This was an answer to a forum question in June, 2011.
Taking a look at your age (in your 20's), where you are from (Australia) and the months you plan on coming to the U.S. (July and August) here are my personal suggestions and some reasons why.
1) July and August - Obviously the summer months and usually hotter in the south more then the north. If you can tolerate really warm weather a southern passage may be what you want to consider, and if not take a more northerly route.
2) Traveling Coast to Coast from New York to California - I think you may want to consider looking at an Amtrak pass. I believe they have monthly passes where you could travel anywhere you choose on the countryside system. The trains in the U.S. aren't as convenient as Europe or as developed, but they still can get you from one major place to another if you plan accordingly.
Here is a travel suggestion for you and I'm going to give you a more Northerly route, just because I want you to come to Chicago, my home town.
New York - You mention you will spend 1 week in the area. If you want some really pretty scenery in the area after you visit the BIG CITY get on one of the local commuter trains and head up the Hudson River Valley and explore some of the small towns like Cold Spring, New York about 90 minutes north of NYC.
From New York you may want to hop on up to Boston and/or down to Washington D.C. A lot of interesting places to visit in Boston. It is a young town with major universities in the area. At your age you would have a great time there. Washington D.C. for the history, museums, etc. I would allow yourself another week for this.
You could then take an Amtrak to Chicago and spend the greater part of a week here. You can sun on the beach on the shores of Lake Michigan where huge gatherings of 20 and 30 years olds hang out. Get into an impromptu game of beach volleyball with some of the locals, take a walking tour, a boat tour, an architecture tour, hit the bars and clubs at night. My 2 oldest sons (age 30 and 27) live in the City of Chicago (my wife and I are in a suburban town 30 miles from Chicago) so if you were looking for advice on what they would suggest just let me know.
From Chicago you could then explore some of the open country of Montana and the Dakotas. The previous poster Lee Ann can give you some great ideas. I met Lee Ann and her 21 year old daughter this past weekend in Chicago so you could also get her daughter's ideas for the area.
From there you can take in Seattle and then head down to my other favorite U.S. city, San Francisco where you could spend another week before going down to Los Angeles for the trip home.
Feel free to contact me through this forum or by VT email for any other ideas or suggestions and be sure to check out the VT members pages about the places you want to visit for some great tips.
Hola Claudia Bienvenidos..
USA is one of the friendliest countries on this planet, but there are some gates where you may meet some resistance, one of which is Immigration.
USA has certain lists of countries which they are very suspicious about: Colombia is one of them, Jamaica is another, Uzbekistan, Malaysia... for various different reasons. If you are from one of these countries, except a little bit more thorough examination of your visit. On the other hand if you have a visa issued by the US Embassy in Colombia, the entry into Miami, which is the nearest entry point to Colombia may be very easy.
Try to take a morning flight if you are coming into Miami, as in the afternoon you may wait up to two hours in line for immigration as many flights from Europe arrive between 1 and 4 pm.
Check that your airline does not charge you for luggage. Depending upon the airlines, you may pay between 25 to more per bag of 23 kg. please check that before hand whether the airline charges you for bags.
COPA for example gives you two bags free, so it might be worth it to check their fares.
Once again, americans are not suspicious of all foreigners. I travel very frequently to the USA and dont have any problems. If you speak English well, that is also a plus.
if you are coming with a group safety will not be an issue, otherwise certain areas of the cities are dangerous. But having visited many ciites in Colombia I can tell you that you will not come across that sort of danger in the USA. I must say that the situation improved dramatically in Colombia but it is very bad in : mexico honduras guatemala etc.
Americans are very kind to foreigners, when you approach them properly. no body would refuse to help you( as they would in singapore for example) if you go up to them and say: excuse me can you tell me where to get a nice cup of cuban coffee or where to catch the metro , in miami.
Good Luck to you
Visit some of the museums of Chicago Museum Campus:
the Museum of Science and Industry;
the Arts Institute of Chicago;
John Shedd Aquarium,
which can offer you a wonderful journey into the world of science and arts and lots of pleasant experiences.
You can walk or drive along the shores of Lake Michigan and enjoy the view.
Chicago skyscrapers are unique. They can be viewed as real works of art and products of thourough and well thought-out team work.
Fondest memory: Staying at the hotels and at the students dormitory, meeting locals and students
traveling about the US, as little as I could, but still it was great!
Fondest memory: Celebrate! - this motto was not neglected during our stay in the United States.
We celebrated the Ukrainian Teacher's Day on the first Sunday of October, each other's birthdays and anniversaries.
As a matter of fact, we had a good reason for celebrating every day.
It was our stay in this country!
You can get a US t-mobile Pripaid SIM card for $7.00. It only has 10 minutes but you can add minutes anytime. See the web site for more info.
Maybe you can have a friend buy and activate it for you. Then mail it to you so you have it when you arrive. Make sure they activate it as a "Pay as you Go" plan. The web site sometimes has a free phone and sim card, but your friend will have to send in for the rebate for it to be free.
You can also buy T-Moble "Pay as You Go" (Pripaid) phone with SIM cards and other brands disposable cell phones in stores like Wall Mart.
According to the US T-Mobile's web site, their SIM cards will only work in T-Mobile's phones. However, this is not true. I've used it in two non-T-Mobile phones for voice. I'm not sure about texting. Of course the phones must be unlocked and GSM phones.
T-Mobil uses 1900MHz in the US, NOT 850MHz, make sure your phone supports 1900MHz.
If your phone does not support 1900MHz, you may be able to get their "Free after rebate" "Pay as you go" phone with SIM card. However, the rebate is useally by mail.
The minutes are good for 90 days unless you add more then all minutes are good for 90 days from when you added additional minutes.
As a side note, once you hit $100 in minutes, you only need to add $10 a year to keep the phone active. Great for people who only want a phone for emergencies or maybe make frequent trips to the US.
Please rate this tip when you find it useful.
I have visited almost all the states in the lower 48. In addition to not having visited Alaska, I have not been to Oregon, Idaho, Vermont or North Dakota. I almost got to Oregon twice - once in 1965 when the planned trip was aborted so Bob could work on his cars, and once when I was in Seattle for work but didn't have a car. I almost got to Idaho in 2010. Since Yellowstone is partly in Idaho, you could count it that way but I don't .
I have driven across the country or almost all the way across the country five times. Once when I was 10, we drove from Baltimore through the Black Hills and Yellowstone Park to Wyoming, Utah and Colorado and then returned by way of Carlesbad Caverns and St. Louis. After I was married, we drove across from Virginia to California in 1964- twice - once in a 1932 Plymouth (2nd picture), and once in a 1964 Ford station wagon (third picture) The fifth trip was from California to Key West Florida in 1966 - again driving the 1932 Plymouth but the second car was a 1964 VW bus (fourth picture)
I went to school in Ohio for 4 years. After we were married, in addition to California, we lived in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana and Florida. My children now live in Miami, Florida, Frisco, Texas, Summerville, SC and Ellicott City Maryland. My oldest grandson is in Vermont and my oldest granddaughter is in Hartford, CT
Between 1986 and 2000, for work, I traveled to Seattle, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.
Recently we've made three round trips by boat up and down the Intercoastal Waterway (photo 5) from the Chesapeake to the Florida Keys. The last two years, we've driven south, visiting, Virginia, NC, SC, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia
Some states I have been in only very briefly - Montana just on the way to Yellowstone. Oklahoma and Kansas just on the way to Colorado.
Fondest memory: I have many fond memories of my travels in the United States. Wherever I am there is something interesting to see or a tiny museum to visit. And sometimes I come upon things by accident that I had not expected would be there.
I couldn't leave without going on one final road trip and showing my wife the greatest parts of her new country so off we set for a six-month sojourn sewn of tent camping and tramping to the far corners of our nation's varied vistas. With each state and National Park we passed a sense of pride swelled within me that I had not felt in ages. Teddy Roosevelt's idealistic notion that the great landscapes of this incredible country were to be set aside for all its citizens to enjoy was sweeping and now overwhelming not only me but its most important new citizen: my wife. As close as we had been prior, this trip put our souls together in seeming suspension. The spirit of a land once so strong was still within its soil. It was just its people who had lost their way.
As long as a six-month trip sounds, it had to come to an end sooner or later and this was one that ended for us with a degree of sadness. What had begun as a farewell to a dying nation had turned into a realization that once you let the beauty within the USA inside you, you can never really escape it. We were leaving the country for a chance at a new life elsewhere but now we knew that once there, we would always long at least partly for not only the great natural wonders we had seen but also the free spirit that had touched our souls so deeply. Saying goodbye to the USA? Perhaps not. Maybe it's just see you later.
The National Park system of the United States of America has no peer in breath and depth. It is nation's greatest legacy and our greatest contribution to world thought.
Fondest memory: No one said saying goodbye to your country was going to be easy. Especially when the country in question is the United States of America. But that's what I was about to do. Of course, with a country as big as mine it would take some time to do and so I set off across this great land to embrace some old favorites and meet some new ones. You see, in a country as diverse as the ole USA even an avid traveler like myself has not seen everything. In the past I had done a five month extravaganza around the Western US, a two month one through New England as well as a four month adventure around Alaska. This along with many trips up and down the east coast between my two homes of New Jersey and Florida made me far more traveled than most of my fellow citizens. And it's not like I just drove around in a car and snapped a few photos. I had done over 1000 miles hiking trails through the country's most spectacular corridors with wilderness camping affording me numerous displays of purple mountain majesty. But the biggest difference this time around was also the reason for the big farewell in the first place: my wife who just happened to be German.
She had stolen my heart quite a few years earlier and from our first meeting it seemed our lives revolved around seeing as much of each other as possible. This we found was not as easy as it sounded or would have been if we had been from the same country. The obstacles were not merely financial either as we were both willing to live a ragtag existence to enjoy each other's company. No, the primary problem was that my country had some very strict rules on my new love's ability to enter what they regarded as the land of plenty. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
when i lived in ar. louis, there was surely snow in december. we never needed chains but i'm sure in other parts of your route, you may.
i owned a 2003 subaru outback and it was one of the best cars i've owned. it even saved my life in a car wreck because of its weight distribution. totaled the poor car :(
Three months were all they would write and so we began a series of trips to third world countries where we could spend the needed time together to see if what we had found was real. It was but coming back to reality together was not any easier than when we had left it. Living in Germany proved what we felt was economically stifling so we married in hopes of making the United States our home. This proved costlier and more time consuming than we could have ever imagined but five years and a similar number of thousand dollars later and she was indeed a US citizen. The only problem: The American Dream was fading and not just for us.
A recession spun of greed and deceit enveloped a once uncontainable country. The pride that made this country great seemed to have turned to little more than hot air fanning wars against enemies more invisible than the terrorist monikers given them. The idea that the United States was no longer the top world power became more than a catch phrase for a new book. That distinct possibility was becoming a reality and its citizens were having a hard time swallowing the pill of their country's increasingly insurmountable debt. Were we bailing from the sinking ship just to escape? No, we just weren't making enough money to make ends meet so we looked for other options and Germany seemed as good as any. My wife had an in. She was, after all, still German too. I had spent one extended time there and knew that their red tape was a lot less complicated and costly than ours. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
if it's ten dollars, i would give $13
bar tenders, $1 per drink is good (they're just opening a beer for christ's sake) but i would leave $2 if you're having him/her make you a drink that takes 5 minutes, such as a mojito or a caipirinha or something involving a lot of extra work. you will see a difference in your service if you whip out a $20 for a bartender ahead of time. then he serves you first and gives you a strong pour... may even comp a drink.
restaurants... 20% at LEAST. this is the service industry and they live on tips. (i agree with above poster, look at the small print at the bottom of the bill to see if you have already been charged a gratuity, common with large parties or fancy places)
hair stylists: tip ten dollars for a cut, $20 for a color. i'm a hair stylist and we love cashfor obvious reasons. many are self employed and don't have a point of sale machine handy.
i say, if you are not going to leave a good tip, don't go out. but that's how i roll. you don't have to carry a bunch of cash. but it's easier to pay for things if someone doesn't accept a card (like some salons and cabbies). being from australia, obviously a check will not do.
i would go above and beyond unless the service was terrible, in which case you DON'T leave a tip. i would never encourage a-hole behavior.
in general, i don't leave tips in coffee houses and mexican restaurants where there is a tip jar. i just don't think a person needs a dollar tip for a two minute service that involves very little effort or brain power. in the end, a tip is never required (but generally expected).
How you manage the money you plan to use on a visit to the USA can have a major impact on your trip.
Because carrying large amounts of US cash (or other cash) is not in my opinion a risk worth taking, just carry enough cash for convenience. Depending on where and how you are arriving I would suggest 200 to 500 dollars. The US might be the only country where doing some exchange before you reach the country may make a lot of sense. Certainly changing money at US airports is a very expensive proposition.
I still consider US dollar travelers checks as a good safe backup to cash and credit cards both in the USA and worldwide. They are accepted in the USA without fees, but if you are off the tourist trail it may take a moment for the store clerk to be sure what they have to do. My bank sells me the checks without a fee so for me this is a cost free insurance plan. Any place that accepts credit cards or personal checks will accept a traveler's check. You may have to consider the exchange rate used and any fee charged when you purchase the checks. You probably want to buy Visa or American Express checks rather than a lesser known brand. The last time I paid a commission (fee) upon purchase of a check it was 1%, but recently I was told that it had increased to 3%.
For your daily and larger travel expenses a credit card or debit card is the way to see the USA. Which card (or cards) you use can be important. Some charge foreign exchange fees on all purchases. Many have these plus bad ATM fees. On the other hand, with a card that does not charge interest from the time of purchase you might find an after your trip discount if the exchange rate drops for the US dollar between your time of purchase and the recording of the transaction by the company. I once saw a 10% savings on a trip to Italy because of the reverse situation but I think saving this much now is unlikely with todays rapid electronic communication of charges.
Fondest memory: In this regard, when I am away from the USA I can miss the ease and simplicity of use of credit cards for almost all purchases and services without any fees. I even get a small kick-back ("reward") for my purchases. You can buy almost everything with a credit card. This includes groceries, gas or repairs for a car, fast food, hotel rooms, travel tickets, and concert and sporting event tickets. I pay my credit card bill when due and thus avoid any fees or interest unless I use an ATM. I pay no ATM Transaction Fee with my card but interest starts accruing that same day. I almost never have to consider going to an ATM.
I have done my share of highway driving by myself. I do enjoy it and it gives me a sense of freedom not having to book a plane ticket in advance, having my car with me, making interesting side-trips, etc.
Once while driving from Washington DC to Miami, FL, I made the mistake of driving past 9.00 PM. I should have checked into a motel by this time. I got stranded because I could not find any vacancies for at least an hour and I was very sleepy and tired at this time. I ended up sleeping in my car at a rest area, not refeshed in the AM at all. The nicer motels close to the highway tend to get filled up and have fewer vacancies late at night.
Since this incident, I have developed my guideline for choosing a decent motel - here it goes
1 - carry with me at least 1 major credit card, my discount membership card(s) with me (AARP, AAA, Allstate, etc.) , map, driving directions(google, mapquest, etc.). A GPS is highly desirable, but not always totally reliable, hence the map.
2 - no driving past 9.00 PM if the destination is more than 4 hours drive away.
3 - check-in a decent motel before 8.00 PM (see below)
4 - visit a nice grocery store before 9.00 PM , this allows me to eat well and stock up for the next day, else visit a decent restaurant for dinner. In many smaller towns, both grocery stores and restaurants may close at 10.00 PM
5 - re-fuel my car, go back to the motel, watch some TV and go to sleep.
6. you can use your GPS to locate often needed items such as Gasoline (a.ka. Fuel or Petrol), motel, dining (e.g. Mcdonalds, Burger King, Subway) , grocery, just about anything of interest
A - the motel should NOT be in the heart of a large city .. too expensive, older property, spotty facilities
B - the motel should NOT be too far from the large city - not enough conveniences nearby
C - the motel should NOT be the only structure in sight - ie there should be other properties nearby, the prices are more competitive, more facilities are availalble if needed
D - the parking lot should NOT be full of cars and trucks - you will have more choices for your room if the motel is not already booked up
Fondest memory: A nice clean motel for USD 60.00 including the following facilities -
no outside noises
working climate control
A nice clean grocery store
pleasant and respectful staff - people who understand me when I speak English ( except for certain large cities - you would know if you are from the US)
Favorite thing: WOW I wish I have 5 weeks vacation. Like other said. Going one way will cost you a lot more on rental, unless money is not a concern. Definitely check on rental car rate for drop off charges. Checkout National. They cost a little more but something they do not have drop off charge. We did LA-SF without drop-of charge. If returning the car to the same place as pick up. Suggestion is to a loop on the West Coast: LA-LV-Sedona-GC-Yosemite?-SF-LA. We have done the loop in reverse in 10 days. Then I suggest flying South first and and go North when may be a little warmer, but a week may not make much difference. Unless you have something to see in Atlanta, I would skip it and fly to Miami-key-evergrades-New Orleans. If you have not been in DC, I would fly to DC and do DC-Philly-NY-DC.
1) go to www.Weather.com
2) type out the ZIP code or city and state of interest
3) click the [Search] button
4) if more than one city fits your name, click on that choice
5) click on "10-Day"
For example, this URL goes to the ten-day forecast for New York City
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