The United States
America is an amazingly large country, full of numerous cultures, a variety of landscapes and experiences. Many travelers will often find themselves in America throughout their lives. Though, it’s not a popular long term destination it will likely be for a layover or to explore a state for a couple weeks. The backpacker scene is not well established here, with the ‘backpacker’ term itself meaning something else entirely, hiking. You will find the occasional hostels in large cities; though don’t expect anything in smaller towns. As a large country you would think there would be an efficient means of transportation, but unfortunately there is not. Even with all of these factors which may discourage some backpackers, you should definitely include The United States on your bucket list to experience some of the most amazing sights you could ever imagine!
COST PER DAY
If you are thinking of backpacking in The United States expect to spend approximately $70-$90USD per day for one person. Some days you may spend more, some less, but overall it should even out. Though if you are planning to do more pricey activities such as Universal Studios Orlando or Disneyland you will want to budget more.
Though, of course there are ways you can cut down on these costs by buying food from supermarkets and doing free or cheap activities. For example, check out what you can do in Denver with $10.00.
It’s best to do your research into entry requirements into America because it is likely you’ll need to have filled in some sort of application. Citizens of 38 countries are eligible for the Visa Wavier Program, but the catch is you’ll need an e-passport, onward ticket and an ESTA (electronic system for travel authorisation) which of course has an administration fee, though last two years.
Best to check out what the entry requirements are of your home country to prevent being turned around at the border.
When to visit
As the United States is such a large country there can be major seasonal differences between states, especially those on the east and west coast.
During the summer central states can become unbearably hot, and during winter the weather in some states can cause major issues if you’re wanting to go out and about exploring the attractions. Generally the best time to visit is April- June (except in the Midwest due to tornadoes) and September and December. That way you’ll have bearable temperatures, be avoiding the holiday and summer crowds as well the price increases which follow the holidays and crowds.
Though best to research what the weather will be like in the states you plan to travel to get a proper idea. For example, you could travel Los Angeles in winter, though you’d have second thoughts about visiting New York.
If you don’t have set plans there are always places you can visit throughout the year, it just takes a bit of research such as Googling where is best in the USA to travel during March.
Sleeping on a budget
As previously said, hostels can be a bit of a hassle to find in The United States. Though, don’t let this put you off exploring this awesome country, there’s still plenty of ways you can afford to travel here.
– Travelling alone and want to make friends? Try out a hostel (if there’s one local) and expect to spend between $20 -$40 a night for a bed in a dorm.
-Travelling with multiple people? Consider staying in a typical American motel and spend $30 -$70 a night. Or even check out an Air bnb, there are some amazing options on there and good deals for all budgets
-Travelling on a tight budget? Give the good ol’ Couch Surfing a go, meet some friendly locals and have a place to rest your head all without spending a dime.
Unfortunately, with the United States being such a large country with minimal long distance transportation options it can be a bit of a problem getting from one place to the next. Unless you have a massive budget for domestic flights (and let’s face it, if you’re on this website you probably don’t) your next best bet is giving the bus a whirl. The main companies are Greyhound, BoltBus and MegaBus. With tickets as low as $1 it becomes hard to justify any other transportation options.
Though, this bus option doesn’t satisfy the American road trip dream which is on nearly everyone’s bucket list. Whether that is exploring the national parks in California, campervanning the east coast, or wanting rental cars in Orlando to hit up Disney World.
So if you’re sitting at home imagining yourself with the wind blowing through your hair with the ultimate music playlist blasting in the background the best option will be to rent a car. This will give you more freedom, sleeping in any town you decide and as many bathroom breaks as you desire. Expect to spend at least $100 -$150 per week for a rental excluding insurance. Though adding insurance that number can easily double so consider all your options first, look out for special deals and check what your budget will allow.
Food & Drink
Let’s be honest, you’re slightly excited to visit America because you’ve seen all the amazingly unhealthy food options available. Not saying all food there is unhealthy. They have some of the best vegetarian and vegan options I have ever seen, though it’s the home to the best food porn.
If you’re on a budget shop at supermarkets and make your own meals, bring left overs out with you to avoid pricey lunches. Eating out can be quite affordable, but remember when you’re looking at prices on the menu, add on the tip to get a true idea of what you’re spending.
Lastly, check out the favourite fast food places you’ll find people talking nonstop about. Even though you may end up with a food baby you’ll most likely have left overs and they are an amazingly cheap option.
Make sure you don’t miss checking one of America’s oldest cities, New Orleans. It is full of culture from its mixed French, African and Spanish heritage and it is well and truly worth spending at least 3 days in New Orleans to see the best this city has to offer. Witness all these heritages merging together in the form of amazing food, music and happening nightlife. If you’re planning a trip here, check out whether or not it coincides with the famous Mardi Gras. Though, don’t worry too much if the timings not right. There’s always a visit to Mardi Gras World to get your fix. This is where you’ll find artists working on the floats and get an inside peak at the ins and outs of this festival.
No matter what you’re into there’s something in New Orleans for everyone. If its shopping check out the Riverwalk Marketplace, set alongside the Mississippi river and near the French Quarter. It is a beautiful place to host all the shops and cafes, over one hundred and twenty of them to be exact!
New York is one of those places you need to visit at least one in your life. With an amazing range of sights such a The Statue of Liberty, Time Square, Central Park and Empire State Building. Though, travelling between them all can become an issue. Luckily, many companies such as New York Pass and Gray Line offer hop on, hop off services. This means you can explore at your own pace, taking in all these awesome new sights and perhaps even do a spot of shopping in New York City. Looking to get a bit further out and see the New York skyline? Best to check out Circle Line Cruises who offer trips around Manhattan Island. Also, while in town make sure you try out some of the New York style food the city is well known for such as pizza, bagels and street hot dogs.
Check out everything Hollywood! Though the glitz and glam can quickly wear off so consider staying in Santa Monica or Venice for a more chilled out vibe. There are plenty of guided tours to take you to all the best things to do in Los Angeles, as well as a hop on hop off bus. If you’re an adventure park junkie, you’ll be in paradise especially with Universal Studios, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knotts Berry Farm. Oh, and cant forget Disneyland, make sure you have the Disney MaxPass. Make sure you check out my experiences in Los Angeles including exploring Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
If you are looking at getting away from the smoggy cities pop down to South Bay for a more relaxed and local vibe. Here you will find beautiful beaches, gorgeous landscapes, and amazing food. Alternatively, why not explore a bit more further afield and check out some incredible things to do in Southern California?
Welcome to the capital of America, home of many historic sights! From the White House, the Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt Memorials to the US Capitol Building, the Vietnam Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, you will consistently be busy exploring your surrounds. And the best part of this, all these attractions are free, along with many more. Washington DC is also home to numerous museums. This includes The National Gallery of Art, The National Museum of Natural History and The Museum of American History. Seriously, you’ll leave this city with a lot of new knowledge and a greater understanding of American history and culture.
Located North of Los Angeles up the Pacific Coast, San Francisco is a well-photographed city with so many famous attractions. This is a great place to visit any time of year, but it especially makes for an excellent spot for a winter vacation in the USA. Make sure not to miss checking out the ridiculously steep streets. Also, make sure you catch the antique cable cars which is a unique way to explore the city area. Of course, there’s the Golden Gate Bridge as well. Whether it’s a foggy day with the clouds creeping low or beautifully sunny it’ll make a great picture and get some of the best views in San Fransico.
San Francisco is also home to an abandoned prison, Alcatraz. It is located in the middle of the Bay and is open to visits from the public. So get your opportunity to visit this notorious prison and learn the fascinating backstories.
If you are interested in seeing a lot of attractions make sure you get a Go San Francisco Card or a San Francisco CityPASS and get the most out of your money.
Las Vegas, otherwise known as sin city and the entertainment capital of the world. It is a place where everyone knows the main attractions. From the casinos, luxurious hotels and shopping malls this is an party paradise. The ultimate entertainment hub for those who never sleep, where something is happening every hour of the day. You can even travel around the world all in one city. The Egyptian sphinx, New York’s Statue of Liberty and the Parisian Eiffel tower all call Las Vegas home. An awesome thing is the amazing hotel deals you can find, allowing you to splash elsewhere with your Las Vegas spending money. With casinos and hotels often combined these business lower their accommodation rates luring in customers to spend up large in their casinos.
Chicago is the third biggest metropolis is the US and as result home to many exciting attractions. There are plenty of things to do in Chicago such as zoos, museums, aquarium and planetarium. Being such a multi-cultural city it caters to a wide variety of tastes. There’s Little Italy, Chinatown, Greek Town and even little Saigon. Finally no visit to Chicago would be complete without experiencing the iconic American sports game. Choose between American football, baseball or basketball and witness the adrenaline and amazing atmosphere in person. Just make sure you book tickets in advance as seat full up fast! Oh, and make sure to grab a Chicago deep dish pizza !
Thinking about Something Different?
Thinking of travelling to The United States, but don’t want to do the general tourist thing? Why not look into doing something like Camp America or becoming an Au Pair. You’ll still get to explore the country, but also meet so many new people, make a difference in someones life as well as getting paid for it.
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