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  1. Default Roadtrip across USA: Washington DC - San Francisco

    Hey everyone.
    My first post in here. This post could get a bit long, but I hope for your help and guidance :)
    My girlfriend and I live in Denmark and are planning to travel to the states in April and stay there for three months until end of June/beginning of July.

    We're quite sure we end up renting a car although it is a lot more expensive then buying a cheap car. It just feels more secure.

    We plan to start the trip in Washington DC and up in San Francisco. I'll just quickly summarize what we're planning to see on the way to give you an idea of what kind of things we're looking for.

    We aren't going to just drive across USA from A to B.
    So far what we've planned is to go from Washington to New York, onwards towards Buffalo to see Niagara (is it worth taking a little detour to see Kaaterskill falls?), down to Cleveland, Cuyahoha Valley, Amish Acress, up to Chicago, Mount Horeb, Red Wing, Minneapolis, Pipestone, Sioux Falls, Badlands NP, Mount Rushmore, towards Devils Tower, Bighorn Canyon, Yellowstone, down to Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon and Zion NP, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, LA, Yosemite NP and finally San Francisco

    I have a map of it all, but unfortunatelly my laptop is broken and can't upload pictures from my iPad.

    We've decided to spend maximum 25.000$ on the trip in total.
    Since my girlfriend is only 20 years and I'll be 22 by the time we're leaving, only I can drive the car but we still need to pay an Age Restriction fee as well as a one way fee which I so far havent found cheaper then 5.500$ (Hertz).

    What we're interested to know is most importantly, is there any thing we just can't miss? And generally if you have some suggestions to sights.

    Also, this has probably been asked before on the forum, but is it possible to purchase any national discount card, that could save us some money in National Parks, tourist sightseeings or other places?

    And finally, how is our tine schedule? Is 3 months over the top or do we need more time?

    Hope to hear from you!

    EDIT: Reading through a few other posts it occurs to me that some of the places might be close at the time of our arrival. Would it be better to postpone the whole trip for a month? Starting from May-Late July/Early August

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default solid start

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think the foundation for your trip is solid. Renting a car, while expensive, is probably your best bet. Purchasing a car is very difficult for foreign visitors, and often costs much more than people realize when all the additional factors like insurance and taxes work into the mix. I'll also say that 3 months is a great amount of time for this trip, and really if you go any longer, you'd need to get a full tourist visa rather than just traveling on the visa waiver program, which makes things much more complicated.

    With 3 months, you could look at doing a loop of the entire country, which should reduce your car rental and airfare costs by eliminating the extra fees for one way trips. Another option to reduce your costs a bit would be to wait until you are ready to leave New York to rent the car, as both DC and NYC are places that are expensive to park and it is quite easily without a car.

    Out of curiosity, why Mount Horeb, Red Wing, and Pipestone? Nothing wrong with them at all, its just a bit unusual for someone to have picked out these pretty small towns as destinations, and knowing your reasons gives us more insight into what you are looking for.

    You will be traveling in the spring season, so there will be some closures you'll have to deal with. Yellowstone will likely just be opening up when you arrive, and Tioga Pass through Yosemite may not be open yet, depending upon how late in June you'd get there. Pushing it back a month would make it more likely that mountain areas will be closer to summer mode, however, it also means you'll have more of your trip in the peak travel season.

    There is a National Parks Pass for $80 that gives you admission into all National Parks and Forest lands for free for a year, although it does not cover additional expenses like tours or camping fees. You can purchase the pass at the first park you come to.

  3. Default

    Hi! Thanks for the great reply! :)
    Great tip about renting a car after NYC. Didnt even think about that. I'll definately give that a look.
    About Mount Horeb, Pipestone and Redwing; We've borrowed some books about traveling in the US. And those places sounded interresting and was on the way there. Its not something we'll spend a whole lot of time on I think, but just to have some stops on the way so its not just driving all the time.
    Also, I am very into historical periods and events, and from what I've read Red Wing is an Indian Reservation.
    And I just wrote a few of the smaller things to give an idea that we're open to any suggestions :) (also if there are things we should do instead of going to Mount Horeb for example)
    Maybe we'll wait with traveling till mid-april then. Just so we dont risk missing out on anything.

    EDIT: Also, that park pass you're mentioning, is it80$ per person or per car?
    Last edited by Helms; 08-23-2012 at 08:45 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The parks pass is for the car. If you do a loop trip, do it in a clockwise fashion - go south and return north. This will maximize the seasons for you - by the time you are on the way back the mountainous areas will all be open.

    It may help to rent the car from an off-airport location - it can be cheaper because most airports have extra fees.

  5. Default

    Alright. We've talked a bit about doing a loop, but we would rather do one way to save us from a lot driving.
    Thanks for the tip! :)
    Are there any obvious places it seems like I missed in my brief plan? I've thought a bit about including Death Valley but to me it seems a lot simular to Badlands?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Death Valley and Badlands.

    Not sure where you got your information or pictures, but Death Valley is like no other place on earth. Each of these two parks has its own beauty, and you would not be duplicating anything by visiting both.

    As for driving in North America. It is nothing like driving in Europe. North America is made for the motor car... the whole place is geared towards road travel. And whereas I understand that you do not want to spend most of your time driving, with a three month visit you will have lots of time to relax, enjoy yourself, even doing it in a loop.

    I would venture to suggest that you leave most of the fine tuning in your plan, until after you arrive, and have spent some time in the car on United States roads.


  7. Default

    Oh thanks! :) Don't know why I compared the two to each other. A quick googling proved me wrong.
    I'll take that into consideration!

    The driving part surprises me a lot. Europe is just plain boring to drive in 90% of the time, so good to know that America has something else to offer :)
    My impression is also that there's a few paths to explore along the road to venture on foot?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Helpful articles.

    Quote Originally Posted by Helms View Post
    The driving part surprises me a lot. Europe is just plain boring to drive in 90% of the time ...

    Here's an article which may help you further in your planning.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I don't think you are at all off-base in comparing Death Valley and the Badlands. I've made similar comparisons before, as there are elements of the Badlands that do remind me of Death Valley, and vice versa.

    But having said that, I'd never say that just because you've seen one that you shouldn't see the other. In fact, the chance to see both on the same trip will be great because you will get to see the similaries, and differences, for yourself!

    Certainly, if you enjoy hiking and walks, you'll have no shortage of options at every National Park you'll visit. Its amazing the number of great places that are often overlooked simply because they require a short walk from the main road or parking areas!

  10. Default

    Thanks for the eye-opener :) Made me realize a lot of things I had never thought of before :)

    Good point Michael! I think both me and my girlfriend agree on that if we still feel like it after leaving Las Vegas we'll head to Death Valley.
    We're not hardcore hikers by any means, but we're not frightened by a beautiful walk in the wild :)

    Generally, around in the different parks. Are the different paths shown by signs or do they require some knowledge and planning to find the best of them?

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