aussie's american dream

Old Feb 19th, 2007, 04:33 PM
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aussie's american dream


My husband and myself are bringing our 3 sons aged 19, 15 & 13 to America for a month for our dream holiday.

We start at LA and then take an RV, via the Nascars in Phoenix, to the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley and then on to Las Vegas. After 10 nights in an RV we will fly to San Fran. By now our budget is flagging a little. We want to stay in SF for 4 nights. 2 days to do the touristy bits and then hire a car. We will do a day trip to the Napa and see the redwoods. The next 2 days we travel to LA via Monterey. We want to stay half way or wherever is the best point. Stay 2 nights in LA with a trip to the Petersen museum before flying to Hawaii for 5 days R&R before home to Australia.

By now our budget is gasping!!

This is our last hurrah as we find our babies growing up and getting ready to move on and needless to say 5 adults is hard to accommodate. Would REALLY appreciate assistance with SF, Montery, LA and Hawaii suggestions for places to stay. Have been over the internet so much I am losing the will to go not need to stay in 5 star...would really love some character as it's the people we want to meet and talk to as much as the sights to see. Prefer all in one room or unit as all I can seem to find need 2 rooms and the costs skyrocket.

Hoping someone has the patience to help.......grateful to you all......

also any advice on tipping..not an Aussie thing to do and has me a bit worried

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Old Feb 19th, 2007, 04:51 PM
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Welcome to the US!

I can only help with a couple of things, but here goes:

Grand Canyon---make sure you have campground reservations. You can get them on-line. (I can find the link if you need it).

Hawaii---if you are staying in Honolulu, we have stayed in a family suite at this place:

Not fancy, but pleasant and very friendly. It is a block or two off the beach. Rate for 5 people is $245 US. Hopefully someone else can suggest condos that are even better priced.

Tipping--don't worry. The only place you "need" to tip is in a "sit-down" restaurant. Then, you add 15% to the bill.
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Old Feb 19th, 2007, 04:54 PM
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If you are at a place where you order at a counter and they bring the food to you and clean up after you, there is usually a tip jar. Please, throw in a few dollars for the staff. They are often college kids working to pay for school or others trying to get by.

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Old Feb 19th, 2007, 09:42 PM
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We went to San Francisco last June and stayed in the Castle Inn. It was clean, cheap, in a convenient location and the staff was very helpful.

We also drove down the coast and stayed in Pacific Grove instead of Monterey. P.G. is cheaper, but still close to Monterey and Carmel. We stayed in a B&B, so I can't suggest a hotel there.

As for Hawaii, we're planning a trip there right now. I've found this site to be helpful: I think you're more likely to find a cheaper rate on a condo here. Good luck with your trip planning!

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Old Feb 19th, 2007, 11:19 PM
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What time of year are you traveling? Our summer will be expensive everywhere, and hot in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

If you can travel off-season, you'll find cheaper accomodations. We stayed at the Marina Motel in San Francisco for $99 a night in May, and at the El Castell Motel in Monterey for $69 in a family room.

If your budget is really tight, consider joining YHA and staying in hostels. HI (the American version of YHA) has hostels in San Francisco, along the coast, and Santa Monica, among other locations.

Lee Ann
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Old Feb 19th, 2007, 11:38 PM
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My friend got a great hotel in San Francisco on Priceline.
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 02:02 AM
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G'day Aussie-annie
We did part of what you are planning just this past January. We did skiing in Colorado, San Francisco, the drive to LA and LA. I understand what you mean about the 2 hotel rooms, it really jacks up the price, however spending nearly 3 weeks in the same room as a 16 yrs old was not going to happen for me.

In San Francisco we stayed at the Rex Hotel in Union square. We ended up with two rooms, orginally for this location I had booked a King Suite, however upon checking the Rex web site closer to the time I found a three nights for the price of two deal (which was perfect for our three nights of course) so re booked two rooms for the extra $150 or so it was well worth the extra. This is something you could look out for. We booked the room over the net and then cancelled with no penalty and rebooked the two rooms. In fact one of the hotels I rang (from Aus also) suggested I made sure I booked something and just kept checking the net for better deals. Time consuming of course but worth it.

We went to the Aquarium at Monterey and throughly enjoyed ourselves. We actually stayed in Carmel for one night and then drove to Cambria for the next. Cambria is actually miles wise 1/2 way, but the first part of the drive from SF takes longer because of the twisty roads. It is a long drive (or so we found) If you are only allowing one night to stop you will find there will be a lot of driving and not a lot of time to stop and see things. Thus not really "getting" the feel of the area, which is what happened to us. Even though you know the distance is in miles and think you are prepared for them, they are so much longer than Kilometers! Sounds crazy I know.

As for the tipping, maybe we misunderstood but we seemed to tip at every turn. Bell man, taxis, shuttle bus drivers (in ski village)and of course the waitstaff at restaurants. Many credit card slips come with the calculated suggestions of what to tip at the bottom of them - they make it easy for you!! 15% = xxx 20% = yyy. This really kicks up the price if you are eating at the more expensive restaurants. Look for the diners in San Francisco and LA, (like Loris) the food is usually pretty good and the teens like the whole American diner experience, something we don't realy have back home. Make sure you eat lots of pancakes!!!

Buy a muni pass for the transport in San Francisco, this will let you use the cable cars (huge success), buses and trams, you will save heaps if you want to use the cable cars.

Sorry I can't help with accommodation as there was only three of us. However, we did stay in downtown LA at the Bonaventure, many of this board will tell you not to stay down town, but as we didn't have a car for most of the time we found it extremely convenient for public transport. If you are hanging onto the car, which probably is the best idea then you are free to stay wherever you like! We drove through Hollywood at night and thought it a bit sleezy to be honest. I am glad we didn't stay there, but many on this board will tell you it is the place to stay. Too many choices which of course makes too many decisions. Sorry to be so long winded but as we have just returned everything is still fresh in my mind.
Schnauzer (this of course is through the eyes of an Aussie not a native USA person!)
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 02:07 AM
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A cost improvement for lodging costs is using,if possible, the Motel6 Between S.Francisco and LA stay at least one night in S.Barabara.You'll love it. As excursion from S.F visit the Muir woods.Not far from SF but very nice.A pity you wont be able to visit Yosemite.There are Motel6 in Phoenix-Monterrey-S.Barbara...Paul
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 02:53 AM
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Thank you all so much. We are travelling mid April to mid May so hopefully that will help the wallet.

Have started looking into all your recommended sites and accommodations.

Bless you all Annie
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 08:08 AM
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ttt for aussie_annie
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 08:36 AM
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i believe the Carmel Country Inn can accommodate all of you in one of their nice suites...and it's not expensive, as these places go...and very clean and nice. Also, the motels in Pacific Grove are pretty mellow and less expensive and right near the beach. Pacific Grove is a nice town.
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 04:24 PM
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In the Monterey area you might try Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove. They rent out rooms not being used for conferences. It is clean and comfortable, the grounds are wonderful; it is across the street from the beach! You can get rooms with 4 or more twin beds and the price includes a fabulous full breakfast in their dining room! We have stayed there many times with our family. (By the way, my mum is from Queensland - where are you from?) Try
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 05:31 PM
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Dear Annie,
We are two retired Aussies on a limited busget, who have travelled lots in the USA in the last 10 years or so. We used to get the coupons from booklets available at garages & McDonalds for cheaper motels - see , and decide where to go as we went, but as we get older and want more certainty, and are prepared to stay places longer and do more day trips from there, we have found "Priceline" to be very good, and have always had hotels far better than we expected. We keep our budget to below $100A per night as much as possible. There is a surcharge on what you bid, but we got the Marriott Courtyard Inn in San Francisco for well under this price, including breakfast and weekday teas. You do have to bid early, and you would need a car for somewhere like this.

Don't forget the National Parks Pass for $50US - the parks are wonderful. See
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 05:54 PM
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The National Parks pass has been replaced by one that is newer and better and.....more expensive. $80 per year now.
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Old Feb 21st, 2007, 01:08 AM
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Carrabella, were you able to use Priceline
using an Australian credit card? I was under the impression Priceline wasn't an option but have recently learned that it accepts Mastercard but not Visa. Am interested to hear how to go about it - certainly seems to make things more affordable. Thanks
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Old Feb 21st, 2007, 07:30 AM
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Since you keep on mentioning budget, is flying to SF from Las Vegas cheaper than driving the RV?

If budget is an issue, have you considered tent camping? For about $400 you can pick up cheap camping equipment (tent, sleeping bags, mattress pads, cooding equipment) at Target, or Sports Authority, or K-Mart, or any other similar store. Public campsites are relatively cheap. The down side is that you need to set up camp and take it down, but you have 3 young men to help you. You also do not have AC, but if you stay above 5000 ft., it will cool down at night. Add to that cost the rental of a van or SUV, then compare it to the rental of an RV.
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Old Feb 21st, 2007, 09:50 AM
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Drop me an email if you have any questions about the NASCAR portion of your trip. rae @ I've never been to the Phoenix track, but can hook you up with a couple of experts who will be happy to help and give you "insider" tips and info.
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Old Feb 21st, 2007, 01:01 PM
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LOL @ "Priceline accepting MasterCard but not Visa"

I think Annie should look into Priceline for nights when she KNOWS in which location she wishes to be.

The time of year that she is traveling is GOOD news for her budget, with regard to hotel rooms. (low demand)

The weather will be fine in most areas, could be a bit chilly near the Grand Canyon.

For San Fran, I would definitely use (study up on it at and I think you may as well shoot for TWO rooms using Priceline, given 5 people.

In a perfect world you would stay most of your San Fran. nights withOUT the hired car, to save on nightly parking costs. If using Priceline you could land, for a very reasonable cost, TWO rooms in a fairly central location.

Side note: you MIGHT consider touring "Hearst Castle" on the California coast enroute from San Fran to L.A.

It really seems to me that you'll only make good use of Priceline for your San Fran. stay. (I'm not sure what Priceline produces for Hawaii, so maybe read up on that at as well)

I hope it all works well for you.

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Old Feb 21st, 2007, 01:32 PM
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Northwestmale, I am talking about usung non- US issued credit cards. Have YOU successfully used a non- US - issued Visa card with Priceline? If not, my question still hasn't been answered.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 09:40 AM
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Australian credit card holders can register and use their cards/addresses through Priceline's Hong Kong operation,
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