HOW TO PLAN YOUR DREAM USA TRIP OF A LIFETIME
Are you dreaming about a USA trip? This post is for you!
We have visited the United States several times and have been living here for seven years. We love traveling in the United States and share our expert tips to help others.
In this post we will help you plan and prepare your trip to USA so that it becomes a reality.
America is a huge country with incredible diversity, and with so many things to do in the US, we know that planning a trip can be difficult and overwhelming.
1. Getting Tourists Visas for the USA
ESTA Visas – The American Visa Waiver Program
For Australians, getting a tourist visa to visit the USA is very simple.
You can get your 90-day visa waiver, now known as Esta, online.
All eligible international travelers who wish to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must apply for authorization.
It is not a US visa, a visa, but a travel authority for Australian citizens and other eligible countries. This means that you can only travel on it - do not use it for any other type of purpose!
A Esta US visa costs $ 14 and a simple application form takes about 20 minutes to fill.
You can apply for ETSA anytime before boarding your flight, but it is best to do it at least 72 hours in advance.
It is very important that you have a record of this and your approval number. Paperwork with you (just in case) when you leave.
You will be asked if you have your ESTA during check and are not allowed on the plane without it.
Once you hit the soil of the USA, your 90 days begin to tick, but it does not reset when you cross the border into Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.
And remember, if you stop in Hawaii en route to the United States, your 90 days start ticking in Hawaii.
It is very important that you plan your trip on this or you may be deported to terminate your visa!
2. Planning Your USA Itinerary
The US is almost the same land size as Australia, but, unlike Australia, the interior is also full of many things.
Careful research and planning will help you to experience your dream USA trip.
Consider what you really want to see and do. Are you focused on:
National parks (such as Yosemite National Park, or Grand Canyon)
Theme parks (such as Disneyland or Universal Studios Orlando)
Road trips (such as Southern California or East Coast road trips)
Beach or mountain
Eat or drink
Festivals and Events
History or music scene (eg in Nashville or Memphis)
There is a reason why we are looking deep into the USA to help future travelers see that there is much more in the US than in Los Angeles and Vegas or Disneyland.
To be honest, those three places are at the bottom of my list of reasons to travel to the US. More kitsch and tourist traps than soul.
This is just my opinion (formed after living here for over 5 years and a lot of experience traveling to America) so take what you want from it.
3. Research Activities & Things to Do in the USA
The United States is the third most populous country in the world.
It is also a popular travel destination for tourists (although they have seen a decline since 2016)
USA's popularity as a travel destination can mean long lines and book out tours.
Therefore, it is important that once you plan your USA itinerary, you research activities and attractions that you do not want to miss!
4. Booking Accommodation in the USA
You have found endless options for accommodation in the USA.
From hotels to motels, resorts and apartments, vacation homes, lodges, campgrounds, AirBnB and more!
There are a few independent hotels if you are looking for a unique and special place like this, like we stayed in Miami, or it is the INNSIDE New York Nomad Hotel (the first of its kind in the US) in Vermont or in NYC.
But mostly, America is a corporate chain experience.
If we are staying in a destination for an extended period, we prefer apartments or suites for their kitchen facilities for dining out and for separate bedrooms!
If it is one or two nights, the hotels are fine.
5. Flying To and Around the USA
Traveling from Australia to the US, we like to fly to Dallas International Airport (DFW).
Dallas is best if you are traveling to the East Coast because it gets closer to you and often means that there are fewer aircraft changes to get to your East Coast destination.
If you are searching for the West Coast, it is better to fly to Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO).
If you are flying directly from Australia, Jet cannot fly to recover from the lag.
The journey from Australia to USA takes about 13 hours (LA) and 16 hours (to Dallas).
Plan a lot of time between your flights so that you can make your connections.
6. Getting Around the USA (apart from flying)
Flying domestically can be a nightmare.
With long lines and delays, sometimes it may be better to go to your various destinations by other means.
I understand the importance of security, but the increasing security measures and handling of chaotic airports due to a large population have made flying fun.
We love road trips to the USA more and more.
Our general rule is that if we are four to six hours away we will drive.
We recently departed from Raleigh, North Carolina towards New York City (8-hour drive) as it was more affordable for our family than four, even with expensive parking tickets and tolls!
Here are some tips for the United States:
- Bring any medical prescription you need. You do not want to replenish them in America. We have a medical packing checklist here.
- Women, in the US, tampons are usually of applicator type only. Bring your own if you don't like them. Otherwise, you can get them at Whole Foods stores and Trader Jocks.
- Electrical adapters and voltages. This international travel plug adapter lets you plug in your charger, phone and laptop. The USA operates at a 120V supply voltage and 60Hz. It can be dangerous to use an electrical device that is rated at a voltage different from the supply and can affect the performance of your equipment. Your laptop, for example, will be too slow to charge. You may need to use a voltage converter or transformer in the USA.
- Even if you are traveling in summer, do pack a cardigan or sweater. Americans are crazy for air conditioning, so whenever you step inside the house.
- Pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes and hiking shoes (more tips for finding the right travel shoes here). America is full of great cities and extraordinary outdoor activities. You will be using those legs quite a lot - at least I hope you will.