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Five go to the USA

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Savvy_SueSavvy_Sue Forumite
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At the risk of having my wrist slapped and told this question's been asked and answered dozens of times before :o

Family of five going to the USA for 10 days in July: Mum, Dad, and lads of 21, 18 and 16.

So far I've booked the flights to JFK, out on Sunday, returning the Tuesday week afterwards. We need to be in Wildwood, NJ, for the weekend at the end of our stay.

My thought is to spend 3-4 days in New York, then hire a car and mosey on down to Wildwood, watch some whales, set the boys free for their 'convention' over the weekend, then drive back.

So, the questions:

is it best to book as much as possible before going? Cars, hotels, hostels, sightseeing tours, whale watching trips etc ...

Or will we do OK if we are more free'n'easy than that and leave some decisions until we're there?

And is it worth trying to book hotel / motel rooms with 3 beds, or just as easy to book 3 rooms and let them fight over who doesn't have to share?

I've got a few guide books, and I've tried reading as many USA threads as I can, but my head is starting to spin and the boys are claiming to be too busy revising / doing 'stuff' to be any help!
Still knitting!
Completed: TWO adult cardigans, 3 baby jumpers, 3 shawls, 1 sweat band, 3 pairs baby bootees, 2 sets of handwarmers, 1 Wise Man Knitivity figure + 1 sheep, 2 pairs socks, 3 balaclavas, multiple hats and poppies, 3 peony flowers, 4 butterflies ...
Current projects: pink balaclava (for myself), seaman's hat, about to start another cardigan!
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Replies

  • photomephotome Forumite
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    Cant answer everything.

    Definitely book car and hotel before you go

    www.yescarhire.com
    www.carhire3000.com.

    I have used both and been more than satisfied.

    I havent been to east coast, but have been to west coast a few times and I always book direct with the hotels, thats where I have found the best prices. If you need to ring them use the international call checker for calls costing from 0.5p per minute
  • cazziebocazziebo Forumite
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    Wow - so lucky! Hope you have a fab time..

    I would say book the car hire for sure, but it depends on where you want to stay with the hotels. If I'm going to a city then I'd usually book the hotels from here (just discovered Priceline - fantastic deals) However if I'm travelling about I'd just look for motels - never been disappointed yet. All clean and very reasonable.

    I've done a few road trips in my time in the States - mostly East Coast and they have been the best holidays. We usually take a relaxed approach and don't book too much in advance. Probably worth working out a schedule for NYC, but the rest of it you could just take it as it happens

    Enjoy!
  • asandwhenasandwhen Forumite
    1.4K posts
    We go in 2 weeks - we are starting off at JFK too but are going the other way to you. Spending a few day driving through connecticut staying at Milford and Enfield CT - going to the Six flags theme park then spending 2 nights in Boston (including July 4th) then driving down to Cape cod spending 1 week in a house on the beach. We are then driving back to JFK dropping the car off and getting a taxi into New york city where we are spending 2 days doing the New york thing before coming home.

    We have booked absolutly everything before going not leaving anything to chance.

    Have fun!
  • commaduscommadus Forumite
    69 posts
    Been a road trip to the US last year. Spent 4 weeks there. Going again next week for another 4 weeks and flying down to miami.

    I suggest you book your car hire from over here and go for the gold / platinum packages where you get a tank of free petrol and there is no excess.

    Also when you pick up your car make a note of all scratches not matter how small and use your mobile to take pictures of the car. 10-15 minutes spent now will save you a potential hassle later.
  • vivatifosivivatifosi Forumite
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    Hi savvy-sue,

    Good to see you asking a question instead of answering one! Its about time you got something back for all your time toiling over a hot small business board;).

    I completely agree in terms of getting just the flight, hotels and cars booked up front and leaving the rest free. However, it is worth checking if there are any big doozies that they don't book up ages in advance. I'm still kicking myself for going all the way to San Francisco and not being able to go to Alcatraz because it was already booked up.

    Also agree with commadus, take pics of any scratches etc. We also take pictures of any stains on the upholstery (nice).. We then report them back to them and ask them to write on the contract before we drive away.

    Plus make sure you take both your part one and part two driving licences. Although I've read that you don't need to, I can tell you from experience that we have been asked for both, and seen people refused hire for not having them. This seems to be a more recent trend, as the US has twigged that we have two parts. We've hired about 40 cars in the US and only been asked about 5 times, but sods law is that you'll not have it the time that they do ask. If you only have a paper licence, having a photo one is pretty handy in the US anyway so worth getting.

    Also, just check that your car is insured to change states as some car hire contracts assume that you will stay in state for the duration of your vacation. I'm not sure how this works in NY as so many other states are nearby, but I have seen this arise as a problem in Florida.
    Please stay safe in the sun and learn the A-E of melanoma: A = asymmetry, B = irregular borders, C= different colours, D= diameter, larger than 6mm, E = evolving, is your mole changing? Most moles are not cancerous, any doubts, please check next time you visit your GP.
  • mrtg0525mrtg0525 Forumite
    399 posts
    Savvy_sue, it may be worth checking if you can catch the train down to Wildwood and then rent a car down there if necessary. There is actually reasonable in that corner of the US and driving in NYC isn't particularly pleasant. That's what my wife and myself did the last time we were in NYC - took the train up to Albany and got a car there. The train ride was actually quite pleasant and noticeably cheaper compared to a similar journey in the UK.

    I normally pre-book the rental cars from the UK for the few times I need one over there. I usually use Hertz because I do like the cars they offer and the service has been good and helpful so far. They've never asked me for the counterpart license, the photocard was always sufficient.

    With whomever you book your rental car, check that they don't have funny ideas about you needing an international driving license. I know that at least one Enterprise branch in Las Vegas that requires one and doesn't accept "just" a UK drivers license. Not a big deal for me as I have to have one anyway so my wife can put me on her US car insurance, but we still had to go back to the house and get it, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to drive the car.
  • Savvy_SueSavvy_Sue Forumite
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    thank you everyone, especially your encouragement vivitafosi.

    I was definitely NOT planning to drive in NYC! Thinking that we would mostly use taxis there (surely cheaper for five in a taxi than on public transport?) but then hire and drive down to Wildwood - again on the "five in a car must be cheaper than five on a train" argument. But I will look into trains, which do have the advantage that I can look at the scenery too.

    It is just very frustrating because although this is meant to be the "holiday of a lifetime" for us all, DH is metaphorically sucking his teeth and wondering if we can afford it, wouldn't they all rather go to EuroDisney and Parc Asterix again, and winding the boys up to do any research is proving very difficult! Or even make any suggestions - we've only got this far because DS2 progressed from "I hear Bristol is very nice in July" to "There might be some kind of 'meet' in the USA in July".

    So I said, "right, we'll take you to the 'meet', spend a few days in New York", and the youngest said "What is there to do in New York?" :confused: So far no-one's responded very well to my answer of "SHOPPING!" but I do have the Rough Guide and a mini guide.

    So it looks like I am going to have to make all the decisions like how many days in NY, where we stay etc, so it will be All My Fault if no-one has a good time. Of course it will be All My Fault anyway.

    Having said that, things did get a LOT simpler when I realised we could limit the trip to NY and Wildwood and still include whale watching, which I've set my heart on, and I think that Wildwood looks like their kind of town ...

    What it is to be a control freak in a family where everyone else is so laid back they are horizontal ... :rotfl:
    Still knitting!
    Completed: TWO adult cardigans, 3 baby jumpers, 3 shawls, 1 sweat band, 3 pairs baby bootees, 2 sets of handwarmers, 1 Wise Man Knitivity figure + 1 sheep, 2 pairs socks, 3 balaclavas, multiple hats and poppies, 3 peony flowers, 4 butterflies ...
    Current projects: pink balaclava (for myself), seaman's hat, about to start another cardigan!
  • N9eavN9eav Forumite
    4.7K posts
    I Did 3500 miles at over Christmas in USA.
    Definately book a car this side with the free tank of fuel option.

    Hotels as you travel are pretty cheap. Pick up a state book of discount vouchers at most fuel stations. We had a 4 bed room with pool and air con and wireless internet for $45 a night. Very clean and tidy.
    NO to pasty tax We won!!!! Just shows that people power works! Don't be apathetic to your cause!
  • mrtg0525mrtg0525 Forumite
    399 posts
    @Savvy_sue, most cabs I've seen in NYC won't sit five people, you can probably squeeze three in but that's it. They're just regular cars and you can't sit in front, so you're looking at two cabs each time. They've got busses as well so you might want to check that out - I never used them, though.

    Oh, and I assume you're talking about "just" going to New York City and not also New York State, which is a little bit bigger than just the town :D. Because for the latter you'll definitely need a car, but then again upstate NY is really beautiful.
  • Savvy_SueSavvy_Sue Forumite
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    mrtg0525 wrote: »
    @Savvy_sue, most cabs I've seen in NYC won't sit five people, you can probably squeeze three in but that's it. They're just regular cars and you can't sit in front, so you're looking at two cabs each time. They've got busses as well so you might want to check that out - I never used them, though.
    See, that's the kind of useful detail I need to know! Makes perfect sense though and ties in with what I've seen on the movies ... :rotfl:
    mrtg0525 wrote: »
    Oh, and I assume you're talking about "just" going to New York City and not also New York State, which is a little bit bigger than just the town :D. Because for the latter you'll definitely need a car, but then again upstate NY is really beautiful.
    Yup, just NYC. I'm sure the state is beautiful, but this time I'm trying to KISS. We'll 'do' as much of NYC as I can cope with, then head off into the wilds of NJ. At least, that's what I'll plan for ...

    I'm pleading with DS2 to find someone with my kind of brain going to this 'meet' (or their mother!) that I can pester with questions. I've even threatened to register and post my questions on the chat board involved, thinking I could embarrass him into finding me someone. He justs shrugs and says he's sure he'd cope if I did that. Surely this isn't normal? :confused:
    Still knitting!
    Completed: TWO adult cardigans, 3 baby jumpers, 3 shawls, 1 sweat band, 3 pairs baby bootees, 2 sets of handwarmers, 1 Wise Man Knitivity figure + 1 sheep, 2 pairs socks, 3 balaclavas, multiple hats and poppies, 3 peony flowers, 4 butterflies ...
    Current projects: pink balaclava (for myself), seaman's hat, about to start another cardigan!
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