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  1. Default West Coast USA Trip

    Hi, so long story short my husband and I are having a delayed honeymoon almost 3 years after we got married! (he's in the forces). We're from England and have both been to the states plenty of times but never for a road trip, so first of all if there are any tips or advice for road tripping then we welcome them.

    Basically we only have a small window of time due to our work commitments, we definitely have 2 weeks and we're desperately pushing for a third week although it might not be granted, so we are planning it around 2 weeks to be safe. We've got plenty of places we would like to see but we've narrowed it down to how much we think we'd be able to do, but again we've never done these trips or the long drives so we aren't really sure what to expect. Here is what we've got so far;

    • Fly into San Fransisco
    • Drive to Yosemite NP
    • Drive to Death Valley NP (either up via Lake Tahoe or down via Sequoia NP)
    • Area 51
    • Sedan Crater
    • Valley of Fire
    • Antelope Canyon
    • Monument Valley
    • Grand Canyon
    • Vegas (we aren't overly fussed on Vegas as my husband has already been and I'm sure we will go another time so I don't mind skipping Vegas if we are constrained by time)
    • Fly from Vegas back to San Fran and spend a few days there before flying back to the UK.


    We did have plenty of other things on our list but we really trimmed it down.

    Basically the advice I'm looking for is to tell me
    A - how much time to give myself in each of these places
    B - recommendations on places to stay/visit/eat at at each of these places, or if there is any point of interest along the way or not too far off route that would be worth also visiting
    C - if the places mentioned are worth visiting
    D - any general advice, is it better to get a hotel/motel/camper van etc.

    Some other information;
    - So we're looking at around 2 weeks
    - Either in May/June of this year
    - We'd like to keep our costing down to a minimum while also not sacrificing, so we will pay for things that will heighten our experiences but not on unnecessary expenses.
    - My husband and I are 25, my husband is into his fitness so enjoys hikes.
    - We like adrenaline activities
    - We like nature and photography
    - We're happy driving

    I think thats all! We welcome every and any advice you can offer.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,117

    Default Some thoughts to start.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    It looks as though you have been doing your research and of course the greatest thing about a road trip is making it your own. Having said that, with the time you have I personally wouldn't of gone out of my way to visit the area around Area 51 (no way will you get even close to the base) as it's a remote area and there are many other great places you could explore. I would suggest looking at Bryce canyon and Zion NP and then through Page to Monument valley and the Grand canyon. If you leave your trip until late May or June you have a better chance of Tioga Pass being open so you can cross the mountains through Yosemite rather than going around them on the way to Death valley, a spectacular drive. I would also consider doing a full loop and end back in SF then you could visit Sequoia on the way. So a loop would look something like this, SF>Yosemite>Death valley>Las Vegas>Zion>Bryce>Antelope canyon > Monument valley>Grand canyon>Sequoia>SF. If you have 2 weeks and that includes your flight times then you will have to pick and choose accordingly.

    For budget it's often cheaper to rent a car and use Motels rather than an RV, although if you are 'outdoorsy' type you could look at a camper like those at 'Escape campers' where you would get the chance to experience camping in the National parks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,629

    Default Solid Start

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The basic plan you've laid out is excellent and can certainly be done in two weeks. If you get a third, I'd recommend not adding miles but rather enjoying some of the smaller, less-visited venues already on or near your route. With that general congratulations, both belatedly on your wedding and currently on a good plan, on to some specifics...

    First and foremost, if you can drive in England you will find driving in the U.S. a breeze. The business of driving on the other side of the road will become second nature almost as soon as you get behind the wheel (also on the other side of the car, so a constant reminder) and will feel 'natural' after a few hours of driving. Best of all, there is nothing really comparable to English 'B' roads in America. There will be plenty of width to the roadbed and usually ample shoulder/berm room.

    I would plan on spending a full day in the San Francisco area with nothing much on the agenda to give yourselves time to get over the jet lag. You've done this before so use your own experience, but mine is that eastbound trans-Atlantic flights are worse than westbound ones because they happen during the day when you won't be ready to sleep and take longer because you'll be fighting headwinds.

    Even in late May or early June Death Valley can get dangerously hot. Try to get your hiking in during the early morning hours and take plenty of water in with you. Turn for 'home' before you get through half your supply.

    Area 51 is a highly restricted area. You won't be able to get close to it, let alone on its grounds, without getting turned back or arrested. Just scratch it off your list.

    Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley are Navajo Tribal Parks rather than National Parks. So any national parks pass that you buy will not be applicable in them. Also, they tend to be pretty restrictive of freelance hiking and you'll probably have to join a group and/or hire a native guide to see the best areas. Check with the Navajo Nation website for particulars, but plan on a half day to full day for each of them.

    Try, if you possibly can, to visit the Grand Canyon at sunrise or sunset. It's scenic any time of day but those hours are spectacular. You will need to check in with at the Visitors Center in Grand Canyon Village if you plan to hike down into the Canyon.

    If you're trying to save money, then a one-way car rental is not generally the way to go. You may be able to get the drop-off fee dropped if you book through a European consolidator or are a member of and rent through one of the major rental car companies. But it may also be worth your while to make the (long) one day drive back to San Francisco. You may also save a bit by buying a simple return flight rather than an 'open jaw' one.

    If, as you plan, you find yourselves with a little 'extra' time, I'd generally recommend that you spend at least some of it in northern Arizona. There are about half a dozen national monuments and parks in the Flagstaff area besides the Grand Canyon and your time simply goes further if you're not running from place to place.

    My wife and I prefer B&Bs and vacation rentals to motels simply for the ambience and the chance to meet the locals, but they're not the cheapest of accommodations. When we do stay in motels we aim for middle-of-the-road establishments like Comfort Inns, Marriott, La Quinta, Ramada, etc. These now almost universally offer a good modest breakfast with the night's stay.

    All the above should hopefully help you plan, and of course you are more than welcome to return with specific questions as your plans firm up.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 12-23-2018 at 06:45 PM. Reason: Added link to Navajp parks

  4. #4

    Default

    Hi Est,

    Think big, then adjust to reality!

    Spread it all out on a spreadsheet that is easy to modify and manipulate. Plan like a military planner... Win but also worse case scenario (aka pragmatic).

    Flying from England to the West Coast USA is 8 or 9 time zones and at a minimum an all day trip. Spend the night near the airport and rent a car the next day. You will need a good night's sleep! If you are up to it you can ride the underground into the city or grab an Uber. No rush the next morning as the Bay Area is notorious for its bad traffic. As like most drive days, Day 2 will be mostly driving and not a "visit day." Factor that in your planning ("over planning") sheet. Most significant sights you can't really see on a travel day so plan accordingly and enjoy minor sights along the way.

    Your trip home is really a 2-day trip... and plan enough time to arrive to your departure city (probably SFO to save on rental car costs). Practically speaking you probably want to spend your last night in the departure city before catching a flight the next day (again, traffic considerations, but in either case it is a 2-day commitment).

    Happy travels!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,629

    Default Good Point

    Landmariner's post reminds me of a basic car rental strategy, especially useful after long flights. If you're not going to drive anywhere the first day/night other than to a hotel, see if the hotel offers free shuttle service from the airport. Then just call the hotel when you land, let them know you're there, and ask where to meet the shuttle. Go have a good night's sleep and the next morning go to an off-airport car rental location. The cost of the rental will be cheaper because you are not paying airport fees and taxes (applied to 'out-of-towners') but just the cost of the rental, and maybe even save a day's rental cost. In most cases when you do this, you can drop the car off at the airport (same city) for no additional charge.

    AzBuck

  6. Default

    You mentioned
    My husband and I are 25, my husband is into his fitness so enjoys hikes.
    - We like adrenaline activities
    - We like nature and photography
    - We're happy driving

    With that in mind, I would consider a trip down into the Grand Canyon while you're at your physical prime. You could spend most of your vacation there.

    Otherwise, be sure to visit some of the fantastic National Parks already mentioned.

    Hiking Bryce is worth an entire day of your time. What beautiful and very unusual scenery; don't take your camera because you'll never stop taking pictures! Get camping reservations asap and stay there!

    Zion is a hikers paradise, and offers a truely spectacular canyon hike known as the NARROWS. It starts with a gentle one mike walk on a paved path which ends at the Virgin River. Now, you step down INTO the water and start hiking into a gorgeous canyon as the steep 2000 foot walls close in on you. As you proceed the water varies from ankle deep to waist deep. Some times of the year you may have to swim some sections. You can turn back after an hour but it really deserves an entire day of your time. If you're really adventurous, you can make arrangements to start at the other end of the canyon and spend two days making your way to the beginning. You'll have to sleep overnight in the canyon itself.

    Zion also has more traditional hikes, including the spectacular Angels Landing which is definitely not for those with a fear of heights.

    If you like to explore off the beaten path consider Geocaching. It will take you places few have been and show you sites few have seen. If you're REALLY adventurous, geocache, hike and explore the San Rafael Swell. Parts are so remote that Geocaching will require a real handheld GPS rather than your cellphone. A lot of gravel and dirt roads here, some easy driving and others that require a 4-wheel drive.

  7. #7

    Default

    Travelingman is on to something... walking into the Grand Canyon, not something I would even consider doing these days (elder world!) but it is something I had the wonderful experience of doing at age 20. One can hike arrange for hiking down from one rim (south) and up the other rim (north) -- I don't think it matters which order but check it out -- and a van transports you back to your vehicle from where you started. My recommendation would be starting from the North Rim because the drive from US 89A (Jacob Lake) is so wonderful. North Rim is a beautiful setting but not cheap unless you are camping. My guess is that you could easily spend 5 to 7 rewarding days at the Grand Canyon.

    Centering a trip around the Grand Canyon provides tons of other road trip driving experiences. And May/June is a good time to visit some of the spots that become too hot during the summer.

    Note: The Grand Canyon rim elevations are high at 7,500 to 10,000 feet (round numbers), so don't venture their first thing on your trip. Your body needs to acclimate to elevation. On the positive side there are plenty of places to visit in-transit. Give yourselves a few days of elevation adjustment. Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix are all good cities to fly in/out of on a "circle route." My first recommendation would be Salt Lake City based on the airport's proximity to downtown, less expensive than others, has some good elevation for body adjustment, clean/wide streets and more. But a good case could be made for any of these cities depending upon your interests. But SLC at 4,000 ft. elevation is a good place to start.

    The AAA has a very good map for this region of the Southwest, "AAA Guide To Indian Country" or just "Indian Country."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,894

    Default

    Just DO NOT assume you can go down to Phantom Ranch (bottom of the GC) and back up to the other rim in one day. Don't even think about doing it in two days. Plan on 3-4 at the very least. Take not only your hiking boots but also a pair of flip-flops for the overnights when you will be happy to be out of your boots. My brother and his friend decided to go up and down in two days from the South Rim and lived to regret not taking 3-4 days, and his friend came up in his flip-flops because his boots broke halfway up. He was lucky to survive without damage to his feet.


    Donna

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