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Summer 2021 20th Anniversary Road Trip from MD?

Summer 2021 20th Anniversary Road Trip from MD?

Old Oct 30th, 2020, 06:32 PM
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Summer 2021 20th Anniversary Road Trip from MD?

Due to COVID, we aren't comfortable flying (one of us is high risk). We want to do something special for our 20th anniversary this summer 2021. We are thinking of renting an RV (so we don't have to worry about remote lodging) and driving from MD to Yellowstone/Grand Tetons and back. It would be our 1st time driving an RV. The other thought is driving a regular car and doing VRBO and chance staying in the parks, but having never driven as far west as Arkansas (last time in the 90s), I really don't know how to book accommodations and predict how far we will make it.

The other thoughts are drive to the Black Hills area or through Colorado.

I wish we didn't live quite so far.

We estimate about 3 weeks travel, so we would have our son with us.

We have been up and down the East Coast many times (though not as much as New England), so we really wamt to see something special and an area we haven't traveled to before.

At the same time, it is intimidating both because we haven't been out that way (we have been to Nevada, CO, CA, WA and Alaska by cruiseship), but not true wilderness and two, because of COVID-19 restrictions/unpredictability.

I don't even know if we can get reservations because i know you usually have to book a year in advance.

We already had canceled our trip to Banff/Jasper this summer. I really don't want to do something ho hum this year, especially with such a special anniversary.

Are we insane?!

Last edited by VacayLady216; Oct 30th, 2020 at 06:36 PM.
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 08:40 PM
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Congratulations!

Just a couple of quick comments -- IMO a trip of this magnitude is a a lot to bite off for very first time RVers. Three weeks is not very long to drive all the way across the country and back in a large motorhome.

and . . . also IMO, I would feel much safer staying in hotels than in an airbnb or vrbo. Hotels have pretty strict covid cleaning protocols whereas individual home owners - who knows??
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 05:58 AM
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If you do decide on the RV, you should look into renting a couple of different sizes locally to see how you feel driving and living in one. They do come with very different layouts and some are as small as a SUV while others are like driving a bus.

That said I agree that driving a car and staying in hotels or packing a tent and gear might be just as safe. Pack lots of antiseptic wipes.

Do make the trip out and back part of the vacation and look for different routes out and back with things to visit along the way.

You will need to make reservations to stay in the parks for either an RV or in park lodging.
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 06:44 AM
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I do like the idea of renting an RV for a 3-4 day trip from home to test what size will work best for you and to learn what you like and don't like about that form of travel.
You don't say where you live but my thought would be to take a train to Chicago in either a family bedroom or 2 roomettes. Amtrak has adopted good cleaning procedures. Coach seating is down to 50% with everyone sitting in window seats.
From Chicago, I suggest the California Zephyr in a sleeper car to either Denver or SLC. Rent your RV from one of those cities and go from there. Since you wanted to go to Jasper and Banff, you could visit Rocky Mt. NP and then go to Glacier NP and back south through Yellowstone. I would not enjoy driving an RV across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma or Texas in the summer.
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 08:52 AM
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When we travel via car we live and die with the HotelTonight app. (Part of Hotel.com). It has never failed us. Around 3 or 4 in the afternoon we will consult our map and decide where a reasonable stop for the night will be. Open the app and see what is available and book it. Supposedly around noon each day hotels/motels lists their anticipated opening for that day at discount prices. It seems to work well and we have never had a problem booking something at a good price. The best example I give for that working was a few winters back while in Florida. We want to see Naples for a night or two in February. When we tried to book something about a month in advance there was nothing left but very high end properties. We were in Naples around 3 pm and decide to try hotel.tonight. Landed a very nice hotel on the beach for $125 and give us a second night at the same price.
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 09:14 AM
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I thikn this idea of driving RVs around the US is misplaced. YOur man risk of COVID is from PEOPLE, breathing nearby. or leaving virus particles in the air where you are, perhaps a long time if you are in some enclosed space. I think stayting in hotels is really very low risk, if any. Well, I guess there is some risk anywhere, but I've stayed in a few hotels within the last six months and all hotels I've been in are really super careful nowadays, and probably cleaner than most other places I go. YOu don't really have contact with anyone, I'm not sure what risk you are afraid of. Some do some automatic entry you can get on your phone, I don't know what that is because I don't do that and have mainly stayed in lodges around state parks, anyway. But my only contact wiht a person was upon checkin and checkout. And in the places I went, they had installed plexiglass for the checkin clerk (sort of like movie theaters or banks, a small window to push your card or key in/out at the botttom. And on top of that they were wearing masks. That is literally the only time I was near anyone. They aren't doing housekeeping now in most hotels, and I would have declined it anyway, if they did.

The virus doesn't live on surfaces that long anyway, that is not a main source of contact for anyone who has contracted it (not sure if anyone has ever gotten it from a surface, but of course, some people don't really know for sure). If you really care about that a lot, you can bring some wipes for the sink/toilet and remote or whatever. Sure, some other people l were in this hotel somewhere, but I wasn't close to them, and only saw them from afar in the parking lot or hallways. I ate takeout in my room, or even some stuff I packed in a cooler but that's because I was close to home for only a couple days.

I just really don't like this whole RV idea, they pollute a lot and a lot of people can't drive them well. YOu have problems parking or visiting places, and you have to plan in advance where you are even going to st1ay. And they are expensive. I just think it's misplaced concern.

As well as the whole VRBO thing, I have no idea what that's all about. Why not stay in clean, modern chain hotels which are very generous with cancellations nowadays (some you can cancel until 6 pm the day of arrival with no fee, as I just did that) and have standard protocols and not the whole VRBO nonsense of dealing with private owners, unknown spaces, checkin/out issues, whatever. And the RV is going to complicate that, also, many places couldn't accommodate that.

PErsonally, I don't know why you are not just doing some trip closer to home, there are plenty of places you could go taht wouldn't require this cross-country road trip. Like the Smokies and Asheville, NC for one.

I would not take a train, that's an example of being in enclosed spaces with people for hours. And I don't think they have the HEPA air circulation equipment like airplanes do now. I'd just do a localroad trip for 1-2 weeks to someplace closer, and not do the whole RV or VRBO thing at all.
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 09:59 AM
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Response

Hi there,

Thanks for the feedback everyone. The RV idea is intimidating. I don't like the idea of staying in the park lodges because of concerns of air quality since they are so old (I have asthma) and you pay so much for not really nice accommodations. Also, the hotel thing is doable along the way, but I didn't know how to book in advance. I like the idea if booking last minute along the way.

To answer someone who asked why we weren't going someplace close like the Smokeys is because we have already done a lot of that and wanted to see scenery very different from the East Coast. We have lived in MD our whole lives and would like to see something very different. I used to have to drive to northern Arkansas as a child from MD and have been through the Smokeys many times.

We are now thinking of touring some parts of New York and New Hampshire we haven't been as a week trip just the 2 of us.

We figure the Canadian border will still be closed next summer.

Anyone have suggestions of where to stay outside the Yellowstone/Tetons parks as a central location ? We rented a house this summer and just cavicide wiped everything.

I know Yellowstone is HUGE and that probably isn't practical.
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 12:46 PM
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There is no place outside the parks that is really convenient to both and Yellowstone alone is large enough that many folks book lodging at two or three areas. Outsider for Yellowstone on the East, look at Cody, on the north look at Gardiner, on the wast, West Yellowstone. For Teton look in Jackson/Jackson Hole.

look at www.nps.gov and click on the parks you want to visit. Consider getting the AMERICA BEAUTIFUL pass, good for a year for any national park property. Look at their map to see what other np properties are along the route.0
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 05:00 PM
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Some comments, irrespective of how you drive there.

The shortest path from MD across the Great Plains is SD and I-90 continuing on from the 80/94 split south of Chicago, via Madison and Rochester MN. (I do not take I-90 ďthe Chicago Skyway.Ē) That NW bit of Indiana is quite a busy corridor.

Having driven to DC maybe 20 times I prefer I-68 to Morgantown (prettier) then up to I-70 then west to Indianapolis, and then I-65 to Gary. The turnpikes are an hour quicker but itís about $75 and no easy on and off, youíre in a weird turnpike world. You could make a loop and take I-80 back but you will have to traverse a vacant patch of WY. In this patch is South Pass of Oregon/California Trail fame, you will have to leave paved roads then walk to find it.

Thereís a whole country of various attractions in between MD and WY but you will have to research each state to find things that interest you.

Neither national park is conducive to staying offsite, itís best to suck up the cost and substandard furnishings and stay inside. Itís a good hour into Yellowstone attractions from the east. West Yellowstone is closest to main attractions but the entry queue can be formidable.

Many people commute into the Tetons from Jackson but I donít care for that town, expensive lodging and no views, might as well stay inside the park.

Last edited by tom_mn; Oct 31st, 2020 at 05:34 PM.
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Old Nov 1st, 2020, 06:32 AM
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I do like the idea of renting an RV for a 3-4 day trip from home to test what size will work best for you and to learn what you like and don't like about that form of travel.
You don't say where you live but my thought would be to take a train to Chicago in either a family bedroom or 2 roomettes. Amtrak has adopted good cleaning procedures. Coach seating is down to 50% with everyone sitting in window seats.
From Chicago, I suggest the California Zephyr in a sleeper car to either Denver or SLC. Rent your RV from one of those cities and go from there. Since you wanted to go to Jasper and Banff, you could visit Rocky Mt. NP and then go to Glacier NP and back south through Yellowstone. I would not enjoy driving an RV across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma or Texas in the summer.
You can add all of Chicagoland west of South Bend Indiana to the places I would not want to drive an RV summer or winter.
As for lodging in Yellowstone, if you can afford it check on the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins. A cabin with no bath starts at $112/night double occupancy plus $19/night for the extra person. A suite starts at $345/night. USParklodging (part of Xanterra) is now taking reservations for 2021. The toll free # is 866 256 9046.
Any thoughts on taking the Amtrak Capitol Limited to Chicago and the California Zephyr in a sleeper car as far as Denver? My style of long distance travel over the past 19 years has been to take a train to a place where I can rent a car to make a big loop. You should be able to do the same with an RV. There are several campgrounds inside Yellowstone that can be reserved in advance with a few sites that can be grabbed mornings as people leave.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2020, 04:44 PM
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I've only stayed in one hotel since the pandemic started but my experience was just like Christina said above. Only contact was on check in and that was just the same as going to the bank or any store, seemed very low risk. I did bring antiseptic wipes and wiped down all hard surfaces in the room though that was probably not necessary. I did choose a hotel that had windows that opened (which I did for an hour when I first got there) and didn't require an elevator to get to the room.

As for not knowing how far you'd get each day - many hotels have the ability to cancel till around 6pm on the day of the stay. That way you could book things in advance (at least a few days) and cancel if you didn't get as far as you expected. The only problem finding someplace on short notice would be right around National Parks or other major tourist destinations. Driving across the country you'd probably be staying in boring places anyway (en route) that could you book at the last minute if you had to.

Have you considered other western National Parks besides Yellowstone. Yellowstone is one of the most popular and therefore needs to be booked a year in advance (usually, and apparently it's even worse with Covid, not better in terms of number of people who want to visit). I think all the National Parks will be busy next summer but there are a lot of them and some have towns close enough to the entrances that you could stay in a regular motel and not a park property and some are less popular than Yellowstone.

You said you haven't been to New England much so you could consider that. We even have a National Park (Acadia in Maine). Of course right now at least we aren't letting in people form the rest of the country without quarantine or negative tests. But things could change a lot by next summer.

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Old Dec 1st, 2020, 04:16 AM
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We have spent one day in Acadia years ago and have always wanted to return. I want to hike Beehive at least. We loved Acadia. There are quite a few places we would like o explore in New England.

In fact, we had a trip planned 2 years ago to go to NH and Maine, but had to cancel..

Yellowstone and Teton are very tempting, but think I would want to fly so I can do them justice (spend 2 weeks in that area) and flying isn't happening for us until we have the vaccine.

i am worried if I wait too much longer, I won't physically be able to do these Western US hikes as I already have back, neck and rib issues. My parents waited until they retired and their physical limitations have not allowed them to do these things. I feel my life is passing me by and it is frustrating. Safety first though!


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Old Dec 26th, 2020, 05:51 PM
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Itís a 25 hour car ride to Rapid City from Maryland. [that was with minimal quick fuel stops]. The Black Hills region can easily occupy a week. We stayed went in September and other family members went in June and July. Lodging is cheap and plentiful. We stayed in Airbnbís but everyone else stayed the week at the Thunderbird Lodge (less than $90 night) Iíve heard the Cody/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons region needs at least a week. The driving was easy in a rental car [I personally would have no interest in renting an RV]. We found rent a wreck/black hills rental to be 1/3 the price of renting from the rapid city airport. Have fun planning!
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Old Dec 27th, 2020, 02:48 AM
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There are only 3 of you so one motel room per night will be sufficient.
RV's are cumbersome to drive and particularly to park in urban areas. They also break down. They "seem" self sufficient but there is a lot of shopping to do for their travel. Plus hookups and emptying. these are places where Covid sanitizing might not be as stringent. They require checking into a park also. Even mid-year next year I think we will have to be very careful, even with vaccines.
Staying INSIDE national parks is a huge perk and IMO for a special anniversary you should think about this as a splurge. These hotels may be old but they will have the protocols well in place by then.
You say "Yellowstone" but you will want to do more than just hat. There are the Badlands, Grand Tetons just below Yellowstone. And maybe Denver en route. Maybe a stop in Chicago. You don't say how old your son is but there are outstanding museums for someone less than 20--and you, of course.
Your stated inexperience in not knowing "how far we can go" to make hotel reservations is easily taken care of by the websites several have cited. Make your reservations along the way. I have driven to Denver often and just look ahead to a major city and stop with no reservation. Admittedly this is pre-Covid. Take your wipes and wipe down your room upon arrival.
You mention flying. It has been shown that flying is actually quite safe in the plane. Fly and rent a car not an RV.
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Old Feb 1st, 2021, 01:22 PM
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I would not rent an RV. Parking can be extremely problematic in busy national parks and an RV makes it 100% harder. If you aren't used to a large, wide vehicle RV's can be awkward to drive. Mountain passes and narrow roads can be problems for inexperienced RV drivers (and some sonic drives are closed to RV). They are slow to drive, gas guzzlers, and you pay per mile.
Since your goal appears to be the Rocky Mountains, I would plan 2 very long days to drive to Rapid City SD. Take a day or four to explore the Black Hills/Mount Rushmore/Badlands. Plan on taking another day to drive from Western South Dakota to Yellowstone (maybe stop at Devil's Tower along the way). Yellowstone is massive so if you can't find in park lodging I would divide the park into 2 and stay near both the North and West entrances to the park.
Use TripAdvisor, bookings.com, hotels.com, airbnb, etc...read the recent reviews to determine if the location is taking proper Covid precautions.
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Old Feb 7th, 2021, 07:31 PM
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Have you considered flying out west and renting an RV when you arrive. That’s what we did one time.
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Old Feb 7th, 2021, 07:49 PM
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You wrote this a long time ago before the vaccines were available. If one of you is high risk, won't that person be vaccinated soon? And if you make it late summer, surely you and your spouse will be vaccinated. How old is your son? I know people still have to take some precautions, but my husband and I (both high risk) are tentatively making (refundable) plans which include hotel stays for later in the summer. I will keep my eye on the cancellation policies and the positivity rates in the areas we are traveling to, and make changes as necessary, but I'm hopeful that by August the pandemic will be on the wane.
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