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  1. Default 4-week drive just became a 2-week fly/drive

    I'm very sad today . . . we were planning a month-long drive across the country for next summer, the big goal being to show our teen and our tween the size and diversity that is America . . . well, my husband said last night that the previously discussed month is impossible, and we must downsize the trip to two weeks. Of course, I plan to cheat; since July 4 falls on a Saturday, he'll have off Friday, July 3 -- that's a "free day" that doesn't count in our two weeks! While I know I should be very grateful that in today's uncertain economy he's in a solid job, but the part of me that's fussy and greedy isn't so happy. He just passed the 20 year mark -- can't they give him a month?

    I'm not complaining to him. He feels badly enough about it . . . so, on to being constructive . . .

    We've decided to make it a western trip. We are thinking of flying into Vegas (because prices seem to be lowest there), renting a car, and making a loop that'll be something like this: Vegas - Grand Canyon, North Rim - Arches - Mesa Verde - Colorado - Yellowstone - Grand Tetons - Mt Rushmore - Vegas. This, of course, is very sketchy, having just been chopped in half.

    On the up-side, I'd already saved enough for a month-long trip; now we have plenty for a two-week trip with splurges!

    Questions:

    Is Vegas indeed my best (best in this case meaning cheapest) starting point? I looked at one-way flights /car rentals (so we wouldn't have to back-track), and the prices were astronomical. Any thoughts or tricks?

    Any hints on managing a fly-and-drive? Any difficulties that I might not've thought of yet?

    We're not carrying camping gear, so I expect we'll each have a carry-on for clothes (we pack uber-light), we'll each have a day pack, and we'll have our food-gear.

    On the plane, can I check a medium-sized rolling cooler (and inside it my dry-foods tub with a thin cutting board, 2 sharp picnic knives, a can opener, a bottler opener, and a couple plastic storage containers)? These are the things that I normally take on road trips, and I like MY STUFF. I'm thinking of wrapping the cooler in duct tape to keep it closed and to keep the handles down. I don't care that I'll look like a Beverly Hillbillly checking into the airport, but I am a little concerned about those two sharp knives. I love them for road trips; they're just the right size for cutting up apples or opening sandwich meat, and they're in sheaths so you don't risk cutting your hand if one of the kids doesn't put it away carefully in the dry-foods tub.

    And nothing to do with our changes . . . we just got back from an absolutely wonderful trip near home, and we toted numerous ticks out of the woods. We Carolinians are used to ticks, though we hate and fear them. Will we encounter these disease-carrying bugs out west?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Las Vegas as Hub

    Quote Originally Posted by MrsPete View Post
    We are thinking of flying into Vegas (because prices seem to be lowest there), renting a car, and making a loop that'll be something like this: Vegas - Grand Canyon, North Rim - Arches - Mesa Verde - Colorado - Yellowstone - Grand Tetons - Mt Rushmore - Vegas.
    Las Vegas makes a good road trip hub, and I have recommended it as such a number of times. But in this case, I would think that Denver or Salt Lake would make more sense -- even Phoenix makes a little more sense. Actually Denver makes the most sense for being centrally located. Las Vegas has the advantage of being Las Vegas and if it really is cheaper, than that makes some sense. Historically, the airlines have partially subsidized in-bound flights to ensure that folks fly here -- but I am not sure that they will be able to keep those practices up.
    Any hints on managing a fly-and-drive? Any difficulties that I might not've thought of yet?
    Other than not having all of your road trip stuff -- they can be pretty great. One huge advantage of a HUB-n-Spoke trip (using Denver as the hub) instead of a loop trip, is that you can adjust the time versus the money easier if you have a central place to fly in and out of -- which is why Las Vegas (on the extreme outer loop) is not as efficient as it could be.
    On the plane, can I check a medium-sized rolling cooler
    I wouldn't think this would be a problem -- but you really need to speak with someone from an airline. One thing I always recommend is that you pick up a insulated shopping bag for keeping food cooler on such trips. Here are some more ideas.
    Will we encounter these disease-carrying bugs out we
    There are no ticks in Las Vegas.... but you will find ticks in most of the higher elevation places that you might travel in -- they are not happy in desert regions as a general rule.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 07-05-2008 at 11:06 AM. Reason: clarfication: Hub-n-Spoke versus "Loop Trip"

  3. #3

    Default

    Your passion for travel shines through and I am sure you will make things happen.

    Just on the question of whether to do a circular trip to save money or a more costly one-way trip to do what you really want to do. No question from my point of view, if the pennies can be found, do the trip you really want to do.

    I’ve done many circular trips but if time is restricted you can often comprise on the places you visit just to get back to starting point. This year I’m undertaking a one-way trip, even though it adds to the price, to do what I really want to do. I’m not replying on there being second chances - I shall no regrets either.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default abou the cooler

    The thing with the cooler that I would see as being a potential problem is finding a way to seal it shut, while still giving the folks at TSA a chance to see inside. Duct tape might work for this, but it might not. I'd certainly check with your local airport security office to see what their thoughts on this might be. It might work better to pack the items you want, but then just pick up a cheap cooler once you've landed. Of course by next summer, it could be cheaper to buy everything you need at your destination than trying check a bag.

    Since you've got a lot of places you want to go, I would keep shopping around at a whole list of cities and find the cheapest option. I could see Vegas being the cheapest because of the competition and discounts, but on the particular days you are looking to travel, and with rental car costs, it could also end up being cheaper at any of the cities Mark mention. Being a full year out makes it a little tough to know what you'll find at this point.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Loops and Lines

    Actually, much like Eris, I am a big fan of loop drives. There's absolutely nothing wrong with ending up where you started (especially if doing so saves you big bucks). As long as you're not covering the same ground twice it's all "new road" to you. In your particular case, I can think of a great loop that at around 2500 miles can easily be done in two weeks at a fairly relaxed pace and lets you see all the things you've listed except Mt. Rushmore (which IMO is really out of your way and not worth that much effort).

    Anyway, consider this itinerary: Las Vegas, Grand Canyon (south rim), Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, Arches, Colorado National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument, Flaming Gorge, Fossil Butte National Monument, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon, Thousand Springs, Bruneau Canyon, Great Basin National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and back to Las Vegas. And those are just the highlights. The other great thing about doing a loop like this is that you have your choice of departure/return points. Las Vegas, Phoenix or Salt Lake City would all work about as well, depending on where you could get the best combined deal on flights and rental car.

    AZBuck

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Great Advice!

    I forgot that TSA would need to inspect it. I really think that in this case, the best option is to not check such baggage -- Luggage Forwarding, like I mentioned in this article is a much smarter way to get such equipment delivered to one's hub hotel.

    On the subject of pre-booking -- these are very interesting times for the airlines and rental car companies -- all you have do is watch what happened with the various discounter sites this weekend. As the holiday weekend grew closer, it became obvious that lots of people who were planning to travel changed their minds and fares and car rental rates dropped rapidly over the last 48 hours as operators sought to "re-claim" those would-be tourists. I don't see ANY advantage in locking-in today's rates for a trip that will happen next July. Conventional wisdom would suggest that pre-booking a year will translate into savings -- but I am not sure that is true anymore.

    Mark

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    Las Vegas makes a good road trip hub, and I have recommended it as such a number of times. But in this case, I would think that Denver or Salt Lake would make more sense -- even Phoenix makes a little more sense.
    I checked the prices for Denver, and they were a MILE HIGH (ha-ha). I hadn't considered Salt Lake City, but it would make perfect sense for our itinerary. In a logical sense, I shouldn't even care; my husband has enough "miles" to get probably three of the four tickets for free . . . but I just can't stomach paying more when I could have the same item for less. I know, it's not sensible.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    There are no ticks in Las Vegas.... but you will find ticks in most of the higher elevation places that you might travel in -- they are not happy in desert regions as a general rule.
    Score one for the desert! Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and more -- there's a reason we Carolinians hate these things.
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    The thing with the cooler that I would see as being a potential problem is finding a way to seal it shut, while still giving the folks at TSA a chance to see inside. Duct tape might work for this, but it might not.
    I wasn't thinking of them looking inside; I was thinking that they'd x-ray the checked luggage. I like the idea of mailing my cooler/food equipment to the first hotel. It doesn't weigh much; it's just bulky. Actually, I don't care much about my specific cooler; but I do love my cutting board, knives, and a couple other things. I could mail all of those things in one of those "mail anything that'll fit in this box for $9" mailers that the have at the post office, and I could buy a cooler at our first grocery store stop. That sounds very do-able, and it'd leave us with only one carry-on suitcase and one daypack apiece for the airplane.
    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Anyway, consider this itinerary: Las Vegas, Grand Canyon (south rim), Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, Arches, Colorado National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument, Flaming Gorge, Fossil Butte National Monument, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon, Thousand Springs, Bruneau Canyon, Great Basin National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and back to Las Vegas. And those are just the highlights.
    Change a few details, and that's the route we've mapped out. Our plan is to fly into Vegas and leave immediately for the Grand Canyon; then when we return to Vegas we'll take a couple days to wind down and rest before we head back home. Since my husband will have to go back to work the day after we fly home, I want him to have a couple days to lay by the pool and do nothing at the end of the trip.

    I think we're definitely going with the circular route. I was amazed at how much higher the one-way plane tickets and one-way car rentals were; I expected them to come at a premium price, but they were more than 50% higher! That's highway robbery.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    On the subject of pre-booking -- these are very interesting times for the airlines and rental car companies -- all you have do is watch what happened with the various discounter sites this weekend. As the holiday weekend grew closer, it became obvious that lots of people who were planning to travel changed their minds and fares and car rental rates dropped rapidly over the last 48 hours as operators sought to "re-claim" those would-be tourists. I don't see ANY advantage in locking-in today's rates for a trip that will happen next July. Conventional wisdom would suggest that pre-booking a year will translate into savings -- but I am not sure that is true anymore.
    I agree. In general, I'm a plan-it-in-advance, get a confirmation number, write it in the trip notebook kind of girl . . . but I think the times they are a'changin', and this is not a good time to be locked in.

    Thanks to all who replied!

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