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First time US road trip Austin, New Orleans, Memphis, Orlando to New York

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May 17th, 2012, 08:32 AM
  #1
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First time US road trip Austin, New Orleans, Memphis, Orlando to New York

3 friends and I are first time travellers to the US.

As part of our trip we want to travel from Austin to New York, visiting New Orleans, Memphis and Orlando in between.

We would like some advice on which order is best to travel, and whether by plane, train, bus or rental car. We have allocated up to 3 weeks to make the journey.

We would like to use a rental car at some stage, but don't know at what point would be best. Keep in mind that we are all female, safety and of course want to make the most of our time
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May 17th, 2012, 08:34 AM
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also this will be in November - December 2012
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May 17th, 2012, 10:08 AM
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Well, 3 weeks isn't much time for the territory you want to cover - so I would look at flights. Ifyou want to rent a car for a couple of days in one place that might work - but otherwise it would be way too much time on the road - esp from orlando to NYC. You have 5 cities - with travel in between - and in just 3 weeks I think only flying makes sense. (Train in the US is not really a viable option except on the DC to Boston Northeast corridor. Except for that the trains are very infrequent, very slow, usually late and generally unpleasant - plus they cost at least as much as flying.)

Another thing to take into account is the weather. In the southern portion of the trip it will likely still be quite warm - but you are coming to New York at the most crowded and expesnive time of the year - and it will definitely be winter weather. You may be lucky and get temps in the 40s - or you could get 20s and snow. Two years ago we have more than 20" at Christmas.

I won't comment on your choice of locations - although it does seem quite odd to me. For adults I would do DC and SF way before Austin and Memphis - and Orlando is always a must miss for me (but I know some people do love Disney).

Not sure where you are from - but I would look into some sort of air pass if available. If not, start searching for flights now - since anything around either Thanksgiving (4th TH in Nov) or Christmas holidays is usually mobbed and expensive - with tens of thousands of kids going home from school for the holidays. Also. start looking for a hotel in NYC now - the longer you wait the higher rates will go - and the best deals often disappear long in advance. (You may be able to get special rates by paying long in advance.)

If you give us an idea of your interests and budget people can make specific recos.
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May 17th, 2012, 10:10 AM
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Hi friendsandfoes, welcome to Fodor's!

Sounds like a fun trip. Will you be flying into one city and out of another (e.g., Austin and NYC)? Do you have specific dates? The end of November and through December are busy travel times with the holidays. And Thanksgiving is the worst of it: this year it's on Thursday, November 22nd, so the Wednesday and Sunday before/after will be terrible travel days.

NYC is very popular (expensive, crowded) at Christmastime - but IMO rightfully so, because it's very pretty decorated for the holidays and there are lots of holiday markets and such.

Also, are you interested in seeing places in between those you mentioned, or are those the primary importance? If the former, you'd probably want to rent a car for most of it. Otherwise, you could drive between New Orleans and Orlando and fly or take public transit for the Austin-N.O. and Orlando-Memphis-NYC legs. (In whichever order you do them.) I will say that Memphis is geographically a bit out of the way from your other destinations... And you probably don't want to drive in the northeast (congested roads and the distinct possibility for bad weather.)

Lastly, what are your interests in type of things to see? (What are you interested in for the cities you mentioned?) How do you like to travel: see as much as possible, or take it easy and get to know a few places - or something in between?
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May 17th, 2012, 12:22 PM
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One thing you'll want to consider is the price of airfare. Flights between mid-size cities in the U.S. is both expensive and time-consuming.

Southwest Airlines can be a god-send in such instances. Southwest, for example, flies from Austin to New Orleans, and from New Orleans to Orlando. However, it doesn't serve Memphis. So one option may be to fly into Nashville and rent a car to visit Memphis, returning to Nashville for your next flight. (Southwest flies between Austin and Nashville and from Nashville to both New Orleans and Orlando.)

Airtran does fly between New Orleans and Memphis via Atlanta (which in itself is a bit insane in terms of routing and takes a full day), but Amtrak has a train between Memphis and New Orleans, so that is at least an option.

There are many options to get back to NYC from any of these cities, with Orlando making the most sense to me.

You could also drive from Austin to New Orleans to Memphis (about a full day's driving between each city). But you might find it costly to drop off a rental car in Memphis, and you don't really need or want a car in New Orleans. But I think that's still an option since you have 3 weeks.

I'd devote at least the following time to each city:
Austin -- 3 or 4 nights (more if you want to see the Hill Country)
Memphis - 2 or 3 nights
Orlando - 3 or 4 nights
New Orleans - 3 or 4 nights
NYC - 5 or more nights.

You can certainly fit all these cities in if you have 3 weeks. But I haven't counted travel days. So add one day between each city for a travel day. It doesn't look too punishing to me, and these are all great places. You will actually want (and will probably need) a rental car in all of these cities except for New Orleans and NYC.

If you want to spend most of your time at WDW, then do that in Orlando, but you could probably spare one day for Universal or Seaworld that would be great.

NYC is at its most expensive starting in late November, so the cost of hotels in NYC may also be a factor in your decisions. And Orlando is crazy during Thanksgiving week, when a lot of families take off ... it's relatively dead starting the Monday after Thanksgiving.

If you are not Americans, Thanksgiving (a Thursday) will be among the best travel days of the year, and I'd heartily recommend planning your trip such that you actually travel somewhere on that day. The Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving, on the contrary, are among the worst travel days of the entire year.
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May 17th, 2012, 12:51 PM
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Travel between New Orleans and Orlando is a 2-day trip via interstate highways, but it is long and boring. There is very little interesting scenery. If you want to conserve time, consider flying.


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May 17th, 2012, 01:03 PM
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Assuming you're Aussies or Kiwis (trying to cover too much in a car ) and arriving from the west, I'd head to NYC first. Nov., even late Nov., will be a LOT cheaper in hotels than Dec. I'd fly from NYC to Memphis, then fly Memphis to Orlando and rent a car there and drive from Orlando to New Orleans, then Austin.
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May 17th, 2012, 01:35 PM
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<< Travel between New Orleans and Orlando is a 2-day trip via interstate highways, but it is long and boring. There is very little interesting scenery. >>

I disagree: driving from New Orleans along the Gulf Coast is scenic with plenty of good eats along the way. (Once you hit FL and head inland the drive does indeed get much less interesting.)

IMO, there are two driving routes to consider:

1) Fly NYC-Memphis-Orlando, then drive the Gulf Coast to New Orleans. Fly NO-Austin.

2) Fly NYC-Orlando-Memphis. Drive the Natchez Trace through Mississippi (do stop at Natchez) to New Orleans. Fly NO-Austin.
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May 19th, 2012, 10:24 PM
  #9
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Thanks everyone for your replies!

Yes we are Australian, our ages range from 21 to 30. We are all outgoing and friendly, in creative fashion/retail jobs. Constantly on the go, we love fashion, culture and just looking for anything fun.

We are planning on arriving in LA around the 1st of November and heading south straight away from there. I have no idea about thanksgiving so travelling somewhere on that day is an excellent idea

We do not plan on driving the whole way at all, I just didn't know what part was best or appropriate to do this, just thought it would be nice to drive at some point. Also being on the other side of the road I dont want to do this in a major city or for too long.

As for our choice of destinations, we want to visit New Orleans as we have heard it is amazing and while we are all the way there, thought that some part of Texas should be seen. After some research it seems that Austin would be best suited to us. One of the girls definitely wants to visit Graceland and obviously Orlando for the Disney and a couple more theme parks. This is only a portion of our trip we will be on the west coast for some time after.

I know it might sound like a lot to visit but considering we are flying halfway across the world, want to see and experience as much as possible.

We really appreciate everyones suggestions.
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May 20th, 2012, 04:36 AM
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Doug's suggestion about flying Southwest Airlines is a good one because it services so many of the places you want to visit and allows you to change your flights without paying any re-booking fees like the other airlines charge. (Those fees are generally $150 for each change.) However, if you fly Southwest Airlines, you might want to fly into Little Rock, Arkansas rather than Nashville for your drive to Memphis. It's about an hour closer to Memphis than Nashville is.

I enjoy flying Southwest Airlines because they are friendly, have consumer-friendly policies, and great rates if you book your flights early. However, they have some quirks that other airlines do not. First of all, you won't find them listed on any of the airline booking sites such as Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity. You have to go to the Southwest Airlines website to book their flights. Secondly, they open their dates for flights incrementally. For example, at the present time their flight schedule is only open to November 2, 2012. (But you can look at their current schedule to get some idea of the routes you might want to book at a later date.)

The fares for Southwest Airlines are generally very good if you book soon after the dates open for booking. However, booking close to the date you wish to fly will generally result in fares higher than those offered by legacy lines such as American, United, etc. So if you wish to use Southwest Airlines for your flights, I would suggest booking as soon as you can after your dates become available.
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May 20th, 2012, 06:05 AM
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You should be aware that in the US it can be very expesnive for anyone under 25 years of age to rent a car. So - if you do rent be sure that the driver is at least 25 and do not sign anyone younger on as a secondary driver - or the cost can go through the roof. And yes, all drivers must be signed on with the rental company - insurance will be invalid if anyone not an official driver is found at the wheel.

Agree to buy air tickets as soon as possible and to avoid Orlando for Thansgiving (they often close the parks then because they are so crowded). And do make your NY plans as soon as possible for best rates.

Also - you need to plan on a cold weather wardrobe for NYC - not sure where you are from in OZ but I believe the country simply does not get winter weather at all.
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May 21st, 2012, 06:44 AM
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Unless you need to be in Austin for a specific event, I'd strongly consider flying to NYC immediately after your visit to LA and then working your way back from there. It's generally cheaper to fly from LAX to JFK than to most other places, and hotels in NYC will be much cheaper in early November than later in the month. And it's likely to be a tad warmer. Just a thought, but it's worth considering.
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May 21st, 2012, 09:48 PM
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If you need any tips about where to stay in Austin or New Orleans, I'll help you out there. The weather should be nice that time of year down south, with a strong possibility for inclement weather up north.
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May 22nd, 2012, 02:30 AM
  #14
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That is a good idea to work backwards from New York if it is cheaper, and we can avoid some congestion due to the holidays etc. Definitely avoiding Orlando around thanksgiving thanks for that tip. We havent booked our flights yet, that is happening next week so we can go from there as to what city we will be in at what time.

Southwest airlines sounds like a go, we will definitely check that out!

Weather wise, it doesn't really matter too much. Obviously we are well accustomed to hot weather, but its nice to be out of our comfort zone and experience the cold for once.
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May 22nd, 2012, 06:18 AM
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If you decide to start your trip back westward from NYC, also look at JetBlue (Southwest flies from both EWR and LGA, but the number of flights and destinations is strictly limited and will probably not help you to get to Orlando, which should be your first stop after NYC).

But there are multiple options for getting to Orlando from NYC, and flights are generally inexpensive (relatively speaking) because of the volume. It might be cheaper to fly from EWR (Newark Airport) than either JFK or LGA, but always try all three to see what the best deal is. Most of the best flights to Orlando leave very early in the AM.

Finally, also consider flying directly from Australia to NYC. That's always an option and would save you the cost of one flight. You can end your trip in LA, which will have much better weather than most of the rest of the country (though LA does tend to get rain in December).
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May 23rd, 2012, 08:43 AM
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Yes, I would definitely recommend starting in NYC and working your way back; it will be warmer and less crowded here then. Another plus this way is that you won't need (or want!) a car in NYC, but will in other places.

Both Southwest and Jet Blue are good recommendations for flying. Last year, I traveled frequently from NYC to southern Florida, almost always on Jet Blue (which has terminals at both JFK and LGA). When you use a travel site, just put in "NYC" or "NYC all" to get result for the three area airports: Newark/EWR, JFK, and LaGuardia/LGA. Of these, LGA is closest to Manhattan - but of the three, the most difficult to get into "the city" via public transportation! Know that Newark is in NJ; if you take a taxi, you'll be paying the toll to cross the river into NY - currently about $12 - in addition to fare and tip.

Given your ages and interests, I would suggest adding Miami to your itinerary. It's not super close to Orlando - about a 4 hour drive - but the art, fashion, food and overall scene are definitely worthwhile!
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