Road Trip

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1. Posted by wolfmiller (Budding Member 7 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Hello. I am in the very early stages of planning a road trip around America and would like any and all information people are willing to share. The plan is to hire a car and drive, using cheap hotels/motels etc at specific stops. I know where I want to go but any suggestions for car hire, cheap places to stay or just tips for getting around America will be very welcomed. The main cities I want to stop at are Philadelphia, Washington DC, New Orleans, Houston, Roswell, Phoenix, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Nigeria Falls, Salem and Boston. Also doing the Mesa Vesa National Park, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks.
It will be a budget trip so any advice for food and which stores to shop in will be helpful too.

Thank you
:);)

2. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 442 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

All the current COVID-19 considerations that must be made aside....

You wish to cover a lot of ground - how long would you like the trip to be?

Renting a car for such a trip will likely be wicked expensive. There are many other things to consider when renting a car too, like your age.

Even cheap hotels will add up over time - have you considered camping or sleeping in the vehicle if the weather/time of year is right? If so, it's a lot easier (and legal) to sleep in your vehicle - in any state - than some may think. You just need to know under what circumstances - and where - to do this. Free camping on some federal lands is quite easy to come across as well. :)

Cheap food? You can buy basic but wholesome food and snacks (nuts/seeds/dried fruit, etc.) in bulk. Don't rely on too much fast food in the United States - it's cheap, easy to come by and tasty but it's not the best stuff to be eating on a regular basis.

[ Edit: Edited on 02-May-2020, 00:30 GMT by road to roam ]

Post 3 was removed by a moderator
4. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1355 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

It's difficult to tailor useful information without knowing answers to key questions such as anticipated budget, length of travel, time of year and age (particularly if renting a vehicle). While driving is probably the best way to access national parks it might not be the best way to get around major cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. Traffic is problem and so is the availability and cost of parking. As mentioned earlier the cost of renting a vehicle is likely to put a large dent in your budget as is the cost of accommodations, especially in the places you want to visit.

A friend and I plan to travel around the United States this year. We will share expenses, which will make the trip more affordable. We recognize that travel in the United States is more expensive than in many other places around the world.

5. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 2450 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

When do you intend to do this long trip? Obviously your plans will have to be a little fluid right now because of this Coronavirus infection.

Like the previous post mentions, renting a car for a long time can be expensive.

Cheap eats. Lots of good supermarkets in the US where you can pick up some supplies for easy to prepare meals and snacks. If you are big coffee or tea drinkers maybe invest in a small electric coffee pot after you arrive. US electricity is a different voltage (110 v) than where you are from. If you like Marmite bring some from home.

Find a big map of the US and plot your trip so you don't waste time backtracking. Keep in mind that renting a car for a long time can eat up a lot of your budget. Look over what you plan to do and maybe decide what is "absolutely most important" and maybe do that first before you run out of money. US is pretty big, lots of driving so make sure your license is up to date and have sufficient insurance.
https://www.usa.gov/visitors-driving

Regular stuff have more than one source for spending money. Don't rely on a single debit or credit card.

How long and when? The US can have some brutal winter storms making driving in snow treacherous.

Good luck.

6. Posted by wolfmiller (Budding Member 7 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Thanks guys.

As I said I'm still at the very early planning stage but I'm thinking taking 3 months to do it around March-April-May time of year. I'm hoping a friend of mine will come with me so that will help split the cost. If not I might be looking for a travel buddy :)

I'm over 30 so age isn't a problem for car hire as I know they have certain rules around that.

Camping isn't really an option for me anymore so it will have to be hotels/motels/b&bs which I know will cost a bit.

Saying that though I haven't really planned yet what year I'm going to go in so I've got some time to save up. I'm looking for cost of fuel/food/drink etc to help me crate a budget so I know how much to save.

Also instead of driving in the big cities I thought it might be easier to get a place to stay on the outskirts then use public transport into the city. Would this be a good idea? Is public transport good in American cities?

Thank you

[ Edit: Edited on 02-May-2020, 05:29 GMT by wolfmiller ]

7. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5720 posts) 3w 1 Star this if you like it!

Sounds like a great trip!

Regarding car rental at least a few tips: don’t book directly with the company. They charge way more on their own websites most of the times. Unlike plane tickets and to a lesser extent accommodation, price differences regarding car rental around the internet are enormous for some reason.

I used https://www.drive-usa.de/rental-cars/ loads of times and got good deals. Be sure to have the proper insurance (no excess) and check one way rental fees. In your case better drop it at where you picked it up and do a loop. Perfectly possible having 3 months.

It strikes me that you want to visit a lot of cities compared to parks and other places. Cities like Houston, Phoenix and LA are not that exciting at all.

You might want to consider taking trains or a flight between cities in the northeast and central part of the country if you are not visiting much in between like national parks. For example the Boston-NYC-Philly-DC corridors has relatively fast trains. Also Chicago to New Orleans could be a nice train ride, maybe with a stop along the way.

And after that rent a car and do a loop across the west.

Now, the time of year: with 3 months I would either start in April or September. March is still winter and can be bitterly cold across much of the US.
Starting in september would give you much better weather most of the time, still nice and warm and oct/nov is a great time for California for example.

Just some thoughts..;)

Have fun planning.

[ Edit: Edited on 02-May-2020, 05:47 GMT by Utrecht ]

8. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1355 posts) 3w 1 Star this if you like it!

Suggest you start in April during spring. September might be a bit late especially if you want to visit some of the national parks in the West such as Yellowstone. Accommodations in the park begin to close for the season in early October, for example. Rafting on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park (adjacent to Yellowstone) closes the week after the Labor Day holiday in early September. Other tourist activities begin to close around that time, too, with the onset of winter at the higher elevations.

It would be a shame to miss the Tetons if you're visiting Yellowstone. And it would be a shame not to visit the five national parks in southern Utah if you're visiting the Grand Canyon. All can be accessed via Las Vegas. The five national parks are Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches. Add to the mix Dead Horse Point State Park. Your jaw will drop in amazement as you travel through these parks.

Save money with an annual national parks pass: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm#CP_JUMP_5088574

I recommend to friends visiting from Europe not to drive in the northeastern corridor unless they want to visit some rural areas. The major cities in the Northeast are well-connected and served by public transportation. It makes no sense to park a car in the suburbs and take public transportation to the city center. You're wasting time and money.

The U.S. is a huge country. Even though you're planning to travel for three months, suggest you focus on the Northeast (including Washington, D.C.) and the West. Skip the Midwest and South for now. You'll get history and culture in the Northeast and the outdoors and natural beauty in the West. That's a great combo. You'll especially enjoy traveling by car in the West.

Finally, suggest an open-jaw ticket. Fly into an East Coast city and fly out from a West Coast one, or vice versa. You'll find the fare to be not much different traveling to either coast from London.

9. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 442 posts) 3w 1 Star this if you like it!

Figuring food and fuel into your budget presents a host of variables...

Again, you'll quickly discover the cheapest and most convenient food to eat, especially as you drive from destination to destination, is prepared and overly processed - and perhaps that's fine for you. For snacking in the car, see what I said about bulk foods.

Self-catering in this case could mean investing in a cheap styrofoam cooler and keeping stocked with ice, which will cost about $2,00 per day for a bag. That adds up over time. By the time you gather what food to put in the cooler, it may be cheaper to grab a meal at a diner or fast food restaurant.

Breakfast is often "free" at many hotels/motels. In general, B&B's in the United States are quite different to those in the UK - they are much more fancy and geared toward a luxury or special occasion getaway rather than basic lodging. B&B's tend to be very expensive because of that...

Fuel prices vary greatly from state to state and prices fluctuate based on supply/demand/season/ so that makes it hard to budget across-the-board. Gas was cheaper than diesel everywhere in the United States the last time I checked, although that's not always the case - diesel was considerably cheaper than gas about 10 years ago. Almost any vehicle you rent from the large, well-known companies will run on gas and will be an automatic transmission.

Is public transport in the cities good? That depends... Boston, for example is quite compact with a great inner-city rail line and even a good commuter train system to the 'burbs - Salem is served by this system. Even the bus system in Boston is quite good.

The east coast corridor rail has been mentioned. Chicago has great public transport, too. Are these major cities with their extensive/frequent/ easy to use public transportation systems typical of other major cities in the United States? Not at all. I cannot say if your plan of staying in the suburbs and getting transport into town will always be a good option, though. Again, it all depends...

Of course, research each of the respective transportation authority websites to know what routes are served in which cities and how to pay - some require top-up cards to ride rather than paying on board with cash, so you'll need to be aware of how and where to get these cards.

[ Edit: Edited on 02-May-2020, 11:45 GMT by road to roam ]

Post 10 was removed by a moderator