Thinking in Advance

So, we’d planned a fly-drive but hadn’t planned any specific route. So what preparations are required for a fly-drive in the USA? Especially when you haven’t decided where to go or what to do?


  • A way of crossing the Atlantic – We booked the flights with BA on their BA Miles scheme about 2 days after we were born to ensure we got the dates we wanted.
  • Somewhere to stay on your first night – We figured we’d pre-book somewhere in San Francisco prior to departure, so that we didn’t have to search around in an exhausted stupor when we arrived, and (partly) because it is easy to find reasonable deals on nice hotels in San Francisco. We chose a special deal at the Westin St Francis from a random travel website (take your pick).
  • Some means of transport when you leave your first location – We pre-booked a car through Holiday Autos ( ), to get a known price for a known package – no shocks wanted on check-in. Holiday Autos did a fine job. They were easy to use and they gave a standard contract. It included everything you could ever want up front, no surprises.


  • A target list of places to go – We drew up a wish list of places primarily from the National Parks Service website ( ).
  • A map and some tour books, so you know where the target places are – Many thanks to Moon Travel Handbooks ( ), without whose invaluable guides we wouldn’t have known where to go or what we were looking at, although we would have had a lot more space in our luggage. And many thanks also to Rand McNally ( ), without whose tremendous road atlas of the USA, we wouldn’t have got far outside San Francisco.
  • Advance booked tickets for anything really busy – We pre-purchased tickets for the Alcatraz ferry trip from Blue and Gold Fleet ( ) as these tend to sell out pretty quickly.

Administrative Stuff

  • A bunch of documentation – There’s no point in saying what you need by way of visa, insurance and the like. Things change. So check with your airline. Buy some good insurance which covers everything you take with you, including yourself. In the USA you don’t get a lot of medical help unless you can pay. We bought an annual worldwide policy through American Express. Their policies are useful because they give a card to carry. Hospitals take that on trust without demanding immediate payment with your credit card.
  • Some means of supporting yourself – In fact, take lots of different types. We took a selection of different denomination dollar banknotes, some American Express dollar traveller’s cheques and a stack of credit cards and debit cards. Remember to take only dollar denominated traveller’s cheques. Not that we sanction use of particular organizations, but American Express ones work best in the USA. At one point I asked someone if they wanted ID with the traveller’s cheque and was told that the American Express logo on the cheque was all that was needed. This wouldn’t happen with other brands.
  • Oh, and don’t forget your passport
  • Or your toothbrush