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  1. Default

    So the Coastal route would include Big Sur, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara? I said this to my partner and he said that we live near the sea why do we want to go there and drive by it?...honestly!! Still a few options to go through, I would like to do the drive down the coast.

  2. #32
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    So the Coastal route would include Big Sur, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara?
    That's right, check out route CA1. It's a great drive that would require an overnight stop as it's slow going. However, we do have great coastline in the UK but not the likes of the Grand canyon, so it's a case of compromise and see what will and won't fit into your itinerary as you move forwards.

  3. Default

    I would not be nervous about coming here and taking a roadtrip without a guide. I have taken endless road trips over the years with nothing more than a physical location in mind and have had the best time of my life on each trip. I once traveled to London with nothing more than an airplane ticket and no place to stay. I figured it all out when I got there and with the exception of paying 80 pounds for a Taxi ride from Gatwick to London in a Vauxhaul back in the late 1980's and getting ripped off not knowing there were cheaper methods, the trip was great and didn't make any real mistakes considering it was my first time out of the country.

    That being said, it is very easy to travel here in the USA. All you really need is a plane ticket here, book your first nights stay anywhere within your budget close to the airport so you can get a good nights rest and book your car rental. The rest, you can figure out on your way.

    Here is what I do when planning a Road trip:

    1) Open Google Maps and look and see what's around in the area you want to travel to.

    2) Google things to do in (insert location), visit the websites of the chambers of commerce for each area you think you want to visit and see what's in or around that location and also google many keywords for those areas to see what else pops up.

    3) Start mapping out points of interest on Google Maps and see how many miles and about how long your drive will be between them. Two weeks is not a lot of time, however I have driving from FL to UTAH in 18 days and seen quite a bit along my travels many times.

    4) If you're into the National Park thing, there are a lot of must see's in Southern California, (Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, Death Valley National Park, Sequoia National Preserve, Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park) and plenty of other places along the way. Decide what you want to do in the Park. If hiking is your thing, figure which trails and how long each trail is, and that will dictate how long you will be in each park. For the bare minimum with some light short hiking, 2-3 days in each park to get a good overview. That's been my average.

    5) Will you be camping or staying in hotels? If your camping, bring the small stuff you can take with you, the rest, you can purchase at your Local Walmart (They're everywhere) and then donate to someone else before you leave. Camping in the parks you really need to have a reservation, but camping near parks in some private campgrounds, you can pretty much always find. Also, there is an outfitter in that part of the country called Juicy, that rents camper vans. I don't know the pricing but I have seen their vans all over the West and people say they love them. They are nothing more than converted vans to camp in, complete with water and a small place to cook. It may be the best way to travel in order to give you some freedom to go where you want, when you want without having to make reservations and be a nomad for a while.

    I have found that this gives you the most freedom when traveling. I have car/tent camped over 100 nights in the last 7 years with my Son and we have absolutely love this way of traveling. We kind of break it up a bit with a 2-3 nights in a hotel that we find on our travels.

    You have a full year to plan and really should be able to plan this in less than a month with the power of the Internet and a little help from people here. I'd be happy to assist in anyway to make your trip to the USA a most pleasant one.

    A few things I recommend.

    If you are going to be traveling to National Parks and some places out away from the City, I strongly urge you to have a Satellite Phone for emergencies. There are many places where cell service is not available once you get off the main highways and out in the mountainous country.. The best deal out there is Inmarsat Prepaid with the iSatphone2, Don't buy Globalstar! The best place to get the phone is on Amazon if your going to buy it and BlueCosmo has the best prices and customer service has been great with them over the 4 years I've been with them. They also rent them. If money is no object, Get the Irridium Extreame 9575. Best service globally, but you will PAY for it.

    Have a GPS in the Car, but also have paper maps in case of GPS failure. Paper maps are typically available free or cheap at most local State or City visitor centers along major highways.

    Stop at your local Walmart or other grocery store and pick up plenty of bottled water, some non-perishable food, a few fruits and snacks. These things are expensive on the road and depending upon where you go, you may be VERY far away from a store and don't forget a basic first aid kit, make a custom one. You can do this once you get here, once again at your local Walmart! Bring any meds you need that are prescription or special stuff you may find hard to get.

    Buy travel insurance for your healthcare in case you need medical service while you are here. Check with your local travel agents in your home country to see what they offer and have it in place prior to coming here.

    Just to recap, you can do this on your own, on the cheap and will have a GREAT time! You picked a great place to travel in the USA. The West has so many vast open places to see and you are welcome to PM me with any questions you may have. I'd be happy to assist.

  4. Default

    Wow thank you so much for providing all of that information!! Personally, I don't want to camp so it would be hotels all the way for me I'm afraid! I'm not massively 'outdoors-y' although I appreciate this would be the cheapest way of staying there and probably also seeing a lot more that you would by staying in hotels.

    I'm still debating whether to do it ourselves or through a company, we are still waiting on one quote to come back (the lady I have been speaking with has been travelling through America for years and has down the West Coast route), but as we are planning so far in advance we cannot really book anything until at least July. I think this would be the same for aeroplane tickets too. So we have a couple of months to think things through, decide where we want to go, although we are fairly firmly set on the West coast and have the general places to stay in, it's just working out the in between cities route.

    I forgot about Joshua Tree...that was on an episode of 'Entourage' once and we really want to see that! I don't think we can do absolutely everything we might want to or should do in two weeks but we can certainly see plenty and have a very varied holiday. Ending in Napa and drinking for a day or two sounds like the perfect ending to a busy trip!

    I am a planner, and I like to have everything straight before leaving; I couldn't imagine leaving without knowing where I was going or staying, it would stress me out too much I think! I get that is a great way of travelling but not fore me I'm afraid, so all hotels, etc. will be sorted one way or another before we leave!

    Thanks again for your post, lots of things to think about and consider!

  5. #35
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Familiarising yourself with the area....

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Absolutely! And it encourages you to get more familiar with the area.
    Sophie, I have been thinking about this quite a bit. Since this trip is still a year away, what would help you most to familiarise yourself with the distances and also where things are in relation to one another, is to get yourself a good size wall map of the US. I prefer the National Geographic map which shows the geography of the country, the mountains and valleys, etc. It also shows all the main roads and cities. Put it up where you will see sit everyday.

    Another thing which will help you greatly, and which is recommended for when you are on the road, is good detailed maps of the area. If these are not available locally, I recommend that you purchase a Rand McNally road atlas (there is none better) from the RTA store via the link at the bottom of the page. If you order it now, you will have it in a couple of weeks.

    My first trip to the US was for my son's wedding, in 2001. At that time I did not even know that a trip needed to be planned. I was relocating cars (did not have the money to rent), and with detailed maps from the AAA set out on the road. Became an expert at getting lost, but that only meant I saw many more places than I would have if I had planned my trip. Now on my ninth trip, and almost a quarter of a million miles under the belt, I wish I could again hit the road with the innocence with which I did in those days.

    Whatever you plan, nothing much will go wrong that is going to affect you greatly7. It will only mean that you will see something other than what you planned.

    Enjoy the planning, it is so much part of the trip. Now I understand all that, although I still cannot bring myself to plan ahead.


  6. Default

    Thanks Lifey!

    I actually bought a map of California the other day, arrived over the weekend so have been looking at that a bit. We would love to drive down the coast on route 1 to LA, is that road a lot slower than the main highway? I'm thinking then maybe a night in Lake Havasu, then onto Grand Canyon then to Vegas. We could always do to Yosemite after San Francisco for a night and then back to the coast road to avoid the issue with the Tioga pass. Then I think it would have to be a stop between Vegas and Napa to end the route.

    So it would be SF->Yosemite->Monterey->LA->Lake Havasu->Grand Canyon->Vegas->???->Napa.

    If we were to book it ourselves, when would be best for prices for flights and hotels? I don't want to leave it too late, and can get the flight booked in the next couple of months and then sort the hotels after that by looking at deals, etc. At least if we have the flights sorted the hotels can follow and give us a bit more time to change our minds about the route! I think we would fly into and out of San Francisco, it would be easier I think for us and also wouldn't mean any charges for the car rental to drop it off to a different location.

  7. #37
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    First, the hotels that you need to "worry" about reserving quickly are those in the national park such as Yosemite and Grand Canyon, unless you plan to stay outside of the park.

    Second, your trip is next spring, right? At the moment, CA-1/Pacific Coast Highway isn't open all the way through, due to a massive mud slide. It *should* be open again by then, but always keep a Plan B in mind. Slides are quite common along that highway, especially during the winter months when we get more rain here on the Coast. You should make reservations along that route, but make sure that they can be easily canceled.


  8. Default

    Oh god didn’t even think about things like that! Yes would hope it’s open in the next 12 months but of course having a plan B would be smart just in case things like this happen. I guess there’s generally always other routes to go on in such instances to get around it but not if we have a hotel booked on that route!

  9. Default

    Hi I spotted your thread when checking on answers to one of my own, and noticed your reference to Route 66 which we drove last year. We went backwards from Santa Monica to Chicago and spent a month on the road. If you decide to do it in the future, I think that 2 weeks will be way to short and you would find yourselves having to travel long distances with not much to see. Doing it in 2 weeks would probably involve a lot of boring interstate driving, whereas for the whole of our trip we stayed on the original alignments practically the whole way, only going on interstates when it was unavoidable because it sat on top of the old route. Including side trips, totalling a further 1200 miles I doubt we spent much more than 150 miles on the interstates, despite driving over 3600 miles, with no long and boring stretches. In some States there was so much to see that we could barely scratch the surface of it all. I spent nearly 9 months plotting over 900 waypoints on Google Earth to keep us on the old route which I then put into an itinerary enabled GPS! Easy to do all of this when you are newly retired. Please get in touch if you would like me to share everything for a future longer trip, which I have already done for other road trippers a couple of times already

  10. #40
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Photos of each section of Route 66 can be found here

    Quote Originally Posted by DWDG View Post
    Please get in touch if you would like me to share everything for a future longer trip, which I have already done for other road trippers a couple of times already
    That was quite an achievement. A colleague of ours did the trip the same way and his site detailing the route is found here.

    Since you have knack for these kinds of road adventures -- I suggest that you next tackle the Lincoln Highway which was the very first transcontinental highway from NYC to San Francisco. Parts of the original road have never been paved, others are still paved in brick and just about every other surface imaginable.

    Thanks for the offer of sharing your epic Route 66 route.


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