Buses and trains and adventures... Oh My! 11 weeks in USA.
Replies: 34 - Last Post: Dec 7, 2012 3:28 AM Last Post By: bzookaj
Dec 6, 2012 3:22 AM
Buses and trains and adventures... Oh My! 11 weeks in USA.Hello everyone. I am interested in some advice regarding an itinerary my partner and I have in mind for travel to the US from Australia in Sep, Oct and Nov. We have been to the US before in 2007 and went to San Fran, LA and Vegas. Now we are keen to use up the full allowance of our 90 day visa as part of the visa waiver program. We want to predominantly use Amtrak to move around the USA. Not a huge fan of using too the airport too much unless it saves a lot of time and is much cheaper.
There is 2 of us travelling together. We are both 30 yrs old and we are interested in motorsport (want see see NASCAR and/or Indy car race), finding cheap & local eateries, museums, art galleries, music, history (Native American, African American, frontier, independence, etc etc), breweries, road trips through and around spectacular scenery. We'd also like to see a baseball and/or football game.
I've been reading around and discovering places to go and ways to get there and have come up with the following. I have included travel time where it exceeds 6 hours on the train or driving. Between cities/towns (such as Boston/NY/Philly/etc) we will probably just use regional buses (Megabus, etc).
San Fran - 4 days
TRAIN - 2 days - California Zephyr
Denver - 6 days - Driving through Wyoming to Yellowstone and back (CAR HIRE)
TRAIN - 1 day - Zephyr
Chicago - 4 days
Sandusky, OH - 2 days - Cedar Point
TRAIN - 1 day
Niagara Falls - 1 day
TRAIN - 1 day
Boston - 3 days
New York - 5 days
Philly or Baltimore - 2 days
Washington DC - 3 days
TRAIN - 1 day
Charleston -2 days
Savannah - 2 days
Orlando - 4 days
CAR or BUS - 2 days
New Orleans - 4 days
TRAIN - 1 day
Houston or San Antonio - 3 days
TRAIN - 1 day
Tucson - 1 day
CAR - 1 day
Monument Valley and Glen Canyon - 3 days
CAR - 1 day
Las Vegas - 5 days
CAR or BUS - 1 day
Los Angeles - 3 days
= 70 days (10 weeks)
That leaves a week or so extra to play with in terms of finding other things to do, staying longer in places, delays etc.
I have also drafted a budget based on pricing on the Amtrak, Megabus and Greyhound websites, as well as Kayak.com for car hire costs.
$3000 Amtrak, bus fare and car hire as per above.
$15400 works out to $200 per day for accommodation, food, entrance fees, etc.
$18400 = total for 11 weeks
Q1. Are there any places above that you think we should spend more or less time, based on our interests?
Q2. Are there any places that we might pass through or near that we should consider stopping at? No more big cities though please. I think we have enough and would like some smaller towns and rural areas.
Q3. We are still not sold on the section of the trip between New Orleans and Monument Valley. Instead of travelling through Texas and spending 2 days on the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, we are wondering if a better option might be to travel from NO up to Memphis and then fly over (and miss Texas) to Phoenix or Flagstaff instead, and then on to Monument Valley and the rest of the trip from there. Basically, should we go through San Antonio or Houston, and is the train journey through to Tucson going to be interesting enough for us? Or should we just keep to the one long train trip on the Zephyr?
Q4. What do you think of our budget? Will $200 per day work out even in the end? I am aware that we will spend more than that in some places like NY, Washington, Orlando. We are happy to stay in hostels, reasonably priced hotels and motels when the occasion calls for it. Would also like some homestays, like what you can find on Airbnb.com.
Thank you all in advance for reading this. :)
Dec 6, 2012 3:50 AM
1My goodness ... a big itinerary and a big post, with lots of questions to think about. We are also Australians who have travelled about 70% of your proposed itinerary, and my first reaction is that many parts of it are really rushed (in the sense that much of your time will be taken up by the travel, rather than at the many destinations).
I am a fan of train travel indeed (well ... in a theoretical sense ... we almost always travel by plane and car), and you do have plenty of time (11 weeks) - so your problem is almost one of too much choice. I've never been to Texas (nor have any real desire to do so), so I would probably share your concern about that long train/car journey.
I would probably fly from New Orleans to say Albuquerque NM, and then seriously commit to a rental car thereafter - going via Santa Fe, Southern Utah (including Monument Valley and Glen Canyon Dam - but also much else that is far better), the Grand Canyon, and then into California all by car (and I suggest via Yosemite NP - it's wonderful).
It's late here - but I expect others will have plenty of advice during the (US) day.
Dec 6, 2012 4:15 AM
2I agree with you about having too much choice! This is the closest we've had to a coherent travel plan so far. ;-)
Thanks for the tip on Santa Fe and Yosemite. Looks great! :) I think Texas might be a bit much to fit in this time.... you could be onto something with the flying over it from NO. Cheers.
Dec 6, 2012 4:26 AM
Dec 6, 2012 4:30 AM
4I did consider leaving the Zephyr in SLC but it arrives at about 4am (awkward time, cannot get full night sleep in sleeper room) plus have seen a few things in Wyoming which are east of Yellowstone that we'd like to see, such as Devil's Tower and Cheyenne. I know it's a bit further, but it just made sense at the time. :)
Dec 6, 2012 4:39 AM
5I think we want to do this camping trip from SF to Yosemite for 3 days. :)
Has good reviews on Trip Advisor...
Dec 6, 2012 4:55 AM
I wouldn't spend much time in xHouston. xSan Antonio and xAustin are the better cities.
Another day in xTucson. Make the stop worthwhile.
Drop two days from xVegas. Actually, you've been before, drop it to one or two days. Same with xSF; you could probably steal a day from there too.
It's hard to suggest areas out west since I don't know how much you've already seen. Did you just visit the cities, or did you explore more?
Anyway, various en route places to see:
Grand Canyon (north or south rim).
If you go to Devils Tower, I suggest heading a bit farther to the Black Hills, specifically Custer State Park, and maybe the Badlands.
Dec 6, 2012 5:13 AM
7Ok then. :P 90 days ADMISSION on the Visa waiver program http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html
Is it really not worth going to Yellowstone for even 3 days? :(
Out west we haven't seen a lot. Mostly just cities on our last trip. We did do a helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon, but thinking we might stop on the east side and go to the village this time, since it's on the way between Monument Valley and Las Vegas.
Can you please let me know why you recommend Austin?
Thanks for all of the places you have mentioned. I will get onto some further reading. :)
Dec 6, 2012 5:38 AM
8It's a pleasure to see someone who's done homework before posting and who takes the time to spell out essentials.
I haven't pored through the budget, but that seems reasonably in the ballpark.
In addition to your Q3 and Ian's variant, another 2 shortcuts to save time to restribute elsewhere that I'd consider: 1. Fly Chicago-Boston. 2. Fly from Savannah (or Atlanta, or Charleston skipping S.) to NO. Either of these skips an amusement park. Easy to make up for that in Anaheim.
Regular-season baseball is less expensive and more predictable than playoffs, and ends roughly at the end of September. Any of the Northeast cities would work if you reach them in time. But I'd look first for SF, Chicago (Wrigley), and Boston.
To work in some fall northeastern foliage, if that doesn't work to or from Boston (which depends on transport mode and timing), another good option that would fit your stated tastes in other ways would be to hit Charlottesville VA (and maybe Richmond VA too) between DC and Charleston.
Dec 6, 2012 5:47 AM
You have all that extra time you can add to this section of the trip. I would add a few days.
(Note, the north rim is seasonal.)
Dec 6, 2012 5:54 AM
10Thanks for the tip of flying between Chicago and Boston. I might take you up on that one. I don't mind missing Cedar Point if we can still get to Orlando. Disneyworld is on the list, as is Kennedy Space Centre. We've been to Disneyland in Anaheim before and would rather see the bigger sister this time. ;-)
I quite like the idea of driving between Orlando and NO, through Alabama. I have no idea why though! Is there somewhere along that route that we can do a swamp tour? Or is that just as simpler from NO itself?
Yeah I figured as much about the west rim tour from Vegas. It's a bit fuzzy these days. Haha. That's why we would like to see it again from the other side.
Dec 6, 2012 7:15 AM
11Some things to consider:
A. First, Amtrak is notoriously late, e.g., many hours late. Do not assume that the trains always run on time in America. The passenger trains don't.
B. Cedar Point is only open on weekends after Labor Day - the first Monday in September. The rollercoasters usually shut down for the year at the end of October although there are seasonally themed events at the park around winter holidays such as Christmas.
C. Glen Canyon is underneath Lake Powell. Perhaps you meant Antelope Canyon? Lake Powell can be a lot of fun in summer but you'll need a houseboat to enjoy it. You can find houseboats, Lake Powell, and Antelope Canyon at Page, AZ.
D. Be aware that the weather can be decidedly chilly at higher elevations in the American West in October. You can find current and historic weather data HERE.
You want to see Monument Valley and you plan to stay in Las Vegas for five days. Does that mean you will be seeing Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Death Valley National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park? I would put all four ahead of Monument Valley as places "not to miss." Southern Utah has the greatest concentration of national parks in the US. START HERE
Why Tucson? Why not Phoenix or Sedona? Do some research. That drive to Monument Valley can be anywhere between 7 and 10 hours depending on the route. It crosses some desolate country too.
My advice would be to fly from New Orleans to Las Vegas and be done with it. If you want to see the American West, see the American West. You won't see much from the train between New Orleans and Tucson. Driving in a loop beginning and ending in Las Vegas will probably save you a hefty "drop-off" fee on the rental car too. A note on rental cars: What you end up paying for one is not a simple matter of multiplying the daily rate by the number of days you have the rental car. Be sure you get a total estimated cost in writing before you choose a rental car company. It may save you a nasty surprise when you turn in the car.
You can determine the costs of the travel quite accurately from information available on Amtrak, airline, rental car , or travel websites. Do the homework. $200/day for food, accommodations, and incidentals is "tight" for two people but possible. You can use the travel websites to see what you can expect to pay for a motel in the places you plan to overnight. Hostels are quite rare in the U. S. They are mostly confined to the largest cities. Don't forget the cost of gas for the rental car. I presume you can walk past the slot machines in Las Vegas without breaking your stride. Some poor souls cannot. 200/day will not "feed the slots."
Have a great time.
Dec 6, 2012 7:38 AM
Dec 6, 2012 7:42 AM
Anyone who has been to xTucson and xPhoenix can easily see why.
But also the train goes to xTucson, not xPhoenix.
I've been to both. I still ask "why Tucson?" There are easily several dozen more interesting places in Arizona. I know the train goes to Tucson. I also offered a solution to that "problem."
Dec 6, 2012 7:45 AM
14I would reiterate what Zeldasdad says. Monument Valley and Glen Canyon are far from the highlights of the Southwest. I wouldn't detour there. If driving from, say, Albuquerque/Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon then it's worth a stop...but places like Zion, Bryce, and Arches are much more engaging. (I'd even rather visit Mesa Verde and Bandelier over Monument Valley.) If you do decide to shift the focus to southern Utah then I would also recommend doing a driving loop out of Vegas...or a one-way Albuquerque-Las Vegas rental if not prohibitively expensive. FWIW, I like Tucson but actually prefer the 1-2 punch of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. (You could take the train to El Paso and then it's a 5 hr ride on the Greyhound to Albuquerque.) Avoid Phoenix.
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