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Planning a road trip how many hours a day should one drive?

Planning a road trip how many hours a day should one drive?

Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 06:05 PM
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Planning a road trip how many hours a day should one drive?

So I'm planning a road trip for this up coming summer. This will be my first road trip as an adult and I'm not sure how many hours I should plan on driving each day. The trip will start in Seattle Wa, then to Yellowstone WY, then to Oklahoma City, then finally up to Mount Rushmore SD then back home to Seattle. Each destination on the way there is about 12-13 hours. I was hoping to prebook hotels so I don't have to stress about it the day of. The most I've driven at one time was 4.5 hours. Some feedback about my trip would greatly be appreciated.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 06:40 PM
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There isn't a correct answer to how many hours. It is as many hours as you want. And there things like accidents, road construction, detours, etc. that can have a big impact on your time and distance. Second, you may want to do some sightseeing along the way and that isIf you need a time - try 8 hours. Second I would not make reservations in advance.

We use hoteltonight.com when we are traveling. Around 3 pm in the afternoon we will stop for a break - ice cream, coffee, and estimate where will be in two or three hours. Hit the app and see what is available two to three hours down the road. If we like we can make a reservation. Generally by that time of time, the prices are going down and we can get good discount rates. If we cannot find anything we like, push it to four hours.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 06:48 PM
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I totally agree with playing it by ear. I booked us all the way across country from the mid-west but didn't account for relaxing meals, pit stops, etc; and we were getting to our hotel each night at 9 PM! On the way home, we just played it by ear. This was in 1990, before the internet and I planned it all by motel/hotel books and paper maps!! No cell phones or apps! Three week vacation and we only got lost once. Give yourself some time.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 07:13 PM
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I'm not sure I'd play Yellowstone by ear. If it's a weekend, I think you've got a good chance of having no lodging or having to fork out big bucks for a room. I am assuming you have a low budget.

I did a lot of driving as a young adult. I've found that safety wise I can spend 6 hours behind the wheel if solo, 8-10 if I have a companion. How did you feel about that 4.5 hours? Like you could keep going or like you wanted to crawl out of your skin? Was it freeway or two lane highway? Because that 6 hour limit of mine is interstate only- if we're talking twisty mountain roads, it drops to more like 3-4.

What I would do is look at your route and know where you can break up each long day of driving with hiking or swimming or something.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 07:14 PM
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How long you drive each day depends on the distances you want to travel, whether you feel it is more important for you to get to your intended destination or if you want to make stops along the way and many other factors that vary from individual to individual.

The "best" road trip we ever took was a 6 weeks driving tour through New Zealand. We planned our trip so that we never had more than 5 hours drive time between stopping points (most times it was 4 hours) and we stayed 3 or 4 nights at each stopping point. This allowed us to have leisurely travel between points with the option to make intermediate stops to see sights along the way, stop in small towns for a nice relaxing lunch and to arrive at our destination with enough daylight to settle into our accommodation and familiarize ourself with the "new" area before having a nice dinner. We were able to explore the country at our own pace and fully enjoy a lot of what the country had to offer.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 07:56 PM
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How many days total do you have for the trip? That would be part of how many hours to drive per day.

When we were younger we often did 10 to 14 hour drives to get to places then spend a few days where we were visiting. Now we don't have quite as much stamina and start looking for lodging by 5 pm. If you will be near major highways, you usually can find lodging on the fly, but in the more rural or NP areas you have fewer options.

I would want to have lodging in/near Yellowstone for my time there and would decide on which end of the trip visit there based on the availability of lodging, could be first or last since you will be doing a sort of loop. Yellowstone is huge but if this is to be basically aa quick drive through, then 2 or 3 nights would be ok and it would be fine to stay in different areas each night.

Get a cooler and fill it with snacks, water, soda etc. If you are in some of the less populated areas, fill your gas tank when it starts to get less than half and there is a station.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 09:01 PM
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First, decide what route you want to take from Seattle to Yellowstone, and then for the rest of your trip. Look at the distance which includes crossing mountains (generally more time consuming), and where accommodations, gas stations, places to eat and rest room or rest areas are located en route.

If you are not comfortable driving more than 4.5 hours in a day, that is fine. just break up the trip, find accommodations, and take your time. I would definitely plan out the trip to Yellowstone so that you have accommodations in or near the park.

There is nothing wrong with booking your accommodations in advance if it makes you feel comfortable. this is your trip, and it is one less thing to stress about. just make sure that the distances between stopping places are not overly long for you. you want to enjoy yourself, not feel as if you are driving exhausted. take a look at places along the routes and see which appeal to you and what you would like to see and do.

if you google Seattle to Yellowstone you will find suggestions for routes and what to expect along the way.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2016, 03:34 AM
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For me, playing it by ear does not work. I like the security and goal of knowing where I will be sleeping that night and how far I have to go. I have discovered that if something happens along the way - major traffic jam, for example, I have avoided cancellation fees by staying within a chain. For example, if I am booked at a Marriott, find I will be delayed or early, the main Marriott number will book me at a different Marriott for that night and not charge me the late cancellation fee.

Be sure to factor in inevitable delays, meal, bathroom and stretching breaks. Just because MapQuest says 6 hours between Point A and B does not mean it will take you that long. Add some time. I like to stop every 2 hours, even if just for 10 minutes.

I have spent 12+ hours alone in a car; it is torture. I am comfortable with about 8 - 10 hours alone, but doing that on consecutive days may reduce that. In that case, I prefer to drive more on earlier days, less on subsequent days.

So each person is different, and it is a combination of mapping out a route and distance, personal preference and tolerance.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2016, 04:24 AM
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In the west you can often drive VERY fast and very long. If you are driving in the mountains on an interstate, you can still go quite fast. If you are driving across eastern Wyoming you may well want to drive a longer time in order to have more time to spend in the Black Hills/Mt. Rushmore.
I agree that for Yellowstone you must have your accomodations reserved.
In today's world of Ipads or even your phone, you can make reservations on a shorter time span.
I actually find times on the mapping sites to be pretty accurate.

IF you are driving alone you may want to get some books on tape--the west while not wild, is VAST. Brush up your favorite novels.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2016, 04:11 PM
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Plan on 7 hours (475 miles) to Missoula MT on I-90. Five hours (300 miles) will get you to Old Faithful the next day.
What is it that you want to see in Oklahoma City?
If you can't get lodging in Yellowstone, find something in West Yellowstone MT.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2016, 05:28 PM
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One person trying to drive 13 or 14 hours a day is really pushing your limits, I think dangerous, and certainly not enjoyable. When DH and I do road trips in europe we never do more than 4 or 5 hours a day - between 2 drivers - but there is a lot to see in a small area and we usually stop for several hours at lunch to sightsee in a cute town or castle or whatever.

For the US we haven't done many road trips with the option for longer days - but the one from NYC to Toronto and back we did only the trip from the Canadian side of the Falls to NYC - about 9 hours - but 2 drivers in one day. And that was not fun - the last 3 hours we just wanted to get home - and by that time were in territory we knew.

So with a single driver I would never plan on more than 6 hours a day. And that only with days in between for sightseeing.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2016, 06:10 PM
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This is a very individual type of preference and you need to prioritize what is most important to you. Not sure how much time you have for the entire trip so tough to assign estimates or suggestions. Yellowstone is amazing and it is much more efficient if you can stay in the park. We went there 4 years ago and stayed in two different properties the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins (very rustic) and the Old Faithful Lodge (more upscale). It took planning and a bunch of callbacks to acquire those rooms so that location isn't something you can just wing. I would suggest starting a new topic with more specific information - the time of year, how many days, budget, your sight seeing priorities and tag the states you wish to visit.....then the good people of Fodors will give you tons of useful advice.
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Old Nov 4th, 2016, 08:42 AM
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It's not an enjoyable trip for me if I have to be in a car for more than 6 hours in a day (and that would entail taking a break for an hour in the middle).
I would not want to drive that length of time on 2 or more consecutive days either.

If the most you've driven is 4.5 hours I'd suggest you don't try to find out your upper limit on this trip by scheduling drive times far in excess of that.

Take the overall time you have for the trip and then calculate the total drive time. Split it into manageable chunks and find places to stay enroute.

Maybe you don't have enough time to fit in all these places... your itinerary looks like more than 10 days of driving for me so I wouldn't attempt this trip in under 3 weeks and I'd probably wouldn't really enjoy it if it was less than a month!

Disclaimer; the longest road trip I've taken was 1400 miles over 10 days.
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Old Nov 4th, 2016, 08:56 AM
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Everyone is different. I OFTEN have driven 12-14 hours alone going to Denver, just to "get there". It is different if you want to sightsee and there are interesting things.
I made the recommendation to tailor the driving times to the goal at the end--maybe longer one day (and it doesn't HAVE to be 12 hours, before everyone jumps on THAT) in order to have a longer time at a more pleasant stop.
If this is an alone trip, I also recommend stopping and surprisingly, eating. I find that food helps with the sleepiness factor. But for sure, don't drive sleepy.
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