I've been browsing these forums for quite a bit and have found plenty of useful information and sound advise on planning roadtrips across the west coast. Thank you guys for that.
To begin with, I'm an international student studying on the east coast. My girlfriend will be visiting UCSD in the first week of July and I plan to join her along with her friend for a 10 day trip spanning California, Arizona and Nevada. Our plan is as under.
-- July 10 --
Meet her friend in LA at 2130 (after arriving there myself at 8:30 PM) and try find a way to spend around 6 hours till we get to the morning Amtrak connection to San Diego. She's coming from Moscow and I believe she'll be too tired to hit the bed. But since we don't know anyone in LA, we're gonna try and spend the night near the airport or Amtrak station after checking in our luggage at the station. Right now I'm not sure if we should checki in at some hostel or a cheap lodge since we got to take the train at 7 anyway. Any tips on how to spend the night nearby will be appreciated.
-- July 11 - 14th --
4 Days in San Diego on Ocean Beach at a hostel. Rent a car on 14th of July till 20th.
I've checked various car rental companies and found Avis to be our best bet since I'll be having a license from my home country (India). Right now they've quoted ~ $300 from 14 - 20th morning with GPS and some liability insurance. Since I'm still 24, (<25) they're gonna ask for $100 or something as an underage fee but they also have some promotion going on right now which waives me this penalty, so I'll have to book fast. Also, technically, the LDW ain't an insurance and just a damage waiver so I intend to call them up and ask which one is ACTUALLY an insurance. In addition, I would like your help to decide which insurance to take from the rental company.
-- 15th of July --
Leave early for Flagstaff, AZ. Comes out to be ~ 500 miles. Some people on this board have suggested not taking the I-8 E route. I don't know why but this one looks the shortest one. If any other (shorter) route comes to your mind please feel free to indicate so.
- Spend the night at some hostel.
-- 16th of July --
Depart the next morning for Grand Canyon. (Flagstaff - GC ~ 80 miles)
Spend the whole day at GC. Depart late in the evening for Bryce Canyon.
(Grand Canyon South Rim - Bryce Canyon ~ 280 miles)
Spend the night at Bryce Canyon.
-- 17th --
Spend the day at Bryce. Depart late in the evening to Las Vegas (BC - LV ~ 252 miles)
-- 17th till 19th Morning --
Lay back and rest in some hotel away from the strip.
-- 19th Noon --
Leave for LA for flight back to Boston via Death valley.
(LV - Death Valley - LAX ~ 410 miles)
-- 20th (very early morning) --
Depart from LAX
15th - 20th of July
San diego - Flagstaff - Grand Canyon - Bryce Canyon - Las Vegas - Death Valley - LAX
Now, I've tons of questions (:
1) As it seems, we've booked all the hostels and hotels, so our plan loses any flexibility as it is. So, all in all, is all the driving manageable? Is there some organizational fault? Like we should've taken the clockwise route from San Diego to LA via Death Valley and Las Vegas and back to LA via the Canyons? Its too late now but in terms of previous experiences of people here can 500 miles be covered in 12 hours with infrequent stops like from San Diego to Flagstaff?
2) The general plan is to sleep the night we arrive to get rest and drive in the morning to destinations. For example from SD to Flagstaff and LV to LA. For other trips, I intend to drive early in the evening ~ 4/5 PM. Is this okay?
3) I come from a RHD country. Would l face more than my share of troubles driving on the freeways/expressways etc? I've driven on highways back at home but this doesn't seem to be too different? Anything special to keep in mind? Also, I'm the only driver (1 Dr + 2 pass) and this trip is going to be a long one for me as I haven't driven > 400 km in one stretch back home but I do total around 15000 kms. So I'm pretty amateur on long trips.
4) Car and Rental: Can I drive to another state when renting? Usually they say it's valid in the three adjoining states but in case they don't, can I still drive ignoring these rules? (they can always find that out, of course)
What kind of car should I rent? As of now I'm looking at at an Economy car, something like Chevy Aveo or similar. Would this be okay considering the terrain and the 1500 miles? Should I jump the budget and go for a better car, though I'm least in the favor? Also, can I negotiate with the company at the time of rental? Is it even allowed?
5) Is detouring from LV to Death Valley on the way to LAX a bad idea? We have to catch flight early on 20th.
6) Tips or anything else you guys find strange or absurd given past experiences.
Thanks. - AJ