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  1. Default European couple for road/rail trip across US 1st time

    Hi there

    It is going to be my(our) first time on USA and my objective it to better know the american lifestyle and enjoy the wonderful views as well. What i have planned is this:

    (This all can be adjustable dates)
    March 27th- Arrival to NYC
    March 27th--»29th- NYC short visit (most manhattan)
    March 30th--»Road trip start from NYC to LA.waypoints:Kansas city(Railroad school info)--»Mount Rushmore--»Salt Lake city(white sand place i guess)--»South grand canyon(Skywalker)-»Hoover Dam--»Las Vegas--»LA
    April 4th(extendable date)-Rail or bus trip LA--»San Francisco
    April 6th-Rail-San Francisco-»Seattle
    April 7th-Rail-Seatle--»NYC

    The road trip is about 3500miles and i am thinking about renting a SUV(Chevrolet trailblazer or similar) via internet because is 2 times cheaper.SUV because at grand canyon and other possible places there are a lot of gravel road and 4WD is always a help.

    MY budget is limited to 4000€-about 5300USD.
    I am 25 and my wife 24, long driving for me is not a problem because i am a professional bus driver, but can happen i get tired and my wife drive a few miles. As my wife is below 25, do you think rental companies can apply a surcharge?


    Based on your experience, i would like to know if the places i am visiting are worth it and your suggestions as well( i saw on this forum about yosemite park,etc).If you were me what would you do?

    I also would like to know if March/April is a good season to travel as i don't want to get stucked on the snow and i don't like too much cold,lol.

    I know there are a few motels/gas stations on remote places. As they seem to not have many clients, are these motels safe?

    sorry for so many questions, but i want to have sure i can have a safe journey as we are only 2.


    Thanks for your attention

    Regards

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default more work ahead

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think its great that you are starting to work on planning a roadtrip, but I think you've got quite a bit of work still ahead of you. There are a few problems with your current plan.

    March 30th--»Road trip start from NYC to LA.waypoints:Kansas city(Railroad school info)--»Mount Rushmore--»Salt Lake city(white sand place i guess)--»South grand canyon(Skywalker)-»Hoover Dam--»Las Vegas--»LA
    April 4th(extendable date)-Rail or bus trip LA--»San Francisco
    You've got a few pretty significant errors here.

    First of all, your timeline is just way too short to do everything you're listing. Its 5-6 hard driving days to make it from NYC to LA driving direct. You are using the same amount of time, but you've built a route that zigs and zags north and south, adding several hundred miles to your trip, and you've listed places that I imagine you'd want to stop and spend some time at too. I think you'd need at least 10 days, but probably 2 weeks to fit everything you've talked about into this trip.

    As far as the specfic stops you've laid out, I think you also need to do some more research.
    Kansas city(Railroad school info)
    I'm actually not even sure what it is that you are talking about here. I even tryed a google search and couldn't find anything about a railroad school in Kansas City. I think you'll need to help us out here. Also, Kansas City is a long way south, if you are hoping to go to Mount Rushmore next, so if time is an issue, you might want to leave this stop off anyway.
    Salt Lake city(white sand place i guess)
    Again, I'm not really sure what it is that you are talking about here. There is a White Sands National Park, but that is in New Mexico, not Utah. Perhaps you are making reference to something about the Great Salt Lake? Regardless, Utah is home to several pretty amazing national parks and is worth spending some time checking them out.
    South grand canyon(Skywalker)
    This is a fairly common error, but it is certainly one you need to know about. The Skywalk is not a part of Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim. It is a separate attraction that is located on a Native American Reservation several hours to the west. This area is known as the "West Rim." It is also quite expensive to visit the reservation and the skywalk, but you'll have to do a little research and figure out which option between the National Park and the Skywalk works best for what you want to do.
    April 4th(extendable date)-Rail or bus trip LA--»San Francisco
    April 6th-Rail-San Francisco-»Seattle
    You've got a couple things to consider here. First, I would seriously thinking about driving up the coast. The Coastal Highway is one of the most amazing drives in the world, so at the very least I think I would drive as far as San Francisco (give yourself 2 days), but continuing up all the way to Seattle would be amazing too, although you really would need to give yourself at least 3 to 4 days for that section.

    You should also know that your current train plan wouldn't work anyway. Its a 24 hour trip via train from the SFO area to Seattle (assuming no delays), so if you left SFO on the 6th, you wouldn't get to Seattle until the night of the 7th, well after the train back east has departed.
    The road trip is about 3500miles and i am thinking about renting a SUV(Chevrolet trailblazer or similar) via internet because is 2 times cheaper.SUV because at grand canyon and other possible places there are a lot of gravel road and 4WD is always a help.
    I don't know what you mean about 2 times cheaper, however you should know a couple things. First, the roads at Grand Canyon National Park are fully paved (skywalk is a bit of a different story), but more importantly, 4 wheel drive rentals can not be driven off road, so really if you are any place that you'd really need four wheel drive, you'd probably be in violation of your rental contract.

    Your wife probably will not be able to drive, without paying a signficant surcharge. However, since she is your spouse, there could very well be an exception. You really need to check with the rental agency to see what their policies are.

    I know there are a few motels/gas stations on remote places. As they seem to not have many clients, are these motels safe?
    Most places in the US are not nearly as remote as people seem to think. Its certainly not like what you've probably seen in movies. If you are traveling along the interstates, you'll rarely go more than 50 miles without seeing several gas stations and motels in a populated area.

    Based on your experience, i would like to know if the places i am visiting are worth it and your suggestions as well( i saw on this forum about yosemite park,etc).If you were me what would you do?
    If it were me, I would seriously think about dropping the train element from this trip, and just do a one way trip across the country. I'm not sure of the exact time constraints you've laid out, but right now you're really trying to do a lot, with not very much time. Saving the 4-5 days it will take to travel by train from Seattle to NYC would give you a lot more time to enjoy the roadtrip portion of your trip.

    You've got a lot of work ahead of you, and a lot of decisions to be made, but that's what I think I would do. Let us know if we can be of more help as you work to hammer out the details.

  3. Default

    Thank you so much for your help. I really need someone on that side to help me with the timeline, i only estimated the trip, that's why i came here to confirm first before i can go.

    I can change a few things:

    1st of all, the railroad school i as talking about is this one http://www.railroadtraining.com/

    but it is not important, because i rather prefer to go to some big railroad terminal or HQ and get my questions answered.

    2nd. I have 2 route options, but both have to end the same point, that is the skywalker or any other grand canyon park that you may suggest. I mean, if, for ex, is not worth to visit skywalker because is too expensive, i can, instead, visit other nearby attractive areas.
    As i want to visit the white sands park, i have to add a waypoint through NM, and quit the mount rushmore.

    So it can be via(www.us.map24.com) Newark NJ--»Las Cruces NM--»Las Vegas NV--»San Francisco CA--» Seattle WA = 4200miles

    3rd From Seattle to NYC via Chicago, i really want to try the Amtrak Empire builder and climb Maria's Pass ;).At Chicago i will have almost 1 day wait between trains, so i will have time to visit the Sears Tower, i hope.

    4rd As i don't mind to spend 1 or 2 week more, that means i can fly to NYC earlier, about March 19th or even earlier. Stay after april 10th is out of question as the airline company will almost double the rates from middle April to September.

    5th Based on what you told, is better skip the SUV idea and ride on a standard size car, right? I don't know how rental companies work there, but if drivers can't go off-road, why they provide 4WD cars? :S

    6th As LA is a huge city, i think i will skip it. I am used to drive on a 4+ lane full traffic roads but nothing compared to the busy LA and can become very confusing to me. That's why i will start my drive since Newark NJ and not middle NYC.

    7th Based on this map , do you think it is a good route? i accept route adjustmens ;) .I also would like to know if this route passes near a busy RR terminal.

    8th I would like to know how is the weather on March/April if possible. Is still too cold?snow?

    9th My driver's license is all writen in portuguese. However, on the back, it have the different categories vehicle symbols and the respective exam date like this http://www.kerodicas.com/wp-content/...a_condu_de.jpg
    Dou you think that USA traffic authorities accept this?

    Thanks
    Regards

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

    Default improvements

    I don't get the impression that that railroad school is exactly a tourist attraction, and unless you are a paying student, I don't think you'd get much out of it, so its probably a good thing that you've taken that off your list.

    Newark NJ--»Las Cruces NM--»Las Vegas NV--»San Francisco CA--» Seattle WA = 4200miles
    That basic outline will work just fine for your trip. Certainly there are lots of things you can add in to break up the trip and see along the way, but just staright driving alone, you're looking at 8 days here. I'd still recommend at least 2 weeks so you have time to enjoy yourself.

    5th Based on what you told, is better skip the SUV idea and ride on a standard size car, right? I don't know how rental companies work there, but if drivers can't go off-road, why they provide 4WD cars? :S
    They are provided for the same reason that SUVs sell very well in areas like Los Angeles, where people never drive off pavement or see bad weather: People think they are cool, like the idea that they can go anywhere, and they think by being in a huge vehicle they'll be safer. If renting a sedan would be cheaper, then that is the way I'd go.
    8th I would like to know how is the weather on March/April if possible. Is still too cold?snow?
    There certainly still is the chance of seeing snow in March or April, although for most of your route its pretty unlikely to be much of a problem. There will still be snow in mountainous areas, and mountain passes that close for the winter, like Tioga Pass through Yosemite, will still be closed.
    My driver's license is all writen in portuguese.
    I would recommend getting an International Drivers Permit, which basically provides a translation of your Portuguese license.

  5. Default

    The railroad school i referred is not to "visit" but to get some info as a possible student. But actual RR workers ex-NARS students can tell me better if the course is worth it or not. That's why i asked about busy RR terminals, BNSF if possible.

    About the car, Standard Sedan will be my choice, in this case, i guess a Chevy Impala can do the job.

    You talked about 2 weeks, i should say that im not going always drive through secondary roads, only on reasonable scenery to view and some stops of course. I would like to know in which states/zones i should avoid the secondary roads where there's nothing to see, if possible.
    I am planning to rent the car between march 20th and April 1st. Do you think it's enough?


    I know that in some states the max speed is 65mph and others 75mph=120km/h which is similar to Europe, although, here we use to reach a little above like 140/150km/h. At desert states, i know there are a few loooooong straight roads. What american drivers do? speed a little or keep the limit? I mean, in the middle of nowhere, can suddenly appear the highway patrol from behind an advertising panel??lol


    Regards

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default even direct

    10 days would be enough time to drive the miles you are talking about, but it will give you very little time to stop anywhere.

    There's also no place in the US where you can drive and see "nothing."

    American speed limits are typically 65-75 mph on a rural freeway, however, even if you are traveling at those speeds or slightly over, it doesn't mean that you can average that speed over a full day. There will be traffic and other things to slow you down, and you'll have to stop for food, fuel, etc. In a very full day of driving (8-10 hours on the road), you'll cover about 500 miles, so You'd need 8 full days just to cover the 4200 miles you've laid out. That would only give you 2 "extra" days to stop at or make detours to White Sands, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite or the Coast Highway, San Francisco, etc. If spend time driving on secondary non-freeway roads, you'll need to plan to travel even fewer miles in a day.

  7. Default

    I'm not going to recommend you break the law, but 5-10 mph over almost always safe.

    Except in cities, etc, then I say stick to the speed limit (plus, if you're looking around a lot, you may not realize that traffic just came to a stop).

    I did a circumnavigation of the US in 2007, and in 16 days twice drove over 1,000 miles in a day.

    If you're a professional bus driver, you're probably quite capable of driving for long stretches at the highway speed (4hr x 70mph), stop for a small break, and do it once again, or even twice in one day.

    So, 'getting across the country' won't be that much of a hassle in a car. My only caveat to this, is that east of the Mississippi River, road speeds are slower because of more traffic, less linear roads (lots of turns, etc) unlike in flyover country.

    As for the comment about nothing to see, it depends on what you want to see. If mountains, scenery, etc is your thing, the Appalachians can be quite beautiful, sometimes moreso than the Rockies.

    Southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, most of Colorado, is quite beautiful with the red rock formations, jagged mountains, etc.

    If you're sticking to the interstate a lot, you'll miss a lot of it.

    Sykotyk

  8. Default

    Sorry, you mean 13 days and not 10. I am planning to drive 12/13 hours, that is not a problem, i am used to it.
    Other thing i must concern is about lodging, i can sleep at the car a few times, but not always, so i would like to know the average motel rate couple bed, if possible. I guess is about 100$USD?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Is it worth it ?

    Quote Originally Posted by BallaZ View Post
    Sorry, you mean 13 days and not 10. I am planning to drive 12/13 hours, that is not a problem, i am used to it.
    Other thing i must concern is about lodging, i can sleep at the car a few times, but not always, so i would like to know the average motel rate couple bed, if possible. I guess is about 100$USD?
    Is it worth spending 12-14 hours a day in a car and very little time actually seeing some of the country other than that which passes by the car window.

    With 10 days you barely have time to visit the Southwest areas mentioned never mind driving across country and trying to see it all.
    I would at least consider flying from New York to a destination in the West such as Salt Lake city, Vegas or L/A and then start your roadtrip. You could actually be better off leaving New York untill another time and flying directly to the West.

    The distances are huge and to have to just rush through places like the Grand canyon, Yosemite and the Coastal highway would be a massive shame.

    Do less, see more ;-)

    You can find Motels for less than $100 [even $65- $70] but if you allow $100 for your budget you will be fine.

  10. Default

    With 10 days you barely have time to visit the Southwest areas mentioned never mind driving across country and trying to see it all.
    I would at least consider flying from New York to a destination in the West such as Salt Lake city, Vegas or L/A and then start your roadtrip. You could actually be better off leaving New York untill another time and flying directly to the West.
    Well, it was always on my plans since i was a teen, drive from east to west coast, i don't know why,lol.

    Anyway, as i want to make a sequencial visit starting on white sands park, then canyon, etc, i can consider flying from NYC to Dallas, then do the rest by car. What do you think?

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