Monday, June 27, 2011

Camping? - check out Recreation.Gov

RE: New York to California road trip

Hello Jamie,

Thanks for your awesome website and for sharing your experience and advice with travelers like myself.

My boyfriend and I are planning a coast-to-coast road trip in late May to celebrate his college graduation!  We're both New Yorkers who know the east coast well, so we want to head out west. Though I've always dreamt of seeing giant redwoods, I'm 24 and have never been west of the Mississippi. It's time to make it happen! He's leaving the planning up to me, so I need some help.

1) Places we'd love to see in order of priority are the California coastline, San Francisco, Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon. We can spare about 2 weeks for our trip, give or take. Is all this way too ambitious for 2 weeks? If we leave from New York City, what route would you recommend?

2)We're considering tent camping in KOA etc campgrounds, with the occasional hotel stay. This would help us to stretch our money, and also to have a different experience than city life allows.  Do you think camping is generally safe? Is it better to plan in our campground/hotel stays in advance or just let things unfold day-to-day?  We are camping novices, so any camping tips you can share would be greatly appreciated!

3)Do you have any general advice on keeping our road trip fun and minimizing stress?  

PS - I recently picked up your Road Trip USA guidebook and it will definitely be coming with us! :-)

Thank you in advance!




Dear Virginia -- 

Many thanks for writing to me, and I'm glad you've been enjoying Road Trip USA. 

I'm all in favor of cross-country drives, but for a 2-week trip, you wouldn't have much time to enjoy the West Coast after driving all that way.  Have you thought about hopping a flight, getting a rental car, and touring the west on a sort of "fly drive" vacation?    That way you could really get to see all the great stuff California and Utah and Montana and Wyoming et al have to offer.  

You could definitely plan a nice big loop, starting say at San Francisco, exploring the Mendocino and Big Sur coast, then heading east to Yosemite and Yellowstone before circling back west via the Grand Canyon (and maybe Las Vegas, too, which is a pretty spectacular place, in its own extravagant way. 

(By the way, being a New Yorker you may be interested to hear that the new USPS "Statue of Liberty" stamp features the one at NY NY casino in Las Vegas, not the esteemed original in NY Harbor!)

With gas prices as high as they are, a round trip flight may even end up cheaper than the drive - especially when you factor in two weeks of motels. 

If you do decide the cross-country drive is the thing, I think you'll need more than 2 weeks to get across the country and back -- I usually recommend 10 days in each direction. 

And finally, camping is a great way to see places -- not cities, for sure, but all the amazing open spaces (of which California has an abundance!)  I wouldn't go for KOA, however -- these are basically big parking lots.  There are much nicer, cheaper campgrounds offered by the many US Government divisions -- national parks, national forests, and much more.  Check out this National Parks and Forests website to get a sense of where and what is out there.  

(In case the link breaks, here's a URL:

Hope this helps  -- please let me know what you end up doing. 

Happy Trails, 

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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