Sowelu (sowelu) wrote in roadtrips,

Planning a first serious roadtrip.

So I'm graduating college in a few months, and before I step into the working world, I'm going to head off on a real epic roadtrip...about two months long. I don't have a whole lot of experience with this. In fact, I've barely been out of my corner of the country. I've got about two months to go from Seattle to the East Coast and back. I'd very much appreciate any advice, or especially criticism of my plans!

If there's a better community to ask this sort of thing...please let me know.

On the way out:
- Rough itinerary: Seattle, WA -> Portland, OR -> Zion Nat'l Park, UT -> Swing by Michigan -> Philadelphia, PA.
My itinerary is not very fixed. I'm planning to sketch out some rough ideas of where to go, and keep maps, but not fuss too much over planning my directions ahead of time (at least, not to the level of knowing specific cities to stop in usually).

I'm planning to take this trip alone. Some would argue that this isn't very bright. Okay, I'll admit it isn't. At least I'm going to take a HAM radio, so if I get stuck with no cell towers I'll have something at least. I won't push myself on the driving.

From Google Maps and a little overestimation, I'm putting that at 3,000 miles. With an average speed of 60mph or so, I figure that's around fifty hours...or about eight days of six-hour drives. I want to hit tourist stops along the way, in addition to seeing the cities, so I figure that'll keep me awake and give time for tourist stuff in the middle of the day.

I'm heading out around Jun. 16th, and need to arrive by Jul. 5th. So, that's 25 days I can spend on the way out. Spend 8 of them driving, spend 6 of them with some friends along the way, budget 4 days for emergencies, car trouble, etc. That gives me seven days of nothing but tourist stuff (why go to Zion if you're not going to stay a while).

For my vehicle itself: I know I need SOME kind of van-like object. I don't have the vehicle yet, which is a pretty bad situation, but I don't know what I should be going for just yet. Some people have suggested I get a Blazer. Most important to me, is that it has to fit camping gear in the back and have room where I can sleep. Secondary importance is good mileage, third is that I'd prefer an automatic. I've seen Blazers going for $2,500, and I'm thinking that seems to be about what I'm looking for. Any advice?

Assuming that I'll get about 20mpg (low estimate), and assuming that gas is around $3.00 (high estimate), that'll cost me $450 in gas each leg of the trip. So, budgeting $1000 for gas. Is that reasonable?

Now, for lodging. I'm thinking that I'd like to go between state parks (or other camping sites), aiming largely for cheapness. At worst case I expect to spend $10 per night. So, my question here is...can I really expect to always find a vacant campsite within six hours of my last stop? Can I expect it to be that cheap? Can I expect it to be *safe* for me and my vehicle, to camp alone every night for a couple months? What should I avoid?

Food is pretty obvious. Eat cheaply, avoid fast food, cook soup over a fire and all that good stuff. It should be the least of my expenses ($5-$10 a day?). As for entertainment...when I'm not doing the tourist thing, I'll just hit used bookstores along the way.

Maintainence. I don't have much car-repair experience besides knowing how to check the oil and change a tire. Any particular worries I should look for in this sector? Going to bring basic equipment such as spare tire, spare gas, etc. Also, especially since I'll just be buying this car soon, I'm planning to have a mechanic get it in very good shape before I embark. Should I plan ahead of time to bring it in to a mechanic at my destination, before I head back, or is that unnecessary as long as nothing seems wrong?

And of course...checking in by internet whenever I can hit a library.

So...I'm looking for any advice, but most specifically: What vehicle should I look at and what should I expect to pay? How sane and cheap is my "sleep every night in a campsite / my back seat" plan? What, if anything, should I worry about from driving multiple six-hour days?

Thanks in advance. I'll be sure to post stories back to here...
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