Driving: San Francisco to New York
Replies: 31 - Last Post: Jun 25, 2013 3:10 PM Last Post By: willysnoutredux
Jun 13, 2013 8:38 PM
Driving: San Francisco to New YorkHi everyone!
My husband and I are considering driving from San Francisco to New York around the beginning of September (time of year not negotiable).
I was wondering if people might be able to help us out with some basic guidance and information - such as:
- What is the best (i.e. most economical but also easiest to 'get around') way to do it; rent a (small) RV and stay in RV parks, or use a car and stay in budget/moderate accommodation;
- Around how long should we set aside (realistically) to do this drive? We want to enjoy ourselves, but don't need to drag it out. We are happy to move through places and see a lot in a little amount of time; we aren't lingerers;
- What would be a good suggested route? We'd like to experience some 'real America', perhaps see some landmarks, love scenery and I am a big photography buff.
We don't have an indication on how much this is likely to cost, so if anyone has any advice on what to expect that would be great. As for what we are consider our budget to be, we don't have a dollar figure (annoying, I know) but as indicated, we would be looking low to moderate accommodation options if we went down that route (more than a scungy dorm room hostel, but less than the Hilton)
- We are over 25;
- At this stage we are thinking about driving one way (SF to NYC) and flying back, but nothing set in stone. We are aware we will likely have to pay an extra fee for one-way, and that this will limit our rental options;
- We are not from America (from New Zealand) but are living in SF for a few months;
- We want the ability to do it in our own time, sightsee, and stop off it we want to see something.
If you have any questions that might better help on giving us some info or advice, please feel free to ask!
Thanks very much in advance.
Jun 13, 2013 9:17 PM
1From a purely scenic point of view, I'd suggest something like: SF to Yosemite, Bishop (395 corridor), S. Utah parks, up to Yellowstone/Teton in time for gorgeous Fall Colors, then across S. Dakota to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota for more pretty forests before the final push to NY, possibly via the Appalachian Mountains in the Virginias. Or drop south from Yellowstone to visit Colorado before launching across the Great Plains. Once you reach the central section of the country, I'd suggest you spend at least a day or two off the interstates. The small towns that dot the prairie often have a certain charm and rural beauty that cannot be experienced blasting along at 70MPH.
Suggest you visit google maps and/or install google earth. Look about for various parks, forests, etc. and come up with a route you can both enjoy.
IMO, your stated goal of photography doesn't entirely mesh with "don't like to linger." If you want anything better than the standard tourist pot-shot, you'll need to invest a day or two in a given location. Get out of the car and hike around. Plan a few shots. Wait for the pretty light. Etc. Trying to 'do' Yosemite or Yellowstone in a day, as many often do, is pure folly.
Three weeks sounds like a decent minimum. It's nearly 4000 miles / 6500 Km. Think long and hard about just how many hours per day you want to spend sitting in the car! (Day after day after day after .... ARGH!!!!)
Cheapest would no doubt be a small rental car + a combination of camping (often free or very cheap) and a motel every 2nd or 3rd night. There are several recent camping threads to look at. RVs sound nice until you calculate the cost of rental and gas. Unless you have a large group to accommodate, they seldom make much sense. Decent motels start at around $35-55, depending on the city.
Jun 14, 2013 1:22 AM
2My dad used to travel coast-to-coast and back every second summer, plenty of stops and site seeing along the way.
He insisted two and a half weeks each way was the norm, but you could do it more quickly or more slowly depending on your travel style. IIRC if you see almost nothing travelling coast-to-coast works out to 3-4 really long driving days.
He was an experienced tent camper, and felt RV’s etc. were not worth the cost. If you have no experience tent camping you might feel differently. Learning to tent camp comfortably involves a learning curve (how are you going to wash your dishes? etc.)
As far as routes go basically (and somewhat oversimplified) there is a
- northern route, allowing Yellowstone and Chicago, and a
- southern route, allow the desert, the canyon lands and New Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis etc..
Because he was an experienced camper who cooked his own food, the additional expense was not much of a factor for him.
I hope this helps.
Jun 14, 2013 5:28 AM
3All of America is "real." Even places that mimic other places (NY NY in Las Vegas, etc.).
Decent rule of thumb:
Five days is the bare minimum to cross the country in a reasonable manner. This is driving eight hours per day. For every stop you'd like to make, add a day or two. Some stops will better with more than that, and a few will be fine with an hour or so.
It'll take about three weeks. The more you want to stop, the more time you need.
I tried to focus more on things you may not see in NZ, so a lot of desert time.
Jun 14, 2013 6:34 AM
4I would not even do this, unless you are more specific as to what you really want to accomplish, and how much time you really have. Sept is a great time tour about many regions of the country, from the New England areas, which could be a week easy, to the Appalachians/Carolinas which can be another week, and there is the huge and expansive western US, which has so many national parks, just Yellowstone alone would require 4 nights minimum IMO. Grand Canyon? Zion? Yosimite? Wine country in Cali?
Then there Chicago, 2-3 nights, and what about the Rockies? And all that is a huge amount of driving too.
The drive from NY to Chicago is not that great unless you take a route via Gettysburg PA for Civil War history, or the northern route via the Alleghenies and the many state and national parks and forest via Rt 6 from the Poconos.
Cleveland has great downtown area for a day/night, and the Rock n Roll Museum, a must of American music acts and icons. Its then 5 hours to Chicago, a city of endless cultural and wining/dining like NY to a degree. From Chicago west is el boro driving thru corn fields for 2 days to you get to Colorado or Western Wyoming/Montana. Then the fun starts. But, be prepared for snow in late Sept in higher elevations and mountains, and cold nights.
California alone is a 2 weeks from LA to north of SF. San Fran is 4 days easy, plus wine country, Monterey and Yosimite...
So, how much time and money you really have?
Other areas you should consider, is Wash DC, many great Smithsonian Museums (free) and also Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Charlestons gorgeous, huge plantations and southern low country cuisine and culture. add to this Asheville, Bluegrass country, Blue Ridge Parkway, the Smokeys, and then horse country, and the Bourbon trail in Kentucky....did I mention St Louis, what about Nashville and Memphis? Oh, you cant miss New Orleans...
So, you dont want to drag it out huh? Then fly.
Jun 14, 2013 7:00 AM
5#3 and #4 are both correct. When my dad used to do it he'd spend
a half day driving and a half day setting up camp, light shopping and stomping around
a full day site seeing and return to an already set-up and fully-supplied camp
Repeat across 16-19 days (2.5 weeks for a total of 8-9 major sites with two nights and a full day at each site.)
What can I say? He liked it.
Jun 14, 2013 10:42 AM
Jun 14, 2013 12:46 PM
7I would suggest you consider what you wish to achieve with a cross-country trip. We've done three long road-trips in the US (and are currently on our fourth), but have never undertaken one right across.
My view is that you do much better by doing two regional itineraries - the first from San Francisco to Denver Colorado, and this can be as brief or as comprehensive as you wish, with the largest route including both the Grand Canyon NP and Yellowstone NP. Then fly from Denver to say Boston MA, and take a second trip from there to Washington DC, perhaps Virginia (very scenic), and ending in NYC, where a car is not needed. These two itineraries will return the best value for your time and dollar, in my opinion.
We always travel with a small-medium rental car (Ford Focus or Ford Fusion, for example) and stay in budget-level motels - US road-trip lodging is both inexpensive ($60-$80 per night outside major cities), and of a high standard. Lodges in parks and hostels where available are worth checking as well. A rental car is far better in cities and towns, where you will spend significant time. And a car allows you to search out cheaper accomm, plus carry food for self-catering, wine, and so on - all saving you money.
If you look at about $US175.00 - $200.00 per day for two for everything (car, fuel, lodging, food, extras), you will be pretty close to the mark. September-October is a great time to travel - the weather is still good, especially in the West, and schools and colleges have gone back, substantially decreasing crowds.
If you have six weeks that would be good (roughly four west, two east) - but it can be shorter and still worth doing. And as noted above - it is all the "real" America ... and it's endlessly fascinating and photo-rich.
Jun 14, 2013 1:43 PM
8Thanks so far everyone, looks as though it is unanimous that RVs are not the way to go, so thanks for that - will cut down my research time! Also sounds as though 2.5 - 3 weeks might be a good base.
A few things I should mention, we have seen the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and a fair bit of CA before (and will have definitely have exhausted SF and surrounds by the time we embark on this). We'd like to see Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Niagara Falls - things along those lines. Again, these are not 'must dos' by any means, just ideas we are toying with.
#1 - Thanks very much for all the info, re: "IMO, your stated goal of photography doesn't entirely mesh with "don't like to linger." - my love of photography doesn't always entirely mesh with my impatient husband haha. What I meant was more that we are not the kind of people who feel the need to entirely explore and exhaust a place. For example, we spent two full days and a night in Yosemite recently, and by the end (while we obviously barely scratched the surface of the place), we feel we had enough time there 'for us' and had seen enough of rock, tree, and waterfalls by the time we left. Obviously everyone is different.
#2 - Thanks very much for the info! I'm not sure whether camping will be on the cards for us (for various reasons, I won't bore you) so we are more likely to stay in budget motels.
#3 - What I meant by 'real' America is that we would prefer a more 'genuine/hapchance' kind of experience as opposed to following a standard tourist trail where we will encounter more international tourists than Americans. I like that rule of thumb, and thanks for the suggested route!
#4 - We are only starting to look into the idea now, hence the request for some general guidance. That's why we are yet to have 'specifics'. We have no intention of trying to see everything. As for time and money, as mentioned we are trying to get a gauge on the general, based on research and peoples advice/guidance, before we lock in how much time and money we should realistically spend (or want to spend). If, once we have looked into it more, it looks like it will cost too much or take too long, then we just won't do it. If we can make it work, we will.
Thanks everyone, keep the good info coming :-)
Jun 14, 2013 2:51 PM
Jun 14, 2013 2:54 PM
Jun 14, 2013 2:56 PM
1120 days is sufficient. Avoid the interstates completely. Get a good road atlas. Think about buying a modest camping set-up, that way you can avoid the crap motels that proliferate.
Hwy. 50 is a good route SF-Utah. Once you get to Utah there's plenty to see with many nat'l parks. Colorado also deserves some time.
At the beginning of September weather will not play a significant factor.
Jun 14, 2013 3:02 PM
12We'd like to see Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Niagara Falls ...
I'll be interested to see how these needs fit into a reasonable 20-day itinerary coast to coast, particularly avoiding the interstate highways. Also - how many real Americans they might meet along the way.
And truth be told - highway motels in the US are of a very good standard indeed, for the money they ask of you. And you meet real Americans over the waffle machine at breakfast indeed.
Jun 14, 2013 3:22 PM
13ianw6705 - Thanks for your input so far, but if you read after what I read there you will see that I also say " Again, these are not 'must dos' by any means, just ideas we are toying with". I appreciate your opinion and advice and will certainly weigh it in with everything else, but there is no need to pooh-pooh everything anyone else says if it conflicts with your opinion - people are just weighing in on the discussion with their own views, which are all valuable.
Jun 14, 2013 3:41 PM
14OK, the Northern Route is is!
IMO, the Oregon Cascades area is well worth the detour. Crater Lake, Mt. Hood, the volcano(s) of your choice, etc., are all wildly photogenic. Eastern Oregon is a bit bland, but before long you'll be on highway 21 / 75 crossing the gorgeous mountains of Central Idaho.
On to Teton, YS, Beartooth Highway, Devil's Tower, Bear Butte Wildlife Preserve (lovely, IMO), Rushmore, Badlands, etc.
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