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  1. Default New Orleans - San Francisco Jan 2016

    Hi Guys,

    My husband and I are planning a trip next January, probably around 26-29 days. We're from UK and will be hiring a car.

    At the moment we are looking at something along the lines of:

    - New Orleans (new years eve)
    - Lafeyette
    - Austin
    - Carlsbad Caverns
    - Santa Fe
    - Monument Valley
    - Grand Canyon
    - Las Vegas
    - Yosemite Park
    - San Francisco

    We are in our early 30's, very into our food, interested in caves and similar interesting historical culture, films, animals! like a drink (we're British, after all!), but also interested to see some of the great NP's. We like to take our time in the cities.

    We are looking to do this pretty mid range cost wise - not slumming it nor living in luxury. We did wonder if we'd be better renting a small campervan/car so we could sleep in campsites around NPs - but will these even be open in January? And are we better not bothering and just finding somewhere cheap near by.

    Could you give an idea of how much time people generally spend in NP?

    All tips and comments welcome! I'm sure I'll have more questions when I think of them.

    We aren't committed on which way round we do this trip either.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    We are looking to do this pretty mid range cost wise - not slumming it nor living in luxury. We did wonder if we'd be better renting a small campervan/car so we could sleep in campsites around NPs - but will these even be open in January? And are we better not bothering and just finding somewhere cheap near by.
    For several reasons, you're better off doing this in a mid-size sedan and budget-minded motels. If you're trying to keep on a reasonable budget, one-way RVs or campervans are expensive - the rental costs, plus the linen-cooking-outdoor life packages, then overnights that can be almost the same price as a budget motel room, and then there's the one-way drop off fee, which can hit 4-figures easily. In the southern regions, an RV isn't uncomfortable in the winter, but camping in a tent will be! Campgrounds will be hit-and-miss for whether they're open in January.

    Could you give an idea of how much time people generally spend in NP?
    You have three national parks listed: Carlsbad Caverns, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite. To just see Yosemite and Grand Canyon, you'll "need" at least one day at each of those. That would be what you need to see the park in a vehicle. If you want to spend any time hiking, you'll want to add time. (Yosemite will still have a couple of trails open, depending of course on the snowpack, and Grand Canyon as well.)

    As far as Carlsbad Caverns is concerned, it will depend on how many of the tours you wish to take. Check this site for information on the tours available. Right now it's listing the winter tours.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Starting at the Beginning

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    It looks like you've got a pretty good handle on what you want to see and also have a handle on what will be necessary to make your dreams a reality. So let's start with the one bit that doesn't really fit - renting a campervan (or RV as they're known over here). They are simply not a cost effective option. Even the small ones are much more expensive to hire than a small sedan, and then you still have to pay for the campsite on top of that. If your campervan requires water/sewage/electric hook-ups you could end up paying as much for a campsite as a modest motel room. Then of course there's the cost of the extra gas needed to move the larger vehicle around; the fact that they're not as maneuverable as a mid-sized sedan; and finally - the fact that they're not terribly maneuverable in cities and you can't just park on the street and set up housekeeping. If you're going to "take [y]our time in the cities" a campervan really isn't a cost-effective or particularly practical option. And none of that even begins to deal with trying to camp in winter when overnight temperatures will often be below freezing,many if not most campgrounds will be closed anyway, and any water tanks will have to be drained, meaning no running water or toilet in your 'camp'.

    On the plus side, all of the national parks you mention will be open even in January. In fact for some, such as Death Valley, winter is the best time of year to see them. If you plan to visit four or more. It makes sense to purchase an annual pass ($80) at the first one you come to. That will cover admissions for the both of you to all parks for a year. Note that Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park and thus not part of the national park system, so you'll have to pay for that separately. It's also worth hiring a guide (and his four-wheel drive vehicle) to take you back into the park. Note that the roads in Monument Valley may not be up to the definition of where you're allowed to take your hired car. On the other hand, you've only scratched the surface of what our national park system has to offer. Check out others on or near your rote including Guadalupe Mountains National Park, White Sands National Monument, Petroglyph National Monument, Bandelier National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Wupatki National Monument, Sunset Crater National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Death Valley, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Also be aware that you will not be able to take CA-120 into Yosemite from the east. Tioga Pass over the Sierra Nevada closes for the winter. How much time to spend in any of them is entirely up to you, but I would make my first stop in each of them a visit to the visitor center/ranger station to get an idea of what's available that would best suit your interests and not try to see everything in any one of them, but rather treat them as a smorgasbord.

    Of the cities on your route, my favorites would include New Orleans, Santa Fe, and San Francisco. I don't think it makes much difference whether you do the drive from east to west or vice versa. You may find a difference in airfares flying into San Francisco or New Orleans and out of the other, but I doubt it. You may also find a deal on a one-way car hire if a particular rental company has some vehicles it needs relocated in one direction or another, but again, that is not probable. Our European RoadTrippers often do better by arraigning their car hire through a European consolidator such as or

    More questions are always welcome.


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

    Default Considered a loop trip ?

    Have you considered doing a loop trip starting and ending in the same city ? It would get rid of those pesky one way drop fees on your rental and would possibly offer better flight deals. You could drive from New Orleans to San Fran and back in 8-9 solid days of driving, so with up to 29 days available you could break that up quite nicely and take a different route each direction to see new things. Another advantage would be choosing a city with the best possible flight prices which along with SF and NOLA could include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston.

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