Hi guys I need some help from all you dedicated travellers!
I'm planning a road trip next year between June and September, for 2 weeks, to do the classic western USA road trip starting in San Francisco going to LA then heading to Vegas. I'm needing help with how much spending money to take, ideas or tips to bring the cost down, and places in between that are great to visit or see and do. Plus the nest time of year to go and ideas of how to best book it. It will me and a friend, we will both 28 at the time of going, and there might be a third friend the same age too. Please help?! Many thanks
California can be expensive, so it is best to plan ahead and make cheaper reservations on line before going. Search for reasonable car rentals. Try staying outside city limits of San Francisco and Los Angeles for cheaper motels. Look into hostels if that appeals to you. Driving in the city of San Francisco can be a challenge if you are not use to steep hills in the city. You can find reasonable hotels in Las Vegas if you stay off the strip. You can always drive to the strip from your hotel to see the sites there. It would only take a few minutes. Even some of the off strip hotels can have a lot to offer. The problem you may have in Las Vegas is the weather because you are planning a trip between June and September which is the hottest time of the year there (it can get way into the hundreds in the fahrenheit scale). Plan your activities there indoors.
Vegas accommodations vary in price greatly, but it is always much cheaper to be there on the Sunday-Thursday night time frame (as opposed to the weekend Friday and Saturday night hotel rates). Also it is easier to get tickets to the shows you want that way, without paying as much (though be aware that often the shows won't run on either a Sunday night or Monday night or both).
Buffets in Las Vegas are the cheapest way to eat and almost every hotel in Las Vegas has one. If you really want to eat as cheap as possible, eat late at night--as many hotels try to get people into their casinos by offering extremely cheap food late at night (like after 10 PM up to midnight).
The other thing to be aware is that if you order drinks at the pools, they get costly. But if you can haul yourself over to the local snack bar, you can get these drinks often for half the price. The most expensive cost, of course, is in the clubs. Never go for the VIP private roped-off areas unless you are planning to drop big bucks. A bottle of wine or vodka or champagne will get marked up from its normal $30 to $100 or even $200 just because they know you are paying for the "privilege" of being in a separate non-crowded area. Of course, this is how the VIPs show they are VIPs--by spending more than the average person.
Okay, so much for Las Vegas. When in California, eating outside of the major downtown areas is the way to go, and our fast-food can be good at some places and the regular food places almost all serve great stuff or they won't stay in business long. We have as many different varieties of stuff as anywhere, although I'd have to say that we don't have as many Indian restaurants as they do in the UK. Thai food is also quite cheap (well at least it was until the US dollar got so strong in the currency markets lately) and very good, especially if you order pho (soup) with lots of stuff in it. I find that if you don't order wine with your meal, the cost will be reasonable (beers tend to be cheaper than wine or mixed drinks almost everywhere in California). Speaking of which, if you order beer, be aware that many of the "European" beers are actually just American beers where the right to call it a European beer was purchased from the supplier company (for example, Heineken sold here is all produced here as are some Pilsner beers, so don't order them or you'll just get terrible tasting stuff).
Thank goodness that most British beers, plus Stella Artois haven't sold out to these shills. The problem with any American beer, including the "European" named ones is that it gets pasturized, meaning the taste is just terrible. (The only exception is Coors, but even it is just okay or Sam Adams, which actually makes a good product). To get a truly good beer in America, you need to order either a Mexican beer (I prefer Pacifico or Negro Modelo or Dos Equis) or you need to order a British ale (Newcastle is great), or a Spanish beer (if you can find it, Estrella is good, but almost never found), or even a Phillipino beer (San Miguel) or you have to go to a microbrewery where they make their own beer on site (many of these can be great, and quite often they will let you have free samples to decide which you prefer).