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  1. Default Long US road trip - where do I start?

    Hi everyone!

    My girlfriend and I are planning a long road trip in the US next summer for 2.5 - 3 months (June - August) long.
    I've never been to the US before, and we want to see many things (of course not everything!!!)

    Having such a long trip in such a vast country requires careful planning ahead of time. And we want to get it right!
    The question is - WERE DO WE START? We want to take a top-down approach (first select total trip time, which areas to see, transport options etc. and then get to the details of places to go to in each area, roads, timetables etc.)
    We are still planning the trip in the macro level, so we don't look at specific points of interest yet.

    We have such debates about stuff like:
    - Round-trip USA or coast to coast? skip the center by flight or travel through?
    - Take a R.V. or sleep at motels? maybe do both on different areas
    - rent a car or buy one and sell at the end?
    - areas where public transportation is better than car/R.V.? (in terms of ease of use, costs, parking etc.)
    - given 2.5 months total, how much time should be allotted to east coast vs. west coast? spare time for the center part of the US?
    - what is a good percentage of time riding the car vs. traveling and site seeing (so it won't be just a through-the-window trip...)

    A bit about us and our preferences:
    - We like to travel! we love hiking!
    - We want to balance between sightseeing and museums to treks and national parks
    - We love off-the-beaten-road sights!
    - We are not rich in any way! we are looking to make smart decisions which will balance our cost/fun in the trip.
    - We like motels, but R.V. are fine and couchsurfing is great!

    How would you approach the planning of such a long and complex trip? Tips at this stage will help us a lot to find our arms and legs...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,610

    Default You've already started.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Well to answer your question, you already have made a start. You've found RTA which is a great place to dig around searching the many areas of the site including the forums. The rest of your questions are one's we all ask ourselves when starting out with the planning and we will all have different answers based on interests, budgets and time etc.

    A round trip with one rental is probably your most budget friendly options, using the city that offers the best flight deals for you and saves money on one way drop off fees on car rentals, internal flights etc. Plus you get to see more from on the ground.

    The choice between an RV or car and motels is a Lifestyle choice, but if budget is a consideration an RV will cost far more then the car and Motels by the time you add mileage charges, high fuel consumption, campground fees on to the initial cost of the hire fee. Again swapping and changing from car to RV to flight can get costly with multiple one way drop off fees. Have you considered buying basic camping equipment and mix that up with Motels and hostels etc ?

    As for breaking down time, that will come as your research continues and your interests get drawn to certain areas. Most trips [even short one's] can chop and change multiple times during the planning process, it's perfectly normal so for now you should keep reading and if you haven't already, get a good map of the USA and start pinning places of interest and then it will start to take shape. As you move forward and other questions come up don't hesitate to ask.

    Enjoy the planning, it's a fun part of the process.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,137

    Default

    Let me add that buying a car is a no-go for a single trip under 3 months. Registering and insuring a car if you are not a US resident is time consuming and difficult, and there are a lot of expenses that you probably haven't thought of. Titling and registration fees (you must have a verifiable US address), taxes, safety and emission inspection, and the big loss you will take trying to resell it. Also, if you have a breakdown with a used car, you are on your own.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,257

    Default A General Strategy the Might Work for You

    What my wife and I have found that works for us as a travel style is to settle down in an area for a few days to a week, and then move on to another area. This has a couple of advantages. First of all, you're not unpacking/packing every day and you get a chance to actually explore an area in some depth and not just run around thinking "If it's Tuesday, this must be Buffalo." Second, you can often rent entire houses or apartments (for a week at a time) for less than you'd spend on motels, and the houses/apartments usually come with full kitchens and laundry facilities. Websites like VRBO, HomeAway, RedWeek and AirBnB are a good place to start looking, or just do a search on the name of the town you want to stay in and the phrase 'vacation rental'.

    Such a strategy also limits the amount of driving you're doing and focuses your attention on the places you decide that you really want to see rather than 'wasting' time driving from site to site trying to see everything and remembering none of it. Even at such a relaxed pace it should be relatively easy to do two complete cross-country drives and return to wherever you start from. As Dave pointed out, your start/end point can be chosen solely on the basis of the best combination of plane fares and car rental charges.

    Once you have picked a travel style that works for you, whether it be in an RV or a car, staying in motels, homes or couchsurfing; and once you have a few 'dots' on your travel map, be sure to come back and we can then help you with specifics such as some less-traveled roads, unusual attractions, and other tips - of which there are just far too many in the whole country to try to list now.

    AZBuck

  5. #5

    Default

    The Northeastern cities of Boston, NYC, Philadelphia and Washington, DC are rich in museums and historical sites. Lodging isn't cheap. On the other hand it doesn't make much sense to rent a car in this area -- take a train between these cities and then rent your vehicle.

    Being summer you will need to make campsite reservations far in advance, i.e., the day campsites come open is advised, in most national parks. Keep that in mind once your plan begins to take shape. Often times there are more primitive national forest sites within an hour's drive of a national park.

    Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, WY, about an hour east of the east entrance to the Yellowstone National Park, is worth a visit. A week in Yellowstone is also worthwhile along with a couple of days in the Grand Tetons.

    There are some small camper vans for rental, really vans on steroids. They are a lot more mobile than larger RVs. But if spending 2 to 3 months you might be able to lease a minivan and do an amateur conversion for camping in it for a couple of hundred dollars.

  6. Default Help plan 100 day itinerary

    Hi, I'm planning a 100-day (or less) hiking/sightseeing itinerary to the US west and east coasts. I need some help.

    What's the problem?
    Currently it is too long (107 days) and it's hard to pick the days to skip.

    Why is it hard?
    I have some constraints, such as:
    - Starting after 1-Jun
    - Ending before 20-Sep
    - Prepare to solar eclipse at 20-Aug at Yellowstone NP
    - Travel in Grand Canyon and Las Vegas area in June (otherwise too hot)
    - Travel in Rockies in July-August (otherwise too cold)
    - [not a must] try to be at 4-Jul in a big city
    - try to have chilled days in the city after a long hike

    In addition, I've never been to the US before so have no idea what's beautiful and what's amazing... I prefer amazing! :-P

    What help do I need?
    I need both:
    - your general recommendations concerning tips for getting my schedule better
    - most importantly suggestions on which days would you skip to get from current 107 days down to under 100 days.

    Thanks a lot in advance!! :)

    My itinerary:

    #d start date what?
    1......03-Jun Arrive to USA
    2......04-Jun New York - overcome jet lag, get hiking gear @REI
    4......06-Jun Washington D.C. - museums, white house, capitol etc.
    1......10-Jun Baltimore
    1......11-Jun Philadelphia
    1......12-Jun FLY New York to SLC, rent car, drive to Arches NP
    2......13-Jun Arches canyon - hiking
    1......15-Jun Drive to Bryce Canyon, Fishlake forest
    2......16-Jun Bryce Canyon - hiking
    2......18-Jun Zion Canyon - hiking
    1......20-Jun Zion to Grand Canyon NP
    6......21-Jun Grand Canyon NP - long hike
    1......27-Jun Drive to Las Vegas (via Rd89) , Sedona, Kaibab NF
    2......28-Jun Las Vegas, Hoover Dam
    3......30-Jun Death Vally NP - three 1d hikes
    1.......03-Jul Drive to LA
    4.......04-Jul Los Angeles
    2.......08-Jul Sequoia national park
    1.......10-Jul Way to Yosemite
    7.......11-Jul Yosemite - long week hike
    4.......18-Jul San Francisco
    3.......22-Jul Travel along west coast up to Portland (medford, beach)
    1.......25-Jul Portland
    2.......26-Jul Seattle & Ferry to Victoria & Vancouver
    11.....28-Jul Canadian Rockies
    3.....08-Aug Glacier national park
    2.....11-Aug way to Yellostone
    7.....13-Aug Yellowstone NP
    2.....20-Aug Solar Eclipse near Yellowstone + prep day, drive to salt lake city - Fixed dates (can't change those)
    2.....22-Aug Salt lake city, return car & fly to New York
    3.....24-Aug New York to Boston
    3.....27-Aug Boston
    3.....30-Aug Boston to Montreal
    2.....02-Sep Montreal - visit family ( a must )
    2.....04-Sep Montreal to Toronto
    1.....06-Sep Niagra Falls / Toronto
    1.....07-Sep Niagara Falls to New York
    10....08-Sep New York, Long Island
    .......18-Sep Fly home

    Moderator Note: Please keep all questions about the same trip in the same thread.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 11-20-2016 at 07:43 AM. Reason: Merged Threads

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,913

    Default Perhaps a bigger problem

    First of all, are you sure you are even able to visit the US for 100 days? The Visa Waiver Program, which most foreign tourists use to enter the US, only allows entry to the US for 90 days. If you are hoping to get around that requirement by going to Canada for a couple of weeks, be aware that will not extend your time in the US. Under the terms of the VWP, you must leave the North American continent within 90 days, and simply crossing into Canada or Mexico does not restart the clock.

    In other words, unless you have a full 6 month tourist visa, you're going to have to cut even more from your trip.

    Beyond that when it comes to trimming out things, I think I'd start with the places where you are spending the most time.

    6 days is a long time for the Grand Canyon. Even with hiking, you could cut that down to say 4 days and still spend more time there than most visitors. Also be aware with the Grand Canyon, if you are planning to hike down to the river, you need to plan in advance with permits and reservations for the bottom. Do not, under any circumstance, try to hike down and back in the same day.

    3 days of hiking in Death Valley might be a bit much. The end of June will be very hot in Death Valley and even one day of hiking might be enough for you.

    Otherwise, I'd look at all of the place you are spending around a week. Yosemite (7 days), Yellowstone (9 days including time planned for the eclipse), LA and SF (4 days each), Canadian Rockies (11 days), New York City (10 days at the end + 5 more at the beginning and middle). If you spent just one day less on each of those extended stays, that alone would trim off a week from your trip.

    I suppose you could also try to make things more efficient by skipping the multiple trips into NYC. For example, start by flying into DC instead of NYC, or hit Philly and Baltimore before DC and fly from DC to SLC. On the way back, you could fly from SLC to Boston, and again skip the repeat stop in NYC. Or actually, how about skipping the two trips to the east coast, and just visit it once, by starting your trip by flying directly into SLC, do your west coast loop, then fly to NYC, do your loop of Boston/Montreal/Toronto, but then head south to DC before returning to NYC. Some of those changes could also save you a couple travel days.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 11-20-2016 at 08:23 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,865

    Default Accept the weather for what it is, and enjoy it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Barak View Post
    Hi, I'm planning a 100-day (or less) hiking/sightseeing itinerary to the US west and east coasts. I need some help.
    You are flying in from where? If you are coming of a long haul flight, don't forget to leave the first full day to adjust your body clock and get over the jet lag. That will not be a roadtrip day.

    Despite your constraints, a 100 day trip will not be possible, unless you already have a special visa. The standard tourist visa is for 90 days. It is difficult, unless you have other reasons for travel, to get an extension on that.

    So cut it back to fewer than 90 days. Your best way of doing that is putting your priorities in order. Some of the places you want to be at the times you State, may not be possible. June and July are fine for the Grand Canyon and LV. Not every year and not every day of each month in a given year will be too hot to go to those places. In the same way, June and September can be lovely weather in the Rockies. I have been to all of those places in those months, and whereas you can get very hot days in the south, it can also be quite nice. And even in July and August you can still get road closures by blizzards in the Rockies, particularly the Trail Ridge Road, which, at over 12000 feet, can have a blizzard any day of the year.

    I would not allow those issues to dictate where you go and when. Take the trip as it comes. Your other constraints, such as the solar eclipse, are more specific, and not negotiable. Just design the rest of the trip around them. You might also like to consider spending the 4th of July in a smaller city, where ever you happen to be. There are often more local and (to my way of thinking) more meaningful celebrations.

    But remember, it will be shorter than 90 days.

    Lifey

  9. Default Awesome responses!

    Michael, thanks for your estimates and ideas!

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    First of all, are you sure you are even able to visit the US for 100 days?
    I'm coming from Israel, so I'm not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, but I already have a full B1/B2 visa, so according to what I checked, there shouldn't be any problem for me to stay at US/Canada for up to 6 months. Do I miss something?

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    6 days is a long time for the Grand Canyon. Even with hiking, you could cut that down to say 4 days and still spend more time there than most visitors.
    I want to do long hikes and they always say that a week at Grand Canyon / Yosemite is only a taste of it... so it's good to have some perspective on that. I'll reserve place in camp grounds and I'll get a backcountry permit once I'm there. Anything else apart from those?

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Yellowstone (9 days including time planned for the eclipse)
    As an amateur astronomer, I'll spend the day before the eclipse on tuning gear, finding spot etc. So it doesn't count as Yellowstone time :) Would 5-6 days be enough to really get a good feel and vibe of Yellowstone sights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    3 days of hiking in Death Valley might be a bit much
    I had similar feelings about Death Valley! so thanks for persuading me! If I also remove one day from either LA or SF, which one would it be?

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    I suppose you could also try to make things more efficient by skipping the multiple trips into NYC.
    The multiple trips to NYC are due to family there - we start there (those days don't really count because I'll be totally out of focus from jet lag), and stop there to drop unnecessary equipment from the west (hiking gear, telescope) to travel the east lightweight (and probably by train, not car). However I'll give it a second thought.

    Lifey, thanks for your tip about the wether and 4th of July. I arranged everything around the solar eclipse, but since I wanted Grand Canyon / Death valley to be as early as possible, the west became longer. I'll see what I can do about it.


    Actually I wonder if you would also skip places in the east (or change them to other, better options)?
    Are the times for riding between places ok? anything else I skipped?

    Thanks a lot!
    Barak

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,913

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Barak View Post
    I'm coming from Israel, so I'm not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, but I already have a full B1/B2 visa, so according to what I checked, there shouldn't be any problem for me to stay at US/Canada for up to 6 months. Do I miss something?
    Nope, you should be good. As I mentioned, as long as you've got a full 6 month visa you're fine (I'm assuming you also have whatever visa you need for Canada too), my thoughts (and Lifey's) were if you were like most people coming on the VWP.

    I want to do long hikes and they always say that a week at Grand Canyon / Yosemite is only a taste of it... so it's good to have some perspective on that. I'll reserve place in camp grounds and I'll get a backcountry permit once I'm there. Anything else apart from those?
    A few things here. If you wait until you arrive to reserve campgrounds in National Parks, especially during peak season, you could really run into problems, as sites fill up very quickly. There are generally only a few "first come first served" sites, and those can be taken by 9 am.

    With the Grand Canyon specifically, trips to the bottom need to be arraigned far in advance, again to get permits and reserve the small amount of camping/lodging options near the river. If you are planning to just show up and go, you're likely going to be very disappointed. It's also worth noting that the rim of the Grand Canyon is at 7,000-8,000 elevation, so it's not quite as heat sensitive as some of the other areas you're planning to visit.

    Beyond that, I don't think the Grand Canyon is a place you need a week. There are lots of viewpoints to be enjoyed, but being that you're exploring one canyon, with only a limited number of hiking trails, I don't know a full week is really need. As I mentioned, most people really only spend a day on their visits, so you'll already be far beyond what most people do.

    As an amateur astronomer, I'll spend the day before the eclipse on tuning gear, finding spot etc. So it doesn't count as Yellowstone time :) Would 5-6 days be enough to really get a good feel and vibe of Yellowstone sights?
    As with anything, the more time you have, the more you can enjoy something, but you've stated you need to cut at least a week out of the plan you came up with. The fact is, you could spend years on this trip and not see "everything," so accept that up front and enjoy what you can. Yellowstone specifically is a very large place and is one place I would certainly give yourself as much time as you can - notably in comparison to Yosemite and Grand Canyon - I'd also make sure your time there also factors in time at Grand Teton.
    Actually I wonder if you would also skip places in the east (or change them to other, better options)?
    Are the times for riding between places ok? anything else I skipped?
    Everything I see looks pretty solid. The only thing that you've left off that seems like a bit of a mistake is not including the coast between SF and LA. You might consider doing Death Valley, then head into Yosemite via Tioga Pass, then down to LA via Sequoia, and back up the coast to SF.

    Again, you've got a great trip in front of you with lots of great things to do, so embrace what you've got, and know that even when you trim some things out, you should have a great time. I don't think spending 5 or 6 days in Yosemite instead of a full week will keep you from experiencing the park, nor do I think it will hurt your trip significantly if you only spent a week in NYC at the end, instead of 10 days. Trimming those things seems easier and than trying to rebuild your whole trip and cutting entire things out, but ultimately, it comes down to your priorities - and thus there are no right or wrong answers.

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