USA road trip in March
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Jan 27, 2012 8:03 AM Last Post By: geo_nerd
Jan 24, 2012 3:45 PM
USA road trip in MarchHello,
My sister and I, both university students, are planning a road trip for 8days in March. Neither of us have ever gone on a road trip before, so we are not too sure on the best way to plan the trip time wise. We would like to camp for a portion, if not all, of it. We will be starting from Chicago. We would really like to go to the Grand Canyon, but we are concerned this would be too far in such a short amount of time. Does anyone know if this is doable, as well as what some attractions/campsites along the way would be? Our other idea was to go to New Orleans with stops in Nashville and Memphis. Does this sound more feasible? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Jan 24, 2012 4:29 PM
1Eight days is not a very long time.
Consider that you really have less than that as you have to account for the ride back home as well.
Yes, IMHO the Grand Canyon is a bit too far. You can do Nashville, Memphis, NOLA, but that's a lot of driving and not much exploring. Another idea might be a full day drive to Panama City in the Florida panhandle then four days working your way west along the Gulf coast to NOLA, two days there and another full days drive home.
Jan 24, 2012 4:35 PM
Apart from flying to Phoenix and renting a car, probably the easiest way to get to the Grand Canyon is to jump on a train. Amtrak's Southwest Chief leaves Chicago at 3pm and arrives in Flagstaff around 8pm the next day. ( http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/BlobServer?blobcol=urldata&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobkey=id&blobwhere=1249234018548&blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobheadername1=Content-disposition&blobheadervalue1=attachment;filename=Amtrak_P03-revised.pdf )
You could also get off at Williams and take http://www.thetrain.com/ to GC. (This is quite a bit more expensive.)
With either option, you'll chew up the better part of 2 days coming and going. (Driving non-stop from Chicago wouldn't be much faster, and you'd arrive exhausted.) On the up side, the train is a relaxing, fun way to travel. People tend to be friendly and sociable.
The Flagstaff train depot is downtown and there are plenty of motels in the area. Spend the night there, then take a shuttle to the park the next day. http://www.arizonashuttle.com/flagstaff-grandcanyon
Camping is certainly possible, but it will be cold - the average low in March is 25 degrees! Fortunately, the train allows lots of baggage space for blankets, etc. There are hot showers, laundry, etc. at the campsite, so the experience is not totally barbaric. Daytime highs average around 50, but spring weather may bring everything from 60 and sunny to blowing snow.
On the up side, you'll have the park much to yourselves. Barring a blizzard, the weather will be warm enough for you to enjoy a number of daytime hikes.
Sound fun? :)
Jan 24, 2012 5:12 PM
3Chicago to Memphis is 9 hours of driving, not including breaks, etc. That's two days just to get there and back. It's another 6 hours each way to New Orleans.
March weather in any of these places will be unpredictable.
Alternatives would depend on your interests, which you don't state. (museums, galleries, parks, food, music, etc.)
Jan 25, 2012 3:19 AM
Jan 25, 2012 4:31 AM
5Is one of you over 21, so renting hotel rooms will be less hassle?
At this time of year in Northern USA, for safety in most weather conditions and for covering major distances, plan on freeway driving. You can enjoy the backroads around your destination.
Maybe explore Kentucky State Park resorts Great hiking and reasonable prices for lodge rooms or camping. If weather permits, you could explore a gem in Southern IL - Shawnee National Forest and associated state park areas like Giant City State Park
Not at all warmer than Chicago, consider driving across Wisconsin and coming here to Minneapolis - Mall of America for people-watching & shopping, vibrant theater scene & local music clubs.
Jan 25, 2012 8:06 AM
6Best to stick to the Chicago>Memphis>Nashville>New Orleans plan. Think of it this way.
Chicago>Memphis - 1 day
Memphis - 2 days
Memphis>Nashville - 3 hours
Nashville - 2 days
Nashville> New Orleans> 5- 6 hours
New Orleans - 3 days
Your time is gone, and you need to still get back to Chicago. Or, you could do a one-way rental and fly back to Chicago.
Jan 25, 2012 8:36 AM
7I think #2's train idea was a really good one if you were still interested in seeing the Grand Canyon. The train is super-convenient, and after that you can get around entirely by public transport (shuttle bus to the canyon, park shuttle inside the park). There's a well-regarded hostel easy walking distance from the train station in Flagstaff, as well as a few other places to stay. The hostel also runs low-cost tours to the Canyon and Sedona, they'll even drop you off at the canyon if that's what you want. You could rent a car for a day or two to see some other nearby attractions, even to go skiing if you wanted to (assuming you're over 21 for car rental). I don't see this option as being much more travel-intensive than the Memphis-NOLA option, it's more about what you're most interested in.
As for camping...March might be nice, might be terrible. Unless you are a winter camper, I don't know if I'd plan on it for certain.
Jan 26, 2012 9:06 AM
8It sounds to me like you are willing to consider nature and hiking as well as the city.
It's not the grand canyon, but I would consider the Buffalo River in the Ozarks. It is a national wild and scenic river, and there is a ton of great hiking to be done. Hawksbill Crag, Hemmed in Hollow, the Buffalo River Trail, Indian Rockhouse, and the Rush Historic District are a few of the highlights.
Jan 26, 2012 1:21 PM
Jan 26, 2012 6:24 PM
Jan 27, 2012 8:03 AM
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