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  1. Default Seattle to Denver through CA coast

    Hey all!
    My friend and I are from the east coast and planning a trip starting from Seattle. We are going to fly in there to stay with a friend. Our plan is to get to Portland, travel down and make stops through the CA coast, through Phoenix and Utah to end somewhere around Denver. We don't have a strict plan, there are many places we'd like to see and friends to stay with. Our schedules only allow us to travel around February.
    Will weather during February in the west, affect our trip?
    Will it be more costly to rent and drive the whole time than to take public transportation?
    Any tips/suggestions for first-timers?
    Anything is appreciated!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Some advice for first timers.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    In February the weather will do what the weather does. It is far too early for anyone to guess as to what that may be. When it gets closer to a departure date, that is when you start watching the weather forecasts, and that is when you will be able to decide which is the best route.... and in which order you may choose do all the things you want to do.

    We don't have a strict plan, there are many places we'd like to see and friends to stay with. Our schedules only allow us to travel around February.
    For that time of the year, that is probably the best thing you could do. Staying flexible at that time of the year will allow you to adjust your trip and avoid any storms which should blow up.

    For a first timer, the following paragraph is probably the best advice:-

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck
    Start with maps. Not GPS, not software, not Google, but real honest-to-god paper maps that show you your entire route, that you can mark up (and erase), that you can stick pins in, and that show something about the land you'll be driving through. Those are your essential tool in any RoadTrip planning process. Start by marking all the places you know you want to visit. Then connect the dots. Then look for more places of interest and scenic routes along the lines connecting the dots. Repeat until you've got as many sites and roads as you think you want.
    Good maps are available from AAA (free to members) or get yourself a good detailed road atlas. Good maps are invaluable during the planning stage, and essential when on the road. Don't be tempted to rely solely on your electronics.

    Lifey

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

    Default One car.

    Will it be more costly to rent and drive the whole time than to take public transportation?
    You don't say for how long you are travelling or whether or not you will be staying in any one place for long period of time, but generally speaking renting one vehicle for the whole trip is the best option. Not only is public transport limiting, doing multiple one way rentals work out expensive as you get multiple one way drop fees plus a rental usually becomes cheaper over longer periods of time. A mid size sedan usually offers the best combination of low cost and comfort.

    As said, the weather is unpredictable at this point, and up until a few days before you travel, and even then it can change quickly. Some mountain passes will be closed for the season and you are more likely to see snow at high elevation than you are the coast, in the Rockies for example. Keeping your options open and remaining flexible is the best bet, there would be no real need to book in advance during this time of year.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, CO.
    Posts
    304

    Default

    That you would suggest there's a question about public transportation vs using cars hints that you haven't really worked out just how darn big this country is.

    Denver is close to California in the same sense that Florida is close to Maine.

    Adventures are great but pre-planning can help prevent dead ends.
    For instance- run the mileage figures for Seattle to wherever in CA you were going to break off and head for Phoenix. Figure 500 miles for a driving day with little time for other sightseeing. How many days was that on the road?
    Then do the same for CA to Phoenix. Then Phoenix to Denver. Then Denver to ....???

    Not making fun of you. I've seen Europeans misunderstand that visiting Yellowstone from Denver is NOT a quick weekend jaunt. (It takes a LONG day just to get there and a LONG day to get back - there goes the weekend....)

  5. #5

    Default

    Welcome to RTA Forum.

    First, public transportation is practically non-existent in America for road tripping; besides, you can't stop wherever you want to to see something. Even something like Eurail Pass is not available due to the huge country we are.

    That said, vehicle rental is the only way to do a fly-drive vacation, and one-way rentals will add a cost to your trip. I like loop trips when I do fly to my starting point, but if Seattle to Denver is your choice, just plan on the extra dollars for the drop-off fee.

    You mention several non-contiguous destinations and no specific time frame. If you don't have at least two to three weeks, you'll have to cut out some of them. It seems like you want to do the Pacific Coast, so keep that in, but maybe you should turn east around San Francisco and go I-80/I-15/I-70 to Denver. That still gives you lots to see. Phoenix is way off the beaten path.

    Here's a possible plan:

    Seattle to Portland (Spend at least a full day touring the Columbia River Scenic Highway)
    Portland to Astoria and then down the Coastal Highway to SFO (Take at least three days)
    I-80 across CA/NV/UT to Salt Lake City
    I-15 to Spanish Fork and US89/US6/US191 to Green River (Moab is close by)
    I-70 to Denver (Glenwood Canyon, Loveland Pass and lots of mountain scenery on the way)

    That route should take about 10-12 days to drive and see the sights. If you have more time, you might want to continue down the PCH to Los Angeles, but I think you'll have plenty to see and do on the shorter routing. Of course, this is only a suggestion, based on what you say you would like to do.

    Have a great trip!
    Roadhawk

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

    Default Maps vs little screens.

    Quote Originally Posted by noFanofCB View Post
    That you would suggest there's a question about public transportation vs using cars hints that you haven't really worked out just how darn big this country is.
    The very reason why you should be using good detailed maps. You cannot see the whole country, and how places relate to one another within the confines of a little screen.

    As stated above, get some good maps before you go any further, and then go back to the drawing board. If good maps are not available locally, you can order a Rand McNally road atlas from the RTA store via the link at the bottom of this page. If you order one now, you will have it in a couple of weeks.

    Lifey

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by noFanofCB View Post
    That you would suggest there's a question about public transportation vs using cars hints that you haven't really worked out just how darn big this country is.

    I just read on other forums that there was an Amtrak that traveled from Vancouver to LA. I was considering that as an option just bc I knew it was there. Obviously this is part of my pre-planning. Also, I've never traveled on the west coast. Im not expecting to go from Seattle to Denver in a straight shot. Like I said, no strict plan. I suppose your arrogance got in the way of what my post is actually asking.

  8. #8

    Default

    It wasn't clear to me whether the Denver/Salt Lake City area would be the terminus to your trip or if you returning the car to Seattle. Drop off & mileage fees come into play if you start & end in different locations.

    Amtrak (and state operated) trains run from Portland to Seattle and on to Vancouver, BC. Trains also run and stop at several beach towns from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. LAX is not a great connector point for connecting with trains but is doable.

    San Luis Obispo is a good town to disembark from a train, rent a car and visit the Big Sur area (Cambria or Morro Bay are good towns to stay and make a good day trip to Big Sur). Other train stops north of Los Angeles include Santa Barbara and Ventura. South of LA you can hit Disneyland, San Clemente, Oceanside, Solana Beach, Del Mar, and of course, San Diego (several stops on the local lines).

    I think you can also ride the rails from San Diego to Orange County and transfer to a train to Phoenix so is worth considering if high on your list.

    Northern California and Oregon coastal areas may be cold and wet in February although both are are beautiful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default That would suit you neatly.

    Quote Originally Posted by SmallGirl_BigW0rld View Post
    I just read on other forums that there was an Amtrak that traveled from Vancouver to LA.
    You are quite right, and that may very well be a good idea for you. Get onto the Amtrak site and check, there are two different routes once you get to CA. One goes along the coast, the other along the valley. You can see all the routes and timetables. One thing to be aware of, the earlier you buy the tickets the cheaper they will be. I was told by Amtrak that each route has a certain number of tickets at each price, and then they go to the next cheapest, until they only offer the full price, close to departure.

    The Amtrak trains are very comfortable. Lots of space between the seats. Reclining seats with leg rests. Very comfortable to sleep should you have an overnight trip. In fact, more comfortable than the small sleeper cabins. I have travelled both.

    It would put you in a better place to rent a car. Depending on the place you wish to visit, and how long you have for your trip, you may even be able to do a loop trip, eliminating the one way drop fee, which can be in the many hundreds of dollars.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 10-22-2015 at 10:21 PM. Reason: typo

  10. Default

    I appreciate everyone's input. It is all extremely helpful. We're giving ourselves close to an entire month of travel, just for leisure purposes. Phoenix isn't a sure spot. We want to see the beauty of Arizona. So basically we're looking at either travel by train for the one way or rent a car for a loop trip?

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