The Ultimate United States Road-Trip: Part 1

Traveling has always been a great passion of mine. When I was a little child, I accompanied my family to their business trips all over Europe where I got a chance to learn lots of new cultures. One of my dreams was to do a road trip all over the United States. Last summer, my best friend and I visited 30 cities in 2 months all across the country! It was the best experience of my life. However, it was not easy to accomplish such a trip. It took a long time to plan while trying to make it cost as cheap as possible. I wanted to share my tips to organize a road trip and the experience overall with you guys! As the summer is approaching, I hope to give you some inspiration if you have any similar ideas in mind!

What’s the Best Option for Travel: Plane, Car or Bus?

After a long research, we had decided on the major cities and national parks and mapped our journey through those destinations. After calculating the gas prices and distances, we came to a conclusion that we had to travel by plane for the longest distances, and rent a car at that destination. Our trip started in the last week of June, so we bought our plane tickets in March in advance. Planning ahead will save you so much money on the deals you can find! Plane tickets were one of the hardest parts of the trip, as they are usually expensive. We searched the same flight on many websites such as Skyscanner, Expedia, and Kayak. Most airlines sell their tickets without including luggage, so when you get to the airport you have to pay an extra amount for the bags. Even though the flight seems cheap at first, you end up paying more money. We booked 8 flights in total and paid $950 in total per person. For example, the cheapest ticket was from San Francisco to Seattle by United Airlines for $90.

Also, taking a bus is always an option. We used Megabus once throughout the trip from Boston to New York, which cost $10 for one seat when booked in advance. Moreover, renting a car was also very easy. We split the map into specific areas where we could rent a car and drive for as long as possible without having to get on a plane. We rented a car in Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Buffalo. Again by going through many websites, we tried to find the cheapest options through Budget, Hertz, and Avis. The only issue with renting a car is that you need to pay for gas a couple of times as you are constantly driving. 

Where to Stay

The most important tip is to plan ahead and search a lot! It doesn’t matter if the hotel is extremely fancy or not because you will usually always be outside, discovering the city. We searched for the best options through Booking.com, Trip Advisor, Kayak, Expedia, and Airbnb. We focused more on the locating of the hotel than the aesthetic. In some cities, hotels were so overpriced despite their ratings, such as Seattle. In contrast, we stayed in a great hotel in Las Vegas for the half price of the motel in Seattle. You just need to take your time and look for as many options as possible.

Where to Go: The Destinations 

I had already been to Philly twice before the road trip, however, I believe that it is a city that should be seen if you have never been there. My recommendations are Philadelphia Museum of Art, Reading Terminal Market, the City Hall, Franklin Institute, Liberty Bell, Fairmount Park and Rittenhouse Square. The food is great there too. As it is Philly, you have to eat a cheesesteak! Go to either Pats or Geno’s for an authentic experience. 

After meeting my friend in Philly and spending two days there, we flew to Miami and spent five days there. The weather, atmosphere, and beaches were amazing. We stayed in a hotel on South Beach in order to be close to the beach, however, Downtown Miami has a lot of hotels, too. You do need a car to get around there. In my opinion, you must see the Design District, Wynwood Walls (a district where all the street walls are covered with graffiti art), Lincoln Road Mall, South Beach, and The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Miami is famous for its Art Deco architecture, take a walk across the Ocean Drive. We also went to the Everglades National Park which is the habitat for many crocodiles. It is a short drive from the city. We also went to Key West, which is country’s southernmost point, as it is 90 miles north of Cuba. The road from Miami to Key West had the best views, as you feel like you are driving in the middle of the ocean. Don’t forget to eat key lime pie there!

The second flight was from Miami to New Orleans. It is such an authentic, different, unique city! Even without a road trip, if you have any time to travel, it would be a great location for a weekend getaway. You can hear the sound of music in every street; the people in New Orleans live for jazz. The city is a mixture of both European and Caribbean influence. There is always a parade somewhere. The city almost never sleeps. You can easily discover the city on foot. The French Quarter, Jackson Square, and Bourbon Street are must-see parts of the city. They are also known for the authentic cuisine. To have the traditional experience, keep in mind to eat po-boys (a traditional sandwich), jambalaya (rice with seafood), and beignets (a French-inspired pastry, with its original recipe at Cafe du Monde). The cuisine is mostly based on seafood. Also, they eat crocodile meat like fried chicken! 

We rented a car in New Orleans and drove to Texas. We went to Houston, Austin, and Dallas then passed to San Antonio for our flight to Phoenix. Before getting to Houston, we stopped at the NASA Johnson Space Center. I am so interested in Astronomy, and this place created the ultimate experience to learn about the Apollo Missions, and see life-size rockets. 

In my opinion, Austin was the most beautiful city that I visited in Texas. In Austin, there’s a place called Franklin Barbecue which is known as the best barbecue in the whole country. It opens at 11 AM every morning, however people get into line at  6 AM. You need to grab a mini-cooler, a folding chair, and enjoy that atmosphere until you get the food. I know that it sounds weird to wait for some food under that Texas sun for hours, but you get to meet many people who come from all around the country just for that experience.

After having the ultimate Texas experience, we flew to Phoenix to visit all the natural wonders of Arizona. Arizona could be a whole other road trip experience, as it has a lot to offer. Arizona has an abundance of unforgettable scenery with  Grand and Antelope Canyon.When we landed, we rented an SUV because we only traveled by car for 15 days until San Francisco. We stayed in Scottsdale the first night. The next morning, we drove to Sedona, known as the Red Rock State Park. First of all, it is not possible to visit the canyons without a tour guide, and there are lots of companies that offer such tours. We found a company Pink Jeep Tours where you can do an off-road trip with a  pink Jeep Wrangler. It is one of the oldest companies in the area. Sedona was a magical place with its naturally red colored landscape. Be prepared for hiking, and make sure to wear the most comfortable sneakers and outfit. 

The next day, we traveled to the Grand Canyon National Park. It was the best part of the trip, as I have always dreamt about visiting it someday. I just can’t explain how mesmerizing it was. I couldn’t believe how nature could form such a beauty, it was simply the most beautiful place I have ever seen. We again booked a tour with Pink Jeep and hiked throughout the canyon. It is not easy to hike there with lots of cliffs and rocks; you need to be careful. After the Grand Canyon, we went to the Four Corners Monument which is the only place in the United States where four states intersect: Arizona. New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. It was a three-hour drive from the canyon, but we wanted to include it in our road trip.

That night, we traveled to Page, Arizona which is a small town located right next to the Antelope Canyon for our next adventure. It is forbidden to tour the canyon without a licensed guide as it is located underground, so there is no climbing. There are often two types of tours,  the regular one and a specific one for photography where you hike with a professional camera to take the best photos. In fact, Antelope Canyon is the most-photographed slot canyon in the country. As you move through the canyon, the light changes, offering more incredible views. The tour guides know where to capture the best photos with the reflection of the right light angle. The light beams in Antelope Canyon make this place is so unforgettable. They shine through the openings up top and create the most incredible sights to see. Make sure to wear closed-toed shoes as there is sand everywhere, and bring plenty of water and sunscreen. You can also cover your mouth with a bandana because there are sometimes sudden sandstorms.

This was the first part of my road trip. Such a journey might seem overwhelming at first to plan within a budget, however, it is easier than it seems. The key to traveling is planning in advance, considering all options, and preparing a day-by-day itinerary. I hope I have given you some ideas on such destinations and will continue to share more next week! Thank you for reading!

Love,

Lale

 

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