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  1. Default Autumn 2013 road trip

    Hi, just wondered if anybody would care to share any advice/hints/tips/recommendations! My sister and I (22 and 23) are planning to travel from the UK in Autumn - hopefully late September if we can get everything planned and booked in the next few months!

    The plan is very basic at the moment, and would be grateful of any advice! Essentially we're looking at joining an escorted tour (TrekAmerica, Contiki or something similar) for a week or two (looking at the NE - NY, New England, maybe over to Niagara Falls), then rent a car for a few weeks or so. A few of the states/cities we have in mind so far (other than New York and New England) are Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, Texas (any recommendations for cities/sights would be fab!), Las Vegas, San Diego, LA, San Francisco... I'll leave it there for now!

    As for renting a car, how do under-25s currently stand with surcharges? I know there's a $25 per day charge, but some companies waiver it in favour of a Young Driver's fee. Also, may be a ridiculous question, but are there taxes or fees for each state? I know there are congestion charges in London, and didn't know if there was anything similar anywhere in the US. My sister does the driving here, and I've not driven since I passed my test at the end of 2008, so I'm out of practice. I feel it'd be unfair to expect her to do all the driving, but I don't know whether it would be worth the charges of having an additional driver if I'm a little unsure of my ability.

    As some of the destinations are on opposite sides of the country, would it be worth flying? I have no idea what to expect of air fares, so don't know if it's a viable option or not.

    Thanks from an excited-but-slightly-in-the-dark traveller,
    Kelly

    We were thinking of motels/budget hotels for accommodation - my sister's skin is quite bad so camping has been ruled out. What can we expect to pay for a double room, and would we be better to book innadvance or would we be okay to turn up on the day and ask for a room? I'm usually happier when I've got a solid plan to go by, but this is a trip to just go with the flow, and I would prefer not to be limited by time constraints.

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

    Default

    Welcome!

    You should be able to get the best deal on a rental car through a UK consolidator such as carhire3000.com. There are no additional taxes or fees anywhere that I know of, but we do have some toll roads and bridges/tunnels and parking in large cities can be very expensive. I would budget $75/night for hotel rooms, more if you want to stay in or near downtown in cities and near major attractions. Unless there is an event going on or you are near a major attraction, you can generally just show up and get a room.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Start gaining experience.

    If you have not driven since you got your licence five years ago, and you want to be able to relieve your sister of some of the driving, then may I suggest that you spend the next three month driving some every day. You don't need to go far, but you do need to practice and build confidence.

    It would not be fair on your sister, or any other road user, to step into a car without experience as well as needing to adjust to driving on the opposite side of the road. In fact, I think it would be most irresponsible.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Tour vs. RoadTrip

    Given what a tour costs and the fact that you have to follow their schedule, I've never really seen the point to them unless you're unable to get around otherwise. If, as glc suggested, you book through a European consolidator, you can usually avoid the 'underage driver' fees that tend to push up the car hire rates. Besides carhire3000, some others are AutoEurope and Europcar. If you manage that, then you have a great advantage over being on a tour. Not only will your expenses be lower - you can share the cost of travel and lodging rather than paying for everything on a per-person basis - but you can go where you want on your schedule.

    Speaking of schedules, you apparently are planning on about a month for this trip which would be enough to let you see a good chunk of America and parts of Canada if you're of a mind. September into October can be a great time to visit the US as children have returned to school and most holiday makers are off the road by then. One thing I would suggest, though, is that you start with 'elsewhere' and finish with New England. Northern New England in particular can be spectacular in the late fall, with peak foliage season coming around the second week in October.

    For some suggestions on what to see, check out these discussions of New England, and these attractions in each state and province.

    AZBuck

  5. Default

    Hey guys, thanks for your insights!

    I'll take a look into those rental companies, thanks! Do companies hike up massive one-way fees? Would it be better to do smaller round trips and then fly to different areas of the country?

    I'll speak to my Dad and see if he'll let me borrow his car and get some experience. Don't worry, I wouldn't drive if I didn't feel confident - I know how dangerous unsure drivers can be, and I'd hate to be in, or cause, an accident - it was just the thought that it might be easier for me to adapt to driving on the right side, on the right hand side of the road, and possibly even moreso if the car is automatic, compared to the second-nature of a well-versed driver.

    We're still looking into the dates, but will definitely keep New England in October in mind! Thank you also for the links, they're bookmarked for future reference!

    Do hotels/motels (or even car rental companies) require a credit card? We both only have debit cards at the moment, so that's something we would have to look into getting some way in advance.

    We didn't want to commit completely to a long tour and blow our budget on that, but we both felt that a short one would be a good way to ease into it - to find our feet and start to get some understanding and feel comfortable, before we delve into the country on our own. Plus there's the added bonus of the safety aspect - more to please our parents and family than anything else!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Another plus for the overseas consolidator (carhire3000, EuropCar, AutoEurope) is that they can possibly waive the one-way fee as well as the under-25 daily fee. Do mention, also, that you are sisters, as that should be in your favor as well.

    I would also recommend to practice your driving before you leave. Though you sound confident, more experience will make you even more confident.

    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Mini tours.

    Quote Originally Posted by kello2111 View Post
    ... We didn't want to commit completely to a long tour and blow our budget on that, but we both felt that a short one would be a good way to ease into it ...
    You may like to consider taking a tour when you get to a city. Whenever I arrive in a city for the first time, I take one of those bus tours which goes for an hour or two, to get an oversight of the city. Then I can go and venture out on my own, without wasting a lot of time looking for what I want to see.

    Also keep in mind that parking in many cities can be expensive. In NYC and DC it is horrendously expensive. In the latter two you won't want to get around by car. They have good public transport.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    A credit card is HIGHLY recommended, preferably a Visa or Mastercard. Hotels and car rental agencies will place a substantial lock on your debit card, which can be quite inconvenient. Of course, you can settle the bill at the end with your debit card if you prefer.

    Our internal airfares are not cheap - it will probably be cheaper to keep one car for the duration.

    All of our rental cars are automatic. Last time I was able to rent a manual was over 20 years ago.

  9. Default

    Thanks Donna! Will definitely mention that then when enquiring! I know I'm a much better passenger (and sat-nav!) than I probably am a driver, so I'll try and get some experience under my belt first! Do you think a sat-nav/GPS would be worth it, or would we fare as well with a classic map? Just thinking for hotels/petrol stations/amenities etc., a sat-nav may be able to provide more for us, and with much more ease.

    Thanks for that tip, Lifey. So when it comes to the major cities, would you recommend staying on the outskirts and using public transport to explore for a few days?

    Cheers glc - do you think it would be worth both getting hold of a credit card? I know it's probably more likely that companies would like the main driver's card, but I'm the more "responsible" one! I'll get in touch with my bank and see if we can get something sorted either way! Also thanks for the airfare tip - we'll stick with the car then! Get to see more that way too :)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    GPS vs paper map: We travel with both, using them for different reasons. I feel that long distance travel is much easier with paper maps, while finding restaurants, motels, etc is easier with the sat-nav/GPS.

    Credit card will make your life easier. When paying the bill at a restaurant or motel, they don't care whether it's the driver or the passenger that pays, as long as somebody does!

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