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Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

London, United...
12 posts
Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Hi, i'm British (live in the UK) and am hoping to travel around the USA in July/August 2014. I am a student and need to start earning money to fund this holiday, which is why i'm trying to plan it so far it advance. I will be in a small group, perhaps 3 or 4 of us and we will all be aged 21-22. I have decided i think the most feasible way of doing the trip is to rent a campervan and drive ourselves, simply because even the cheapest accommodation in the US appears to be too expensive for this budget. Ideally i would like to have an 8-week holiday, coming to absolutely no more than $7500, or about $6500 excluding flights. I have quite a few questions regarding logistics and just generally what's plausible. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

1. I have a rough route which is as follows: Boston --> NY -->Washington--> Philadelphia --> Chicago --> Mt. Rushmore --> Yellowstone-->(maybe Seattle but i might have to skip this out) --> San Francisco --> LA-->Las Vegas --> Grand Canyon --> San Antonio --> New Orleans --> Miami --> Charleston.

This is very very provisional and is missing out some other stops in between these ones.

It's an incredibly long route and i think almost 8000miles of driving (that figure might be completely wrong though...i was trying to figure it out!).

Anyway my first question is: Is this far too ambitious to cram into 8 weeks? If i tried to would i just not be spending enough time in each place? Or is 8 weeks enough for this mammoth road trip? I just have no idea really. I might have to completely re-do the route if 8 weeks isn't long enough.

2. As non-US citizens who are aged 21-22 how easy/expensive will renting a campervan be? Would be easier/cheaper to actually buy our own one out there and then sell it at the end of the trip (is that even possible?? I know my parents bought a car when they went out to the States when they much younger and then sold it at the end but that was about 40 years ago so it could be much harder to do that nowadays!)

Is getting insured on a vehicle going to be an issue because we're so young? I found this website for vehicle rental which seems quite good and reasonably priced. Anyone have any experience with it? http://rv.turtle-travel.com/

3. What's the best way to do a trip like this? If we're travelling in a campervan what should we do when we get to cities. Do cities in the US have many campervan sites that we can park at during the day and/or night?

4. How expensive is living/travelling in the US. I was hoping to have a budget of about $40 a day for food and all other costs (EXCLUDING gasoline for campervan, i've been working out separate prices for that).

I think that's all i can think of for now. Thanks for reading and please respond if you can give any advice!

Chula Vista...
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2,617 posts
103 reviews
1. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Hi and welcome,

A couple of thoughts on your plan:

First, if you've never rented an RV before, check this summary out:


The thing is that many agencies only include a limited number of "free" miles per day. Exceed that number, and you'll be paying a per mile overage fee, so read the terms carefully.

RVs get horrible gas mileage (7-10 miles per gallon), so if you're getting 10 mpg over the 8,000 miles, that means you'll go through 800 gallons of gas. It's hard to predict what gas prices will be 16 months from now, but I'd use a planning figure of $4.50 to $5.00 per gallon. At $5.00 per gallon, that's $4,000 of your $6,500 budget.

Second, I'm not sure of the age restrictions for renting an RV. Even to rent a car, if you're under 25, you're going to be charged a daily young driver surcharge.

Third, I would recommend taking the excellent rail service between Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, DC, and even Chicago, and not picking up your vehicle until you get to Chicago. Having a car in those cities is bad enough, let alone an RV.

Finally, I think your daily expense budget would be better at closer to $75 - $100 per day depending on where you're at (more in big cities like NYC or Boston, less in rural areas). That's if you're in an RV splitting a campground fee of $20 - $60 per night. If you're in a hotel splitting room cost, you'll probably need a budget of $100 - $150 per day.

You could probably eat decently on $40 per day if you're buying your own food and cooking it. But if you're dining out all the time, you could spend a minimum of $25 per day if you're just eating all three meals at McDonald's.

Major attractions like the San Diego Zoo cost $42 to enter; Disney parks and SeaWorld are up around $80 to enter.

Bottom line, I think you really need to scale back and prioritize what's important to you, as well as continue your research, especially into costs. Remember that you're young enough where you can come back on a second or third or fourth trip later in life and see what you skip over on this trip.

Hope that helped.


Edited: 25 March 2013, 21:03
West Midlands...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
17,419 posts
2. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Hi and welcome to the forum.

Firstly in 8 weeks you could do that route, although you will need to be selective about how long you stay in places and be selective about what you wish to see. I note you finish in Charleston? But to avoid a one-way rental fee (more about rentals in a moment) you will need to complete the loop. However, you need to be aware that RVs ( they don't call what you have linked to, 'campervans' in the US) are not a cheap option. They are very fuel hungry ( 8-10 miles a gallon @$4.00 a gallon, so $3200 on gas for 8000 miles), so you need to balance the costs out v a car and cheap hotels/hostels.

They are also a liability in a lot of cities, although some people sleep on Walmart car parks where it is allowed, not all have good facilities with easy access to the city locations.

Your young age will also probably mean a young drivers premium being under 25, for all drivers for any rental vehicle.

Buying a vehicle is not an easy thing either for a foreigner.Read this thread for some of the issues, and I'm not sure you will have the budget anyway.


Here is some general info about RVs.




Your budget. $40 a day is not a lot, although if that's what left for food and entertainment after your fixed costs then it may be possible, but you won't be eating anywhere too exciting or doing much nightlife. Obviously the RV will allow you to cater for yourselves however, but food is no cheaper in the US than here in general, and I find eating out and alcohol more expensive in general.

Other general point is that we usually recommend people tour the northeastern cities by public transport, but that may again be a budget killer for you, combined with hotels/hostels. I'd suggest you start and finish in Washington DC or NYC and reorder the trip in that area.

Anyway, something for you to digest, and see if you can make your sums work, I doubt an RV will prove economic if there is just two of you based on what the RVers here say, three maybe?

I think like zed your maybe trying to bite off too much and perhaps should look at reduced more focused trip.

Edited: 25 March 2013, 21:18
West Midlands...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
17,419 posts
3. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Hi again.

Had a look at that website in more detail, and do notice they had what what we would call a campervan, basically a van you can sleep in (one for 4 with a roof sleeper), some with cooking facilities, no shower or toilet, rather than RVs which we and you in the UK would call a motorhome.

Those are possibly going to be a bit more fuel efficient, (probably not with a roof bed fitted!) but you'll have to get on well if three of you are going to share the one bed!

The website looks like the rental car broker type of sites we use, the brands of RV companies include the big ones like Cruise America.

Washington State
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for Yosemite National Park
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4. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

>>Do cities in the US have many campervan sites that we can park at during the day and/or night?<<

No. Trying to camp in a city just won't work. If your campervan is just a regular van (that doesn't sleep 3 people but maybe you have a tent for the real camping?), you might be able to park the campervan in the motel or hotel parking lot where you're staying. But you can't camp there.

It looks to me like http://rv.turtle-travel.com/ is a 3rd party consolidator. I haven't heard of them, but I don't think it's an RV rental company.

>>What's the best way to do a trip like this?<<

In my opinion, there are several 'best' ways. You'll have to figure out which way is 'best' for you.

I think this method is a good way of creating a low cost trip for young 20 somethings: East Coast: public transit & hostels. Fly to the west, rent a car, tent camp & hostels. It's possible to cobble together some public transit in the west to tourist destinations, but it's challenging. Doable but challenging.

The easiest way is to take a camping tour, but that will be more expensive.

Lewes, United...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
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38 reviews
5. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Hi Sam

I think you have a great fun dream there, but, frankly, it's very much a dream to me.

The USA is no longer as cheap as it used to be for any visitor, and with the state of the £ these days, it gets more expensive by the day for us Brits. I don't think your budget is realistic unless you plan to camp. Those really cheap campervans/motorhomes, not full RVs with plumbing, packed with 4 of you are not a lot of fun over an 8 week trip. I trust the 3 or 4 of you are really, really good friends and will have done at least one shorter trip together to see how you get on!

I'm inclined to think less is more. At your ages, there's every possibility, as indeed already suggested, that you will be able to revisit the USA and explore a different part. I would suggest you aim for a smaller areas, with a circular, loop trip with whatever kind of vehicle you opt for, to keep costs down and the amount of time you have available manageable.

To help you decide where in the USA to plump for, why not have a look at old topics on this forum, ignoring where the visitor is coming from and what their chosen wheels are. Just enter a destination or two as your key words and see what the searches pull up.

Also, as you are young and free spirited, you might find alternative ideas on Lonely Planet's Thorntree forum. Certainly, I've seen tips for cheap car rental there for young drivers from smaller rental companies that use older vehicles - but beware the breakdown policy as you could be stranded for days while you wait for parts. Craigslist might have other options, but you're too early to use that for now.

While the train is the recommended transport mode between the NE cities and Chicago, if you're in a group together to keep a watch out for each other and as you're on a budget, do consider cheap buses to get between those cities. Greyhound and Megabus have some good routes, and I think there's another bus company for some sectors.

Have a great trip,


London, United...
12 posts
6. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Thanks for responses.

Just to clarify, i think by campervan i meant RV (a vehicle with beds, kitchen, shower, toilet, etc.). So actual camping wouldn't be necessary with my original proposal

Washington State
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for Yosemite National Park
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7. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Actually, an RV needs to be parked at a campsite in a public campground or private RV Park (for a fee!) That's considered camping.

I'd guess that RV travel is probably 25 - 50% higher than car + motel travel, depending on where you stay and how much driving you do. You'd have to compare lots of aspects of each trip to see if RV travel saves you any money. If a trip has few miles and spends lots of time in natural areas, then an RV might be cheaper than car + motel/lodging.

London, United...
12 posts
8. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Perhaps would it make more sense to stay it hostels in the North-East and travel by railway. Then pick up a vehicle in Chicago to continue the trip for the longer-distance travelling? Also because most of the big cities will be in that earlier part of the trip.

Level Contributor
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9. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Given your ages, before you do anything, investigate the costs and availability of renting anything in the U.S., especially with the possibility of one-way drop charges. Don't forget about insurance costs in the U.S., including the advisability of obtaining medical insurance.

If you find that a rental is available and viable given your budgets, then you can explore your itinerary.

If renting a vehicle isn't viable, perhaps plan a trip to the Northeast Corridor (Boston, NYC, Philadelphia and Washington, DC) using intercity trains (Amtrak) and buses (Bolt, Greyhound, Megabus) and mass transit. From several of these cities, you could use Megabus or Greyhound to travel west, visiting cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago.

Cleveland, about half-way between NYC and Chicago, has an excellently located and well-reviewed hostel downtown. Its airport is connected by rail transit to downtown. From the airport, and perhaps directly from downtown, you can get shuttle service to Cedar Point, an hour west of downtown. Cedar Point is in Sandusky. From Sandusky, you can get a ferry to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, a regional party island.

Good planning!

Uden, The...
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10. Re: Road trip in the US for non-US 21 year old. Help!

Is july/august set in stone? Flights will be premium, busiest time of the year. Very hot in the West and very hot and humid in th east plus hurricanes possible in the east. In 8 weeks yes it can be done but we once made a trip Florida-NE-San Diego in 11 weeks and already travelled for 10.000 miles with all detours. .

For buying a car in the Usa please check out this link: