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Old 05-27-2004, 11:19 AM   #1
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Ok im new to this and ive never backpacked or travelled like this before. I basically want to go to america and spend 4-6 months travelling from NYC and washington over to cali via florida and texas. Im from the UK and i would just like for anyone to post advice on america and make suggestions. We plan to try and not sleep in hostels or motels and try to hook up with people as we travel and take a tent as backup. How much money do you think we will need for that amount of time, and i think we need visas. Is there anythign we should be aware of before we travel thanks guys
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Old 05-28-2004, 12:52 AM   #2
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Check out amtrak.com for train deals - you can get regional passes which are cheaper than point to point travels in some cases. I traveled over 10,000 miles around the US by train, and slept in my coach seat every night - it was quite comfortable - more so than in an airplane! Consider travelling by train for at least a portion of your trip, since you can see stuff you'll never see from the interstates. (I lived in the states for 6 of the last 10 years, living in 7 different states in that time, and have driven the interstates a ton of times. Sorry Americans, but those are boring drives! Especially I-40.) I much preferred taking the train through the southwest, where you get expansive views of the tablelands that you can't appreciate as much from the highway.

Spent a year in the DC area, tons tons tons to see if you like museums/history. Go to as many of the Smithsonian museums as you can stand - entry is free, so it's easy to go for an hour or two at a time - you don't feel like you have to spend the whole day to get your money's worth. The Air and Space Museum was a family favourite, as was the Natural History. I really enjoyed the Asian collections at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, as well. Best kept secret in DC is the nightly free concerts at the Kennedy Centre's Millenium Stage. Check out their website for archived shows and a list of what will be going on while you're in town. DO NOT MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY - it's awesome. The location is stunning, and you'll see fantastic acts for freeeeeee. We went several times a month, often several times a week - usually without a clue about what would be showing. I met one older woman who lived in her car, went to the show every single night, and always wore a hat. Look for her, she'll be in the front row.

I'm not much of a fan of the south, too hot for my Canadian blood, so don't have many tips for Florida/Texas, except the note about taking the train through the region. If you can sleep and travel at the same time, that's a plus in my book. Don't worry about missing scenery while you sleep. Every European I've ever met has been overwhelmed by the vastness of space, especially in the West. You can go to sleep in Texas and wake up in the morning, still in Texas.

There's an excellent network of National Parks, in which you can camp for a nominal fee. There is a nationwide pass available, which may give you a discount on camping, I'm not sure. Check out their website. I've only camped in Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon Nat'l Parks, but they have great facilities - you can tent and still have access to showers/toilets, etc. But you'll still hear the coyotes howling.

Overall, Americans are extremely friendly, but you may not find this translates to invites to crash on the couch. I haven't done that kind of travel in the US, I'm sure someone else on the boards will have experience about that! At any rate, if you need help finding something, just ask. After all the stereotypes we'd heard about New Yorkers, we were amazed at the friendly reception we had from everyone we talked to in NYC.

You're giving yourself plenty of time to really experience the country, I've seen people try to do your itinerary in a week! Since you have time, I'd really recommend getting off the tourist routes and checking out some of the little side roads and small towns. While they can be difficult to get to without a vehicle, you'll get a much more realistic view of the people and the country if you get away from the big cities. There are some real treasures to be found in the middle of nowhere. There is a town in northern Oklahoma, for instance, that is near a buffalo (bison) reserve and a native prairie complete with wild horses, that has tons of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings. It's called Bartlesville. Strange, wierd place.

Northern New Mexico is wonderful country - by all means go to Santa Fe and Taos, but try to get up into the mountains around Angel Fire, and you'll get a totally different perspective on the region. White Sands (I think it's a nat'l park) in southern New Mexico is extraordinary, too. We lived in California for a while, in the Mojave Desert. Try to get to Death Valley, and through Joshua Tree National Monument. You'll never appreciate wet UK winters more!

The biggest travel problem in the US, in my book, is that there is hardly any public transit, outside of the major cities in the northeast. You really need a car to poke around a lot of places, although you can get buses to many places, it's just not very flexible. A lot of people I've known have rented camper vans, that way they can go where they want and can use the camp grounds that are everywhere. If you decide to rent a car for some or all of your trip, I'd really recommend taking the secondary roads, rather than the interstates. The latter are great for crossing the huge distances involved, but they're often blocked off by huge concrete slopes, so you don't get to see much of the countryside. The secondary roads are not as fast (up to 75 mph on some interstates) but you get to see so much more, and drive through fascinating little towns with great local restaurants and such.
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Old 05-28-2004, 02:38 AM   #3
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Hiya

don't have any tips, but I'm also in the UK in the process of trying to plan a 4 month tour of N America.

I'm going for the relative luxury of staying in hostels and being on a budget, figured the cheapest way to get around was using a greyhound pass.

Being a UK citizen we get a 90 day visa waiver window. I was going to get round the 90 day limit by popping into Canada. I understand that your 90 days restarts when you come back into the US.

Trying to gather as much info as poss at the moment, hoping to get out there in about 3 weeks. Love to share ideas, and poss meet up in the states and exchange notes.

Drop me a line
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Old 05-28-2004, 06:55 AM   #4
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I second everything Tumbleweedz has said (You're great! )!

I would also add:

- In Florida: Do Miami, and the Keys, maybe Jupiter Island off of West Palm Beach if you have time.

- In PA: that is, if you drive through, you can stop by Frank Lloyd Wright's "FallingWater" off of Pittsburgh (if you're in Pittsburgh, go near the University area, and ask for the famous hamburger joint with everything in it). Drive through scenic Poconos.

- In DC Metro Area: Drive through the scenic Shenandoah Valley (Blue Mountains).

- In Texas: In addition to Austin, try Galveston, Corpus Christi and San Antonio

- On your way to Texas: You might stop by New Orleans and Savannah, GA (for architecture)

- If you'll be in the Grand Canyon Area: Try Arizona (Tucson, Flagstaff, Sedona)

Sounds like you'll have a blast! I'd like to do this Southwestern route one day.

Oh, and there are lots and lots of Cheap Flights cross country in the US these days, you can fly from the East to the West coast for less than $100 bucks, check out: Southwest, USAirways, Airtran, Sprint3000?, etc.
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Old 05-28-2004, 12:04 PM   #5
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thanks alot all that infomation is really usefull i seriosly cant wait for this trip. Does that thing about popping into canada really work. How do u go about doing it i mean do u have to stay in canada for a few days and dont customs have a problem with it.
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Old 05-28-2004, 02:14 PM   #6
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I have ridden Greyhound before and it was not a good experience because I was on a schedule to get someplace and I arrived 12 hours late....but if I were on vacation with no time limits, like you, it might be a good possibility. It's very cheap and you could buy a ticket from even coast to coast, and probably stop off along the way.

Well lots of us in here are from the US so just ask questions about whatever and maybe you could even meet up with one of us and have a place to stay!

Not sure about going to Canada, but I would imagine a day or two would be enough...but there's so much to see in Canada you should stay longer and ask one of the many Canadians on the boards!
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Old 05-28-2004, 05:29 PM   #7
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Read On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

If you want to hook up with people for places to sleep at night, the internet and message boards like this are a great resource to find like minded people that would be willing to host a fellow traveller.
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Old 05-29-2004, 09:34 AM   #8
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Ok all you canadians, there seems to be quite a bit of info about what to see in the US, what about the best places in Canada?
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Old 05-29-2004, 12:04 PM   #9
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Beautiful B.C.

Of course the Rockies are impressive, Banff, Lake Louise areas are touristy but for a reason! I've taken the train there from Vancouver twice - once in winter, once in summer - both times extraordinary. To me, better than the train through the US Rockies, but maybe there's a slight bias...

Vancouver offers skiing, sailing, golfing, swimming, cycling and jogging paths with an ocean view, hiking...you can do all on the same day if you've got the energy! Yes, swim in the ocean and ski in the mountains, with a thirty minute bus ride in between. The west coast of Vancouver Island is spectacular - the ferry to the Island will blow your mind, and you could even see a whale or two. (Hmmm, is my former career as a tour guide slipping out after all these years?)

There are other things to see in Canada (2nd largest country in the world must have something to show for it!), but you'd be missing out if you didn't check out BC.
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Old 05-29-2004, 01:31 PM   #10
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So far, seem to have found out some info about the US, but still to swot up on Canada.

I was planning to visit Vancouver and and stop off in Montreal, but don't know what else there is inbetween yet - geez, appearing pretty gormless arn't I
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Old 05-29-2004, 05:12 PM   #11
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Well, there is a reason why 90% of Canada's population lives within 100 miles of the US border.



Just kidding, just kidding.
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Old 06-16-2004, 10:28 AM   #12
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If you're going to pop up into Canada you should consider spending some time in the Great Lakes area, I'd especially recommend Chicago. It's a pretty city as far as big cities go, and it doesn't get much better than catching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Lake Michigan is pretty amazing because it's so huge and yet fresh water...My mom grew up in a house on a cliff overlooking the lake on Chicago's North Shore, and from her house you can see the masts of two shipwrecked boats about 10 or 15 feet below the surface. It's also got great pizza and the blues scene is as American as it gets. From there I'd actually recommend going to New Orleans, a straight shot south along the Mississippi River, and then heading West from there. Florida is beautiful, but if you're heading to Cali, you won't miss too much if you decide to skip it. While you're in Texas, definitely hit up Austin, it's got one of the best local music scenes anywhere in America. And, if you make it up to the Bay Area in Cali, check out Monterrey. It's about 3 hours south of San Fran, but it's got one of the coolest Aquariums in the country, which is worth the trip. Don't miss Alcatraz in San Francisco, and you have to go to Disneyworld or Disneyland if you come to America.

Here's a short list of must-do's for the traveler with all the time in the world goign through America, I think:
Have a cheesesteak in Philadelphia
Go to a Red Sox game in Boston and a Yankees game in New York
Spend a day in the Smithsonian in DC.
Order grits for breakfast and sweet tea with your lunch somewhere in the southeast.
Get hammered on Bourbon Street in New Orleans
Spend a night or three in the penultimate American College Town, Boulder Colorado, and let the ubiquitous students show you a good time.
Take a tour of Universal Studios in Hollywood, and buy a Star Map and go check out some of the homes of the movie stars in LA.
Surf in the Pacific.
Just GO to Yellowstone.
Hit up a Blues club in Chicago.
Stop in some place completely off the radar, like Pierre South Dakota and have a great time.

Cheers, and I hope you enjoy the USA

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