For people from most parts of the world, a trip to the United States of America is one of those bucket- list items that are both exciting and frightening. It is a country comprised of 50 states – each of which has its own history, culture, as well as sights and experiences unique to it.
It comes as no surprise that for many, planning a trip to the US might be time- consuming, nerve-wracking, and simply overwhelming. From choosing which states to visit down to the exact cities and landmarks to see, the list goes on and on and on. Do not fret, these 10 simple steps will get your first US trip smooth and enjoyable.
1. Choosing your destination
The Bare Necessities
Of course, the first hurdle to pass through Is your budget. Do your research, find out how much is the average cost of a trip to your destination of choice. This brings us to the next point of concern; try to find a travel destination that not only works with your budget but also with your interest and the interests of those that are coming with you. Traveling solo or with friends or with family or with your special someone will definitely shape the rest of your plans.
So Many Places, So Little Time
Once you have pinpointed where you want to go, make sure that you have enough time to thoroughly enjoy. If you have only a week or two, it would not do to spend a big chunk of it traveling from one destination to another. On the other hand, if you can spare a month or more, you can definitely enjoy more sites.
Outdoors or Indoors: Choosing your theme and activities
The United States is a massive place with near-limitless possibilities for fun and memorable experiences. Of course, the definition of fun and memorable varies from one person to the next. Would you rather stay at a good place, taste good food, and just enjoy the view from the window of your suite? Or would you prefer to experience nature firsthand – run the trails, hike the mountains, or swim the waters? Perhaps you’re the kind to enjoy a tan and watch the day go by at any of the best beach resorts in the US? Regardless of your preference, there’s definitely an American vacation for you.
2. Getting There: Booking Flights
Of course, for tourists coming from other countries, the next step is to book your flight. An essential skill for this particular step is finding cheap flights – not just affordable, but cheap flights. The general rule is to book your flight several months in advance. Some international airlines release flight tickets and schedules 11 months ahead. Of course, these prices start cheap and change accordingly based on a number of factors. One point to remember is that peak seasons like Christmas, New Year, and Thanksgiving tend to invite more tourists and create more demand, which in turn, drives the airline ticket prices higher than the average.
Finding Your Airline Headhunters
Now that we are living in the Information Age, there are more tools available to the ordinary traveler compared to a few years back. There are now a lot of online booking sites, which will get you the schedules and prices at the touch of your fingertips. You should note that there are global sites such as Skyscanner, which compares data from a thousand airlines and narrows it down based on your search results. Afterward, the site forwards you to the respective airline or travel agency to book your flight.
For those who are more comfortable with the old school human touch, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to your local travel agencies. They can offer advice on travel and they are privy to flight booking perks and amenities you might not have found otherwise.
3. Finding Your Home Away From Home
Once you have your airlines chosen and your flights booked, the next big thing to settle in your accommodation. This is another fixed expense and aside from the airline tickets, it will take a large chunk of your funds. The more you save from these expenses, the more funds you have for your other activities.
Depending on your planned destinations, you might be required to book more than one place to stay. You might find a hotel or an apartment that suits your needs.
Finding your accommodation online is a good place to start. Booking.com offers more than a million properties across 200 countries, including of course the United States. Another site for finding and having your accommodation deals is Airbnb.com. Aside from commercially listed apartments and hotels, you can also find a room for rent or even vacation homes available.
4. The Devil in the Details: Planning Your Itinerary
Now that the lion’s share of expenses has been dealt with, it’s time to plan your activities and which among the countless tourist destinations you’ll set your sights on. This should be easy, with a little bit of information beforehand. One of the main considerations again is your timing. Keep notes on when your target venues might have its peak season. A good example is the Rim Trail surrounding the Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada, which experiences a surge in visitors during July when the world-renowned Endurance Trails take place.
Another important consideration is that most of the popular attractions in the US require booking and reservation. This applies to landmarks such as the White House in Washington DC and Alcatraz prison in San Francisco. This means you can’t just show up and expect to be toured around the place.
Unsolicited advice: Try not to go too much into the details. Planning your itinerary down to the minute might lead to disappointment later on because of small unexpected inconveniences such as traffic and weather conditions.
If you prefer to leave the details to someone else and relax instead, you can just book group tours or visit activities. There are a lot of organized tours especially for state parks and nature reserves as well as most of the museums and historic landmarks.
5. After A Long Day: Spots for Dine and Wine
After the day’s work – may it be walking on a tour or running a rugged trail – the next thing to find is a place to eat and drink. More than just meeting your dietary requirements for the day, hit two birds with one stone by making it a point to find restaurants that offer the local cuisines. Sure, fast food chains have gone global and are basically available every block or two; but find a homely eatery and taste not just good food but a slice of that place’s history.