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US Road Trip in December

Melbourne, Australia
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US Road Trip in December

Hi All,

I know this is the New York forum but its the one place we've been int he US so far. Since everyone in NY was so incredible and clearly well travelled we thought we pose this question.

Myself and my fiancé are both in our late 20’s and are leaving London to move back to our home in Australia. We’re currently planning our trip home and are working on a road trip in the U.S. staying as far south as possible to ensure the best possible weather given the time of year.

Any thoughts on our current below plan? Places we should skip? Places we’ve missed? Cities we’re spending too much/too little time in?

Sat 13th Dec Fly: London - Washington

Sun 14th Dec Fly: Washington – Miami

Mon 15th Dec Miami

Tue 16th Dec Miami

Wed 17th Dec Miami (possible Everglades day trip)

Thurs 18th Dec Pickup hire car

Miami - St Petersburg or Mobile (Via Walt Disney World for a photo – don’t think we’re interested in visiting)

Fri 19th Dec St Petersburg or Mobile - New Orleans

Sat 20th Dec New Orleans

Sun 21st Dec New Orleans

Mon 22nd Dec New Orleans - Houston

Tue 23rd Dec Houston - Austin

Wed 24th Dec Austin – Houston

Drop off hire car

Fly: Houston - Las Vegas

Rather than fly this leg should we continue from Austin to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Sedona? Our guess is that its too cold and with such short time we should fly?

Thurs 25th Dec Las Vegas

Fri 26th Dec Las Vegas

Is it worth a day trip to the Grand Canyon in our car or even by coach? If we go do we need more time in Vegas?

Sat 27th Dec Pickup hire car

Las Vegas - San Francisco

How can we fit in Yosemite National Park or is December the wrong time of year to see it anyway?

Alternatively should we visit Sequoia National Park?

Sun 28th Dec San Francisco

Mon 29th Dec San Francisco

Tue 30th Dec San Francisco - Los Angeles

Wed 31st Dec Los Angeles

Thurs 1st Jan Los Angeles

Fri 2nd Jan Los Angeles

Sat 3rd Jan Los Angeles - San Diego

Sun 4th Jan San Diego

Mon 5th Jan San Diego – Los Angeles

Drop off hire car

Fly Los Angeles - Australia

Thanks in advance!


New York NY
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1. Re: US Road Trip in December

Corey - I've driven across the U.S. many times and it is definitely quite an experience. Some of the life experiences I'd include at the top of my list involve some of my cross country road trips. It is an incredible experience not to be missed.

I've also taken the Indian Pacific across Australia from Sydney to Perth. It is definitely best to do these things when you're in your 20's and low 30's. I don't see myself wanting to do these complicated things when I hit 40.

I think you're missing some highlights. I think there are alot of opportunities to refine the itinerary to be a little more efficient.

What I'd like to know before I can tell you what I suggest is whether any of the places between Miami and Las Vegas are essential. The Houston - Austin - Houston, is this necessary? Is Houston even necessary?

How do you intend to get around in Miami without a car? South Florida is next to impossible without a car.

Some top line thoughts...

I might pick the car up when I landed at Miami. Upon departure from Miami I'd take a different route and I wouldn't go through St. Petersburg unless there is a reason to do that. Miami - St. Pete - Orlando - Mobile involves some backtracking. But if you're going to St. Pete to see old friends from Grad school or you want to visit because of something you've read, it doesn't matter that it is out of the way. I'm just not sure why you picked St. Pete.

If you're not doing St. Pete, then Miami to Orlando via Florida's Turnpike. Spend a night in Orlando, the touristy stuff is totally kitsch but what the heck, it is part of America. Orlando can be fun for all ages.

Orlando - Mobile or New Orleans is easy to do. New Orleans is still recovering from Hurrican Katrina and isn't completely stable yet. People who go down to New Orleans to help in the disaster relief are still turning up dead (it happened again this past weekend to a lady from San Francisco). If you decide to go to New Orleans, just know you need to be careful there.

Do casinos interest you? The Beau Rivage in Gulfport Mississippi may be an interesting stopover. You won't get the French Quarter in New Orleans but you'll see something different. If you want to do New Orleans just be careful. It was a great city before Katrina and I'm sure it will get back on its feet (eventually).

New Orleans to Austin is about 8 hours. Is there something specific you want to see in Houston? Houston is a big city and there are lots of things in Houston but it is a bit spreadout so it is a good idea to have a plan for Houston. Or you could go through to Austin. Austin is a great City, a total blast. I'm sure you'll love Austin and will want to spend at least a couple evenings there.

What about driving from Austin to San Antonio and seeing the Riverwalk?

West Texas has some real hidden gems. Big Bend National Park. Alpine Texas. You don't have to worry about snow.

From Big Bend you can head for Albuquerque and make a side trip up to Santa Fe. From Albuquerque to Las Vegas is a beautiful drive across Arizona. Flagstaff is your gateway to Sedona (and this is the one spot where you stand a slight chance of some snow). Alternatively you could do the drive via Tucson and Phoenix / Scottsdale.

After Las Vegas you can do Death Valley and on up to Yosemite. Yosemite is stunning and well worth the visit at all times of the year. Don't forget Lake Tahoe. US 50 from South Lake Tahoe to Sacramento is an interesting drive, then down into San Francisco.

Maybe a day trip up to Napa or Sonoma.

The drive from San Fran to Los Angeles via Pacific Coast Highway is excellent. Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura.

What about taking the car from sea to shining sea, Coast to Coast?

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.

New York City, New...
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2. Re: US Road Trip in December

Some thoughts:

Definitely try to get to the Everglades. I know you have swamps in Australia, but the Everglades are definitely worth seeing.

When you go over to St. Petersburg, you might be interested to visit Tarpon Springs and Crystal River, where you can swim with manatees:


And Tampa, which is that area as well, has Big Cat Rescue, where you can be up close with tigers and ocelots:


Austin is neat enough, but it's 2 1/2-3 hours from Houston, so just bear that in mind. Personally, I've found Austin to be not significantly different or more interesting than other big college/statehouse towns like Columbus, Ohio and Madison, Wisconsin, but I know a lot of people love it.

A town you should visit while you're out that way is Lockhart, the "BBQ Capital of Texas." Kreuz BBQ is definitely worth a stop.

Arizona and New Mexico are interesting, and NM in particular is quite beautiful, but it does indeed sound like you don't have enough time to drive. (Driving through those states is endless, not to mention all of the driving through Texas you'd have to do.) Looks like flying is probably going to be your best bet, especially if you need to be in San Francisco by the 28th.

I suppose Las Vegas is the kind of thing you should see once, but the Grand Canyon is incredible and very much worth curtailing your time in Vegas to see. Unless you think you'll be back in that part of the world some other time in your life, do what you can to see the Grand Canyon.

You can certainly visit Yosemite in the winter, though some of the access roads are closed then:



While it takes longer than the 5 or the 101, the Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1) is the most scenic way to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles.


San Diego is neat enough, but you might also think about driving out to Joshua Tree instead:


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3. Re: US Road Trip in December

I would definitly take in Disney World or Universal in Orlando, as it is Americana, and be sure to drive up the coast of Calif 'highway 1' is a 'must do' It is 'beautiful...stop at Hearst Castle in San Simeon and take a tour....Awesome...I would spend less time in LA....not much, but clubs for you young guys, but spend time in San Francisco, and tour Alcatraz, the night tour is great!...Check out all the forums of the citys you plan on visiting to fine tune your intinery...There is a lot to see in this great country....How lucky you are to take this trip...have a blast!

San Francisco...
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4. Re: US Road Trip in December

A few quick things you should maybe do:

1. Drop St. Petersburg. Its unnecessary.

2. Santa Fe is apparently fantastic, and Sedona is beautiful too. It could be cool to drive from Austin to Las Vegas and check out those spots while getting to experience a drive through the whole state of Texas. However, it could be better to skip that stuff, fly from Austin to Vegas, and have more time to spend in Vegas where you could then go to the Grand Canyon (you don't want to miss that)

3. Houston is just a clutter of urban sprawl. People from America don't really like it, so I don't think people from outside of the country would appreciate it either.

4. The drive from San Francisco to LA is beautiful. Definitely drive that route.

5. If you can, maybe drive from Miami to Orlando, then fly from Orlando to New Orleans? That could save you a bit of time.

Ipswich, United...
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5. Re: US Road Trip in December

I've done bits of this, but not in one go. I'd agree with the other comments.

A few points from me;

I'd have a car in Miami or anywhere in SW Florida, even if looking at a guided tour.

Yosemite is nice and would be wonderful in winter - but make sure you have a suitable car and are equipped with snow chains. A 4x4 would be a good idea there in the winter.

You could include Yosemite via Death Valley from Vegas - it's quite a drive - there are several options, one being Vegas, DV, Bishop, Yosemite, San Francisco.

You might want to allow more time for San Francisco to LA - take in Monterey, Carmel and the Big Sur

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6. Re: US Road Trip in December

agreed on the previous post, take more time on the coast of Calif...I drove my kids up from LA to San Fran, with a 2 night stopover in Santa Cruz, a college town, so lots of cheap eats and there is a amusement park right on the beach...a lot of left over hippies in the area. Monterey is beautiful see the aquarium there and a Carmel is where Clint Eastwood lives...Have lunch at Nepenthe in Big Sur....beautiful...Stop in Santa Barbara as well, and there is a great crab house right out on the pier, crabs are caught fresh right there then cooked..YUM!

Melbourne, Australia
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7. Re: US Road Trip in December

Hi All,

I just wanted to say how invaluable your comments have been for us putting together the ultimate 3 week U.S. Road Trip. Myself and my fiancé have been working hard on getting our itinerary right for our trip to head back to Australia after living in London for the last 3 years.

Any thoughts on our current below plan? Places we should skip? Places we’ve missed? Cities we’re spending too much/too little time in?

Sat 13th Dec Fly: London – Miami

Sun 14th Dec: Miami

Mon 15th Dec: Miami (Possible Key West Day trip)

Tues 16th Dec: Miami (Possible Everglades Day trip)

Wed 17th Dec: Miami then fly to Houston early evening

Thurs 18th Dec: Houston then mid afternoon drive to Austin

Fri 19th Dec: Austin – El Paso (eat at Salt Lick BBQ)

Sat 20th Dec: El Paso - Santa Fe (See White Sands National Monument

Sun 21st Dec: Santa Fe – Sedona (Visit Alburquerque)

Mon 22nd Dec: Visit Grand Canyon (Southern part) (Stay in Flagstaff)

Tues 23rd Dec: Flagstaff – Las Vegas

Wed 24th Dec: Las Vegas

Thurs 25th Dec: Las Vegas

Fri 26th Dec: Las Vegas – San Fransisco

Sat 27th Dec: San Fransisco

Sun 28th Dec: San Fransisco

Mon 29th Dec: San Fransisco – Big Sur (Via Santa Cruz, Monterey)

Tues 30th Dec: Big Sur – Santa Barbara (Via : San Luis Obispo, Ventura)

Wed 31st Dec: Santa Barbara - Los Angeles (Via : Ventura)

Thurs 1st Jan: Los Angeles

Fri 2nd Jan: Los Angeles

Sat 3rd Jan: Los Angeles

Sun 4th Jan: Los Angeles – San Diego

Mon 5th Jan: San Diego – Los Angeles. Fly to Australia late evening

Thanks in advance!


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8. Re: US Road Trip in December

Some thoughts, some of this is repeated...

First of all, it is a LONG drive from Death Valley to Yosemite in the winter. The route goes over mountain passes and they are usually closed d/t snow, requiring a LOOOONNG detour.

You need a car in Miami as mentioned, esp. if you want to go to the Everglades. With a car, you can also go to some of the Keys.

It is not a simple detour to get a pix at Walt Disney on your way to St. Peter (or from St. Pete to Mobile); Orlando is not even close to being along the way.

It could be cold in Albuquerque / Santa Fe, but prob. not in Sedona. A possible route would be to fly from Austin to Phoenix, drive up to Sedona, then the Grand Canyon, then Las Vegas.

There are day trips tours from LV to Grand Canyon. Imho, the Grand Canyon is a necessity. For me, 1 or 2 days in Vegas is plenty.

In Yosemite, in the winter, you could prob. see only one part of the park (the valley). Fortunately it is the pretty part. You would best get there from one of the western entrances.

I would pick Yosemite over Sequoia. Yosemite could be done as a day trip from San Fran, but I wouldn't recommend it. It's a 2 hr + drive each way.

btw, if you list your interests (outdoors v. museums v. offbeat stuff) you could get more recommendations from people

Good luck!

New York City, New...
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9. Re: US Road Trip in December

Hi, just noticed your updated sched...

It could be cooold at the Grand Canyon in December.

White Sands NM is wonderful, but again a detour. Carlsbad Caverns is another potential detour stop.

Consider staying at Grand Canyon. Depending on your lodging option in Flagstaff, it may not be much more expensive. You would have more time at the Canyon, though with much fewer dining options.

Stop in Hawaii before returning to Australia?

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10. Re: US Road Trip in December

The Everglades are the only reason I can think of to step foot in Florida.

Santa Fe and Sedona are about 350 miles apart, so you can't do that kind of driving and include Albuquerque, NM. Santa Fe is mild during the day; it's high desert. At night it gets to 40 degrees F. I hope neither of you have problems adjusting from the extremes of sea-level cities to high desert; pack a lot of stuff for headaches just in case you get altitude sickness.

As to White Sands: There are evening walking tours on the nights of the full moon, which is really worthwhile. As to Yosemite: It's beautiful, but I can tell if there's snow you will need a four-wheel drive vehicle. The rain and snow screws up even the paved roads. You should check the websites of all national parks for these restrictions with regard to what type of vehicle you need.