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  1. Default 5/6 Week Central USA roadtrip

    Hi there,

    I'm 22 and from the UK, planning on doing a six-week roadtrip this summer (beginning of June – mid July) around the central states. I'm intending on planning the route as if I were to do it alone, then having some friends and family come out and join for 2 week stints or so, with the aim to only do 1-2 weeks by myself. This will be my first road trip...

    My route is more or less like this: NYC → DC → Chicago → Omaha → St Louis → Cincinnati → Dallas, → New Orleans → Atlanta. I'm planning on spending a few nights in each major city and then seeing what else I have time to do. Here is a more detailed route with a few more stops: https://roadtrippers.com/map?a2=t%21...ource=copy&z=5

    I have a few (many...) questions as regards the route and my budget:

    Firstly, is the route feasible? I'm thinking that even if I spend 10-12 days not driving (whole days in big cities), 30 days to do 4600 miles should be pretty comfortable and leave me the freedom to go to other places that are recommended to me.

    Secondly, is there anywhere important I'm missing out (even other states, assuming I have the miles to spare)? The goal is really to see some non-touristy areas of the US (smaller towns and such) and do something less typical than a coast to coast trip. Ideally I'd like to do a fair bit of the drive off of the interstate; are there any particularly scenic or interesting roads to drive or any other must-dos along the way?

    One other thing I really would like to do is see Salt Lake City, but it's really out of my way so I was planning on taking an internal flight there. Knowing very little about US domestic flights, is there anywhere that is particularly good on my route that I should fly from?

    As regards budget, I have about $7500 set aside for the trip (after flights); will this be enough?

    The biggest problem I'm having with my current budget is that, given that I'm 22 (/w 5 years full license; no tickets or accidents), car hire is particularly expensive. The cheapest I can find is about $2800 (£2000) for a 40-day rental of a Toyota Camry (or similar 4 door), which seems exceedingly high? The prices I've seen quoted on some of the threads on this board are more like $1000/mo for car hire, and it seems insane the price should more than double just because I'm under 25... I also checked the price if I drop the car back off at NYC rather than Atlanta (I figured I could do the drive in 2 days if it was a big cost saving), but it only appears to be about $150 difference, which after gas is next to nothing (plus $100 cheaper return flight to the UK from JFK than ATL, but still). Does anybody know how/where I can hire a car more cheaply?

    Also, should I be looking to book places to stay in advance (for the big cities & planned stops) or rock up on the day?

    Apologies for the wall of text and all the questions, and I'd really appreciate any help anybody can give. Thanks!

    Ben

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

    Default There may be a way.

    Hi Ben, and Welcome to the Great American roadtrip Forum.

    Yeah! it's tough being young and having to wait to fulfill your dreams. On the other hand, a few more years will see you more mature and possibly get much more out of a trip. You could of course try some of the consolidators, as we have heard of young folk having that fee reduced, or even dropped.

    I'm intending on planning the route as if I were to do it alone, then having some friends and family come out and join for 2 week stints or so,
    You might like to rethink this, as it could cause some tension. Those with you for these ''stints'' will no doubt have their own thoughts of what they'd like to see along the route. Might be a good idea to plan those stretches with the person who will be accompaniying you.

    Lifey

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Some Details

    Reading through your post and Lifey's response, it is clear that your major hang-up on this trip (so far) is the cost of the hire car. And YES, being under 25 - even with a good driving record - can easily cause the cost of that rental to double. That is because car hire firms don't know, or care, about you. They work from actuarial tables that clearly show that drivers 24 and younger have and cause far more accidents than more mature drivers. By the way, they were the first to notice and act on this rather stark change in behavioral pattern at around age 24-25. More recent neurological research has shown that the human brain does not fully develop until that age and that risk aversion is one of the last bits to mature. So... as Lifey noted, you may be able to avoid the underage driver fee by going through a European consolidator, rather than dealing with the hire firms directly. A couple that you should check are Rentalcars.com and Europcar.

    Other ways to save (although not as much) include hiring the car from a location other than the airport. I have often been able to save 20% or more by renting a car from a different location/franchise of the same company and all I have to do is take a short cab/bus/underground ride to get there. Often enough, you can still return the car to the airport location for no additional charge.

    Thirdly, consider using somewhere other than JFK as your gateway city. If you do a complete loop, returning to the same city you start from (in the U.S.), then it doesn't matter where that city is as long as it is somewhere on your loop route. I'm guessing that every city on your list of 'targets' has direct flights from the U.K. except Omaha. The point is that New York has some of the highest prices for everything, including car hires, and you very well might be able to do quite a bit better renting in another city. Remember, it's the total cost of airfare and car hire that matters, and that is not necessarily the same thing as finding the cheapest flight and then finding the cheapest car hire wherever that flight dumps you off. Finally, consider hiring the car for slightly less than the full duration of your trip. If you land in/depart from a major city such as New York or Washington and plan to spend some number of days in that city before setting off on your RoadTrip, you are probably better off without a car for those first few days. Driving in big cities is a pain and parking is atrociously expensive. Plan on using public transportation instead.

    Finally, Lifey is absolutely correct that if you are planning on having people join you for portions of this trip, and especially if you are expecting them to contribute to paying for a portion thereof, then this is their trip as much as it is yours and you need to get their buy-in on all aspects of the portion for which they'll be joining you. A good starting place for a discussion that will make sure that you are all on the same page is this quiz.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-20-2016 at 04:19 PM.

  4. Default

    Hi guys,

    First of all thank your for your lengthy (and quick!) responses, really appreciate it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    On the other hand, a few more years will see you more mature and possibly get much more out of a trip.
    Whilst you're almost definitely right, that's simply not feasible; unfortunately I have a serious illness and this might be the only time I'll get to do a trip like this, so I want to take the opportunity whilst I can!

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Reading through your post and Lifey's response, it is clear that your major hang-up on this trip (so far) is the cost of the hire car.
    Not a major hang up per se (I just want to be able to afford the trip!), it just seemed unnecessarily expensive and I was wondering whether you guys had any insider tips on where to find cheap car hire; if not, no problem. For reference, I also did the exact same search as if I were an over 25 and I'm still getting quoted upwards of £1500 for a round trip (approx $2200) and £1800 ($2500) if JFK to ATL. Just curious as I saw the $800-1000 a month figure a few times on this board but I can't seem to find anything near that price!

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Other ways to save (although not as much) is to hire the car from a location other than the airport.

    Thirdly, consider using somewhere other than JFK as your gateway city.
    These are very good tips, thank you. I'll have a proper look tomorrow with both non-airport car hire and from different places.

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Finally, consider hiring the car for slightly less than the full duration of your trip.
    Fully intended to!

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Finally, Lifey is absolutely correct that if you are planning on having people join you for portions of this trip, and especially if you are expecting them to contribute to paying for a portion thereof, then this is their trip as much as it is yours and you need to get their buy-in on all aspects of the portion for which they'll be joining you. A good starting place for a discussion that will make sure that you are all on the same page is this quiz.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    You might like to rethink this, as it could cause some tension. Those with you for these ''stints'' will no doubt have their own thoughts of what they'd like to see along the route. Might be a good idea to plan those stretches with the person who will be accompaniying you.
    I think you guys are very right on this, thank you for flagging it up; I will definitely do the quiz with those joining me! To be honest I'm pretty open to anything as long as we stay vaguely on the route I was planning (although detours & such are welcome), so hopefully there shouldn't be too much conflict. But I will definitely send my tentative plans to those accompanying me as soon as I have something more concrete fleshed out. On that note, any advice as to the route or any must-see attractions?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    Default

    It's my understanding that if you are flying into NYC/JFK, car rental rates are lower in New Jersey. EWR is also a major airport and easily accessible by public transportation from midtown Manhattan.

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

    Default So I have heard.

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    It's my understanding that if you are flying into NYC/JFK, car rental rates are lower in New Jersey. EWR is also a major airport and easily accessible by public transportation from midtown Manhattan.
    Though I do not have any experience of it, I have heard this from quite a few travellers, when on the road.

    Worth looking into.

    Lifey

  7. Default

    Hi guys, just an update. Very good advice to look at picking up the car outside of New York, quotes are around £500-800 cheaper which is absolutely massive.

    Does anybody have any advice as for the route or the feasibility of the drive? Places to go, national parks on the route and anything worth doing would be really appreciated, thanks!

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

    Default

    National parks and monuments:

    Washington DC area is full of them! Then on your way between there and the Great Lakes, you'll pass right by Gettysburg National Battlefield -- well worth a day or two.

    Galena, IL, was the home of Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant.

    Between Kansas City MO and St Louis, there are all sorts of places of historical interest for Lewis & Clark, including the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Independence, MO, and Arrow Rock State Park west of Columbia. Also in Independence is the Harry S Truman Library and Home. Graham Cave State Park is along I-70, as are many wineries and breweries in the Hermann, MO area (not far off the 70). In St Louis, they have a mostly-free zoo, and of course the Gateway Arch. (Watch out, though, as that may still be under remodeling. Check online before you go.)

    In Kentucky is the Mammoth Cave National Park -- yes, it's huge! There are many different tours offered. Arkansas has Hot Springs National Park.

    It looks like you're going to Dallas -- a few sights there related to the assassination of President Kennedy. If you were a fan of the TV show Dallas, of course Southfork Ranch was not that far from the city.

    Houston -- NASA's Johnson Space Center is wonderful, allow a full day to really see it if you are interested in space history, or current space projects.



    Donna

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