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  1. Default 2 German girls take a 2 month trip through USA - tips for "sightseeing"?

    Hello everyone,

    more than one year ago I already posted some questions and got very useful tips. My sister and I decided to rent a car and not buy one to avoid dealing with all the stuff you need to take care of when buying.

    Also I looked at the many links I found here for low cost accommodation along the way, besides Hospitality Club, sleeping in the car and cheap motels we'll definitely take camping equipment with us. So I guess I'm set with the "hard facts". Now I would like to invite anyone who has any suggestion regarding sights or other useful things we should bear in mind to give me some advice.

    As we are from Germany we don't know the USA as most of you do, so maybe you have some "must sees" or "must dos" for two German girls (one 26, one 23 years old). I should say that we would like to spend as little as possible, but we won't skimp when necessary. Also, as we both live in big cities (Berlin and Hamburg) and long for some time outside that hecticness, we would like to be as much in touch with nature as possible besides the big cites that we're visiting. We also would like to avoid interstates and drive two lane highways wherever it doesn't mean too much of a detour.

    So our rough plan for August and September 2009 is:
    - flying in to New York late July, stay around 5 days
    - maybe have a quick trip to Washington area, visit Annapolis and Baltimore, but this is still open
    - travel up New England, where we definitely have to eat some lobster in Maine :-)
    - cross the Canadian border, visit Montréal and Toronto (will we have any problems as non-US and non-Canadian citizens to travel from country to country?)
    - come back to the USA, see the Niagara falls
    - Cleveland, Chicago (stay around 3 days)
    - drive to South Dakota, stay in Beresford (near Sioux Falls) for one week, as my sister's host family from her time as an exchange student lives there
    - drive back to Minneapolis and drive from there down south alongside the Mississippi
    - from St. Louis we have a loooong drive to L.A. (we estimated 5 days, will that suffice if we want to have some time of the day for getting out of the car and visit sights?)
    - Sept. 11th we have to pick up another friend who will land in L.A., so from now on we are three girls
    - travel up the westcoast (L.A., Santa Barbara, San Francisco, stay some days in Arcata with another friend of my sister's)
    - then drive to Portland and Seattle, where we give back the car
    - finally travel to Vancouver by bus and fly back home from here Oct. 5th.

    I know that is a lot. We are not totally determined to take this way and can have some meanderings. The only things that are fixed are: starting in NY, staying in Beresford for one week, picking up our friend in L.A. 9/11 and ending our trip in Vancouver (we already have our flights).

    Any suggestion will be greatly appreciated, especially if you know anything about discounts for students (we all have the international student ID).

    Thank you veeeery much in advance!
    Jule

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Here is one thing you must consider - if you want the 23 year old to be able to drive the rental car, there will be a considerable surcharge that will drive the price of the rental way up.

    I would recommend you contact both the US and Canadian embassies or consulates in Germany to ask about your border crossing plans, you may need something like multiple entry tourist visas for both countries, and obviously you will need passports. You also must have permission and documentation from the car rental company to cross the border with the car.

  3. Default

    Yeah, when I saw the surcharges for my sister I was shocked. 25 to 30$ a day just because someone's younger than 25? But we will rent the car from a German car rental that provides cars in the USA. They have a special "young drivers" offer where anyone from 21 up can drive without paying a surcharge, and the total price is just slightly higher than other rentals.

    Thanks for the tip with the embassies, I will contact them to make sure we don't get any problems crossing the border.
    If anyone else has any experiences with this, please share!

  4. #4

    Default

    When in Boston, you definitely have to walk the freedom trail. It is a self paced tour throughout the city. They have a red line painted on the ground for a few miles and you follow it and get to see all the main sights. You can have lunch in famous Quincy Market and then perhaps see a baseball game at night. As for Maine, I have only been to the very southern part, Kittery, ME. They have a bunch of outlet stores that should keep you busy for a few hours if you like to shop. If it's warm enough, you can head a few miles North to the beach in Ogunquit, ME. They have a few shops and restaurants there as well.

    There are plenty of places in NYC to keep you busy for days. When traveling down to the Washington, DC area, I'd suggest staying in Philadelphia, PA for a day. There are many sights to see and great food to taste. If you make your way to Baltimore, visit the inner harbor and go to the aquarium. Washington, DC has plenty to offer and you could spend a few days there as well.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default Heading West.

    Hi Jule,

    - from St. Louis we have a loooong drive to L.A. (we estimated 5 days, will that suffice if we want to have some time of the day for getting out of the car and visit sights?)
    With around 1850 miles to cover it will be fairly relaxed over 5 days. If you even out your travel days you would be on the road for approx 6.5 hours a day, leaving you time for some sightseeing. If you took I-44 and 40 through Oky and Albu you may want to spend a full day at the Grand canyons South rim which would put your daily average at around 8 hours of driving. You could opt for the Alpine scenery on I-70 through Denver and visit Arches NP and Vegas [I-15] as a couple of options of many. With another day or 2 you could head from Arches to the South rim through some of the most fascinating scenery on offer.

    - travel up the westcoast (L.A., Santa Barbara, San Francisco, stay some days in Arcata with another friend of my sister's)
    - then drive to Portland and Seattle, where we give back the car
    If you have time [a couple of days] head inland to Yosemite NP for a night, it's pretty amazing. In San Fran Pier 39 has a good atmosphere and has some fun places like "Bubba Gumps" for food and drinks or great sea food joints. The Alcatraz tour is also a good experience and you get good views of the city and Golden gate from the boat [fog permitting! ]

  6. Default

    Southwest Dave, smiley, thank you for your tips, we will definitely keep those in mind!

    Now, I was wondering what you would recommend regarding parking. We will stay in some big cities (Chicago, St. Louis, L.A., San Francisco etc.) Do you think it's easier to drive into the city and try to find a parking spot there or park the rented car in a suburban area and use public transportation to get into the city? I'm asking because I don't have any idea how the parking situation is in bigger cities in the US. I know in Germany it can be really hard to get a parking spot in bigger cities (or it costs a fortune) and I could imagine that in the US it's even harder (bigger cars etc.) Also, I'm not sure which option is safer so the car doesn't get stolen, damaged or else.

    Thanks!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    It's not hard to find parking, but it can be costly - up to $30 a day. Most downtown hotels have parking arrangements of some sort if you stay there.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Commuters often do it

    Most major cities have some kind of system where people who commute into the city for work can park somewhere on the outskirts of the city and take commuter rail or a bus into the city. People do this every day so I have to assume it's generally safe to leave the vehicle in the parking lots or people wouldn't do it. It's probably not any less safe than parking in the city would be anyway.

    Hotels in cities do have parking but it's not uncommon for those located in the larger, more congested cities to charge extra fees for parking.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default San Fran

    In San Fran you have the very good Bart rail system which IMO is excellent. You could stay close to a station and hop on to downtown. alternatively airport hotels offer a free shuttle bus system to SFO airport where you can get the Bart train and usually they offer better, value for money lodgings, than downtown. Best Western grosvenor hotel was great value IMO.
    This Motel on Lombard street is clean and comfortable and offers free parking and is not far from the Mariner and piers where you can hop on the trolley cars.
    By Googling each city they will have a host of info on what transport options are available along with lots of other visitor info.

  10. #10

    Default

    Hey, wir sind auch um die Zeit in Kalifornien, wenn ihr da seid. :-) Wir sind am 9. und 10. September in San Francisco. Grüße aus Bayern!

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