The USA is an incredible country, there’s so much to see and do and you want to make sure you make the most of your time there. If you’re currently in the process of planning your next trip to America and you want things to go as smoothly as possible, there are a few things you should consider first. The below advice should help you with the planning process and ensure that your trip to the USA is one to remember. From getting the best deal on flights, to travel insurance and your ESTA, here’s everything you need to know…
1. It’s a big old country!
Firstly, the USA is a huge country which is made up of a whopping 50 states in total! So don’t be too optimistic and think that you can see all of the country while you’re there, it’s just not going to happen. You need to carefully consider where you want to visit, how long you will spend in each location and how you will get around between each place, which leads me on to my next point…
2. Consider a road trip
A road trip is a fantastic way to discover the States. About 10 years ago me and my husband went on an epic east coast road trip and it’s an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. We flew to Boston then hired a car and drove to Cape Cod and then went on to New York. Next we flew to Orlando, and hired another car and headed down to Miami. As I mentioned earlier, America is such a big country that you can’t possibly see it all in one visit, so a road trip is a great way to see as much of it as possible.
We would love to do something similar again with the children and maybe do the west coast or a Californian road trip this time.
3. Shop around for flights
Flying to somewhere like the USA can be expensive, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. If you’re savvy and shop around, it is possible to get a good deal. Websites such as Skyscanner are a great place to start. Look at different dates, different times and also different airports. You might even find that it’s cheaper to change your starting location and/or fly home from a different airport.
4. You will need an ESTA
This is super important, make sure you have your ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) when travelling to the USA. The ESTA allows citizens of Great Britain to visit the US for tourism, business, transit, medical and short study purposes without a visa for up to 90 days per visit. Applying online for your US ESTA is quick and easy, it will cost £29.95 per person and will be valid for two years.
5. Don’t forget travel insurance
It’s important with any holiday to take out travel insurance, but especially so in the USA. Health insurance in America is very expensive, in fact some of the most expensive in the world so you really don’t want to be ill or injured without insurance while you’re there.
6. Be prepared for airport security
Airport security in the States is very thorough and can take longer than at other airports. Therefore it is recommended that you arrive three hours before your flight departure time to ensure you have enough time to get through security.
7. Visit National Parks
When we think of the USA most of us will think of the big cities, but there is so much more to the country than this. America has some of the most breathtaking National Parks such as Yellow Stone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Do a little research and see what National Parks are close to where you will be visiting and plan to spend a day there.
8. Don’t forget to tip!
In the UK we aren’t that used to tipping. We might tip every now and again if we are particularly happy with the service we’ve received, but in the USA it’s very different. Tipping in america is expected at all restaurants and is generally around 15-20% which is actually quite a substantial amount. So make sure you consider this and build it into your budget.
9. Laws differ from state to state
Don’t assume that laws are the same across the whole country. Each state has it’s own laws and regulations that you will need to adhere to. For example smoking in some states is allowed, in others it might be banned in some public areas and in some it is banned almost everywhere. So make sure you are familiar with the laws in the states you will be visiting.
10. Sales tax
Tax for us the in UK is already built in to the price that we pay for an item but in the USA it often isn’t. The price that you see on the shelf might not be what you pay as sales tax can then be added at the till. This shouldn’t be a huge amount but it’s still worth being aware of. This can also be the case with hotels and other accommodation so it’s important that you check the small print when booking.
The USA is an amazing country and really does offer something for everyone. It can be daunting planning a trip there especially when it comes to paperwork, insurance and your ESTA but I hope that these tips, along with some careful planning will have helped you to plan your dream trip.
Thank you for reading.
*Disclaimer – This is a collaborative post*