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So I'm planning a trip to the USA...

Travelling from one side of the country to the other. Anyone suggest a cheap, efficient way to do it?
12 years ago, March 9th 2011 No: 1 Msg: #130717  
This September I want to be on the road again. I want to land in San Francisco first, then make my way to New York, checking out several places of interest along the way.

I've gotta see Yosemite NP, can't miss that. I'm sure there are plenty of tours operating out of San Francisco.

After that, I want to take the train to Los Angeles. Would train be the best/cheapest option here?

For Los Angeles, I'd like some recommendations on what to see and what to do, in the city and nearby.

Then I want to make my way to Las Vegas. Again, is train the best option here? I've definitely got to see the Grand Canyon once I'm here too.

After Las Vegas, I plan on dropping by Phoenix to see one of my friends. Then I'd like to know about a list of places to see that are between here and Chicago, which is my next stop. (I'm doing all of this overland, by the way) I've heard Denver and Salt Lake City are good places to set as your base for nature sightseeing. I want to see some of the good National Parks between Phoenix and Chicago. Monument Valley, perhaps, if that's not too far out of the way.

When all that is over, I'd like to know about things to do in Chicago. Then I'd like to travel to the Illinois town of Peoria to see a friend, and there are no hostels. The cheapest hotels are around $50. Is there any way to beat this, such as, university dorm rooms, hire an apartment?

After Chicago and Peoria, I want to see Indianapolis, Memphis, Little Rock and New Orleans, before making my way to Miami. Then from Miami, it's a northbound journey to Washington DC and New York, which marks the end of my American journey. Is there anything close to these areas that I definitely shouldn't miss (National Parks mainly speaking).

Thanks a bunch if anyone can help.

Saki Reply to this

12 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 2 Msg: #130822  
Hi Saki,

Welcome to Travelblog!

It sounds like you have a great plan outlined. Where will you be starting your trip from? Will this be your first trip to the United States? September is a great time to make this trip. How much time do you have for your travels from San Francisco to New York?

Train travel in the United States may not be the best option for you. It is not that inexpensive and the routes will not take you to all of the places you are going. I'd suggest taking a bus or purchasing an inexpensive car for your travels.

$50 for a hotel is going to be as cheap as it comes. In the larger cities like San Francisco you will be able to book a hostel for about $30.

You are planning to go to a lot of places so a car might be your best option.

LA to Las Vegas = 4 /12 hour drive
LA to San Francisco = 7 hour drive there are some wonderful places to visit along the way
San Francisco to Seattle = 15 hour drive
Las Vegas to Phoenix = 5 1/2 hour drive
Phoenix to the Grand Canyon = 10 hour drive

LA to Chicago = 4 hour flight and will cost about $380 per person
San Francisco to Seattle = 2 hour flight and will cost $250
Seattle to Las Vegas = 2 1/2 hour flight and will cost about $275 per person

If you want to do an internet search on inexpensive hotels look at Super 8 or Motel 6.
You mentioned that you want to go to Yosemite NP so I assume you like the outdoors. You may want to explore the Seattle area.
Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens are worth the trip north. My favorite park is Glacier National Park in Montana. I could spend the next hour talking with you about the fantastic National Parks that we have.
Others to consider- Yellowstone National Park, White Sands,

Tell me again how much time you have?
Your limitations are going to be money......and time.

Things to see in Seattle
Pike's Place Market is wonderful. It is down on the water. Just lovely.
Th Underground Tour is very nice. It takes about 1 1/2 hours. It is a humorous tour. Years ago the city was destroyed so they built the new city on top of the old city. The tour takes you through about 5 or 6 blocks underground while they tell you the colorful history of the city. The last time I took this tour it was $12 per person but that has been at least 3 years.
Mt. Rainier is 2 hours away.
The Space Needle provides great views. It cost about $15 per person to go to the top.
The Duck (amphibious boat) is a fun tour.
Walking the city streets is wonderful and lots of great neighborhoods.
The city buses are good in Seattle

Things to see in San Francisco
Top of the Mark hotel offers great views
The Trolley Cars are worth the wait in the line to ride.
Lombard street zig zags its way in town. A fun street to drive down.
Chinatown is great.
Fisherman's Wharf is not to be missed.
The tour to Alcatraz is very good

Things to see in LA:
Not sure where to start. Such a large city.
Venice Beach
Rodeo Drive
Sunset strip

The drive from LA to San Francisco is not to be missed. Stop for lunch in Santa Barbara, tour the Heart Castle in San Simeon-- you will learn a great deal about America, stop in Carmel and Monteray--- actually you should spend at least one night if not two. 17 mile drive is the best! Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley's are close to San Francisco if you want to go taste some wines.

Las Vegas
There is a trolly that drives up and down the strip all day long. You can hop on and hop off. One day our goal was to go inside all the major hotels on the strip and check out the lobbies. It took all day because we would stop for drinks or whatever.
Lots of shopping, swimming pool and shows. Amazing shows.

At the Grand Canyon you can make plans in advance and hike down, take a burro down or fly over in a helicopter. Sitting on the south rim and doing nothing is another great option.

Denver is a fantastic city located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It is a fantastic city. Two hours in any direction provides you with options for hiking, biking, canoeing, skiing.

The Canyons of Utah are well worth a visit if you have the time.
The United States is a very large country. Your plans cover hundreds of miles.

Indianapolis is a fantastic city. I'm glad you are going to Peoria. Too many people come to America and not see any small towns. America is all about small town America.
Memphis and New Orleans are music cities. You will have a fantastic time.

If you drive you can add cities like Jacksonville and Savannah.

You will be here during football season so if going to an American football game interest you.

Ask some specific questions and I can answer them.

Happy travels.

Reply to this

12 years ago, March 12th 2011 No: 3 Msg: #130935  
Thanks a bunch for your helpful response. 😊

I will be flying in from Sydney, and yes this will be my first visit to the USA. I'm thinking that I'll need a month or a month and a half to complete my journey.

I was also considering a new option; couchsurfing, when it comes to accommodation. Has anyone here had experience with couchsurfing? Was it successful? I'd like to know a bit more before getting into it.

I would like to ask an additional question about entry requirements/visas, as immigration officials cause me a lot of paranoia. Exactly what counts as a criminal record? Surely a parking fine or driving incident wouldn't mean I'd be denied entry, would it? I'm an Australian citizen, and I'm not entirely sure if I even have to apply for a visa. Reply to this

12 years ago, March 13th 2011 No: 4 Msg: #130995  
Couch surfing is something for you to consider.

Please click on forums at the top. Then click on General forums, once that screen opens, on the top right you will see search- type in couch surfing. It will bring up multiple previous threads on couch surfing that will provide you valuable information.

To complete the outline that you have shared with me -- LA, San Francisco, Yosemite, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Monument Valley, Memphis, Peoria, Indianapolis, Little Rock, New Orleans, Washington DC, New York and Miami it cannot be done in one month. You've listed 17 locations that you want to see and you'll need three to five days in each location plus you need time for travel in between. You will need 10 to 15 weeks to see what you want to see.

As for a visa, you do not need a visa if you stay for less than 90 days as a tourist. A minor traffic violation would not have prevented you from gaining a visa.

No worries, bring your sunnies! Happy travels.
Reply to this

12 years ago, March 14th 2011 No: 5 Msg: #131119  
I've had a look through some of the threads about couchsurfing. On the couchsurfing website, though, I can't seem to search for couches by city - only by country, to which then it would give me a list.

I've also considered another option. Travelling by bicycle. I've heard of some people who have travelled across the country. I'd sure like to give that a shot, it would be a very adventurous experience, and I'm an adventure person. How much would it cost to buy myself a bike over in the US?

Furthermore, what about travelling by car? I've heard some people buy a car, then sell it before leaving the country. Would this work for me better than public transportation?

Also, I'm sure I could do everything I want within 2 months - I won't be spending 3-5 days in all places - some I plan on giving 2 days. I've made a spreadsheet itinerary and worked out about how long my trip could take. I spent 4 months travelling across 27 countries, 2 continents and around 40 locations in the summer of 2010.
Reply to this

12 years ago, March 14th 2011 No: 6 Msg: #131136  
I love the bicycle idea if time is not a factor. It would certainly cut down on your cost. LA to NYC is about 3,000 miles or 5,000km
If you are going to ride that distance I think you would want to purchase a quality bike like a "Trek" or other name brand. They will run you $400 to $1000 depending on the model you purchase. You can buy an inexpensive bike for $100.

I think purchasing a car is a better option but the bike is by far more adventurous. The car would work better than public transportation.... although you can make a bus work for you.
Reply to this

12 years ago, March 15th 2011 No: 7 Msg: #131187  
The only problem I can think of with the bike, is that I won't know exactly how long it will take to get me from point A to point B in order to know exactly when to book accommodation in advance. I might have to stop a few places along the route, and I might not find a place to sleep. And then there's the possibility of getting lost as well.

Will I be allowed to take my bike on board a plane? I plan on going to the UK after - I don't want to have to sell the bike in America, then buy another one in the UK.

Thanks again. Reply to this

12 years ago, March 15th 2011 No: 8 Msg: #131203  
Yes, you can take the bike in cargo on the plane. Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2011 No: 9 Msg: #133041  
B Posts: 58
We will be in the US from July till the end of the year. Your itinerary for about 6 weeks Saki makes us feel like wimps. Thanks Dave and Merry Jo. Your advice on places to see and go is useful.

You don't need a visa as an Australian for 90 days but from what I can tell you will need one for a longer stay. What you do is complete an ETSA on line before you go. Just go onto the Homeland Security site and follow the links. This gives you a pre-approval and that will smooth things considerably. When they send you an approval it is a good idea to take a note of the approval number. We had some problems at the border even though we had the ETSA. They took a long time to find one of our records. For some reason they refused to look at the approval on our lap top or even look up the number. Guess we looked suspicious.

Buying cars in the US for foreigners seems to be difficult. But you can do it if you have a US address that you can use. Renting vehicles is possible though and the prices aren't too bad provided you are able to return the car to the place of pick up. The cost of one way hire is much higher than in a lot of other countries for some reason. Reply to this

12 years ago, April 6th 2011 No: 10 Msg: #133046  
I've found a one way hire car for 2 days, driving from Phoenix to Salt Lake City, for the price of $57.62 USD. I thought, this sounded too good to be true. Could it be an error on the website? Reply to this

12 years ago, April 6th 2011 No: 11 Msg: #133051  
It could be true. They sometimes run specials. They will add taxes and insurance on top of that so you will need to ask. Make CERTAIN they are offering unlimited mileage. This is extremely important when renting a car in the US. Make sure there is not an additional fee for dropping the car off in a city different than the one you picked it up in.

Ask lots of questions and read the fine print. Reply to this

12 years ago, April 7th 2011 No: 12 Msg: #133126  
B Posts: 58
We were lucky enough to find one in Alaska a few years ago for $25 per day for a week with unlimited miles but that was because they wanted the vehicle in Anchorage. But do as Dave and Merry Jo say. Read it all and make sure you pin the deal down clearly. Reply to this

10 years ago, July 23rd 2012 No: 13 Msg: #159094  

In response to: Msg #130717

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Reply to this

10 years ago, August 1st 2012 No: 14 Msg: #159415  
Looking for tour to Las Vegas next month and huge planning for a perfect holiday with my wife is going on these days, it is really nice to think about a perfect holiday in Las Vegas city, giant casinos and hotels are real pleasure for travelers, we can also visit historical places in the city which will follow up by botanical garden.

[Edited: 2012 Aug 02 04:25 - Rat on the Road:23681 - No URLs in signatures please]
Reply to this

10 years ago, August 13th 2012 No: 15 Msg: #159906  
B Posts: 602
Purchasing a car is an option, but you end up with one to sell at the end of the trip. Then you have to get insurance on it. You have to purchase 6 months worth at a time, but will be refunded for what you do not use. I know State Farm will insure you.

It is just starting to get colder here in September, so a bike would not be good come Oct. for many states.

One way rentals are what will make it expensive. If you could make it back to the beginning it would really reduce the cost. The US is almost as big as Australia. It might be a thought to do one side of the country and then be able to return to your starting point. Reply to this

10 years ago, September 13th 2012 No: 16 Msg: #160954  
I suggest you to check out this guide.

The guide helped me see a lot of beautiful places in the USA, for just ~20 bucks per day. (excluding flight costs from Europe to the States, but you won't have any problem with that).

At first i was sceptic because of the 20 bucks i had to pay for the guide, but it turned out to be a real money saver.

Hope you have a nice trip! Reply to this

9 years ago, January 15th 2014 No: 17 Msg: #178660  
Yes you can. Reply to this

6 years ago, December 30th 2016 No: 18 Msg: #199185  
The best way to do the trip as cheap as possible in my opinion is by hitchhiking to move around and using couchsurfing to sleep at night. Good Luck! Reply to this

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