Last Modified: 23 Sep 2013
The Great Outdoors Self Drive - Camping/Hotel - Standard Car
Trip code: SSDA1
Validity: 01 Jan 2013 to 30 Sep 2013
Grab the keys and hit the West Coast of the US on an unforgettable road trip through the great outdoors. An American adventure like no other, this independent, self-drive tour takes you into the heart of some of the most iconic cities and national parks in the world. Climb the epic Half Dome of Yosemite, scramble through the sandstone cliffs of Zion, be blown away by the gigantic Grand Canyon and enjoy the freedom to stop anywhere, anytime. With mix of camping and lodging, this trip is perfect for those wanting to immerse themselves with the West Coast’s natural beauty. Best of all – we’ll take care of the camping gear and the car so you can get out and enjoy North America’s wilderness playground!
Table of Contents
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Short Breaks - Independent Adventures, Self Drive Adventures
Day 1 Day 1 San Francisco
Welcome to San Francisco
You can arrive at any time on Day 1 as there are no scheduled activities. Proceed to Alamo car rental at San Francisco airport to collect your car. Please refer to Joining Point instructions for further details.
You can check in to your hotel any time after 3pm, but if you arrive early you can store your luggage.
You will be provided with a welcome pack on check in. This will contains specific maps, information on hotels and a detailed guide book outlining everything you need to know about your upcoming adventure.
If you are camping, an Intrepid representative will meet you at the joining hotel at 4pm to also go through your camping equipment.
San Francisco is a chilled-out city with a vibrant, multicultural heart. You can catch a tram to visit the waterfront, feast like a king in Chinatown or peruse zany artwork in SoMa.
As there's a great deal to do in San Francisco we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist. Consider doing our one-day sightseeing tour of San Francisco (see www.urbanadventures.com).
This trip doesn't allow time for a visit to Alcatraz, so you'll need to make your own arrangements to visit. Tickets must be booked in advance as they sell out quickly and tickets are limited. You can make your reservations online: http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/ or by calling +1.415.981.7625 between the hours of 8am-7pm, Pacific Standard Time (USA). We recommend you reserve your tickets for the day after the tour finishes.
Days 2-3 Yosemite National Park
300 km, Approx 5 hours
Drive 300 km east through the Central Valley to Yosemite National Park.
One of the most famous parks in the USA, Yosemite National Park's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood trees attract visitors from all over the world.
There are plenty of hikes available in Yosemite, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Hike under the cooling breezes of Nevada Falls (4-5 hours) or to the serenity of Mirror Lake (45 minutes). Keep an eye out for squirrels, and perhaps even a bear, along the way. There are also non-hiking activities such as bicycling around Yosemite Valley, visiting the park's museum, photo gallery, shops, restaurants and just walking the trails on the valley floor. In the heat of summer, a relaxing float down the Merced River followed by a few drinks at the park's cafe is just the trick.
- Bike rental (2 hrs) (in season) - USD20
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 4 Bishop
230 km, Approx 3 hours
Today you'll travel through the Tuolumne Meadows region of Yosemite National Park, over Tioga Pass into the eastern Sierra Nevada region. The drive itself is enough to make the day enjoyable for many. But, in addition to the drive there are plenty of hiking opportunities, a chance to take a swim in a high alpine lake, numerous scenic viewpoints and of course the chance to spot more of Yosemite's magnificent wildlife.
**NOTE** When Tioga Pass is closed (generally mid November to late May) you'll be re-routed to Bakersfield, CA.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Las Vegas
It's a long 7 hour drive (600 km) through Death Valley to Las Vegas.
One of the hottest deserts on the planet, temperatures in Death Valley rise to record-breaking levels (up to 56C in summer).
Death Valley National Park includes a wealth of geological phenomena: large sand dune formations, sculpted rocks, isolated valleys and volcanic craters. The canyon and mountain walls change colour with the changing sunlight. Elevations fluctuate from 85 m below sea level near Badwater Point (the lowest point in the United States) to 3756 m above sea level at Telescope Peak. Stop at the visitor centre and, heat permitting, take a walk on the stunning salt flats.
Las Vegas is Nevada's (and many would argue the USA's) entertainment capital. While it's reputation as "sin city" lingers and it is still known for it's gambling and night life, Las Vegas has slowly evolved into a city with countless attractions for young and old such as game arcades, shopping malls, amusement rides, (some of which are inside the hotels or even on top of them!), swimming pools and live shows.
Hotel (2 nts), Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 7 Zion National Park
Travel on to Zion National Park (270 km, approx 3.5 hrs).
Zion National Park has stunning desert terrain and huge sculpted rock formations that coexist with waterfalls and hanging gardens. Have a good look around, stretch your legs and perhaps even wade through the surprisingly chilly Virgin River.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 8 Lake Powell
Travel to Lake Powell (200 km, approx 2.5 hrs)
Lake Powell is an enormous, incredibly beautiful paradise with crystal-clear water. Activities on offer at Lake Powell are numerous: take a dip in the cool fresh waters, enjoy paddling a kayak through some of it's more secluded coves, rent a power boat and enjoy an afternoon water skiing, take one of a number of boat cruises or just laze on the lake's sunny shores
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 9-10 Grand Canyon
Travel 240 km (approx 3.5 hrs) out of the burning heat of the desert and on to the Colorado Plateau. Destination, the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is one of the world's seven wonders! It's 450 km long, 6-30 km wide and 1600 m deep. Marvel at this immense canyon on a rim walk or, for those that are feeling more active, a short hike into the canyon will help stretch those legs out.
- Helicopter flight (25 mins) - USD220
- IMAX movie - USD14
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 11 Joshua Tree National Park
After driving through the hot deserts of southern California, arrive at Joshua Tree National Park. The journey covers quite a lot of ground, taking about 6 hours (540 km) - plus short walks, photos and lunch stops.
Known for its many spectacular desert plants including Joshua trees, cacti and Mojave yuccas, Joshua Tree National Park also contains striking rock formations and towering mountain ranges.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 12-13 Los Angeles
It's a short drive to Los Angeles (240km, approx 2.5 -4 hrs depending on traffic).
Los Angeles - the 'City of Angels' - is world-renowned for the streets of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and the shopping on Rodeo Drive. From Venice Beach to Disneyland, it's a veritable smorgasbord for the senses.
As there's a great deal to do in Los Angeles, we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. Consider doing our one-day sightseeing tour of Los Angeles (see www.urbanadventures.com).
If this is a camping tour, please meet an Intrepid Representative in the hotel lobby on day 13 at 8am to turn in your camping equipment.
You can return your rental car up to 3pm on the last day of your trip.
- Paddle boarding tour (75 mins) - USD60
- Universal Studios - USD77
Hotel (1 nt)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
We've allowed plenty of room for freedom and flexibility in our trips. In fact, flexibility is one of the ingredients that makes each of our trips so exciting. This style of travel offers us some unexpected circumstances at times, for example, bad weather and road conditions, technical defects of transportation, inconveniences caused by local operators and authorities, and other circumstances beyond our control. Changes in the program may be required to make the best of the unique situations that we encounter.
Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group. Our described itineraries are to be used as a general guide only.
This is the least confronting of Intrepid's product range. English is the native language and the food, customs and access to services will be similar to home.
These trips are a relaxing break. You don't have to worry about doing anything physically demanding unless you want to.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
It can be difficult to exchange money while on the road so we suggest that you bring some cash in US dollars/Canadian dollars, or exchange/withdraw money at the airport when you arrive, or at least before you start the trip.
Your individual budget will depend on your personal plans. Think about how much you want to spend on souvenirs, shopping, entertainment, food, drinks, excursions and attractions that aren't included in your trip (eg. helicopter flights etc). Please bear in mind that North America has endless things to do and see. Not all possible optional activities are listed in our Trip Notes.
The cheapest and most convenient way to acquire money is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) which are plentiful throughout all cities and towns, and even at roadside stops. This allows you to draw funds from your personal account at a superior exchange rate. Bank fees for these withdrawals can be either a flat rate or a percentage of the amount withdrawn. Check with your bank for information on their international fees.
Don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it's stolen. Keep this in a safe place. When using your debit card, check your receipts and keep them to compare against your statement when you get home.
Occasionally banks will also allow cash advances on your credit card, but it's not recommended to rely on this method only. We recommend that you carry some cash for situations when ATMs can't be accessed.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: We suggest 15% to 20% of your bill.
Bars: Recommended US$1 for each drink ordered to ensure you are served again.
Local guides: We suggest US$5-$7 per day for local guides.
Another charge not normally listed in North American costs is the state and federal taxes, keep this in mind when your bill comes out slightly higher than the original price listed.
As we offer trips year-round and will be travelling in changing climate zones, we advise you to carefully consider the weather and choose appropriate clothing and sleeping bag (if necessary). Please bear in mind that nights can be very cold even in the warmer months. We can experience temperatures as low as -10 deg. celsius and even snow.
The following national holidays are observed in the US, which can affect our itinerary as traffic can be extreme, and shops, restaurants and attractions can be closed:
- New Year's Day
- Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Washington's Birthday
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Columbus Day
- Veterans Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
LEGAL DRINKING AGE:
Please note that the legal drinking age in the US is 21 and in some parts of Canada it's 19.
Please note the minimum age to hire a car in the USA is 21
AMENDMENT TO PRINTED BROCHURE:
The 2012 North America printed brochure mentions that if you are 21 years old that you will not have to pay any extra fees. Unfortunately since printing the brochure this has changed and any driver under the age of 25 must pay a surcharge of 25USD per day - payable direct to Alamo car rental agency on pick up. Please note that if you wish to nominate more than one driver their is also a 10USD per day per extra driver surcharge - again payable directly to Alamo.
Maximum of 2 travellers per group.
Camping (with facilities) (9 nts), Hotel (3 nts)
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
San Francisco Airport
Alamo car rental desk
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Joining point instructions
To collect your vehicle please proceed to the Alamo car rental desk at San Francisco airport. Follow the signs to 'car rentals' and check-in at the Alamo desk - they will be expecting you. You will be asked to present your license and credit card for insurance excess coverage. Please note the following surcharges:
- Drivers under the age of 25 years old are subject to a 25USD per day supplement.
- Any additional nominated drivers are subject to a 10USD per day supplement.
These fees are to be paid locally direct to Alamo
After picking up your car, proceed to:
The Good Hotel
112 7th Street
Phone (415) 621-7001
When you check-in at the hotel, you will receive a 'welcome pack' with all the information you will need for your trip. If you are camping your Intrepid Representative will meet you at the hotel lobby on day 1 at 4PM to discuss your itinerary, provide you with camping equipment (if applicable), and answer any questions you may have.
If you have any difficulties locating Alamo car hire, or complications with picking up your car the Intrepid San Francisco representative can be contacted on the below number:
+1 310 292 8352.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the Joining Instructions section above for who to contact.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, again following the Joining Instructions in these trip notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Los Angeles Airport
Alamo car rental depot
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Finish point instructions
On the final day of your trip please return your car to the Alamo car rental depot at Los Angeles airport located approx 4miles from your finishing point hotel:
9020 Aviation Blvd Inglewood , CA 90301 US
Your hotel for the final night of this itinerary is:
525 North Sepulveda Blvd
El Segundo, CA 90245
Toll free: 1.800.421.5900
Intrepid offer post accommodation at this hotel if you wish to stay on in Los Angeles.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
USA TOURIST VISA:
Australia: No - ESTA required
Belgium: No - ESTA required
Canada: No - not required
Germany: No - ESTA required
Ireland: No - ESTA required
Netherlands: No - ESTA required
New Zealand: No - ESTA required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: No - ESTA required
UK: No - ESTA required
Entrance requirements to the USA have changed in recent years so please read the following instructions carefully, even if you have travelled to the USA before.
Many countries now operate under a visa waiver program (meaning a visa isn't required) however you still need to obtain an authorisation which confirms that you have been approved to travel. This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel.
Many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can travel to the USA without a visa for a 90 day stay, if they meet certain requirements. Travellers from all Visa Waiver Program countries must present a machine-readable passport (which meets US requirements) at the port of entry to enter without a visa, otherwise a US visa is required. Canada doesn't require a visa for many foreign nationals however you should check to see if this applies to your country. You can get further information from the US Department of State and the Canadian government websites:
Also please note, all travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to their flight from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
All ESTA registration applications or renewals require a US$14.00 fee paid by credit or debit card. You should apply for your visa waiver authorisation at least 1 week prior to travel to avoid any last minute delays. You will require your passport details and your address in the US (you can use the starting point hotel/hostel address).
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Medical prescriptions written outside of the US and Canada aren't accepted at pharmacies. Therefore, we recommend you bring along your personal medications in the necessary quantities for your trip.
DEHYDRATION & SUN PROTECTION:
The most likely medical incidents to occur on our trips are dehydration, over exposure to the sun, and twisted ankles from walking on uneven ground. While hiking please ensure you drink enough water to remain hydrated as some hikes don't have refill stations for your water bottles. The sun (especially in desert areas in the West) can be harsh, particularly in the warmer months. Ensure you apply adequate sun protection cream and wear a hat. Travelling with sunburn can be uncomfortable.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
In addition to any included activities on your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Our local representative may be able to assist you with available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that our local representative has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the trip until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by our local representative.
If you have credit card insurance our local representative will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact telephone number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon Offset C02-e 551.00 kgs per pax.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.