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Is this possible

Somerset
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Is this possible

Hi TAs

I have once again come back to you all to access your vast knowledge. We are currently very much at the planning stage but we have the germ of an idea and thought I would put it past you to see if it had any legs.

As a few of you may know Lyn (my wife) and I have had two amazing holidays in the US – the first being the South West and reported on Trip Advisor as ‘The Trip of a Lifetime” and the second was when we visited New England in the Fall – both amazing holidays

We have recently returned from New Zealand where we had the most incredible three weeks but now we are turning our attention to our next holiday and this time we are planning to holiday with two of our friends.

After an initial chat about where to go we came up with a very loose plan which may or may not be possible and I volunteered to have a chat with my TA friends to see whether our musing were in fact possible.

Ok this was our ‘plan’.

We have decided that we would like to return to the US and in the main we would like to have a fly/drive type of holiday. We love the flexibility of driving ourselves but appreciate that because of the size of the US what we want to achieve may require one or two internal flights.

We were thinking about coming over for the first 3 weeks in September – although this could be flexible.

We would probably want to hire a car and sleep overnight in hotel/motels – maybe trying to spend on average £100 per couple per night – just checked what the conversion rate is and it is about 1.50 dollars to the pound.

So the route – well there are only 3 fixed points to be honest – starting point would be Yellowstone Park – the second fixed point would be Chicago/Lake Michigan and the 3rd fixed point would be Niagara Falls.

So as you can see this trip is really travelling very roughly across the northern states – now this is a long way so the questions are many:

Is it possible at a sensible pace to make this distance in three weeks – given that we would want to spend a few days in Yellowstone and Lake Michigan - I expect the answer is no.

If the answer in no – is it possible to do this trip with a combination of road travel and internal domestic flights or even rail travel.

We have identified Yellowstone, Chicago/Lake Michigan and Niagara Falls as scenic highlights of this trip – I know there are many more – could you recommend any other scenic highlights that would be must sees on this route.

I’m sure there will be many other questions but it would be very interesting to get your initial reaction as this may put an end to this idea before it has really started.

Any comments would be very much appreciated – I intent to post this request on the following State Forums:

Wyoming

North Dakota

South Dakota

Iowa

Nebraska

Minnesota

Wisconsin

Illinois

Indiana

Ohio

Pennsylvania

New York

Many thanks for your continued help and support.

North Dakota
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1. Re: Is this possible

let me try to get my friends who were here a few summers ago and did chicago to the west coast see if they can jump in. i think flying from chicago to new york but doing the rest as a drive might be a good idea. hopefully i can get charley to weigh in for you too.

Somerset
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2. Re: Is this possible

Hi JACombs - that would be really helpful - thanks

Scottsdale, Arizona
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3. Re: Is this possible

You can totally drive the whole leg of that trip in three weeks! Helpful tidbit: keep in mind, if you do decide to drive the whole way, you will hit toll booths once you hit Illinois onward to the east, if you stick on the interstate. It'll prob cost you around $30 total for that leg, give or take a few bucks. $30 is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but I just wanted to let you know so you aren't surprised, and make sure you have cash for that!

In Indiana they have many Amish towns (Shipshewana, Goshen, etc) that are very quaint, and they have the BEST food. They have awesome stuff to buy too, built well. Just keep in mind they don't like people staring at them and taking pictures, very demeaning! And they drive around on the roads in a horse and buggy, so watch out!

If you do decide to drive through Chicago, DO NOT stop in a town called Gary. Apparently you will have a death wish if you do...that's what people informed me when I drove out east this past fall. Also, you could drive all of it through the United States, or you could drive up through Michigan and into Ontario, Canada, to get to Niagara Falls.

Here's what to do if you drive through the US: you can drive through Indiana, hitting up the quaint Amish towns; drive through Ohio is boring (no offense to people from Ohio) but if you want you can go to Sandusky, Ohio, and go to Cedar Point Amusement Park (if you're into that, they have a lot of the fastest/tallest/etc roller coasters) and even if you aren't into amusement parks they have a nice beachfront area. Same with in Erie, Pennsylvania, go out onto the Presque Isle State Park (free I believe) and lounge on the beach of Lake Erie.

From Yellowstone, if you do a straight shot to Chicago, depending on what entrance you leave from, you will go through either North Dakota or South Dakota. In South Dakota, you can see Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, very pretty. If you drive through North Dakota you will drive through the Badlands, which is also very pretty, but in a very different way than the Black Hills. If you drive through the Badlands you should stay in Medora for a night or two and see the Medora Musical (and do the pitchfork fondue!) and go horseback riding. There is also a fabulous golf course there.

Best of luck to you with your trip planning!

Scottsdale, Arizona
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4. Re: Is this possible

Oh and I forgot to mention this information for Chicago:

The driving is horrendous...I once drove through Chicago during rush hour and every time after that I've made it a point to hit it at 2 am, if I'm just driving through. That seems to be the only good time to drive through Chicago! And, if you want to stay downtown, their hotels are $$$$ super expensive (and so is parking). But, you can save big money by looking for deals, I usually use these websites: travelzoo, jetsetter, groupon, livingsocial, and you can always do sites like priceline. Those above websites work all around the US, moreso in the populated areas, so you may find some good deals regarding Niagara Falls, or other places. You probably know about those websites since it seems to me you are a very good trip planner, but I thought I'd throw it out there just in case!

Scottsdale, Arizona
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5. Re: Is this possible

One more thing:

You're probably swamped with awesome ideas of what to do, but if you want a very interesting portion of your road trip, and find humor in the most random objects, you might enjoy North Dakota's Enchanted Highway. And also, if you do decide to hang out in the Medora area of North Dakota you could go to Dickinson and go to the Dinosaur Museum. I looked up the Medora Musical schedule and their final performance is September 10th.

Enchanted Highway information:

www.realnd.com/enchantedhighwayindex.htm

Chesham, Bucks...
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6. Re: Is this possible

Hi Somerset Boy - I'm Charley - friends with JA Combs - and a fellow Brit.

Been reading your trip of a lifetime from 2008 - to see what previous experience you have had - and we did a similar trip in 2004 - taking in a very similar route.

Other US Road trips my husband and I have done - 2010 = Anthony, New Mexico - Charlotte, NC (our names - via Norris St in Dallas Texas - to celebrate being Mr & Mrs Norris for 2 years)!! Yep - that's how mental we can be!

2011 - Chicago - Seattle (taking in IL, WI, MN, ND,SD,WY, MT,ID,OR & WA) Because I need to see all 50 states before my 50th --- and it was a great ride - and a good excuse to pop in and see JA Combs too in ND. We only spend about 10 days on the road max as we have friends & family in NY, DE and PA - so squeeze those visits in at the end or beginning of a road trip.

We are usually early risers -get on the road as soon as possible - arrive at the next stop in the early afternoon - look around, sample the cuisine and local hospitality - spend the night then move on.

We never have a budget really - but we do book hotels before we leave the UK- all budget ranges- depending on length of stay in a place. If one night = £50 on average. It does limit the freedom a bit - but it stops us faffing and floundering with no direction - especialiiy as were are on a tight time frame - AND we like to see as much as possible in the time frame we do have.

Our En-Route is often where the real fun happens. We try and combine two things as we cross states... one of them is www.geocaching.com and the other is finding the weird and wacky ... and often free attractions ... found on www.roadsideamerica.com ... you get to go off the beaten track, have a rest stop - and often or not spen very little money - as you see the "real" america and backwaters. Not everyone's bag - but something to consider.

Your must stop - destinations are good ones - and with your time frame and budget - you will definiately be able t do them and may not even need to cosider internal flights.

Have you actually got an order you wish to / NEED to do things in?

Do you both drive - this will help you cover greater distances if you can share the eating up of miles.

Have you considered the direction you will be doing it -- as the time zones can make a slight difference...

2010 - we were racing the clock as we lost hours going West to East .... 2011 -- found it slightly easier to get to a place and gain an hour to see more.

2008 - your roadrip - was that a loop? Please be aware that your proposed trip is porobably not loopable - so when looking at car hire you need to consider the One Way Fee on top of the daily hire charges. It can be over $1000....

This can be horrific and covers the return costs of getting the car back to it's point of origination.

Tip : National Car Hire cap their One Way Fee - approx £500

Also look at Car Hire Brokers - we often use Carhire3000.com - UK based firm. Alway get us a great deal and we use 4x4 SUV vehicles for the roadtrip. Plenty of room to sleep if we get stuck - and the more cupholders the better!!

It;s so much easier to roadtrip these days with sat nav ... back in 2004 I had folders of printoffs from Multimap.com (long before google earth) and "block counting" is a talent of mine while navigatjng cities including LA and San Fran.

Please do feel free to private message me - as could ramble all day...

But in a nutshell:

WY - Sundance - where the Sundance Kid was jailed, Yellowstone, Devils Tower

SD - Keystone, Mount Rushmore, Rapid City (lots of free stuff to see here), Deadwood, Centre of the USA.

ND - Fargo, Bismark, Salem Sue - check out www.roadsideamerica.com.

MN - St Pauls, Minneapolis, Mall of America

WI - We didn't actually stop - just drove through it ....

IL - Chicago - easy to walk around - quite compact for a major US city. NY is our second home - sowe were very impressed and surprised with Chicago.

Time of year you are going - great - Sept should be sunny and big blue skies.

Welcome Centres on the Highways (especially the ones as you just cross state lines) are your friend - get off the road - use the restroom, have your pic taken with the state sign- and pic up the state map for free. Some offer free coffee. Some offer inspiration of where to visit. Use them!

Just so you know we are in the midst of planning our next roadtrip for this Sept too ...

Weekend in NY following by a flght to Nashville,TN -- then on the road to Memphis, TN- Little Rock, AK - Oklahoma Cit, OK - Wichita, KS - Kansas City, MO - St Louis, MO - Indianapolis, IN - Lexington, KT - Nashvilel,TN in about 10 days .... then fly to NY to see see the folks in PA & DE. .... so as you can see we're a bit nutty and used to covering the vast expanses of the US.

I used to live out there and it would often amuse me at first when wherever I asked how far it was to go somewhere it was always given to me in time - never miles!

Hope I have helped a bit and not bored you silly ... but please feel free to to message me if you need any info.

Charley x

Somerset
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7. Re: Is this possible

Skigirltiff and Charleygirl - thank you for your fabulous advice - you are right Inhave been swamped with advice but I'm not complaining - this is better than anything I could have wished for - I am wrestling with a number of issues.

The US has so many incredible things to do and see I would like to maximise our time there - I am quite happy driving especially when the scenery is so fantastic - if I can save time and fly those parts of the trip where the scenery falls below stunning then I think we should do this - although in my experience 1) most of the scenery is stunning and 2) even if it isn't stunning there is always somewhere in the middle of nowhere that is a must see and you have to weigh up if it is worth driving x miles to see whatever it is.

Ever time that some like yourself or Charleygirl respond and write with such passion and enthusiasm I change my mind about what I think we should be doing - right or wrong we are soon going to make our minds up.

I am now worried about Chicago - Given everyone's advice I will not drive in Chicago but other than the driving it sounds a wonderful city to visit but the driving thing is putting us off?

I am leaning towards focusing on traveling around two centres 1) Yellowstone - Tetons, Custer State Park, Badland etc and 2) travelling north over the Great Lakes and maybe end back down at Niagara?

This could of course change tomorrow but I have liked this idea for a while now.

The extra charge for picking up and dropping of a hire car at two different cities is significant and will have to be considered although remember there are two couples and so we will share costs.

Isn't planning just the best part of the holiday well ok not quite the best.

Thanks so much for your advice I'll let you know how I get on.

Somerset
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8. Re: Is this possible

Can I just say thank you to so many Trip Advisors who took the time to help me with the planning of this trip. The advice and help provided was incredible and has provided me with so much information that for A while I didn't know where to start. However, I have read and re-read each and every contribution and eventually I began to see a way through.

There were many cases of the same or similar advice being given over and over again and where this I'd practicable I have amended our itinerary. In fact the itinerary I am proposing now is significantly different to one I originally proposed.

I have also been looking at flights and I think from an international point of view it would be best to fly into Denver and fly out of Toronto.

Time constraints have meant that I have had to remove Chicago from the itinerary altogether.

Take a look at the new itinerary - it is still a rough plan and I'm sure there is still plenty of tweaking to do but I have based a lot of the stops on either a great place to be based to see some of the iconic scenery etc in a particular area or I have decided that a particular location is convenient in terms of number of miles to drive in a particular day.

My biggest concern is something that TAs always remind me of and that is, have I built in enough days to just stop and smell the roses - I don't want so much driving that we don't have time to stop and enjoy the incredible scenery that we are driving through. so maybe I ought to build in more stop days but we have to cover the distance - so this is a dilemma - any suggestions would be really welcome.

Also not sure which domestic airlines to use to fly from Denver to Minneapolis - whilst talking about this - is it worth driving back to Denver from Custer to fly to Minneapolis or should I just carry on and drive on to Minneapolis from Custer?

Anyone have any ideas re best UK airlines that fly into Denver but out of Toronto.

Similarly, anyone help with best car hire company that we could use where we can pick it up at Denver ( or Minneapolis) and drop it off at Toronto?

Sorry for a whole host of new questions.

New and revised itinerary is as follows:-

Day 1 - Fly into Denver

Day 2 - Drive from Denver to Casper - 277 miles - 4 hours

Day 3 - Drive from Casper to Jackson - 280 miles - 5 hours

Day 4 - Day in the Grand Tetons

Day 5 - Drive from Jackson to Yellowstone - 80 miles - 1.75 hrs

Day 6 - Day in Yellowstone

Day 7 - Day in Yellowstone

Day 8 - Drive from Yellowstone to Cody - 100 miles - 2 hrs

Day 9 - Drive from Cody to Hulett - 319 miles - 5 hrs

Day 10 - Drive Hulett to Custer - 117 miles - 2 hrs

Day 11 - Day in and around Hulett

Day 12 - Drive from Custer to Guernsey - 158 miles - 2.5 hrs

Day 13 - Drive from Guernsey to Denver - 198 miles - 3 hrs

Day 14 - Fly to Minneapolis

Day 15 - Drive from Minneapolis to Duluth - 154 miles - 2.25 miles

Day 16 - Drive from Duluth to Thunder Bay - 190 miles - 3.50 hrs

Day 17 - Drive from Thunder Bay to Marathon - 187 miles - 3.50 hrs

Day 18 - Drive from Marathon to Sault Ste Marie - 255 miles - 5 hrs

Day 19 - Drive from Sault Ste Marie to Grundy Lake - 234 miles - 4.25 hours

Day 20 - Drive from Grundy Lake to Toronto - 192 miles - 3 hrs

Day 21 - drive to Niagara Falls and return to Toronto - 160 miles round trip - 3 hrs.

Day 22 - Fly home from Toronto

North Dakota
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9. Re: Is this possible

I think it makes more sense to drive from Custer to MSP. It is at most a day trip of like 7 hours or so. Or you can swing up take I-94 to MN border and follow a much more lovely path up to Duluth through Highway 10 to Brainerd and then up. Unless there is some reason you really want to visit Minneapolis?

Somerset
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10. Re: Is this possible

Do you know what - this is a complete u turn on my original thoughts but I have tussled and tussled over this itinerary and I keep on thinking that we are trying to cram in too much. It's a bit like being a child in a sweetie shop - there are so many incredible places to visit there is a danger of trying to do too much.

Although we have never minded putting in the miles my biggest concern is having enough time to stop a take a good long look at some of the magnificent countryside that we will be passing through. I don't really want to be flying past all of these incredible locations because we are under time pressure to get to our next destination.

Also, I have taken on board the additional costs involved in flying in and out of different airports and dropping off hire cars in different cities or even different countries.

I now think we may be better of spending a day or two extra in Yellowstone ( which to be honest was our prime reason for this trip) and with all the fabulous advice we have already received build in a return loop from Denver and returning to Denver - Leaving the Great Lakes, Chicago and Niagara Falls for another visit.

I feel a lot more comfortable with this plan - back to the drawing board.