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North America - 4 Corners trip. Experience needed!

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Jun 1st, 2013, 09:18 PM
  #1
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North America - 4 Corners trip. Experience needed!

gday guys,

So we are travelling at the end of the year and need some critiques on our trip.

We are planning to do as much as possible, as this is probably one of our last overseas visits before house etc. Winter isn't ideal but we still want to make the most of it. Need help from experienced people to tell us if stuff is impossible etc or better ways to do things. Also we haven't really worked out activities at each location yet, or booked our internal USA flights. Looking to do them ASAP as well as accommodation.

Night 1) La, jetlag
2) La, pick up hire car
3) La
4)Drive 3hrs, San Diego. Zoo overnight?
5) San Diego. Sea world
6) Drive up coast road, stay somewhere between LA and SF.
7) Finish drive to Yosemite, 4hrs. Yosemite overnight
8) Yosemite
9) Drive to SF, 4 hrs
10) SF
11) Drop off hire car. Fly to Seattle. Night in seattle. Pick up hire car
12) Drive up to Whistler, 4hrs. Xmas eve
13) Whistler. Xmas day
14) Whistler
15) Whistler
16) Drive to Vancouver, 2.5 hrs. Overnight Vancouver.
17) Drive to Seattle, 3hrs. drop hire car. Fly to NY.
18) NY
19) NY. NYE do what?
20) NY
21) NY
22) NY
23) NY
24) Fly to Toronto. Pick up hire car. Drive to Niagara
25) Stay Niagara falls
26) Drive to Toronto, drop hire car, Fly to Orlando. Pick up HC, rest day. night in Orlando
27) Orlando. Disney
28) Orlando. Disney
29) Orlando. Universal island of adventure
30) Drive 1.5 hrs, Everglades
31) Drive 3.5 hrs, Miami. Drive to Key West?
32) Miami
33) Drop off hire car. Fly to Las Vegas. Pick up HC
34) Vegas
35) Vegas
36) Drive 4hrs to Grand canyon/Zion nat. Park
37) GC/ Zion
38) GC/ Zion
39) Drive 5hrs to LA, LA overnight
40) Flight home.

My primary interest is sightseeing, and Photography. Missus is into sightseeing, travelling, little bit of shopping.

Our budget is around 15 – 20k, but we worked it out and might need to stretch to 22k to maintain our 5k spending / activities budget.

Thank you very much,

Daniel
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 03:25 AM
  #2
 
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1 Your subject line mentions the "Four Corners" but it is not mentioned in your daily schedule, even though other nearby southwestern locations are.

2 You have two cross border rental car trips. Be aware that you will need a special contract, and the cost of dropping the car in Toronto may be horrendous. Consider leaving it on the US side and taking a bus or train.

3 Your chances of having flight delays and/or terrible driving conditions at this time of year are not trivial, especially in the northeastern US. You can eventually make your destination, but if you are prevented from making your Florida flight, for example, you may lose your hotel reservation in Florida. Consider seriously taking trip interruption insurance. I also would not chance a border crossing into Canada, driving to Toronto, dropping the car and catching a flight to Florida all in one day. Too stressful.

4 I assume you have kids with you, otherwise the Orlando segment is way out of proportion.

Personally,I would drop Niagara and Toronto until another trip and fly directly to Florida on JetBlue. JetBlue is a godsend to people on the east coast, and it is the last(?) airline in the US that is fun to fly.

That will give you more time in Miami and the Keys. It will not necessarily be warm in Orlando -- they get frosts --, so if your family likes beaches, you have to go much farther south.
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 04:55 AM
  #3
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Gday mate,

Thanks a lot for the input

In point form hehe.

1) I meant the four corners of the US

2) based on advice we have received we are dropping Seattle. So there goes one border crossing. With Niagara, we will fly from Vancouver to Toronto, pick a hire car up, and drive it down to Niagara. Stay the night in Niagara, then drive back to Toronto, drop the car off and fly to NY. We dont have time for Toronto this trip, just using it as a convenient airport.

3) Thanks for this, it has been at the back of my mind. Will most travel insurance policies cover this or is it something different?

4) No kids, but the missus and I are both keen to see Disneyworld and Universal. To get 3 days there we need 4 nights.

Not fussed on the weather, we are more into sightseeing than anything. We did a 2 week Europe trip this year in mid winter and really enjoyed ourselves despite it.

Thank you very much for the input, we both really really appreciate it.
Dan
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 05:34 AM
  #4
 
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Grand Canyon "might not" be possible during early January due to winter weather. Winter conditions at the South Rim can be extreme with snow, icy roads, and possible road closures. I'll leave it to others to clarify further.

Regarding Orlando and the parks, have your lodging reservations in place before you come. Even though you'll be coming after the week between Christmas-New Years, the area is hugely popular. A good reference is Trip Advisor's Orlando forum http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum...o_Florida.html It might even behoove you to get a package deal from Disney, because you would get free transportation to/from the airport and transportation to/from your Disney hotel to the parks. The downside is that Disney will not help you get to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure, but you can always get a taxi for a day or two.

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
http://wdwinfo.com/

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Jun 2nd, 2013, 05:44 AM
  #5
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Gday Vic, thank you very much for the input.

More clarification on possible canyon/ Zion nat. Park conditions would be great from somebody in the know.

Re: Orlando, we are booking accommodation very soon, and as much as we want to get the full experience, theyve priced themselves out of the market in my opinion. We have found a nice house on Airbnb for 85/night, a 10 min drive from Disney and universal. Add parking at 14/day and car hire at 43/day, it is still way way way cheaper than a disney/universal hotel. For a whole house!

Do you have any opinions on this option?

Do you think the parks will be ludicrously busy at this time of year or should we be ok?

Which Disney parks should we go to? We are def doing magic kingdom, but only really have time for one more. Opinions?

Cheers,
Dan
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 06:51 AM
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While Toronto is a charming city - it and Niagara Falls are not really places for winter visits. You will be running into a LOT of snow and very cold temps. Niagara Falls esp makes no sense - since many attractions are closed for the season and they often get a huge amount of lake effect snow - as in feet at a time.

Also agree that renting cars across the border is very difficult - check NOW to see if any agency will let you do it - and drop the car in another country - and what the fees will be - expect very high.

NYC on NY's Eve will be VERY expensive for hotels. But after that you will have the benefit of the lowest hotel rates of the year. On the Eve do NOT attempt to visit Times Square to see the Ball Drop. You will be stuck in the middle of a crowd of more than a million people, standing for more than 8 hours - with no facilities - able to leave but not to return. If you get a night with good weather (40 and clear) it's not so bad but if you get 20's and snow or sleet it would be hell.

And do realize will need a completely different wardrobe for the northern portion of your trip (full winter clothing - heavy jacket, hat, scarf, gloves, heavy sweaters and pants of cord or wool and snow boots that keep your feet off the ground) and should have some experience before trying to drive in ice and snow - which is very different than regular driving.

This is a trip that is certainly doable, but you will need to plan carefully and take the weather and borders into account now in your planning. Also - flights around the holidays are usually full and book out far in advance (college kids going home and returning to school) so reserve them in advance - before school schedules are set and students grab up all of the tickets at the best rates (will often happen by mid Sept)
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 08:02 AM
  #7
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Gday mate,

Thank you for your experiences.

Re Niagara, this will probably be our only chance to see it in the next 10 yrs i have looked at winter photos and they look spectacular! The photographer in me thinks it will be worthwhile.

Re border crossings, we now have no border crossings in remtal cars,.

Re NYE at times square, we have heard all about it, not 100% if we want to do it or not. Thanks for the heads up.

Re wardrobe and driving, all sorted and should be fine

Thanks for the advice with flights too, we are looking at booking them very soon so hopefully it wont be a drama.

Thanks for your input amd advice!

Dan
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 08:59 AM
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Hello Dan

I travel from Montreal south at that time of year and I'll say that it's important to have backup plans in case things go wrong with the northerly places in winter. I've even gotten stuck for a few days as far south as Washington DC. Consequently, I think you should listen to the others about Niagara Falls potentially causing problems.

You're looking at the good: those winter photos on the rare occasion where Niagara froze seemed particularly beautiful? I agree but chances are that's not what you get, that you wouldn't see it frozen but most likely it just would be cold, unpleasant weather that wouldn't make you want to linger outside for long to sightsee/take photos and potentially worse: perhaps you'd have to cut days off of your NYC/Florida part of the journey being unable to fly due to snow/ice. If you insist upon doing it, though, I'd recommend flying into Buffalo instead since you're not planning to see Toronto anyway... generally cheaper and you wouldn't have to contend with Toronto traffic. If you do decide to do a northerly travel leg, I hope things go well; it often does for me, but really do have a backup plan.

I'm going to suggest a few different but further south iconic American places in case you decide you'd prefer to have a better chance of getting more pleasant weather for exploring and not being stuck in airports stranded (places you also wouldn't see for 10 more years as you say): New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah. You could even potentially drive from Charleston/Savannah to Orlando.

I actually would recommend keeping Seattle as flights in the US tend to be less expensive than in Canada. Plus, Seattle's an interesting city.

Good luck whatever you decide, Daniel
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 09:16 AM
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Hi Daniel,

I really don't understand this trip at all. You are bouncing all over North America! Do you plan to ski at Whistler?

I lived in southern California for 30 years and would not recommend driving from LA to SD just for overnight. Have you never visited a Sea World type of park? There are many around the US.

Also, you do know that the original Disneyland and Universal Studios are in southern California? Why go all the way to FL for those if you are flying in to LA?

You do need to realize that winter weather in the US can cause much bigger travel problems than in Europe.

The way you have written your itinerary, it sounds like you think Grand Canyon and Zion are in the same place. They are not. A few hours driving apart.

I live in UT and Zion is one of my favorite places. Winter is definitely doable weather wise, but it's my least favorite season there. The canyon is much more beautiful during the other 3 seasons, especially for photography. Do you plan to skip Bryce? It's only 1.5 drive from Zion....
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 10:26 AM
  #10
 
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For NYC new year's eve you can see the fireworks in central park without standing in the middle of a mob for hours in advance.

I reco staying on the upper west side - a mid/upscale residential neighborhood - right near Central Park and a bunch of the major museums. There are a bunch of inexpensive and moderate family friendly restaurants and 2 subway lines for easy access to the rest of the city. Look at the Beacon, On the Ave, the Lucerne, etc
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 10:39 AM
  #11
 
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Whoa-- that's one wild itinerary! Slow down and enjoy the scenery.
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 12:08 PM
  #12
 
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"Re: Orlando, we are booking accommodation very soon, and as much as we want to get the full experience, theyve priced themselves out of the market in my opinion. We have found a nice house on Airbnb for 85/night, a 10 min drive from Disney and universal. Add parking at 14/day and car hire at 43/day, it is still way way way cheaper than a disney/universal hotel. For a whole house!"

"Do you have any opinions on this option?"

Never used it, but my dentist is a fan. Just remember, if you stay at a Disney resort, there is free parking in the resort's lot and free transportation to/from the parks. Also to/from the airport (MCO).

Another option is Travelzoo http://www.travelzoo.com/hotels/orlando They have some good deals. Check back regularly as there are always new deals being added.

"Do you think the parks will be ludicrously busy at this time of year or should we be ok?"

They definitely will be the week between Christmas and New Years. This is the absolutely the very busiest of the year and some parks close their gates to new guests by 12 noon. It "should" begin to slowly taper off after January 1st.

"Which Disney parks should we go to? We are def doing magic kingdom, but only really have time for one more. Opinions?"

Everyone has their favorites, but mine is Epcot.


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Jun 2nd, 2013, 12:29 PM
  #13
 
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Okay, four corners of the USA! Got it! Like Sydney, Perth, Darwin, and Cairns for an American in Oz.

I think you ate beginning to see what some of the issues are. The one that is most important is the weather. Though the worst weather comes later in January and in February, people are talking here about weather that is not just unpleasant but which cripples travel for some days. I was caught last year in Boston for five days waiting for a plane when mine was cancelled by a storm. Fortunately, I had a place to stay because the airline does not pay for lodging when they cancel because of weather.

The good news is that if you drive to Niagara from Toronto, all the good views are on the Canadian side so you won't need to worry about driving into the US. Assuming the weather is decent, and it may well be, visit the village of Niagara on the Lake and imagine it in the summer season.

I think you may be short-changing Toronto. It is one of the most diverse and interesting cities in North America, great ethnic food, not as expensive as NYC, though Canadians tend to be a wee bit earnest about life, especially in Ontario for some reason

More ideas as things develop. I wish I could take a trip to Oz like yours to America.
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 03:20 PM
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If you're interested in seeing the Aurora Borealis (this upcoming winter is expected to be as spectacular as the last), Whitehorse, YT is one of the better places to see them, as it's in a rain shadow. Of course this is extremely cold territory; you might inquire about renting appropriate gear. http://earthsky.org/space/the-aurora...-solar-maximum On my list for this winter: http://www.takhiniriverlodge.com/ind...ter-excellence
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 03:44 PM
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<5) San Diego. Sea world
<6) Drive up coast road, stay somewhere between LA and SF.
<7) Finish drive to Yosemite, 4hrs. Yosemite overnight
<8) Yosemite
<9) Drive to SF, 4 hrs
<10) SF

Yosemite is nowhere near Pacific Coast Highway. The fastest route is taking I-5... it's 6 hours from Los Angeles and 8 hours from San Diego, providing that there's NO traffic. It's not a terribly attractive drive.

If you want to take a more coastal route, take I-405 to I-101 to San Luis Obispo. Then take CA-46 to Yosemite, about 5 hours without traffic.

If you do indeed want to travel Pacific Coast Highway, then I would skip Yosemite and enjoy the coast (Cambria, Carmel, Monterey.)
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 04:03 PM
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danielc118,

Confusing terminology . . . "Four corners" in the U.S. refers not to the four most far apart "corners" of the continental U.S. (Seattle, San Diego, Miami, New York, in your itinerary) but to a region of the southwest where four state borders meet at one point, forming "four corners"--Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. That's why Ackislander mentioned that you hadn't mentioned them.
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 04:13 PM
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There are a couple of places where taking an Amtrak train may make more sense than driving a rental car.
From Los Angeles to San Diego and back. From Los Angeles to Bakersfield on an Amtrak bus with a ride on a San Joaquin train as far as Mreced. There is a bus service into Yosemite from Merced (YARTS).
From Seattle you can take an Amtrak train or bus to get to Vancouver.
From Toronto there are several GO Transit trains/buses to fet to Niagara Falls Ontario. You might even want to take the Amtrak Maple Leaf from Niagara Falls all the way to New York City.
Pay attention to the weather while you are in NYC. Don't get delayed by a snowstorm and miss the flight to Florida.
If you do, try for a train to Washington DC to catch a plane to Florida.
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 08:20 PM
  #18
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So this is how our new and improved Itinerary is looking.

Thank you everyone for your input!

13 Dec. Night 1) Arrive 8pm LAX. Man up, get Hire Car, drive 2hrs to San Diego
14 Dec. 2) San Diego. Sea world
15 Dec. 3) San Diego. Zoo overnight?
16 Dec. 4) Drive 3hrs back to LA. No activities booked for LA yet.
17 Dec. 5) LA
18 Dec. 6) Drive up coast road. Possible stay at San Luis Obispo.
19 Dec. 7) 5Hr drive from San Luis Obispo to Yosemite. overnight at ??? in Yosemite.
20 Dec. 8) Yosemite
21 Dec. 9) Drive to SF, 4 hrs. Overnight in SF
22 Dec. 10) SF
23 Dec. 11) Drop off hire car. Fly to Vancouver. Pick up hire car, drive 1.5 HRS to Whistler.
24 Dec. 12) Whistler. Xmas eve
25 Dec. 13) Whistler. Xmas day
26 Dec. 14) Whistler
27 Dec. 15) Drive to Vancouver, 1.5 hrs. Overnight Vancouver
28 Dec. 16) Vancouver
29 Dec. 17) Drop hire car Vancouver. Fly to Buffallo, NY. Pick up hire car. Drive to Niagara Overnight at Niagara.
30 Dec. 18) Drop Hire car Buffallo. Fly to NY. Stay in NY
31 Dec. 19) NY. NYE do Central Park? Times Square? Other??
1 Jan. 20) NY
2 Jan. 21) NY
3 Jan. 22) NY
4 Jan. 23) NY
5 Jan. 24) NY
6 Jan. 25) Fly to Orlando. Pick up HC, rest day. night in Orlando
7 Jan. 26) Orlando. Disney
8 Jan. 27) Orlando. Disney
9 Jan. 28) Orlando. Universal island of adventure
10 Jan. 29) Drive 1.5 hrs, Everglades
11 Jan. 30) Drive 3.5 hrs, Miami. Drive to Key West?
12 Jan. 31) Miami
13 Jan. 32) Drop off hire car. Fly to Las Vegas. Pick up Hire Car. Drive to Grand Canyon / Zion / Bryce
14 Jan. 33) GC / Zion / Bryce
15 Jan. 34) GC / Zion / Bryce
16 Jan. 35) Drive 4hrs to Las Vegas. Drop off Hire Car. Overnight in Vegas
17 Jan. 36) Las Vegas
18 Jan. 37) Las Vegas
19 Jan. 38) Las Vegas
20 Jan. 39) Fly from Vegas to LAX 7am. Flight leaves LAX @ 11AM.

This is the current version

Thank you so much everyone for your input, it has really helped us clarify and cut the fat so to speak.

A lot of people are telling us not to do Niagara in winter. The photo's I have seen are gorgeous, we don't really care that the boats etc won't be running. People are saying that it will be cold and miserable and probably raining and we might even get stuck there due to snow. I'm on the fence now! I really want to see it

Cheers,
Dan
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 08:39 PM
  #19
 
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10 Jan. 29) Drive 1.5 hrs, Everglades

I'm puzzled by this. Where in the Everglades are you thinking is only 1.5 hours from Orlando? From what I know it's more like 4 hours.

11 Jan. 30) Drive 3.5 hrs, Miami. Drive to Key West?

I think maybe you got your driving times reversed for Orlando and Miami to the Everglades (i.e., Orlando = 3.5 hours, Miami = 1.5 hours).

Key West is over 3 hours from Miami, however. Unless all you want to do is drive all day (or else spend the night in Key West), this is not a very practical plan.
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Jun 2nd, 2013, 08:43 PM
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20 Jan. 39) Fly from Vegas to LAX 7am. Flight leaves LAX @ 11AM.

It seems like this is cutting things way too close. You probably ought to fly to LA the day before. If there is any trouble with the flight from Las Vegas to LAX, you might miss your connection there. Since the flights would be part of two separate reservations, you would be stuck buying a new ticket out of LAX unless you have travel insurance that covers such situations.
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