Planning The Big Trip: The First Leg – Touring The USA

We’re sure you’re all eager to find out what we have planned for The Big Trip so lets delve into our draft itinerary for the first leg of the trip.

Initially we were a bit clueless where to start with our trip so paid a visit to STA Travel for some advice. We had an idea of a couple of countries we wanted to visit and things we wanted to do but the whole planning process was still very much a mystery to us. Following our appointment we realised that not only was the Round the World flight affordable but it wasn’t that much more expensive than the return flight we’d paid for to Florida a few years ago. We also got an idea that it would be best to go stateside first since we could take advantage of the summer months in the US and then we’d be able to take advantage of the “off” season when we moved on to New Zealand and Australia, which would massively help our budget.

We did some research on what would be the most convenient way to make a start in this vast land and our original plan was to take a road trip with an organised tour group. The Great 48 tour, provided by Trek America, was the most appealing as it offered the opportunity to visit all 48 contiguous states of America within 80 days, with the option to add bolt ons for a further 10 days so you can go to Alaska and Hawaii and complete the set of all 50 states. As much as that would have been a phenomenal experience, the majority of the nights would have been spent camping in tents and when you’re in a group of about 20 backpackers we could see the negative connotations of such a trip. There were a few deciding factors that made us think about taking up a different plan; you have the possibility of sharing this experience with people you don’t get along with, potentially uncomfortable and/or sleepless nights caused by heavy snorers and late night drinkers plus not having the freedom to choose how long to spend in a particular place. In a way we could have been restricted and the purpose of this trip is to see the world in our own time, making our own decisions.

We then looked at prices for renting a mobile home, or should we say “Recreational Vehicle“, as they seem to be the most popular choice of travel for Americans. In the end we decided against that too as we believe there are other countries we’ll visit where the RV lifestyle would fit better. We did not want this to be an RV trip around the world; we need to change the style and pace throughout the trip to make sure we get as many unique experiences we can.

We decided that a road trip by car would be our best option staying in hotels and B&Bs along our chosen route. We were quite nervous about plotting the trip ourselves so approached The American Road Trip Company for a quote to see if it would be feasible to have someone else do all the hard work for us. Unfortunately they were unable to provide us with even an estimated price as you have to pay an administration fee at the outset just for them to look up the prices and route on your behalf. Figuring that there was no point paying someone else to do something we were more than capable of doing ourselves, we decided we’d bite the bullet and plan out the damn trip by ourselves!

Over the past couple of months we’ve been working out exactly what we want to do in each of the cities we want to visit. We’re planning on using Airbnb for locations we’ll be staying at for an extended period of time, as the vast majority of rentals are cheaper than the local hotels.

Our rough route across America
Our rough route across America

We plan on visiting, in order of arrival, East Coast to West:

  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Washington DC
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Richmond
  • Williamsburg
  • Virginia Beach
  • Wilmington
  • Charleston
  • Savannah
  • Atlanta
  • Nashville
  • Memphis
  • New Orleans
  • Houston
  • Dallas
  • Oklahoma
  • Albuquerque
  • Monument Valley
  • Grand Canyon
  • Las Vegas
  • Yosemite
  • San Francisco
  • Santa Cruz
  • Monterey
  • Santa Barbara
  • Los Angeles

We know we’re still missing a large quantity of America out and we’re yet to decide if we want to add in a quick tour of Canada or Mexico but at least it’s a starter for ten. We do not doubt that the route may change once we’re out there, especially if our budget doesn’t allow us to be able to do as much as we’d like, but at least now we have an idea of what and where and that we’re capable of organising it ourselves.

If you have any suggestions of must see or must avoid places, please let us know by leaving a comment below!

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