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  1. Default First Timers - San Francisco to Seattle

    Hi All

    We're looking to plan a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle in September this year

    I'm kind of very excited and very nervous all at the same time - We're from the UK and this will be our first time driving in the States

    Really, having never done this before, we're after some good ideas for routes, places to see, and as importantly, places to stay overnight

    After a couple of days in San Francisco we'll be looking to have an RV for about a week - from what I've seen it looks like most places have a minimum 7 day hire - is this right? or are there places that let you book for shorter periods?

    What about cost - whats reasonable for the RV? and the extra's? and campgrounds??

    I really like the idea of seeing Yosemite - can you stay overnight in the Park??

    We have no real idea of what to expect - although we've done something similar around Scotland, but have had hotel stays pre-planned

    Any thoughts/ideas/suggestions/warnings(?) would be gratefully received

    Thanks (in anticpation)

    Paul & Caroline

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default This and that.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    You really have nothing to fear driving in the US, yes it's on the other side of the road, but it's quite a pleasure with the wide open spaces when compared to driving in a lot of the UK.

    You don't say who "We" are, a couple, a family or a group of friends or all of the previous. An RV in the US can be a great Lifestyle choice, but is rarely the cheaper option for couples or young families by the time you add all the associated costs up like mileage charges, campground fees, poor mpg return, bedding and kitchen kits and of course the higher rental fee itself.

    I'm not sure if any companies rent for less than 7 days, but I'm not sure it would be worth the expense for anything less.

    You can go on RV sites and get rates, to get a good idea you should try Cruise America and fill in the form which includes extras to get a bottom line figure. Then add campground fees that is anything from $15 to over $60, although there are 'free' options at times thay are not always easy to get to or are in car parks/truck stops where you can't really experience camping.

    Yes you can stay in Yosemite and you could easily spend a week there camping !

    If you are planning a one way trip then you will have to consider one way drop off fees which can be quite significant. A loop trip from SF would possible but wouldn't include Seattle with just 7 days. More like the PCH south of SF around Big Sur and then inland to Sequoia and Kings canyon, Yosemite and back to SF.

    For routes and ideas I would suggest you use the search function for now and study a good map for things that appeal to you. You can scroll down this page and find 'Similar Threads' and repeat as often as you like. You have many coastal attractions such Point Reyes and the Redwoods north of SF and inland options like Crater Lake and the Columbia river gorge. Once you have got started with that we can then help to 'fine tune' your trip and answer any further questions.

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

    Default Let them know you are not a local.

    Driving in the US for the first time, is always a concern. After a short while - sometimes very short - it (almost) becomes second nature.

    A decade ago I was driving in CA when the car in front of me had a hand drawn Union Jack in the rear window, with the words, 'British driver' written underneath. That driver obviously wanted to let others know that he was not used to driving on the 'wrong' side of the road. Since then I have always had a small flag in the back of any vehicle I have driven in the US. A few years ago there was a convoy of some dozen and a half RVs on their way to AK, each with an Australian flag in the rear window.

    So if you feel a bit hesitant, let them know that you are not a local, and chances are you will be forgiven when making that wrong turn. :-)

    For planning, do you actually have a good map of the west coast area? You will not get to really see all your options on a computer monitor.

    As Dave says, staying in the National Parks is amazing, but even for September you will need to book quite soon. Spaces are much sought after.

    Lifey

  4. Default

    Thank you both for the advice - especially like the flag in the back window idea! Would never have thought of that

    'We' is my partner Caroline and I - no kids, or pets on this trip

    I've been plotting routes, etc using mapquest and other websites

    we were definitely thinking of the one way trip - I've always wanted to see the West Coast - and have a teenage urge to visit Seattle (its a music thing!) and San Francisco (a Dirty Harry thing)

    I guess we're also trying to get a feel for how many miles a day we should consider doing as well - i was thinking 200-250 would be appropriate

    We're planning a long way round fly-drive-fly sort of trip - but as neither of us have done the 'drive' bit before we're unsure of the best way to try and organise things (and also ensure we dont get ripped off!)

    So, bearing all this in mind, i'm now wondering if a car, and hotel/motel stays would be a better option for us - I'm guessing that there are loads of options for places to stop for the night that wouldn't need to be pre-planned?

    Thanks again

    Paul

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    You will never have a problem finding lodging except in very remote areas. In major national parks lodging does sell out quickly, but there are usually plenty of hotels near the park. The only place I'd recommend you prebook is Yosemite - getting lodging inside the park is either frightfully expensive or sells out months in advance. However, there are plenty of options within an hour's drive of the park.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Yosemite would be wise to book.

    I've been plotting routes, etc using mapquest and other websites
    If you look in the tool bar above at 'Maps' you will find the RTA mapping programs where you can create routes and/or find attractions by selecting a radius and clicking on the map.

    we were definitely thinking of the one way trip -
    That's cool, just make sure when looking at prices you check it includes the drop fee.

    I guess we're also trying to get a feel for how many miles a day we should consider doing as well - i was thinking 200-250 would be appropriate
    Anything between zero miles and 550 could be considered appropriate. It's a case of studying the maps and seeing where you would like to visit, how long you would want to stay there and how it fits into your time scale. Each trip is unique and you should start by concentrating on your own personal 'must see's' and not a fixed amount of miles per day.

    We're planning a long way round fly-drive-fly sort of trip - but as neither of us have done the 'drive' bit before we're unsure of the best way to try and organise things (and also ensure we dont get ripped off!)
    With the Internet you can search for almost anything and compare prices and reviews. Take a look at the Reservations link to the right of this page to get a general feel of costs.

    So, bearing all this in mind, i'm now wondering if a car, and hotel/motel stays would be a better option for us - I'm guessing that there are loads of options for places to stop for the night that wouldn't need to be pre-planned?
    A car and motels would certainly be the cheaper option than an RV with the ability to cover more ground when needed. To find lodgings in Yosemite without booking would be a risk although outside the park you might have more luck. However, if this is your first stop when you leave SF then it should be easy to work out the date and book this one in advance. This is one of my favourite places on earth and I would recommend a couple of nights here to get at least a full day [and a half] here.

    Once you've looked around a got a couple of ideas down we can help you to piece it together and make suggestions. I gave a few popular spots in my first response, but there are many more.

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

    Default Some more thoughts.

    I agree, you should not need to book hotel/motels for most of this trip, safe your first night in SF and also in Yosemite. If you happen to be in the States for for the first Monday, then I would book for that weekend as well. It is the labour day long weekend. For most of the rest of the time you should be fine. School will have gone back and crowds will be considerably smaller.

    Another thought for carhire is Budget. I rent with them whenever I rent, and have always had great rates and never been charged a one way fee. Though I should qualify that, as I have never dropped it off at a destination as far away as you will. Make sure you change the 'I live in......' on the front page.

    Since you still have several months I highly recommend you get a USA road atlas, such as the Rand McNally. As well as all the other attractions, it shows which are the scenic routes as well. You are going to need good maps when on the road, so may as well get them now, in the planning stage. Don't be tempted to rely solely on your electronics. Many have, to their detriment.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    I will second Lifey's suggestion of a good USA road atlas and paper maps. Electronics have several problems, including batteries that die at the most inopportune time, being completely wrong at times (such as sending you the wrong way down a one-way road, or not finding an address that you need), inaccessibility when you're driving down the road, and routing you in a very dangerous way (such as over a forest road!).



    Donna

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