myself and two friends are planning a huge road trip through the USA when we finish university in june 2006. we plan on flying to new york in mid june and we have a long list of places we want to see. we aim to drive to california through the southern states and then back to new york through the middle of america.
please could anyone offer any advice on the following:
1. at the imte of the raod trip i will be 23 while the other 2 will be 22 and 21. we all have driving licenses and 2 of us will have been driving for over 4 years. we want to rent a large SUV for space and safety. will we be able to rent one as we are under 25? plus any other advice about unlimited mileage and all the waivers they offer as we will want to be safe and covered from paying in the event of damage etc
2. for a 60 day road trip how much money will we need on average for (a) food (b) gas
3. how much do these road-side hotels/motel cost on average and how frequently will we need to stay at one?
4. any other advice at all as we are complete novices at this! any advice on routes/attractions/sites would be greatly appreciated.
Well James, right now gas is averaging around $1.75 U.S. dollars in the midwest where I live. I am sure it is more expensive on the coasts. If you're not too picky you can find hotel rooms for around $50.00 a night. Some even cheaper. If I were you, I would rent a more economical vehichle. You could save loads on gas! If you pass through Oklahoma on your trip, the Eastern side of the state is much prettier than the Western side.. and of course there are the Ozark Mountains in Western Arkansas that are lovely to view anytime of year. I know this isnt much help.. but happy traveling and good luck!
thanks so much for the advice. everything and anything is a great help as we've never done this before, especially in a country the size of USA. we realise that SUVs drink petrol but they are big sturdy vehicles and very safe. plus one of us is a girl who has to bring about 5 suitcases with her so space in the vehicle will be needed!! i thought an SUV would be ideal. wot vehicle would you recommend? we want as much space as possible as sleeping will be done in the car.
any more advice would be greatly appreciated!
Yes, well now that you are throwing a woman into the mix.. maybe you better rent a trailer to pull.. haha! Just kiddin! No, actually I mis-read your post and for some reason was thinking you said an RV, not an SUV. By all means an SUV would be ideal. You might have a look at the Ford Escape. It is an economical SUV although it isn't much on size. Also there is the Chevy Blazer or the G.M.C. Jimmy. Once again I wish you all the best!
My advice would be on your way back to New York from
California make sure you stop in Chicago. It is the second
best city in the US (next to New York)! Also think you would enjoy
San Francisco much more than Los Angeles (LA is sort of a hell hole!) I would also recommend seeing the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and be sure to drive through Colorado at some point. The rocky mountains are wonderful! Have you guys though about
buying some camping equipment once you're in the US? The
national parks here are wonderful and it's a great way to meet
people and save thousands of $$ on not paying for hotels. Generally, most state parks have camping with great shower facilities for $20 or less per night for all three of you? Just an idea.
thank again timboss and thanks to sharron too. i think we're gunna go for an SUV and we've seen one car rental company which lease a dodge durango which looks very comfortable and large!! either that or a chevrolet blazer i think.
shannon-definitely going to san francisco and chicago. i've been to them before but my fellow travellers haven't.
any other advice you can give me would be great!
Not an easy set of questions
1) Well sure, you'll be able to rent whatever you want as long as you're willing to pay. Right now SUV's and mini-vans are going for about $1500 per month. As far as being under 25, Avis, for example charges a $110 fee if the renter is inder 25. These are ballpark figures. You should be able to find several companies that will give you unlimited mileage, so if one tries to limit you - and they will, some to as little as 200 miles a day - just walk away. As far as all the collision damage waivers and what not, check with AAA if you're a member, with your own auto insurance carrier, and with your credit card, all of which may offer substantial coverage already. Paying the rental company for these things is almost never worth it if you have any other coverage.
2) You can eat pretty well in roadside restaurants for $20 per day and for much less if you stick to the fast food joints like McDonalds and such, or pick up a cooler and shop at grocery stores and picknic along the way. By the way state parks in America are a great untapped resource for gtreat places to eat, hike, rest and recuperate as well as offering cheap overnight camping (although not as cheap as Canada's town 'transient camps'). Besides knowing theprice of gas - about $2/gal and going up - you should keep in mind that the kind of vehicles you're talking about may get as little as 15 miles to the gallon.
3) timboss was pretty much right on the money for average cost. You're young enough that alternating between camping one night and staying in a motel the next ought to be about right.
4) Nobody's going to answer that one for you but you and your friends. This is an incredibly big and varied country and there's something for everybody. My advice is to pick the half dozen or so things you feel you absolutely HAVE to see, connect the dots, and find the quirky things along that route. Check out http://www.roadsideamerica.com/index.html or just do a search on
<state name> tourism
to see what's available
I just returned from a road trip myself and I'd definitely recommend bringing along a laptop with a GPS receiver and mapping software. Without them we would have gotten lost in big cities and confusing turnpikes (NJ area, Boston, and NYC). If you already have a laptop you can grab a receiver and Streets and Trips 2005 combo off of eBay for ~$70. I got mine from this guy's store: GPS4EvyOne
I believe he ships internationally. You'd also need an adapter that plugs into the cigarette lighter so you wouldn't have to use the laptop's battery. We brought paper maps as backup just in case our laptop or receiver died. This GPS setup put us at ease since we always new where we were going and it always helped us find our way if we got off track. I'd never go on a road trip without one.
Also, just to give you a sense of how much you'd spend in gas. We drove from Chicago to Boston to New York and back for $234 total. Our SUV was a Chevy Trailblazer which, I must say, was very comfortable for a long road trip.
Thoughts from a fellow UK traveller.....
Hi James - you've done the first thing right by coming onto this board. I went on a roadtrip last year after receiving loads of advice from the guys on here.
A couple of thoughts......
Hire Car - once you have an idea of the vehicle you need, etc, use the 'store locator' on the companies website to obtain contact details. Then call the guy directly, you will find that most of the branches are owned, managed and run by an individual who works 14 hours a day... in my experience they are happy to work with you on the price, especially on a valuable rental like 60 days SUV !! I did this last time - for a 9 seater GMC Yukon XL.. and saved a packet on free miles, free extra insurance, free baby seat, etc. I agree with your thoughts on safety - I felt much more confident in this machine, especially when you are in unfamiliar territory, or if you hit bad weather. Additionally , the extra space allowed us to carry a cooler with food and drinks (not because we didn't want to spend in restaurants, but because of timings, for example, we normally drove until 2/3 in the morning, to ensure we had full days in our destinations. (Its also great for shopping......)
The MS Streets & Trips is great we did this (without the GPS), but were able to find our location and find a route. The only word of warning (although this may be obvious) is that it often picks the most direct route, which may ignore Interstates. For example, we drove from Washington DC to Niagra on US Highways, which were often only 1 lane roads - when there was a Interstate option that would have been 5% longer in distance, but much faster with time.
Beware of gas - don't get caught out - those SUV's take about 100 litres to fill (twice my family car !!) and the cost does mount, even given the much cheaper price than the UK. It is worth it, in my opinion, but stay topped up - don't take a risk.
As far as routes, if you are flying into New York, do without a car for a few days while you enjoy one of the greatest cities in the world, take the train to Washington and enjoy it too.... then pick a location 30/40 miles away from the city, pick up your jeep and head for Torontom from there you can head across to Chicago (through Detroit......eek) and onwards to the west coast
Whatever you do - have fun