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Considering a Trip to TN/AL/GA/SC during Winter Break

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Oct 5th, 2011, 10:01 PM
  #1
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Considering a Trip to TN/AL/GA/SC during Winter Break

You all have been so wonderful in the past, so I thought I'd ask another set of questions.

I'm thinking about spending winter break (3 weeks) visiting the southern corner of the country, where I've never been. (On the East Coast, I've never been further south than Maryland, so this would really be a whole new world for me.)

This trip is not certain for a whole host of different reasons, but I wanted to run the itinerary past you guys so that if it does happen, I can have as much time to really plan and research as I can.

My Thoughts:
12/18-- fly BWI-Nashville (BNA); arrive at 9:05 AM. S-T in Nashville
12/21--AM bus Nashville-Memphis; arrive at 10:45 AM. W-Th in Memphis
12/23-- travel Memphis-Birmingham. F-M in Birmingham
**Note: I'm an observant Jew, so F-Sat is not a day of travelling for me, although I'd be spending the time with good friends. Birmingham is effectively S-M
12/26 bus Birmingham-Atlanta; arrive 2:05 PM. Atlanta M-W
12/29 bus Atlanta-Savannah; arriving 3:15 PM. Savannah Th-W
(Same note about not sight-seeing late Friday and Saturday applies here)
1/5 bus Savannah-Charleston; arriving 9 AM. Charleston Th- M
1/9 fly CHS-BWI; arrive at 2:35 PM

Times and methods of transportation are listed only as far as I found cheap ad practical ways of getting from one place to another; total listed travel cost: $466.
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So, how's it look? Are the days balanced according to the amount of time it would take? Would you add/subtract anything?
Additionally, How much would you guess that such a trip would cost? $3500? $4000? More than that?

Thanks you all so much in advance, ad I look forward to your suggestions.
Hannah_reads_for_fun is offline  
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Oct 6th, 2011, 05:02 AM
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Bus travel in the south is not frequent. It is long and often uncomfortable. I considered taking my mom via bus to Tennessee and I was told by people at work who have attempted it and by posters here on Fodors that it is a last chance option. As one poster told me when she worked at the Department of Corrections they would give released out-of-state inmates a bus ticket and a ride to the Greyhound station. You might indeed meet wonderful people but still the rides are long. There are few express routes so you stop every 30 minutes. Miss a bus? Oops the next one won't come for another 24 hours. Could you consider less stops and fly between them via Southwest? Driving in Atlanta is not my favorite, but the other cities look doable.
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Oct 6th, 2011, 05:27 AM
  #3
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Thanks so much for your reply, Palmetto Princess.
I'm a broke college student, though, and I don't have a car. I actually looked up specific schedules to get from every A to B, because I had heard the same thing, and most of the bus schedules looked pretty doable. Most of the bus rides listed are about 4 hours, and I do bus-rides like that semi-frequently to get to NYC from Maryland. The MOST fun? No. But Amtrak was outrageously expensive (although I have to go back and see if a pass would make it at least a little cost-effective) and renting a car is going to have exorbitant fees, since I'm not 25. As for flying, flight legs were $139 on average on Southwest. In contrast, Greyhound buses averaged $40 a leg......That's a big difference.
(Plus, when you factor in airport time, the bus v. flight thing didn't sound as dramatic a time difference to me)

Or am I totally missing something about bus travel in the South?

The question of more or less, especially car-less is a standing question, and I'm happy to ask for advice...
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Oct 6th, 2011, 09:26 AM
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The only thing I can personally say with certainty about Greyhound-type travel in the South is that it's done much less often than in the Northeast/mid-Atlantic. I see on another thread that you're a 28-year-old woman traveling alone, so personally I'd avoid long overnight trips (which it seems like you are doing). However, we don't hear very many stories about grisly Greyhound crime or anything. I think it's unlikely you'd have major issues, assuming you use common sense and all that. I do think you'll want to check out where the bus stations are in each city and make sure you know how to get to your hotel. Nashville's main bus station just moved to a nice new building on the north end of downtown where you shouldn't have any issues, but previously it was in a sketchy area I would want to get out of fairly quickly. Bus stations in other cities might be in similar situations.

Without a car you will need to pick where you stay pretty carefully so you'll be able to get to what you want to do. For example, a cheaper hotel in the suburbs would be tempting in Nashville, but cab costs and/or bus time to get to the usual tourist stuff will add up quickly. You'll almost certainly want to stay downtown, where you'll be in walking distance of a lot. Nashville does have a bus system that should be useful to you (it's set up in spokes, so to get anywhere you pretty much have to go downtown - but if you're staying downtown this works well). A few places, like the Opryland Hotel, should also have shuttles to/from downtown.

Your time in Savannah seems like a whole lot to me, even with 1.5 days taken out of sightseeing time. I prefer Charleston (though both are great) and personally would take at least one Savannah day and bump it there.
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Oct 6th, 2011, 09:27 AM
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Oh, oops - just realized that the "other thread" I got your age from wasn't actually you! Sorry about that. Still, same advice applies.
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Oct 6th, 2011, 09:36 AM
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Are you able to rent a car? Our college age daughter rode a bus ONE time and never again. It can be really basically nasty, I think. With 3 weeks to spend it would be a very comfortable driving trip--and for a small car if you shop/bid on Priceline, I think it will be a money saver.
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Oct 6th, 2011, 11:43 AM
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jent103-
I will indeed use common sense. I have't gotten to the mapping-things-out-stage yet, but I'll be careful. I'm actually less than 28, so the warning is well-taken. I definitely want to be downtown in all of these places, and I'm going to start looking up hostel locations soon. I'm a good walker, and I can use whatever public transit there is (it worked out nearly perfectly for me in San Diego last winter).

Thanks for the tip to bump a Savannah day to Charleston; when I plotted it out in my mind, I accidentally counted the last day of my trip (which is really just breakfast and a flight home) as a full day there.

Does the rest of the breakdown look fair?

Gretchen-
Where did your daughter ride a bus that was so bad? The bus to NYC has never been truly painful, so I figured it would be fine in the South...

The thing about renting a car is that, although it opens up a lot of doors and adventures and scenic trips, it adds more than $2000 to the cost of the vacation. From my estimate, that nearly DOUBLES the cost, especially once you factor in parking and gas. I just don't have that kind of money......
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Oct 6th, 2011, 12:16 PM
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You do not want to do a Greyhound bus trip of the south.
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Oct 6th, 2011, 02:49 PM
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You won't be seeing much in Birmingham except your friends, as most everything will close early Christmas Eve (12/24) and be closed all of Christmas Day (12/25).

Of course, that would be true pretty much anywhere that weekend.
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Oct 6th, 2011, 02:52 PM
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You are aware that the weather could be cool or even cold during that period, aren't you? Not New York cold, but 30s and 40s are not unheard of, although it is likely to be warmer than that - but not 70s!
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Oct 6th, 2011, 04:05 PM
  #11
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So I researched further car rentals, and it looks like if greyhound is out, then that's probably the easiest way to do this, but it's not cheap. Does it make the most sense, you think, to grab a car in Memphis, drive Memphis-Nashville-Birmingham-Atlanta-Savannah and return it at the start of my time there(est. $650 plus gas and parking) and then take Amtrak to Charleston and fly home, or to keep it all the way, driving home (est $975 plus gas and parking)?

In other words, how necessary is a car once I get to Savannah and Charleston? (Is it worth $350 plus gas and parking??? [$220 after factoring in the flight home])
How much should I budget for parking?

And if, after all the car budgeting is done, I find that the trip is no longer fiscally responsible, how would you suggest cutting it or revamping it so that it stays an option?

P.S. Today, when I opened up car rental pages to check out rates again, I noticed that Herz is offering 20-25 year olds the chance to rent until the end of January without fees for being young. Divine Providence?
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Oct 6th, 2011, 04:25 PM
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Having a car could make your life much easier, I think, especially if what you want to see in a city isn't right downtown. It also (obviously) gives you much more flexibility with schedules and stops. I was in Savannah for about 3.5 days in the spring; we used the car to get to Bonaventure Cemetery and to Tybee Island, and other than that, left it parked. If you stay in the historic district, it's quite walkable. Charleston, in my experience, isn't quite as easy - the immediate downtown historic district is walkable, but if you want to go to Middleton Place or Fort Sumter or Isle of Palms, I believe you'll need a car or a shuttle (if those are around - I haven't looked).

Our hotel in Savannah had free parking; not sure what the situation would be if you were to find a hostel. I stayed with a friend's family last time I was in Charleston, so not much help there, but there are quite a few Charleston experts around here.
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Oct 6th, 2011, 05:44 PM
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Hey jen103, I guess i'm kind of one since I live here.

I think it's easy to get around the Charleston HD without a car. Take a carriage ride, eat some good food, and find Those Of Your Kind ) college people) on Upper King Street. I haven't stayed in a hostel in years, but I hear the NotsoHostel is nice enough.
http://notsohostel.com/
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Oct 6th, 2011, 06:23 PM
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Three weeks of travel is a pretty long time "for the road". Of the places you are listing as going, if you have to pare it down to make it work, I'd stick to the east coast--charleston, Savannah, etc. These are walkable cities. The others are spread out, and really not so "historic" in what they have preserved.
Bus travel is just basically nasty in the South. Trust me.
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Oct 25th, 2011, 03:26 PM
  #15
 
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I can't say I would sign up for it but Megabus announced today that they are making Atlanta a hub. Some of the cities you wanted to visit are on the list.
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Oct 25th, 2011, 06:54 PM
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I'd go with bus, but that's me. It makes no sense for the OP to pay for a rental when she is definitely only going to park it for shabbat. Her individual legs are very short, and I can't imagine that Greyhound has deteriorated to the point of being unacceptable for a few hours of daytime travel. I think the stations can often be more scary than the trips. Just sit at the front of the bus and use the bathroom before you get on ... And absolutely check the megabus.

Both hostels in Atlanta, Savannah and Charleston are well located in areas you want to be (although if it's the same Savannah property in which I stayed many years ago, it's on the fringe of an iffy area). You should be able to walk to shul in both Svannah and Charleston -- the earliest synagogues in the US are here, adding to the trip.

Since you won't be eating out (not much kosher in those cities at least), I don't see the total cost of the trip at more than $2,000 not including airfare.
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