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Travel advice for 3 week road trip in the states - Car Hire?

edited December 2014 in Not Sports Related
Hi all,

As it is known amongst us that Charlton Life not only provides up to the minute information on Andy Delort, but we are better than TripAdvisor when it comes to travel advice.

It's the time of year to start thinking of holidays... For me I want to take 3 weeks from work this year as a "well done" to completing my part-time degree.

I've always fancied the states and in particular the Mrs wants to visit NYC. Initially I was tempted by Canada but wasnt sure of a route to take over a 3 week period.

I thought of travelling from Washington DC to Miami Beach by car hire using coastal routes where possible but have read various posts saying the one way car hire is not worth it? We will both be 27 at the time of hire. Have any lifers rented a car in the states and have any tips to pass on? Is it worth driving or are the distances too far? I've planned around 14 days from Washington to Miami which Google maps says is a 16 hour drive, 1100 miles.

I'd love to visit Tennessee and New Oreleans (just for the food) but I think these are out of my range due to time.



  • Did 6 weeks in RV from LA to Seattle. Magnificent. Lots more to see (in my opinion) that going east side - and weather better too.
    There was a similar thread on here a while back with a lot of good info, so you might want to research that.
  • Got my youngest lad to do a bit for you:

    I went to the States this year with two friends (we were all 25) but travelled the opposite side and went from San Francisco up to Portland and Seattle and ended our trip in whistler and Vancouver in Canada. This like your trip was around 1100 miles according to google maps but in the end was around 1500 miles with odd trips here and there.

    I would personally recommend getting a car when you are out there just for the ease of travelling wherever you may find you enjoy certain areas more than others so you can stay longer or leave earlier depending on how you feel, fuel is very cheap out there so once you have paid the initial rental fee of the car then its pretty inexpensive from there.

    A couple of things to look out for: The first being the insurances and recovery they try and make you buy when you are at the desk to collect your car when you already have it from when you hired the car. The second is if you are going to a major city like Washington DC then you will only need to hire your car from when you leave there as when I went I picked the car up straight from the airport and then incurred the cost of hotel parking ($30 a night) for 3 days while we were in San Francisco. The same goes for when you drop it off in Miami, if you don't think you'll need it then drop it off when you arrive and use the Public transport around the city.

    We hired a 4x4 just for the fact that we had 3 big suitcases and wanted some room in the back for the third person, If you are going just the two of you then get a mustang convertible and enjoy the Sun.

    For organising your trip we booked our first few nights Hotel in the City we arrived in and then just enjoyed the freedom from there to go where we wanted based on recommendations from locals who knew the areas. I also used a site called Lonely Planet to do some research and there are some really good threads on there to have a read of.

    I'm looking to do the East coast in 2016 from New York to Miami so make sure you post with what you found.
  • New York to Miami is a brutal, stressful drive. 16 hours from DC is about right, but it's a very boring drive, most passengers fall asleep! There's no real coastal route, but there are some good excursions on the way, The Outer Banks of North Carolina is one of my favourites, best beaches in the US. Also Williamsburg, Va. is a good two-day stop if you like history. Charleston, SC might be a good stop too. I would not recommend driving directly to Miami from NYC.
  • Congratulations on the degree, you will have a great trip. Hiring a car is a great way to see this amazing country providing you go off the interstates from time to time and go through some of the small towns, which it sounds like you are planning. I would ask yourself, what are your big interests? You mention food and whilst you will eat well, no one is claiming that the US is a culinary must-visit.

    If you haven't visited New York then you must, that is simple. You won't need a car at all. If you are interested in history then you will need to be in Washington (take a train from Penn Station, I think) but you could always fly from New York to, say, Nashville, drive down the Mississippi to New Orleans and then across to Florida. What time of year are you taking this trip?
  • Don't bother with the states. Spend 3 weeks driving around Middlesbrough instead.
  • did the whole of the US in a 6 week trip, was very intensive but awesome. Me and the missus are saving up for a similar road trip but hiring an RV. We really want to do seattle to california. San Fransisco, Chicago and New York were my favourite cities while i was there.
  • As Limeygent has said, the I-95 from DC to Miami is a killer, both in terms of being boring, and with the big lorries you'll have to contend with. I drove from Dulles (the DC airport) down to North Carolina, heading off to Wilmington (not much to see other than Cape Fear), before going south via Myrtle Beach (like Blackpool, but with fifty golf courses!) to Charleston (old town is nice, but not many hotels central, and impossible to get a cab into town from over the river), then inland to the Appalachians and the Smokey Mountains.

    If I was you, with a couple of weeks to kill, I'd head inland from DC (toward Front Royal), visit the Luray Caverns, take in the Shanandoah part of the Appalachians, then head down the Blue Ridge Parkway, all the way to Gatlinberg (which is a very touristy town). There are lots of side trips you can do off the Parkway which you can research to see if they suit? Blowing Rock, Chimney Rock, Natural Bridge, Grandfather Mountain, Asheville (for the Biltmore Estate), Cherokee, etc.

    From there, you are near to Atlanta, and/or could head over to New Awlins if you wanted quite easily. From NO, it's only a days drive to Florida, and you could even drive down the west coast taking in Tampa/St Pete, Naples, Sanibel Island, and even the Keys before heading to Miami.

    One word of caution, driving on interstate highways you can easily clock up 60 or 70 miles an hour averages, but you won't see much (not always a bad thing!). Best to base a days trip at around 250-300 miles max, as that usually leaves plenty of sightseeing opportunity. However, in state or national parks, the speed limit is about 35mph, on twisty roads, with many photo opps, so base a days drive out at 100 - 150 miles max, or you will be knackered!

    I normally also take out the CDW option, as we have had a few bumps and grazes over the years.

  • If its not already included, get car excess insurance online here before you go.
  • Agree with the Blue Ridge trip. Again, it's about deciding what you want to see most, really - the great outdoors, cities, music, sport, beaches, whatever - and putting a trip together around that. The US has so much to see..

    Oh, and Miami, bits are ok. Stay in South Beach though. The drive to the Keys is fun but in mid summer don't expect to be alone.
  • Just to add if you decide to do the Florida keys it is two lanes and is slow as hell if you get stuck behind grandpa.

    Having driven across the US countless times know from police freinds that they usually set their radar at 10 mph above the speed limit except for school zones Witch is usually 25mph.

    Should you be unfortunate to be pulled over REMAIN in your vehicle until the officer comes to your door most likely they will write a warning if they see a British license unless you are driving reckless.

    Road manners vary from state to state st Midwest States you can pass left right anyway you can it is a free for all until they see a cop you can turn right on red after Complete stop and in my state Indiana you can turn Left on red if it is one way.

    So just be aware what you can do in one state my illegal in another a good indication is watching what local drivers do.i

    As you cross into one state to another the majority have Welcome [email protected]/ters at the state line free maps hotel bookings. Etc.
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  • edited December 2014
    Hire a mobile home/motorised caravan. Flexibility means you are not prey to having to find a motel in unfamiliar territory and you save money on no motel/hotel fees and the USA is littered with safe places to park up overnight.
    Avoid the main interstate highways as much as possible. Yes they are direct and driving is easy but you might as well be driving along the M1, M6 or M4. Get off the main drag and see as much of the USA as you can, a diverse, generally friendly and fascinating country.
    Whatever, enjoy the trip(s) of a lifetime
  • You can book an itinerary to drive which would involve a flight to somewhere on the east coast and then 14 days of driving following a specific route with different hotels along the way. It depends how much you want to bring it versus having organisation. It's the similar sort of trip that my wife and I would like to do but having small children with us we would have to go with a schedule. But you could easily start in New York travel up to Canada drive around Vermont, stop off at Washington DC and head back to New York
  • The Blue Ridge is excellent. But the MAX speed limit on the Parkway is 45mph with some sections at 35 or even 25. So, with plenty of interesting stop-offs, it can take a lot longer than you've planned.
    Last time I flew into DC we visited the Manassas National Battlefield Park (Bull Run and all that) which is worth a visit.
    Towards the south of your route, St Augustine in Fl is a great little town being the oldest continually inhabited European-established town in the US which means it actually has a historic district which is actually historic!
  • I would not advise New Orleans unless you want to be around some of America's most ignorant people (my least favorite city I have ever visited). Now when it comes to the boring drives, they are only as boring as you make them. America is full of little towns which have their own neat little perks, so therefore wherever you stop, just look around. You never know what you might find, especially when it comes to food. The best places to eat in America are in places you wouldn't expect. This is especially true if you drive from Washington to Miami. If you plan your trip through the Appalachian Mountains, I can assure you that you will not be bored, as that is one of the most breath taking drives in America. Google maps has the it about right being 16 hours from DC to Miami. If you have time, stop off in Atlanta and have a look around, you won't be sorry. Now I know this is kind of taking away from the thread, but America has some great food options, so if you have tim, stop at a few of these that will be on or close to your route.

    NYC- Peter Lugers Steakhouse (bring a lot of money)
    NYC- Katz Deli (oldest deli in America)
    NYC- (Brooklyn) The Chip Shop (not exactly what you think)
    Philadelphia- Pat's Cheesesteaks
    Philadelphia- The Franklin Fountain
    DC- Ben's Chili Bowl
    Atlanta- The Varsity
    Miami- Joe's Stone Crab's
    And if you really want a taste of America, stop at a waffle house. These are predominately down south. America's breakfast joint is the best way to put it.

    Congrats on your degree and enjoy your trip. Sorry for going a little off topic.
  • Hi all,

    Some great responses. I've had mixed bag reviews since putting out on here and to friends in the world of facebook about the NYC to Miami route. Problem being with around maximum of 20/22 days away, the last thing I want to do is spend my whole time in a car...Other routes people have advised is the same as @Stone‌ post - the San Francisco to Vancouver.

    Looking at my options online it appears the San Fran to Seattle route along the oregon coast looks good for a week stint, stopping off casually along the way, then getting a train to Vancouver to experience something different and spending 4 nights or so there before flying back. @stone feel free to get your lad to send me a PM if he has the time to discuss further.

    @Rossman92 out of interest did you eat your way around the states? If so I guess you needed business class flights on the return leg!

  • Haha I'm American so I've eaten at a couple and the others are places i hear quite a bit about. If your gunna be in the states, you gotta know where to eat my friend. San Fran to Seattle will be a great drive, just bring some rain gear. Hope you enjoy your trip!
  • I've done the northern part of the Oregon coast, down from Seattle. It will be very busy in the summer, and slow going on the coast roads. It can also be significantly colder than just a few miles inland! If you do head inland, I can recommend the Umpqua River valley as being absolutely beautiful! Astoria has some nice heritage, and (we never quite made it, but) the Olympic National Park looks spectacular!
  • forget the car hire, hire harley davidsons
  • forget the car hire, hire harley davidsons

    But only if you first want to shake all your fillings out of your teeth and then your teeth out of your head!
  • You might want to think about the kind of activities you like to do, eg city exploring versus outdoor activities versus beach.

    With regard to the Miami idea, what's the objective? If for a nice beach, then consider the Outer Banks and save a lot of driving...

    Personally I'd consider something that took in New York, Washington, Outer Banks/Ocracoke, Blue Ridge. .. nice variety and the city breaks give you a chance to have a break from driving for a couple of days. First road trip we did (80s) spent too long on the road. ..
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  • Do not hire a convertible. Too cold, too hot, too insecty, too insecure. You may find it a little sedate for your age group in parts but have you considered going north from NY and doing a New England route up to Maine, across into Canada and maybe back via Toronto if you have the time. Wherever you end up you're almost certain to have a great time.
  • I think with all these suggestion the three week road trip could turn into three years.
  • I've not long been back from a three month road trip across the states. We started in San Francisco, went down to the Mexican boarder in Texas, then drove up to the UP in Michigan before heading East until we hit the Atlantic.

    The best two bits of driving were between San Francisco and LA. There's the beautiful Pacific coast highway, (route 1).

    The other and in my opinion is even better. Presidio to Terlingua, in Texas. Known locally as the river road. It's 60 miles of rollercosting along the Rio Grande.

    Here is some advice about the roads.

    American drivers can be aggressive(in a driving sense), they drive very close behind one and other, they often don't indicate and will cut you up, some drivers head straight to the outside lane and will just cruise and lots of people use their mobile phones while driving. I lost count the amount of cars we got stuck behind as they were taping away on their phones (remember America has some very very long straight roads) Driving tends to be worse in cities. Don't let this put you off though, I had a lot of fun driving, you just have to be extra vigilant.

    When hiring a car in America be aware of 'drop off fees' this applies when you pick up a car in one place and drop it off else where. It's normally $250/$300, however within California, Florida, (possibly Nevada) and I think one other state they'll waiver this fee.

    It's a bit naughty, but if you want to avoid buying a Sat Nav you could do what we did.
    Purchase one from Best Buy (they are all over the place) take it back within 14 and then just buy another one in the same store. We just alternated between Garmins and TomToms, at the end just take it back and you'll get a full refund.

    Do you know what car you are getting? Book through 'Kayak' or 'ebookers' for best deals. Avoid compact or economy cars. Intermediate cars are often the same price and it's not unusual to get a free upgrade to a standard or full size car. These cars really make a difference when driving in America (it can be dull at times) Nebraska and New Mexico stick in my mind for that.

    Parking in cities is usually expensive, lots of hotels provide valeted parking, but again this is normally VERY expensive. So think about that when booking accommodation.

    Don't avoid New Orleans as another poster suggested. It's a wonderful place and very different to a lot of the USA as it's influences are drawn prominently from France and Spain. The food in New Orleans was some of the best I ate throughout the country.

    One piece of advice I recommend is to research ahead where to stay. While we never saw or heard gun shots, or come to mention it any crime. There are sketchy places to avoid, areas of Memphis and Detroit were more than a little dodgy.

    You'll have an amazing time, the food is way better than you think, the beer is way better than you think and the people will be way better than you think.

    Have a great time, if you have any questions feel free to send me a message.
  • cafcfan said:

    forget the car hire, hire harley davidsons

    But only if you first want to shake all your fillings out of your teeth and then your teeth out of your head!
    I had a great time when a friend and I toured the southern states on harleys and found them a good ride, not bumpy or a rough ride at all.

    had a great time.
  • If you choose the SF - Seattle trip then, before you head north, head east to Yosemite.
  • Having Spent about 6 weeks in Oregon a couple of summers ago, followed by a drive from there to Los Angeles Via a 5 day stop in Sanfransisco, I'd more than recommend this side of the States. Places worth checking out apart from the obvious are things such as a small town Rodeo or the very beautiful country parks along this route

    The Coastal highway 101 along Oregon and into Washington is a cracking drive passing through some very quaint American towns. But as someone has previously said the temperature on the coast can be anything up to 20 degrees cooler than just a few miles inland.
  • As some have said above, buy your excess waiver over here online, costs a fraction of what the hire firms out there charge you.

    I've only been to NYC on the east, not sure about a road trip all the way from there down to Miami though. Hell of a long way and not sure how much of excitement there is on the route. We thought about doing a Florida drive last year but then opted against it in favour of the west coast which seemed to be much better.

    So did 2.5 weeks in 2013 driving up the west side from San Diego to San Francisco (was 27 when I did that). That was superb and we took 5 days out of that to fly over to Vegas and back. That was fine but 3 weeks would be perfect to make sure you are doing it leisurely and have plenty of time where you want and not too much driving. San Diego was great, only thing to watch out for us doing the drive between there and LA - we stupidly did it on Labor Day Saturday and it's the busiest stretch of motorway in the us so it was chaos, but will be fine I think if you do it on a weekday outside of peak hours.

    The drive up route 1 from LA to San Fran is class, as is San Fran. Lots of people hate LA but we had a good time there. If you do Vegas as well worth driving out to Death Valley for a day as well. Make sure your air cons working though.

    I couldn't recommend that trip highly enough... Covers all bases, beaches, tourist sights, incredible scenery, partying, good food.
  • If you are looking for coastal drives, quaint towns, natural beauty etc, the pacific coast is the way to go. Much better than the east coast. The stretch from SF up through Oregon is very nice. a few recommendations. If you are visiting any vineyards, I like the alexander/sonoma valley better than the Napa valley and it is marginally cheaper. a hike through the redwoods is very peaceful with some good photo opportunities. Mendocino is the ideal quaint town. If you are adventurous, go sandboarding in Florence, Oregon. The rugged coastline off cape perpetua, Oregon is beautiful. There is not a lot to see in Portland but it has fantastic restaurants and craft brews with a nice laid back quasi hippie vibe ( and they are passionate about Portland Timbers - take in a match if you can).
  • edited January 2015
    Alright let me set the New Orleans situation straight. It has a very weird and ominous feel to it. Wherever you walk it just feels like everything around you is haunted. I saw people say that parts of Detroit and Memphis are sketchy, which is very true. But New Orleans at night especially in the French quarter can be just as dangerous. Might I warn you, do not eat Alligator and Beignets on the same night, you'll be sorry if you do. Perhaps the reason I'm not so fond of New Orleans is becuase I had a little incident with the keeper of a voodoo shop. So I wouldn't advise doing anything that involves voodoo
  • Highly recommend you take in a baseball game if you get a chance, it's an "event" most enjoy even they don't understand the game.
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