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I'm planning on going on a road trip through north eastern parts of the USA. I have up to two weeks vacations at work, but I'm not sure how to split them.

My current plan is to drive from Quebec to New Hampshire, Vermont and/or Maine. To me, this seems feasible in a week, but I'm scared I might miss out on things or feel rushed.

I also have plans for a trip with friends for an event, hence why I want to split my vacation.

This is my first road trip, I plan on going alone. How friendly are people to tourists? Is it generally accepted to eat at a diner and strike a conversation with the waitress about nearby attractions or routes to take?

  • We're friendly to tourists, unless they're from Massachusetts. (Just mostly kidding.) This is quite ... non-specific. You could drive through all of these states in a few hours, or spend several weeks here. It might help if you have some idea of what you want to see and do. – Michael Hampton Dec 16 '15 at 1:48
  • My idea for this vacation is going around scenic routes. I got a car last summer and I really enjoy the way it drives, but roads here aren't the greatest. I also plan on going to diners and places that represents the states I am going to visit, hence why I'm wondering if a week is enough. There's still a lot of planning I need to do, I am aware of that. I'm mostly looking for advice on how to estimate the duration of a trip. I tend to be horrible at estimates and always think stuff takes much longer than I expect them to. Knowing this however, I have nothing to gauge how long this could take. – Yousend Dec 16 '15 at 2:04
  • Honestly, there is no way we can tell you how long you should take. Google Maps will give you a lower bound on the road travel but you have to count hotels, food, bathroom breaks (including looking for such things) and sight seeing which depends on your interests and your activities. – Itai Dec 16 '15 at 4:00
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I've done plenty of road tripping myself, all over North America, and I think I have some idea of what you want...

Back in the bad old days, before Google, a "map" was physically printed on paper, and there were entire books you could buy which had maps of various parts of the geography of a country, as well as a section showing the distances between various towns and cities. I hear they still exist.

By knowing the distance you intend to travel, you can fairly well estimate how long it will take. Try this experiment: Drive from Montreal to Sherbrooke, at an off-peak time of day. Note the time you start and end, and the distance you travel. You should come up with approximately 90 minutes and 150 kilometers. If you check Google Maps, it will suggest a very similar time and distance.

Knowing this, you may consider a rule of thumb that you can travel 100 kilometers in an hour on an autoroute (or Interstate in the US). Let's call it 60 miles, since the US is still a backward country that hasn't quite adopted the metric system. This seems like a very good estimate, in my experience.

Now, drive back to Montreal and this time, don't use the autoroute. Use the smaller provincial highways and back roads. Again, you should come up with 150 kilometers, but this time it will take two and a half hours! This suggests that you can estimate your overall speed on such roads at 60 km/h (or 35 miles in the US). This also seems like a good estimate to me.

Similarly you can figure out how much time it takes to get off the highway, fill your gas tank and get back on the highway (maybe five minutes; not long enough to worry about).

You must be hungry after all that driving, so find yourself a diner! Note the time you walk in the door, and the time you leave. Depending on how quickly you're served and how quickly you eat, this may take you anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Repeat this at several other restaurants, and get a sense of how long it takes you to eat, how long it takes you overall at different types of restaurants, etc.

Crossing the border (usually 5 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic). Not much more to be said about this.

What remains to estimate is how much time you want to spend at various attractions. For this, you'll first need to figure out what you might want to see and do.

For instance, you might wish to drive the Kancamagus Highway. You can do that in ... by our estimate above, just under an hour. But there are several places along the highway that you might want to stop and look at something. That might take you five minutes, or you might be inspired to stand there and watch a waterfall for hours. Only you know for sure.

One thing I will advise you not to do is to plan your trip with strict adherence to a schedule. It sounds like you might be tempted to do this. On a road trip especially, you will often run into something that you want to stop and spend some time looking at, and if you feel rushed, then you might not do so, even if you actually had plenty of time. And even if you do run short on time, Quebec is not that far away...

If I were going to give you a nice rule of thumb, I would say to figure on 12 hours for your evening meal, sleeping, getting up and having breakfast. Then about one hour driving for every hour doing something "touristy" ... give or take. You might decide to stay a couple of days in some town, for instance.

If you're still not sure, find a couple of tourist attractions right in your city and visit them. See how long it takes. Most people never do this, which is unfortunate for them...

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    That is way toooo mathematical, takes the fun out of road trippin'. – user13044 Dec 16 '15 at 7:12
  • Yes, it is. And that's why you should just relax and enjoy the drive. I think it won't be an issue after he actually gets on the road... – Michael Hampton Dec 16 '15 at 12:39
  • I have done a tour through a part of Canada, between New Bedford and New York City, with a friend who does not like to drive motorways. We did plan our route using Google and added 50% time for the smaller roads. Turned out we should have added 200%. Still a pleasant journey, but if we had been less generous in the time we set for the tour it would have been much harder. – Willeke Dec 16 '15 at 17:39
  • Thanks, from what I understand I'm better off planning general locations, with maybe an attraction and then go with the flow. – Yousend Dec 16 '15 at 23:05
  • Right! It's a holiday, not a military campaign. – Michael Hampton Dec 16 '15 at 23:21

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