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Some advice with a trip to America...

Travel Forums North America Some advice with a trip to America...

1. Posted by Gstocks (Budding Member 2 posts) 7y

I am looking to travel Northern America with a time limit of 8 weeks. Firstly is this possible, with being able to see lots of interesting things from tourist attractions to real-life america? (if you know what I mean)

Secondly I am unsure how the best way to travel is. I originally thought Greyhound 60 day ticket would be useful, but I have heard mixed things about greyhound - can anyone comment on the service or recommend other modes of transport?

Money is a small issue but I am wondering realistically how much I would need whilst in America - for food, accommodation, sights, extensive travel and the odd collectable item from each state? Also keep in mind I'm looking for a 6-8 week window.

My plan is to start out on the east side then travel north to the west, then travel south and back up to the east again - is there anything in the route, or is this a minute thing to think about in the scale of things?

I am looking to travel at the end of september to end of november time - this therefore will effect what I will have to take in terms of clothing and also money - I'm guessing this isn't a peak season time + will the climate still be reasonably mild?

I've heard good things about the safety when traveling, but is there anyplace I should be wary of, or just some general safety tips to use? As you may recognize I am not that experienced and would love any help that will be useful to me in any way.

2. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator 1989 posts) 7y

Okay, a few basics on security first:

Large US cities have their "inner city" slums--and these are the main places to avoid. In LA and Chicago, these are on the south side of town between the downtown and extending maybe 5 miles out. In New York, these are mostly in the SE corner of the city (and in some remote areas extending for a few blocks near the Bedford Stevensant area of Manhattan) --and in San Francisco, this is in the area just about 7 blocks west and about three blocks south of the fancier shopping and financial districts. In Baltimore, it is just east of the downtown area and some blocks north of theLittle Italy area.

I don't know where it is in Detroit (I've never been there). In Miami, it is essentially directly west of downtown.

Most of these places aren't that dangerous as long as you aren't going through at night and aren't causing any problems when you do go through. Areas to avoid are any places where it looks like drugs might be getting sold--that's the key problem in this country right now.

Transportation--the US is enormous, so you are going to have to decide how you want to get around. The only cities with great transportation systems are New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Chicago. The Los Angeles system is somewhat functional, Las Vegas is okay, and in everyplace else, if you don't have a car, you'll need to take a bus to get around within the larger cities. Outside of cities, it's a bus or a train or a plane--and trains and planes don't go everywhere. Driving is the preferred method for getting around, although, personally, I think I'd get a monthly Amtrak rail pass if I were coming here and wasn't planning to drive. The first places to go are the places with the better tranportation systems (NY,Washington, SF, Chicago, and Las Vegas)--and Orlando--where you can see more and have a good time doing so without worrying about how to get there.

Money: Amazingly enough, you can get by here for pretty cheap if you have to--especially now when everything's on sale. You can also spend a fortune if you want the poshest accommodations--it is all up to you. Fast food is like $5 to $7 a meal, regular meals are like $10 to $12, and fancier restaurants are like $20 and up--depending upon if you plan to have drinks and how many courses you want. And we have every known type of restaurant here--particularly in the larger cities. French, Italian, British pubs, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Afghan, Pakistan, Iranian, German, etc. I think the only restaurants not seen here are Norwegian places serving reindeer meat.

Hotels run the gamet also--$20 for hostels to $40 for hole-in-the-wall places to $65 for a small place to $90 to $100 for the standard hotel room at a decent place with a nice pool and usually a simple continental breakfast included.

Enjoy

3. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator 1989 posts) 7y

Oh, and the dangerous spots in Washington DC are on the north side of town (and somewhat on the east side once you get out past the US Capitol and Supreme Court buildings).

Temperatures wll be mild until mid to late October. After that it will get cold in the northern and eastern half of the country--and in the mountains--so plan your trip to be farther south or west during the second part of your trip--and spend the first half of your trip in the north and eastern portions (New York, Boston, Chicago, Niagara Falls, Seattle). Mountaineous areas would include Denver (Colorado), Salt Lake City (Utah) and Lake Tahoe (border of California/Nevada).

Also, hurricane season and tornado season (which hits mostly the south) is during late August to September, so you probably want to be in the north or east then, anyway.

Based upon this, the plan you have (to travel the east first, then the northern portion heading west, then south down the west coast and western portion of the US, then back across the south) is the best plan you could have based upon the likely weather pattern. I'd say start in Washington, DC, head north to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, then Boston, etc. and then head west going across the north, etc. Return back to Washington, DC at the end of your trip

[ Edit: Edited on 26-May-2009, at 23:50 by Calcruzer ]

4. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 7y

As he always does, Gary has given you excellent advice on touring the US. I will add only a few things.

You are going to spend around $75-100/day while here. It is getting very difficult to find hotel/motel rooms for less than $50 all across the US. Add food, transport and you will be spending at least $75/day. Times this by the number of days, allow at least $4K for expenses for 8 weeks touring.

If you have the budget, I recommend you rent a small car for the 8 weeks. A quick search of several companies and you will be spending about $2K for a small car, including fuel. This allows you tremendous freedom on where to go and how long you might want to stay in one location. Another option is to buy a $2K car and sell it when you are ready to leave the US. I have written about this several times. Check past posts if this sounds feasible, or send me a PM and I will lay out the pros/cons of buying/selling vs renting.

November can be pretty nippy in the eastern states. You might want to bring a jacket with you or just buy one if necessary. Thrift shops will have heaps of jackets to choose from for small money.
Good luck with your planning.

[ Edit: Edited on 27-May-2009, at 00:57 by vegasmike6 ]

5. Posted by Gstocks (Budding Member 2 posts) 7y

Thank you for the advice, I really appreciate it - those comments have given me more of a clear idea. I will check out the Amtrak rail, as that sounds like a good mode of transport to look into - I am told it is more expensive and you get less time opposed to a greyhound, but it may be worth it. The car idea sounds interesting but I am only 20 and I was under the idea that you have to be 25 to rent a car if your foreign. Thanks again for the advice. If you think of anything more, please post.

6. Posted by DaveinMD (Respected Member 198 posts) 7y

I wasn't aware of the age restiction regarding car rentals, you may want to confirm that. I may be bias because I tend to like to do more outdoor things than big city things but if you don't have a car you will be very limited in what you will be able to see for obvious reasons. Outside of the big rental companies do a search for older cars to rent. I know there are companies like "Rent a Heap" etc that will rent older cars at a much lower rate than the new cars the big guys rent. And if you are talking that long you have to consider it in my opinion.

As for safety, all the big cities have crime but most of them will be safe around the tourist areas. I grew up just outside DC and trust me, all the places you want to see will be safe. The only dicey area is right around the Capital building (Capital Hill), which is fine by day but a few block off at night you want to avoid. But the monuments, White House,Smithsonian etc are perfectly safe. But lodging will be very expensive.

Also pay attention to the post regarding the weather. By November the north will be pretty cold. DC is in the middle and average temps in Nov. are probably low 50's F (what is that, like 12-14 C?) By December it's pretty cold everywhere except the south so I'd end the trip there.

[ Edit: Edited on 29-May-2009, at 13:58 by DaveinMD ]

7. Posted by DaveinMD (Respected Member 198 posts) 7y

Here is a link to one of those discount car rentals. Looks like their age requirement is 18 but that is subject to the individual franchise owner and you may pay a higher rate. So maybe do the east coast by train/bus as most of what you may want to see is contained to the big cities of NY, DC, maybe Boston etc. Then work your way west and pick up a car along the way. Of course the problem is you'll probably have to return it to the same location you rented it.

http://www.rentawreck.com/default.asp

8. Posted by s96024 (Full Member 106 posts) 7y

When I was looking to rent a car for 6 weeks it was an extra $1000 if you were under 25.

Also we are planning to travel from SF to NY along the south coast, taking 6 weeks.

[ Edit: Edited on 29-May-2009, at 14:06 by s96024 ]

9. Posted by rbyslipahs (Respected Member 349 posts) 7y

The age restriction is true for US citizens as well (25) for insurance reasons.

As usual, I will raise the Amtrak flag and say that for this particular itinerary, Amtrak has a line that suits your needs perfectly. They have a line that goes west from Chicago all the way out to Seattle and/or Portland, south to LA, and then across the south, and back up the east coast. Delays are common but they're just as bad, if not worse, in major airports. It's also much cheaper, you can actually see the terrain as you are going through it, and you have a lot more space than on any other form of transport. Look into one of their multi-leg passes. A couple of people are planning RTW trips right now with six weeks in the US, using 18-segment/45-day Amtrak passes.

10. Posted by Ham Radio (Respected Member 284 posts) 7y

Quoting rbyslipahs

The age restriction is true for US citizens as well (25) for insurance reasons.

As usual, I will raise the Amtrak flag and say that for this particular itinerary, Amtrak has a line that suits your needs perfectly. They have a line that goes west from Chicago all the way out to Seattle and/or Portland, south to LA, and then across the south, and back up the east coast. Delays are common but they're just as bad, if not worse, in major airports. It's also much cheaper, you can actually see the terrain as you are going through it, and you have a lot more space than on any other form of transport. Look into one of their multi-leg passes. A couple of people are planning RTW trips right now with six weeks in the US, using 18-segment/45-day Amtrak passes.

The only other item I would add to Amtrak is that if you buy the pass, you will still need to make a reservation for a seat on the long-haul trains between major cities such as the Empire Builder, Coast Starlight and Southwest Chief. During peak season some of those trains are full so a little planning may be in order. The reservation is needed to ensure the operating train crew assigns a seat for you. Once onboard you can move around to observation cars and dining facilities.