I am planning a BIG travel around the USA in Summer 2015 (22 year old female alone) with the itinerary New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Miami, Montgomery, Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Fransisco, Yosemite National park, Yellowstone national park, Chicago, Niagara falls then back to New York.
I want to add New Orleans in there somewhere too.
My main questions are is it better to book accommodation and travel before leaving the UK or to be flexible?
Also is location within a hostel key to booking?
Any help will be appreciated!
For hostels in the USA you can go to hostels.com , hostelworld.com , or hostelbookers.com
I would say, be flexible. I've booked accommodation in advance before and it can turn into a big mistake. Only last week I booked a national chain hotel at a location I hadn't been before, thinking "it's a national chain they have certain standards...etc...". Nope, this place was a dive in a lousy part of town.
I do like to book the first few nights, say 3, before I arrive in a new country on a international trip. This gives me time to get over any jet lag, get a feel for the city, buy some maps, find out if I'm in a bad location etc...
But other than the first few nights, I say keep your options open, talk to other travelers you meet who may have been where you are going next...they can advise as to accommodation etc.
As for booking travel in advance, yes most flights will be cheaper if you can book out in advance...if you want to do bus travel (I wouldn't recommend it for this trip) you can get a bus pass that will be cheaper....Greyhound is the national bus chain.
Regarding tourist excursions or site seeing tours, you don't really need to book those in advance. (check Yellowstone and Yosemite for availability) You may want to check online for a better rate but be aware that sometimes you can get a better rate at the counter or on the phone with a person than over the internet. Fellow travelers may help with that information as well and don't forget to check with the local "Tourist/Visitor Centres" of the cities you travel.
Don't know why Montgomery, Alabama made your list but if it's not a crucial stop I'd skip over it and go from Miami to New Orleans then you can hit your Texas stops....and on with the rest of the journey.
Good luck on the trip. You've got a lot to squeeze into one summer of travel. Be careful and remember, "If you get lost, have fun".
If you're a member of AA in the UK, it's AAA in the US and some places like hotels, car rentals, restaurants will give discounts to those members.
Only place where I would book ahead is where there is limited availability.
Based upon your itinerary, that would be near or in Yosemite National Park, in or near Yellowstone National Park, and in the towns between Los Angeles and San Francisco either Paso Robles, Carmel, Cambria, or Santa Barbara). These places all book up early--especially on the weekends when they have special events planned (for example, a winery festival or a mid-state or state fair or a special rodeo or when there are is a concert taking place close by). Strangely enough, some small towns will get completely booked during such events. For Example, Paso Robles gets booked in late July for its mid-state fair; Murphys (near Yosemite) gets completely booked when the local Ironstone Winery holds a major concert on a weekend in the summer, Santa Barbara is booked almost every weekend between May and August.
Enjoy your trip.
Thank you all
I think I will book major cities where they will become very full very quick but roam the rest!
Montgomery is there for Rosa Parks as I will be a Sociology graduate at the time of travel so interests me greatly!
I plan on using hostels for the whole trip except Las Vegas as my friends from home will be joining me for the week
My friend is doing a similar trip in a few weeks so will have some reference then!
Any special hidden gems in these cities?
I have to wonder why people ask for advice if they have no intention of taking advice.
Let me reiterate. This is the US, this is not the UK. Distances between towns in the western part of the country here are huge. Let me give a few examples. The distance between Yosemite National Park and the closest city that would have any kind of hotel (Sonora, CA) is 71 miles (about 115 kilometers) and is on a winding mountain road that will take you at least 1 hour 45 minutes to travel. Then, if that town has no hotel accommodations, you'll need to go another 1/2 hour to find a town with a hotel (which in the summertime will also probably be full). Yosemite will be sold out in the summertime. In these kinds of small towns, there will be few if any hostels, and what ones there are will have sold out months in advance. Also, these are attractions that people come from all over the country and the world to see. Yosemite got over 4 million visitors last year, but has accommodations for fewer than 1/4th of the people who visit (the others come in on buses and quickly go out by bus).
Another example, the distance from Yellowstone National Park to the closest town (Jackson, WY) is only 35 miles or so--but Jackson is a major tourist destination that is always sold out (and is quite expensive). The next closest town is at least another 70 miles away. If you are near Lake Powell, the closest city is Page (only 3 miles away). However, it is a small town with only a few hotels. The next closest city is Flagstaff, which is 183 miles away, over a 3 hours drive. (Imagine driving from London to Manchester and not seeing a single building, gas station, or off-ramp for the entire distance). And don't think you'll be able to just pull over and camp. This is the desert. It will be freezing cold at night (5 to 18 C) in the spring and fall and very hot during the day (35 to 42 C) in the summer. Plus pulling over is impossible, since the road just goes out into sand or clay (and I doubt you want to get stuck in that)--and if you are near Yosemite or Yellowstone, you are in the woods, meaning wild bears, coyotes and in some areas, even wild wolves, who wouldn't mind having you as a tasty snack.
I strongly suggest that in at least a few high tourist areas where there are only small cities, you MUST book ahead if you plan to have a place to stay in the summertime. (P.S That's why I thought your thread being titled "Preparation" seemed appropriate).
[ Edit: Edited on 08-Aug-2013, at 08:39 by Calcruzer ]
You might not really appreciate just how LARGE the US is (especially if you're European). Certainly you need to be extremely flexible (that's fire season in the American West). New Orleans in summer resembles SE Asia in climate - better you than me!
How are you getting around? We Americans usually fly or drive - our buses are pretty nasty if you ask me. Passenger rail service just doesn't cut it either since it's only really good in the Northeast.
You might read the list of Friendliest/Unfriendliest Cities
I am planning on flying between destinations as I am aware of how big the USA is!
Also in regards to the National Parks I will be staying in Park within the accommodation and with the advice given shall book this very early to secure bookings.
Thank you all for your help!
I thoroughly recommend Southwest Airlines in the States