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Planning a big trip across US/Canada

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1. Posted by evu (Budding Member 5 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!


I'm planning a month long (or so) trip to the US and Canada for me and my partner (29/25 - from the UK) and we're trying to fit in as much of them as we can, of the places we want to visit. Some of it will be rental car hire and some flights, only my partner can drive so don't want to have her driving the WHOLE trip. We will be staying in Hotels in a couple of places, but mainly Airbnb to keep prices down. The plan is to fit it all in in around £5000 before spending money, because that's the cost of a cross USA tour holiday from Virgin, but that's without visiting Canada and a couple of other places we want to go.

I'm still in early phases of planning it but welcome any advice you guys have of the locations/routes/etc. The more the better really. My concern at the moment is whether some places will be worth going out of the way to visit, and looking at the route on the map we're kind of going back on ourselves a little bit at one point, and I'm the type that gets bothered by inefficiency :) We plan to go around May, as that seems the best compromise between price and weather, but slightly out of season to avoid crowds/traffic too.

Here's the places we'd like to visit and why:

Seattle - This is the first stop as we need somewhere in the USA to rent a car, because we can't rent a car in Canada and drop it off in the US, and it's cheaper to get a flight to Seattle. We want to finish up in NY so it makes sense going this way round. We plan to drive from here to LA.
Vancouver - We really want to see Canada, and both sides at that. However is it much of a touristy place? This is one of those places we're wondering if it's worth it.
Osoyoos, BC - Because it's the half way point to Wallace, via Canada.
Wallace, ID - Since we seen pictures of this place we always said we'd have to visit, looks like the most idyllic town. Again, wondering if it's worth it though. Is kind of a half way point between Vancouver and Yellowstone though too.
Yellowstone National Park - One of our main attractions.
Las Vegas - Again, we really want to visit Vegas, and it's close to the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon/Hoover Dam - Goes without saying really.
Yosemite National Park - On the way to SF and is highly recommended.
San Francisco - Partner really wants to see this city, this is the bit that gets inefficient for me though.
Los Angeles - Same thing as Vegas really, must visit. We'll drop the car here and get a flight to TX.
San Antonio - We want to experience some of TX and this was recommended to see, and taste, the real Texas. Flying from here to Florida, as the drive is too long. Would of liked to Visit Houston and New Orleans though.
Miami - Really want to visit Florida, if we can we want to get a car here and stay for a few days to visit Orlando, etc. Then fly to Toronto.
Toronto - The other part of Canada, plus it's close to Niagra Falls. We'll get a bus to Niagra then Buffalo (or somewhere close) so we can rent another car in the US.
Niagara Falls/ - Just like Grand Canyon.
Washington DC - Have to visit the Capital, Whitehouse, Memorials, etc. Makes sense to be in a car here, then drive to NY.
New York - Last stop, must see place. And if we have any money left, where we'll spend it :) Then fly back to Manchester UK

And the route on a map:

If there's anywhere you think we must see, or anything that looks like a bad call, or if I've got something wrong, please let me know.

And if you read that lengthy post, thank you :)


Ed: Forgot to mention, we're big foodies :)

Ed2: Forgot to mention time of year.

[ Edit: Edited on 09-Sep-2015, at 02:46 by evu ]

2. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5644 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Hi John,

With about a month, I would certainly skip quite a few places.

A month is good for some parts of the West and fully enjoy your trip, without rushing it and without taking too many flights.
Really, I would visit the East on a seperate trip. NY deserves at least 4-5 days for a first impression. It would be a shame just visiting places very briefly.

Also, the South would be another month long trip, visiting Texas to Florida, maybe combining it with another city like Chicago.

If you are going into Canada in the West, I would certainly visit Vancouver and Vancouver Island, and travel further south/east from there towards Yellowstone. Vancouver is much nicer than Seattle in my opinion.

Also, the West has so many beautiful areas and parks. Yellowstone is one, but driving south and back west from there the parks in Colorado, Utah and Arizona are fantastic. Combine it with several cities like San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas and Denver and you have a memorable trip.

But again: skip the eastern and Southern parts. And if I have to choose: skip Canada alltogether and focus on the USA. It is huge!

Have fun.

3. Posted by evu (Budding Member 5 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Thanks Micheal, you make a very good point I suppose. I've not worked out times completely yet, where we'll stay and for how long. Those bigger places (Vegas, LA, Florida, NY) we had planned to stay for 3-4 days. Maybe I vastly underestimated the total time :)

It's difficult to do it in multiple trips though, as the reason for the holiday now is that we're approaching that time when we'll be purchasing our house, having children, etc. Which doesn't leave a lot of time nor money to go on another big trip. But it does give us a "taster menu" of sorts, that we can use if we ever do go back. Canada has always been the only place I've ever said I'd move to other than UK, hence why we wanted to visit so much hehe.

That being said, I'm not sure just how long we could get away for, getting over a month off work isn't going to be easy! I think I definitely need to do a little more time planning!


4. Posted by MissCandy (Budding Member 49 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Hi! Canada was truly a beautiful country specially their breathtaking view of nature. I suggest you go to Banff, alberta. It will be worth it. If your going to vancouver, you can drive by car going to Oregon. If you guys in Toronto, you can also drive going to New York and Seattle. That's what we did last year when we tour us and canada. On the other hand, i suggest that the places you should visit in california are san francisco and Napa valley. I'm currently here in SFO and i'm enjoying my stay here! When you go to Houston, texas for me its the land of cowboy, you can drive to san antonio. Its a very historic place so don't skip it especially if you want to see the alamo. Galveston island is a must see also when in texas. I hope that helps! Its based through experience :)

5. Posted by MissCandy (Budding Member 49 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

And also i forgot to tell houston is a very diverse city in terms of various cuisines from american to mexican to korean to vietnamese and japanese foods:) enjoy both of you!

6. Posted by evu (Budding Member 5 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Hi MissCandy,

Thanks for the feedback. I've heard a few people mention Banff, but it's so out of the way of the current route it would add an extra 3 days minimum on to the trip. I'm trying to keep driving between places to a maximum of 6 hours drive as it would be my partner doing all the driving, so we have a few overnight stays in small towns (like Osoyoos) in between places.

Glad you're endorsing SanFran, my partner will be pleased :)

And I originally was going to go to Houston, but upon reading more about it people suggested it was more of a city break as opposed to seeing the real Texas, and so people recommended San Antonio instead. Maybe I'll find a way to take a trip from SA to Houston and we can catch a flight from there.

Thanks again,

7. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 958 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!


I suggest you scale things back a lot. Put your planned journeys into Google maps and see what driving times it says; I think that will be a sobering experience. That map is deceptive in scale.

We're all different, but I don't think many people want a trip that's 90% driving and 10% seeing the destination. I once did a trip which was 3000 miles in a big S from Vegas to Denver taking in national parks across the us rockies. 3000 miles in 3 weeks was too much, in retrospect - and from your description I think you're planning on more than that.

As has been suggested, choose a region and stick to it, with the possible addition of a gateway city en route. Eg if the outdoors is your thing, you could try the Canadian rockies (Banff and Jasper would take about ten days for me) with Vancouver and Seattle, and stopover in Washington DC and/or NY.

Also, I think you should take some of the hype about some of your list with a pinch of salt. For a lot of US visitors, abroad is a very long way away, and so their domestic attractions may not be judged against international standards. If you're coming from Manchester you have national parks way more scenic than Yellowstone within a daytrip of home. American national parks tend to be sanitized compared to the UK; expect a lot of "keep to the prepared path" signs - they are a lot more about conservation than access, and what would be a boring beige showcave at home will quite likely be a separate national park in its own right in the usa.

8. Posted by Long Gone (Budding Member 2 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

"The more the better"

In my experience it is exactly the opposite. Done right your trip would be at least 3.5 months long. In May you will run into all kinds of weather. There's no way I would drive deep into Canada with only a month's time (and I LOVE Canada).

Driving from Seattle to the Grand Canyon and back is four full days of driving alone. The USA is much, much bigger than Europe with less (and more) to do in between stops.

With a month I would suggest you make a loop of from Seattle, Rainier National Park, Climb Mt Hood, Go to Crater lake, Go to Yosemite, Go to death Valley, Las Vegas, Southern Utah (so much to do here), grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and back to Seattle. Even that will be a rushed trip with only a month but it will take in much of the best that the continent has to offer and you can camp for most of it which keeps the price down.

If you are not fussed about Seattle. Consider starting and ending in Las Vegas. There are always cheap flights to Vegas, accommodation there is cheap, rental cars are also cheap and plentiful and it's closer to most of the "big" attractions.

[ Edit: Edited on 10-Sep-2015, at 19:30 by Long Gone ]

9. Posted by evu (Budding Member 5 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for the advice guys.

Based on what you've suggested and price, I've scaled things back bit. We've decided to remove Canada from the trip, thinking as you guys suggested it'll be a trip all of it's own. That way we could probably get some skiing into the trip too, and see more. This removes Seattle too. We've also removed Florida seeing as we'd probably come back here in future, with kids. This leaves us with a lot of central usa to visit in the future if we so desire too.

This allows us a little more time in other places, and removes a lot of the driving. As you suggested Andy, I've put the miles into Google and is is about 2k miles in total, but that's just the first half of the trip, kind of like starting with a road trip. Most journeys are only 3 hours at a time now, with two 6 hour trips. And road trips are something my partner and I like to do, so hopefully it shouldn't be too bad. Will have more of a think about it though.

I've looked diligently into the attractions of each place, and picked out what we think we'll enjoy where. A big part of it will probably be food to be honest :) That's why we're not at most places very long really. You are well travelled though so I will heed your advice for sure :) I have been pondering about Yosemite but it is on the way to SF (a flight would cost more) and I'd love to see the Giant Sequoias.

Cost is still a bit high for us at the moment, so we'll either have to downscale hotels at some locations or go for Airbnb instead. How much would you recommend on average we allocate to meals per day in the US? I know it would differ but I'm just trying to work it out. In Europe we usually go for around £80/day including water/refreshments. Some days we spend way less, but it's made up for when we have a posh meal/drinks.

Cheers very much so far guys, been a big help.

Ed: I was in km... It's 2.2k miles total. Here's the new map link

[ Edit: Edited on 11-Sep-2015, at 02:37 by evu ]

10. Posted by evu (Budding Member 5 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

And looking into it some more, whilst trying to get the budget down I'm considering dropping San Antonio and Buffalo/Niagra Falls.

Dropping Texas would leave a lot in central US to visit if we ever did this again. And the Niagra Falls could go into the future Canada trip I guess.

This, along with reducing accommodation costs and limiting our daily food spend to £60/$90 a day between us, roughly gets us in budget of around £5,500. Not including £2000 for spending money (attractions/shopping).

Does this sound reasonable at all? In favour of leaving out TX and Niagra Falls?