Planning a trip to the US, some advice?

Travel Forums North America Planning a trip to the US, some advice?

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1. Posted by cctrav (Budding Member 21 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Hello, I am new to this site *newbie* so let me start by introducing myself.
My name is Cally, I'm from the UK and I am currently at College studying Media/Film studies, and English literature and language.

My friend and I are planning a trip to the United States for when we finish College, a sort of gap year I guess. I have no idea where to begin to start planning, America is a big place, and I'm not too sure I can plan this thing on my own and I have promised my friend (as she is away at the moment) that I would start to come up with some ideas.
I know quite a lot about America when it comes to geography and climate, as I have been researching.

I don't want to plan my trip too extensively because
1) I never stick to plans I make
2) I would rather this be a sort of “freedom trip.”

We are planning to go between 2009/10, after we have finished our courses at College.
We’re not too sure about how much money we would need, would it be easier to hire a camper van and ‘bum’ it or to stay in motels, etc.
How much money we’d need to get the efficient amount of food so that we’re healthy.
We’re not looking to go over the top with expenses, as we’re aiming for this to be more of an exploration trip than anything. Essentials are all we need for this trip.

I’m interested in what everyone has to say; any advice you could give me would be great. I’m making a scrapbook that we can take so I can look through it and add more to it as I go along.

Thanks for taking your time to read, please get back to me

P.S if you see this thread on another forum space - sorry - I accidently put it in the wrong one.

2. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Quoting cctrav

P.S if you see this thread on another forum space - sorry - I accidently put it in the wrong one.

Hi Cally!

No worries - misplaced threads happen regularly. I have deleted the one you posted in the CA/SA/Caribbean Forum. ;)

3. Posted by cctrav (Budding Member 21 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Thank you

4. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 2015 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Perhaps I can help. As you say, the USA is huge. I'd suggest you not try to see the whole thing in one trip. Many of us natives have never seen it all either. As to transport, I do not suggest that you rent a camper. With the vast distances here, the petrol cost would soon overwhelm you. I suggest that you check out STA Travel (the student travel organization) for international passes available to foreigners. The Greyhound Bus system, while nothing great, at least covers this nation pretty well, and with a pass, the cost would probably be within reach. You would have to decide which regions interest you most. I know from experience that most Britains are attracted by California, but this would not be my first choice at all. (It's crowded and quite expensive). New York City, like London, is too expensive for the majority of Americans as well. My suggestion would be those regional areas that still have real identity with food and culture and not just more burger stands and highways. Several places in the Southeast, Northwest, Southwest and Midwest would show you what I think you'd like to see without bankrupting you. I live in the Pacific Northwest - one of the most beautiful regions, and we are not at all crowded here as they are in California or New York. I was born in Pennsylvania, on the east coast, but I would not recommend this area for a first visit. Let me hear from you - send me a PM.

5. Posted by cctrav (Budding Member 21 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

I tried to PM you but I've reached by limit today (something about being on the site for a short period of time.)
Thank you for your reply, I am grateful someone could advise me.

I am interested in Cali, but I am not looking to go there on this trip. I am mainly looking at places in the South, like Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, etc.
Those places seem to interest me the most, and I'm sure that if I go for a longer period I would be able to fit those states in.
I have been drawn to the wilderness of Alaska, but I am not going to give in to temptation just yet... maybe in a few years when I am more aware when I am travelling. This will be my first time alone with out my parents etc.

I will check out those transportation details you gave me, thank you for that. My friend is learning to drive from June, and we're looking to go late 09 early 10, all depends.

Are there any States you would recommend?
Oh, and another thing is food. I am wondering how much on average you think I would need?

Thanks, Cally.

6. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 2015 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Hi Cally - Your plan looks good. Texas is not considered in the South, and neither is Florida (yes, I know it looks like it is). The south is more of a cultural thing, and less location. Meal prices, based on current prices: breakfast $8., lunch $8. and dinner $15. - cut those prices in half for fast food. Remember that we tip 15-18% here too. I doubt if these prices will be in effect for 2009 with the way inflation/especially the way food has increased in 2008 to date.

For a trip to the South, I'd recommend New Orleans (Louisiana), Nashville and Memphis (Tennessee), Charleston and Savannah (South Carolina). I don't know enough about Alabama or Mississippi to recommend those areas. Mississippi is probably the poorest of our 50 states, and along with Louisiana comprises the Mississippi Delta region. This is certainly a good area for low prices and good food, and is little traveled by foreigners. I would not recommend including Texas on a trip to the South (it's just too vast an area). I would suggest flying into Atlanta since it's the "big city" of the South, and renting a car (you could make a circular trip to both the S. Carolina coast as well as the Mississippi Delta areas). Do not attempt this area in mid-summer, but mid-Fall or mid-Spring would probably be ideal. If you go to websites for Best Western Hotel/motels or Motel 6, you can get a good idea of lodging prices in these areas. One good thing about the USA - we have huge chain motel and restaurant systems - very easy to book for the future. You will need a major credit card or 2 as they give you a rather hard time without one. Coming from the UK, I do not believe you'll need an international drivers license as long as you have one from the UK. I'll be glad to answer more ?, but keep trying to get me a PM.

Hostels are also a very real possibility - suggest to see examples w/prices. I don't believe that IH hostels are listed there, and they're some of the best - they require membership.

Greyhound student pass here:

[ Edit: Edited on May 8, 2008, at 4:38 PM by Daawgon ]

7. Posted by foreverhob (Budding Member 2 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

If you have a whole year, then you probably could see a fair amount of stuff. I've been to most of the US (although besides New York, I was really young for the East Coast and don't remember too much) and there's stuff to see everywhere.
My favorite places are probably the West and the West Coast. I live in Colorado, and there's tons of stuff to do there. It kind of depends on what you want to do. If you want to ski or snowboard (expensive, but fun), then go in the winter. If you want to hike, picnic, and raft, then go in the summer. Either way, Denver and Colorado Springs are nice.
Arizona and New Mexico are beautiful (and very different looking), but I wouldn't go in the summer, unless you really really like the heat.
The West Coast is amazing as well, although it does rain a lot. I absolutely love Seattle, Washington. It is a very artsy city, and there is a ton to do there.
As far as the South goes, there's certainly a lot of things to see (plantations, museums, great cities), but you also might consider avoiding it in the summer--the humidity is a killer.
You could always start on one end (East Coast maybe?) and work your way down and across. Hope you have a great trip!

8. Posted by cctrav (Budding Member 21 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Thank you so much for the help. Many different places have been recommended so I'm going to check them all out and see which ones I'd prefer to go to.

You're right about the summer thing, it'd probably be best to go Spring time when the weather isn't at its peak. The weather has been quite hot in the UK for a couple of days and everyone is going mad - I can imagine the weather over there!

I'm not too sure about staying for a whole year because I don't know how it works. I read that you can only stay up to three months without an American VISA, and I don't think I would try and get one (it'd be really hard, if not impossible.)
I would love to stay a whole year though, that would be great.

Is that food prices for restraunts etc? Because I don't think we'll be eating out all the time - too expensive for our budget. We'd probably just buy basic food from shops etc lol

Daawgon - thanks for the websites I'll be sure to check them out - I can finally get my planning started now!

If I need any more help I'll be sure to PM you :) Thanks again!


Post 9 was removed by a moderator
10. Posted by Azton (Budding Member 7 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

I'm in Florida, so keep in mind, we have pretty cheap prices (or so I've heard). But, I can eat very well on about 100-120 dollars a week from the supermarket. Most of the restraunts in my area and everywhere I've been (Texas, Mississippi, Florida, New Mexico) are about $7-10 for breakfast/lunch and $15 on up for dinner. That can be drastically reduced though, like in New Mexico, you can go to any number of small Mexican restraunts for $8 on dinner. If you like the idea of New Mexico/Arizona/Texas, I lived in those states for 18 years, so PM me (if you ever get more PMs) with what you really want to see and I'll think up something I'm sure.


[ Edit: Edited on May 22, 2008, at 2:25 AM by Azton ]