I am visiting the USA in November and virtually zig zaging across the country (as i have to be in certain places on certain dates ), this is my first overseas venture and as I am going alone I want to know as much about all the aspects as i possibly can from handling the flights ,jetlag etc. airport transfers , places to avoid places not to miss ,travelling with a laptop ,how and where to get net access ,mobile phone sim cards (so i dont have to pay that awfully expensive global roaming fee ), what kind of clothes to pack and what i can and can't bring into and out of the country , air passes , is it cheaper to prebook my hotels now or wait for the last minute specials , goodness me my questions are endless as i really do not want to leave anything to chance , so ANY advice would be greatly appreciated
I will be in L.A. ,New York (for thanksgiving ) San Francisco , Virginia , San Diego , (perhaps Seattle )
Check the Travel Tools section of this website for lots of travel tips, packing list, trip planning guide, etc. www.fodors.com is also a good resource for trip planning and advice.
Just a few thoughts: LA and San Diego will be completely different climates than NY. Pack for cold weather and mild weather.
Net access will be widely available in the cities you're visiting. Check public libraries, Internet cafes and "quick copy"-type shops that offer internet/computer access along with the usual business services like photocopying and faxing.
If you're carrying a laptop on the plane, you will likely be asked to open it for inspection. Likewise a cell phone may be checked to make sure it's really a cell phone and not a weapon. Don't bring anything sharp or pointy in your carry-on luggage - fingernail clippers are probably OK, but metal nail files, pocketknives, brooches/lapel pins and knitting needles are among the items that are routinely confiscated. To make security clearance as simple as possible, empty your pockets into the little bins they provide and try to avoid wearing metal - belt buckles, weird metal buttons or decor on clothing, etc. Give yourself plenty of time between flights to clear security - sometimes the lines will be long.
There are fabulous things to see/do in all these cities: it just depends what interests you. Check out the multitude of city websites.
I think you will find most people friendly and hospitable if you have questions or need advice. But as with any city in the world, you want to be cautious. I assume you're zigzagging around the country because you'll be on business or visiting people people you know. Whatever the case, the people at each destination should be able to give you the lowdown on what to see and do, and where not to go alone after dark.
I hope you enjoy your trip as much as as I enjoyed mine to Australia!
Here's a "what a small world" story to end on a positive note. My sister lives in Brisbane and had a mate look me up on his trip to New Orleans. I met up with him at his hotel just after his arrival from Memphis, Tennessee. We had a drink in the hotel bar while getting acquainted and discussing where to go for dinner. A couple arrives to check into the hotel, he sees them and greets them by name. The couple was from Sydney and they had all stayed at the same hotel in Memphis! We all ended up going out for dinner together with me playing informal tour guide and we had the best time.
Ok, I will attempt to answer your questions that I am able to.
For ideas of places to go just dig through the forums a bit, as this is a subject that comes up often
As ToAfrica mentioned the weather in the USA is going to very from place to place a lot in Nov. In LA for example you can expect temps of about 25 degrees C or so or 75-80 F (i am guessing at the conversion to C)
In New York at the same time you will be able to expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 C or 45 -50 F. or colder with a chance of snow.
Seattle will likely be 60F and raining.
Once you have entered US customs flying around the country is very easy. You just need to make sure you have proper ID and show up to the airport a minimum of an hour before your flight departs.
You will need to have a "tri-band" phone for it to function in the USA because our transmission frequencys are different than that of Europe or Asia. Companies that you will want to look at will be TMobile or Cingular as most cell phones in the USA don't use sim cards. Those are the only two companies that I know of who do use them.
WI FI is becoming more and more common in most hotels in the USA and if you are staying in Hotels it will be easy for you to get that. WiFi is a wireless internet service here in the states. If that doesn't suit you for whatever reason there are a number of national ISPs you can use. My favorite is Earthlink, but there are plenty to choose from. Make sure you have "Web Mail" for your email account so you can access it from anywhere.
You are also starting to see Pay Phones in airports have a jack to hook up your modem to them.
You can NOT bring any kind of weapons into the USA, especially on airplanes, this includes pocket knives and utility knives. You can't bring aerosal cans, such as spray deoderant, or spray lubricants(if you work on machines.) You can only bring one lighter or one book of matches, no flammable gasses, no hand tools, there's some other stuff too. Also if you bring a drink on the plane, expect security people to ask you to take a drink from the bottle you have if it is open. Also there is increasing enforcement on the rule of not letting people on the planes who are drunk. This has been a rule for a long time, but is recieving more attention lately than it has in the past.
I heard that customs has started fingerprinting and photographic all foreign citizens that enter the USA. I don't know if this is still happening becuase I am not a foreign citizen. It just goes to show how draconian things have gotten over here in the past few years.
It will be very wise to pre-book your hotels in the month of NOV. A lot of people travel during the end of this month to be with family/friends over the holiday and Hotels can fill up fast.
If you post some of your general interests I can give you some suggestions on fun stuff to do in the cities you are planning to visit.
One suggestion though is the Macy's Parade on Thanksgiving in NYC, it is a great parade with a ton of floats, although it is cold sometimes so I usually watch it on TV.
Thankyou so much for the advice , i am so excited and am now counting the days 181 to be exact (lol)
I am still not up to speed on what u mean about the use of cell phones , I have my own triband telephone that will work in the USA but i was wondering about purchasing a SIM card to put into the back of it while i am there and use the number provided with the card , is that possible , I know it is here in Australia, they are just called prepaid SIM cards ,i really do not want to pay a global roaming fee for any calls made to and from my cell ... Also , the AIRPASS tickets , i have searched the net looking for them and have had no success , I know they are possible , maybe just to international travellers from what my travel agent said they are like a coupon system where you get 'X' amount of major airports for 'X' amount of dollars , he said they are very reasonable too , again thankyou for the advise and i am looking forward to hearing some more hints ........
As far as cell phones here in the states. Most cell phone companies don't employ the use of sim cards here in the states, instead opting for phones that only work for one specific cell company. The only ones that I can think of that do use sim cards are T-Mobile and Cingular Wireless. Of those two only T-Mobile offers a pre-paid service(as opposed to a service contract)
I haven't heard of the Airpass thing before, but it sounds a lot like a RTW ticket package. There is a ticket booking tool that sounds similar to what you are looking for under the "tools" section of this website actually. I am sure there are other sources as well, but I don't know their urls.
For the AIRPASS, check the Star Alliance web page (staralliance.com I believe), I recall a friend mentioning she purchased something like this for Europe, and I think they have this for North America, too (only available to those from outside NA).