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We used a number of online booking agencies (Agoda, Expedia, and Booking.com, Qantas) to book hotels, tours and flights. On reflection we wish we had pre-paid all of the bookings as we did not realise the full implications of the extra taxes imposed. (See also tips on taxes and resort tax). The Bellagio booking (Las Vegas) was interesting as the hotel wanted to add the resort tax but for whatever reason because it was through Agoda they couldn’t so we had a win there!! We also pre booked all our internal flights. Generally speaking, the earlier you book the cheaper the tickets and the better your chance of getting the seat you want. If you can, include checked luggage so you don’t have to add it in when you arrive at the airport. Try and pre pay all your hotel and tour bookings.
Written May 7, 2013
In Australia our GST is standard across the nation and the price of goods that is displayed is what you pay. In the US this is not the case. A price will be indicated and seem quite reasonable but the tax is not added and this will vary depending on the state you are in and the good you are buying. Generally, for coffee and meals an extra 10% needs to be added but for other goods it could be as much as 18%. In addition, if paying hotel fees you could find yourselves paying the quoted price plus a state tax, city tax and a hotel bed tax and this is pro rata. One example: our hotel bill in New York went up by $800.00!!!
Written May 7, 2013
See also my tip on tipping. In general terms we found service was excellent with waiters being very attentive. Unlike Western Australia whereby most waiters are young students working part time in the US it seems that many are middle aged and this is their career. Their wages are extremely low and therefore they survive on their tips. When tipping makes sure that you tip on the total bill that includes the tax.
Written May 7, 2013
One of the most challenging aspects for us was the tipping “culture” that pervades it seems, all aspects of American daily life. For us it became a dilemma as we were never sure who we should tip and how much. In some cases it was 10% of the bill and in other circumstances it was as much as 18%. Waiters are obviously tipped but we also found ourselves tipping reception clerks, the bell boy, the hotel maid, the guy who served us a pizza, tour operators indeed, anyone who did something for us.
On reflection, we realised “tipping” does have an impact in terms of maintaining cordial relations between people. It is also justified on the grounds that it ensures every employee has a stake in ensuring the business does well but I can’t help feeling it also justifies keeping wages down. An American told me waiters earn only $2.00 an hour. I don’t know whether this is completely accurate but it is a horrific statistic given that in Australia babysitters can earn much more.
So what is my tip? Make sure you factor in when budgeting that you will have to tip hospitality workers and keep sufficient cash handy for this purpose while you’re travelling.
Written May 7, 2013
You can find this phenomenon from all guides but to me it was a disappointment, ten old cars in the field, what's the point? Okay, they are Cadillacs and there is a story behind. Or... maybe happened that the story started later, check the list! a) Film "Cars" by Disney, b) song "Cadillac Ranch" by Bruce Springsteen, c) seen in "King of the Hill" d) another songs by John Stewart and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and e) music video and... the list is endless. And you never know what is coming, cars have been white, black, graffiti colored and they are overpainted occasionally.
It is in private land, but visiting (gate is unlocked) is tacitly encouraged.
This is a Tourist Trap, but some of them are just musts, and this is among them.
Updated May 6, 2013
Address: I-40 Frontage road (southern)
One of the musts on the Route 66 is this neon sign. On day light it was a little bit difficult to find, my motel's clerk didn't know it at all. I was very close, I knew about where it should, but I did not understand to look higher.
"Here We are On Route 66" was a phrase used on a post card that promoted travel on Route 66. The post card was made famous again recently when Michael Wallis, author of "Route 66: The Mother Road" placed a copy of it on the cover of his book.
Jerry McClanahan, who wrote the "The EZ66 Guide for Traveler's" describes the sign as "depicting a pink '59 Caddy headed into a Route 66 neon sunset." This sign can be seen over the entrance to the Gallup Chamber of Commerce in the middle of town.
Btw, Jerry's book was the best we found and I would like to recommend that to you, too. Remember the check editions, currently the third edition is valid (update 6th May 2013). There are updates on Jerry's pages, check them also.
Updated May 6, 2013
Address: 103 W Highway 66 Gallup, New Mexico
The interstate highways in the U.S. are easy safe and efficient. That is the rub of it. Over the last few decades they have become a parade of every place exactly like every other place. So I recommend that you drive at least a portion of your trip in America on what are known as blue highways.
The American Automobile Association publish maps that designate scenic highways with blue dotted lines and they came to be known as the "Blue Highways".Now most road maps have scenic route marked.
You can combine this with a fun game. Try to find the coolest neon, find the coolest waitress, find the best pie. It is a great way to see the "Real America" William Least Heat-Moon wrote a great book on just this kind of travel. If you are coming to America it is a fantastic read.
Written Apr 7, 2013
I started to make my U.S pages because I drove the Route 66, passed eight states and I have been in some more, so I thought that I know something about U.S. But to be honest, the more I there roam the less I seem to understand. Or I understand that I know that I don't know. But I am a U.S fan and I will learn :)
If I would write only one review of U.S. it would be this one. There are a lot of places, with more interest may be, but this is the #1 to me in U.S. I waited to see it and I was not disappointed (like in some other places around), even more, I was entranced!
Spanish found this place 1540. Wrong, this place has been found a far before, but (we) European think that we found everything (think about Kolumbus, he didn't know where he was going, where he was, what he found and he even wrote the maps wrong and we say that he found the America! Let me laugh :)
Let's take again, Soldiers of Francisco Vasques de Coronado was the first Europeans visiting this place late summer 1540. He and his forces had traveled 6 months to reach this Hopi area and by the way he was guided by Hopi Indians. The first the see this miracle was Garcia Lopez de Cardenas.
The canyon is 277 miles long and depth is 6000 feet (more than a mile) and it's said to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Updated Feb 24, 2013
Before the first half of the 16th century and until 1791 the region known as Washington D.C. was occupied by Native Americans and during these years it was also the beginning of European exploration. An exploration that culminated in the settling of various grand manors and small towns. Finally in 1791 George Washington declared the area a Federal region. He employed L'Enfant to lay out the city and another surveyor, Andrew Ellicott, to survey the bounds of the Federal tract, 10 miles square.
L’Enfant’s plan was an ambitious one and beyond the scope of understanding of some influential men of the time. L’Enfant was fired. However eventually, it was his grand scheme of things that prevailed and the city today is much the same as L’Enfant had envisioned.
Washington D.C. is beautiful in the same kind of way Paris is beautiful. Wide boulevards, grand architecture, lush parks and gardens and full of art and history.
A weeks visit would not be enough to see all there is to see, but even a day spent here will be full of awesome sites and experiences that make a vacation worthwhile. Though hotels and restaurants are very expensive for the visitor, many Museums, Monuments, Memorials and Art Galleries are open to the public free of charge.
Updated Nov 11, 2012
Address: District of Columbia%c
Capital of the world, New York is a large city with the secret of a new surprise each time we visit it, no matter the frequency or the dept of the visit.
So far, I've been there five times, and keep hoping that, one day, I will discover New York. Though most of the sensations felt in New York are hard to express, my New York City VT page will grow. That's a promise.
I hesitated a lot about which version of the picture should I publish - with or without the twin towers. Memories make people suffer, but erasing these memories seems a sort of treason. So, I decided to publish both versions, giving priority to people's feelings
Updated Aug 31, 2012
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