The United States of America has consistently featured on every list that ranks the top holiday destinations in the world – and with good reason. The US is home to multiple ethnic groups from across the globe and has some of the world’s most iconic and fascinating natural and human-made sites including parks, mountains, beaches, museums, memorials, and of course, the Big Apple, also known as New York, the city that never sleeps.
Being one of the world’s largest countries by land area, it consists of 50 states, with Washington D.C. as its national capital. This geographical enormity has enabled the US to have many different cultures and traditions both between and within states, which means that you are bound to encounter and interact with the most diverse group of people during your travel around the States.
So if you feel this is going to be your next vacation spot, we have compiled the top four things to do before you start planning the trip of a lifetime.
Get Your Documents In Order
Firstly, make sure that your passport is up to date so that you may begin your visa application process as soon as possible. For a vacation, you will need to apply for a nonimmigrant visitor visa, known as the B-2 visa.
The steps for applying for a visa usually vary from country to country, but generally, you will be required to fill an online application, upload a passport size photograph according to the stated requirements, pay a non-refundable visa fee, schedule an appointment with your nearest US Embassy or Consulate, and in some cases, pay a visa issuance fee if you are granted a visa and if that fee applies to your nationality. Remember to print your online application form and have a hard copy of your fee receipt and bring it with you to the interview.
Additionally, the application form will require other documents as well, such as financial statements. It is strongly advised to get a professionally certified document translation in English if you hail from a non-English speaking country to avoid delays during your visa processing.
Decide On A Budget
Going on a vacation means you probably have to start saving early on. However, everyone who goes on a holiday has a certain budget in mind and would ideally want to stick to it. So in this section, we highlight what expenses you should consider during budgeting your travel to America.
Sort Out All Travel-Related Expenses
First off, book your ticket early on and search for the best deals by searching for cheap flights on metasearch engines such as Skyscanner, Kayak, or Momondo. This can help you save loads of money by showing you the best available deals.
Added to that, it is also recommended to buy tickets beforehand for domestic air travel within the US. Since the States is a pretty big country, you would want to be smart about your travel choices and save time and money by getting the best and cheapest airplane tickets. Or if you prefer traveling through the railroad, check Amtrak, which is a great service for finding intercity travel options.
Generally, we would suggest opting for traveling by bus only when the destination is not more than four hours away. This is because buses make loads of stops and you may end up tiring yourself.
Getting around the US is another thing you need to factor into your budget. While some big cities such as New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Seattle have excellent mass public transport, others such as Miami, Dallas, San Diego, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Cleveland are not ideal for commuting via public transport. So whatever place you wish to visit, make sure to have an estimate of how much you will have to spend on in-city travel, and whether you will need to rent a car to get around. For renting a car, remember that you need to be 25 years old.
Find A Place To Live
Second, you need to sort out accommodations. If you are traveling solo or with your partner or friends, we highly recommend opting for Airbnb, hostels, or local bed and breakfasts. These can be booked online pretty easily. If you intend on traveling with family and have kids or old folks with you, avoid the hostels and opt for something a bit more upscale. Again, it is best to have your bookings done prior to traveling in order to secure discounts.
Factor In Everyday Meal Expenses
Another expense you absolutely need to budget for is food. While you can definitely go all out and visit a couple of top-notch restaurants and bakeries that have a Michelin star in their portfolio, fine dining is recommended just once or twice a week. Other times, we suggest you explore local specialties and delicacies and opt for cheap but quaint and classic diners that have been around the US for a very long time.
Be sure to check if there are any food or wine festivals when you’re traveling. This will allow you to immerse yourself in the local food culture and experience something truly unique. Some popular summer festivals include LA Food Fest in late June or early July, Vermont Cheesemakers Festival in August, Taste of Chicago in early July, and Kentucky Bourbon Festival in mid-September.
Do A Little Research
The US is huge, which means you need to make an itinerary before hopping on the plane because it is not possible to see all the places in a matter of 2 or 3 weeks – assuming that is how long you plan on vacationing. Try visiting some of the top vacation spots in the US such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion National Park, Lake Tahoe, and the Big Sur. Also make sure you know that the US has seven main time zones, which means that you need to factor that in during your travel plans.
Knowing a few key facts about the US will truly come in handy. Lucky for you, we have already done the major stuff for you. First, tipping culture is huge, so make sure that you tip 15 to 20 percent of your total bill. Second, most of the price tags will not include sales tax, so make sure that you factor that in before buying anything, or better yet, always ask the salesperson or shopkeeper. Additionally, get health insurance because the health system in the US is likely to drain your pocket. Importantly, remember that each state has its own laws. So whenever we feel unsure, just do a quick Google search.
As you prepare for some rest and relaxation, make sure that everything back home is sorted and taken care of. This may include paying your utility bills, informing your bank about your travel plans if you plan on using your credit card in the US, and asking a friend or family member to take care of any pets or water any plants while you are away.
We hope that you have the time of your life visiting what is truly one of the greatest countries in the world! Happy traveling!