Travel Advice to USA really appreciated

Old May 15th, 2006, 04:39 AM
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Hi all,

The responses made by all of you have been amazing. Thank you for making the effort because there are so many ideas that I was not considering when I first posted on this cell.

exiledprincess, you really touched on something in your last post – driving through New England. That would be terrific! It looks so nice and during October I imagine a beautiful drive. You mentioned driving from Montreal to Boston through New England - and I would like to do that. I saw some photos of route 100 and it looks nice. You know, I didn’t realise there could be issues with the one-way car hire. This has been mentioned a few times on this thread.

Would you know how long that I would need to factor in for the drive from Montreal to Boston? Have you or anyone done the trip? I would be really interested to know. If it works out, I could then spend some time in Boston and train it to NYC.

So, how is the overall plan starting to shape up….. I must admit it has changed directly as a result of all of your suggestions. I know that this plan needs some refining, and I am still more than happy to be convinced of better plans - I would like to know your feedback on whether my new sketch could work!

Anyway here goes…………..

1. Fly to Toronto and see the Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. (2 nights)
2. Make a side trip to Montreal (2 nights)
3. From Montreal, hire a car and drive to Boston via New England (time uncertain 3 nights?)
4. Spend a couple of days in Boston (2 nights)
5. Catch a train to NYC (spend about 5 nights in NYC)
6. Catch a train to DC (spend 2 nights there)
7. Fly South to visit Savannah and Charleston, driving between the two (4 nights)
8. Fly to Las Vagas and visit the Grand Canyon (2-3 nights)
9. From Vagas, fly to LA (Disneyland – yes I know, new inclusion!) (3 nights)
10. Then drive from LA along pacific highway all the way to San Fansisco (7 nights)
11. Fly home from San Fransicso

I am still a bit concerned that it could be a bit busy and many of you have advised not to try and see everything. Other places have already been dropped off the list (most reluctantly – especially so many good comments on Chicago, and other places - Yosemite looks great and it would be good to find a way to get this in). If I needed more days from this list I would consider dropping DC (although it would be a shame). Also my new inclusion of LA could be cut down. My main purpose for flying in there is a starting point to drive along to Pacific Highway to San Fransisco. LA seems to have more negative comments than positive.

Anyway some of you have asked questions from me. I am from Adelaide, South Australia, so it is a smaller city. I guess that is where the bigger city attraction comes in. I am early 30’s so I am able to cope with more hectic schedules, etc. And yes, I think I will definitely be planning another trip back!! I have been to Europe 3 times, and I am only now beginning to realise that I have been missing out on a fantastic continent in the USA.

Look forward to your replies.
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Old May 15th, 2006, 05:51 AM
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WHAT? You're not going to Detroit???
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Old May 15th, 2006, 06:45 AM
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It sounds like a good plan to me!
Old May 15th, 2006, 08:38 AM
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Hi Ben,
My original suggestion of driving from Montreal to Boston would take you thru Vermont thru Massachusetts to Boston which would take about 5 1/2 hrs. depending on traffic. I'm not sure if you wanted to see other NE states as well though.
Your plan looks good, btw
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Old May 15th, 2006, 09:09 AM
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I agree. The entire drive from Montreal to Boston is less than 6 hours non-stop. Whether you want this drive to include 1, 2, or 3 nights of stopping depends on how many stops you make.

Otherwise, everything looks great. I'm especially pleased to see you still maintained 7 nights in SF!

BTW, you'll want to get hotel reservations for Boston, NYC, DC, and SF as soon as possible. Other destinations you can wait until August or so to reserve.
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Old May 15th, 2006, 09:23 AM
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I agree the plan looks good (though not exactly what I recommended, oh well), and gives you a good overview of some of Canada and the U.S. (you can't fit everything in!). To the list of places to book hotels for at once, you may want to add the drive through New England. October is when the colors change, and places (mostly B&B types of places) will fill up fast.
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Old May 15th, 2006, 09:31 AM
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Niagra Falls is only a tourist trap if you let it be. See the Falls and take the maid of the Mist tour. Make more out of the Niagra trip by driving to Toronto and heading to downtown buffalo for some wings at the Anchor Bar. All can be done in 1-2 days.
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Old May 15th, 2006, 11:17 AM
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Ben is staying in Toronto 2 nights and is only doing Niagra Falls as a day trip from Toronto. I agree that a day trip is plenty of time in Niagra Falls (get an early start that day, though).
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Old May 15th, 2006, 12:40 PM
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Looks like a plan to me!!! You're going to need a vacation to recover from your vacation

Yes, October is a great time to be in New England. As the others mentioned, the drive between Montreal and Boston is just under 6 hours. Also as the others mentioned, hotels and B&B's are very booked at this time of year; I would definitely make advance reservations. It can be very risky to try to be spontaneous.

On the drive down from Montreal, you might want to consider stopping for a night in either Burlington or Stowe, Vermont. (They are not far from each other.) Burlington is more "city" as it is a college town, but it is right on Lake Champlain and really fun. Stowe is a quaint village in the mountains (very reminiscent of Austria if that appeals to you). Lots of outdoor activities there. The scenery at that time of year should be nothing short of breathtaking in both places.

Also about the car rental fees: yes, be sure to inquire when you book the car as to what the fees will be because it can be quite expensive. Ask what the "drop-off" fee will be and any other fees they might have. Some of the sleazier companies will tell you they have no "drop off" fee but then when you arrive tell you there's a "border crossing" fee or some other ridiculously named fee! Basically, tell them exactly where you want to drop off the car and find out what fees they will be charging. (and get the person's name!)
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Old May 15th, 2006, 10:08 PM
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Ben, oh, yes, do see Disneyland. It's very America! I was there back in March (my first visit for a long while). The park itself is rather small, and you could do it in a day or so. You would love Yosemite as well. Why not drive up the Pacific Highway for part of the journey to San Fran, then head east to see Yosemite, and drive back to San Francisco for a few days. Globally speaking, they're pretty close.
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Old May 16th, 2006, 12:46 AM
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Cybor, I sincerely hope you didn't think I was taking credit for your idea of driving from Montreal to Boston (although I really did think about it when posting my first reply). My message was specifically to alert Ben about issues with rental cars.

Last year, I myself took a trip to Savannah and had reserved a rental car only to find out (luckily not at the last minute) I couldn't take it into South Carolina with that company - so I had to change rental agencies.

Ben, sorry that Chicago (and the whole midwest) didn't make the last cut on your schedule, but you'll have to put us first on the list your next time over here. You just won't know what you're missing until then!

I do urge you to consider going to Mt. Vernon, if you possibly can fit it in. As I mentioned, going to Mt. Vernon only took 1/2 a day (on a tour) and I thought it was a definite highlight of my trip to DC. Especially when you sit on one of the rockers on the porch at Mt. Vernon and look down the sweeping lawn at the Potomac and its shores (looking just the way it did in George Washington's day).
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Old May 16th, 2006, 01:24 AM
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Ben - you are making great progress.

Now, do we get to help you decide what you will do in each location, where you will sleep and what you will eat?

There is much written here on each of your stops - so you may not need us. But I am expecting that when we take our trip to Australia (our daughter has been bugging us almost since she could speak to do such a trip and she is now 15) you can plan an itinerary for me.
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Old May 16th, 2006, 04:04 AM
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<<looking just the way it did in George Washington's day>>

In case you were wondering, George Washington was the 1st president of the USA and Mt. Vernon was his home after leaving office. It's nice, but probably of more interest to Americans.

I don't think I would have much interest in sites relating to historical Austrailian heads of state if I were to visit Austrailia. Sorry.
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Old May 16th, 2006, 05:19 AM
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exiledp - no I wasn't referring to you (sorry if you thought that) - I wasn't sure if Ben wanted to see more of the NE states or if he wanted to drive only thru Vermont. I also wanted to tell him that my original plan would bring him thru Massachusetts as well.

Ben, let us know if your thinking of Maine, New Hampshire or any of the other NE states as it will change your driving times substantially. I can probably help get you thru Vermont, S. New Hampshire, S.Maine (along the coast) then down (south) to Boston.
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Old May 16th, 2006, 05:51 AM
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Cybor, thank you for the reply. Glad you didn't think that.

Ben, Mount Vernon was George Washington's family home and plantation estate. It was in his family before, during and after his involvement as a soldier in the French and Indian War; as the Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary War; and his terms as first president of the US. It was visited by many of the founding fathers, as well as Lafayette, and other visiting dignitaries of the day.

There are only a handful of structures in America as historically important as Mount Vernon.

However, what I was specifically referring to is that that area of the Potomac surrounding-and on the far bank of the Potomac-has been preserved as it was when George Washington lived at Mount Vernon. Forgive my faulty memory, as I cannot remember which organization purchased (or leased?) the surrounding area including the lands on the far bank, so that the area still remains as it was when George Washington was alive.

Ben, take a look at the website for Mount Vernon and see if you might be interested in a short visit.

Just a last note: when I took my own trip to DC, I wasn't going to go to Mount Vernon myself because I didn't feel I would be that interested. My best friend urged me (actually, she made me promise to go!) and I am certainly glad I did. So just passing that recommendation along to others.
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Old May 16th, 2006, 09:05 AM
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I have a couple of different ideas that you might find helpful, or maybe not.

This is predicated on giving you the broadest variety of NA experiences, so it may cut out some fantastic stuff (it has to by definition).

Don't skip Boston; Aussies love Boston for some reason. Cut New York back, and skip DC; do Montreal instead. The idea here is that big cities have some similarities that would be great to explore if you had time but on a time-budget you will have to get the idea from fewer of them. I would say 3 nights each in Boston and Montreal, 5 tops in New York. Then head for the country.

The most spectacular physical feature in the USA by a wide margin is the Grand Canyon. Go see it. Seriously. Think your Red Centre tilted on its side and dropped down the biggest hole you can imagine. You don't have all the time in the world, so even a single night on the South Rim is worth it. Add it to your Vegas trip; it's the perfect contrast, the pornography of nature and the pornography of glitter, side by side.

Don't drive from Vegas to LA unless you're hungry for more of what you've got plenty of in your own country: long boring desert drives. Vegas to the Grand Canyon will provide plenty of that. Save your drive for something different: up the coast. Fly to SF (take a day to take BART across the Bay to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley and Lake Merritt in Oakland).

I'm trying to think of things that are so DIFFERENT from Australia that you will be more impressed. Red desert isn't it; typical American cities aren't it (neither Boston nor New York nor Montreal nor SF are in any way typical).

Seattle is not a bad option for a day or two (I live here!) but it's not the city that should bring you -- it's the mountains. But then, if you want mountains, you should go to Montana and Idaho. Seriously: try to work in a drive through Glacier National Park. It's not that high on most lists but it will melt your brain with its beauty. Drive over the Going To The Sun Road. I mean it: you might well pass out from excitement.

If Glacier's not doable, there are other more accessible mountains on the coast: California, Oregon, Washington. A drive across the North Cascades Highway will not be like anything you've ever seen.

If you want to work in another city, pick Vancouver, BC (convenient to the North Cascades). It's actually a more interesting city than Seattle in many ways.

If I was doing the choosing, I would add LA over Chicago -- Chicago's a fantastic city but it's not as DIFFERENT to, say, New York, than LA is. LA is the capital of the world, a multicultural melting pot, and one of the most UNUSUAL places you could imagine.

I know, that doesn't add up to a proper stroke-by-stroke itinerary, but I'm sure you can connect the dots.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 09:04 PM
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Ben, if you do want to do both the Pacific Coast and Yosemite while you're in CA, Merseyheart has a good point, it's very doable to get a good bit of the Pacific Highway then head east to Yosemite. I did that in reverse: started in SF, up to Sonoma, out to Yosemite exiting at the southern end of the park and heading back east just north of Fresno to pick up the highway in (I think) Santa Cruz - spending a night in Sonoma, another 2 at the park so we could go hiking, and another at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on the coast - they have rented rooms in addition to campsites. You'll miss the beautiful town of Carmel (Clint Eastwood's 'hood), but you could either visit from SF or save it for another trip... All this would be fine in reverse from LA, too. Another thought (off the top of my head) is maybe you could drive from Vegas up thru Reno and into CA that way? I've flown into Reno to go skiing near Lake Tahoe, then driven back west to SF...

As for New England, if you want to spend a night in Vermont, consider the towns in the southern part of the state. I love Brattleboro in the SE corner: it's a nice mix of funky stores and restaurants, with an area on the edge of town with cheaper hotels (and the usual fast food garbage). Check out Mocha Joe's in the center of town for some yummy coffee combos! Also, it's true that the drive straight from Montreal to Boston is about 6 hours - on the interstate. Give yourself double that to take the (hilly!) back roads and stop in the small towns that catch your interest. From Brattleboro, it's about 2 1/2 hours to Boston...
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Old May 27th, 2006, 06:14 AM
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HI - As a New York City native, I would like to tell you that October is the best time of the year here. Also, if you're going to Boston and then to NYC, you might want to drive - the fall leaf colors are magnificent. You might want to just take a couple of days out from Boston and go to the West part of Massachusetts to the Berkshires - very historic towns and lovely with, again, beautiful fall colors.

Of course, if you can drive down from Toronto to NYC, you'l see plenty of color that way.
Have a great trip and welcome to the US!
P.S. When in NYC - DEFINITELY take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a fantastic site. You can start on the Brooklyn or Manhattan side. Find out the subway stops closest to the bridge (in Brooklyn, you can take the A line to High Street, or the 2 or 3 lines to Clark Street. But check first - in case there are changes.) The Brooklyn side is in Brooklyn Heights, which is a lovely 19th century brownstone neighborhood with beautiful views. Get out of Manhattan for a while and see the "real" New York.!

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