Monday, January 23, 2012

First Time to USA ?

Good Evening,

I happened upon your great blog and wondered if you were able to offer a little advice to a first time USA traveler,

Myself my wife and son (12) would like to do a 14 day tour, in April 2012, of the following (but not limited to) places,

Los Angeles, CA, United States
San Diego, CA, United States
Palm Springs, CA, United States
Laughlin, NV, United States - possibly as a stop over
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ, United States
Monument Valley, UT, United States
Death Valley, CA, United States
Yosemite National Park, CA, United States
San Francisco, CA, United States
Los Angeles, CA, United States

Do you have any suggestions on route, other places to see, car hire etc?


Lee D (UK)


Hi Lee --

That sounds like a fantastic trip! The route makes sense, and takes in the "Must See" places -- and April is a great time to be on the road in this part of the world.

And as far as car hire, my main suggestion is one you've already covered -- returning the car to same place you rent it is the best way to save yourself some cash.

Depending upon how much time (and money!) you want to spend at "attractions" (like Disneyland and LegoLand and San Diego Zoo and Sea World etc), two weeks is enough to see a lot of pretty amazing places.

A couple of suggestions -- between Palm Springs and Laughlin area, I'd recommend a tour of Joshua Tree National Park, and a visit to an unexpected icon: the real old London Bridge, rebuilt in the 1970s over the Colorado River in Lake Havasu. Crazy, but true !

I wonder whether Laughlin is that convenient, though -- maybe you could continue east to Williams or Flagstaff, which are much closer to a real worthwhile sight: the Grand Canyon. And if the weather encourages you to make it as far as Monument Valley (it can be quite wintry -- beautiful, but cold!), consider spending some more time southern Utah, where there are enough national parks to fill a whole 2-week trip on their own.

One great place in southern Utah is Zion National Park, from where you can zoom through Las Vegas (well worth a half-day, and generally a cheap place to visit so long as you aren't here on a Friday or Saturday. The whole of Las Vegas is designed to impress the 12-year-old boy in all of us -- and the spectacles on display on The Strip (erupting volcanoes, pirate ships, you name it!) are unforgettable.

From Vegas, you could "do" Death Valley, but unfortunately the main route from there into Yosemite is closed by winter snow, so you'd have to loop around. Yosemite is indeed spectacular, and since you'll already have seen a lot of desert (Joshua Tree, and all of Nevada), you might consider taking faster freeways west into California, so you have more time to enjoy Yosemite (which is amazing -- just be sure to arrange your accommodation ahead of time, so you can stay in Yosemite Valley, where lodgings are limited.)

Then you have San Francisco (worth a couple of days, for sure -- Alcatraz is a blast, even if it's a "touristy" thing to do) Then a trip down the coast, via Monterey and Carmel, Big Sur and Hearst Castle, then hop a flight and head home.

Sounds fun! Hope this helps,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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