DC to San Diego and back

Old May 3rd, 2021, 06:11 AM
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DC to San Diego and back

Hi all! I am excited that I have a few weeks to take a trip of my dreams across the country and back. The only problem is, I have NO idea where to start. Basically I can take up to 2-3 weeks for the trip and I start in DC, and want to go to San Diego to see family (stopping there is not included in the timeline). I just want to see the most of the country that I can. Any help would be much appreciated!
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Old May 3rd, 2021, 07:31 AM
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Welcome to Fodors. With 2 or 3 weeks for the round trip you really don't have time to much sightseeing. Just the straight drive DC > SD and back by the fastest route sticking to I-40 takes about 85 or 90 hours car time with no detours, or stops. So with just gas/rest stops and food on the run that is close to two full weeks if you drive 7 hours every day. Three weeks is a little more doable but scenic detours and sights would add hundreds of miles to the trip so you are still in the 6 or 7 hours butt in seat territory.
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Old May 3rd, 2021, 11:25 AM
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This reminds me of a road trip I took with a friend in 1970 in her T-Bird, San Diego to NYC. The goal was to get there as quickly as possible so with 2 drivers we did the trip in 3 segments, slept first in Carlsbad, NM & then again in Paducah, KY. We did take the time to see Carlsbad Caverns but I think that was it. The reasoning for the route eludes me now but it was 1 drove while the other slept. My point, if you really want to see places along the way consider having another driver & plot your stops carefully & don't deviate. You could, in theory, see some interesting things that way, if you're up to it.
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Old May 4th, 2021, 06:31 AM
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I'd driven North Carolina to Los Angeles which is similar. Much of the route is a bore unless you detour. Carlsbad Caverns is worth a stop. After that you can find some stops in NM such as White Sands and in Arizona the Saguaro parks.

I think we did it in 10-12 hour days of driving but there were two of us. I remember one stop at Possum Kingdom State Park because the armadillos and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were reallly annoyiing when we were trying to sleep.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 07:35 AM
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We have done most of this trip a couple of times, although starting from LA versus San Diego but it is very similar. I agree that the more time you will have the better and if you don't have an additional driver then be careful not to drive too long-there are some long boring stretches than can be dangerous if you are over tired.

You might want to start by checking out roadtrippers route planner if you haven't already used it. It allows you to add in sties along the way as well as restaurants, lodging etc.


I generally start with "plain old" google maps to plot the fast route and then I add destination stops along the way to see how that impacts it. Basically from DC to San Diego the choices without enormous detours are the I-10, the I-40 or the I-70 dipping down to join the I-40 at Oklahoma City. You could take route out and another back. I would be tempted to skip the I-10 portion from Dallas to about Tucson as it is really long and mostly boring. You could cut up to the 40 to do that. Along the I-10 I think you might find Palm Springs worth a stop and if you take the I-40 it would be tempting to detour up north of Phoenix to see the Grand Canyon if you haven't been.
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Old May 21st, 2021, 07:14 AM
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I'm hoping that brianp123 comes back and responds to the advice already given. My best suggestion would be to take the Capitol Limited from DC to Chicago overnight and then the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Albuquerque NM and rent a car there for everything between ABQ and San Diego including the Grand Canyon. Even flying to Albuquerque or Phoenix. gains you at least 6 days over driving through a lot of "flyover country".
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