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west america road trip

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1. Posted by dannyjebb (Budding Member 15 posts) 7y

HI me and my girlfriend are planning a trip to america next year (may) for 3 weeks. we are flying in to san francisco on the 13th and then hoping to travel inland, through yosemite national park, death valley, las vegas, grand canyon, mojave national park, LA, and then up the cost back to san fran for the flight home. Does this sound a reasonable trip for the time we have allowed. Also is it worth travelling up to the rocky mountains because I have worked out it would pretty much add an extra 1000 miles onto the trip. Is there any must see places I have missed out?

Many thanks for all your help and advice.


2. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 7y

The trip is doable on 3 weeks. But there will be a lot of driving. Most of them between 4-5 hours I guess. Rocky Mountain National Park would be a bit far in my opinion (although Arches National Park will be on the way there).

If you want to add something on to your itinerary, may I suggest Petrified Forest and Painted Desert after Grand Canyon? Also, as a matter of personal preference, I would go to Joshua Tree National Park and 29 Palms as an alternative to Mojave National Park.

A rough itinerary could be something like the following, where the longest drives would be between (1) Yosemite and Death Valley (over 7 hours), (2) Petrified Forest and Joshua Tree (over 6 hours), and (3) between LA and San Francisco (about 8 hours). The itinerary does account for time taken to be spent in the area, not just to drive by the national park and on to the next destination. (am) indicates morning, (pm) indicates from noon onwards, (late pm) indicates late evening.

Day 1-3 : San Francisco
Day 4 (am) : Leave for Yosemite
Day 4 (pm) / Day 5(am) : Yosemite
Day 5 (pm) : Leave for Death Valley
Day 5 (late pm) / Day 6 : Death Valley
Day 7 (am) : Leave for Las Vegas
Day 7 (pm) / Day 8-9 : Las Vegas
Day 10 (am) : Leave for Grand Canyon
Day 10 (pm) / Day 11 : Grand Canyon
Day 12 (am) : Leave for Petrified Forest
Day 12 (pm) / Day 13 : Petrified Forest, Painted Desert
Day 14 (am) : Leave for Joshua Tree National Park
Day 14 (late pm) / Day 15 : Joshua Tree, 29 Palms
Day 16 (am) : Leave for LA
Day 16 (pm) / Day 17-19 : LA
Day 20 (am) : Leave for San Francisco
Day 20 (late pm) : San Francisco
Day 21 : Leave USA

This itinerary is sort of based on a combination of 2 roadtrips that my friends and I did, tweaked about a little.

Regardless of what your final decision and plan would be, good luck and I hope you and your girlfriend have lots of fun on this roadtrip!

3. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 7y

Ps: I can't believe I forgot this - Antelope Canyon! It is so beautiful I want to weep everytime I see an image of it.

It's a bit out of the way in terms of direction, more suited if you're heading towards Arches National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Nonetheless it's about 3.5-4 hours drive from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

4. Posted by dannyjebb (Budding Member 15 posts) 7y

wow thats for all your help. didnt expect all that :) there is soo much to think about we want to spend a few days in las vegas anda few days in LA apart from that were pretty open to were ever else we go. The grand canyon is a must see. would you recommend me getting the american road maps installed on my sat nav??

5. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 7y

If you're renting car in US, they should come with SatNav (or at least the cars my friends got each time had one). If it's cheaper for you to get a car without SatNav and you'll bring your own, then definitely get the road maps. While most routes are straight forward (i.e. you drive for hundreds of miles just on the one same road) but when you come near city/town area, it all get a bit more confusing. Especially somewhere like LA - it's quite insane there really. The SatNav is going to be a lifesaver!

6. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 7y

Another tip before I log off for the evening - whenever you see a gas station, no mattew how much gas you have in the car, just fill it up. You'll never know when you'll get to see one next and you don't want to be stuck anywhere without gas.

My friends and I kinda learnt that the hard way. We thought with over 3/4 tank, and a sign that said supposedly a station about 60 miles down the route, we decided not to take the trouble to exit and go to a gas station across the road. When we got to our next gas station, turned out that place had shut down! We worried if we would have enough to our destination and luckily we did came across another gas station some 40 miles after that.

Our car boot was absolutely packed as there were 5 of us travelling together, otherwise we would have kept a carton of a few litres of spare fuel. From that point onward, we filled up at all time. A bit paranoid, maybe. Did we feel better, oh yes! ;)

7. Posted by dannyjebb (Budding Member 15 posts) 7y

I dont think the car we are looking at has a sat nav because they give you the option to rent as sat nav along with the car. Is there accomodation along most of the main roads? i have read that the motel 6 and 8 are good places to stop at. When we get to las vegas were gonna treat ourselves to a few nights at the mgm grand. apart from that we will just be stayin in cheap accomodation or even the car if funds get low towards the end of the trip :) Is the food the same in the west as in Orlando? gigantic portions compared to the uk?

8. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 7y

Ah ok, that means my friends must have rented the SatNav then. (We were all in charge of different things, and I'm afraid I didn't pay quite as much attention to everything, hehehe)

We were also on a bit of a splurge, in that we stayed at hotels and cabins for most of the trips, so perhaps someone else can advise you better on the accommodation. We were at MGM Grand in LV and seemed like they regularly run promotions as we got our room for $70 per double room per night! And I remember my friend choosing hotel outside of the Grand Canyon village, because it was much cheaper for a place just about 10-15 minutes drive away (but of course, that meant we didn't wake up to the view of the canyon either).

If you need details, I can always double check with my friend, but they're likely to be costing more than the motels.

As for the food portion, yes, I found them much bigger than what I'm used to in UK/Ireland. Maybe not quite so bad in San Francisco. But definitely elsewhere!

[ Edit: Edited on 26-Oct-2009, at 17:04 by lil_lil ]

9. Posted by dannyjebb (Budding Member 15 posts) 7y

yeh they have an offer on at the moment at the mgm but it only lasts up untill dec 09 so will have to book that nearer the time...You even get 75$ credit in the casino lol dont think i could go Las Vegas and not go in one of the casinos. I think we would be happy to stay a 10 min drive away from the grand canyon if it a lot less for the hotel. We are hoping to spend as little as possible and just spend some money in Las Vegas and LA. Can I ask what kind of car you had? there will be 2 of us and 2 suitcases to carry around so we dont need anything over board, just something so that we are comfy on the lonfger stretches of driving.( I will be doing all the driving as my gf isnt 25 yet)

10. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 7y

Don't worry about MGM Grand now. There will be promo to come. We went a couple of years ago, and if this is still the similar price range for the promo, then most likely they'll have something similar next year too.

We had a standard 5-doors (well, 4 doors and the boot) for both our trips, since there were 5 and 4 of us travelling. As there are only two of you travelling, you could look into perhaps a smaller car such as those categorised as intermediate or compact car but not on the economy/subcompact I guess, particularly for comfort during long distance driving (and also not to feel too rattled if there are some huge trucks/vehicles etc running past you on the road).

It's going to be very tiring for you to be the only one driving all the time, so maybe you may want to look into shaving part of the itinerary according to how you feel after the first few days. I think some rental companies allow under 25 to drive but supplementary charges will normally apply, so that could jack up the rental rates by a good bit.