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west to east coast travel advice please!

Travel Forums North America west to east coast travel advice please!

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1. Posted by geesmeelee (Budding Member 5 posts) 5y

I am a 22 year old guy and I am going to be traveling america this summer (2011) with my girlfriend, we've booked our flights to san fran and leaving from New York nearly 3 months later.

Really I am looking for a little advice such as...

Realistically how much will accomodation cost us per night? (just so I know how much I am saving) Pretty much wanting the cheapest options and will be up for camping at some parts.

Is it out of the question to drive around? I'v had my licence for 5 years whether that makes any difference? I've heard it can be expensive if your under 25 years old.

Most of the forums on here are really helpful but its the accomodation side of things that worries me most.

Is it easy enough to travel from place to place and find reasonable accomodation when you get there?

Also what are the food prices like?

If there are any people from the UK who have done a similar length trip It would be helpful to hear how much money you spent in total :)

I thank anyone in advance for replying to me if you do...

Cheers, Lee

2. Posted by geesmeelee (Budding Member 5 posts) 5y

Oh yeah should of mentioned I am from England by the way!

3. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1993 posts) 5y

It's pretty costly here! I'm a retired American, but I can't afford to travel here - just too expensive, so I go to Asia. Lowest cost motels will be around $50., but in major cities it will be more (Seattle, for instance would be at least $75.) There are a few hostels around - I estimate around $25. Eating is also expensive because tipping must be added, but there is considerable fast food for $8.-$12. a meal. Car rental for underage renters is costly and the drop charge for one-way travel would bankrupt you. I think you need to look at either low cost one way trips on Southwest Airlines or Greyhound Bus. We have limited rail service in the West, but it's much better in the upper Midwest and East on Amtrak.

Hopefully, some other recent travelers might be able to help. You can PM me for additional information. You will love SF - our most beautiful large city.

4. Posted by geesmeelee (Budding Member 5 posts) 5y

hey thanks for the post :)

and the link.

didn't know about the tipping, is that expected then in most places and is it obvious how much that should be at the time?

also when u say motels about 50 and hostels about 25 is that each or per room so between us?

cheers you've been helpful!

5. Posted by Daniel.J.B (Budding Member 32 posts) 5y

Tipping is one thing that winds me up about America (and here in the UK, although to a lesser extent). They expect a 15-20% tip irrespective of the quality of the service provided, many places add a service charge to your bill so you don't even have a choice!
I remember going on holiday when I was younger, and receiving terrible service at one particular restaurant (a fairly pricey restaurant, if I remember correctly), so my dad refused to tip. I'm not joking, the waiter looked like he was ready to knock him out.

6. Posted by DocNY (Respected Member 403 posts) 5y

Hi Gees,

It's not really all that bad, but prices depend greatly on where you are and the level of accommodations that you want. In rural areas you should be able to easily beat the $50 a night estimate - plenty of decent motels that charge about $30 a night (per room), and there are ways of getting a car without it costing you an arm and a leg. For instance there are companies who'll arrange for you to transport (drive a car across the country) but some of them do put a milage limit on how many you can rack up and how quickly you'll need to get the car from coast to coast. You can also rent for a week at a time, or a month at a time and sometimes even dodge the drop off fees. I rented a nice car in florida for less than $22 a day with unlimited milage from one of the big companies, but you can find them for as little as $12 a day if you pick it up in the right place and return it to the same company.

Sadly most of the big companies do have issues with renting to the less than 25 crowd, but many of the smaller companies don't. The downside there is that the small companies rarely have many offices or convenient drop off locations so you'll usually have to return them within the same city or state where you find them - which for your trip could actually work out unless you have your heart set on driving across the country.

However there is an incredible variation from one company to the next and you'll never find out the details without calling around extensively in my experience.

Food while rarely cheap isn't outrageous, plenty of cheap meals to be had, especially in the big cities where you can eat well, if not luxuriously for under $25 a day.

Tipping is expected in pretty much any sit down restaurant, but not on fast food, or take out. As to Daniel's comment above, tipping is not mandatory, and is not usually automatically added to the bill unless you are in a big party (usually 8 or more), or in unusual places like certain hotel dining rooms and you are charging it to your room.

However, servers in the US can and are often are legally paid below the minimum wage, by their employers with the rest of their salary coming from "sales" or tips. So when you don't tip, they don't make their standard wage.

In a case like Daniel's above, where it is automatically added in and you have had dreadful service, call the manager over. Explain it to him - legally you are not compelled to tip, and for bad service don't. But when service has been adequate, not tipping just hurts some poor guy (or girl) who's struggling to earn their living just the way that you do and is a pretty crappy thing to do.

If you have any questions, feel free to message me. I'm a native New Yorker and travel extensively so I probably can help you figure out a lot of things.

Also definitely take advantage of using the web and sites like hotwire and the name your own price over at priceline when trying to find the cheapest accommodations. There are some sites which tell you just what to expect for a bid in terms of rooms at certain times. I've gotten $200 rooms for $50 and $40 rooms for $20 on these services - and you can usually even do it the same day if you haven't planned ahead.

Obviously it won't work all the time, especially if you go to special events, or at crowded times but it can save you some money in your travels.

Best of luck.

7. Posted by mapsandmoxie (Full Member 183 posts) 5y

DocNY has covered alot of great points, so I won't repeat what he has said.

One thing that I would like to suggest is to check out the bus passes offered by greyhound. They have passes that allow you unlimited travel for up to 60 days for $539 US per person. You could back a 30 day one onto this to get unlimited travel for the full 3 months. This would be cheaper than gas and a rental, even when considering that you'd split it as you're under 25. Most companies in Can(and from my understanding the US) charge around $10/day extra for those under 25. And you aren't included in the insurance - need to provide proof of your own - because you are under 25. That being said, call around because some have longer term deals, and there may be other options.

Good luck!

8. Posted by geesmeelee (Budding Member 5 posts) 5y

Thanks for all of this info you've been a great help! Some great advice there. definitley put my mind to rest on a few points.

Might swerve the driving part it sounds quite expensive but may look into doing it from san fran to LA, certainly won't be driving across to new york, maybe one day though!

Cheers for clearing up the tipping thing also. just can't wait to get out there now!

[ Edit: Edited on 10-Feb-2011, at 11:53 by geesmeelee ]

9. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1993 posts) 5y

One good way to save (especially on the West Coast) is to take one of the special bus tours designed for tourists your age - Green Tortoise is the best known, but there are a few others too. Check out the site.

10. Posted by mapsandmoxie (Full Member 183 posts) 5y

You can also check out rideshares. A touch unreliable as it is people that are driving from place to place and if their plans change, well.. yours will change too, or you won't have a ride. But you can find them on, and I think might list them too? An interesting way to meet people, and often they'll just ask that you pitch in some for gas.