How to plan a trip to the USA

Places like NYC are a lot of fun, but when you plan a trip to the USA, you need to keep a lot in mind ... photo by CC user American Pool Enterprises , Inc. on wikimedia commons

Planning an adventure to America in the near future? One of the world’s highest profile nations, the USA is filled with exciting cities, epic natural landscapes, and friendly and hospitable people.

However, one can’t just pack their bags and hop on the first jet to New York City. Here’s what you need to when planning a trip to the USA…

Apply for a ESTA Visa Waiver

First and foremost, travel to America for many nationalities means that you’ll have to secure an ESTA visa waiver before arrival if you don’t have a formal visa. In order to get this important ball rolling, fill out your ESTA Application without delay once you make the decision to plan a trip to the USA.

Doing so will ensure that you do not have to change or cancel your travel plans at the last minute, thus reducing your level of pre-journey stress. The ESTA waiver program allows citizens of participating countries to visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa and the process is much more straight forward than going through the very involved visa process.

America is huge … focus your itinerary on one specific region

Those that are from countries that are geographically smaller in size than the USA are prone to making false assumptions with regards to distances from one corner the country to the other.

No, you cannot drive from New York City to Chicago on a day trip. Want to go to Los Angeles after you have spent time on the beach in Miami? It’s not an easy short hop flight away.

While there is a tendency and desire to see and do everything on a trip (especially when it’s not clear when you’ll be back), fight it and instead focus your attention on specific regions like New England (home to Boston, the mountains of Vermont and Maine fishing villages) or the Pacific Northwest (which boasts the music and coffee scene of Seattle and the wildness of the Oregon Coast).

Doing so will allow your trip to be one filled with special moments instead constant stress from rushing around all the time.

Longer trip? Learn how to move about the country efficiently

Unlike many of us, some have the time flexibility and the financial means to explore places like the USA slowly and more thoroughly.

If you are going to be in the country for two months instead of two weeks, you will have the ability to explore multiple regions in a satisfactory manner.

As such, it is prudent to get familiar with America’s various systems of domestic travel. Airlines spanning the skies of this nation of 318 million people are numerous, allowing for competition that keeps fares lower than in other nations where monopolies or collusion between a few major players keeps rates high.

If you have a bit more time and wish to see the rural parts of America, then riding the rails of Amtrak is an excellent alternative to flying. Rolling through farmland, mountain passes, and countless average towns along the way, you’ll get a fuller picture of this nation than you will by sticking solely to the cities.

If you want to take things further and explore the countryside in person, renting a car is what you’ll want to do. Ensure that you apply for an international driver’s permit before you leave home, and so long as you are above a certain young age (it varies widely from state to state), you’ll be able you to uncover all the secrets that America has outside of its urban areas.

Get proper health coverage before arriving in the USA

Most major industrialized countries have public health systems that allow their citizens to access taxpayer funded emergency or certain routine services free of charge, or at a reasonable price.

America has a private health system however, which is costly enough for those that have insurance. If you don’t, something as simple as a broken arm can clean out your bank account.

To avoid major problems of this variety, secure travel insurance before leaving home that specifically covers health care costs in the American health system.

These policies are often different than travel health plans for other parts of the world, so check with your insurance agent before pulling the trigger on a deal with them.

Remember to tip generously when eating out in restaurants

In many parts of the globe, service industry workers receive gratuities that are already added to the bill. In America, most places do not apply a service charge to your bill automatically, leaving it up to you to decide how much to tip your server.

In the USA, standard tips range from 15% for decent service, to 20% or more for an exceptional customer service experience.


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