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Summer 2012 USA trip - help!

Travel Forums North America Summer 2012 USA trip - help!

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1. Posted by Lisa2011 (Budding Member, 8 posts) 15 Aug '11 05:31

Lisa2011 has indicated that this thread is about Travel Tips and Advice

Hi everyone :) I am planning to travel around the US next Summer, and just reading other peoples posts has been really helpful - so I thought I may aswell join the site and hopefully get some more specific answers to my questions.

Im 21 and live in Scotland. Ive been to the US before, but I was 9 years old at the time, and spent the majority of the trip in DisneyWorld! Although ive asked a few friends if they would like to come, I understand it's a lot of money , so Im half-expecting to be travelling alone, with a couple of visits from friends along the way.,
So far I have only managed to save £2000, but by next June ( if all goes to plan) I hope to have saved around £6000. Im planning on asking all my friends and family to just give me money towards flights for my birthday in May, so hopefully I should be able to keep most of the savings for when Im actually in the US.

I plan to travel from East to West ( although I'll be heading South along the way). Here's a rough list of my planned journey :

Arrive in New York
Washington DC
Virginia
North Carolina
Tennessee
Mississippi
New Orleans
Texas
New Mexico
Arizona
Coast of California ending in San Francisco

I know thats a bit vague but if anyone could give me tips on where to visit/ where to avoid I would appreciate it!

Im planning on travelling by the cheapest means - probably Greyhound and Amtrak, maybe a cheap flight here and there. I also dont mind walking reasonable distances if the surroundings are worth it- I want to explore as much as possible!
Hostels and motels are what im aiming for accomodation wise, but Im also considering couchsurfing to get a bit of local knowledge and meet people!
I dont mind eating cheap food at all, the only trick is that Im vegetarian.

Do you think I could get by on that budget or do you think Im being too ambitious? I would love to stay longer than the 3 month visa-waiver allowance of uk citizens, but Im unsure of what kind of money Id be spending daily.

I know this is a bit of a ramble - but if anyone could just break down basdic travel costs, food and accomodation in the areas I mentioned,with any general tips ,(particularly of any easy ways to meet fellow travellers or get involved locally)- that would be brilliant.

Thanks, Lisa :)

2. Posted by Cyberia (Travel Guru, 1730 posts) 15 Aug '11 06:11

Accommodation is expensive in America so that will probably be your biggest expense.

The south will be hot there in mid-summer as in you'll want air conditioning.

You can probably pick up cheap food in Wal-Marts and such rather than going into expensive eateries. But American towns are often big places, and the nearest supermarket could be a few miles away.

An unusual assortment of places there. I have been to a number but nothing special in most of them (for me anyway).

I have found on such trips it's best to take it as it comes rather than trying to stick to a tight schedule.

Take a number of credit cards with you, even if you do not use them. I have spent over 70 weeks in America at different times and never been robbed, but one day may be enough for that to happen to others. Keep say $60 or so in small notes handy and hide the rest and if held up, hand it over and don't do anything stupid. Be careful about being out at night.

3. Posted by Lisa2011 (Budding Member, 8 posts) 17 Aug '11 01:46

Thanks for the tips! Im still pretty flexible on destinations, I mentioned the places listed because I quite fancied the challenge of going from East to West in one go, and that seemed like the best way to do it. But if you could suggest any better ways to travel the US, or better areas to focus on, I would appreciate it!

4. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator, 1862 posts) 18 Aug '11 21:42

I like your itinerary pretty well, although I probably wouldn't spend too much time in some places, and I'd spend a lot of time in certain places I like.

You say you want to start in New York City and then go to Washington, DC. These are both great tourist towns with lots to see and do. Some of the major sites in each place are:

New York City--Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Rockefeller Square, UN Building, Empire State Building, Chinatown, Little Italy, Guggenheim, and Broadway (for the shows)

Washington, DC--Smithsonian (which is actually about 12 different buildings--the best of which are the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History--which includes dinosaurs, but also minerals and gems), White House, The US Capitol, Washington Mall, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Embassy Row (Massachusetts Avenue), Bureau of Printing and Engraving (where they print the money) and also the FDR and Jefferson Memorials.

In Virginia, consider visiting Mount Vernon (Washington's home), Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown--and then go west to see Monticello (Jefferson's home) and the Shenandoah Valley.

In North Carolina, the outer banks are good, but probably out of your way--so I'd go west to see the Vanderbilt Mansion in Asheville and then go west through the Great Smoky National Park into Tennesee.

In Tennessee, besides the Great Smokies, go west to Nashville and visit Opryland, the Hermitage, the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Western Hall of Fame. Also, visit the Wild Horse Saloon. Head on west to Memphis and visit Beale Street--which includes BB King's jazz place, the old Elvis recording studio (Sun Studios) and great BBQ (barbecue) places. Head south of town to visit Graceland, Elvis Presley's old home.

(continued in next post)

5. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator, 1862 posts) 18 Aug '11 21:56

Head on through most of Mississippi and go to New Orleans. You have to visit the French Quarter--in particular, Bourbon Street and the nearby voodoo sites in the old cemetery (St. Louis Cemetery #2, I think it is).

Take a ride on an old steam wheeler and visit the French Market and Jackson Square. Be sure to get a meal at either K-Paul's (Paul Prudomme's place) or else Commander's Palace.
See if you can visit one of the scenic plantations just north of town.

Next head west to San Antonio and visit the Riverwalk and go to the best waterpark on the planet--Schlitterbahn. Go to Austin and their 6th street and out to Lake Travis if you have the time. Then head west to New Mexico and visit Carlsbad Caverns. Stay out of El Paso if possible (or travel through quickly) since they've had lots of problems with drug gangs in this area--on both sides of the border.

Head north to visit the Roswell Alien Museum, then go on north to Albuquerque's old town and Santa Fe's old town square and Governor's Mansion. Enjoy a great southwestern meal in Santa Fe--one of the best places in the country to enjoy southwestern/Mexico-style food.

Now go west to Arizona and Flagstaff. First head south to Sedona, then go back north and visit the Grand Canyon (the single most interesting place to visit in the US), along with the second most interesting place to visit--your next stop--Las Vegas. Catch a show or go to a club--and hang out at the fabulous pools and casinos in town, then head on out towards San Francisco. Make a quick stop at the beaches near Los Angeles (like Malibu, Newport or Santa Monica), then head up the coast through Santa Barbara, Paso Robles (for a winery tour), visit Hearst Castle, then go on up to Carmel-by-the-Sea and drive the 17 mile-drive near Pebble Beach. Stop and see the Monterey Aquarium, then continue up to see the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose (and the great Santana Row shopping mall across the street). Lastly, head north to San Francisco. Visit the Japanese gardens in Golden Gate Park, visit Fisherman's Wharf, the Palace of Fine Arts and Golden Gate Park. Take a short drive north to the Muir Woods and see the Redwoods, then back to town for a drive down Columbus Street and see both Chinatown and the Sony Metreon down near Union Square. Ride the cable cars and see the great hills and views.

Enjoy your trip.

6. Posted by Lisa2011 (Budding Member, 8 posts) 22 Aug '11 03:31

wow that sounds amazing, thank you so much for all that information - made me really excited about the whole trip! ill defnitely be planning around that model now! Sounds like I'll always have something good to look forward to at every point on the journey and you've pointed out some things that I didnt know about so that was really helpful!

Thanks again :)

7. Posted by kugali (Budding Member, 63 posts) 6 Sep '11 13:18

Definitely go to New Orleans and Austin while in the south. The stretch between Texas and California can get pretty exhausting though because of all the desert...

You'll have the easiest time with being a vegetarian in NYC and California (or any major city I suppose!) and the tip about buying groceries was a good one, that is going to be the best way to eat on the cheap (though if you really look, New York has tons of cheap places if you're downtown and not in Times Sq).

For places to stay, the US isn't the greatest about having cheap places, but in NYC there's a new hostel in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) that is great - right off the L Train.

8. Posted by DaveinMD (Full Member, 190 posts) 7 Sep '11 04:52

The sleeping arrangements would be my biggest concern. Hostels are the way to go as even the cheapest motels in the States run around $45-50 and of course triple that in the major cities. While I admire your ambition be very careful about spending the night on stranger's couches. That can be dangerous.

The heat will also be your big concern, particularly in the south. But your trip sounds fantastic and we all wish you the best. Keep the questions coming.

9. Posted by Lisa2011 (Budding Member, 8 posts) 12 Sep '11 05:32

Thanks for all your help everyone! Im going to book flights soon, but am still a bit worried about being alone the whole time. Ive been looking up guided tours as I thought it would be a good way to meet people ( and i would benefit from having a tour guide around as im a bit clueless!). however, they all seem to cover massive areas in really short periods of time , or are suprisingly expensive considering how little is included.

Has anyone been on a tour before, or know of any which sound good? I wouldnt mind travelling alone with perhaps 3 shorter tours along the way - i just want to break it up a bit and hopefully meet some people to share the experience with!

10. Posted by Shane1987 (Budding Member, 4 posts) 12 Sep '11 06:04

http://www.trekamerica.co.uk/

Like you me and my fiance are looking to travel america from coast to coast. We are only 24 and looking to drive both coasts by renting a car and then taking a tour from chicago to LA to sort out the middle bit.

The trek america seems like a decent tour website they do have a long tour which take you all over america but the only problems seems that is does not spend enough time in places where you may want to stay for longer.

I have also emailed then and got a reply saying that tours can be added on together and joined up so that could be an option for you.

As for the £6000 budget I think this seems reasonable for about 2 months worth I'd say not dead sure but from the research I have being doing myself were planning on £6500 for 6-8 weeks out there. This could be an extra cost as we are renting a car.

Hope your trip goes well.