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2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Hobart
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2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Hi everyone,

I am looking for some initial advice in planning my 2015 US roadtrip!

A little about us... I will be travelling with my boyfriend, we are in our mid-twenties and have both been to the US once before. His style of travel is very much impromptu and he doesn't at all mind roughing it if it saves him a buck, whereas I prefer to stay in clean places and eat out etc whilst I travel and love to have everything organised months in advance haha.

This trip we hope to combine both our travelling styles somehow - it will also be our first overseas trip together!

We are hoping this trip can be somewhere between 2-3 months long (depends on how long we can get out of work). My first initial questions to help my planning are:

1. Is accommodation, car hire, attractions etc more expensive during summer? Would our budget take more of a hit if we were to travel in these months?

2. How realistic is it to not book lodging in advance? In the US is lodging generally more expensive if you turn up on the day looking for a room versus booking it in advance?

3. Our main areas of travel will be the South/Southwest/California - what time of year would you suggest is the best for these areas? We were thinking anytime between April-October?

Thanks :)

Cleveland
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1. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Early June through at least the second week of August is the height of the summer school vacation season in the U.S. Lodging costs are higher and availability is much less, especially in popular areas such as the great national parks. In-park lodging for these parks may be fully booked, especially for summer months, as much as a year ahead of time.

It will be very hot in the Southwest in the summer. We might once again debate whether or not you can fry an egg on a car hood.

So for all of these reasons, spring and fall are better travel months. The one disadvantage that is certain is that day lengths are shorter, especially in the autumn.

Many U.S. hotel chains now are operating like airlines. Rates are lower if booked well in advance, especially on a non-refundable basis. Off-season, lodging markets are more lax. Have you considered tent camping?

AAA discounts likely will be useful and should be available to you on a reciprocal basis if you're a member of an auto club.

Read through this forum for many months for relevant threads. Also check relevant trip reports in the trip report thread at the top of the forum.

Norwich, United...
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2. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

> we are in our mid-twenties

You might fall one side or the other of the additional young driver surcharge that car rental companies impose, so that would be worth researching.

> How realistic is it to not book lodging in advance?

It varies, depending on the place and what you're happy with. Accommodation within national parks books up long in advance but in most cases there are towns fairly close by with motels at various price levels. It's a good idea to pre-book a few days ahead of yourself during the trip, especially over weekends and in tourist towns. That can be a confirmed booking which will be held all night and you'll be charged even if you don't show up, or an unconfirmed booking which will be automatically cancelled at no charge to you if you don't show up by a certain time (normally 4pm but it varies). Pre-booking any more than that destroys your flexibility of course

> what time of year would you suggest is the best for these areas? We were thinking anytime between April-October?

That's fine - avoid winter in anything other than the southernmost states, that's really the only rule.

For more information:

Wikipedia

Google Maps (locate places, check routes and distances, search for accommodation)

US National Park Service http://www.nps.gov (information on each park, and detailed maps showing the roads, hiking trails and where relevant the free shuttle bus routes)

YouTube (try a search for "road trip" but you might have to suffer quite a lot of rubbish before you find a good one, but there definitely are some extremely good ones on there)

This YouTube channel has good videos, mainly short, for each of the national parks https://www.youtube.com/user/58NationalParks

If you're going to be visiting a number of national parks then an annual pass which covers all the parks and national monuments would be worth purchasing, at the first park you visit.

Ohio
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3. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Avoid summer travel. Hot in the south and southwest-- and families travel at that time so increases lodging prices. If you plan to see the national parks, book lodging for those dates. Mostly, I think you can stop where you wish without having an issue with lodging. I personally HATE traveling that way, so I feel your pain! :) Did road trips as a kid and remember dragging along looking for motels cheap enough, clean enough and big enough rooms to accommodate all of us.... UGH! I don't leave home now without having everything booked! However.... the amount of time you are here? it'd be almost impossible to have all the lodging lined up. Focus on lodging at the national parks and go with the flow with the rest.

Perhaps head out late August thru October? It's my preference for travel in the southwest. If you're in the area early Oct-- the hot air balloon fiesta in Albuquerque, NM is fantastic! over 700 hot air balloons launch and fly from a huge field. anyways-- just thought of that when I mentioned Oct.

Cleveland
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4. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Actually, winter can be a great time to visit, depending upon your interests, especially if they include winter sports. E.g., NYC between late November and early January is very popular. The Northeast Corridor, from Boston to Washington, has subways that mute the impact of winter storms and museums and other attraction are relatively empty. Cultural tours to the likes of Cleveland and Chicago are superb (both cities feature the continent's best orchestras and great museums) and relatively cheap. Winter sports such as the hockey and the NBA are in full swing.

If you catch ice on the Great Lakes, it can be a great memory. Last year in Feb., for the first time in years, I was able to walk about 1/3 of a mile offshore on Lake Erie, and I could have gone much further. It's an amazing experience, and likely, they had ice fishing huts up in Put-in-Bay. The ice and snow in northern Michigan and Minnesota is spectacular. Brainerd, MN, has Scandinavian-like winter resorts that emphasize everything from sleighs to hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails.

Yellowstone even offers winter adventures.

The West can be relatively empty and spectacular in its winter clothing. The trick is to watch weather forecasts and to dodge major storms.

I'm a winter guy, and avoid heat and humidity whenever possible. Winter visitors certainly must learn to respect nature, especially by driving and walking cautiously on icy or slippery roads and walkways.

For most, spring and fall visits are best, but I've read trip reports of enchanted winter visitors from snowless climes.

Houston, TX
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5. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Be careful with the hotel bookings you make in advance and always check the cancellation policy carefully. In post 2 John talks about bookings that are automatically cancelled at no charge if you don't show up by a certain time. We travel often, and I have to tell you I haven't seen a booking like that in years. Typically when you make the booking, you need to use a credit or debit card number to do so. Many, but not all hotels, will give you a time on the day by which you need to cancel; if you don't cancel before that time and you don't show up, your card will be charged, usually for at least one night's stay. Some places require more notice; some will take a fee no matter when you cancel. Most of the large chain hotels have brands (Embassy Suites, Residence Inn, Hampton Inn, Fairfield Suites, Springhill Suites etc etc) that have liberal cancellation policies, so check carefully.

The national parks begin accepting bookings a year in advance and generally book up fast. So as suggested above, once you have a tentative plan, book those first and then go from there. We hardly ever travel without booking in advance; saves you time on the day, looking for a room. Also protects you from turning up in a place in the midst of a local event (college move in, move out or commencement or parent's weekend, festivals, walks or runs, art shows, etc) and finding everything is booked up. Some places require a two or three night minimum, depending on location or time of year. Much easier to do a little research in advance and have that done before you get here.

Lewes, United...
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6. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Hi

We avoid summer travel for lots of reasons, prices being generally higher and popular tourist destinations being more crowded among them.

There are differing views on the pros and cons of booking ahead forcing a trip to have less flexibility versus knowing where you will head meaning you don't have any last minute concerns regarding prices and availaiblity. If you are on a super tight budget, booking ahead allows you to manage that budget and walk up prices are almost always, with very few exceptions, higher. Long gone are the days when a strip of motels anywhere in the west of the USA all had vacancy signs and you could walk into any one and negotiate the price, after checking that the room was clean enough to your liking.

We mostly plan our trips as my other half doesn't like nasty surprises, and we've had a few over the many years we have been road tripping in the USA!!!

I would agree with TxOWG's comments, too. Any advance reservations we've ever made has always put the onus on us to cancel, not the other way round, to avoid being charged.

SWT

Norwich, United...
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7. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

> Typically when you make the booking, you need to use a credit or debit card number to do so.

Motel 6's current directory says: "If guaranteed with your credit card, your reservation will be held all night for your arrival. If you are unable to guarantee your reservation, your room will be held until 6:00 p.m. (at most locations)." - www.motel6.com/inc/directory/#/5/zoomed

I read that as meaning that if you supply a card number when making a reservation then it's guaranteed, held all night, and you pay regardless of whether you show, whereas if you don't supply a card number then it's provisional and automatically cancelled if you don't show up by the stated time. I haven't checked any other chains, it was painful enough to find it on Motel 6's web site.

Lewes, United...
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8. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Well, it's a long time since we opted for a Motel 6, we normally aim for that small step above to provide a bit more comfort and a larger room, so I cannot comment on their reservation poilcies, but I'm really surprised you can make any kind of online reservation these days without supplying a credit card number. Heck, you seem to need to provide a credit card number just to register on some websites where no financial transaction is involved. So I've learned something!

SWT

Hobart
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9. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Oh wow - I just googled the Alburquque balloon festival and it looks amazing! Have you been before? Do you know if lodging in the area is ridiculously expensive during the festival dates?

Thanks!

Hobart
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10. Re: 2-3 month US roadtrip - initial advice

Thanks for this information!

We don't like extreme heat or cold. I think for what we are after Spring or Fall would be the best time to travel. I was worried that this time of year might have been hurricane season for the South.

Speaking of sports it is one of our interests to attend some live sporting matches whilst in the US. Are you saying that NBA isn't on during the Spring or Fall? To attend some NBA, NFL and MLB games would we best to travel to the US during Spring or Fall?

Thanks :)