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  1. Default British students planning their graduation!


    My friends and I are currently in our penultimate (year 12, we're 17) year of sixth form (or in America, High School). We would like to do something special when we graduate from university (should be the summer of 2016, touch wood) - a road trip round America. We will probably be around 21/22 when we get round to doing this, but we know it will be expensive when we come to do it so we're thinking about it now to give us time to save up for it.

    What we would LIKE to do is possibly fly from London to New York and spend a couple of days in NY, experiencing the sights of the Big Apple, and then get an internal flight from NY to LAX, picking up a hire car when we're in California and then driving round for about a month visiting LA, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon etc.
    However, we are also considering a longer trip where we perhaps drive from NY across the US to LA, then getting a flight back from California to London.

    Realistically, how much would you say this would cost? We're not fussed about accommodation, as long as it is safe (we'll even sleep in the car if needs must).

    How much should we budget in total for a trip like this? Would we spend a lot of money on entrance fees to national parks etc or are some of them free?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Problems, Possibilities, and Pleasures

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    OK - Let's start with the worst problems that your proposed trip presents and then work our way into some more positive aspects of it. You've noted the biggest problems, your ages and presumed lack of funds. What you are proposing is very expensive and some of your plans simply add to that expense without really getting you anywhere (more on that later). Each and every one of you who wants to take the wheel at any time during the trip must be listed as a driver at the time you pick up the car, The typical charge for each underage (younger than 25) driver is $25/driver/day. You can see how that will add up very fast. If one of you is not listed as a driver and gets behind the wheel, you are essentially driving a stolen vehicle and should you have an accident, even if not your fault, you will be so charged by the rental company, any and all insurance will be null and void, and you will be in for one very bad vacation. Also, simply forget any plans to sleep in the car. you say "my friends and I" so I assume that there will be at least three of you which is at least two more than can comfortably sleep in any car you can afford. If motels are out of the question most nights, bring sleeping bags - or buy them second-hand here - and sleep in state parks on nights when the weather co-operates. But in any case, you need to plan on a motel room at least every third night both for a good night's sleep in a real bed and a real shower.

    Now, some possibilities that will help reduce costs. The easiest way to keep costs down is to keep your plans simple. Flying into one airport and out of another is expensive. It's called an 'open jaw' ticket and many airlines charge a premium for it, especially on international flights. Same with the car. Picking it up in one city and dropping it a continent away will entail a fairly hefty drop-off fee, upwards of a few hundred dollars. And not surprisingly, longer flights generally cost more than shorter ones. So your idea of flying into New York, renting a car and driving to Los Angeles, and flying home from there is about as expensive a way to do this as you could have come up with. Instead. Plan on doing your international leg as a round trip between New York and London. There's enough competition on that route that you ought to be able to find a discounted fare if you start looking a few months before departure. Then after enjoying New York, fly to Denver, or Salt Lake City, or Phoenix, or Las Vegas, or anywhere else in the Rocky Mountain West where you can find a decent price on a round trip ticket from New York. Since the RoadTrip portion of your trip is basically going to be a loop out and back from wherever you land, it doesn't matter where you fly to for the start/end of the loop. While you're at it, be sure to check the rental charge from each of the cities you're considering. Sometimes the difference in the price of the rental (due to local fees and taxes) can tip this decision one way or the other. Finally, be sure to look into renting the car through a European consolidator such as carhire3000 or Europcar. We have often found that European residents can get a better deal by setting up the car hire from home, often getting the underage driver fee(s) waived entirely.

    And finally the pleasures. First, don't underestimate the pleasure to be gotten from the daydreaming and planning that are the necessary precursor to such a trip. If you can keep yourselves interested for the next four years, you'll have gone a long way to making this a reality. Don't obsess, but a semi-monthly meeting over few pints to discuss plans, your wish list of sites to see, details of arrangements, etc., will go a long way to keeping the ultimate prize in sight and motivating you to continue saving towards that goal. As a bit of a first step, then, on that road, have a read through these discussions of other people's RoadTrips through the Los Angeles - Las Vegas - San Francisco area.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 04-30-2012 at 04:18 PM.

  3. Default

    First off, congrats on graduating! I went to 6th form in Esher, Surrey at Claremont Fan Court school. Have you heard of it? I'm american/canadian but went there for a term just for fun.

    Back to your plan. My friends and I rented a car in Florida at 21 years old and from what I remember the younger driver fees weren't THAT bad. Also if you reserve with American Express it automatically includes insurance so you don't have to pay for that. I suggest bringing an older sibling or friend (I'm sure you'll meet older friends at uni) that would be old enough to rent the car without an extra fee. I also don't think that flying into NYC and then out of LAX would be that much more expensive either. You could also always buy a rount trip ticket from London to NYC and then a round trip ticket from NYC to LAX, So you'd fly into NYC, see the sights, fly to LAX, drive around, fly back to NYC from LAX, and then NYC to London. But that might be costly too. Sometimes, however, round trip tickets are cheaper than one-ways, don't ask me why. You could maybe also somehow fly back to London from maybe Minneapolis or Detroit, as they are hubs for Delta Airlines and they are usually pretty cheap to fly out of. I think Dallas Fort Worth might also be a hub for Delta as well, not sure. But check out which cities have hubs and they will be cheaper to fly from. I definitely think if you're coming to the USA to "see the country" and save money, you should drive around a bit. But driving from NYC all the way to LA will be costly in terms of gas and really, there isn't THAT much to see on your way there until you get all the way to Colorado. Maybe you should fly to LA from NYC, then drive to Vegas, Grand Canyon, Arches Park in Utah, Yellowstone... and then Mt. Rushmore and fly out of Denver back home (or skip Rushmore, it's kind of out of the way). But yeah... driving all the way from NYC to LA is a LONG drive and there isn't much to see half way through the country. Trust me, I live in Michigan, I've driven through Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa.. it's just farmland basically.

    Good luck on the planning! And if you do decide to go to yellowstone, Book your rooms/cabins/campsites EARLY! As in like 5 months early. They book up super fast. Buy a cheap tent from walmart and some $15 airmatresses and you'll be set.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I suggest bringing an older sibling or friend (I'm sure you'll meet older friends at uni) that would be old enough to rent the car without an extra fee.
    Then he/she will be the only allowed driver!

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