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Janr

Australia couple planning a 5 month trip

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We find the Comfort Inn beds to be the best and their free breakfasts are wonderful! We usually get a fridge as well so we can stash restaurant leftovers for late night snacks. We bring paper plates and plastic silverware to make in room picnics work well too. Comfort Inns usually have laundromats as well so washing your clothes just requires some quarters and a trip down the hall.

Linda Sand

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Thanks to everyone for your advice.   I think taking into account what you have all said we will probably hire a car, stay in hotels.   Choice sounds like a good option, possibly hire a rv for part of the way and definately fancy the train.  We both come from parents that worked on the Railways in Zimbabwe (where we are originally from) so have very fond childhood memories of train trip holidays.  I think this will be a fun and exciting way to travel around the USA and see as much as we can in our limited time.   It is all very new and exciting and I have lots of research and booking ahead,  but made so much easier with your valuable advice.  

If we hired a camper which part of the States would be best suited for RV'ing.

I know that is rather ambiguous questiin but any thoughts would be helpful. 

Thanks again

Jan

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For hiring an RV look at the hot tourist locations such as Las Vegas and Florida.

I don't know who your Australian phone company is. But if it is Telstra make sure your phone is turned on for international roaming. Telstra has an agreement with AT&T, Once in the USA your Telstra phone will join the AT&T network. (It will take about up to 20 minutes for your phone to join the AT&T network once in the USA). If you have one take your tablet with you. Many many places in the USA have free WiFi. All the hotels have free WiFi. We found that buying a $25 phone and a cheap deal from AT&T the best option for looking up goodies on the net. While your Telstra phone will work fine it may scare you with the costs. Have a look at Telstra's International Day Pass deals. If you're not with Telstra simply find an AT&T store and buy a cheap phone. Caution - don't buy a USA phone and deal with any ol company. Because you will be all over the country you need a phone deal with a company that will work all over the USA.

Once you have your phone / tablet set up you can simply look up hotels. I suggest https://www.choicehotels.com/ . Keep in mind that you need to book the day before to get the best deals. We always booked the next day/night just before we went to bed. It allowed us to wander all day with the knowledge we had a bed booked for that night. Note - The Choice group is in Australia. So points can be used back in Australia as well.

bruce

 

 

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For my home country, RV ownership is my "cabin on wheels". We have favorite places we camp for 14 days at a time. We have broken in the RV, learned all the ins and outs. If I was going to an unfamiliar country, the last thing I would do is buy or rent an RV. That's just my opinion. There is a learning curve involving driving, gassing up, backing in, setting up. 

But it's fun once you learn the ropes. When I did my Boston/New York trip via air and Amtrak, the hotels were terribly expensive and the beds were not the greatest. (SHOULD HAVE SPENT MORE $ FOR BETTER ROOMS).

We travel with our dog, another reason we like the RV.

 

It's a mixed bag!

Be sure to visit Las Vegas.

Please don't drive the RV in LA, SF, Boston, or New York City. 😀

 

Edited by ToddF

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Given the things Dave and I like to do I would plan that trip to start with a rental RV in the SW states. By the end of May the temps will become too hot so I would head towards the Pacific Northwest states and continue exploring in the RV along the way.

Once ready to move on I would board Amtrak's Empire Builder in Seattle and take it to Chicago. Or you could stop in Essex, Montana, for a night at the Isaac Walton Inn that's right beside the tracks between the east and west gates of Glacier National Park then take the next day's train on to Chicago. Be sure you schedule your trains appropriately if you want to make that stop. The service is daily but there are three trains that travel the route to make that happen.

Chicago has a lot to see and do so I would spend some times there--maybe in an Air BnB.

Then I would take Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited to Boston. Lots to see and do there, too.

From Boston you can take Amtrak's Acela Express to travel quickly to Philadelphia, New York City, and/or Washington D.C.

In any of the above cities you can rent a car and explore the wider area if you wish to do so.

If you are ready by then to start heading back home, I would take either Amtrak's Capitol Limited or their Cardinal back to Chicago where I would catch Amtrak's Southwest Chief back to Los Angeles.

https://izaakwaltoninn.com

https://www.airbnb.com

https://www.choosechicago.com

https://www.boston.gov/visiting-boston

https://www.visitphilly.com

https://www.nycgo.com

https://washington.org

Whew! I'm tired just thinking about that trip. :)  But, this is your trip not mine so pick what appeals to you and skip the rest.

Linda Sand

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I can see the benefit of the RV in the Wild West. Traveling from the Rio Grande Valley to Mesa...I-10 is wide open...few rest stops with restrooms (many picnic areas for stops but no toilets), less traffic, I-10 is smooth all 500 miles of it. Big Bend National Park is on my bucket list for another trip. The "Hill country" and mountains further West make for a beautiful drive.

With the RV, just pulled into a Walmart in Ft Stockton last night for a very good night's rest. Now napping in a picnic stop with 360 mountain views outside El Paso.

Gas price fluctuation is wild... Under $2 at one station in San Antonio...3.00+ on I-10 out West.

Edited by ToddF

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Forget Cruise America and the other outfits that rent or sell and rebuy large RVs.  That does not seem to be what you are looking for.  Instead check out the webpages for JUCY.  These are small converted SUVs that you can rent or buy used and sell back.  You can easily stay in National Parks and other campgrounds and also visit cities and stay in motels.  Costs will be a fraction of what a larger RV would cost.  Of course, you do need to suffer some inconveniences including climbing a small ladder. 

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I have some input on destinations.

Yosemite National Park, California. You don't want to miss this stop. While there check out Glacier Point, its one of the most intense scenic views in the world. It is a minimum of two days to get the feel of the surroundings. Make sure Glacier point will be open when you arrive, it generally opens in the spring. It does gets very busy in the summer.

Another favorite is Yellowstone National Park. Again you don't want to  miss this stop. There are moose, bears, if you are lucky you can see them on the side of the road.  And i don't want to forget Old Faithful geyser.

Over in the North East of the US you will need to  visit to Niagara Falls, its another must see of natural beauty. You can actually walk through a tunnel to the back of the waterfall. Also you will be near the Great Lakes, they are so big they look more like an ocean, but fresh water.

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Thanks for the info on must see's.  We have decided to rent a Dodge Caravan and buy q mattresses for the back and get basic camping gear.  Do these parks have places to stay our is camping the only option.   Also if it is summer how day is it to get accommodation.   We are not pre planning our booking so wonder if this will be a problem?

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On 11/23/2018 at 2:24 PM, sandsys said:

Given the things Dave and I like to do I would plan that trip to start with a rental RV in the SW states. By the end of May the temps will become too hot so I would head towards the Pacific Northwest states and continue exploring in the RV along the way.

Once ready to move on I would board Amtrak's Empire Builder in Seattle and take it to Chicago. Or you could stop in Essex, Montana, for a night at the Isaac Walton Inn that's right beside the tracks between the east and west gates of Glacier National Park then take the next day's train on to Chicago. Be sure you schedule your trains appropriately if you want to make that stop. The service is daily but there are three trains that travel the route to make that happen.

Chicago has a lot to see and do so I would spend some times there--maybe in an Air BnB.

Then I would take Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited to Boston. Lots to see and do there, too.

From Boston you can take Amtrak's Acela Express to travel quickly to Philadelphia, New York City, and/or Washington D.C.

In any of the above cities you can rent a car and explore the wider area if you wish to do so.

If you are ready by then to start heading back home, I would take either Amtrak's Capitol Limited or their Cardinal back to Chicago where I would catch Amtrak's Southwest Chief back to Los Angeles.

https://izaakwaltoninn.com

https://www.airbnb.com

https://www.choosechicago.com

https://www.boston.gov/visiting-boston

https://www.visitphilly.com

https://www.nycgo.com

https://washington.org

Whew! I'm tired just thinking about that trip. :)  But, this is your trip not mine so pick what appeals to you and skip the rest.

Linda Sand

 Thanks Linda for all these great links.   You are right it is a "huge job" doing all this planning but great fun😀😀  so much to see and do.  Am just going through them now.    I didnt think of it but we will be in the North East States (Boston area) for 4th July so will have to start researching the best place to celebrate!!

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If you want to camp in public parks during the summer months I would suggest getting online and prebooking. Sites book out very quickly in most National Parks.

Look at state parks, corp of engineer and blm sites. 

With your van you can bounce between camping and hotel. IMHO this is an ideal way to spent your time.

For camping gear simply go to any Walmart. They have a good basic choice. Otherwise google Bass pro and find one of their HUGE stores.

Have fun.

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We are a couple of Brits and we did the buy an RV drive around then sell it but in our case it was 2 years later. 

Here are some things based on our experience. 

I realise that coming from Oz you might be used to the heat but summer is the WRONG time to be visiting the places you talk about. It is just to darn HOT. Do it in winter.

Fly in t Seattle and do the Alcan highway to Alaska makes sense in the summer. Or stay high in the mountains where it is cooler. 

If you decide to go ahead with the idea of buying a small RV here is what we did.

Join Escapees and join the mail service [ if you can there may be a problem ] But we did this and it gives you a legal address ou can use for registration and insurance. 

Look for insurance Champ Carter in Livingston can help they are used to foreigners wanting insurance. Check the small print.  

A small class C is handy enough to avoid towing a small car. We had a 28ft class A without a toad. If you go ahead with the plan to be South in the summer a separate [roof usually] AC unit is ESSENTIAL. 

eg something like this 25 ft class A

We bought from PPL sight unseen after we had it inspected by an independent vehicle mechanic. They will sell it on your behalf when you are finished. We found them to be very fair. This meant that we arrived spent one night in a motel and were on the road the next day. 

If you plan on visiting places like the Grand Cayon National Park then the annual park pass is a really good deal $80 gets both of you and your vehicle into any national park. Plus deals on some campgrounds. 

We did not subscribe to any campground group except Escapees as we thought them poor value. 

As you will be travelling a lot you might consider overnighting in Walmart car parks and similar Many have a security patrol all night.

We had wonderful time. 

Edited by The Quiet Assassin

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Hi,  Thanks for all the info and your experience. 

As we are only travelling for just under 5 months we have decided to hire a car.   We have booked a dodge caravan 7 seater and plan to buy some camping equipment,  fridge stove etc for roadside meals and drinks but mainly stay in motels and Airbnb.  The cost is about $5000 and includes insurance and unlimited mileage.  I think this will be cheaper and a lot less hassel than buying and selling.  I really appreciate your expertise. 

Thanks

Jan

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7 hours ago, Janr said:

I think this will be cheaper and a lot less hassel than buying and selling.

As much as we love RV travels, I do think that you are making the right decision. You will get much better use of your time that way and you could even stretch the budget by spending a night in a tent when the weather is good. Camping equipment is very readily available here in the US and tent sites are also. In addition, Kampgrounds of America has small cabins for rent in many of their RV parks as do many other companies and also a growing number of state parks have some sort of cabin available. This would probably be less costly than motels and it would be more into the outdoors than a motel. Here is a selection of links to state park systems that have rental cabins that might serve you well, just as an example. Nearly all state park systems today have at least some rental facilities so just search for the parks in any state that you may wish to spend some time in. 

Arkansas State Parks cabins                Texas State Parks cabins

Minnesota State Parks cabins              Tennessee State Parks cabins

South Dakota State Parks cabins           Virginia State Parks cabins

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8 hours ago, Kirk W said:

Kampgrounds of America has small cabins for rent in many of their RV parks as do many other companies and also a growing number of state parks have some sort of cabin available.

Wow, Kirk, what great information! I had not realized how many state parks have cabins including the park closet to us. Maybe we'll get out and about some this coming summer. Thanks.

Linda

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Lots of National Parks and State Parks have camp sites that are specifically reserved for tents. EG Camp 4 in Yosemite. No reservations required BUT at popular times the ranger arrives at 8.30 am and the line will often start at 7 am

Be aware that to book a campground in popular parks at popular times you need to know when the sites become available and be online with all your data pre entered and hit the book now button within seconds of the sites becoming available. 

Edited by The Quiet Assassin

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If you're visiting the national parks be sure to check out each of their awesome web sites (using nps.gov) for lots of good information on campgrounds, things to do, road information, etc.  For example, here is Yellowstone's site and the campground information.  You will note that there are 12 campgrounds and only 5 accept reservations.  The remaining 7 are first come, first serve.  As 'Quiet Assassin' stated above, if you don't make reservations you need to be at the campground early morning.  With your planned car rental you'll be able to use any of the 12 campgrounds with no problem.  Even if you try to get into a reservable campground without a reservation, it's sometimes doable because there are always cancellations.  We've gotten sites that way even with our 40' motorhome.

Yellowstone is a huge area so I'd highly recommend that you start at one campground for a night or two and then drive to the next campground early morning to get a site and stay there for a time and explore around that area.  Moving within the park will save you a lot of driving time.  Pick 3-4 areas to stay.

Have a great trip!

https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

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