As the title suggests myself and a friend both students are planning a trip this summer Beginning early - mid August to mid september. We plan on beginning somewhere around Boston then using Amtrak/Greyhound to travel to Buffalo and potentially Pittsburg. Depending on cost fly to Sacramento or drive and take in alot of the middle of the country. If the cost of hiring a car isn't too great continue driving and include Vegas, Grand Canyon and the plane Graveyard as well as parts of route 66. A general idea would be to drop the car off somewhere in Texas and revert to using Amtrak/Greyhound and take in Memphis, Nashville, Lynchburg, Washington DC, Baltimore and finish up in New York.
Key points of interests are Niagara Falls, Alcatraz, Golden Gate bridge, Grand Canyon, The plane graveyard, JD tour in Lynchburg and the Whitehouse etc in Washington and 3 or 4 days in New York to take everything in. Using the train/bus service I appreciate a lot of places on route to the main cities will be whistle stop so to speak but thats fine. My questions are: Is this amount of travel possible in the alotted time, Your route suggestions and rough costs Ive heard everywhere from $50 to $100 a day. To limit accommodation costs the plan is to sleep on the trains during the long journeys between cities and camp in National parks.
Thanks in Advance
Sorry, but I believe your plans are a tad overly-ambitious, to say the least. I think you should start reading the USA edition of Rough Guides or Lonely Planet. Camping in national parks might sound inexpensive and easy, but the fact is that you need reservations well in advance in places like Yosemite or Grand Canyon, and renting one-way cars is very expensive.
You will also need advance reservations for the limited Amtrak service in summer (and I do mean limited service). You need to cut your trip in about 3 pieces for 4-6 weeks - the US is a rather large and expensive country!
Thanks for the response I will start to look through those guides for ideas and what not. I Have some fairly inexpensive quotes for a car rental for a set amount of time but obviously the distance could be a slight hindrance and it would work out cheaper to fly. When you say limited just how limited is it like one train a day and if you miss it your buggered kind of limited ? finally sorry for all the questions but when you advise 3 pieces are you suggesting perhaps stick to just say the East coast or the South?
I think Daawon's point is that a one-way car reservation will cost you about $500 or more over the quoted rate. If you split your trip into 3 parts where you end your trip with the car back at the same place you started your trip, the price is thus significantly reduced--and traveling by car will allow you to see parts of the US that you would never be able to get to otherwise for a cheap price--such as national parks or remote (beautiful) areas.
In answer to your question about trains--yes, generally the Amtrak trains run once a day through most major cities--so if you miss it, you may have a 24 hour wait for the next one (and you may have to pay again if you aren't on a multi-day pass)--the only exceptions are in the northeast section of the country where many trains run 2-3 times per day or where there are state-run train systems (such as in New Jersey--which probably has the best one of all).
Also, let me back up what Daawgon said about booking accommodations in national parks;--as one example, the lodges for the north rim of the Grand Canyon for this summer were all booked up by September of last year. Many times your best bet is to book state campgrounds instead--but be aware that the most popular of these, especially in highly-visited places in California, Wyoming, North Carolina, and Utah--also get booked at least a few weeks in advance.
[ Edit: Edited on 06-Apr-2013, at 08:12 by Calcruzer ]
If money is a real issue, I believe you should investigate Green Tortoise Tours - no rental car needed
(Amtrak service in the Western USA is extremely limited, and reservations should be made well in advance) To really see the States well, I suggest a combination of flights and car rentals (public transportation here is nothing like the excellent service in Europe)
Thanks for the advice so far very helpful. After reading up from several sources the idea of a car is proving to be more expensive than its worth I.E would rather spend more money on seeing things than on a car so the revised travel plan looks a little something like this:
Fly into Boston spending 3 days then take a greyhound to buffalo spending 1 day, fly out to from Buffalo to sacramento/ San francisco spending 3 days there, take a greyhound down to Vegas spending 2/3 days after Vegas Phoenix for 4/5 days this is too allow trips to the grand canyon, hoover damn and what not. From Phoenix the original idea was to hire a car and drive up to Tennessee however after consideration a much more likely option is to just greyhound to various cities on the way taking 3-5 days. From tennessee lynchburg more specifically use an STA tour or stick with greyhound to go through Washington for 2 days, Philadelphia for 1 day, Baltimore for a day at most and then new jersey/New york to finish of the trip for 4 days.
Having taken your advice on trains and other peoples going to give them a miss. As for accommodation and the previous idea of camping at various locations we only need to budget for stays in Boston, Vegas and Washington the rest we will be staying with friends/relatives or on a greyhound overnight.
In terms of money hopefully $100 per day as an average as some days nothing will be spent otehrs more on trips etc etc
Any thoughts or recommendations are greatly appreciated as this is the first backpacking travelling i will have done.