Travelling around North America

Dec 29th, 2011, 05:08 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Bolt bus is OK - but as far as I know is available only in the northeast. the US is organized around trvel by plane or car - since the federal government doesn;t believe in pulbic transit. the only places you will find decent public transit is in and around a few large cities and the transit system is paid for by locals.

I once looked at the option to get from Chicago to NYC by train - and it was going to take 26 hours (versus 2.5 by plane) and cost almost twice as much. The food is the same quality you get on the airlines - when they don;t run out. Granted seats are more comfy and you can walk up and down the aisles as you want - but the toilets have to be seen to be believed.

Really much of the west - outside of SF - requires a car to do/see much of anything - unless you sign on for group tours. (Crossing LA by bus can take a couple of hours. Taking a train from one major city to another is technically possilbe - but there is usually one train per day - and it can run many hours late. After my first trip to San Diego (when it took almost an hour to get a cab to take me to the airport - and I made my flight by the skin of my teeth - I hve always rented a car except in San Francisco.)
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 29th, 2011, 05:49 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,154
Oddly it takes the Lake Shore Limited 18 hours NYC to Chicago, versus 21 hours going the other way. It costs $97 without discounts (e.g. 10% for AAA, 15% for students and seniors) although obviously more if you want a sleeper (but you save a night in a hotel).

But I'm not taking the train because I want to get there fast, I'm taking it because I think both the journey and the destination are important, and you can't see much from an airplane.

For the OP, see and for more info on trains.
thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 30th, 2011, 03:57 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 416
Emmas200, one thing I've done when planning a trip with a friend is have each of us spend some time alone with a guidebook . . . then get together for coffee with a pad of paper & a focus on listing out from each person the things they really really really care about seeing/doing, the things that kind of interest them, and the things that are famous but that they don't particularly care about seeing/doing. That gives you a place to start on your itinerary.

I also suggest that you think in terms of spending some time exploring separately from each other in the big cities where that's possible (and it is possible, in SF and DC and NYC and Chicago, all of which have excellent local public transit). You can get together at the end of the day and compare adventures.

Have fun -- planning a big trip can be as much fun as taking it!
tahl is offline  
Dec 30th, 2011, 04:06 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 15,920
About amtrak train fares: there have been some references to discounts for students. I believe you have to buy a "student advantage" card for $20/year in order to get these discounts. In my experience/opinion, amtrak is a good option although not nearly as good a system as trains in Europe

Re: buses. Bolt is in the northeast. Megabus has a bigger network in the east and parts of the midwest. I am not aware of anything comparable in the western states
Vttraveler is offline  
Dec 30th, 2011, 05:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,676
I think with six weeks you can accomplish a lot so your time frame is good, and with a little planning you should be able to figure out the major costs to see if you can afford the trip.

The north east is pretty simple. As mentioned several times, you have numerous options for getting from Boston, to NYC, to DC including Bolt and Megabus. Even the 'regular' bus ( e.g. Peterpan) is almost as cheap if you go at certain times of day. One of my 20-something children takes the bus and the other prefers Amtrak to travel around the northeast. You don't need cars in the cities. It would be nice if you could get out and see some of New England but from Boston you can take commuter trains to some of Cape Ann and there are always day trips with organized tours (which I hate, but occasionally they are necessary to get you where you want to go) to see some of New England. I would say a minimum of two weeks to do Boston, NYC, and DC.

Then I would fly to California. If you choose to train it would be for the experience not for efficiency or economics.

I would call some car rental companies and see how much the surcharge is for renting a car. You certainly don't need one for San Francisco and I think there is a train you could take to LA but clearly you'd miss a whole lot of beautiful stuff in California without a car. With a car you could spend a few weeks seeing the national parks in California, Utah, Az, the coast (both north and south of San Francisco). You could think about doing a loop so you could return the car to the same location you picked it up from and that could save (at least return it to the same state). If that's affordable for you I would rent a car for that portion. Otherwise you will really only be seeing cities which is not the best part.

Also consider that with a car you can stay in small towns in some pretty cheap motels (Motel 6, etc, lots of chains with low prices) and that will save over the cost of staying only in large cities where hotel prices are more. For the cities, look into staying in outlying area and take public commuter transportation in. This is not ideal but could save you hundreds of dollars and when you aren't trying to see one city in only two or three days you have the luxury of staying further out even if it takes you close to an hour to get to the center. Read some of the threads about economical staying in NYC - they are always debating staying in Queens or Jersey versus Manhattan.
isabel is offline  
Dec 30th, 2011, 05:45 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Given your ages I would NOT stay in outlying areas - you waste substantial time and money trekking in and out of the cities - and you don;t have the feel of actually being n the city itself. Instead look for reliable hostels - which will let you meet other tourists and often provide detailed info to foreign visitors - or even run their own activities in some places. The Let's Go guides or the Thorn Tree section of the Lonely Planet website can provide information on good hostels. In NYC the Hosteling International on the upper west side - not far from Columbia University - has a good reputation, reasonable rates (about $40 per night for a bed/locker in a dorm room) and is in an excellent/convenient location right near the subway.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 31st, 2011, 05:22 AM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 4,044
Placename is offline  
Dec 31st, 2011, 07:01 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 651
If you have not already done so then ask your question on the forum, as I think it is a younger crowd more in tune with your travel style. The fact that you have traveled for 3 weeks at a time prior to this trip makes you more than prepared to tackle this adventure.

Personally I think your proposed trip is totally doable in 6 weeks. I agree with the suggestions to do NE via public transport; skip Florida (esp if you are going only to see Disney World as Disneyland is an OK substitute); fly to SF; grab a bus or train along the coast to LA; train to San Diego; bus to Vegas and home. I would suggest you look into a National Park bus tour after Vegas as this would give you a totally different experience than all the cities. The US National Parks are truly spectacular natural wonders.

Have fun!
Barblab is offline  
Dec 31st, 2011, 08:09 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,941
I had forgotten about the megabus and bolt possibilities, and that would be good for the East coast. You REALLY do not want a car.
I will also again put in a plug for at least one western "national park"--either the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. There is truly nothing in the world like the American West, in many ways.
Both Disneys are eye wateringly expensive. I don't think these folks have been back,have they?
Gretchen is offline  
Dec 31st, 2011, 02:42 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 5,831
You have had some good advice here.

Since renting a car would be very expensive I would suggest that you consider:

Spend a few days in Boston and use public transportation to get around, look into a hostel for lodging.

Take Bolt Bus or Megabus to New York, spend a few days, use public transportation to get around, look into a hostel for lodging.

Take Bolt Bus or Megabus to Washington DC, spend a few days, use public transportation to get around , look into hostels for lodging.

Look for a package hotel/flight to Las Vegas. Walk around town and check out the free shows for one day. Take a bus tour to Grand Canyon (there is one that is offering a $79 trip that takes you there, gives you a box lunch, stops at the most beautiful places then returns to Vegas.

Get a cheap flight to San Francisco, spend a few days there, use public transportation, look for a hostel for lodging.

If the budget allows, rent a car and drive down the coast highway to LA, do the sights in LA and then fly home.
emalloy is offline  
Jan 1st, 2012, 06:31 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,618
I like emalloy's plan.

The bus or train plan is perfectly fine for 20-somethings to travel the east coast. You will find the buses cheaper and more frequent, most likely. Then a cheap flight west (Las Vegas is usually a low-cost destination).

For cheap domestic flights look into Southwest airlines -- they don't participate in Expedia-type price comparisons, so you have to visit their website to find the prices.

thursdays: the main reason for the odd travel times is Time Zones. Add an hour in one direction and subtract an hour in the other direction: difference = 2 hours.
capxxx is offline  
Jan 1st, 2012, 06:57 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,154
capxxx - duh, of course! Thx.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 1st, 2012, 07:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 4,044
Placename is offline  
Jan 1st, 2012, 09:37 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
Not sure whether this is available, but I know when we fly to other countries/areas, we often get a 'discount air pass' for flights within, i.e., when in Australia and Thailand. So didn't have to pay for individual tickets.

Such 'air passes' might be available for foreigners from Europe or Asia visiting in the States. Maybe check with a real Travel Agent about this. And, if so... make sure where you wish to fly within the States - from where-to-where - ahead of time. Then once at each area (city), use local transport or car rental (where available at your ages).

Fly from UK into BOS, then bus/Amtrak down to NYC, bus/Amtrak to Phila, bus/Amtrak onto Wash DC. From here FLY to Florida, then FLY out to LAX, maybe FLY to/from Las Vegas/LAS, drive/bus/train or FLY to SFO... home to UK. Maybe 4-5/internal flights.

It's a lot of ground to cover, but with 6/weeks, doable if planned properly. Hey, there are some 'scheduled tour packages' that do the East Coast only as: BOS, NYC, PHL, DC, VA, FL, NO - in 2/weeks, all by bus! Exhausting for sure, so you certainly have the time to 'slow down and enjoy.'

Good luck!
sandi is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 12:05 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,946
From someone who did those trips quite extensively in his twens (so don't forget to benchmark those memories against 21st century realities)

If you rent from outside the U.S., not all companies charge an arm and a leg for under 25s.
I remember that I needed to pay a surcharge, but it was nothing that broke the bank. So it could be worthwhile to spend some time shopping around the web.

With the exception of San Francisco and Las Vegas, I would not visit California, Nevada and/or Arizona without a rental car.

Usually you pay massive penalty fees if you don't drop-off the rental car in the state you picked it up, or sometimes in a neighboring states.

I don't know if air passes still exist, but these days you have so many options to fly low-cost that a mix of trains/buses to explore the big cities in the East, a flight to the West Coast, and a rental car for exploring CA and NV sounds more feasible.
Just as a in Europe, it pays to be flexible and check if secondary airports can be cheaper to fly in, or to avoid legs where there is little competition.

From a subjective point of view / preferences I would drop Florida and focus more on the East/NE and California.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
United States
Apr 1st, 2014 12:29 AM
United States
Mar 5th, 2014 06:54 PM
United States
Jan 10th, 2011 01:47 AM
United States
Nov 3rd, 2006 10:21 AM
United States
Dec 29th, 2004 02:36 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 08:23 PM.