So from Washington to Miami! That is going to be a long trip isn't it?!
Washington to Miami is around 1000 miles or about 16 to 20 hours driving time depending on how fast you drive or get driven,if you go to Miami you may as well do the extra 160 mile trip out to Key West.
I'm originally from the West Coast (Seattle area).
Here's what I'd recommend doing (but a lot of this depends on taste too):
If you're flying into LA, I suppose being a first timer, see the touristy sites if you're really into that kind of thing. But don't spend more than a few days in LA, and don't let the warm weather fool you into staying. There's too many layers of fakeness attached to that city and anyways there are much better cities to visit. I would rent a car in LA, and have a deal where you can drop the car off in another location in America. Then drive up the coast to San Francisco because it too is a must see, has a lot to offer a visitor and the scenery is great. Keep driving north, stop at Redwood National Park, a beautiful forest with trees as high as you'll ever see. Keep driving north into Oregon and Washington.
Honestly, the Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful scenery in America, and the most underrated in terms of visitation I feel. Seattle (and Portland for a few days) are well worth the trek up north. Seattle offers a lot of culture, great hiking, mild summers. The state of Washington too has such a unique climate (the most diverse climate in America)....if you go to the peninsula, specifically Olympic National Park (a UNESCO world heritage site), you'll get a feel for America's only rainforest. You can hike up Mount Rainier, view the famous Mt. St. Helens, go up to the gorgeous and rather isolated San Juan Islands where you can go whale watching, and then take a ferry from the San Juans up to Vancouver. If you followed the Olympics you had a glimpse of the scenery around Vancouver.....for a large city, I don't think anywhere in the world offers the nearby scenery with urban lifestyle better than Vancouver. It really is one of the best cities in North America.
At this point, really map out everywhere else you want to see in America and I would recommend flying. Southwest is great for short interval trips (terrible cross country though). I would buy a one way out of Seattle on Southwest after dropping off your car, not sure the price but maybe $120 or so, and fly to Phoenix, drive up to the Grand Canyon, take in the scenery of northern Arizona (a highly unique desert, rolling red rocks are gorgeous) and then fly to Chicago (really the only worthwhile place to visit in the midwest). Then take another flight to the East coast (wherever) and visit Boston, NYC, DC, Philly. If you have time/money after all of this, take in the Southeast. Florida offers unlimited amount of things to do, but a lot of it can be done in LA so I wouldn't make it an integral part of a short visit.
A lot of places I cut short, but really if your limited on time, visit the big cities of the East coast and then travel up the West Coast by car. West coast offers the best nature you'll find in the entire country, and I haven't even included other national parks in America like Rocky Mountain, Glen Canyon-Lake Power, Glacier or Yellowstone (all worth the trip too). The rest of the country may have nice scenery in certain parts, but its underwhelming compared to what the West offers.
I would love to rent a car but we're only 22 and so it would be too expensive with the extra tax that is added!
So from Washington to Miami! That is going to be a long trip isn't it? At the moment we're leaning towards just travelling around the West Coast for a month or so. It's the last leg of the journey and the US will be fairly expensive so we figure that if the worst comes to the worst we can just chill out on the beach.
We have to go to LA as we are flying in there and so may aswell spend 2-3 nights there. I've heard that California in particular has its rough parts but will definitely try to steer clear of them, thanks!
Just realized you didn't have a car.
Fly into San Francisco, and I would avoid LA (too overrated) but make it up to the Northwest if you can. You will not be disappointed and if you go to Vancouver/Seattle, the girls are gorgeous and actually have personality unlike other West coast cities. Don't let the rainy perception fool you either, you'll find it hardly rains in the summer months and the temperature stays a nice cool 80 degrees fahrenheit.
GREYHOUND DISCOVERY PASS - 7 DAY $ 283.00
GREYHOUND DISCOVERY PASS - 15DAY $ 415.00
GREYHOUND DISCOVERY PASS - 30DAY $ 522.00
GREYHOUND DISCOVERY PASS - 60DAY $ 645.00
Amtrack nationwide monthly pass for 599$
Rates are in US dollars.
A quick Google search comes up with these prices if bought at a ticket office in the USA
You have to go to Vegas - Grand canyon is only 1 hour away, maybe take a horse riding treck round there - plus the women are filthy on the ranch and will do anything for 20 bucks. Obviously you have the luxory of gambling and think of all the fantastic shows i.e. Seafred and Roy PLUS FEAR AND LOATHING was made their and actually took place there fancy a re-enactment?
All the Best,
Greyhound is quite depressing (I walk by a Greyhound station daily, and you should see the low life that it attracts!)
Amtrak has seen increased ridership lately due to the high cost of fuel, but the West Coast has very few Amtrak routes compared to the vast distances involved. I agree with the post that recommends everyone avoid LA as much as possible (unless you're into vast expanses of housing tracks and malls with chain stores linked together with a huge maze of expressways).
I just want to warn foreigners that the USA has become very expensive recently, and the prospect of finding casual labor here is not realistic. I can't afford to travel within my own country anymore! It's also expected that you tip at least 15-18% at restaurants.
The best advice I can offer is to travel in the USA off-season (autumn or spring) to avoid high-prices and crowds. To really see the place properly a car is needed, and long-term rentals are available at about $25. a day (minimum 30 days). Google for foreigner-only travel passes and deals.