We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Is this possible

Which Indianapolis hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Level Contributor
457 posts
7 reviews
Is this possible

Hi TAs

I have once again come back to you all to access your vast knowledge. We are currently very much at the planning stage but we have the germ of an idea and thought I would put it past you to see if it had any legs.

As a few of you may know Lyn (my wife) and I have had two amazing holidays in the US – the first being the South West and reported on Trip Advisor as ‘The Trip of a Lifetime” and the second was when we visited New England in the Fall – both amazing holidays

We have recently returned from New Zealand where we had the most incredible three weeks but now we are turning our attention to our next holiday and this time we are planning to holiday with two of our friends.

After an initial chat about where to go we came up with a very loose plan which may or may not be possible and I volunteered to have a chat with my TA friends to see whether our musing were in fact possible.

Ok this was our ‘plan’.

We have decided that we would like to return to the US and in the main we would like to have a fly/drive type of holiday. We love the flexibility of driving ourselves but appreciate that because of the size of the US what we want to achieve may require one or two internal flights.

We were thinking about coming over for the first 3 weeks in September – although this could be flexible.

We would probably want to hire a car and sleep overnight in hotel/motels – maybe trying to spend on average £100 per couple per night – just checked what the conversion rate is and it is about 1.50 dollars to the pound.

So the route – well there are only 3 fixed points to be honest – starting point would be Yellowstone Park – the second fixed point would be Chicago/Lake Michigan and the 3rd fixed point would be Niagara Falls.

So as you can see this trip is really travelling very roughly across the northern states – now this is a long way so the questions are many:

Is it possible at a sensible pace to make this distance in three weeks – given that we would want to spend a few days in Yellowstone and Lake Michigan - I expect the answer is no.

If the answer in no – is it possible to do this trip with a combination of road travel and internal domestic flights or even rail travel.

We have identified Yellowstone, Chicago/Lake Michigan and Niagara Falls as scenic highlights of this trip – I know there are many more – could you recommend any other scenic highlights that would be must sees on this route.

I’m sure there will be many other questions but it would be very interesting to get your initial reaction as this may put an end to this idea before it has really started.

Any comments would be very much appreciated – I intent to post this request on the following State Forums:


North Dakota

South Dakota









New York

Many thanks for your continued help and support

Bloomington, Indiana
Destination Expert
for Bloomington
Level Contributor
7,683 posts
23 reviews
1. Re: Is this possible

My initial thought is that it's possible, but could be a stretch. I'm going to check some mileage stuff on Google in a minute, but have one more thing to say; I suggest you post this on the "Road Trips" forum. It's focus is on exactly this sort of thing.

Be back shortly with some observations on feasibility of driving.


Edit: Oh yeah, just to clarify. This got posted on the Indianapolis forum (not Indiana) - no big deal - I imagine most "Hoosiers" will see it anyway (not a huge traffic set of forums), just thought I'd point it out.

Edited: 4:00 pm, April 02, 2013
Bloomington, Indiana
Destination Expert
for Bloomington
Level Contributor
7,683 posts
23 reviews
2. Re: Is this possible

Okay, here's what Google maps says:

Total distance (Yellowstone to Niagra) just a little over 1,900 miles with a drive time of about 29 hours. Here's a quick thumbnail set of calculations.

Before starting it is worth noting the end of this trips goes through Canada. Not saying there is anything wrong with that, just that if you want to stay in the US you'll have to swing on the south side of Lake Erie which will add some mileage.

1. All this is based on 3 week/21 days of travel.

2. One of the initial/final hurdles is how to get to Yellowstone to start things off and Niagara to end things up (or vice-versa). To just make things easy on myself, I'm going to say you'll need 1 day at both the start & end of the trip to get to something approaching a major airport. You're now down to 19 days.

3. Let's give you 3 days (2 nights) in Yellowstone, a similar amount in the Lake Michigan area and another day at the end for Niagara (total 7 days), you're now down to 12 days.

4. To me that means you've now got 12 days of driving to do something approaching 30 hours of driving. That's an average of only 2.5 hours a day. Seems very doable to me, but . . . .

5. You're (obviously) going to want to see/do things on the way. This will both take time during your days and probably add driving miles/time. As just a ballpark, I'm going to say this will increase your drive time by 50%. (Now up to 45 hours.) That still means you're looking at something like an average of 4 hours/day. Still very doable. In fact, for those things that aren't worth an entire day, it works out pretty well if you simply plan to spend 1/2 of each day driving and 1/2 doing/seeing things. (Now, this does require that the things you want to see/do be within 1/2 - 1 days drive which is a bit of an issue.)

6. Want to make certain you are aware of just how flat (read, somewhat boring) that part of this drive will be. The part of this drive though Kansas/Nebraska/Dakotas/Iowa will be *very* flat and rather boring. (Kansas is *literally* flatter than a pancake.)

7. Here's a semi-random list of things you might want to see/do that are along this route (and or could be added, but note that some will add hundreds of miles - also some of these are at least semi, if not actually contradictory - that is you probably can't do all of them):

Rocky Mountains - you'll obviously see mountains at Yellowstone, but it wouldn't be too much out of the way to swing down a little (more?) into Colorado.

Badlands, Mount Rushmore, LIttle Bighorn, etc.

Obviously Chicago, but also Madison, MIlwaukee, Indianapolis, and Saint Louis. All of these are pretty much "on the way."

Do be aware that there is at least one-ferry that crosses Lake Michigan (from Mantitowoc to Ludington), or at least there used to be.

The headwaters of the Mississippi (at Lake Ittacasa (sp?) in Minnesota. If you do this you could add Minneapolis/Saint Paul and the Mall of America without much effort.

There of course are a plethora of smaller cities & towns and things to see/do that I haven't even touched on (particularly since I pretty much shut down my analysis once you get to the Indiana area).

For now I think you need to consider the biggest picture (i.e. fly or drive) and then the smaller decisions. Not sure which I'd put first, but it would likely be either: a) the intermediate things you want to see/do (i.e. second priorities after Yellowstone, Lake Michigan & Niagara) - these will go a long way to determining your route in a broad sense), and/or b) how much you're willing to "power drive." If you're willing to have a 10-12 hour driving day (which I find *really* wearing), then suddenly you can get *hundreds* of miles in a day and the route you take, things you can see/do become much more flexible.

Bottom Line: I lean pretty strong towards driving and if you decide to do so think you need to flesh out what else you want to see and/or what you see your driving style being. Power days where you put 700 miles on the road (and how many/often) or more leisurely days of more like 250 miles (which would be more like 4 hours of driving).

Hope this helps,


Level Contributor
497 posts
64 reviews
3. Re: Is this possible

Sounds like some good ideas that need just a little tweeking. Yellowstone would be a must visit IMO. Maybe rent an RV to stay in this area or get hotel ressy's ASAP (when I tried to get hotel ressy's on National Park property they were all booked I believe 4 mo in advance). Not certain what the desire for Lake Michigan is but consider flying to Chicago renting a car and driving to Niagra Falls. Also consider driving into Canada at Detroit Michigan area and going the north route over to Niagra Falls. They say it's prettier from the Canada side. If doing this drive in middle of September leaves may already be changing color for a beautiful fall display (more likely of this happening if traveling farther north). I would be very interested in hearing your final itinerary if you don't mind posting once decided.

Level Contributor
457 posts
7 reviews
4. Re: Is this possible

Thanks Huntlawoffice - 'hope this helps' - this is fantastic info. - I couldn't have wished for better - really must get it clear in my mind how much driving we can afford to do and how much flying we should include. I don't think we want to get into 10 to 12 hours driving a day. I like the ideas of driving for say five or six hours per day with stops built in to take a better look at the scenery that we are driving through or maybe just stroll around a local town.

Level Contributor
457 posts
7 reviews
5. Re: Is this possible

Yes Indygirl2003 - I am starting to believe this is the solution!

Level Contributor
457 posts
7 reviews
6. Re: Is this possible

Can I just say thank you to so many Trip Advisors who took the time to help me with the planning of this trip. The advice and help provided was incredible and has provided me with so much information that for A while I didn't know where to start. However, I have read and re-read each and every contribution and eventually I began to see a way through.

There were many cases of the same or similar advice being given over and over again and where this I'd practicable I have amended our itinerary. In fact the itinerary I am proposing now is significantly different to one I originally proposed.

I have also been looking at flights and I think from an international point of view it would be best to fly into Denver and fly out of Toronto.

Time constraints have meant that I have had to remove Chicago from the itinerary altogether.

Take a look at the new itinerary - it is still a rough plan and I'm sure there is still plenty of tweaking to do but I have based a lot of the stops on either a great place to be based to see some of the iconic scenery etc in a particular area or I have decided that a particular location is convenient in terms of number of miles to drive in a particular day.

My biggest concern is something that TAs always remind me of and that is, have I built in enough days to just stop and smell the roses - I don't want so much driving that we don't have time to stop and enjoy the incredible scenery that we are driving through. so maybe I ought to build in more stop days but we have to cover the distance - so this is a dilemma - any suggestions would be really welcome.

Also not sure which domestic airlines to use to fly from Denver to Minneapolis - whilst talking about this - is it worth driving back to Denver from Custer to fly to Minneapolis or should I just carry on and drive on to Minneapolis from Custer?

Anyone have any ideas re best UK airlines that fly into Denver but out of Toronto.

Similarly, anyone help with best car hire company that we could use where we can pick it up at Denver ( or Minneapolis) and drop it off at Toronto?

Sorry for a whole host of new questions.

New and revised itinerary is as follows:-

Day 1 - Fly into Denver

Day 2 - Drive from Denver to Casper - 277 miles - 4 hours

Day 3 - Drive from Casper to Jackson - 280 miles - 5 hours

Day 4 - Day in the Grand Tetons

Day 5 - Drive from Jackson to Yellowstone - 80 miles - 1.75 hrs

Day 6 - Day in Yellowstone

Day 7 - Day in Yellowstone

Day 8 - Drive from Yellowstone to Cody - 100 miles - 2 hrs

Day 9 - Drive from Cody to Hulett - 319 miles - 5 hrs

Day 10 - Drive Hulett to Custer - 117 miles - 2 hrs

Day 11 - Day in and around Hulett

Day 12 - Drive from Custer to Guernsey - 158 miles - 2.5 hrs

Day 13 - Drive from Guernsey to Denver - 198 miles - 3 hrs

Day 14 - Fly to Minneapolis

Day 15 - Drive from Minneapolis to Duluth - 154 miles - 2.25 miles

Day 16 - Drive from Duluth to Thunder Bay - 190 miles - 3.50 hrs

Day 17 - Drive from Thunder Bay to Marathon - 187 miles - 3.50 hrs

Day 18 - Drive from Marathon to Sault Ste Marie - 255 miles - 5 hrs

Day 19 - Drive from Sault Ste Marie to Grundy Lake - 234 miles - 4.25 hours

Day 20 - Drive from Grundy Lake to Toronto - 192 miles - 3 hrs

Day 21 - drive to Niagara Falls and return to Toronto - 160 miles round trip - 3 hrs.

Day 22 - Fly home from Toronto

Bloomington, Indiana
Destination Expert
for Bloomington
Level Contributor
7,683 posts
23 reviews
7. Re: Is this possible


Haven't had a opportunity to do more than glance at your latest post/itinerary, but wanted to make a quick couple of quick comments:

a) First, thanks for listening & responding. All too often we make suggestions to people, who then repeat their question (I think because they didn't get the answer they want) and/or never respond in any way.

No "thanks," "good idea," "you made me think of some things I hadn't considered," "good point(s)," - nothing, nada, zilch, zip, bupkis.

b) And, generally thanks for the thanks. Won't say I (we?) do this for them, but it does make it nicer when we get them.

Will try to review your itinerary and perhaps comment in the next day or two.


Level Contributor
457 posts
7 reviews
8. Re: Is this possible

Do you know what - this is a complete u turn on my original thoughts but I have tussled and tussled over this itinerary and I keep on thinking that we are trying to cram in too much. It's a bit like being a child in a sweetie shop - there are so many incredible places to visit there is a danger of trying to do too much.

Although we have never minded putting in the miles my biggest concern is having enough time to stop a take a good long look at some of the magnificent countryside that we will be passing through. I don't really want to be flying past all of these incredible locations because we are under time pressure to get to our next destination.

Also, I have taken on board the additional costs involved in flying in and out of different airports and dropping off hire cars in different cities or even different countries.

I now think we may be better of spending a day or two extra in Yellowstone ( which to be honest was our prime reason for this trip) and with all the fabulous advice we have already received build in a return loop from Denver and returning to Denver - Leaving the Great Lakes, Chicago and Niagara Falls for another visit.

I feel a lot more comfortable with this plan - back to the drawing board.

Bloomington, Indiana
Destination Expert
for Bloomington
Level Contributor
7,683 posts
23 reviews
9. Re: Is this possible

Here's an idea I use sometimes on (longer) trips, put 1 extra day in your plans.

The idea is that if you've got it planned to arrive a day early at your final destination, suddenly you have extra time on the way. Spend a few extra hours somewhere the first few days, it doesn't even show up as you can make it up over a few days by driving an extra hour or two. Even if you find something that you think is worth a bunch of time, even a whole day . . . you're still good. You've got the cushion and unless it's late in the trip, you don't even have to adjust things/consider it.


Indianapolis, IN
2 posts
10. Re: Is this possible

Have you considered flying into Salt Lake City?

It is maybe a 5 hour drive to Yellowstone,

and you won't need to backtrack, as you would if you flew into Denver.

also, the Train runs between Chicago, Denver, SLC..(and maybe even west Yellowstone)

which might be an option for you...

Let the train do the driving, while you enjoy the view