Help with US itinerary - road trip 3 wks
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Sep 20, 2013 4:38 PM Last Post By: ronsaik
Aug 4, 2012 5:35 PM
Help with US itinerary - road trip 3 wksHi
The wife and I are planning a road trip in the first 3 weeks of October. It'll be our first US trip, so are trying to pack as much as possible into 3 weeks. We are flying into and out of LAX - that much can't be changed. The plan is to start at LA, drive to Vegas, stopping by at the Meteor Crater on the way, thence to Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Aspen, Denver, Des Moines, Chicago, Detroit, Niagara Falls, NYC and Washington DC, before flying back to LA. The only reason why we are going through Iowa is to stop by at Clear Lake, the site of the Buddy Holly memorial.
As per my reckoning, this itinerary should allow for 2 days in NYC, 1 day in DC, 1 in Chicago, 1 evening in Las Vegas, and 1 day in the Grand Canyon. Also, we'll be able to see Fall Colors in Colorado. On other days, there'd be anywhere between 3 to 5 hours of driving, with the longest day being the drive out from Grand Canyon to Monument Valley.
I guess the key inputs that we'd love to have from members here would be: i) does it make sense at all to drive through the midwest, or should we just take a flight from Denver to Chicago? That'll mean missing Clear Lake, but if the rest of the drive is going to be extremely ordinary, then we can consider skipping it; ii) will there be snow in Colorado in October, at Aspen; iii) Does it make more sense to see SF for half a day and catch a flight to Las Vegas, instead of driving down from LA to Vegas?; iii) Detroit and DC are on the list because we have friends there, but would Detroit in particular be worth visiting otherwise?
Thanks in advance for the help
EDIT: This may sound pretty hectic, but there's no telling when we'll be visiting the US next, or if ever at all (already 33, and too little of the world seen....)
Edited by: ronsaik
Aug 4, 2012 5:43 PM
Aug 4, 2012 8:45 PM
2Some time spent with a detailed US map ... Will suggest the Meteor Crater stop should be after Las Vegas & South Rim, Grand Canyon NP...Continue on the I-40 to the 191 North to Canon De Chelly ..A far more scenic & rewarding area than Monument Vy... MV, is regarded, by some, as the Niagara of the West...over sold thus, over crowded and somewhat underwhelming ... For Colorado color... drive the US 50 over Monarch Pass then the 285 into Denver... And yes, the trip is too rushed... Fly, Denver- NYC. using bus or rail for inter city travel... carracar
Aug 4, 2012 8:45 PM
3I've done Denver to Chicago. The surprising part is that people think of all of Colorado as mountainous, but once you pass Denver, it basically turns into Nebraska, by which I mean it's flat, flat, flat. I remember enjoying Iowa City, and Lincoln (in Nebraska) looked potentially interesting from my car window, but there's really not much of note in those 1,000 miles. Now, if you want to get a handle on America, I don't think there's any part of the country that's not worth driving through. "Not much of note there" can be an experience in and of itself. That said, can you skip it? Absolutely, especially given how much you're trying to pack into three weeks. If flying means you spend an extra day or two in Chicago or DC, then yes, you should fly.
Whether or not Detroit is worth it depends on your disposition. Detroit, you may be aware, is kind of a national joke here and has been for decades now. It's a once-great, now-decaying big city, with lots of grand buildings that are literally falling apart. Go search for photos of Michigan Central Station, the most beautiful abandoned building I've ever seen. (I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that it also has a few cleaned-up, safe areas, but the ratio of bad to good is higher than any other U.S. city of its size, and the bad is generally more dramatically bad.) Now, here's the thing: A surprising number of people like this about Detroit. They think it makes it authentic and fascinating, even beautiful in a strange way. If that sounds like you, then by all means, go. If not, stay far away.
Aug 4, 2012 8:52 PM
4This may sound pretty hectic, but there's no telling when we'll be visiting the US next, or if ever at all (already 33, and too little of the world seen....)
I was over 40 before I first went to the US, and have now been a number of times and planning another trip as we speak ... you have plenty of years left to do more travel.
Meanwhile, sometimes less is a lot more ... It is about 3,400km from LA > SF > Yosemite NP > Las Vegas > Monument Valley > Aspen > Denver Colorado ... that is just doable in two weeks (with no more than two nights in each of the major cities), but you won't be dawdling anywhere. Then fly to Washington DC for three nights and bus or train to NYC for about five nights, then fly LA and home.
Save Des Moines > Chicago > Detroit > Niagara Falls > maybe Toronto ... all for another trip.
I don't think Aspen will have significant snow in October (certainly not the town - maybe the top station might), but the Rockies are beautiful any time. And while I have never been to Detroit ... other than the Ford automotive museums and the city's music heritage, it might be slim pickings.
Aug 5, 2012 3:33 AM
5Just to highlight how rushed even my cut-down trip would be, perhaps consider this (and this is where you could spend each night):
Night 01 -- Los Angeles
Night 02 -- Los Angeles
Night 03 -- Cambria (Highway 1)
Night 04 -- San Francisco
Night 05 -- San Francisco
Night 06 -- Yosemite NP
Night 07 -- Lone Pine (Hwy 395)
Night 08 -- Death Valley - Las Vegas
Night 09 -- Gand Canyon NP Village
Night 10 -- Monument Valley (Blanding?)
Night 11 -- Montrose CO
Night 12 -- Aspen CO
Night 13 -- Denver CO
Night 14 -- Washington DC (fly)
Night 15 -- Washington DC
Night 16 -- Washington DC
Night 17 -- New York City (bus/train)
Night 18 -- New York City
Night 19 -- New York City
Night 20 -- New York City
Night 21 -- Fly LA - Home
Even something as innocuous-sounding as Grand Canyon Village to Blanding Utah is 407km - that's a long day's driving. Good luck with the cutting-down process!
Aug 5, 2012 4:05 AM
6Dear all - thanks a whole lot - I am amazed by how much trouble you have taken to help me out here.
Kahua - agree that it looks a little nutty at the moment. hopefully something decent will emerge based on the suggestions here.
Carracar - thanks for the tip on MV. I have bought a large road map of the US, in fact....i guess i didn't remember the location of the meteor crater on it :-).
Boulevar - That was one of my concerns, in fact: there is something so quintessentially american about the small towns of the midwest (at least, that's what comic books and movies have been telling us), that perhaps a drive through nebraksa or iowa might not be so bad for a tourist. but 3 weeks is too short, i suppose.
Ianw - thanks for the encouragement, tips and suggested route. I am coming around to the view that perhaps leaving SF out would make sense - it would give us more time in Colorado or NY, maybe with an extra day in Grand Canyon for some hiking.
I am leaving out Detroit - looks a bit crazy now.
Aug 5, 2012 4:12 AM
7Leaving out the drive from LA to SF, plus SF, plus Yosemite NP, plus Hwy 395, plus Death Valley - is a pretty big loss ... don't be too hasty with such a decision. Colorado is nice, but not nicer.
In terms of the Grand Canyon NP, arriving in the afternoon, seeing the sunset (superb), and then staying one night either in the village or in nearby Tusayan, getting up early and seeing the sunrise, plus doing a few quick visits to 2 key points along the Rim - is very very good - and then you head off to Meteor Crater plus Monument Valley. You don't need to spend extra time to do more hikes on such a tight schedule, in my opinion.
And four nights in NYC is plenty to see the highlights - more nights add good stuff, but not at the same rate as the first three days do.
Aug 5, 2012 9:11 AM
You are driving from xLisbon to xMoscow, with day stops in xMadrid, xParis, and xBerlin.
But you don't really have the time anyway.
I like ian's schedule, though I'd go so far as to suggest dropping xColorado (and xMonument Valley).
Instead, tack on xZion and/or xBryce (wonderful in October), and maybe a day trip from xNYC up the xHudson River Valley for fall foliage (Cold Spring is a good area).
Aug 5, 2012 4:32 PM
Oct 5, 2012 7:24 PM
10An update from my side: we dropped the idea of a coast to coast trip. Instead, we're doing 2 weeks on the west coast and 1 in dc and surrounds. We are in fact in the middle of our trip, and have driven across LA, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley (for us at least, the highlight of our trip so far), and to LV through Zion (which makes me think that next time we'll budget two weeks for Utah alone).
We're catching a flight to DC tonight, and intend to spend a week in the region. We will fly back to SF next Saturday. In that week, we're thinking of driving around Chesapeake Bay. Would it be reasonable to expect to see quaint little fishing villages aka Europe?
Oct 5, 2012 7:30 PM
Sep 20, 2013 4:37 PM
12It's been a year, but I thought I'd update this thread with our experience of the trip last year.
Thanks for all the suggestions.
We flew into LA, stayed for 2 days, did Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and 3D/2N nights in Vegas with a side trip to the Hoover dam (was told later that it's a very 'touristy' thing, but we loved it). Flew to DC to meet up with family and friends, drove a Mustang open top (yay!) down the Skyline Drive, got bored with NC, drove up to NYC via Gettysburg, stayed for a couple of days in NYC, drove back to DC via Princeton (loved the Einstein museum), flew to SF, stayed a couple of days, then drove up north to Muir Woods and down south to LA for the return flight via Santa Cruz (bowled over by it) and Santa Barbara (met a fantastic retired couple there).
That was a fair bit of driving, but since it was our first US trip, it also allowed us to see a large chunk of the country. Our most abiding impressions of the trip were certainly Monument Valley, whatever bit of the Zion national park we drove through, and NYC, and all these were spur-of-the-moment decisions. On our next trip, we'd probably stay longer in hauntingly beautiful Utah.
Edited by: ronsaik
San FranciscoBook now
(0 star Hotel)
From US$19.40 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$275.00 per night
San FranciscoBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$248.99 per night