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Me and my friend are planning to visit the USA next year, to celibrate our high school graduation (we'll both be 18 years old by then). I have family living in California (San Francisco) so we plan on staying at their house. Of course we want to spend most of our time travelling, so we'll spend the occasional night in the hotel/motel.

We'd like to explore the state (of course not the entire state, but at least Los Angeles) and go as far as the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Seeing as we both have a EU driver's license, we thought we could just rent a car. However, recently I've heard that it is nearly impossible for anyone under the age of 21 to rent a car, so my question is: What is the best way to do the aforementioned things (in terms of transportation)?

Our main concern is the price. Another less important factor is the scenery.

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in addition to being unable to rent a car, you are highly unlikely to be able to get a hotel room. While you can take buses and other forms of transportation to make up for not being able to rent a car, it will be a lot harder to get around the hotel problem –  Kate Gregory Aug 3 '13 at 1:02
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see travel.stackexchange.com/q/8225/46 –  Kate Gregory Aug 3 '13 at 1:08
    
@KateGregory What?! 2 adults are unable to get a hotel room? How is this even possible? –  VictorS Aug 3 '13 at 13:09
    
You might want to Google something like, "German tourists, buy car, drive Alaska". When I spent some time in the Yukon it was common for German tourists to show up, having bought the car in Alaska, and were driving it down to Seattle and beyond, where they would sell the car, or even dump it (I was told). –  Shane Aug 7 '13 at 13:14

2 Answers 2

There does appear to be an issue with renting hotel rooms if you are 18-21. Hotels are allowed discretion, so you can get turned away and have no recourse. However this page indicates some alternate ways of getting accommodation. Some hotels will be OK, and Youth Hostels and Bed and Breakfasts are more likely to be accepting. It's best to phone in advance to check their policies. I'd always prefer a B&B over a corporate hotel anyway (alas I'm too old for youth hostels).

There is probably no way of working around the car rental issue. You can buy a car and sell it later, but that may be more complicated than you want. The traditional way for young people to get around the US has always been Greyhound, but it's been declining in popularity and its harder to get away from cities and popular tourist spots. However it will be cheap, and has the potential to meet interesting people.

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There is a pretty active bus system in the US that has a lot of destinations and is relatively cheap. So if you're trying to go between cities, that's probably the best way to get around. Greyhound is one, as someone mentioned. There is also Megabus and Bolt Bus, though I don't know if either of those operate as far west as CA. There might be others out in CA though; google is probably your friend for that.

There is also Amtrak, though those tickets tend to be considerably more expensive than the bus with a comparable service level.

As far as accommodations go, if you are ok with camping, that is an easy way to save money on Hotel, though it would not be compatible with bus/train travel. You would have to rent or purchase a car. However, the scenery and places you could see by camping out there could be pretty incredible. With a car you could go as far as Nevada or Utah (or farther), but there are some amazing national parks out there.

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