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  1. Default Three Europeans: NY to LA

    Hey y'all,

    My name is Simon, I am from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This July I am planning to make a road trip with two buddies of mine in the States. I have researched your site and forum, on which I have found excellent tips, but decided to post our situation to make the best use of your experience. Thanks in advance for reading this and replying.

    Our main problems are around money and a car (so also closely interrelated).

    The goal of the trip is, first of all, to simply make a road trip, drive the interstates, feel the open highways and to be on the road. Second, we like America and would like to experience the culture and scenery and all its different states. Third, we would like maybe to hit a country festival.

    Obviously, we can't ship a car across the ocean. It seems there are three possibilities. 1. Buy a second hand. 2. Rent. 3. DriveAway.
    1 would seem best for me, the question is: is it legal for foreigners to buy a car and drive it? What about insurance or registration?
    2 is an option, but probably very expensive.
    3 is cheap, but gives little freedom and makes dependent.

    About the route, we haven't yet figured out exactly. Some would like to hit the Southern states first, then back to Chicago, then Vegas, then Seattle, then back to LA to catch a plane to NY to get home. Sure we are flexible, and we can skip one or two destinations. Is this doable in four weeks?

    Then, accomodation. We are experienced campers and plan to camp 3/4 of the time, the other 1/4 find a cheap motel. We might go out occasionally, but in general will be prepared to sleep and eat as cheap as possible, by cooking ourselves etcetera.

    The bottleneck to make this is the money.
    How much would a car be? Would it be easy to get one? Or to sell it again in LA?
    For food, we counted a $1200 each. Is that reasonable?
    Thanks again, if I have forgotten essentials let me know.

  2. Default

    Wow, sounds like a great trip!

    First of all, I would absolutely NOT recommend buying a used car for this trip. Too much risk and too expensive if money is an issue! If your primary driver is over 25 years old, you can often rent a car for as little as $25/day with unlimited mileage. You'd have to pay more for a "one way rental" (dropping off in a different place than you picked it up), and it would get significantly more expensive if you're all under 25. But even then, a rental might still be a better option. What happens if you buy a used car, and the transmission falls out in Podunk, Iowa????? You're stuck with a $2500 repair bill and no way to get home. Bad idea. And then the prospect of being forced to sell the car quickly on the back end? Not a good situation.

    In your situation, you might really benefit from looking into Amtrak's national pass for international visitors. They're $599 each and you can find information



    You could look into short term car rentals in between train destinations if you wanted to, but that pass gets you everywhere Amtrak travels for 30 days! It's a great deal, and you still get to see everything rather than fly over the top of it. It would take a lot of advance planning, though, as you have to make reservations for each leg of your trip as far in advance as possible.

    I would say that you could eat very well for $300/week each. That's roughly $15/meal. You can probably do MUCH better than that. I know that for the road trip I'm planning with my family, we've budgeted $1500 for three weeks total-for four people. We plan on using a flexible cooler and making lots of sandwiches,etc. We'll also splurge a few times on nice restaurants, and we'll avoid fast food as much as we can.

    Did I read your message correctly? That you're planning on flying into Chicago?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default options

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    As Mets indicated, buying a car is not the slam dunk idea it might sound on paper. This is one thread that outlines some of the the challenges that come with trying to buy a car as an international visitor. For just a one month trip, its usually not possible to make this option cost effective.

    DriveAway options also aren't really that great for taking a roadtrip like the one you've described. You've got a set number of days to get the car from point A to point B, and it doesn't really leave time for exploring or going to festivals.

    Unless you are under 21, I think renting a car will really be your best option.

    It doesn't look like you've got much of a defined route, but how you laid things out wouldn't work in just 4 weeks. There would just be way too much North/South zig-zagging. What you might look at doing is a big loop of the US, which would save you money both on airfare and car rental. 4 weeks would be enough to cover the distance and get a nice feel for things, but it probably would be too fast to really start to soak up the culture. Of course, with 4 weeks its hard to soak up any one culture, much less all the different aspects of America.

  4. Default

    We are planning to fly into and out from NY, not Chicago. And all of us are abov 21, but under 25.
    So we'll probably have to skip one detour, or never make it to LA and take a flight back from some other city.

    I have read about the trains in the US and they seem really nice, however some of us have done Eurail, so we were looking for sth else this time.

    Thanks for your answers so far.

  5. Default

    Well, flying into NY presents some interesting options.

    If it were me, and I were in my early 20's, NYC would be a place that I would really want to take some time to explore. One things certain, you do NOT need a car while you're in New York City. In fact, IMO, you definitely do not want a car when you're there. I would strongly recommend the Vanderbilt YMCA in Manhattan for your time in New York. It's a hostel-style arrangement, and I think you would be happy with it. The money you save on car rental for the time you're there may help offset the additional cost of the hostel. I think it's around $50/night-the cheapest place I've found in Manhattan. If you want NYC ideas, just ask. We go there often!

    I agree with a previous post indicating that a loop around the country is likely to be your best bet. Head south out of NY on I-95, take it as far south as you want to go, and then head west on a southerly route. You can hit Chicago by taking a northern route on the back end of the loop.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Don't underestimate the size of the US.

    You've gotten lots of transportation tips. I have to say that a car rental makes the most sense for a roadtrip in the US. If you were going to be here traveling for months on end, a purchase might make sense. But you'd still need adequate funds for maintenance, repairs, insurance, licensing, etc. For four weeks, a rental makes much more sense.

    About the route, we haven't yet figured out exactly. Some would like to hit the Southern states first, then back to Chicago, then Vegas, then Seattle, then back to LA to catch a plane to NY to get home. Sure we are flexible, and we can skip one or two destinations. Is this doable in four weeks?
    Doable, yes. This trip is roughly 6000 miles from point a to b to c, without detours, sightseeing, etc. I would figure at least 8000 miles. Figure about 140-150 hours just to drive it. (Note: most automatic mapping programs like Google's, Mapquest, etc. tend to be overly optimistic about traveling times.)

    We generally recommend that people limit travel to about 500 miles per day. So that makes this route about 16 days, a bit more than half your time here in the US. If you want a few days in NYC, Vegas, Seattle, LA, etc., than this means you won't have much time to explore along the way. And driving much more than that gets really tiring, especially after multiple days. And, of course, doesn't leave you much time to explore along the way. However, since you're young and energetic, you might be able to handle a bit more. Just rest when you need to so that you don't become unsafe drivers due to fatigue. More miles per day starts turning into a whistle-stop tour but, then again, that may be what you want. There's nothing wrong with that if that's what you want to do.


    Then, accomodation. We are experienced campers and plan to camp 3/4 of the time, the other 1/4 find a cheap motel. We might go out occasionally, but in general will be prepared to sleep and eat as cheap as possible, by cooking ourselves etcetera.
    Camping is great. That's what I do, too. There are many government-operated and commercial, privately-owned campgrounds. They may be easier to find in some places than others. If you need more help with this part of your planning, let us know. Here's some tips for how to eat more cheaply and more healthy out of your cooler. $1200 each for food for is about $40 per day. This is more than enough if you eat out of your cooler a lot. You could probably eat one reasonable-priced restaurant meal a day with that budget and eat out of your cooler the rest without a problem.

    For food, we counted a $1200 each. Is that reasonable?
    Thanks again, if I have forgotten essentials let me know.[/quote]

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