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  1. Default 4 clueless British students and their great American road trip

    Hi all,

    My 3 friends and I want to rent an RV/ buy an old battered up RV and hit the roads when we finish our studies next year.
    Provisionally we were thinking of heading down from Seattle, through Portland and down the pacific road in California seeing all the must see's there until LA. We then wanted to head through to Texas and spend time in Austin and Dallas (Houston potentially?). We then wanted to travel through the Deep South visiting Santa Fe, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, (maybe Kansas City?) and carry on to Georgia (Atlanta & savannah) before heading up the coastal route, spending time in the Carolina's, and ending up in NYC to fly home.

    We thought the best time to do this was from the middle/end of August to the middle/end of October (max stay 90 days we have been told without visa?) as we'd have beautiful but bearable weather for the whole trip. We could well be wrong so please tell me if so!

    This is completely rough and we would love your thoughts and advice on whether this is a good plan, whether it's feasible in 90 days, and if it's the right time to do it etc etc

    A bit of info about our group

    We love:
    American BBQ
    American beer
    Jazz and blues
    Mountains, deserts, rivers, beaches
    Good times!

    What we'd like to do:
    See the West coast, Texas and the Deep South and the best cities, landscapes and places there
    To experience as much variation in US culture as possible
    To have a holiday that we will never be able to beat!

    Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated. Please help us on our quest for the ultimate American experience!

    Thanks, Andrew and pals

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Time and money.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Transport and budget are going to be your first major concerns. It's next to impossible to purchase, register and insure a vehicle as a non-resident in the USA without an address and if you could, it would rarely make economic sense. Buying an "old battered up RV" could be fraught with problems, mechanically it could be a nightmare, a lot of RV parks will not let you on site and the local cops might take a 'liking' to you and stop you for a chat on a regular basis. The problem with renting if you are only 21 years old [I'm presuming this with your board name] is that for every driver under 25 you will face quite a heavy surcharge known as a 'Young drivers fee' and dropping a vehicle off on the other side of the country will also be very expensive. Renting a car and sharing a motel room will be a cheaper option by the time you have gone through all the costs associated with an RV such as, mileage charges, high fuel consumption, campground fees and little extras like bedding and pots and pans.

    August through to October would be a nice time to travel yet like here in England, the weather is totally unpredictable and you will find contrasting climates from coast to desert to mountains. Anything from hot to snow and ice. With 90 days you can certainly achieve the distance and have a nice time, but you won't get to see everything, that'll take a lifetime or two. A loop trip starting and ending in the same city would both be possible and save that one way drop off fee.

    Only your group can decide whether or not it is a good plan based on your interests and goals for the trip, if you are all happy with what you have planned and each of you can find the money and time to do it, then it's good. Perhaps you should all look at the maps and research individually at places you really want to see and then get together as a group to see what you have and how it can work. It's important to have time out from each other as it doesn't matter how well you get along you will get on each other nerves from time to time when spending so much time together over an extended period. You might also like to sit down and do the RTA compatability test as a light hearted way you make sure you are all on the same page.

  3. Default

    Hi southwest Dave and thanks for your response

    I kinda suspected that the RV wouldn't be possible, financially, legally and sensibly! And your point about a round trip makes a lot of sense as I've heard the drop off fees are very expensive.

    In terms of our group we're all very similar in mindset, attitudes and likes and have travelled together before so there won't be a problem with that. In fact 3 of us have lived together for the past year.

    In terms of a revised trip what about if we gunned it across to San Fran from New York stopping only really in Chicago and Denver for a couple nights. That way we could have 10 weeks or more to travel back along the original route we wanted to take? Do you think that would be manageable and moreover enjoyable?

    Sorry to ask so many questions but would u have a rough idea how much something like this would cost us all with fuel, rental motels and food ?
    And what places and sights would you say are essential ? We love hiking, swimming, eating, drinking, pretty much everything! I know we want to see Yellowstone, the sequoia forests and the Grand Canyon and also the smokey mountains but what else should we include?

    Thanks again, andrew

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Why gun it ?

    I really don't see the logic in "gunning it across to San Fran" and then taking 10 weeks to drive back. Besides the fact it is a 6 day drive across the country, why race past so many great places. The idea of a loop is to take one route out and another back and pace yourselves accordingly. You mention mountains, deserts and rivers in your list of attractions and you will find no better place than on route through Colorado, Southern Utah and Arizona into California. We are talking some of the best natural wonders in the world, from Rocky mountain alpine scenery to the Red rocks of Arches and Canyonlands, Bryce canyon, Zion, Monument valley, Grand canyon to the hottest and lowest desert in the US in California, known as Death valley, where you can continue towards the coast via the Sierra Nevada, which is home to one of the greatest places on earth, Yosemite NP. You could easily spend a few weeks heading out west and then take the time to enjoy your southern route through Dallas, Nashville etc on the way back.

    On the right of each page you will find the RTA fuel calculator and RTA reservations centre where you can get an idea of car rental and hotel costs. For example, a fuel estimate 8000 miles divide by 25mpg = 320 gallons x $4 per gallon = £1280. Rooms can be found cheap, but I would average around $80 a night for planning although they can be found cheaper. I usally consider eating in the US, no matter whether if it's take-away, cook, or eat out to be similar in price to the UK but with the advantage of the pound v dollar exchange rate. In other words a £30 meal here would cost $30 there, it's not exact but works for me. With car rentals you would have to check that your price is all inclusive of the young driver surcharge and remember, that will be for each person under 25 who wants to drive.

    [Just noted your Yellowstone comment, but the same applies wherever you want to go. Take one route out and one route back and pace yourselves.]
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 06-18-2014 at 02:59 AM. Reason: Added note

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    To add to Dave's suggestions: take the northern route first. Yellowstone would still be fully accessible in August and early September, but many of the amenities begin to close in mid-September and are fully closed by mid-October. Allow 3-4 days to really SEE Yellowstone, and another day for the Grand Tetons.


  6. Default Bad choice of words on my part..

    No I guess there would be no point at all in rushing the first half, I guess its just because I'm excited to do what I've looked into but I haven't even scratched the surface of the things along the northern route. Thank you for all your advice and I will put the RTA calculator tools to great use.

    Thanks again!

  7. Default

    Thanks for these suggestions. Will be sure to give Yellowstone the amount of time it deserves!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Another thought, if the motel rooms are something that doesn't interest you, are TENTS. You can bring a couple of small tents, and when you get here, get a small camping stove and some cheap pots and pans and dishes. (Resale shops/thrift stores are wonderful for this.)


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default So much to see, so much to do.

    Following on from Dave, and since this trip is more than a year away, the best thing to do for the rest of this year is research what there is to see in any and all States which roughly cover and border onto Dave's suggestions. One great way to do this is to go to sites like the National Parks site, each State's site and check under 'what to do', etc. As you will know, one link leads to another. You will come across more attractions and events than you could possibly visit, but you will have a lot to choose from.

    I agree with Dave, allocate time for both a northern and southern route. Don't just shoot out to the West. Pennsylvania is a wonderful State with ever so many historical, natural and architectural attractions. And be sure to check out the great midwest. Don't leave anything off the list. Those things you will not be able to see / do this trip, will be the basis for future trips. And yes, there will be future trips. Once the roadtrip bug has bitten you will be planning future trips. It is an addiction you can't avoid.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Enjoy the planning.

    but I haven't even scratched the surface of the things along the northern route. -
    Yeah, the more you look the more you will find, Haha. This is why it's a little early in your planning for us to give specific advice about places, there are just too many ! Use the search function and dig around the forums, for example, you will find lots of ideas in the trip reports section alone. In the tool bars above you will find a lot more roadtrip advice and planning tools, you could check out the RTA Map centre to check attractions and create routes. As you continue with your planning ask as many questions as you need, we are here to help. Once you have the basics we can make suggestions and help fill in the blanks.

    As Donna mentioned, tent camping could be a good option and you can always combine it with the odd hotel stay to get a proper bed and freshen up.

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