Choosing your route
So you’ve decided you want to go to the States and see all the sights it has to offer, but you’re not sure where you want to start, or even where you’re planning on heading. Obviously, this is the first thing you need to establish when planning your journey and then everything else just seems to fall right in to place.
Chances are you’ll be completely spoiled for choice, but as always the best place to start is at the beginning – where do you want to be flying into, perhaps a location you’ve been excited to visit for a long time. Once you’ve got your first destination down, it becomes easier to decide what comes next (I know this is sounding a little like a self-help book, but it’s true). We decided on San Francisco as our starting point for this year’s trip. We have always wanted to go there, it was a place we’ve never visited before in the US and we figured it would be a good idea to get the longest hour flight from the UK out of the way first.
After deciding on San Fran, as a group we knew we wanted to all visit New Orleans. Now, given that we could all only take about 2 weeks off work, we had to decide how far we could travel in that time. San Fran to New Orleans seemed acceptable so we decided on that and figured we would find interesting points in between to stay at. Simples! Our middle points include spots like National Parks, little towns, big cities – pretty much whatever we could fit in.
How long can you go for?
Now, choosing your route also depends on how long you can feasibly stay in America. As I said, we all have those boring, full-time jobs which take up a lot of our time. However, we have still managed to get about 2 and a half weeks worth of holiday time. In this time, we’ve literally crammed our schedule and planned day-to-day for where we are going to stop and what we are going to do. Of course, this doesn’t sound that spontaneous, but you can’t have everything! If you have a little more freedom, you can take your time – and travel much further! A couple of years back, we managed to travel from NYC to LA in about 3/4 weeks – it really depends on how much time you want in each spot and how far you are willing to travel in a space of time. We’ve set our goal pretty high for miles with San Fran to Nawlins, but it’ll definitely be worth it.
How are you getting from a to b
There are so many ways to get across a country, so don’t feel disheartened if you’re not old enough to rent a car, or you can’t or don’t feel confident enough to drive. On our last road trip, we decided to use Trek America. It was fantastic – we met loads of great people and you are driven from each destination on a little mini-bus. The route is planned out for you and it gives you less to worry about. If you’re wanting to be a little more ambitious, there is always the buses (hop on a Greyhound) or trains that you can jump off and on (like Amtrak), or you can brave it alone with a car rental. The only downside to the car rental is that you may have to pay a hefty one way fee. We’re having to pay about $500 dollars on top of the rental fee as we’re not able to take it back to San Fran. But with enough saving and enough people, this becomes less of an issue.
Where are you going to lay your head?
If you’re strapped for cash there are plenty of places to choose as alternatives to hotels. There are tonnes of campgrounds scattered around the US, like KOA campgrounds, which are clean, safe and very friendly. All you’ll need to do is buy a tent and away you go. Some of the campgrounds we’ve paid for this time round have only been approx $10 a night for a camping spot, which can fit up to 5 people. Not too shabby, eh?
Of course, we are also staying in hotels this time, because in New Orleans you are away from all the good action in a campground, ditto San Francisco. But as I said, there are plenty of cheap spots to stay at. Best Western hotels don’t charge you the earth and most rooms have two double beds, in which is great for a group of travellers.
What can you get up to in these places?
Now here’s the big question – what can you get up to whilst you are in these great spots? I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you what we plan to do on our travels this time… and we have a lot lined up. As we’re starting in San Fran, we have pre-booked Alcatraz and booked a table at Boudin Bistro, Fisherman’s Wharf. And (of course), I’m planning an obligatory selfie snap by the Golden Gate Bridge.
We are heading to a couple of National Parks after we leave San Fran, including Yosemite where we’ll be using our Half Dome hiking permits. In case you haven’t heard of Half Dome, make sure to Google it! I’m a mixture of excited and terrified, but I’m positive that I’m going to leave there feeling pretty awe-inspired. Just a tip, if you like the look of Half Dome and the cables, you will need to keep a look out on the National Park website and enter the lottery when it opens. We happened to get lucky, so we’re definitely not wasting the opportunity!
This next one sounds pretty stereotypical (oh well). We’re stopping off in Albuquerque, so we thought we would take in a good ol’ American baseball game. The tickets are only about $15 each, plus the Isotopes featured on The Simpsons! Two great American classics together – it would be stupid NOT to go, right?
Lastly, we’ll be heading to the French Quarter in New Orleans. I can safely say I have not been to anywhere better for a night out. The Hurricane drinks will absolutely floor you! And if you’re lucky fellas, you might just catch a nip slip on the balconies lining Bourbon Street.
We head off to begin our travels on Saturday. Hopefully all will go to plan and I’ll come back with some great stories to blog about!
See you soon