First USA Trip
Hi everyone, I stumbled on this site and I'm staggered that it seems to be exactly what I was looking for. I'm a complete road trip (and USA) virgin, so please be gentle with me...best to assume I know nothing.
We're starting to plan our first trip to the US - we'll be going in Summer 2011, and there'll be my wife and I plus our two teenage girls - and, although we've got some rough ideas about what we'd like to do, we really don't have any conception of how realistic we're being. I'm very much hoping you can offer me some collective advice. I doubt if I'm going to ask anything novel, so if you could point me at other threads, that'd be great.
Our starting suggestion is that we fly to Las Vegas, "do" the Grand Canyon, then trundle to San Francisco and down the coast to Los Angeles, from where we fly home to the UK. We have three weeks, or thereabouts. Recognising that the US is very big indeed, and places are a long away apart, we're a bit concerned that we'll spend all day every day on the road, which doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. Does this outline sound realistic?
Assuming it is, do any of you have must-sees that you could recommend - and, of course, any don't-bothers? I'd also be grateful for any recommendations for guidebooks.
Obviously, being the height of summer, it's going to be hot. Does this mean that the Las Vegas/Grand Canyon section is going to be too uncomfortable to enjoy?
And, presumably, places are going to be pretty busy. Is it advisable to book all our accommodation beforehand? I don't fancy sleeping in the car.
Any and all advice would be hugely welcome.
Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!
We're always glad to help, and yes, the general area you'll be visiting has been much discussed, so reading through some of those old threads should give you a wealth of ideas (and many more questions I'm sure). As to those you've posed so far: Three weeks is enough to have a great time without being too rushed. You won't be able to see/do everything but you would need practically forever for that anyway. The south rim of the Grand Canyon is at an elevation of 7,000 feet so it shouldn't be too bad, and Las Vegas is an 'indoor' location with lots of air conditioning and pools so also not bad. Death Valley and the deserts such as the Mojave can be brutal during the day, particularly in the afternoon, but cool off quickly at night and can be a delight in the early morning. Wherever you go in this area, carry lots of water (gallons, not cups.) If you plan to stay in or near any of the National Parks such as Yosemite or Grand Canyon, or near some of the theme parks like Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm during the peak of summer tourist season, then yes, reservations are in order. Otherwise Americans tend to travel without reservations and particularly in this economy you should be able to find plenty of vacant standard motel rooms without too much difficulty.
Maybe cheaper if you complete the circle?
As Buck says, you'll find loads of ideas and advice from that link.
The only thing I'd add is that you might well find flights and car hire cheaper if you start and finish in the same place. And if you're doing a circular trip, you then have the flexibility start and finish wherever proves the most economical (Los Angeles, Las Vegas or San Francisco) - and you may well find significant variations in rental costs between the three.
Doing it anti-clockwise (as you propose) has the significant advantage of putting you shore-side on the coast road drive south.
Along with the excellent road trip and route advice you will recieve on this forum, there is a host of other small details that a first timer from the UK to the USA does not know about. this page is an effort to catalogue many of these differences.
Off and running
Many thanks for the advice and pointers so far. I'm off to start reading my way through the links...
I take the point about cost, it hadn't occurred to me but of course there's bound to be a premium involved in both flights and car hire if we don't complete the circle.
You may get some help from our thread from a year ago. We didnt do Grand Canyon, but you still may get some ideas.