Starting to plan a trip round the US. Advice greatly appreciated.

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by timmyb, Nov 6, 2008.

  1. timmyb macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #1
    I'm going to have some free time next spring and have decided to spend it discovering the US. I'm a Brit and my previous trips over the pond have been to New York, Washington & San Francisco, (the last of these being when I was about 14.) Now that I've just graduated I want to explore some more. I'll be travelling by myself and was thinking of going for 4-6 weeks, probably setting off mid-April or a bit later. I have some cash put aside and want to have an experience to remember, but obviously money doesn't grow on trees!

    I've really only just started looking at this and below is a list of initial questions I've got. I'd love to hear any advice both from Americans and those who may have done a similar thing.

    1. The obvious one - where to go?
    2. How to get around? - organised trip/internal flights/bus or train pass/look at getting a car (though I imagine this last option would cost serious money) or a mix
    3. How much to budget? - per day for living and in total (excl. getting to and from the States.)
    4. What is the best way to meet others whilst out there? My only similar experience to this was inter-railing round europe for 3 weeks but it was with 2 friends.
     
  2. furcalchick macrumors 68020

    furcalchick

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2006
    Location:
    South Florida
    #2
    1. the us is a huge country; the lower 48 is almost as huge as europe, so unless you are planning to travel non stop, you won't get to the whole country. since you are spending a while here, i suggest picking 5-10 places you really want to go to and we can probably help you a bit better after that.

    2. you're best off with a combination of internal flights and a rented car. train service is pretty bad compared to europe, especially outside the northeast.

    3. it depends on what part of the country you are in. san fran and nyc (and urban areas in general) tend to be the most expensive, while rural areas, especially in the south and midwest regions are the cheapest.

    4. no clue. that type of thing doesn't really happen too much around these parts.
     
  3. TheHoff macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2008
    #3
    You've been to the three most interesting cities already. Of course the three are so large and dense that I'm sure you could make a return visit as an adult to any or all three and still be enthralled.

    Basically, what do you want to do while you're here? See the sights? take photos? mountain biking? shopping in the city? Really, it is a big place... but lots of open space inbetween. It isn't like riding the eurorail and in any direction, in 3 hours you're in a completely different country, right? In the US that might get you out of the city and into the suburbs but not even close to the state line.
     
  4. JNB macrumors 604

    JNB

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2004
    Location:
    In a Hell predominately of my own making
    #4
    Go anywhere but a major urban center. Or at least visit one that cannot be replicated elsewhere, like New Orleans. Visit the Mountain states, the Southwest, the "flyover" parts of the country (Kentucky & Tennessee are particularly outstanding. Sip real bourbon, watch a Corvette being made, get a Louisville Slugger with your signature burned into it, explore a cave, and watch the Kentucky Derby, all in one day).

    Amtrak has rail passes similar in concept to EuRail or BritRail, check into that. Pack half as many clothes and twice as much money as you planned on. ;)

    Bottom line, we have citizens that spend their entire life here, and only see a miniscule fraction. Visitors can only scratch the surface, so don't try to shove "America" into one visit. Plan to come often, and leave lots of money behind. :p

    The deeper into the nation you get, the more you'll find to explore. We're one big Mandlebrot set.
     
  5. teflon macrumors 6502a

    teflon

    Joined:
    May 28, 2007
    #5
    From my trips to the US, the East Coast and West Coast are definitely my favourite. I would visit NYC again, did you have time to get to all the boroughs last time? I could spend a month there in the museums and the art galleries. I would also suggest Chicago, my cousins went there and loved it. You can visit LA if you want to visit all the film studios and maybe catch a glimpse of a celebrity. But it all depends on your interests. I love metropolitan cities with a rich culture and tons of museums, but some people prefer to visit the small towns instead. The Great Lakes and the Niagara Falls are beautiful, or you can visit the Grand Canyon. Go to Oregon or Delaware for tax free shopping ;).
    As for the price, that will vary quite a bit depending on where you're going to stay. Living in five star hotels vs hostels will obviously make a big difference. The train system in North America is far less developed than Europe, so you should expect to travel by car or plane, and count that into your budget.
     
  6. benflick macrumors 68020

    benflick

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Location:
    Cincinnati, Ohio
  7. dmr727 macrumors G3

    dmr727

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    #7
    I don't know how things are in the UK, but many car rental places in the States won't rent to someone under 25. Some will charge a fee. So make sure you do your research and find a place that'll rent to you - that way it won't be a surprise once you get here.

    Have fun! I agree with the others that say to pick a half dozen places and concentrate on those. Otherwise you'll spend way too much time on the road.
     
  8. bradl macrumors 68040

    bradl

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    #8
    Another thing to think about, since you mentioned mid-April, is that some places will be in the middle of thawing out from winter. So some places will be the equivalent of a mild winter in the UK (like the midwest/Mountain states). This would be the perfect time for the desert Southwest/high desert. Grand Canyon/Albuquerque/Santa Fe would be great. I would even go as far as mentioning Las Vegas.

    But the others have a good point. With the US being as broad as it is, it isn't like the Europe, where you can jump on a plane, and have crossed over 3 countries and land in a 4th in a 2 - 3 hour flight. It's just that long of a flight from Vegas or Phoenix to Chicago! So it totally depends on what you're looking at doing, as you have at least 6 distinct cultures to choose from (loosely): New England, Southern/Deep South, Amer. Indian, Heartland, Southwest/Hispanic, and Western.

    You could just say "screw it all!" and head over to Hawaii. ;)

    BL.
     
  9. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Location:
    5045 feet above sea level
    #9
    i HIGHLY reccomend visiting Moab, Utah if you are an outdoors person
     
  10. aethelbert macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago, IL, USA
    #10
    I'll just chime in on getting around. If you can narrow your choices down to a small number of destinations (and the surrounding areas, of course), I'd strongly suggest getting an airpass from either One World or Star Alliance (depending on how you get over here, they'll give you the better deal if you use them to hop the pond). This would also give you the chance to see Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, or parts of the Caribbean if you're so inclined. You might run into a lot of trouble trying to rent a car and crossing some parts of this country while driving would just kill you (Kansas, Utah desert, et al). If you plan far enough out, you could work in some smaller trips on scheduled bus service as well.

    And one more thing to save you the hassle of booking it across the nation (and maybe a bit of money, too): when you're booking your flights to and from the US, call your airline of choice to get an invalid segment. They'll essentially book you on a route that doesn't exist and remove the charges for it. So then you can arrive in one city and depart from another (travel west, start in New York and leave from west coast) without suffering through the wasted time of having to go all the way across the country twice.
     
  11. r.j.s Moderator emeritus

    r.j.s

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2007
    Location:
    Texas
    #11
    The Grand Canyon is an amazing sight, but it may be rather difficult to get to in your time frame.
     
  12. bradl macrumors 68040

    bradl

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    #12
    Not entirely, and this is what fits in beautifully. Depending on where the OP is in the UK, they could hop a flight on Virgin from Gatwick straight to Las Vegas (flight 43 to Vegas, flight 44 back). From there it is 30 - 45 minutes by helicopter to the Grand Canyon, let alone 25 minutes in a puddle hopper from North Las Vegas airport. Also, any other major city they'd like to go, either Southwest Airlines (what Ryanair wishes they could be! ;) ) or Virgin America can handle.

    But definitely see if you can get something through Star Alliance, One World, or SkyTeam (If going Virgin, try Star Alliance, as they are partly owned by Singapore Airlines, which is part of Star Alliance).

    BL.
     
  13. furcalchick macrumors 68020

    furcalchick

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2006
    Location:
    South Florida
    #13
    here are my suggestions for what to do for your trip. stay south of the mason-dixon line, avoid the rust belt (it's still cold in april up there). i think the deep south would be your best bet. try hitting savannah, it's a hidden historic gem of american history, and i suggest staying at least 2-3 days there. spend a week in florida (although you can easily zap your whole trip in the state), explore the everglades and try to hit all of the major attractions of the state (not orlando). go to new orleans (it was better before flood k though) and some other southern cities. texas is another week (it takes a whole day of driving just to cross the state, it's bigger than most european countries). and the best part, prices are lower in these parts of the country than up north, typically.
     
  14. Counterfit macrumors G3

    Counterfit

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2003
    Location:
    sitting on your shoulder
    #14
    I think the Rockies get more snow in April than the UK does all winter. ;)
    If you're into history at all, you MUST go to Philadelphia and Boston.
    God's waiting room. :p
     
  15. timmyb thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #15
    First of all thanks for those who have contributed so far - some really useful stuff.

    I realise that America is absolutely huge. I'm now thinking more like 6-8 weeks to give me a greater opportunity to see things, (I understand it's pretty straightforward to get up to a 3 month travel visa,) but I know that that won't really scratch the surface.

    Broadly speaking I was planning on flying to the east coast and then back from the west coast, but possibly zigzagging a bit on my way across. I had a quick look on BA's website and there are just under 20 routes over the Atlantic from London, so where I start and finish is very flexible - I won't be booking anything for a while.

    Some more specific responses:

    Great post John. The first paragraph really sums up what I'm looking for. I'm used to big cities in of themselves, (I live in London and have visited the majority of western-European capitals.) Having said that I don't want to completely avoid them, but would want to go for something more than it just being a big city, with the attractions that brings. NYC, New Orleans and Las Vegas stand out as examples of cities with something extra. I'm not planning on this being my only visit - I think I'll be depositing plenty of my money in the US over my lifetime, don't worry about that! However I'm unlikely ever to do so on the same scale.

    Leading on from above this is perhaps a bit trickier, as the cities are obviously what I've heard more about but I don't just want to go on a tour of the big US conurbations. Here are a few off the top of my head: NYC; New Orleans; Las Vegas; Grand Canyon (have to see it in my lifetime); the lakes; Yellowstone/Yosemite; Des Moines (my only basis is hearing someone waxing lyrical on it); Kentucky (having seen the Derby is on in May this is something I'd love to see.) I want to see bits of America that are often missed out or harder to visit on shorter trips. Additionally I'd love to see things that only happen in the time period I'll be there, (around April/May/June,) such as the Derby.

    See the sights and take photos would probably sum it up! It sounds pretty corny, but I want to experience the sights & sounds on America.

    The weather doesn't really bother me, so long as I'm prepared! I'm currently trying to get a job in the Alps for the winter so should be used to the sight of snow!

    I had a quick look at the Avis website and you're right, they will rent to under 25s but add a (pretty hefty) surcharge.

    I'd never heard of these before, they sound quite good. The pricing is done on distance. As a comparison, how much do one way flights tend to cost? (I realise this is a very broad and badly put question! An answer from personal experience of any route would help to illustrate though.)
     
  16. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

    Joined:
    May 21, 2007
    #16
    You've been to NYC, DC, and SF, but what about Chicago?

    I doubt you could fit it in if you are planning a deep South type trip, but you should consider it.

    Now for pure culture shock value, I might say you should see Texas. ;)

    If you are looking for something different, I think the Southwest offers you a very different perspective.

    Overall, I think you should definitely keep Texas in mind, because it has a mix of urban and rural that you might find will give you a nice balance.
     
  17. Cinematographer macrumors 6502a

    Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2005
    Location:
    far away
    #17
    My recommandations: The national parks, especially Yosemite, Yellowstone and Arches Park.
     
  18. wordmunger macrumors 603

    wordmunger

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2003
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #18
    With that amount of time it'd be really cool to get a car and drive across the country. I haven't looked into this myself, but I imagine you could buy a used car on the east coast, drive across the country, then sell it on the west coast, perhaps only losing $500 total (plus gas) -- much cheaper than renting. But you'd have to have enough money at the start to afford this. Plus you might end up having to repair the car somewhere along the way.

    For Europeans, the American Southwest is unlike anything they've ever seen. Arizona, New Mexico, the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Death Valley, are going to be the most unusual. Places like the Rockies are more like what you're used to seeing in Europe (though they are spectacular too).

    Consider driving down the east coast to Florida for some beaches. Then through New Orleans. Then finish with the Southwest.

    Sounds like an awesome trip!
     
  19. samiwas macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2006
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    #19
    Some have mentioned taking a bus. Be prepared to meet some VERY VERY interesting characters if you choose this route. And by "interesting", I mean "scary".

    If I were to do the same trip, I would start in the west, and work my way east. Maybe start in Washington or Oregon, and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway into California. Check out a redwood forest, and maybe hit the 17-mile drive around Monterey and Pebble Beach.

    From there, head over to Las Vegas to see excess to the extreme. Then, head north into Utah for it's beauty or Colorado to see the Rockies.

    Next, head down into Arizona and New Mexico to see the grand canyon and other amazing scenic sights (this is the one area of the country I have yet to hit).

    Head thru Texas, maybe see the Alamo or something. I never was a fan of Texas, so do some research on that end to see what you want to see. Follow that with a trip to New Orleans...stay a few nights and have a good time on Bourbon, and out in some of the lesser known, but wonderful areas.

    You could hit Memphis for some great blues and barbeque and general southern goodness. But you might be better served heading on east to Savannah, which, as someone else mentioned, is true south.

    Head up the east, maybe going through the Blue Ridge mountains and into Virginia, where there is some great history. There is plenty to see and no once you get into the Northeast.

    That's just a few ideas. A few days in each place would get most everything in.

    Just skip Atlanta...the traffic is horrible, and we're all jerks! :p
     
  20. Dave00 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2003
    Location:
    Pittsburgh
    #20
    The real key is deciding what your interests are, as others have said. You can take a number of tacks. If you tell me your favorite parts of Europe, I can tell you what you'll like in the U.S. You can focus on a number of areas. History, culture, or nature. The big U.S. cities are similar to European cities; lots of great museums, a multi-ethnic populace, and usually a pretty good public transportation system. I'd say the one thing you can really see in the U.S. that's unsurpassed is the natural wonders, especially in the West. Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Yosemite/the Sequoias&redwoods, Grand Canyon, the Colorado river, the Painted Desert. There's nothing like these anywhere else in the world, in my opinion. Especially Yellowstone. If you're a history buff, you can explore how the world's longest-running democracy was formed in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. However, our idea of "old" is very different than Europe's. Florida and California both have fantastic beaches.

    A visit to New Orleans, Vegas, or any of the other large cities is going to feel much more tourist-y. Derby would be fun, although again very tourist-y.

    Your method of transportation should probably be by car. There's lots of stuff to see on the roads. If you're the adventuresome type and want to save some money, you can make some trips via Greyhound bus, although there are sometimes some real characters on board. Another option would be doing a tour with a group like Contiki (all under age 35). A little young for me now, but I've had great fun with them in the past, and I'm sure you would too.

    If you like snow, April would be a great time to visit Colorado ski slopes or Lake Tahoe. (Simply gorgeous winterscapes.)

    Dave
     
  21. bobfitz14 macrumors 65816

    bobfitz14

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    #21
    visit: Boston, Massachusetts; New York City, New York; anddd somewhere in California, say..San Diego, California.

    i can't really help with the other information. But Boston, NYC and CA are hot spots in the US...check out Florida too.
     
  22. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Location:
    5045 feet above sea level
    #22
    Savannah, Ga and Charleston, SC are very cool places to see
     
  23. synth3tik macrumors 68040

    synth3tik

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2006
    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    #23
    If your driving don't speed through Wis. Yes you will want to but out of state gets you a huge ticket.

    If you like out doors I would suggest visiting the BWCA in northern MN, right now it will be a little cold, but come mid late spring it will be just perfect. Wonderful camping, hiking and canoeing. You can even still canoe your way right into Canada and back again without seeing a soul. The black bears and moose are also really fun to watch. The bald eagles and loons seen from the water are just awesome.

    I would also suggest hiking or horse back riding in Wyoming. My family took our horses out there for a week when I was like 15 or 16 and it was really the trip of a life time. I mean we were out there really weathering it out. 2 canteens of water, a satchel full of dried fruit and nuts, a compass and a side arm for each person. Truly old school. I would suppose that if you went with some sort of recreational party you would be more in a tour and would not get to really travel the mountains.
     
  24. dmr727 macrumors G3

    dmr727

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    #24
    I'm really jealous - I'd love to have the time and means to travel for a few months straight. :)

    I'd consider setting up a blog of some sort (or perhaps simply a 'timmy is traveling' thread) to chronicle your travels. Almost every hotel in the U.S. has free high speed internet access in the rooms. The cool thing about MacRumors is the sheer volume of users - there's bound to be someone that can give you insight into any city or town you happen to be in. And a blog would allow those people can give their advice as you move around the country.
     
  25. aethelbert macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago, IL, USA
    #25
    The cost of a one way segment really depends on the markets that you're traveling between, not necessarily the length of the trip. For instance, I live in Indianapolis, which doesn't really have a hub status for any airline which produces a lot of competition. Airlines tend to keep their prices down a lot here in order to get passengers. I booked a trip on Delta from here to Orlando to attend a conference for $98 round trip. Orlando is mainly a vacation market, though, which caters to people who tend to fly for cheap. So on that end there's competition as well. If I were to fly on the same dates (same airline, too) from Cincinnati to Miami, roughly the same distance, it would cost over $700 with fees.

    If you buy an airpass, be sure to consider luggage fees into the total cost. Typically, the savings of the airpass will be much greater than the $50 needed to check two bags, but the cost should be considered nonetheless. Comparing the airpass rate with those of other carriers on the same route (Southwest would be a good one to compare with) would allow you to strategically use the airpass most effectivly on the more expensive segments. If you book a dead segment on your ticket across the pond, you'll be able to save yourself the need for an extra $330 transcontinental flight as well. I do lots of timetable work for Lufthansa and I'm consistently hearing success stories about these airpasses with Star Alliance (one world's seems very similar) so they're probably a pretty good deal. I'd also try to compare these with what SkyTeam offers as they have three major US carriers (Continental, Delta, and Northwest) on their network, resulting in what is probably the greatest amount of choices.
     

Share This Page