“Welcome to America!” Or maybe: “Howdy, how is it going?”, you might hear those words when you arrive at the United States or check in at your hotel. The United States is a fascinating country, with so much diversity that it might even be overwhelming at first. Well, we’re here to provide some insight.
How to plan
Ultimately, there are only two ways to plan a trip to the United States. You either do it on your own or have someone do it for you. Both options have their pros and cons. If you’ve never visited the United States before, we recommend choosing a tour operator so that you can book your vacation and all the things are taken care of. Also, tour operators have the best relationships with hotels, airlines, and car rental companies, so if anything goes wrong on your trip (like a cancellation, flight delay, overbooking, etc) they are the first ones to help you. The downside is you might be less flexible with your itinerary as your route is predetermined.
If you speak English quite well or have been to the United States before, you can choose to organize the trip by yourself. America itself is a safe country to visit. They respect and welcome you when you are interested in learning about their culture. So, there is nothing wrong in organizing a trip by yourself. The advantage here is that you might be more flexible where you don’t have to book everything in advance. You could rent a car or RV and just go on your own throughout the country and explore. You will feel a sense of freedom traveling throughout the United States and exploring the best locations in every state.
Visa & Health Insurance
When visiting the United States, research about the visa requirements specific for your country. Most importantly, look up your country-specific visa requirements before booking your trip. While it has become a lot easier to visit the United States, recently with the immigration process, every country has its own proceedures and protocols. You should check the website of the US Department of State. There is a Visa Waiver Program for many countries in the world, making it easy to obtain a 90 day visitor visa. Also, in case if you are part of the Visa Waiver Program you will need fill out the ESTA application.
We recommend checking with your health insurance provider about coverage in the United States. Most of your outside U.S. health insurances won’t cover you automatically until you notify them. There might be an extra fee you will have to pay, as well. In most foreign countries, there is a travel insurance that you can just buy for up to 60-90 days that will cover in emergency and accidents. It is most important that will buy your insurance before you leave for the United States.
What to bring for a national vacation to the United States?
It can be overwhelming for anyone to pack exactly the right things for your US vacation. You are limited to one larger suitcase, one carry-on and eventually a handbag. Don’t try to bring too much as you will just have the challenge to be scrutinized with US Customs or the airline charging extra fees. Pack as light as you can and leave enough space in the suitcase for gifts when you return.
Things to consider for your national park vacation
Clothes: that will fit for very warm and very cold temperatures. You might discover national parks over 10,000 feet of elevations where nights can be freezing, but then discover metropolitan cities that exceed 40 celsius. The climate in the United States is very diverse, so study your itinerary and the seasons to make sure that you have proper clothes.
Camera equipment: You will be visiting one of the earth’s most unique places and world metropolitan cities, discovering movie locations and theme parks. It is a trip of a lifetime, so be prepared to bring a camera. We recommend bringing a SLR camera and learn in advance about how to shoot great pictures.
Shoes: bring shoes that you feel comfortable in walking. Sneakers and sport shoes, are good for national parks and the board walks. In case if you would like to do more adventurous hikes, we recommend durable hiking boots.
Backpack: if you would like to explore the national parks, we recommend a backpack and a suitable water bottle. Given that many of the national parks are located in a desert-type area, it is recommended to drink at least one gallon of water per day.
Print out all your documents and save them online, together with your visa and passport. In case if anything gets lost in your emails or your phone dies, this will help you a lot. It will save you a lot of trouble.
Cell phone: We recommend checking with your local cell phone provider about coverage and plans in the United States. While there is excellent coverage in major cities, most of the national parks have limited to no cell service. You can also buy a pre-paid phone plan here in the United States for the time you are here in case if you would like to do local calls within the U.S. There are many places offering free WiFi so you will always be able to log in to the hotel WiFi or a coffee place to upload your favorite pictures.