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May 25 2011

Seattle To Los Angeles Road Trip Routes

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The secret to planning any road trip route – in this case a route from seattle to la – is not to plan, but rather to prepare. Where possible, you want to scout out ideas, but not make fixed plans, so your holiday on the road can change along with your whims.

A good tool to help you is Google Maps

Using the directions tool in google maps, we find the simplest route from Seattle to Los Angeles

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Thats straight down the I5, but not particularly inspiring. A more traditional route – the sort you might find in a road trip book such as the excellent Road Trip USA: Pacific Coast Highway would take you along the pacific coast: something more like:

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But in our case, we’ve already committed to seeing the coast by train. OUr plan, instead, is to go inland and see something of the country. I don’t really want to plan a route, but I want to know whats possible – what my limits are. So a little maths:

I think a good level of driving is around 300 miles a day. Thats five or six hours driving – which for two people should be fine. The plan is to be on the road for a week, 7 days, so with 300 miles a day, I can only take a route which is 2100 miles long (and after a day of driving out of Seattle, for example, is only 1800 miles to LA).

What I’m looking to do here isn’t to plan the overnight stops that I’ll make, but rather to see the maximum way inland I can go, and still get home again on time. I made my plan with google maps, first planning a rout from Seattle to La, then adding destinations in between, each destination trying to be 300 miles away from the last, and trying to increase the length of the route as much as possible. In te end I came up with something like this:

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What this really shows is how far east I can go in my first 3 days of driving, and still get back. I also know that whatever I do in my first 4 days, so long as I get to point E on day 4 I’ll be OK. Of course if I get to point E (or somewhere south of it) earlier than that, I’ll be able to continue a more westerly route. This isn’t a plan – but it knowledge – knowledge that will be useful once we start needing to investigate where good overnighting spots – hotels and motels meeting my specifications – are.


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