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Planning an Epic Road Trip around America

    Plans for this trip have already changed a thousand times!

    At first, we were only going to visit Disney World Orlando for a few weeks after Europe before returning to South Africa.  It has snowballed by dramatic proportions since we realised we could stay there and travel anywhere for as long as our Visas and purse allows it.  It has now changed into a full-fledged three-month long road trip, and we want to see as much of this fantastic country as we can.

    Update: One of our readers, Jim, posted a good question below in the comments section about which app/site I used to plan this trip and I thought’ I’d add the answer here:   I used which is really handy. I recently also discovered Google My Maps which is a great tool. Other useful map-related apps we found are Polar Steps and Travel Boast. 


    We watched the movie RV with Robin Williams and National Lampoon’s Vacation with Chevy Chase again.  The RV Road Trip experience is not for everyone, but we’re not put off!

    We would love to experience an RV (Recreational Vehicle) adventure.

    Three months for a family of five on the road in an RV can obviously be challenging, but the convenience of stopping in a beautiful national park or RV resort, throwing open the doors and getting out to explore without having to unpack and offload, is very tempting.  We did a Euro Road Trip in 2012, and we enjoyed every minute of it.

    There are many many many blogs and sites that provide tips for RV trips online, but if you want good advice on any travel plans or if you have any travel questions for any country, try the guru’s on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum.  Search the forum threads first to make sure your query was not covered before.  Chances are it probably has been discussed, but if you ask for advice there you will get quality answers.  From what I saw most of the contributors on the Thorn Tree Forum are long-time members with in-depth knowledge of specific countries and although their comments can sometimes be a little harsh, they cut to the chase and tell it like it is.  I did not have to post a new thread with my American RV Road Trip questions because the topic has been discussed at length!

    The consensus seems to be that hiring an RV is not a good idea if you want to save money.   For us, it’s about comfort and the iconic RV Road Trip experience.  Which leaves us with the following questions:

    • Which type of RV?
    • Do we buy or rent?
    • How long can we afford to travel in an RV?

    The Class C mini motorhome is our first choice. With a length of 22-25ft, it should be more manoeuvrable


    The average rental price for a Class C RV for three months seems to be about $9000.  Add to that the extra charges for hiring kitchen equipment, bedding, and other optional extras.  Most rental companies allow 100 free miles per day after which they charge per mile. Even the manoeuvrable RV’s are fuel guzzlers.  US states have different fuel prices. To be safe, we figured an average fuel price of $4 per gallon should cover us.  If we are lucky, we’ll get 8-10 mpg, probably less.  We’ll cover 12000 to 15000 miles.  Fuel will be a significant expense.


    The other option we considered was to buy a used RV and sell it again.  The major problem with this plan is that you need an American address to register the vehicle for insurance purposes.  It can also take time to sell at the end of the trip.  You do not get the convenience of roadside assistance like you would with a rental agency.  If it breaks, it’s your problem.

    We will still explore buying an RV because I’ve read that some RV rental companies offer a buy-back scheme.  They sell you the vehicle, use the company address for official purposes and commit to repurchasing it after your trip.  It’s certainly worth researching this option further.


    Campervans are cheaper, a lot lighter on fuel and great for accessing remote areas, which can be tricky or impossible with motorhomes.  I think the big compromise is space and the extra comforts of home which you find in motorhomes.  The average rental price for three months seems to be about $6000.  I will definitely contact Escape Campervans to find out if they have any special deals nearer our trip dates.  Their vans are just gorgeous!  So far I’ve not seen any bad reviews for them either which is great. You can rent the hardshell rooftop tent for an additional fee.  The tent sleeps 2, and the queen size bed inside the van can sleep the rest of us.  There is a small kitchenette at the back of the van.  I would love to do at least a part of our trip with one of these campervans.

    Picture credit: Escape Campervans


    This is the recommended way to explore the US.  Hire an SUV and book hotels, motels and B&B’s.  RV’s and campers are useless in cities where public transport is basically all you need and parking is expensive and scarce.  You can access all areas and remote places because you will not be limited by size as with motorhomes.  The savings in fuel might just pay for all our accommodation!

    I think we will be flexible and do parts of our road trip with all these different forms of transport depending on where we are and what we want to do and see.

    To book accommodation has the broadest range of types of lodging worldwide.  We love Airbnb for the home-away-from-home sort of places that you can book for more extended stays.


    Our first route took us right around the United States starting in September in Miami-Florida, driving up the East Coast across the North reaching Seattle by mid-October.  Then we’d make our way down the west coast to Los Angeles, drive cross-country down South to reach Miami by the end of November.  We’d cover the North before cold weather hits and be in the South at the end of Fall, witnessing migrating birds from the North to South all over the country, amongst many other beautiful things.

    ROUTE 2: WESTERN LOOP (National Parks & Canyons) + EAST (Zig-zag North to South)

    Part 1: (6 Weeks) Start in Vancouver Canada in September, loop down South to Arizona to include amazing National Parks, Canyons and scenic drives, then west to Los Angelas and up the West Coast to Seattle.  We’ll fly from Seattle to Chicago to start Part 2.

    Part 2: (6 Weeks) From Chicago, we’ll travel East to Niagara Falls then to Boston.  From Boston, we’ll go down South via the big cities, then head inland to Memphis and South as far as Houston, Texas.  Well then go East to end the trip at Disney World Orlando and be out of the country before Thanksgiving Weekend.


    PART 1 – WEST (Oct & Nov): Start in Seattle, head into Canada to Banff National Park.  Head South as far as Custer State Park then West to Portland.  Drive South along the West Coast to San Francisco, go to Yosemite NP and then South to Los Angeles.  From there we go as far inland as Denver, Colorado.

    PART 2 – EAST (Dec): Fly to Miami, Florida and drive to New York for Christmas.

    Road Trip: North America – Route 3 – 90 Day Itinerary (very rough guide)

    DAY      PART 1: WEST  

    1             #1 Seattle, King County, Washington, US.  Driving route: 142.09 mi (228.67 km) (3h 5min)

    3             #2 Vancouver, Metro Vancouver Regional District, British Columbia, Canada.  Driving route: 219.39 mi (353.07 km) (4h 6min)

    5             #3 City of Kamloops, Thompson-Nicola Regional District, British Columbia, Canada.  Driving route: 308.46 mi (496.42 km) (6h 16min)

    6             #4 Banff-National-Park, Alberta, Canada.  Driving route: 290.07 mi (466.82 km) (6h 54min)

    8             #5 Glacier-National-Park, Montana, US. Driving route: 206.01 mi (331.53 km) (4h 8min)

    10           #6 Great-Falls, Cascade County, Montana, US.  Driving route: 426.22 mi (685.93 km) (8h 35min)

    12           #7 Theodore-Roosevelt-National-Park, Watford City, McKenzie County, North Dakota, US. Driving route: 369.81 mi (595.16 km) (8h 14min)

    13           #8 Badlands-National-Park, Jackson County, South Dakota, US.  Driving route: 127.90 mi (205.84 km) (2h 42min)

    15           #9 Custer-State-Park, Custer County, South Dakota, US.  Driving route: 309.57 mi (498.21 km) (7h 5min)

    17           #10 Bighorn-National-Forest, Johnson County, Wyoming, US.  Driving route: 97.72 mi (157.26 km) (2h 34min)

    19           #11 Cody, Park County, Wyoming, US.  Driving route: 58.61 mi (94.32 km) (1h 57min)

    21           #12 Shoshone-National-Forest, Wyoming, US.  Driving route: 152.45 mi (245.34 km) (4h 47min)

    23           #13 Yellowstone-National-Park, Park County, Wyoming, US.  Driving route: 86.05 mi (138.49 km) (2h 30min)

    27           #14 Grand-Teton-National-Park, Teton County, Wyoming, US.  Driving route: 820.06 mi (1,319.76 km) (15h 35min)

    30           #15 Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, United States of America.  Driving route: 631.95 mi (1,017.03 km) (12h 58min)

    33           #16 Redwoods, Sonoma County, California, United States of America.  Driving route: 72.02 mi (115.90 km) (1h 44min)

    34           #17 San-Francisco, California, United States of America.  Driving route: 191.85 mi (308.75 km) (4h 33min)

    *             Possible trip to Hawaii if time allows it                

    40           #18 Yosemite-National-Park, Mariposa County, California, US. Driving route: 379.62 mi (610.95 km) (8h 10min)

    42           #19 Santa-Barbara, Santa Barbara County, California, US.  Driving route: 94.94 mi (152.79 km) (1h 58min)

    43           #20 Los-Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, US.  Driving route: 291.53 mi (469.18 km) (6h 20min)

    46           #21 Death-Valley, Inyo County, California, US.  Driving route: 136.13 mi (219.08 km) (3h 3min)

    47           #22 Las-Vegas, Clark County, Nevada, US.  Driving route: 275.23 mi (442.94 km) (5h 13min)

    48           #23 Grand-Canyon, Coconino County, Arizona, US.  Driving route: 271.28 mi (436.59 km) (7h 2min)

    49           #24 Zion-National-Park, Washington County, Utah, US.  Driving route: 98.93 mi (159.21 km) (2h 32min)

    51           #25 Bryce-Canyon, Garfield County, Utah, US.  Driving route: 279.44 mi (449.72 km) (5h 24min)

    53           #26 Arches-National-Park, Grand County, Utah, US.   Driving route: 239.64 mi (385.67 km) (7h 38min)

    55           #27 Dinosaur-National-Monument, Moffat County, Colorado, US. Driving route: 286.09 mi (460.41 km) (9h 22min)

    57           #28 Rocky-Mountain-National-Park, Larimer County, Colorado, US.  Driving route: 72.04 mi (115.94 km) (1h 59min)

    59           #29 Denver, Denver County, Colorado, United States of America.  Driving route: 6,935.11 mi (11,160.98 km) (156h 39min)

            PART 2: EAST   (Domestic flight Denver to Miami)            

    60           #1 Miami, Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States of America.  Driving route: 61.75 mi (99.37 km) (1h 30min)

    63           #2 Everglades-National-Park, Monroe County, Florida, United States of America.  Driving route: 298.72 mi (480.75 km) (5h 52min)

    65           #3 Orlando, Orange County, Florida, United States of America.  Driving route: 141.27 mi (227.34 km) (2h 42min)

    72           #4 Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, United States of America.  Driving route: 139.26 mi (224.12 km) (2h 35min)

    73           #5 Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, United States of America.  Driving route: 106.38 mi (171.20 km) (2h 20min)

    75           #6 Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, United States of America.  Driving route: 207.47 mi (333.90 km) (3h 57min)

    77           #7 Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, United States of America.  Driving route: 393.71 mi (633.61 km) (7h 44min)

    79           #8 Blackwater-Falls, Tucker County, West Virginia, United States of America.  Driving route: 168.29 mi (270.83 km) (3h 31min)

    82           #9 Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America.  Driving route: 124.14 mi (199.79 km) (2h 40min)

    85           #10 Intercourse, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States of America.  Driving route: 59.22 mi (95.31 km) (1h 24min)

    86           #11 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America. Driving route: 94.36 mi (151.86 km) (1h 56min)

    88           #12 New-York-City, New York County, New York, US.  Driving route: 1,794.57 mi (2,888.08 km) (36h 15min)

    90           Fly out


    Americans are probably reading this and thinking we’re in for a nasty surprise.  Well, we look forward to finding out.  I’ll come straight back here once this trip is underway to tell you all about our rude awakening or how well we actually prepared!  American or not American, if you have any tips for us please comment here and share your experience with us.


    Read this post to find out how we got on with our three month USA road trip: WE DID IT: THREE MONTH RV USA ROAD TRIP

    Here’s what the guys say who know all about overland adventures:


    Planning an Epic Road Trip around America

    3 thoughts on “Planning an Epic Road Trip around America”

    1. Pingback: WE DID IT! THREE MONTH USA FAMILY RV ROAD TRIP - Family Travel Explore

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