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Road trip planning advice

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Old 04-16-2012, 11:50 AM
ChristieY
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Road trip planning advice

Hi! My boyfriend and I are moving across the country this summer which means that we are planning a big roadtrip from Boston to my final destination, Houston, TX. I've never done a road trip like this before so I want your advice and tips!

Right now I'm planning on a week-long trip, probably beginning in the first or second week of August. I've never traveled in this part of the country before so I want some ideas for good stopping destinations. I'm thinking that I want to stop in D.C. to visit friends, New Orleans, and the great smokey mountains national park, but if there are any other can't-miss destinations, good driving roads, restaurants or events then I would love to hear about them.

Should I book hotels ahead of time, or just wing it? I usually plan things down to the second but it might be fun this once to just see where I end up along the way.

Last but not least, what should I get checked out on my car before I leave? It will probably reach 50,000 miles by August.
 
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Old 04-16-2012, 01:02 PM
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You Should do it a few weeks earlier, with loads of MINIs, on MINI Takes The States!
 
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Old 04-16-2012, 01:54 PM
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For any long road trips I try to plan out the stop over cities in advance and then research 'fun' driving routes between them. I then just pick a hotel when I arrive.

Houston in August...get the AC double checked that's for sure. Also engine cooling system. You will be driving through some think southern summer air.

Also be sure to check tire pressure while on your trip. 32psi on a Boston morning will not still be 32psi once your reach Houston at 5pm and its 101 out.
 
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Old 04-16-2012, 02:15 PM
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Yeah, definitely make sure tat your AC is working if you are going to be here in August high 90's - low 100's are common and then there's the humidity. As for hotels, I'd definitely book the one in Houston ahead of time, assuming that you don't already have a place to live here, I'd do the same with New Orleans, and DC since they are major cities and thus finding a hotel room last minute can be a real pain. Oh if you are a seafood fan, while you're in New Orleans you need to stop at Drago's and have some charbroiled oysters, they are absolutely awesome.

We've got a pretty good group out here in Houston so you should definitely try to make it out to a club meeting some time after you get here!
 
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Old 04-16-2012, 07:14 PM
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ChristieY,
I did that drive a couple of times and pushed 600-700miles a day, so i had to nail down my hotels/couches to crash on ahead of time.
A week would certainly be more relaxing that that!

If you're a planner like me, then i'd recommend taking a look at the cancellation policies for the places you're booking and that way you know what you can bail on without losing money.

Finally, A+ for the recommendation to have the AC checked. I had it fail on my old Neon during one of those trips and let me tell you, Alabama was not fun!
 
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Old 04-17-2012, 05:09 AM
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You're getting some good advice, not too much to add.

I'd second that idea of planning your overnight stops in advance. Set up what you'd like to cover each day, and some idea of where you'll want to stop/linger along the route. Then book hotels for your overnights in advance; while the joy of discovery can be a fine thing, it can be a drag to have to find a room at the end of a long day when you're just wanting to get off the road.

You can book hotels near interstates to make finding them / getting underway the next morning very easy. Keep an eye toward where in a metro area you're overnighting, so that when you leave in the morning, you don't have a big slog through rush hour just to get "out of town".

Between Boston and Houston? The mind boggles on things to see, limitless and hard to recommend, not knowing your interests. History, architecture, music, art, food...there are so many good roads too. You could indeed take in "The Dragon" along the way, just so you'll know what the buzz is about if you haven't been there, but also the Cherohola Skyway (much longer, fast sweepers vs. tight twisties), Blue Ridge Parkway, Natchez Trace Parkway, and so many others. A good resource is http://motorcycleroads.com/, motorcycle travelers love the same roads our MINIs do, there should be lots of recommendations.

We put some focus on food when we travel; some resources there are the RoadFood site at http://www.roadfood.com/ or Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives references on several websites. If live music is more like it for you, Nashville, Memphis, and Austin, TX all have very active live music communities and would be easy to take in.

Oh, and perhaps early on: decide on interstates (fast, easy to make time, gas stops always just an exit or two away) or two-lanes (stop and look, see the sights, find surprises), and that can help gauge your travel pace.

And yes: deep south, and south Texas in August? A/C and radiator service (flush/fill, if it's due or been a while) highly recommended, it's *very* warm there that time of year. Get a windshield sunshade and use it. Park in the shade anytime you can, leave windows open a bit when parked even so. 100+ baking a parked car interior makes it *very* hot when you return, even only 15-30 minutes.
 
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Old 04-17-2012, 11:48 AM
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Take care of all scheduled maintenance before you set off. Locate MINI dealerships along your route, as you never know when you might need repair.
 
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Old 04-17-2012, 05:24 PM
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Thanks for all of the responses and advice! I will definitely get my air conditioning checked out before I leave.

MINI takes the states looks awesome! I'd never heard of it before but I'm getting some good ideas from the site and the itinerary.

I love the idea of taking the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Natchez Trace Parkway so thank you ljmattox for those suggestions. I'm definitely more interested in scenic routes, nature, and native american history. I was debating whether to cut southwest through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi or to go through Tennessee and then south through Mississippi so now I'm leaning towards the latter.
 
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Old 04-17-2012, 05:48 PM
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If you take a little bit of a northern route you can stop by MITM. Minis in the Mountains is 2-5 Aug in Winter park, CO. Great drives and cool nights.

http://minisinthemountains.com/
 
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Old 04-17-2012, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Rjgross View Post
If you take a little bit of a northern route you can stop by MITM. Minis in the Mountains is 2-5 Aug in Winter park, CO. Great drives and cool nights.

http://minisinthemountains.com/
I'm trying to convince my wife we HAVE to do this! We're going to South Dakota June 8 - 12, so I'm hopig that road trip convinces her...
 
  #11  
Old 04-17-2012, 07:52 PM
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Christie, I've been meaning to reply on my thread about moving to Boston but I keep forgetting. I'm hoping to make a similar drive, in the opposite direction, so I'll be watching your thread too. So are you going to U of H or Rice for grad school? If Rice, then you absolutely have got to go to at least one football to see the MOB, the Marching Owl Band, perform. They're hysterical.

If you don't have window tinting, you might want to add it. In Texas, the max that you can get is 35% on the driver's and passenger's windows and the rear windows can be darker. On our MINIs the front windshield can't be tinted at all. If you have any questions, let me know. I've never lived in Houston but I have tons of friends from Houston. Good luck with your drive!
 
  #12  
Old 04-18-2012, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by lacynpiper View Post
Christie, I've been meaning to reply on my thread about moving to Boston but I keep forgetting. I'm hoping to make a similar drive, in the opposite direction, so I'll be watching your thread too. So are you going to U of H or Rice for grad school? If Rice, then you absolutely have got to go to at least one football to see the MOB, the Marching Owl Band, perform. They're hysterical.

If you don't have window tinting, you might want to add it. In Texas, the max that you can get is 35% on the driver's and passenger's windows and the rear windows can be darker. On our MINIs the front windshield can't be tinted at all. If you have any questions, let me know. I've never lived in Houston but I have tons of friends from Houston. Good luck with your drive!
Actually, current legislation is 25% in the front. It was changed a year or two ago, though you are correct about no tint allowed on the windshield.
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 08:38 AM
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In '02 I drove my new MCS from NY to LA. My favorite place I stopped was the lodge in Natchez Trace State Park. I pulled off the I-40 after a long day of driving, took some pictures by the lake on the north side of the freeway. Then I saw a sign that said "Lodge" maybe 8-12 miles south on the same road. I drove down there through all the vine-covered trees thinking, "I don't care how much, I'm staying here".......it was maybe 60 bucks. Lodge on a lake.....very scenic
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 08:56 AM
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I'd say find some key sights you want to see, and wing the rest. Everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone once in a while, and this is a good opportunity.

Common sense, but have your "flat tire" plan worked out ahead of time.
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 11:59 AM
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As I have driven from Florida to Cali and vice versa 8 times and am going to be doing it again this summer twice (once for MTTS and another to move to Cali) I have a few tips.
1st arguabley the best tip is to make sure you are up to date on your maintence and probably have your vehicle inspected too just to make sure nothing is going to go wrong.
2nd Plan your stops. I am never in a hurry to go cross country becuase it is the only time you get to see multiple locations in the U.S. on the same trip. I normally plan 8-10 hours of driving max a day. Some days are less because I want to see something on the way there(e.g. Pima Air Museum in AZ and Tombstone).
3rd Good music selection with your more upbeat stuff and loud stuff in the beginning of your trip and the more relaxing stuff for the end of the trip. By the end of the trip all music sounds excactly the same.
4th Pack for at least 3 extra days more then trip nothing more your are not trying to move your entire household in your MINI and yes you can live without certain things for a couple of days.
5th Relax! You are going to run into all kinds of bad drivers, people, animals, and objects on the way out there. Try to make in one piece.











Oh last but, not least enjoy Houston carpet bagger. Lol j/k.
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 01:25 PM
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Lacynpiper + CKeffer - I definitely plan on getting a tint before I leave so thanks for the details ... I'll probably need a decal for the sun roof too!

bruceink - that sounds amazing and is exactly the kind of experience I'm hoping for!

Oh, and I'm so jealous of all of you who have driven out to California. I think that road trip will be more feasible once I'm more settled in TX.
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 01:47 PM
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Per ljmattox, drive the Dragon on your way. It's a long way back there, once you are in Texas. Just north of Knoxville, deviate southeast (about 40-50 m.) on I-40, then southwest on 19 (or 74, both nice), turn right on 28 at Almond, then right again on 129 (the Dragon) after Fontana. When it runs into 72, turn left and follow 72 until it meets back up with I-75. According to Google maps, this would only add 2 hours, but I would think a bit more. Happy Motoring!
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by ChristieY View Post
Lacynpiper + CKeffer - I definitely plan on getting a tint before I leave so thanks for the details ... I'll probably need a decal for the sun roof too!

bruceink - that sounds amazing and is exactly the kind of experience I'm hoping for!

Oh, and I'm so jealous of all of you who have driven out to California. I think that road trip will be more feasible once I'm more settled in TX.
I got the sun shields to put in mine.http://www.amazon.com/ZippeeShade-Su.../dp/B0070YPITW a set of these to be exact.
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by ChristieY View Post
Lacynpiper + CKeffer - I definitely plan on getting a tint before I leave so thanks for the details ... I'll probably need a decal for the sun roof too!
Yeah, I built my car specifically around the Texas heat: no sunroof, ceramic tinted windows(I'm glad that CKeffer said something about the % tint, I clearly got my percentages mixed up), manual A/C, and cloth seats(If you have the leatherette seats consider getting seat covers, leatherette is painful in Texas); but I'm really wishing that I had ignored my parents' recommendations and gone ahead and ordered the heated seats. I could have used them last year, winter 2010-2011, and I'll definitely want them in Boston. Oh well. Next MINI.

If I had the time, I would do the Dragon. After all how often are you, or I, going to be driving through that part of the US? I'm hoping that once I have everything scheduled I'll be able to squeeze in the extra 2+ hours for the dragon or at least drive the Blue Ridge Parkway again. We went to Asheville a few years ago on a family vacation and it was gorgeous. I'd love to drive it again, luggage or no luggage. Maybe go through Hot Springs, Arkansas? We've been there on vacation and Lake Ouachita is gorgeous. You can rent jet skis at both Lake Hamilton and Lake Ouachita and in Hot Springs there are natural springs and spas that are supposed to be amazing. I've never been to the springs or the spas but I've heard great things about both.

Someone mentioned getting your car checked out. I took mine in last week to get a full checkup while I was under the service period so you might call your dealership or mechanic and see if they can help you out for free or cheap. Mine was free, but I was still in the service period and I still have a 1 year left on the warranty and roadside assistance. I plan on having my dad rotate my tires for me before I move

Oh and make sure that you keep unopened water bottle(s) in your car! With how hot and dry it is in Texas in August (Houston seems to be humid year round but the rest of the state can go from 100% to 0% humidity in the summer and both are brutal), you do not want to break down on the side of the road without water and it needs to be a water bottle that you haven't opened so that the bacteria that naturally occurs in your mouth won't cause the water in the water bottle to go bad in the sun and heat. That may be TMI but believe me that it is super important in the summer.
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:39 PM
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Actually, it's a legislation that changed only within the last couple of years (2009, I think) so it's entirely possible that when you got yours done 35% was the max (that was the previous limit)

http://www.tintcenter.com/laws/TX/
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 06:04 PM
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I've done two-week road trips the past two summers. As far as hotels, I have made reservations in advance for major places, and just found a place along the way for the rest of the ride. I used the Priceline app on my phone in the late afternoon/early evening when I had a good idea of where I'd want to stop. That made it easier than having to worry about finding a hotel late, after a long day of driving.
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 06:10 PM
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Have fun on the trip but be ready for humid heat.

Side note, 5% all around here and no trouble
 
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Old 04-18-2012, 07:31 PM
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Hot springs in Arkansas? I had no idea that existed, I just googled it and it looks beautiful.

Okay, yes, I am definitely incorporating a visit to the fabled Dragon, and I think that you should too lacynpiper! Also, I use my heated seats year round, they're amazing but I guess I won't be using them much in TX.

Also, I have leatherette seats :( CKeffer -- Thanks for the link to the sun shade, I think those will come in handy. And I forgot to mention before but I am definitely going to a club meeting when I get to Houston!

Any suggestions for scenic routes between Boston and DC? I'm kind of interested in swinging through Lancaster County, PA to see Amish crafts and such ...

Finally, artmem, thanks for the app suggestion. I have an iphone which I never utilize fully so I will look into that one and any other apps that might be useful for planning trips.
 
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Old 04-19-2012, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by lacynpiper View Post
Yeah, I built my car specifically around the Texas heat: no sunroof, ceramic tinted windows(I'm glad that CKeffer said something about the % tint, I clearly got my percentages mixed up), manual A/C, and cloth seats(If you have the leatherette seats consider getting seat covers, leatherette is painful in Texas); but I'm really wishing that I had ignored my parents' recommendations and gone ahead and ordered the heated seats. I could have used them last year, winter 2010-2011, and I'll definitely want them in Boston. Oh well. Next MINI.

Oh and make sure that you keep unopened water bottle(s) in your car! With how hot and dry it is in Texas in August (Houston seems to be humid year round but the rest of the state can go from 100% to 0% humidity in the summer and both are brutal), you do not want to break down on the side of the road without water and it needs to be a water bottle that you haven't opened so that the bacteria that naturally occurs in your mouth won't cause the water in the water bottle to go bad in the sun and heat. That may be TMI but believe me that it is super important in the summer.
Spent a summer in Dallas during the 38 days of 100+ with a beater car that had no working AC and a busted head gasket. That was zero fun.
 
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Old 04-19-2012, 06:16 AM
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Originally Posted by ChristieY View Post
Any suggestions for scenic routes between Boston and DC? I'm kind of interested in swinging through Lancaster County, PA to see Amish crafts and such ...
You might want to check out http://thegreaticecreamrun.com and look at the routes. You might be able to reverse some of them for a run heading south.
 
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