Estes Park in Colorado wouldn't be open in April for instance.

There are lots of hidden gems in every state that are not nearly as expensive or crowded as the internationally known sites. Check the tourism site for each state you plan to visit to find places to go/stay and events you might want to go to. If it were me, I would be looking for music/art festivals along the way. Here is the site for Idaho: http://www.visitidaho.org/ Here you can find out about the National Old Time Fiddler's Contest and Festival in Weiser, Idaho in June. Telluride, Colorado has a famous Bluegrass music festival in June too. Beautiful ski resort setting!

I'm with everyone else on this: Do it!
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Re: Roadtrip across USA alone- Expensive? Safe? or just crazy?

Postby lorne » Tue May 31, 2011 7:31 pm

You should also look into Youth Hostels. If your only 21 they would be perfect for you.

As far as safety, I would put in the same as in the main part of Europe. Pretty much no difference.
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