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  1. Default 3 Brits hitting the West Coast

    Greetings all,

    I'm setting off on a bit a road-trip in the Summer and have stumbled upon this gold mine of information...and hope to get some nuggets of knowledge from you seasoned road-trippers!

    So... here's the plan.

    3 of us, planning to drive from Vancouver to Tijuana. We have 3-6 weeks in July- August, obviously want to see all the must-see sights, and are reasonable cultural for 23yr old men(!), but also will be needing to see a fair amount of nightlife, (though not necessarily in the just in the major cities).

    My mind is currently addled with studying (or lack thereof), so I'll put my queries into bite-sized questions.

    1. Flights. Admittedly not too road-trippy this one, but becasue we're flying into the North and out of the South, the prices have pretty much doubled. We've been advised to fly into Seattle and out of San Diego (so minor backtracking in the car) as there's more chance of getting the same carrier- which might make things cheaper. Anyone got tips on getting the flight price down? This is just a dream really- I think we're prepared to bite the bullet, but it's a bit galling that we could buy 2 return trips to Brazil for the price!

    2. Length of time- Obviously we don't want to bite off more than we can chew and spend the whole time in the car. We really have anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks to do the trip, though things would get a little tight financially at the end of the scale. Would 3 weeks be enough for a decent crack at the West Coast, or should we (again!) bite the bullet and go for 6?

    3. The North- Obviously Vancouver is our first stop to get a bit of a Canadian perspective- then Seattle. We've heard from a few people that Portland is a 'party city' (seems unlikely!) but the map is looking a little bare all the way to San Francisco. I'm sure the scenery there is awesome, but is there any place we MUST stay? Can anaybody estimate the driving time from Seattle to San Francisco straight (that's not our plan- don't worry), and if there are any 'model American' towns we can visit on the way? Are the colleges towns going to be deserted in the summer?

    4. Car hire- any estimate of costs? We have considered buying and then selling, but I presume that this would work out more expensive?

    5. That's it I guess. Any hints\tips would be much appreciated, as well as offers to come out drinking with us!!


  2. #2

    Default Why not round trip?

    If it were me, instead of flying into North and flying out of South, I would get a roundtrip ticket to, say, Seattle, and take 4 to 6 weeks for a road trip down to San Diego and back to Seattle again by a different route.

    For example, in the first 2 weeks, go down through Oregon and California, ending in San Diego and Tijuana, then next 2 weeks go east up through Arizona and Utah, then last 2 weeks up to Wyoming, Montana, then west to Idaho and back to Seattle. A LOT more driving, but you'd see more of the U.S. and save a bunch on air fare and rental car since you are flying in and out of the same city.

    That's if you like the outdoorsy stuff as well as the city stuff. If you mainly want to hang out in California, meet people, and sample the nightlife, then you could also drive down from Seattle in 2-3 days, spend most of your time in Southern California, San Diego and Tijuana, then spend 2-3 days driving back to Seattle.

    Bottom line, since it's only 2-3 days drive back up to Seattle, why not do the roundtrip to and from Seattle and save the money?

    When I was young and completely crazy, I drove from Seattle to San Francisco once in one VERY long day with my sister. But I don't recommend it. I'd do it as a 2-day trip and stop for the night near the Oregon border.

    San Francisco to L.A. can be done in 1 day. You can zip down highway 5. But you shouldn't. Go down to Santa Cruz and sample the Monterrey Peninsula. See the Aquarium. Drive gorgeous Highway 1 down the coast. See the waves at Big Sur. And by all means, stay at the Madonna Inn near San Luis Obispo.

    Santa Barbara, a couple hours north of L.A., has a university and a lot of college bars, etc - there will still be some students around even in the summer, especially graduate students. Really a nice town to hang out in, nice beach too.

    In L.A., make sure you go to Venice Beach and check out the muscle-builders, and the girls gawking them. Oh, and find somewhere that offers surfing lessons and take some.

  3. Default

    A few random comments?

    The cheapest flights out of SoCal are from LA. You might consider cycling back someway to get to LA and then booking it east from there. As an alternative, depending upon your itinerary consider flying Jet Blue (about the cheapest cross country flight I know) to NY or DC and heading back from there. They fly from Long Beach, near LA, which is one of my favorite airports (small, not really crowded, intimate airport)

    You can do the west coast in about 3 weeks I think -- 4 would give you some time to do some other cool stuff.

    I'd do Vancouver for a couple of days, including getting up to Whistler. Then personally I'd head over to Victoria, then south to Port Angeles and head south along the coast and through the Olympic National Park (visit Hurricane Ridge and the Hoh Rain Forest on the way). Lots of places to camp that route. Once you get to the Oregon border, you might head east to Portland, check it out, and then continue east along the Columbia to try wind boarding in the Columbia Gorge. You can cycle east and south via Bend (another college town) and then swing back west through the Cascades, possibly as far south as Crater Lake, and go through Eugene, and back west over to the Oregon coast, which is a great place to wander. Again lots of small hotels and campgrounds along the coast.

    I'd continue south along the coast through the Redwoods and Mendicino. Then I'd swing inland via Napa and Sonoma for the wineries and do some wine tasting. There's actually a good campground (but its been *years* since I stayed at it) in Napa Vallye at the Napa Bothe State park, but you will most probably need reservations to get in (they are available on line). Then from there you can either swing east to Davis (college town) or up to Reno/ Tahoe, or west through San Francisco.

    From San Francisco I'd duck south through San Jose/ Silicon Valley and west to Santa Cruz (home of UC Santa Cruz, home of the "Fighting Banana Slugs!"), and then south through Monterey, and along Big Sur to Hearst Castle/ Cambria. You then have the option of cutting back east across the state to Yosemite and Sequoia, or continuing south along the coast to Solvang/ Santa Ynez wine country, Santa Barbara and into LA.

    LA's a whole story in itself so we'll leave it as that -- lots of things to do. The OC (Orange County) south of LA has good beaches & surfing, Knotts and Disneyland, but I'm not sure what you're interested in for these areas.

    But then there's San Diego and Tijuiana about 2-3 hours to the south and heading back from that as your southerly point. You *might* want to leave the car in San Diego and take the trolley down to the border and walk across. Car insurance laws are different in Mexico, and you'll need to make sure you're covered if you want to drive through the chaos that can be TJ at times. Ensenada, about 2-3 hours south of TJ is a nice town, and there are several good beach camping areas between TJ and Ensenada for surfing.

  4. Default

    Hey Wallsey,

    I just wanted to chirp in and throw a couple of thoughts your way. Your situation is very similar to my own; 3 Brits (2 guys and my gf), all 23, heading for the West Coast this summer.

    Although we won't be exploring Canada in this instance (we're spending the first three weeks in Australia), many of your destinations will undoubtably be similar. We're starting in LA, heading up to San Fran, then heading east through Utah, down to Vegas, through to San Diego, then back up.

    July 10 -> September 1st.

    Some ideas...

    1. Whilst I can't comment specifically on domestic flights within American territory, we got a good deal in actually getting OVER to the US in the first place through STA travel here in the UK. Do a search on Google; they're not a hard company to find.

    I think it was 630 pounds from Heathrow -> San Fran -> Sydney, then back from Melbourne -> LA -> Heathrow.

    Obviously if you've yet to book the international legs of the journey, it may be somewhat more expensive now you're closer to the departure date. But they're likely still your best bet for getting a good deal; their speciality is travel for students and those under 26 (I'm the latter, not the former).

    2. I've never done a "road trip", per se, but last year I spent 3 weeks in the US with the plan of attacking as many places as we could squeeze in (in the friendly, non-terroristic sense of the word). This amounted to a visit to NYC, down to Miami, up to Orlando, then a flight on to Vegas.

    Whilst this sounds like an exhaustive itinerary, the fact was, 3 weeks was not anywhere near enough time as we would have liked. It was crammed, at best. No place was fullly explored. We still had a great time (myself and my best mate, both 22 at the time) but it lacked the exploration we originally set out for.

    Opt for closer to 6 weeks if you can, finances permitting. BTW, we spent over $4,000 each in those 3 weeks (ex. travel)-- and we weren't extravagent in our spending. We just fell into one too many tourist traps.

    3. I'm quite curious to hear what others have to say on this too. Obviously there's the big X's to hit-- San Francisco, for one. I'm sure there's the occasional hidden gems along the way; I have no experience there though, sorry- like yourself, I remain interested to find out!

    4. Car hire. Depends what you're going for. We wanted to do the convertible thing- cruise around Highway 1 in a drop-top Mustang. It's costing $3,800 for the 52 days we're in the US. That includes full liability coverage for 3 drivers. Obviously as this is classed as a "speciality" car, it's more expensive than an economy or mid-range vehicle. If you all want to drive and you're going for something mid, you'll likely be spending around $2,000 - $2,500 for 5-6 weeks. If you're only going for 3 weeks and only one of you wants to drive, then you can probably get a good sub-$1,000 deal.

    PM me if you would like some specific recommendations. We're picking up/dropping off our car from LA so that may or may not be relevant for you. We're only driving US domestic states, so that's something else to bear in mind. If you want to include Canada in that and the trip is one-way, you'll pay extra.

    5. Would love to keep in touch for the possibility of meeting up for a drink. Like you, we're a small group in a big country. It would be cool to meet up with some people we at least share the same locality and sense of adventure with!

    All the best on your trip, I wish you an amazing experience!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Fly n Drive

    Welcome to the RTA forum, Wallsey!

    Let me make a couple of suggestions to save you money.

    Mom of 1's suggestion for a round trip will be the cheapest. If you've got 6 weeks, you could have a great time driving along the coast one way, and then making a trip back inland. Even if you didn't go as far east as Arizona and Utah, you could still find lots of fun things to do working your way back up through inland California, Oregon, and Washington, seeing places like Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and Mount St. Helens.

    If you make this a round trip, you'll save on both airfare and on car rental costs.

    If you only want to make this a one way drive, I think you'll find that it is cheaper to make your International Flight a round trip, and hop on Southwest Airlines for a cheap domestic one way flight back to your original airport. I'd guess that LA would be the cheapest place to fly from, but shop around, who knows what you'll actually find.

    As far as obtaining a car, buying one could be cheaper, if you have enough money up front to buy the car in the first place. However, you also have to then get license and insurance, which can be very difficult without a US address.

    If you rent a car, you might have trouble taking it into Canada. Again, the policies will depend on the company, but check before you rent. You will almost certainly have to walk into TJ, as I don't know of any rental car that can be taken into Mexico.

    Hope this helps get you on your way!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default I'll tackle #3

    You've had great answers to most of your questions, so I'll tackle #3.

    3. The North- Obviously Vancouver is our first stop to get a bit of a Canadian perspective- then Seattle. We've heard from a few people that Portland is a 'party city' (seems unlikely!) but the map is looking a little bare all the way to San Francisco. I'm sure the scenery there is awesome, but is there any place we MUST stay? Can anaybody estimate the driving time from Seattle to San Francisco straight (that's not our plan- don't worry), and if there are any 'model American' towns we can visit on the way? Are the colleges towns going to be deserted in the summer?
    I'm not sure if Portland is a "party city" as my partying days are long gone, but there is a wealth of fine dining, interesting micro-breweries, etc. I think you'll find plenty there to light your fire.

    As for the map "looking a little bare all the way to San Francisco", I can only ask you what map you're looking at?

    If you go down the interior of Oregon, there is the amazing Crater Lake, the lovely college city of Ashland with their world-reknown theater festival that runs for months and beautiful architecture, the funky city of Eugene that is one of the most liberal enclaves in the US where you will probably see some of the last remaining true hippies around (and I'm sure it's a party town), and more. Lots of great stuff to see and do. If I had to plan a stop for the night anywhere, I'd probably pick Ashland for its fine dining and wonderful lodging choices. Lots of nice bed-and-breakfasts and small inns. But it may be hard to get a place depending on your dates due to the huge throngs of theater junkies that go there. Once you cross into California, through the scenic Siskiyou Pass, you will be going past Mt. Shasta (a beauty to behold) and some amazing forests. I think the scenery fizzles when you get closer to Sacramento but I'd hardly call it bare or boring.

    If you do down the coast.....and I highly recommend will be driving down one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world. I have driven the fjords of Norway which are quite amazing but I really think the Oregon and northern California coastlines top Norway's beauty. Not only is the coastline itself a sight to see but you will drive through some really fun towns, each with a personality all its own, from the fun and funky to those with more elegance and elan. There are tacky tourist traps (some of my favorite places, to be honest) and places that will inspire you and places that are just plain fun.

    If you want some specifics, I would suggest doing a search for Oregon and Northern California as there have been numerous posts here detailing places to stop, things to see, and stuff to do in these areas. I guarantee you that you won't find it boring.

  7. Default

    As far as obtaining a car, buying one could be cheaper, if you have enough money up front to buy the car in the first place. However, you also have to then get license and insurance, which can be very difficult without a US address.
    Michael's suggestion is a good one, although if you're veering closer toward 3 weeks than 6, buying one could be overkill and more hassle than its worth.

    I looked into it. First you've gotta ensure the car is safe around to drive thousands of miles. Get a AAA membership/breakdown cover. With a rental company, you're usually covered for these vehicle problems-- at least there's recourse.

    Secondly, you'll need independant insurance. And thirdly- you'll need to get rid of the car at the end of it, either by sale or scrap (if it's so cheap that it doesn't make sense to wait around and sell it!). At the end of a cool holiday, hanging around waiting for it to said would likely be the last thing you want to do - or have the burden of doing.

    If you're going for 6 or more weeks, it might be worth looking into-- especially as the rental fees will already be climbing into the thousands by then.

    Just my two pence.

  8. Default Sensational- thank you!

    Many thanks guys- I'm astonished by the responses! So useful!

    Firstly- Just flying into one airport- that's genius! How that idea eluded me I'm not sure, but yes, it does seem eminiently feasible, and knocks a good £300 off the cost of the flight (and potential savings on car hire) and, though I'm reluctant to ever leave the coast(!) you've given us some great suggestions for the route back. I was not delighted to hear that my compatriot will be flying via AUSTRALIA for cheaper than we'll be getting there, but hey, that's the price of flexibility in booking a little later.

    I will be moving heaven and earth to see the Fighting Banana Slugs and Eugene will definitely be getting a visit- can't remember the last time I didn't enjoy a 'liberal enclave!'

    Finally apologies for suggesting that the map was a little bare above San Francisco, that was of course, because I am an idiot, and was using the map in my mind, which is a little unreliable at the best of times, especially regarding places I've never been to.

    Please keep the suggestions rolling in....

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default matter!

    No offense was taken on the perceived blank spots on the maps. Some of these areas do have wide open expanses of may appear to be nothing. But they're only nothing to those who don't like scenery with awesome views or the outdoors in general. I didn't take you as such a person. I just wanted you to be aware of the wealth of great places to visit on your trip.

    When you're in Eugene, check out the ducks on the streets (I hope they're still there). And I'm not sure if it's a year-round thing or seasonal, but they have a fun and funky public market in a park with many different folks, some of them quite unique, selling strange and wonderful things. It's probably one of your best bets for finding ultra-liberals to hang with.

  10. #10

    Default Check city websites for festivals

    Be sure and check city websites for festivals and other events. For example, here's some of the fun stuff I found for Portland, Oregon for July and August. The first item seems made to order for 3 Brits in their 20s who appreciate a good pint:

    Oregon Brewer's Festival, 7/26 - 7/30. 80,000 people attend one of the finest craft beer festivals in the nation.

    Bite of Oregon: Bite of Portland, 8/11 - 8/13. State's largest food, beverage and music event.

    Bastille Day Celebration, 7/14. Alliance Francaise in Portland hosts this bash in honor of Bastille Day.

    Festival of Cheese, 7/22. Sample from 700 artisan cheeses.

    Google the cities you want to visit and find an events calendar. The things you will find are amazing, many are free or inexpensive, and are some of the best ways to people-watch in the U.S.

    As an example, I am working on plans for an Atlanta to N.J. trip and have found through city websites that Virgina Beach is having an Elvis festival, including a race where people push Elvis impersonators on recliners, and that Wildwood NJ is having a Polka Spree including, get this, a "Polka Mass". (A Polka Mass????)

    Happy net-surfing.

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