Route 66 Fly-Drive Package Holidays – 2017 Review

Route 66 Fly-Drive Package Holidays – 2017 Review

If arranging your own Route 66 road trip from scratch is too much of a daunting task then the convenience of a Route 66 fly-drive package tour is certainly going to be enticing.

I have compiled this short article looking at 7 of the major providers of Route 66 fly-drive tours to UK travellers. Narrowing a very large list of tour providers down to the 7 listed was actually quite easy… A large number of companies insisted on customers contacting them for an individual quote with no guide price provided for their suggested itinerary. In my mind this wasn’t as helpful as I’d have liked and so I opted for 7 companies that at least provided a “guide price” for off-peak trips.

As the guide prices provided were often for very different times of the year they can’t be used to accurately compare the different companies. With this in mind I decided to put each company to the test by obtaining quotes for a mid-August 2017 trip. With this information to hand it becomes a little easier to make comparisons. All quotes were obtained in the week ending 19th May 2017, and all quotes were for the suggested itinerary as detailed on their website. All prices shown in this article are per-person based on two adults sharing a room.

Each of the packages featured are broadly similar – 15 or 16 nights exploring Route 66 including side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas (try finding a Route 66 package tour that doesn’t include these side trips!) For comparison purposes the guide price has been divided by the number of nights to give an average nightly cost per person based on 2 adults sharing. Also, the number of nights may not tally with the number of days advertised for the trip. This is because I chose to only include nights spent in motels/hotels and not nights spent sleeping on flights.

The UK Route 66 Association isn’t affiliated with any of the companies featured and all opinions are the author’s own.

So here you go… a review of 7 major providers of Route 66 fly-drive tours to UK travellers…

 

Virgin Holidays

Description: A self-drive tour of Route 66 including side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Price includes 15 nights accommodation, return flights from Heathrow, car hire (a four-door compact), a Virgin Holidays branded rucksack with tour documentation and Atlas, and a helicopter night flight over the Vegas Strip.

Number of Nights: 15

Guide Price (per person): From £1799 (average cost of £120 per night)

Quote provided for an August 2017 trip: £4006 per person*

Review: This package will no doubt be great fun but has an unusual itinerary in so much as it stalls for 3 nights in Albuquerque and due to the side tour to Vegas manages to bypass most of the historical towns of Arizona and California in favour of a quick route to LA. That’s not to say that this isn’t a great trip – and the helicopter night flight over Las Vegas would certainly be AMAZING – but from the perspective of a well-timed Route 66 trip it seems the be a little unbalanced. Day 3 manages to jump straight from Chicago to St Louis (a common theme when researching these packages). This is a significant jump as Illinois has a lot to offer and at least an extra day wouldn’t have hurt before crossing to Missouri.

The accommodation is mostly made up of homogeneous chain motels. The rucksack with documents and the welcome phone call upon arrival give it a personal touch at the start of your road trip and the brand of Virgin gives you some confidence should there be a problem. Overall I’d say that there are really only 6 days out of the 15 that are spent on the road travelling historic Route 66.

Check out their website for more information.

 

American Sky

Description: A self-drive tour of Route 66 including side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Price includes 15 nights accommodation, return flights from Heathrow and car hire (economy size).

Number of Nights: 15

Guide Price (per person): From £1979 (average cost of £132 per night)

Quote provided for an August 2017 trip: £2589 per person*

Review: This trip is a little quicker than the Virgin package to get out on the road and absorb the sites. It spends a little more time in the eastern states and also allows some time out to explore Santa Fe which can often be overlooked in Route 66 road trips. Santa Fe is a beautiful stopover so kudos to American Sky for giving it the prominence it deserves. Much like the Virgin package this trip detours to Las Vegas but at the expense of the western portion of Route 66. American Sky claims to be a “friendly, family-run business” and welcomes customer’s requests to enhance or amend their trip. If it were me I’d be retracing my steps from Vegas back to Route 66 so I could take in more of Arizona and California. An extra few nights would be well worth the additional expense.

Check out their website for more information.




 

Medway Leisure Travel

Description: A self-drive tour of Route 66 including side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Price includes 16 nights accommodation, return flights from Heathrow and car hire.

Number of Nights: 16

Guide Price (per person): From £1895 (average cost of £118 per night)

Quote provided for an August 2017 trip: £2045 per person*

Review: This one is particularly interesting as it proudly boasts a ‘no one-way drop off fee’ offer as long as your car is collected from Chicago O’Hare Airport and dropped off at Los Angeles Airport. Many other companies exclude the one-way fee from their packages – these are then paid locally and can be several hundred dollars. This is particularly interesting given that Medway already appears to be one of the cheaper options.

The advantage Medway has over the alternatives is that although it’s accommodation is not guaranteed it at least aspires to the Big Texan Motel, El Rancho, and Wigwam Motel alongside it’s chain motels. In fact, the personalised itinerary prepared for me when I requested a quote for an August trip included all of these and the Route 66 Rail Haven motel – I was very impressed with this.

 

Check out their website for more information.

 

Hayes & Jarvis

Description: A 16 day (15 night) self-drive tour of Route 66 including side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, including accommodation, return flight and car hire.

Number of Nights: 15

Guide Price (per person): From £1399 (average cost of £93 per night)

Quote provided for an August 2017 trip: Approximately £2212 per person*

Review: Their off-peak guide price is one of the cheapest in this list and also boasts a competitive high-season price per person. This trip is ideal for those who’d like to spend most of their time exploring the cities of Chicago, Albuquerque and Los Angeles. Unfortunately this is at the expense of time spent in the smaller towns long the route. To allow for the extra time spent in the cities the driving distances are particularly long at times. As an example, the suggested itinerary will see you travel from Chicago to Albuquerque in just 5 days! You can’t hope to have a true experience of Route 66 when travelling with such haste. On the plus side, as with the American Sky trip, time is set aside to visit Santa Fe before embarking on the second half of the trip.

Check out their website for more information.

 

My America Holiday

Description: A self-drive tour of Route 66 including side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Price includes 15 nights accommodation, return flight and car hire (economy size).

Number of Nights: 14

Guide Price (per person): From £1499 (average cost of £107 per night)

Quote provided for an August 2017 trip: Approximately £2200 per person*

Review: The suggested itinerary for this trip is pretty much identical to the Hayes and Jarvis package, and therefore comes with the same pros and cons – great for city visits, not so great for small-town America. As with the rest of the tour companies in this list they are able to customise the itinerary and also offer a suggested 21-day itinerary for those with more time to spare. If you’re looking for a more authentic Route 66 experience I’d recommend taking one of these options. Again, as with the Hayes and Jarvis package, the accommodation will be made up of chain motels although more iconic lodging would be available at a cost.

Check out their website for more information.




 

eShores

Description: A self-drive tour of Route 66 including side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Price includes 14 nights accommodation, return flight and car hire.

Number of Nights: 14

Guide Price (per person): From £1295 (average cost of £93 per night)

Quote provided for an August 2017 trip: Approximately £2000 per person*

Review: The eShores package boasts the cheapest off-season guide price of any company featured in this article, so it would be interesting to see how this compares to real of-season costs. They were also able to offer the cheapest trip for August 2017 when an enquiry was made in mid-May 2017. Price isn’t the only factor that should be considered however as this trip does not include some of the features of it’s competitors.

The itinerary itself touches on many of the same towns and cities as it’s competition but without visiting Santa Fe. The eShores website doesn’t give examples of the accommodation they use but do state that they “can offer the majority of hotels in the USA” and “can create any itinerary” to “fit your tastes, needs and budget”.

Check out their website for more information.

 

Bon Voyage

Description: A self-drive tour of Route 66 including side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Price includes 14 nights accommodation, return flight, car hire, and a personalised road book with travel tips and day to day driving itinerary with local area information.

Number of Nights: 14

Guide Price (per person): From £1955 (average cost of £140 per night)

Quote provided for an August 2017 trip: Approximately £2700 per person*

Review: Bon Voyage is one of the more costly tour companies in this article providing a very similar itinerary to it’s competitors. Their website doesn’t give any information on the kind of accommodation that they would aspire to secure for this price which is a shame as this may have been a selling point if they aimed to secure iconic lodging.

Bon Voyage also offer a personalised road book with travel tips and day to day driving itinerary with local area information.

Check out their website for more information.

 


Summary:

One thing that quickly became clear to me when researching this article is the similarity between the standard suggested itineraries. All featured side trips to the Grand Canyon and Vegas and all neglected the western states of Arizona and California as a consequence. The thing to keep in mind however is that all of the companies listed are able to customise their itineraries to suit you and so my advice, if time wasn’t an issue, would be to extend the trip to ensure you are able to include back track from Vegas to Route 66 and continue the trip to Santa Monica from where you left off.

Another common feature, which again can be amended if you’re happy to customise the trip, is that generally speaking the first week of each trip is very rushed. For example, the journey from Chicago to St Louis that is so commonly a feature of these trips could be broken up by spending a night in Springfield, Illinois and checking out Lincoln’s home and tomb, as well as the State Capitol building.

Some companies chose to follow the Santa Fe loop whilst others didn’t. Santa Fe is beautiful and so you’ll have to make your mind up as to where you’re best allocating your time if you only have a limited number of days for your trip. Do your research before you ask for a quote.

If I had to pick one company that I’d like to know more about it would have to be Medway. For the quote they gave me, Medway certainly offer a good package – it’s the aspiration in terms of accommodation that makes them stand out. It’s always going to be the case with this type of package tour that you might not always get the exact accommodation advertised but at least the Medway tour aspires to place customers in some iconic properties and not just Best Westerns or Travel Inns. The “no one-way fee” for car hire is also a generous bonus.

That said, the Virgin tour offers the additional experience of the night time helicopter flight over the Vegas strip which independently would come with a significant price tag. Although they provided a significantly higher quote for the August trip I’d be interested in seeing how they’d compare for a May or September road trip. They also offered the personal touch of the welcome phone call and travel pack.

Many of the suggested itineraries are very similar to each other and so if you have the time and inclination to spend on planning your own trip from scratch then I’d always recommend that option as it’s certainly the most satisfying. It also means that through your research you get to learn a lot more about the route and the many towns it passes through. If that’s not an option for you then a Route 66 fly-drive package holiday is the next best thing, and a customised fly-drive tour is even better.

For an authentic Route 66 experience consider doing a little research before requesting a quote from any of these companies as they’ll all be able to provide you with an itinerary tailored specifically to what you’re after.

Have you ever booked a Route 66 fly-drive tour with any of the above providers? If so, how was it? That said, have I missed any great providers out? Let me know in the comments, the Facebook page or the Forum.

Steve Bellamy

 

*The quotes for an August 2017 road trip were obtained in the week ending 19th May 2017, and all quotes were for the suggested itinerary as detailed on the individual companies website. The quotes were based on two adults sharing a room.

3 Responses to Route 66 Fly-Drive Package Holidays – 2017 Review

  1. What a fantastic article Steve – thank you so much. Wish I had seen this back in Feb when we looked into planning our trip for Aug-Sep 2017. As it was they were all a bit confusing to compare (I obviously lack your tenacity and I didn’t really want to go down the road of getting quotes and being talked into something that wasn’t quite right when I didn’t fully know what we wanted at that stage. As it was, I elected to plan our customised trip for our group of four (Myself and husband and cousin and her husband). Ours works out at a cost of £1500 each for 21 day trip. We are going for 21 days (last week Aug and 1st 2 week Sep) so I am really happy that this compares quite well with the sites you looked into. Below is our detail (a bit awkward to share since I did it on a spreadsheet). Our comparison is a little unfair since we intend to share a room between the 4 of us on occasions to keep the cost down. By doing it ourselves we have been able to properly customise it. We allow for 6 nights in Vegas (to celebrate my anniversary – hubby and I got married there 10 years ago). We also have extra nights in Chicago, St Louis and LA). We have allowed for a visit to Amish country in Indiana, little house on the prairie!, theme parks, grand canyon and Santa Fe (day only). On hindsight though I have missed out on the iconic hotels on route so I may need to look into that further. I have booked rooms on a ‘free cancellation’ set-up just to make sure we have a bed and to give us a rough idea of price. So this can easily be looked into further.
    I definitely agree that anyone opting to use the companies should really look into it first to check out how they want to customise things to suit their needs.
    I used Hayes and Jarvis for a 4 girls about 3-4 years ago. Very much a mixed bag. They had selected the wrong car to start which was extremely annoying (but to be fair we think that was the travel agent rather than Hayes). They gave us a personal visit on the first night in Atlanta and gave us a little holdall with guide book and maps which was fab). They didn’t allow enough time in some places like Nashville which was disappointing. Main gripe was the hotels – many were not of a good standard with very damp smelly beds and lots of insects so a bit tortuous really.

    Date Detail Estimate for Group Actual Charge Cost each
    03-Feb Flight 0 2373.46 Fully paid by Irene 593.365
    10-Aug extra large case – to be booked 30 0 book before airport 7.5
    10-May Car – initial hire 0 596.04 Fully paid by Irene- I think 149.01
    28-Aug One way fee 0 380 pay on arrival 95
    28-Aug car extra driver – tbc 80 0 pay on arrival 20
    28-Aug car satnav- tbc 100 0 pay on arrival 25
    26-Aug Taxi to and from Airport MCR 100 0 25
    26-Aug Taxi Airport to Chicago 40 10
    26-Aug hotel 2nts – Chicago (appt) inc tax 350 87.5
    28-Aug hotel – Joliet (share) inc tax 60 15
    29-Aug hotel – Springfield (share) inc tax 85 21.25
    30-Aug hotel 2nts – St Louis (posh 2 rm) inc tax 375 93.75
    01-Sep hotel – Stanton (2 rooms) inc tax 85 21.25
    02-Sep hotel – Springfield (share) inc tax 90 22.5
    03-Sep hotel – Tulsa (share) inc tax 110 27.5
    04-Sep hotel – Oklahoma (two rooms) inc tax 90 22.5
    05-Sep hotel – Amarillo (two rooms) inc tax 105 26.25
    06-Sep hotel – Albequerque (two rooms) inc tax 95 23.75
    07-Sep hotel – Seligman (share) inc tax 90 22.5
    08-Sep hotel 2nts – Vegas downtown (posh 2 rm) inc tax 350 87.5
    10-Sep hotel 4nts – Vegas strip (cheap 2 rm) 150 37.5
    14-Sep hotel 2nts – Pasadena (2 room) inc tax 320 80
    16-Sep Final car charges 0 0
    Total Fixed costs 3349.5 1513.625

  2. Meant to say the Hayes & Jarvis trip I mentioned was for a Deep South tour – not Route 66 but just thought would share anyway as gives an idea of the standard of hotels, etc

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