Never driven an RV before and planning a trip across the US

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Melarles

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Hey everyone! My husband and I are going to rent an RV from Cruise America (25ft), and we plan to do a 2 week trip from the east coast to the west coast-ish with our kiddos. I have spent HOURS online, reading up on everything I can possibly think of. I believe I have found a safe way to travel to all of the places, without getting stuck on any non-friendly RV roads. However, I would greatly appreciate anyone taking a peek at the roads and giving any advice. Two weeks is not nearly enough time to do these places justice, but the point of this is to mainly check out each area and then decide on coming back at a later date. We will spend a day or 2 in each place, so any advice about each area would be very helpful as well. I'm going to attach a maps link and hope it works. Thanks!!

Orange Park to Orange Park
 

donn

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2 weeks coast to coast! YIKES!!!!! All your going to see is lots of windshield time. At best your looking at 4 days each way, and more like 6. Just the mileage charges your putting on would break most vacation budgets. You need to give serious consideration to curbing this trip to less than a thousand miles total and enjoy your kids.
Years ago we did a marathon trip to MI so DW could see her relatives. 1750 miles in 70 hours. That entailed driving from about 6AM to about 11PM, stopping only for gas and to eat. This was with 2 small kids 5 and 2. Not a real fun trip.
 

Great Horned Owl

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I agree with Don. That trip is much too long for even very experienced RVers to attempt in only two weeks. I would expect to do that trip in about six weeks. When we go west, we generally spend two weeks in Yellowstone alone.
 

Isaac-1

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I agree with the others, cut this WAY back, and you will be a lot happier when you get done, traveling in a motorhome even a relatively small one is not like traveling in a car. Not only does everything go slower, but it is also more fatiguing on the driver. I have a 28 ft class A, and my rule of thumb when planning longer trips is never to plan on over 300-350 miles per day, and never for more than 2 days in a row. Everytime I have broken that rule I have regretting doing it, and looked back asking myself why I did not stop a hundred miles earlier, I might push that by just a little bit in the open western states, but not by much, and only if the cross winds are not bad. As to how long things take, it is not just that you will be likely traveling at below the speed limit on open highway, but also you will be going slower when you stop for gas, as you will not be zipping around corners, then there is time at the gas pump filling up a big fuel tank, time at the beginning and end of each day breaking camp and setting up camp in the evening.

As a rule of thumb I would equate 400 miles of travel in a motorhome as being about as fatiguing as 750-800 in a car, and I have never been able to beat averaging over 50-51 mph through the course of a days drive (door to door) not counting time to make and break camp.

In the 5 years I have owned our current coach the longest travel day I have ever managed was 499 miles in 1 day, all but 50 miles of that was east bound on I-10 in central west Texas. The only reason I pushed it that much was to get through San Antonio on a Sunday evening at around sunset instead of on Monday morning. Let me chronical that day for you, I was traveling solo so no kids to corral. I got up around 8 am (maybe a bit before 8) stowed the stuff that had been taken out after 5-6 days of staying in one place, dumped the black and gray tank, filled the fresh water tank up to my preferred just in case travel level (about 2/3 of a tank) at the full hookup place I had been staying. Pulled out onto the highway at 9 am, drove 10 miles into the nearby town where I topped off on fuel, and grabed a quick bit of breakfast at a popular local cafe, departing town for the drive back home at exact 10:00 am, so 2+ hours after waking up and I had made it 10 miles, then it was on the highway the rest of the day with 70+ mph speed limits and me cruising at around 67 even in the 80 mph zones. Stopping only for fuel, food, and a stretch break at pull off rest areas every 125 miles or so. Delays included being stuck in a traffic jam due to a multi vehicle pileup for about 45 minutes just after sunset, shortly before where I stopped for the night, a small roadside commercial campground which I pulled after 499 miles of travel at 8:59 pm. Another half hour to check in pull into the site, and hook up electricity (I did not bother with leveling as the site was nearly flat, or water. I just plugged in the electric so I could have air conditioning, and went to bed. No time for sight seeing, food during the day other than breakfast was in the motorhome, some of it gas station food, with the longest rest break being maybe 20-30 minutes, most being 5-10 minutes.

This trip you have planned is likely over 5,500 miles once you add in local commutes, probably more than that, at an average of 50 mph that is 110 hours worth of driving on open highway averaging 50 mph (which is typical average on open highway, add secondary roads, towns, etc. and that goes down). Optimisticly assuming you stretch your 2 weeks into 16 days padding a weekend on the end that is still around 7 hours a day on the road on average, add in an hour to make and break camp (unrealistedly short for family traveling, making and unmaking dinette and sofa beds, dumping tanks every 24-48 hours, etc.) and you are looking at 9+ hours per day on average on the road or making a breaking camp, add in sleeping, shower and bathroom time, meal prep, and that leaves almost nothing for tourism.

p.s. to get a cheaper feel for this, rent a Ford E series van based 23-25 ft U-Haul truck for the weekend and drive it to somewhere a couple of hundred miles away and back in one day
 

phil-t

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Years ago we did a marathon trip to MI so DW could see her relatives. 1750 miles in 70 hours. That entailed driving from about 6AM to about 11PM, stopping only for gas and to eat. This was with 2 small kids 5 and 2. Not a real fun trip.
Very relaxing pace. :)
I allow for 50 mph when traveling. That includes rest stops every 2-3 hours with a relaxing lunch in there.
I agree, the OP's plan is aggressive and they will be exhausted from the driving and fast paced "sightseeing, what they can squeeze in". They are looking at 5400 miles - that would put me/our traveling at ~16 days of driving (6-7 hours/day @ 50mph). They will be pushing it, for sure. They would be way better off at 4-6 weeks for that trip. We would allow 2-3 months. Our last summer tour was 6400 miles (similar to the OP's plan) and we were just under 3 months time. No schedule and no plan except for the route.
 

JudyJB

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You would do better to stretch this to 5-6 weeks. (Personally, I would do that loop in a minimum of 8-10 weeks because I enjoy seeing things as I go past them.) If you cannot afford to take this amount of time, then cut your trip at least in half. The other option is to go online and look at photos of the places you had planned to stop at, because that is about all that you will get out of your extremely aggressive driving estimates, and that will accomplish your goal of just checking things out on this trip.

Most of us are exhausted trying to drive 250-300 miles per day. The point is that driving an RV is MUCH more strenuous than driving a car and entirely different. For one thing, you have to keep your hands on the wheel because of wind and being blown around when big truck passes you. And you should be sticking to 60-65 MPH, even if you are used to driving 70-75 on freeways. (If it is windier than 20 MPH, you should drop your speed to 50-55 or even less. (Consider that you are driving a huge billboard down the road.) You are driving a big, and potentially dangerous, vehicle. I don't know if you are going to be traveling alone, but driving faster will endanger any passengers you have with you.

You have asked experts, so please take our advice seriously instead of believing that you can do this trip the way you have planned it.
 

1dino17

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Jul 22, 2021
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California
Hey everyone! My husband and I are going to rent an RV from Cruise America (25ft), and we plan to do a 2 week trip from the east coast to the west coast-ish with our kiddos. I have spent HOURS online, reading up on everything I can possibly think of. I believe I have found a safe way to travel to all of the places, without getting stuck on any non-friendly RV roads. However, I would greatly appreciate anyone taking a peek at the roads and giving any advice. Two weeks is not nearly enough time to do these places justice, but the point of this is to mainly check out each area and then decide on coming back at a later date. We will spend a day or 2 in each place, so any advice about each area would be very helpful as well. I'm going to attach a maps link and hope it works. Thanks!!

Orange Park to Orange Park
I only drive 300 miles a day then look for camping to setup, start early again you need time to check rv out! Slowly will be more enjoyable
 

Larry N.

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Westminster, Colorado
I know it's not what you want to hear, but besides what others have said above (and please heed that), there is no possible way you can do that trip in "83 hours," as your map indicates. Though your trip to the Grand Canyon might go at nearly your planned pace, from there north it most definitely will not. There are a lot of curvy, steep winding roads in those areas, and it will be slower going than you or Google think it will.

Note, too, that that "83 hours" is driving time, and does not account for rest stops, gas stops, meal stops, traffic jams (Buffalo jams, bear jams, etc. are guaranteed on the 45 mph roads in Yellowstone, and likely in the Tetons too -- that is a HUGE area to see, and wildlife gets in the way sometimes). Also, 83 hours is TWO WEEKS worth of regular office hours, and even with a handful of evening hours available each day that leaves 4 days total to do ALL of your sightseeing (including a LOT of travel time to the sights), and that while you are worn to a frazzle. And your ACTUAL sightseeing time will be less since there is no way that "83 hours" will get you through the trip -- it's likely you'll take at least another 15-20 hours of trip time additional for that trip, if not more.

In addition, your kids will definitely not appreciate that trip, cooped up for long hours every day with little to do, and you'll be miserable trying to handle them. They'll never want to go again.

So though it's not what you want to hear, you DID say, "However, I would greatly appreciate anyone taking a peek at the roads and giving any advice."

Alternatively you could fly to Flagstaff, AZ and rent a Cruise America rig, then drive to the Grand Canyon, Arches and Monument Valley, then back to Flagstaff and fly home. Or fly to Jackson Hole, WY, rent an RV, then drive through the Tetons and Yellowstone, but be certain you have campground reservations six months to a year before you get there.

Perhaps it would be educational for you to rent an RV and do a weekend trip at least two hundred miles from home for camping, just to see what it's like.

Of course you are now full of questions and thoughts, so ask away.
 

Isaac-1

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Let me suggest an idea for more realistic route for you, this is assuming you have 16 days, and 2 adults doing the driving and you are willing to push for a couple of LONG sunrise to sunset travel days on the way out west and back. I base this on our own trip to the Grand Canyon from western Louisiana in 2019 with our starting point over 700 miles west of your starting point. This is a long post, but gives you a realistic idea of what one might see and do in the region in about 2 weeks, though still with a lot of time on the road, for me this was a 3,000+ mile loop, you are 700+ miles east of where I live so would be around a 4,400 mile drive, I started the homeward drive on day 12, with sight seeing along the way home.

For our trip we departed western Louisiana on an October Thursday morning, drove just under 400 miles for our first day, spent the night near Mineral Wells, TX, Second night was a long 313 miles to get to Amarillo, TX (a cold front blew in that morning around sunrise, we waiting until after 10 am for the rain to stop to depart the rv park, then spent the day dealing with cross winds gusting up to 30 mph. From there we drove to Sante Fe, NM only 278 miles, but involved making a grocery store run to Wal-Mart in somewhere west of Amarillo as mid day stop, arriving at around 4 pm ( relatively in town RV park had a 5:30 PM latest check in allowed) and more cross winds, also maybe 20-25 minute rest stop at the NM welcome center, and fuel up, and shop at Cline Corner (sprawling gas station, gift shop, etc. bit of Americana). We then spent 2 nights in Santa Fe, we had a couple of hours before dark the first night, so we went out to eat at a hole in the wall New Mexican cafe in a strip mall about a 4-5 minute walk from the RV park, second day we took a Uber into the downtown historic district ended up getting back to the RV park after 7 pm (Sante Fe is one of the oldest cities in the western US founded around 1607). The next day we drove from Sante Fe to Charma, NM, then across to Aztec, NM Only 212 miles, but making a few day stops along the way. The next morning started with a couple of hours at Aztec National Monument, then on west to spend the night at Goosenecks State Park, UT (photo attached) only about 150 miles driving distance, but with stops at 4 Corners Monument, and a late lunch at Bluff Trading post in Bluff, UT, this put us getting into Goose Necks SP at about 4 pm, so enough time to walk around some, set up camp, pull out the propane fire pit and chairs and enjoy the sunset. The next day we drove 181 miles to Waweap campground at Lake Powell national recreation area north of Page AZ, driving through Monument valley UT, with a mid day side trip that added about 20 miles to Navajo National Monument where we took a short 3/4 mile hike to overlook the cliff dwellings, Arriving at Wahweap just before check in closed at about 5 pm. We spent 3 nights at Wahweap, we toured the Glen Canyon Dam visitor center, did a half day smooth water float trip down Glen Canyon (they call it half day, but between driving into Page (9 miles) check in, return bus ride, drive back to the campground etc. we were up and going from 8 am - 4 pm), The next day we ate lunch at a western themed restaurant which featured live with about 5 bus loads of Chinese tourist did a lower antelope canyon tour, slot canyon tour, did some grocery shopping at Wal-Mart in Page, topped off our gas and propane tank, and by sunset we were doing laundry in the laundry room at the campground. The next morning it was off to Mather Campground at the Grand Canyon for 3 nights, 145 miles, arriving at around 4 pm, making a mid day stop for lunch and gas at Cameron trading post where we had some great food, and an even better view from their dining room. The drive from Cameron to the Grand Canyon east entrance was slow going, as it is a climb of a about 3,000 feet in under 30 miles, much of it stuck behind a converted school bus that could only do 25 mph up the hills. I think 3 nights was a good amount of time to get a feel for the grand canyon if you are not going to hike the trails, This gave up 2-3 hours to get a first look / sunset look of the canyon, then 2 full days there, I could see cutting this part of the trip to 2 nights if needed, but the extra night let us relax at bit. From there we drove down to Flagstaff, stopping at a couple of roadside attraction (airplane museum, etc.) on the way. My wife then flew home very early the next morning as she had work obligations she had to get back for, leaving me to make the return drive on my own. This was now Wednesday day 13 of the trip, where I started the drive home at about 9 am, events of the day involve stopping at Meteor Crater outside Winslow, AZ, around noon, yet another Wal-Mart grocery stop in Winslow, driving by the famous corner in Winslow (I did not stop), ending up spending the night at the free dry camping campground at the gift shop just outside the south gate of Petrified Forest National Park, National just as the park was closing for the day at 5 pm, only about 150 miles driving, but another fairly full day. The next day now day 14 included driving through Petrified national forest NP, which featured awful tooth jarring badly paved roads, so bad I did not even see half the park, then on east to Springerville, AZ where I stopped early due to bad weather rolling in, and a low of 12F that night. Much of the rest of the trip involved working my way down to I-10 and and heading home to Louisiana trying to stay ahead of a second early season arctic blast.

Could we have pushed harder, and enjoyed it, maybe with 2 people driving, but we did not have to deal with caring for kids either, and we had around 20,000 miles of RV driving experience going into the trip.
 

Melarles

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florida
I cannot thank everyone enough for all of the advice. Of course I know nothing about this life style and we were worried it was too much. Wishful thinking I guess? It sounds like our best bet is to cut the trip in half like many of you have suggested.
 

Larry N.

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It sounds like our best bet is to cut the trip in half like many of you have suggested.
That would be good. It also will be quite the learning experience for you, both in what you see on the trip and in RV operation and living. Of course you can still ask plenty of questions, as needed, while on the road, too.

Enjoy.
 

Oldgator73

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We took a month long trip in 2019 with the grandkids. Started in Dover, DE to NC. Stayed a few days there. Then on to Arkansas for a few days then down to Texas to visit friends and take a float trip. Then over to the Florida panhandle where we met up with friends we knew from England. We stayed there maybe four or five days. Then home. We had a rough agenda but mostly it was a what do you want to do tomorrow thing. My wife threw in some educational and historic outings like visiting Little Rock Central HS (our grandkids are mixed race), a visit to some Gullah sites in NC (our SIL is of Gullah heritage). Visited Hot Springs, AR and toured the hot baths there. Took the kids gem digging on the way out of Arkansas. Went to the Alamo in San Antonio. Our trip was a mix of staying in State and National parks, military Famcamps and hotels. After a month I was ready to get home. The kids had a great time. They still bring that trip up.
 

Melarles

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That would be good. It also will be quite the learning experience for you, both in what you see on the trip and in RV operation and living. Of course you can still ask plenty of questions, as needed, while on the road, too.

Enjoy.
I know this is a preference question, but out of all the places I have marked... Which would you suggest as the best? My kids are in the preteen/teen age group, so they are able to hike a good bit (if that makes a difference in your suggestions). My son really wants to see Mt. Rushmore, but other than that, is there much to do there?
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Agree with the others; no way to do that much in 2 weeks. RV travel is slower in mph, plus you want/need to stop early enough to "camp". And it's no fun if you are exhausted every day after the first. You've outline a month trip minimum, and some RVers would probably call that an entire summer's worth of sight-seeing. The RV lifestyle works best at a very relaxed pace.

Yellowstone is a minimum of 2-3 full days by itself, and many people spend a week. Arches also takes a lot of time, and there is still more to see & do in the surrounding area.
 

Larry N.

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My son really wants to see Mt. Rushmore, but other than that, is there much to do there?
A lot depends on your likes, but Deadwood (where Wild Bill Hickok was killed) isn't too far, Spearfish Canyon just a bit farther (beautiful place), there are museums and other things around, pretty scenery, some decent hikes, mountain sheep to see, and Custer State Park has quite a bit to see all by itself, including bison and donkeys (early September there's a Buffalo Roundup*- quite a sight). The four Mile Old West Town Museum is worth seeing: Four Mile Old West Town Museum

and this link shows many other things to do in the Black Hills/Rapid City area: Things to Do | VisitRapidCity.com


* We've been to the Buffalo Roundup twice -- neat stuff, driving over 1500 bison into a corral for culling, med checks, etc.: Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival
 
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