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  1. Default First road trip from Chicago to San Diego

    Hi, me and two other friends are really wanting to go on this road trip once our summer classes end. We're all in college and range in age from 18 - 21 (I'm 21). None of us have experience driving across country and could use some expert advice.

    We have 16 days to do the trip and I hope this is enough time, if not we may end up flying. We would like to visit Yosemite either on the way there or way back. Driving through the mountains is another thing we are interested in doing. Other than that, nothing else is on our list other than getting to the beaches of San Diego.

    My questions are: Is 16 days enough time? How many days should we allot for driving? If we were to fly, would I be able to rent a car? Would this be a cheaper alternative to driving the whole way?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Unfortunately, when it comes to renting a car, your ages are against you. Probably only one of you will be able to drive a rental, and that's you if you're already 21. Even then, you'll be charged an extra $25+ per day for a "young driver fee", over and above the rental costs and insurance for 2+ weeks of rental.

    If you choose to drive from Chicago to San Diego, you are looking at 4-5 days of driving, with overnights along the way. It's about 2100 miles in each direction. That means 5 days of 450 miles, or 4 days of 525 miles. Time-wise (never believe what an electronic mapping program or device tells you), that's about 10 hours of driving per day for 5 days, or 11 hours for 4 days. Since you would have to be the sole driver, it would behoove you to insist that the other two take "navigator duty". The navigator's job is to follow the map and ensure that you make the correct routing, and to keep you talking and awake. Take lots of stretch breaks. If you go by interstate, you would need to stop at rest areas and/or gas station/truck stops and do some stretches, walk, throw a frisbee, or some other form of keeping yourself focused and energetic.

    If you decide to fly/drive, you still face the same issue of being the one and only driver. The good part about the fly-drive, in your case, is that you have more time to explore California, which would include Yosemite and more. If you did a fly-drive, you would definitely still get some mountain driving in by going up to Yosemite, because you have to go over Tejon Pass or one of the other passes to get there! (Just make sure you're mentally ready for the LA drivers.)

    Here are a couple of threads about San Diego County -- the place I currently call home:
    Around San DIego County
    San Diego Stay-Cation

    As far as cheaper alternatives: you will have to research the cost of 3 of you to fly and then rent a car locally (rent, gas) VS. driving 4300 miles round trip (rental and gas). Either way you'll have to pay for overnights. I can tell you that places along the beaches of San Diego and California rent for a lot more than the inland motels, unless you've got a relative with a time-share there. Most beaches will have a fee to use, or for parking.

    I would REALLY examine your budget, if I were you, before embarking on this trip. Neither trip is going to be cheap, even divided three ways. Make sure everybody has the money, because the thing that breaks up most "friends trips" is money -- somebody doesn't have it. The other thing I'd do is to make sure you are all compatible and agree on most things -- or at least agree to do something that another would enjoy doing.


    Donna
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 06-20-2014 at 07:17 AM. Reason: grammar issue

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default What's your focus ?

    Donna has given you the low down on what's what, but much will come down to how much time you want to dedicate to the beach. If a beach holiday is your main focus then it might be best to fly out. If on the other hand you are happy with 2 or 3 days in SD and are willing to use 13 or 14 days for the drive out and back and enjoy some sight seeing then you could have quite an adventure. If you already own your own car and can avoid rental costs and young driver fees then that's another good reason for the drive. You could make it west of Denver in 2 days and then slow the pace to enjoy parts of Colorado [RMNP, Colorado NM etc] and Southern Utah [Arches, Bryce, Zion NP's] on route to Yosemite and on leaving SD you could visit the GC, Monument valley and other mountain attractions through Colorado like driving the Millon dollar Highway through Silverton and Ouray, Black canyon of the Gunnison and so on, before hot tailing it back to Chicago. You won't have a bundle of time at any one place but you could certainly get a taste of the west that will entice you back in the future.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    If you fly and rent a car, Fox is quite reasonable. Their minimum age is 19, and under 25 drivers only cost an additional $14 a day. However, in order to have ANY additional drivers over and above the one renting the car, you must have a CREDIT card - not a debit card.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default You could see most of it.

    If you were to fly and rent, as above, you could do a nice loop trip out of whichever city gives you the best deal. This could take in most of the places Dave mentioned in CA, AZ and UT - SD, GC, Zion, Bryce, Death Valley, Yosemite, and maybe even the coast back down to SD. Colorado would be too far. But you can do that on another trip, out of Chicago.

    Lifey

  6. Default

    Firstly, thanks for posting everyone. I have learned a great deal just reading these replies. Flying is starting to look more appealing after reading through these informative posts and due to time constraints. I think we will fly into either Los Angeles or San Diego and then rent a car. We'll have to plan our days out still, but from there we will travel north to Yosemite and spend a couple days there. After that, more than likely we will use the rest of the time to enjoy San Diego.

    I'm reading reviews on Fox car rental and I'm a little skeptical. Most people seem to have bad reviews, or maybe it is just the San Diego location. Does anyone have experience with this company?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    You don't really have a decent alternative due to your ages. All the others are going to cost you a small fortune and nobody under 21 will be allowed to drive.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Expectations.

    The thing to remember with online reviews is that most people will complain when things go wrong. Few however leave anything if everything went OK. Similarly, be suspicious when you see heaps of very good reviews. Sometimes they are posted by friends and family of the proprietor.

    I think the main problem is that folk who rent with Fox expect to get an Avis car with Hertz service, for the price from Fox. That just does not happen. Read carefully, and see that those who accept that it is cheap and therefore are prepared for a couple of small inconveniences, were happy with the cars and service. One complaint I read was for having to wait 35 mins for the car. Really??

    And the person who complained about not having a spare when they got a flat tyre should have checked that at the time of pickup.

    If you read complaints of *real* issues which concern you, email the company and ask about it. Ask what you need to bring to proof you have insurance (if you have). No point complaining later that you were charged for insurance you did not need. Etc. etc. etc.

    Lifey

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Alternative.

    If you and your mates are OK with you taking on the driving responsibility and you don't mind 'camping', one of these would make an alternative to a car and hotels. No young driver fees for 21 year olds and worth comparing costs for the roadtrip part of your break. Could be fun too !

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