Thursday, April 28, 2011

3-month Road Trip -- Buy or Rent a Car??

Hello there!

I thought I would write and ask for your advice as me and three of my friends are planning our American roadtrip. We are from England and we will be heading to the states from early August and be leaving at the end of October, we work out roughly with travel etc we'll have about 85 days on the road.

As far as route we wanted to do something along the lines of : Start in New York City - head down to Florida, do Orlando/Miami etc, then from here drive through Texas etc, to California, then visit LA, San Fransisco and finish in Las Vegas. Obviously with much in between! Does this route seem sensible to you?

Also any advice you could give us would be greatly welcomed, we will all be 21 when the trip happens, we are going to rent a car and stay in motels/camp/maybe sleep in the car.

Any advice or feedback would be greatly appreciated!



Hello Bobby --

Thanks for writing in to me at Road Trip USA.

Sounds like you all should have some "Top Gear" type TV show follow you on your American adventures...Here's a formula for fun:
(4) X (young men aged 21 on the road) X (85 days) = anything can happen!

The route you outline sounds good for a start, and my most useful suggestion, I think, will be for you to look into buying some pretty good camping equipment so you can really enjoy yourselves (while saving some money on motels). I don't really see sleeping in the car as a comfortable alternative, except maybe on some rare occasions where you're doing a very long, all-night drive across Texas, for example...)

There are some very good camping supply stores in the US -- the biggest major one is called "REI", who have stores all over the US. You can get a good tent for around $300, and camping out, and cooking for yourself, is a great way to stretch your budget, stay healthy, and maybe meet some agreeable fellow travelers. Camping is harder in urban areas, where life in general is lot more expensive -- if I were you I'd aim to spend as much time as possible in the Great Outdoors, which is really the best thing about the USA (especially all those wonderful national parks in the West -- Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, etc etc.

No matter where you are, sleeping in your car is not really an option -- if you ever do manage to nod off, the police will wake you up at 2am and "move you on", as I think they say over there in the UK.

Another thing, be prepared for some hassles renting a car at age 21 -- many of the major rental companies only deal with people aged 25 or over. Or they charge a premium -- an extra $20 or so a week, in my experience. And you may find it more economical to plan your trip as a series of loops -- getting one car for a big loop around the Southeast, then another to see California. Otherwise you can end up paying higher rates or exorbitant "drop-off" fees, if you return the car to a place different from where you originally rent it.

These are the main potential hassles -- but they will be more than outweighed by all the crazy fun you can have road-tripping around the USA.

Tempting as it may seem from Hollywood movies, when cruising around the USA, try to avoid the temptation to drink booze while driving. And don't pick fights with rednecks, or bikers, or anyone else, either!


Hope it all works out, Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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