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General trip help. Plenty of info inside.

Travel Forums North America General trip help. Plenty of info inside.

1. Posted by Nick_ (Budding Member, 13 posts) 25 May '13 14:24

See bottom for summary/ lazy readers.

Hello everyone. Thanks to another great travel forum filled with info. But unfortunately i'm out of topics to help me so had to bother yourselves with the following questions. Terry is one guy that i remember who posts a lot with good advice.

So i've finally said "i'm doing it." USA has been something i've been curious about for years. Now i'm not putting it off anymore. This will be a holiday, break, adventure, learning experience and escape for me. I'm intrigued about it's people and places. I've no interest in partying, gambling, eating and drinking, and probably some other stuff. For a heads up, i love bicycles, astronomy, cosmology, psychology (physics and thinking), high end audio equipment, music, and some other small hobbies.
wow i sound boring! (1st real solo travel trip)

I'm going/ coming to New York or Chicago with a return flight. End of July to end of October. (ESTA). Flights way cheaper to round trip.
Using Amtrak *gasps*.
3.5k miles by myself in a car, too much! I'll rent if i'm feeling confident and adventurous when around California/ Nevada/ Arizona.
I'll get two (i guess) rail passes to sort my 90 day trip out.

Right now, London to NY or Chicago returns are £650. Which one? I will do a circle(ish) round the country (not Canada/ Mexico) clockwise.
I'm under the impression that my dates are probably optimal when taking into account, prices, availability, weather, tourism, enjoyment, etc?
I could wait and buy a return ticket when in USA, but that's risky with customs & prices?! I could also use all my time up in places i end up loving then when out of time just fly straight back to NY or Chicago then home.

Where am i going? Honestly i don't know yet. Two months away and i'm clueless, this trip has been a guarantee since January. I've been enjoying reading blogs, stories, experiences rather than planning because i honestly thought i didn't need much of a plan.
New York, Philadelphia, DC, Chicago, New Orleans, Texas, Phoenix, LA, San Diego, Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Fran, some other national parks and back to wherever i'm flying from. Somewhere else if i have time. Honestly i dunno. I'm not looking for suggestions specifically but i've included this so i can help you help me.

I will be staying in hostels and couch surfing to try and enjoy/ understand/ discover America's Americans a bit more.

What will i be doing here/ there? I don't know. I'm no longer apprehensive about going and spending money, plus i'm really just excited about something i know nothing about. I won't be doing anything to excessive like snowboarding cause of my current knee injury, though blasting some trails on the bike or just chilling through a park and other exercise will be awesome. I will pack light, do some shopping and throw away my cheap clothes. I would like to do some museums, like mega dinosaur ones and stuff that the UK doesn't have. I will buy a super size Mcdonalds and Chicago town pizza for some fun. I'm a picky healthy eater (yikes!). I will take a walk in the parks, probably insult/ weird-out some people with English irony. I will hopefully live off hostel (my own) cooked food, bananas/ croissants/ water.

I have enough money. But keep questioning my budget of £5k / $7.5k all in (flights, insurance etc). I have more and am prepared to spend away at times i'm enjoying myself, want todo more etc. My kit and flight hopefully should be paid off with my current account though instead, saving a grand giving me more :D

Is my plan okay?

This took me a while to type up properly so if you could even spare 2 minutes to type something that would be greatly appreciated. I am very welcoming of all criticism! Will not take any offence and i welcome openness. I feel this is my only chance to do this as it's my first time, no commitments, my money is healthy and i'm taking a major gamble with it.

Thanks in advance!

TL: DR

British person
90 days ESTA
*Land in Chicago or NY? (£650 cheapest)*

  • Return flight from same place (NY or Chicago) to save money versus ease of travelling?*

Amtrak as main mode of transport.
Do i really need a plan?
Can i just land, and choose states when i feel like it?
Driving long term solo isn't doable. Don't want to rely on others. Driving may be done short term.
Do want national parks.
I'm confused.
Budget: £5k / $7.5k all in (can and will add significantly more)
Not into food or parties.
Coming for the people and places.
Live off bananas, bread, water.
Couchsurf for experience/ hostels.
Criticise and help me.
Important questions starred****
Thanks.

[ Edit: Edited on 25-May-2013, at 14:33 by Nick_ ]

2. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator, 1863 posts) 29 May '13 02:51

Well, most of your plan is good--enough money, living cheaply in hostels, travel via rail pass--but there are some things that will be difficult to do this way--for example, there is only one national park (Glacier) with a rail stop. All the rest you have to visit via car/bus.

Also, yes you can visit whatever states you choose--but this may mean that you can't get the hostel when you need it--so I would try to plan/book at least two weeks ahead for hostels or campgrounds.

Lastly, I worry about your plan to live on bananas, croissants, and water.
You need to pack stuff for your rail trips to be able to eat healthy and save by not buying much rail food, I suggest granola bars, other fruit (apples/strawberries), and some vegetables (mini carrots? cucumbers?). Also, you will need to have some protein (eggs, meat, chicken, or fish). And you also need to be sure to protect yourself and your possessions when you are traveling--including having some of your cash in travelers cheques or having an emergency credit card hidden--but with a limit on how much can be charged on it on a per item/day basis in case it gets lost.

Enjoy your trip--and write back and let us know all the places you go.

[ Edit: clarification ]

3. Posted by Nick_ (Budding Member, 13 posts) 29 May '13 13:20

Quoting Calcruzer

Well, most of your plan is good--enough money, living cheaply in hostels, travel via rail pass--but there are some things that will be difficult to do this way--for example, there is only one national park (Glacier) with a rail stop. All the rest you have to visit via car/bus.

Also, yes you can visit whatever states you choose--but this may mean that you can't get the hostel when you need it--so I would try to plan/book at least two weeks ahead for hostels or campgrounds.

Lastly, I worry about your plan to live on bananas, croissants, and water.
You need to pack stuff for your rail trips to be able to eat healthy and save by not buying much rail food, I suggest granola bars, other fruit (apples/strawberries), and some vegetables (mini carrots? cucumbers?). Also, you will need to have some protein (eggs, meat, chicken, or fish). And you also need to be sure to protect yourself and your possessions when you are traveling--including having some of your cash in travelers cheques or having an emergency credit card hidden--but with a limit on how much can be charged on it on a per item/day basis in case it gets lost.

Enjoy your trip--and write back and let us know all the places you go.

Thanks for the reply! Gives me some more confidence.

The bananas and bread thing wouldn't be possible you're right, but just that sort of thing. Your recommendations are what i normally pack when on the bike, nuts are also amazing! (for those reading). I will try and cook up the best i can in the hostels.

I wasn't aware that there is a national park on the available train stops, so that is nice! I'll take a bus tour at the very least todo the others if i don't find another mode of transport.

As for security. I will have a money belt permanently attached and 3 cards with me. I will have a laptop/ ultrabook with me at all times to check all transportation, routes, hostels, CS, activities etc. I will carry this in a small bag with me at all times. Although i've not chosen my actual bag yet so that may be small enough and if i get a stealthy colour then i should blend in somewhat, i hope :D
I've read a dummy wallet is a good idea with minor cash in, just in case!

I don't want to take a phone ideally, but i may get one out there for when the bank feels like contacting me or emergencies.

I will taking a journal and if i choose todo a blog i'll be using the site for pics when i get a chance/ bored in wifi hostels.

Thanks!

4. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator, 1863 posts) 30 May '13 17:08

Sounds like you've planned well. Now just peruse that map and figure out where to go first!