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  1. Default Planning New York to San Francisco Road Trip from Australia

    Hey everyone,

    My wife and I are planning a road trip within the US from the east coast to the west coast for 2-3 weeks at the end of May. After some early investigation, we love the sound of a route between New York City and San Francisco with our must see destinations being the bookends New York and San Francisco and the preliminary other 'must see' places for us are Yellowstone National Park, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon before flying out of Los Angeles back to Oz. In summary, we like both the big cities and love the great outdoors (especially around the Rockies) and everything in between.

    We would appreciate any advice on which route people would recommend, any highlights on this route, any advice on our trip length, the time of year etc etc. We would consider to take some flights in order to fit everything into our itinerary ie - San Fran to Vegas to LA or others?

    Thanks in advance,
    Serge

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default From one Aussie to another

    Phew! That is a tall order. There are just so many routes. Having travelled coast to coast many times, I know which route I would choose to take in your 'must sees' but that may not be the route which would be ideal for you.

    May I suggest that you get a large (wall) map of the US, and start looking at what there is to see along the various routes. I like the National Geographics map, which has all the major roads, urban centres as well as National Parks, National Monuments, State Parks, etc. As a rough guide, allow a full day on the road for every 500 miles. (Mapping programmes will help with the distances, but take their times with a huge grain of salt.)

    When you have laid out a route, taking in those attractions which appeal to you, by all means come back here and the experts will help you fine tune it. In 2 - 3 weeks you have enough time to take in most of the major sites.... especially if it is closer to 3 than 2.

    Lifey in Melbourne

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default The journey starts here !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Lifey has that spot on, there are so many variables, however you already have some dots on the map so it's time for you to see what is in between and start filling in the blanks.

    You will find endless amounts of info throughout the RTA pages to help you on your way and if you wish to find more info on other National parks visit nps.gov.

    any advice on our trip length, the time of year etc etc. We would consider to take some flights in order to fit everything into our itinerary ie - San Fran to Vegas to LA or others?
    Three weeks is definitely better than two ! ;-). I like the tail end of the season to travel when there are less crowds but Yellowstone and the Rockies can see early winter weather and the later you leave it the higher risk of some disruption. It really depends on whether you are looking for peace and quiet or warmer weather but the beginning of Sept would be when my personal choice.

    As for flying in between, it's not something I would do. Not only will you have the expense of multiple one way rental charges, time spent in rental offices and airports etc, you will see much more from the ground.

    Enjoy the planning and when you have an outlined route let us know and perhaps we can offer other alternatives.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 02-08-2010 at 08:06 AM. Reason: Added opinion.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Dave is a little shy

    Dave is being particularly coy. I thought, at least for the Rockies, he may have referred you to this field report. Together with the Colerado section of my trip last year (post 125), should give you a good picture of what there is to see and do in the Rockies.

  5. Default Stil planning.......

    Hi everyone. Thanks so much Lifemagician and Southwest Dave for the initial advice and FANTASTIC road trip reports and photos which have inspired us to do it even more. Since the advice, we have got our hands on a US lonely planet, Rand McNally US road atlas (great publication) and gone through your road trips step by step, other peoples posts and now have a better idea of what we want to do........decided to dump the coast to coast road trip.

    My wifes work conference ends in Tampa Florida on the 19th May 2010, so we have decided to meet in NYC on the 20th (i'll fly from LA or SF depending on return flight costs from Oz/end of trip itinerary) spending a few days and then flying together to either Denver, Vegas, LA or SF with the latter 2 having the advantage of us being able to fly out to Oz directly after doing a loop. All up including NYC, we will have 3 weeks of travel time.

    We have a list of the places we would like to visit (knowing we will have to cut back some destinations) but we have not yet chosen a route. In no particular order:
    * Wyoming we would like to see - Yellowstone NP & Grand Teton NP.
    *Colorado - Rocky Mountains NP, Glenwood Springs/Glenwood Canyon, Dunes NP (maybe), Black Canyon in Gunnison NP, Million Dollar Hwy, Durango.
    * Utah - Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Zion NP, Mirror Lake Hwy, Monument Valley, Dead Horse Point SP, Zion NP, Bryce NP and Grand Staircase.
    * Arizona - north rim of GC NP, in Nevada - Las Vegas, Hoover Dam and possibly Death Valley.

    Outside of these states, the other place we want to see is San Francisco, although with the distance from our must see Rocky Mountain sites, we are considering whether it is worth it. We have no plans to visit LA other than to fly home from possibly. We're now getting pretty close to May, so it goes without saying we need to get ourselves organised asap, so any help or comments would much appreciated on any of the following:

    1. Any general comments or opinions on our initial destinations, time of year (weather/closed rds etc) or time allowed to cover the distance?
    2. Are there any any advantages or disadvantages of flying in (from NYC) and doing our road trip loop from either LA, SF, Vegas or Denver?........Return flights from LA are the cheapest to Oz.
    3. Is SF worth the out of way trek????
    4. Will we need to book accomodation ahead of time when staying outside of national parks for the end of May/start of June?
    5. We are planning to stay in a combination of motels, hostels and love the thought of staying in and waking up in some national parks, but to be honest the idea of driving around in a RV doesn't appeal too much. We are thinking of renting a 4WD (SUV in the US?) and in some NP's, sleeping in the back of the truck. Just wondering if anyone has travelled like this and has any commenst from experience. RV lovers comments would also be great.
    6. What is the best source of info or website (s) to find cheapest flights within the US?
    7. Whats is the best source of info or website(s) to find best deal on car hire?

    Sorry for questions overload!......hope to repay with road trip stories and photos.

    Thanks,
    Serge

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

    Default timing

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The timing of your trip should be ok for the most part. Late may is still very much springtime in the Rockies and there may still be some areas that haven't fully reopened for the year. The websites for each of the national parks usually have a section on the seasons and typical opening dates. You should also note that the last Monday of May is Memorial Day in the US, which means that weekend you will see an increase in other travelers taking advantage of the long weekend. You might want to prebook on those dates.

    If LA has the cheapest flights, then that would seem like a logical starting point for your loop. Really, it just comes down to convience and cost, so price things out with everything from all of those city options and see what you come up with.

    I really wouldn't recommend getting an SUV for the purpose of sleeping in it. Cars really don't make great tents, even SUVs, and with the extra you'll spend for the increased rental fee and fuel, you could probably spend another couple nights in a motel. Plus, at this time of year, it will still be quite cold overnight, and a car provides very little protection from the elements.

    For flights and car rentals, you've got the major sites like Travelocity and Expedia, but I tend to use Kayak and Sidestep, which search those sites and others for a bit more one stop shopping. There are also a couple of airlines like Southwest and Jet Blue which are discount carriers that only do bookings through their own sites, so they don't show up most search sites.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default One way ?

    It's a problem most of us have to face, so much to do, so little time to do it in and now is the tough part where you have to start cutting parts of your wish list away. Although it would mean a one way drop of charge for your car/RV rental I think to get a good overview of some of the places you have listed a one way trip from Denver to LA might be your best bet and is definitely worth pricing up against other options.

    An example would be if you had 3 days in NY and flew to Denver on day 4 pick up your rental and spend the night there, day 5 would be day 1 of a 15 day road trip if you follow me. Now with 15 days I think you could make a nice trip through Colorado, Southern Utah and Arizona to Las Vegas and through Death valley visiting a lot of the places you have mentioned above [other than Yellowstone and Grand Tetons] and still have the option of going through Yosemite NP to San Fran before heading down the coast on the PCH to LA.

    Something like along this path [but you can do many variations].



    Use the tools to zoom in and out and move left to right]

    To see Yellowstone and the Tetons you could do a loop from Denver or Salt lake city and add some of Utah or Colorado attractions in but I really don't see that you have the time to do a loop from LA if you want to get as far as Denver or Yellowstone. As Michael said you will need to check on certain road conditions in the Rockies as parts of Yellowstone may not be fully opened and the Trail ridge road in RMNP might not be although there is plenty to do in either. The main route you would need to check if you wanted to visit Yosemite from the East is whether the Tioga pass [CA120] has opened or not yet as mid May and sometimes into June is the normal

  8. Default National Park Opening Dates

    Thanks for the greetings and help Midewest Dave........
    The timing of your trip should be ok for the most part. Late may is still very much springtime in the Rockies and there may still be some areas that haven't fully reopened for the year. The websites for each of the national parks usually have a section on the seasons and typical opening dates. You should also note that the last Monday of May is Memorial Day in the US, which means that weekend you will see an increase in other travelers taking advantage of the long weekend. You might want to prebook on those dates.
    We're a bit confused about the opening dates of roads that lead to and within the Yellowstone NP and RMNP, as the YS website says mid April, but lonely planet says end May and there are a few more contridictions. I'm guessing this is to do with left over snow from Winter? My question is, whether there will be access into Yellowstone and RMNP by at least one road that never closes????......we plan to fly into SLC or Denver to see these parks at the start of our trip before heading south by road.

    If LA has the cheapest flights, then that would seem like a logical starting point for your loop. Really, it just comes down to convience and cost, so price things out with everything from all of those city options and see what you come up with.
    We are now thinking to cut San Fran and do a one way from Denver or SLC and end in LV or LA (one way drop). We have to fly from NYC regardless, so might as well fly north and drive south where we'll be flying home from (as long as we can get into the NP's in late May), which may cause reversal of plans.

    I really wouldn't recommend getting an SUV for the purpose of sleeping in it. Cars really don't make great tents, even SUVs, and with the extra you'll spend for the increased rental fee and fuel, you could probably spend another couple nights in a motel. Plus, at this time of year, it will still be quite cold overnight, and a car provides very little protection from the elements.
    This a good point. We do a lot of camping and have once or twice slept in the back of our 4WD and its amazing how much colder it is than in a tent etc!

    For flights and car rentals, you've got the major sites like Travelocity and Expedia, but I tend to use Kayak and Sidestep, which search those sites and others for a bit more one stop shopping. There are also a couple of airlines like Southwest and Jet Blue which are discount carriers that only do bookings through their own sites, so they don't show up most search sites.
    Thanks for the sites, especially the smaller mobs as I sometimes find it tedious using some of the larger well known sites.

    Thanks again,

  9. Default One Way Drop off sounds like the go

    Thanks Southwest Dave........

    Southwest Dave
    One way ?
    It's a problem most of us have to face, so much to do, so little time to do it in and now is the tough part where you have to start cutting parts of your wish list away. Although it would mean a one way drop of charge for your car/RV rental I think to get a good overview of some of the places you have listed a one way trip from Denver to LA might be your best bet and is definitely worth pricing up against other options.
    Great idea. We are now looking into options of flying into SLC or Denver and making a one way road trip south probably to LV or LA. We would rather pay an extra $300 for one way drop to get more time on road trip. We are now also considering an RV but a lot more expensive than we thought and one way drop huge!

    An example would be if you had 3 days in NY and flew to Denver on day 4 pick up your rental and spend the night there, day 5 would be day 1 of a 15 day road trip if you follow me. Now with 15 days I think you could make a nice trip through Colorado, Southern Utah and Arizona to Las Vegas and through Death valley visiting a lot of the places you have mentioned above [other than Yellowstone and Grand Tetons] and still have the option of going through Yosemite NP to San Fran before heading down the coast on the PCH to LA.
    Sounds great like a plan. Only thing, after doing a search on Yosemite vs Yellowstone forums, we think we would rather see Yellowstone NP over Yosemite as the posts people made included statements that Yosemite is crawling with people over summer and there is no where near as many animals as Yellowstone etc.......as long as we can get into Yellowstone and RMNP from the 24th May onwards. Have decided to drop San Fran.

    To see Yellowstone and the Tetons you could do a loop from Denver or Salt lake city and add some of Utah or Colorado attractions in but I really don't see that you have the time to do a loop from LA if you want to get as far as Denver or Yellowstone. As Michael said you will need to check on certain road conditions in the Rockies as parts of Yellowstone may not be fully opened and the Trail ridge road in RMNP might not be although there is plenty to do in either. The main route you would need to check if you wanted to visit Yosemite from the East is whether the Tioga pass [CA120] has opened or not yet as mid May and sometimes into June is the normal
    Yep as above sounds like the go.

    We are looking at RV's now but only if we can find a smallish one (Cruise Americas 19 footer) at a reasonable price. The prices found for this model so far are huge......we have found a 25 footer for way cheaper but are not sure whether we want to drive something so big as there are only 2 of us.

    Thanks again

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

    Default Thoughts.

    Yes, all the openings in the parks are weather dependant so you will see various predictions but this is what they are planning for at Yellowstone and as you are travelling late May possibly into June I would think you will be OK for the most part.

    In RMNP there is plenty to do and see even if the popular Trail ridge Rd [highest continuous paved road in the US] that crosses the park between Estes park and Grand lake is closed, but it is expected to open around the 20th May.

    we would rather see Yellowstone NP over Yosemite
    Fair enough but untill you have worked out your route and time line I wouldn't discount Yosemite just yet. The Tioga pass [CA120] that enters Yosemite from the East near Lee vining is another road that opens around the time of your travel and it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility to drive across the Sierra mountains here on the way to LA.
    Yosemite is wonderful and the waterfalls will be at full flow and the views are fantastic. Look at this view from Glacier point.

    The RV is normally the dearest way to travel and with just the 2 of you a car and Motel can be cheaper but NP lodgings can get expensive if you want to stay inside the parks. I wouldn't be too put off by the size of a 25ft RV though, plus it will offer more spacious living accommodation. It really should come down to a lifestyle choice though and not one of budget so I would decide on what you fancy doing. We love camping at home and really enjoy the RV lifestyle and what goes with it, such as the wonderful settings of the NP campgrounds.

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