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Thread: US/Canada Lap

  1. #1

    Default US/Canada Lap

    Firstly, apologies for the long intro.

    Having trolled through a few planning threads I thought I might as well add my own and get advice and support specific to our proposed trip. We're Australians in our mid 50's. We visited the US in October for 3 weeks, which corresponded exactly with the US government close down. Lets just say we missed out on a lot that we wanted to see because of that!

    Car Hire or Motorhome
    Our intentions are to return (hopefully without any impediments as to where we can go) and do a lap of North America over 10 weeks, either in 2015 or 2016. Arriving early/mid August and departing mid/late October. Hopefully the weather conditions will be such that we don't encounter any severe wintry conditions.

    We're unsure whether to hire a motorhome (and use campgrounds) or hire a car (and use motels). Does anyone have compelling reasons to choose either option.

    Each has advantages and disadvantages. We are wanting to "freestyle" somewhat without having to follow a strict daily itinerary. We've tried defining weekly waypoints which will ensure we maintain our schedule - we either speed up or slow down depending on where we should be at weeks end.

    Our concerns is finding last minute accommodation. We would probably decide sometime after lunch where we will end each day. Are such concerns real, or will we find good budget (I know the two probably are mutually exclusive) accommodation along the way.

    Initial costings are that whichever mode of travel we adopt the total costs are comparable. We either save on preparing our own meals and on accommodation costs which is then put into additional hire costs for a motorhome and fuel costs, or we save on car hire costs and less fuel costs, but then spend that saving on accommodation costs and having to use restaurants/takeaways for food.

    The Proposed "Lap" (Subject to Change)
    • Week 1 : Los Angeles - Needles - Oatman - Klingman - Route 66 - Seligman - Route 66 - Grand Canyon.
    • Week 2 : Grand Canyon - Flagstaff - Winslow - Albuquerque - Amarillo - Fort Worth - Dallas.
    • Week 3 : Dallas - Austin - San Antonio - Houston - New Orleans.
    • Week 4 : New Orleans - Nashville - Louisville - Columbus - Pittsburgh.
    • Week 5 : Pittsburg - Washington DC - Baltimore - Philadelphia - New York - Niagra Falls.
    • Week 6 : Niagra Falls - Toronto - Detroit - Chicago - Milwaukee - Minneapolis
    • Week 7 : Minneapolis - Winipeg - Regina - Calgary
    • Week 8 : Calgary - Banff - Kamloops - Whistler - Vancouver
    • Week 9 : Vancouver - Seattle - Portland - Highway 101 - San Francisco
    • Week 10 : San Francisco - CA 1 - Highway 101 - Los Angeles

    We've broken down the trip into weekly parts, which apart from Route 66, the Grand Canyon and Niagra Falls are must do's. We are realist and know that we can't experience everything, but hope that the planned itinerary provides opportunities to see and visit what interests us which are natural wonders, historical sites and quirky places along our proposed route.

    Optimum Weekly Distance
    We have tried to limit our travelling to a maximum of 1,000 miles per week, place names are not necessarily where we plan to stay overnight. Are any of our weekly plans over optimistic having regard to potential points of interest along the way?

    Where to Stay
    We would appreciate forum members suggesting which places to stay at, bearing in mind our schedule, and which places are worth staying for a few days.

    Are there any motel chains that provide discount vouchers for pre-paid nights? Are there any motel chains that provide a loyalty discount? Are there any motel chains to avoid?

    As usual, all feedback is welcomed, and I'm sure I'll be asking lots of further questions between now and when we finally get to go.

    Regards


    Gary

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

    Default

    Welcome!

    A full motorhome can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a benefit - perhaps the best of both worlds might be an Escape Campervan. It's a minivan, just as maneuverable as a standard automobile and gets halfway decent gas mileage. It's a very basic place to sleep, you would certainly want to intersperse motel/hotel stays and restaurant meals.

    John Waters, a member here from Oz, recently completed a trip in one of those vehicles, you can read his trip report in the forum!

  3. #3

    Default

    Yes - I've read his post and enquired about escape campers.

    Wife prefers toilet/shower facilities so camper van might not be feasible.

    Gary

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Car for City, RV for nature. [Depending on budget]

    The RV [motorhome] is always going to be the more expensive of the 2 options, especially if there are just the two of you. The 'real' cost is much higher than a car and motels by the time you add all the extras like bedding and kitchen kits, fuel consumption, mileage costs and campground fees. You can cook your own food in a lot of Motel rooms. Whether you choose Hotels or somewhere to park the RV for night you will still have the same job of finding somewhere to get your head down, you can't park up anywhere in the US with an RV, it would need to be in a campground or a truck stop or possibly a Walmart with permission, but you will have to search them out the same as you would a room. Your itineray looks biased towards the City as well which are not a natural enviroment for an RV to be. Having said that we love the RV Lifestyle and all that it offers, but you need to weigh up the pros and cons for your partcular trip. Bottom line, the RV is going to cost considerably more over the period of time you are talking of.

    It's probably best to decide on your transport options before getting into where to stay and how far you can travel in a day. Although you have routes laid out you can start to look deeper into places that interest you in between but if you want to keep your budget low[er] and focus a lot of your time in the City then a car would probably be the best choice for this trip. If you are spending a lot of time in National parks and not to concerned abouy budget the RV is a great lifestyle choice, however to stay in the National parks you would need to book well in advance.

  5. #5

    Default Car it is!

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    The RV [motorhome] is always going to be the more expensive of the 2 options, especially if there are just the two of you.
    Thanks for the reality check. I somewhat expected the RV idea to be more of a dream and not all that practical.

    Your itineray looks biased towards the City
    Itinerary is and will be flexible. Cities have been highlighted as they were easier to note and compare for distance.

    What accommodation options are available?
    Would appreciate some comments regarding motel options - whether there are any discounts for staying with a particular chain.
    Should we look at airbnb as alternatives for when we want to stay in a location for a few days, rather than at a motel.

    Car Hire
    Looking at using rentalcars.com for car hire. Pricing seems reasonable and rates include insurance. We rented a Toyota RAV4 through Thrifty when we stayed in Vancouver and had a Yukon on mainland USA through Alamo and a Suburban in Hawaii through Dollar. None of the rental firms seem to do a RAV4. Does any rental company do a RAV4? Otherwise we'll probably look at a Tahoe.

    Keep the comments coming.

    Regards


    Gary

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    Default

    Shower and toilet facilities are generally not difficult to find wherever you might be.

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

    Default A nice pace.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jardry View Post
    Optimum Weekly Distance
    We have tried to limit our travelling to a maximum of 1,000 miles per week, place names are not necessarily where we plan to stay overnight. Are any of our weekly plans over optimistic having regard to potential points of interest along the way?
    Hi Gary, I'm sorry to hear your last trip was all messed up with politics. Sincerely hope that this year you will have better luck.

    My last four trips to North America have all been between 18 and 26 weeks. These have included visiting family, friends and sightseeing, and per chance, as I did not plan it that way, I find I have typically driven between 20K and 26K miles each trip. Some weeks of course, it was more than 1000, but many weeks it was less. Typically I would make multiple brief visits to family, rather than stay for one long stretch.

    My travels are in a small conversion van, which does not have plumbing. That said, there is absolutely no shortage of facilities along the road, or at overnight stops, even if they are not in camping grounds. I wouldn't dismiss Escape without giving a lot of consideration.

    One omission which jumps out at me, in your plan, is Alaska. If you can manage it, I would highly recommend finding some time for it. It is so worth the drive and it is almost the last frontier. The drive is nowhere near as isolated as driving through the Northern Territory.

    Lifey

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Hi Gary, I'm sorry to hear your last trip was all messed up with politics. Sincerely hope that this year you will have better luck.
    <snip .....>
    One omission which jumps out at me, in your plan, is Alaska. Lifey
    Fortunately the week before we hit mainland USA we experienced the pleasure of a 7 day Alaskan cruise. Glacier Bay National Park is breathtakingly majestic. It was the highlight of the cruise.

    We also hired a guide who drove us up the Klondike Highway through the Yukon/Alaska border and we spent a few hours in Canada before returning.

    We also hired a car for a few hours and experienced the Totem pole park near Ketchikan.

    Given our time frame, as much as we would love to return to Alaska, I don't believe we can fit in a road trip to Alaska and back in this trip.

    Regards


    Gary

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
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    Default

    Rental car companies do not rent a specific vehicle, they rent by class. An "intermediate SUV" would define a RAV4, but also encompasses Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Jeep Liberty, Kia Sportage "and similar". You get what they have available when you show up. If they are out of the class vehicle that you have reserved, they will give you a free upgrade.

    There really aren't any discount programs as such for motel chains here. Even when you have an affinity card, it simply accrues points with each stay, which can be cashed in for merchandise or free nights. It takes a lot of paid nights to get a free one. I personally am a member of Wyndham Rewards, and the vast majority of my stays are in Wyndham properties, primarily Super 8 and Days Inn. The only sure way to get discounts is to be a member of various organizations such as AAA or AARP. Your best bet would be to obtain hotel discount coupon books at welcome centers and Interstate rest areas. Those are only valid for walk-ins, space available, and are usually quite generous. They are almost always cheaper than my AARP discount rate. On the other hand, if you have an affinity card and want to use a coupon, you usually won't get any points for that stay.

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    There really aren't any discount programs as such for motel chains here.
    Thanks for the clarification regarding car class. At the end of the day as long as you get from point A to point B without incident who cares what car you're driving.

    I like the sound of the coupon books. Are "welcome centers" similar to what we in Australia would refer to as "Tourist Information Centres"? I would expect that travelling during summer would limit their usefulness to a large extent.

    We are members of our local automobile club which has reciprocal arrangements with the AAA (I think). I'll need to check up to be sure.

    Interesting how much our two countries differ in the way that accommodation is provided to tourists.

    Regards



    Gary

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