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Driving from East Coast to West Coast


Feb 21st, 2010, 11:35 AM
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Driving from East Coast to West Coast

I'm relocating to the West Coast from the East Coast and will be driving by myself when our house is sold. I probably can only drive 8 hours a day at the most and would like to stay in chain hotels along the way. Does anyone know of a tool to use to map the trip with the ability to enter the number of hours to drive each day? I can do it with Google maps but it's really time consuming and involves some guess-work.

Any suggestions?
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Feb 21st, 2010, 11:54 AM
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What time of year are you going? Do you need to avoid areas that have snow? Do you want to stop along the way for a bit of sightseeing? Are you coming from or going to an area served by i 90, i 80, i 70, i 40 or i 10?

If you drive 8 hours a day, that gets you 400 to 500 miles, depending on if you hit cities, traffic, bad weather, etc. Use google maps or mapquest to see what routes look the most interesting. You will find that speed limits are higher generally, west of the Mississippi so you can count on driving farther in 8 hours there.

If you pick up the magazines with discount coupons like Roomsaver at welcome centers or fast food places, you can find where there is lodging along your route and may be able to get the room cheaper too. Generally, if you are on interstates, there will be lodging near any intersection with a large road or city.

If you can, try to find lodging beyond cities to avoid rush hour issues when you take off in the morning.
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Feb 21st, 2010, 05:49 PM
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I'll probably be driving in early April. I'm going from Albany, NY to Olympia, WA, so I'm considering the northern route. I can take as much time as I want but of course, the longer I take, the more I spend on expenses. The entrance to I90 is right near my house.

Thanks for the suggestion to look for discount magazines along the way!
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Feb 21st, 2010, 06:16 PM
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If you're traveling in April 2010 along a northern route, I can pretty much guarantee that you will ALWAYS find vacancies at just about any place you stop that advertises in those coupon books. I use them all the time while travelling in "shoulder season," and find I can use the bargain price about two-thirds of the time. April is definitely down season all over the north, and I doubt the economy will pick up that much by in the next six weeks. Vacancies will be all over the map (literally).

Drive until you feel like you can't drive more than an hour more. Pull off for a minute, check the coupon book, see what's the best value just up the road, and stop there. Even if you don't get the coupon rate; you'll still get a good rate.
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Feb 21st, 2010, 06:30 PM
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What is your problem with maps.google.com? I use it all the time and it works wonderfully well at estimating drive times.

Let me know your difficulty and I will try to help you make good use of the site.

In the north, we have gotten caught in snow in early April and even as late as June at higher elevations. Perhaps others can advise in this regard.
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Feb 21st, 2010, 08:28 PM
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Have you tried MapQuest?
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Feb 22nd, 2010, 08:16 AM
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maps.google.com is a lousy predictor of travel times in the East since it makes no allowance for traffic or weather. Maybe it will be better west of Chicago.

It also makes no allowance for stops for gas, food, or other necessities. So if you stop once in the morning, once near noon, and once in the afternoon, pretty much the safe minimum for a person driving alone, you can add an hour to the Google driving times.
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Feb 22nd, 2010, 08:37 AM
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I would agree with driving until you are starting to get tired and then checking the route ahead of you for possible stops. In April, we can still get significant snowfalls in the midwest. They don't stay on the ground very long, but they can disrupt travel! Don't count on perfect spring weather!

I would not try to plan every stop along the way this far ahead, if that is what you were hoping to do. Travel is an adventure, and there are always things can get in the way of a perfectly arranged schedule. As has been mentioned, you will not have difficulty finding lodging at this time of the year.

There are heavy traffic jams south of Chicago where I 80/90 and 57 and I forget what other routes converge, so to speak. It's right at the Ill/Ind border area. We always avoid that area and will drive on I70 instead, when we go east to northern Ohio from our location in west central Illinois.

Good luck to you. Sounds like a great solo drive!
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Feb 22nd, 2010, 08:51 AM
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I take two or three 4,000-mile road trips each year, and maps.google serves my needs perfectly.

Perhaps that is because I take the Google driving times to be estimates based on posted speed limit.

I don’t expect maps.google to make allowances for current traffic and weather conditions. I turn to other sources for that information.

And, I don’t expect maps.google to know how often and for how long I will take toilet breaks, whether I am going to stop to shop on my way, or if I am going to grab a quick meal at a fast food restaurant or stop for a leisurely sit-down meal.

But that’s just me.
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Feb 22nd, 2010, 10:50 AM
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My all time favorite is freetrip.com. Enter Albany and your destination, scroll down a bit and select hotels in your price range and submit. It will list accumulated miles and time in the left column, and the right hand column will show distance to go and time it takes. It will also list the hotels in your price range all across the country.

I have used this the past nine years for trips all over the country and to the Canadian Rockies from VA and I swear by it

Suggestion, if you use it and are going to make a copy , make the copy without the hotels listed. Otherwise you will have a small pile of paper.
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Feb 22nd, 2010, 03:13 PM
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Geez, who anywhere expected Google or Mapquest to make allowances for stops/gas/lodging/window-washer-squeegie-guys-at-red-lights/flat tires/cattle in the roadway/worlds biggest ball of twine???


They speak only of drive time.

Sue: I don't know of a suitable tool for what you say...

but IF you're driving to Oly, you could always work it backward from out west, perhaps like so:

Z - Spokane, WA
Y - Butte, Bozeman, Helena, Missoula, MT
X - Billings, MT / Sheridan, WY
W - Rapid City, SD (Mount Rushmore area)
V - Sioux Falls, SD
U - Milwaukee/Chicago

There, there is a reasonable western half of your journey from someone who has been to all but one of those spots.

The northwest is awesome, and hopefully you'll love it here.

If I were driving this in early April, I don't think I'd use too many reservations... instead just banking on vacancies when needed along the way.

MAYBE a mid-way break of 2 consecutive nights in Chicago/Milwaukee area, perhaps pre-arranged via Priceline.com or something... but the rest is wide-open road, and should be easy.
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Feb 22nd, 2010, 05:46 PM
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We had a few unexpected hiccups when travelling without reservations and a dead cell phone (long story, long time ago). When you decide on a place to stop, call them for rates. We've walked into hotels and they give the rack rate. They figure you aren't going to get back in the car and leave, so discounts aren't given.

Do you have a buddy who would be willing to drive with you and then fly home? I like to experience things with someone, but I know others are very happy on their own. Round-trip flights are usually cheaper, but there is no law that says you have to use the second flight.
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Feb 23rd, 2010, 06:01 AM
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Stop by your friendly Walmart* and pick up a 2010 Rand McNally Road Atlas for $5.97.

That time of year reservations will not be required and you will find places to stay in most of the towns along the highway. Stop when you feel kike it. If you are a member of AAA you can get their Tour Books to help you find places to stay and things to do along the planned route.
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Feb 23rd, 2010, 06:08 AM
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If you are a member of AAA, in addition to the maps and tourbooks you can also go online and plan your trip.

We used their feature on a trip last summer and it worked out great. It's also interactive, so if you want to change your route, you just pull the directional line to another roadway and it will re-calculate the trip for you.

It also gives information on road construction along the way, suggests alternatives, and hotels etc.

You can print it all out and make yourself a "trip tik" to bring along.
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Feb 23rd, 2010, 08:20 AM
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We usually do coast-to-coast with five overnights en route but I did it with four a couple of years ago, during early April in fact - http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...back-ford.html. However I had someone with me (not for driving - I did it all) but these were more like 9-hour pushes rather than the eight you're describing. So I think realistically you can make it in five nights, something like

A couple of observations: I'd tend to keep to the south through the east (which will be hard for you) and lower Midwest - go south of Chicago if you can, but then swing north so that you're on I-90 (NOT I-94) by the time you get to the Black Hills. I-90 has fewer real mountain passes than I-80 (ones that might be snowy in April) but one can't rule out poor weather in the Great Plains, so be flexible.

One other thing is that as you travel west you'll gain a time zone every other day or so, which means you don't have to worry about driving in the dark if you want to have a day of "pushing" it.

If it was me, I'd go the following route, trying to pick some interesting towns for overnights..

Albany > Cleveland area (maybe Ashtabula?)
Cleveland > Galesburg IL
Galesburg > Sioux Falls SD
Sioux Falls > Sheridan WY
Sheridan > Missoula MT
Missoula > Olympia

I can't imagine you needing reservations anywhere on this route. Or, if you want to get some additional benefit, pick a hotel/motel chain you like and look for successive places when you check in the night before, e.g. find a Holiday Inn (or whatever) in Missoula when you check into one in Sheridan. You can accumulate hotel points that can be useful down the line.
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Apr 7th, 2010, 06:11 AM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions and advice. I'm probably going to be making the trip in early May. Several people have offered to drive with me but I'm not sure they realize how long the trip is!

I'm getting excited about the trip and the weather shouldn't be an issue at that point. I'll report back after my adventure!
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Apr 7th, 2010, 11:01 AM
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Make sure anyone you travel with will be a good companion for 5-6 days. That's a lot of time to spend together. My DH and I travel really well together but even we have our moments. But I'd still rather go with someone than alone - do you have a pet?!
Congrats on the move!
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Apr 7th, 2010, 04:01 PM
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About 2 yrs ago in May I did a trip from MA to CO with my son and 2 dogs as we were moving house. We got a route planned and accomodation booked through AAA. We also had a GPS system that helped a lot. We took 4 days/3 nights to drive at about 450-600 miles a day. The hotels had to be dog friendly so we did pre book. You will probably have more options on accomodation if you are travelling without critters.
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