Canada to USA to Mexico, travelling from Australia!

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Last Post This thread is marked as being about North America
1. Posted by jasminekiddey (Budding Member 3 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

Hello!

I am planning a big trip (5ish weeks) dec 2020-jan 2021 and since we are travelling from Australia I am hoping to fit in all 3 countries for a portion of the trip (was initially thinking Canada approx 1 week, USA approx 3 weeks and Mexico approx 1 week). I know this is ambitious but is probably the only time my partner and myself will be travelling to this part of the world for a long time! Some of the main cities we are wanting to see are montreal, new york, washington dc, nashville, houston and new orleans. Will do more research into mexican cities if it looks achievable for us to fit into the trip (will probably only visit one city if we do).

I am basically looking for ideas about how much this might cost to do... and the best ways of going about this trip. Am open to flying, car hire or public transport, whatever proves to be cheapest. I am 25 and my boyfriend is 28 so we shouldnt have issues with car hire. He also has experience driving in the snow. I have been told by people i work with they spent $25000+ for 4 weeks in the US which is not going to work for us lol. We have previously travelled around europe for 6 weeks and spent around $6000-$7000 all up inc flights which i thought was pretty good. We dont really need fancy places to stay, we normally just stayed in cheap airbnbs or private rooms in hostels etc. Would probably spend around $50 a day on food on average for both of us. Will most likely spend the most money on attractions or activities along the way. Ideally was hoping to keep this trip under $10,000 aud, does this seem achievable?

Thanks in advance for any insight you can give. Also any recommendations of other places to visit along this journey would be very much welcomed!

:)

2. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1855 posts) 9w 1 Star this if you like it!

Hi

I'm no expert on North America but at a glance that looks overambitious. With travel days between cities you've given yourself about 3 days per city, I fear this will feel a bit of a relentless schedule.

But maybe that works for you and your pace of travel. Compared to your Europe trip how is the pace? Did you average 3 days per city back then? Were the travel distances comparable?

As for the person who spent lots, obviously it's possible to do anywhere cheaply or extravagantly. North America should have broadly the same costs as Europe. But you can of course cost all the elements online, flights, ground transport, accommodation, food, activities, souvenirs.

I have the sense that the US doesn't have the same hostel culture as Europe. I think it has more motels. But then I also feel doing this by car may not be ideal - a car is a pain in a big city. Let's see what the advice is from those more familiar with the area. I think you also have a lot of long tedious drives in there with no time allocated for relaxed touring of small places in between the big cities without further reducing your time in them, and you're also travelling at a time of year when the weather may cause problems for driving, as well as being a low season so some things may be closed.

3. Posted by jasminekiddey (Budding Member 3 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

AndyF- we pretty much averaged 5 days per country/city on our Europe trip. Travel was pretty easy/ travel times were pretty fast between places as flights are so cheap between european countries. Im wondering if this is the same between cities in the US? I agree with your point about car travel- I know for myself I wouldn't be comfortable driving in harsh winter conditions, and would prefer not to spend half our time driving between places. Would probably be willing to spend more on travel for shorter travel times.

Thankyou for your input! :)

4. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1855 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

Yep they do have the budget flights culture like Europe. I'd think trains may be practical Montreal - NY - DC and planes from there?

Accommodation cost would be my biggest concern. Without a car perhaps this limits you to fairly central options in the cities. I think you're right to consider Airbnb as I feel hostels could be scarce and hotels expensive.

So you're speeding up a bit compared to Europe? And all big cities, a bit full on perhaps. I've seen people say they enjoyed driving through towns like Charlotte, I wonder if a road trip through the south is a good way to change the pace, see that part of the US, and whether that's practical at that season?

Houston has I gather just one tourist attraction - the space centre. May be worth skipping?

5. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1276 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

If your budget is US$7,000 for two it will be tight, particularly if you include the cost of R/T flights from Australia to the U.S./Canada. It will be extremely tight, if not impossible, if it were 7,000 AUD, or about US$4,815 at current exchange rates.

Suggest you trim your itinerary and focus on a region, such as Montreal and the northeastern United States. Since you're both in your 20s, you have the benefit of time. No need to front-load your travels.

This link might be helpful in your planning: https://www.rome2rio.com/

There are inexpensive bus trips from New York City to Washington, D.C., and environs, including Baltimore. A friend's son regularly travels that bus route. Admission is free for most of the museums and monuments in the nation's capital.

Happily there are hostels in the cities you plan to visit. See this link: https://www.hiusa.org/

Renting a car and flying in the U.S. will put significant dents in your budget. Flights in the U.S. aren't as reasonably priced as in Europe. See these links:

https://www.google.com/flights

https://www.southwest.com/

All U.S. carriers, with the exception of Southwest Airlines, charge to check bags. Some carriers, such as United Airlines, are more restrictive as to what you can hand carry if you're on a "basic economy" fare.

It is impractical and expensive to drive in New York City and Washington, D.C. Most people who live and visit there take public transportation. If you're determined to drive, please note that in some areas road tolls are popular, so there will be the expense of that, too, as well as rental-car insurance and any drop-off charges. If buses and the subway can't take you to your destination, try Uber and Lyft.

Travel in the United States is more expensive that in most of the countries in the world; and I've been to quite a few. New York and Washington, D.C., are among the most expensive to visit in the U.S., primarily because of the cost of accommodations. Please also note that taxes of various amounts are charged on many, if not all, purchases. Go online to see what these are by locality. These, too, will add to your travel costs.

6. Posted by 55vineyard (Budding Member 66 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

I'd drop Houston (car needed, VERY spread out, much like LA) and Nashville. I found 2 hostels in Houston and 1 in Nashville. The Nashville hostel costs from $32 -40USD per night per a female dorm bed and about the same for a male dorm bed, so between $60-70 plus 15% tax for the two of you.
Short term rentals including AirBnB are illegal in New York City and have been for a long time, they are only legal if the owner is also residing on the premises. There are apartment hotels and housing in New Jersey.
I think you can have a very nice trip to NYC, Washington DC and New Orleans in that time, plus whatever you decide about Canada and Mexico.

7. Posted by jasminekiddey (Budding Member 3 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

So seems I should drop Houston and maybe Nashville from the plans the trip might be more achievable/ enjoyable. I definitely wasn’t planning on hiring a car for NY/ Washington, just considering using for the travel between other places but I guess if we cut down # of cities a few flights might just be easier.

I didn’t know about the Airbnb rule in NY, that’s super annoying! I’m assuming places like Brooklyn are at least a bit cheaper than staying in central NY? Also, do you think Washington DC is worth dedicating almost a week to? Or should I try to find another major city along the way with more to offer?

Thanks for all your replies!
Berner256- those links are great thank you!

8. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1276 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

Suggest you buy an "open jaw" ticket; fly into one U.S. city and out from another. The price will be about the same as a round-trip ticket to a single city. Make sure you have enough time to go through immigration and customs before you take your connecting flight. The lines can be long. There are lots of things to see and do in New York City and Washington, D.C. The museums, for one, are among some of the world's best. There also are lots of other cultural activities. You aren't likely to save much by staying in Brooklyn. The entire New York metropolitan area is expensive. There is a youth hostel on the upper West Side of Manhattan and you should look into that. When I visit NYC I stay with a friend on the upper West Side near Columbia University. We travel together extensively; and we share expenses, lowering our individual costs.

9. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1855 posts) 8w Star this if you like it!

Guys, when pricing up things like accommodation online, will the prices be given excluding tax?

This is what tripped me up about the USA - quoted prices all seemed to have tax to add, with varying tax rates for both different sorts of purchases and in different places, and then you never knew what things had an expectation of a tip on top. Even something as simple as buying a bottle of soft drink in a supermarket, the price listed on the shelf isn't what you pay, and there's no way for the casual traveller to work out what the jiggle factor is because it'll be different to the last state you were in or from the purchase in a restaurant or hotel you just made. For someone like me who likes to get rid of the build-up of loose change by figuring out the right money whilst waiting to pay, it's frustrating.

10. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1276 posts) 8w Star this if you like it!

Australia has a goods and services tax of 10 percent; so if you inflate your travel budget by that amount for the U.S., or less, then you're good to go. There's lots of information online about value-added taxes (VAT) and sales taxes, including the advantages and disadvantages of both.

If you book accomodations through online travel agencies, such as Booking.com, you'll see the taxes and other charges listed for the property, in most cases. Note that many U.S. hotels, particularly those that are parts of large chains, now typically also charge "resort" and other fees. These often have become mandatory; and it's difficult to escape. While I mostly travel overseas, when I do road trips in the U.S. I try to avoid properties that charge resort and other fees. Smaller properties seem not to have those fees.

There are various online sales tax calculators, or you can simply ask someone when you first enter a locality. It pays to ask. For example, you'll discover that New York does not charge sales tax on most food items purchased at grocery stores, nor on prescription drugs. There is no sales tax on clothing or footwear under $110.

See this link: https://taxfoundation.org/sales-tax-rates-2019/

The U.S. has a federal system, so each state and locality can assess taxes as it deems fit. The federal government also assesses taxes. The U.S. does not have a central government that decides everything. Few know for example that the U.S. has a dual banking system with federally chartered and state-chartered banks, with regulators at both federal and state levels. Deposits, however, are insured at the federal level.

The name of the country is the United States of America. States are like minicountries. They have their own governments, their own taxation systems, their own traffic laws, etc. Some states, such as California, even have stricter environmental rules than the federal government, one reason why drivers there pay the highest gasoline prices in the nation.

There already has been much discussion about tipping. It's an accepted standard in the U.S., particularly in restaurants. It's a complex subject that many visitors find difficult to understand and accept.

See these links: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages/wagestips
https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc761

Please note that all employees are subject to minimum wage laws at local, state and federal levels. In most of New York State the minimum is $11.10; in New York City it’s $15 for most businesses. In California the minimum is $12; in San Francisco it’s $15.59. The federal minimum wage currently is $7.25 an hour.

This link has a good explanation of tipping: https://restaurantengine.com/not-leaving-the-right-tip/