Roadtrip America Eastbound Trip Notes

Traverse the United States on an American road trip from San Francisco to New York via Las Vegas, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville.

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    • Overland
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Last Modified: 22 Jul 2012
Roadtrip America Eastbound
Trip code: SSOD
Validity: 01 Jan 2011 to 31 Dec 2012
Up for a cross-country journey? Then sign up for this Overland adventure from San Francisco to New York City, with plenty of big-name stops in between. Discover some of America's greatest national parks, live it up in Vegas, feel dwarfed by the Grand Canyon, and discover a vibrant blend of musical traditions in New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville. From sprawling cities and iconic sights to remote desert ruins and natural phenomena, this epic trip promises fantastic experiences and grand adventures by the bucket load.
Table of Contents
StyleDeparture taxFinish point description
ThemesImportant notesEmergency contact
MapGroup sizeEmergency funds
ItineraryYour fellow travellersVisas
We also recommendSingle travellersIssues on your trip
Itinerary disclaimerAccommodationWhat to take
Culture shock rating Meals introductionHealth
Physical ratingMealsSafety
Physical preparationTransportTravel insurance
Included activitiesGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Optional activitiesJoining point A couple of rules
Money ExchangeJoining point descriptionThe Intrepid Foundation
Spending moneyJoining point instructionsCarbon offset
TippingArrival complicationsFeedback
Style
Basix
  • The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Themes
Overland
Map
Roadtrip America Eastbound
Itinerary
Day 1 San Francisco
Welcome to the USA!
You can arrive at any time on Day 1 as there are no scheduled activities. You can check in after 3pm but if you arrive early you can store your luggage. You won't be meeting your leader or your group until the morning of Day 2.
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 no time spent in San Francisco on this trip, we recommend you arrive a few days early to see the sights. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). 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 before the tour commences.
Accommodation
Hostel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Yosemite National Park
There will be an important welcome meeting at 8am this morning. Meet in the hotel reception/lobby. We'll be collecting your insurance details, kitty and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
Drive 300 km east across 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.
Included Activities
  • Yosemite National Park
Optional Activities
  • Bike rental (2 hrs) (in season) - USD20
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 4 Sierra Nevada
Leave Yosemite behind and drive into the eastern Sierra Nevada. Spectacular mountain scenery, crystal clear lakes and breathtaking vistas are in store for us today. Total driving time to Bishop is about 3-4 hours (170 km), depending on weather conditions and road access over Tioga Pass.
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Death Valley/Las Vegas
Travel east through Death Valley to Las Vegas (560 km, approx 6 hrs).
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 the gambling capital of the world, but there's plenty to do along the Strip for gamblers and non-gamblers alike - there's the casinos and shows, of course, plus shops, amusement rides, dance clubs and great value 'all you can eat' buffets.
Included Activities
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Las Vegas Strip tour
Optional Activities
  • Limo tour - USD25
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 7-8 Grand Canyon
Take a 5 hour scenic route to the Grand Canyon (450 km).
Along the way, drive a section of the famous Route 66 and stop in the nostalgic township of Seligman.
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.
For a bird's-eye view, there's an option to take a helicopter ride over this breathtaking landscape.
Included Activities
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Route 66
Optional Activities
  • Helicopter flight (25 mins) - USD220
  • IMAX movie - USD14
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 9 Monument Valley
Travel through the Painted Desert to Monument Valley (470 km).
The backdrop for countless westerns, Monument Valley is part of the biggest Indian reservation in the US and home to more than 200,000 Indians of the Navajo Tribe. Monument Valley is so-named for the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert. The angle of the sun means that the landscape is constantly changing colour and it's near impossible to take a bad photo.
See all the magnificent sights Monument Valley has to offer in the back of a jeep with a Navajo guide. Visit areas only open to the Navajo, see traditional Navajo homes, hike the sand dunes and gaze up at spectacular rock formations - all with the insight of a local guide.
Included Activities
  • Monument Valley National Tribal Park
Optional Activities
  • Navajo-guided jeep tour (2.5 hrs) - USD35
  • Jeep tour & overnight experience - USD75
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 10 Mesa Verde National Park
Drive through Mexican Hat where nature has transformed a monolith into a gigantic sombrero. Our route follows the San Juan River on the way to Mesa Verde National Park, a journey of 200 km.
Mesa Verde National Park is home to the largest and best-preserved cliff dwellings of the Anasazi Indians. It protects over 4,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the US.
Explore a cliff dwelling on a short walk or (for a small fee) join a ranger-led walk to the harder-to-access sites.
Included Activities
  • Mesa Verde National Park
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 11 Aztec Ruins National Monument/Santa Fe
Drive to Aztec Ruins National Monument.
Famous for its sandstone pueblo, Aztec Ruins National Monument was built around the 11th century and contains more than 400 rooms. Take a self-guided 800 m walk through rooms built centuries ago, where you can discover skilful stone masonry remarkably preserving the original walls.
Continue on to Santa Fé. Total driving distance is about 430 km (approx 6.5 hrs).
The capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe, is the oldest capital city in the US. You can visit the town plaza surrounded by pueblo architecture, view the south-western art and décor at local museums or enjoy a drink and take in Santa Fe's quaint atmosphere.
Included Activities
  • Aztec Ruins National Monument
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 12 Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Head south through the desert along the Pecos River to Carlsbad Caverns (470 km, approx 6.5 hrs).
One of the largest caverns in the world, Carlsbad Cavern is still only partially explored. Hike deep into the 8.2 acre 'Big Room' and beyond. In the evening, take a seat outside the park to witness the overwhelming sight of a bat flight - thousands of bats swarming out of the caverns. This is seasonal, as the bats migrate south in October for the winter, and is best viewed in July/August.
Included Activities
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 13 San Antonio
Drive across Texas to San Antonio (745 km, approx 9 hrs including our lunch break).
A little piece of Mexico in the US, San Antonio is the home of the Alamo, an original reconstructed Spanish-Mexican fort from the 18th century. You can stroll along the famous River Walk and get to know the city's many canals and backstreets by night.
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 14 Houston
Spend the morning exploring downtown San Antonio.
Drive with the truckers along Highway 10 to Houston (430 km, approx 4.5 hrs).
Houston is the largest city in Texas and home of the NASA Johnson Space Center.
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 15-16 New Orleans
Leave the largest state in the continental US and enter Louisiana to reach New Orleans - the 'Big Easy' (nearly 700 km, approx 7 hrs).
Most of the action in New Orleans takes place in the French Quarter, where Bourbon Street's many jazz clubs come alive at night.
Optional Activities
  • Cajun Jack's Swamp Tour - USD35
  • Honey Island Swamp Tour - USD25
Accommodation
Hostel (2 nts)
Day 17 Memphis
Head 650 km across the state of Mississippi to Memphis (approx 7 hrs with a lunch stop).
Memphis is the home of the Blues. In the evening, you can head down to Beale Street's traditional blues clubs, made famous by legends such as Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. For those with an interest in history, there's the National Civil Rights Museum at the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Pay a visit to Graceland - Elvis Presley's home and his tomb.
Optional Activities
  • Graceland Museum - USD35
  • Sun Studio - USD12
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 18 Nashville
Head east to Nashville (approx 3.5 hrs).
Known as 'Music City', most of Nashville's attractions revolve around country music.
Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, which contains Elvis' golden Cadillac. Another point of interest is Music Row, where more than 50 record studios and approximately 200 music publishing houses are located.
Optional Activities
  • Country Music Hall of Fame - USD25
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 19 Appalachian Mountains
Journey into the Appalachian Mountains, also called the Blue Ridge Mountains (600 km, approx 6 hrs). We'll camp for one night en route to Washington DC.
Optional Activities
  • Whitewater rafting, Pigeon River - USD27
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 20-21 Washington DC
Continue on to Washington DC (500 km, approx 5.5 hrs).
The nation's capital, Washington DC, is easily explored by foot. Don't miss the White House, Capitol Building, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and National Air and Space Museum, as well as many other museums of interest. In the evening you can stroll through Georgetown, the centre of the city's nightlife.
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 22 New York
Drive along the Delaware River to Philadelphia and then on to New York City. The journey will cover 400 km and, depending on the busy east coast traffic, can take anywhere from 4-5 hours, including a lunch stop.
Founded in 1682, Philadelphia is home to the Liberty Bell and it was here that Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
New York is the city that never sleeps. Grab a slice and see those famous sites - Times Square, Broadway, Central Park and the Empire State Building.
The arrival time at our accommodation depends on each group, but we generally aim for a 3pm arrival. If you are flying out today we suggest you don't book a flight before 8pm to allow enough time to transfer to the airport for check-in 2 hours before your flight.
As there's a great deal to do in New York City, 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 New York (see www.urbanadventures.com).
    We also recommend
    If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
    • Best of America (ex San Francisco) (SSOXC)
    Itinerary disclaimer
    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.
    Culture shock rating

    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.
    Physical rating

    Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
    Physical preparation
    Many of the North American national parks that we visit have hiking opportunities where walks up to 4 hours can be an option for you. There are often easier options too.
    Included activities
    Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
    Optional activities
    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.
    The receipt of commissions or kickbacks in exchange for recommending particular shops or services is ingrained in the culture of the North American tourism industry. Rather than turn a blind eye to this unavoidable issue, Intrepid has established a centralised system whereby commissions from recommended suppliers are distributed back to the leader. Details of these arrangements will be provided by the leader on request.
    While Intrepid endeavours to ensure that these recommended suppliers and services maintain reasonable levels of quality - they are chosen based on the feedback and experiences of past travellers - we can't explicitly guarantee the quality or safety of the product or activity.
    A priority in establishing this service is that your travel experience isn't compromised in any way. Please let us know via the feedback form completed after your trip if we are successfully meeting this objective.
    Money Exchange
    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.
    Spending money
    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.
    Tipping
    If you're happy with the service you receive, providing 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. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group as our group leaders are prohibited from collecting cash for tips.
    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: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$3 per day for local guides.
    Your Group Leader: You should also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. Your leader works long and hard for you. He or she may well become your friend during the trip but they do need to pay their bills. If the leader's performance meets or exceeds your expectation they will gladly accept a tip from you. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however you should plan to tip your leader US$5-$7 per person per day.
    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.
    Departure tax
    All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
    Important notes
    NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
    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.
    Group size
    Maximum of 13 travellers per group.
    Your fellow travellers
    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
    Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
    www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
    Single travellers
    Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
    Accommodation
    Camping (with facilities) (16 nts), Hostel (3 nts), Hotel (2 nts)
    The campsites that we use are selected for either their scenic beauty, their convenient location to places of interest and/or the facilities available. We aim to offer you a selection of different types of campsites.
    If you've never camped before - no problem! We provide a complete set of camping and cooking equipment. This includes roomy easy-to-pitch tents, which are shared by only two people and are equipped with thin foam rubber mattresses and vinyl floors. Your leader will show you how to pitch a tent on the first day. On many trips we also spend a few nights in reasonably priced hotels / motels / hostels (as per the itinerary).
    For the group, we also provide two burner stoves, efficient camp kitchen equipment, dishes, coolers, food storage boxes, a water container, lamps and a sun and rain roof. Please take good care of all the equipment. You'll be assigned a specific tent so please look after it well. The equipment has to be returned clean, complete and in the same condition as you received it. Please keep in mind that sleeping bags are not provided and you'll need to bring your own. Please read the 'What to Take' section of these notes for more information on choosing a sleeping bag.
    Our high quality camping equipment (including tents) can be affected by bad weather conditions. This can result in some wet and cold conditions inside the tent. Your spirit of adventure and flexibility will help make your adventure trip an exciting and unforgettable experience. On nights where the group is camping and weather conditions are extreme (such as snow or heavy rain) there may be an opportunity for the group (if everyone agrees) to stay at an alternative location such as a nearby hostel or hotel. When this is the case the upgrade is at your own expense.
    You'll find the necessary facilities - toilets and in most cases showers, washing machines and driers - at many of our campsites. The showers at some campsites only have cold water available and some may require a payment (usually no more than US$1-$3 for a quick shower). This is payable locally and is generally a contribution to paying for a limited water supply. Please be aware that some campsites won't have any facilities, however it will rarely be for more than one night at a time. This is true of many campsites within Yosemite National Park, so if your trip is visiting this park, please prepare to go without a shower on this night, although it can often be arranged to stop and utilise facilities on our way out of the park.
    In all the campsites there are strict quiet hours, when absolutely no loud noise is allowed. This means that all music, singing and group gatherings have to stop. We request that all our travellers respect these campsite rules.
    Our trips extend beyond the traditional vacation months (June - September). This is because over the years we've recognised there's a demand from our travellers for trips outside this period. Many enjoy the experience of North America in the snow, or in the crisp and clear atmosphere of spring. We've operated successful trips throughout the year however some consideration must be taken when choosing a trip that travels in the colder months such as:
    - Have you got a suitable sleeping bag?
    - Do you have suitable warm clothing - fleece, waterproofs, thermals?
    - Are your walking and hiking boots waterproof and warm?
    If you come prepared and are willing to experience North America at this very special time of year, then you will be set for a great time.
    For trips where there are lodges/cabins used, couples travelling together may be separated as our rooming arrangements are based on single gender.
    Meals introduction
    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
    Meals
    No meals included
    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.
    USD 330.00
    On our trips in North America, we operate an optional kitty, where travellers are encouraged to contribute to a central fund which is used to buy groceries which then supply meals to the entire group. In our experience all travellers generally participate, however some with special dietary requirements may prefer to opt out. The kitty is administered by the group and is payable per week of the trip. The cost is:
    USA - US$50 per week
    Alaska - US$70 per week
    Canada - CA$70 per week
    While camping, some breakfasts and dinners are paid from the food kitty, while lunch is not included. Sometimes we'll go out for dinner and eat at restaurants at everybody's own expense.
    Your leader will participate in the food kitty as well. On hotel nights (if included) the food kitty doesn't operate and everybody eats at their own expense.
    Chores such as buying and cooking the food, washing up, etc. will be shared by everyone on the trip. Teams of two people will carry out the camp duties on a rotating basis. On camping nights, we usually cook our evening meals together on our own stove, or barbecue food over the camp fire. We usually prepare salads, grill meats and cook pasta, rice and vegetables. For breakfast we usually buy milk, coffee, tea, cereals, bread, jam, butter etc. Not all personal eating preferences can be catered for, however we endeavour to provide tasty, basic meals.
    We keep our food costs as low as possible by sharing the expenses. The kitty is based on the average cost from our past experiences and from passenger feedback about what they are prepared to pay for shared meals. Personal beverages, lunches and snacks are not included in the food kitty. If there's any cash left over it will either be redistributed to the group or put towards paying for a group activity.
    Transport
    Private vehicle
    FLEET
    Our large fleet of vans are fully equipped with dual air-conditioning system, V8 engines and any camping or cooking equipment needed for your trip. Most have cloth-upholstered seats and carpeted interior with radio/tape or CD players. Your baggage is transported in a trailer which is towed behind the van.
    The vans are regularly serviced in our own maintenance facility and continuously checked and serviced by a well established network of maintenance and service facilities throughout the continent. However, unforeseen maintenance problems can still occur while on the road and we appreciate the patience of our travellers as we make necessary repairs as quickly as possible.
    WI-FI
    Beginning 01 January 2013, all private vehicle trips through the United States, including Alaska, will feature mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. Please note that trips in Canada will NOT have Wi-Fi hotspots in your van. Whilst travelling in the van, use Wi-Fi to check-in back home and share your background and cultural interests with your fellow travellers. Some usage restrictions may apply depending on demand and use. Hotspot devices provide wireless connections for up to five devices (up to two for optimal service and speed). Many camp grounds and hotels supply Wi-Fi for additional use outside the van.
    DRIVING TIMES
    All driving times mentioned in our itinerary are intended as a guide only and represent the minimum driving time - not including lunch stops, fuel stops, photo stops, traffic congestion, adverse weather conditions or any last minute alterations to the itinerary for any unforeseen circumstances. Please note that there are some long driving days on this tour - we'll have some starts as early as 7am and late arrivals at our final destination, sometimes after dark). As always, your group leader will make stops for viewpoints, short walks and lunch/rest breaks to help break up the journey.
    We recommend you are fully prepared for these long travel days by reviewing our notes and indicated drive times (which are based on average drive times from past trips). Some travellers prefer to bring pillows on board for added comfort, others prefer reading material or games and puzzles. The reality is that to get from one fabulous location to another, the distances are great and we like to think at least some of the adventure is in the journey - not just the destination. You'll be on board with up to 12 other passengers plus your group leader so patience and cooperation goes a long way in making this journey a comfortable one.
    SEAT BELT POLICY
    Safety is our priority and therefore our travellers are asked to sign a document on Day 1 of the itinerary indicating your understanding of our seat belt policy.
    Group leader
    Your Intrepid group leader’s role involves organising the overall operation and smooth-running of the trip, managing trip logistics and camp responsibilities. They will work to make the trip as safe and enjoyable as possible for all travellers. Intrepid's North American trips are built around the co-operation and participation of all the group members under the supervision of the group leader. On our camping trips, your leader will show the group how to set up and use the camp equipment, and form work groups to take turns cooking, cleaning and shopping. Everyone is expected participate and carry their share of the workload, making camp chores easier. If the whole group participates it will be quicker, easier and more fun.
    Your leader will provide basic information about the sights and cities you'll be visiting but please note that our leaders are not 'tour guides' in the traditional sense. They are adventure travel specialists and are there to organise your trip, arrange activities and help with questions or problems you may have while on your tour. Your leader will provide you with all the important information you need to embark on your own explorations.
    They are also responsible for driving the van and navigating across the country. The allowable driving times for drivers is strictly controlled in North America. This ensures our drivers are well rested and are not over-tired from too many hours on the roads.
    While your group will have a minivan for all included activities on the trip, please note that the services of the van and the driver may not be available for your use during free time, or after you have arrived for the day. If you need a special trip into town you may need to arrange transport or a taxi.
    We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
    It's strictly forbidden for non-qualified rangers to present any information about some National Parks in North America, therefore we adopt a system (as requested by the park rangers) where our leader will encourage travellers to visit the information centres in the National Parks for details about the site.
    Joining point
    USA Hostel San Francisco
    711 Post Street
    San Francisco
    San Francisco
    CA
    94109
    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
    Joining point description
    The USA Hostel San Francisco is located just three blocks from Union Square in the heart of the city, a short walk from Chinatown, the historic cable cars, and San Francisco's best shopping. Dorm rooms have up to 4 beds with shared bathrooms. In addition to all-you-can eat pancakes and oatmeal every morning, there's free wireless internet, secure storage lockers and laundry facilities.
    Joining point instructions
    BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
    From San Francisco International Airport - catch the tram in the arrivals area which will take you to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stop. Take BART to Powell Street station. ($8.10)
    From Oakland International Airport - take the AirBART bus to Coliseum BART station ($3, exact change required.) Take a BART train to Powell Street station. ($3.80)
    At Powell Street, exit station and take escalator to street level. At the top of the escalator you will see the cable car turn around. Turn left and walk up Powell Street to Post Street. Turn left onto Post and walk three blocks to Jones Street. The hostel will be on your left after you cross Jones.
    BY SHUTTLE:
    If you've lots of bags or just too tired to use public transport you can take a shuttle to our hostel.
    From SFO - exit from the baggage claim and cross the walkway. Look for the shuttle signs. Hop on with Airport Express. While they regularly transport our guests, just remind them that USA Hostels is at the corner of Post and Jones. The cost is $17 per person plus tip (usually $1-$2 depending on how many bags you have).
    Arrival complications
    We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
    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, 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.
    Finish point description
    The hostel is located on Manhattan's Upper West Side Corner of 103rd St & Amsterdam Ave.
    Transfer from Newark Airport - Take the Super Shuttle to 891 Amsterdam Avenue. The rate is between $15-$19. The travel time is approximately 30-60 minutes and it is longer during peak hours. The shuttle runs on by calling 1-800-258-3826.
    Transfer from JFK - Take the Super Shuttle to 891 Amsterdam Avenue. The price is $17-$19. The shuttle runs on demand 24 hours by calling 1-800-258-3826. Taxi's charge a flat rate of $USD45 plus tolls, available 24hrs. Allow 40-60 mins, longer in peak hours.
    Transfer from La Guardia - Take the Super Shuttle to 891 Amsterdam Avenue. The rate is from $15-$22. The shuttle is on demand between 7:00AM to 11:00PM. Call 1(800) 358-5826. Taxis cost between 30-40 mins and costs from $30-$30 plus tolls.
    Please see hostel website for further transport options - http://www.hinewyork.org/directions.shtml
    Emergency contact
    For cases of genuine emergency or crisis, please contact 1-800-786-8735 (within the USA)
    From outside the USA please call +1 707 483 9460
    Police and Ambulance - In case of an emergency, local authorities can be contacted by calling 911 – this is the toll free phone number for the police, fire department and the ambulance in the USA. In case of doubt, call the operator on 0.
    For further contact details please use the following page:
    Emergency funds
    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
    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.
    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:
    - http://travel.state.gov/visa/tempvisitors.html
    - http://canadainternational.gc.ca
    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).
    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
    Issues on your trip
    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
    We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please contact our operations base on 1-800-786-8735 (toll free in the USA and Canada) or +1 707 523 1800 (office hours).
    You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
    What to take
    All baggage is transported in a trailer which is towed behind the vehicle. Please bring tough bags as small scratches and minor damages can occur. Avoid packing anything that can be easily broken such as glass bottles. Travelling light is recommended as you will be expected to carry, load and unload your luggage from the van/trailer.
    The luggage limit for our trips is:
    - 1 medium sized suitcase/backpack
    - 1 sleeping bag/sleeping mat (on camping/hostel trips)
    - 1 piece of hand luggage
    - Max. weight limit: 20kg
    Our baggage is packed away in our trailer, and therefore inaccessible, for much of the day so your hand luggage or day pack should be a suitable size to hold all your belongings that you may need for the day.
    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.
    SLEEPING BAGS AND WARM CLOTHING:
    As we offer trips throughout the year and travel in diverse climate zones, we recommend you carefully consider the weather and choose an appropriate sleeping bag and clothing. Please bear in mind that nights can be very cold even in the warmer months. We can experience temperatures as low as -5C and even snow.
    Your own sleeping bag is required for some nights on this trip. Please bring one from home or purchase one before your trip starts - you may not have time once we're on the road. Sleeping bags can easily be bought in the US and Canada at big stores like Walmart, Kmart, Target or at sports and camping supply stores. Renting sleeping bags isn't possible on our trips.
    If your trip departs from November to March sleeping bags may not be required as accommodation will vary to accommodate for the cooler weather. Please check the overview page of your trip for more information.
    WATER BOTTLE:
    Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
    Health
    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.
    PERSONAL MEDICATIONS:
    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.
    Safety
    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.
    Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the 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 your group leader 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:
    BEARS:
    Whilst travelling throughout North America it's not uncommon to encounter bears within campsites and national parks. Your group leader has been specifically trained for these situations and, if camping, will inform the group on how to 'bear proof' the camp in the evenings or when the site is unattended. There's absolutely no reason to be alarmed by this possibility as it is extremely rare for bears to attack humans.
    Travel insurance
    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 group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
    If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact 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:
    Responsible Travel
    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:
    A couple of rules
    Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
    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
    Carbon Offset C02-e 1294.00 kgs per pax.
    Feedback
    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.