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Have you been dreaming about a USA trip? This post is for you!

We have visited the United States many times and have lived here for five years. We love travelling in the USA and sharing our expert tips to help others.

11 USA travel tips for planning your dream trip to the USA

In this post we’ll help you plan and prepare for your own trip to the USA so that it becomes a reality.

America is a huge country with incredible diversity, and with so many things to do in the USA we know that planning a trip can be daunting and overwhelming.

That’s where we come in. Consider us your personal USA trip planner!

We’re going to be writing a series of posts on travelling to America, in partnership with our sponsor Allianz Travel Insurance in Australia.

We are brand ambassadors for Allianz in Australia and the USA. (We have a discount code for Allianz comprehensive travel insurance policies for our Australian readers. Check below)

Together, we want to help you with your trip planning, so you can be prepared to have a fantastic time on your dream USA trip.

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning your dream trip to the USA. Click inside for important tips about travel to USA.

In future posts on USA Travel, we’ll share:

  • Things to know before you visit the USA
  • Tipping guide to the USA
  • Things that could go wrong on your trip to the USA

We’ll be sharing tips on things like driving, food, the people, seasons, festivals, etiquette and culture etc.

Let us know in the comments if there is anything else you want to know about travel in America?

But in this post we’ve taken steps from our 15 tips to planning any trip and broken it down so it’s specific to planning a trip to America.

Let’s get started.

11 Tips for Planning a USA Trip

1. Getting Tourists Visas for the USA

Abraham Lincoln Memorial - Washington DC
Lincoln Memorial, D.C

ESTA Visas – The American Visa Waiver Program

For Australians, getting a tourist visa to visit the USA is pretty simple.

You can get your 90-day visa waiver, now known as the ESTA, online.

All eligible international travellers who wish to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must apply for authorization.

This US visa for Australian citizens, and other qualified countries, is not a visa as such but a travel authorization. That means you can ONLY travel on it – do not use it for any other type of purpose!

The ESTA US visa costs $14 and takes about 20 minutes to fill in a simple application form.

You can apply for ETSA any time before boarding your flight, but it’s best to do it at least 72 hours before.

It’s very important that you have the ESTA and a record of your approval number. Have the paperwork with you (just in case) when you go to depart.

You will be asked if you have your ESTA during check in and won’t be allowed on the plane without it.

We’ve been caught out before and they were not letting us past the check in counter until we found our ESTA approval number.

If you want to stay in the USA longer than 90 days, or if you plan on also visiting neighbouring countries, the US visa situation is a little complicated.

IMPORTANT:

Once you hit USA soil, your 90 days starts ticking, but it does NOT reset if you cross the border to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.

And remember, if you stop off in Hawaii on the way to mainland USA, your 90 days starts ticking in Hawaii.

It’s so important you plan your trip around this or you could get deported for overstaying your visa!

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning your dream trip to America
Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

The ESTA is valid for two years, which means you get multiple entries on the one visa, but you must leave reasonable time between your 90-day visits so it doesn’t look like you are trying to live in America.

Be sure you keep a record of your ESTA number. You can always check it online to see how current it is.

Other US Visas

If you want to stay longer in the United States, you will have to look at other US tourist visas.

Get more information on those visas here. 

We have previously lived the USA on J1 and J2 work visas when I was a school teacher in North Carolina. Currently we are living in the US on an 01 Business Visa.

Read more about the process of getting our O-1 business visa here.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, San Diego, California
Exploring Torrey Pines State Park, San Diego, California

But my guess is you are preparing for your trip to the US purely as a tourist, so the ESTA visa is sufficient.

If you are applying for visas other than the ESTA that require passport photos, read the photo guidelines carefully and talk to the photographer beforehand to ensure they take them correctly.

They are very different and specific and will not be accepted if not exact.

Check Your Passport

Don’t forget to check your passport now to make sure it has at least six months validity left on it at time of travel, or you won’t be able to travel to the US.

2. Planning Your USA Itinerary

11 USA Travel Tips - how to plan your dream trip to the USA. Click inside for travel tips on planning a family vacation to America, including vising places like the French Quarter in New Orleans
French Quarter, New Orleans

America is almost the same land size as Australia, but, unlike Australia, the interior is also filled in with many things to do.

Careful research and planning will help you create your dream USA travel experience.

Consider what it is you really want to see and do. Are you focused on:

One reason we are exploring the USA deeply is to help future travellers to see that there is much more to America than 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.

That is just my opinion (formed after living here for over 5 years and lots of US travel experiences) so take what you want from that.

I can understand why you may have always dreamed of going to LA and Vegas, and by all means plan them into your itinerary.

But there are so many interesting places to see in the USA!

Consider unique and exciting destinations like Nashville, New York, New Orleans, Washington DC, and gorgeous East Coast Southern cities rich in history and culture like Charleston and Savannah. 

My favorite states to explore for natural beauty would be Utah and Colorado.

Here are some great family vacation ideas for the USA.

Fun family trip to Nashville, Tennessee for country music

How Much Time Do You Have?

As you know, the visa waiver program offers you a maximum of 90 days (12 weeks).

But are you like most people who get a standard 4 weeks of annual leave? Or only 2 weeks?

When you travel to USA it might be best to break up your trip into regions you want to explore. You can catch a flight into a hub in that region and rent a car to drive to the spots you want to visit.

Example 2-4 Week Itineraries:

  • You could follow the country and blues trail by flying into Nashville and driving down to Memphis and along the Mississippi Delta to New Orleans.
  • Fly into LA, do Disneyland, Orange County, San DiegoLas Vegas and then drive up to San Francisco.
  • If you want to visit New England in the Fall (spectacular) you could fly into New York and spend a week there, then hire a car to drive into New England, stopping at Boston along the way.
  • If you want to do the theme parks, you could fly into Orlando and spend time there, then visit some Florida beaches (our fave so far is Clearwater) and maybe drive to the Florida Keys. Or even drive up to Charleston and Savannah.

If you are lucky enough to have more time to tour America, say 6, 8 or even 12 weeks then you have a lot more options!

3. Research Activities & Things to Do in the USA

Diagon Alley - Universal Studios Orlando Attractions
Universal Orlando – Wizarding World of Harry Potter,

The United States of America is the third most populous country in the world.

It’s also a popular travel destination for tourists (although they have seen a decline since 2016.)

The popularity of the USA as a travel destination can mean long lines and booked out tours.

So, it’s important that once you have planned your USA itinerary, you research whatever activities and attractions you do not want to miss!

Are you planning a USA trip so you can:

It is wise to book ahead, especially if you are travelling in peak season. Some attractions like Alcatraz can take a few days to get on a tour.

Craig’s sister booked her accommodation for the Grand Canyon a year in advance to ensure she got the dream cabin stay.

For places like New York City that have a lot of attractions, a New York sightseeing pass will save you a lot of money – especially those that have fast passes.

Check for other City Passes here

There are also USA Sightseeing Passes, which gives you access to attractions in multiple destinations. It could save you a lot of money. Click here to see more.

I would absolutely recommend Fast Passes at theme parks for places like Disneyland and Universal Orlando Resort (you will be spending a lot of time in queues otherwise).

USA Travel Tips - The Incredible Hulk Coaster atIslands of Adventure, Universal Orlando Resort. Get insider tips on how to have the best visit here.
The Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando

Make a List of:

  • Free things to do
  • Parks and playgrounds
  • Best walks
  • Day tours / City tours 

Planning Resources:

For ideas on things to do in your destination, use these resources:

  • Tourism board websites (e.g. VisitCalifornia.com)
  • Ask family & friends who have been there
  • Travel blogs like ours (see our USA destinations section)
  • Facebook (put out an update asking for tips)
  • Twitter (hashtags)
  • Guide books (we use Lonely Planet Guide Books)
  • Instagram (hashtags)
  • TripAdvisor
  • Hotel receptionist/bell boy (once in location they are invaluable)

Doing careful research on things to do in the USA and popular US attractions will save you time AND money and help you find amazing spots like this rooftop bar in Downtown LA.

Perch Rooftop Bar Downtown La
Sunset from the Perch Rooftop Bar in Downtown LA

For most people, winging it on a trip to the USA is not a great idea.

We tend to go with the flow a lot, but we have time on our side and we live in the country. We have way more flexibility.

My parents visited in May and we planned a 4-week road trip itinerary from Dallas to Boston including booking accommodation and activities and put it all into a Google Drive Spreadsheet so we could collaborate and plan together.

You don’t want to mess up short term holidays for dream trips.

Be sure to stay connected to us, as we are collecting a mass of information on travel in the USA. We love to share our insider tips and stories to help you have the best travel experiences ever.

You can subscribe to our Free VIP email tribe in the form below so you don’t miss anything:

4. Booking Accommodation in the USA

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a trip to the USA to see iconic places like the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC. Click inside now for tips!
Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

You’ve got 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 something unique and special like this place we stayed in Miami, or this one in Vermont or the INNSIDE New York Nomad Hotel in NYC (the first of its kind in the US).

But mostly, the US is a corporate chain experience.

If we are staying in a destination for an extended period, we like apartments or suites for their kitchen facilities to save on eating out, and for separate bedrooms!

If it’s just one or two nights, hotels are fine.

Most hotels, motels, resorts and bed and breakfasts are easily booked online through sites such as Booking.com or Hotels.com.

And we like to check reviews on TripAdvisor before we book too!

The Lodge on Lake Lure, North Carolina
Our lodge on Lake Lure, North Carolina

You will often find low-cost hotels and motels; chains like Days Inn and Super 8 on the outskirts of cities and near the interstates.

They aren’t glamorous and will have basic amenities, but they usually come with free parking, free Wi-Fi and breakfast, mostly consisting of bagels, toast, and sugary cereals.

Craig and I used to stay at these all the time and will if we just need a place to stay on a long road trip.

Don’t forget the ever popular Airbnb, which is becoming a bit of a painful experience now in the US due to excess cleaning fees being added as well as state and bed taxes.

Airbnb is not as cheap or as fun as it used to be.

We’ve found Airbnb to be the better deal if you are staying for several nights. Cleaning fees are too high to justify one-night stays. It’s probably cheaper to find a hotel.

Be sure to do your research to accurately compare costs.

Our personal favourite chain is Hilton.

We like the various options they have from budget to more upscale resorts (like the awesome Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki)

The Hilton brand is also great for families.

Use promo code PBFFP1 or FP and Get breakfast for 4, premium Wi-Fi and late check-out (subject to availability), at participating Hilton Portfolio hotels worldwide!

The lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village - one of the best things to do in Hawaii with kids
Hilton Hawaiian Village, Waikiki

We are Hilton Honors Rewards members and have an AMEX credit card we use to accumulate points. Members also get discounted rates and other perks.

We like to stay in Hilton Hotels & Resorts or their cheaper sister properties like:

  • Hampton Inn & Suites
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Homewood Suites
  • Embassy Suites
  • Doubletree

I suggest signing up to the membership rewards program to the hotel chain you like best so you can collect membership rewards. They are mostly worldwide.

As mentioned, due to high population and tourist numbers it is wise to book your accommodation in advance, particularly if you are travelling in peak season or popular cities.

If you decide to camp, stay in hostels, or do an RV then you will possibly be okay with winging it.

Campsites can book out in peak season though, especially in popular National Parks! KOA campgrounds are popular with families 

5. Flying To and Around the USA

Flying from Hawaii to Los Angeles

Travelling to America from Australia, we prefer to fly into Dallas International Airport (DFW).

Dallas is best if you are traveling to the East Coast as it gets you closer and often means less plane changes to get to your East Coast destination.

If you are exploring the West Coast, it’s better to fly into Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO).

Flying can be exhausting if you are flying direct from Australia with no stopovers to recover from jet lag.

Travelling to USA from Australia takes approximately 13 hours (to LA) and 16 hours (to Dallas).

Hot Tip:

Plan plenty of time in between your flights so you can make your connections.

NO, two hours is not enough time to get off an international flight in LA or San Francisco and catch your domestic connection!

I cannot tell you how many times I have sprinted through various airports in the US, especially challenging with kids!

When you clear immigration you must pick up your luggage and go through security again for your connecting flight, even though you are in the same airport.

In the US, they don’t have separate airports for domestic and international. They are housed in the same section, so it means no water bottles (with water) coming through, and long and chaotic security lines.

Be prepared to get undressed – lose your shoes, belts and jackets.

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a dream trip to the USA. Click inside for travel tips to America and see incredible sunsets like at Pacific Beach in San Diego
Sunset at Pacific Beach in San Diego

When flying between major cities, you can usually get direct flights. Outside of that, there is higher possibility you will have to change planes.

Factor this into your itinerary and travelling time.

You won’t need to clear immigration when you leave the country which is strange.

Immigration coming into the US has mostly been slow.

LAX has improved somewhat with my recent entries, but most of the international flights coming into LA seem to land at the same time early in the morning!

Parents

If you have young kids, make sure they have been to the toilet on the plane and fed, as you’ll be standing in long lines clearing customs!

Extra Comfort seats flying to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines

We know what’s it like to get off a long flight with a tired, grump and hungry kid who always needs to go to the toilet at the most inappropriate times!

For us, Dallas by far has been the best. Less flights landing at once, and quicker through immigration.

Be friendly and polite to the custom officers. Even though you have your ESTA or tourist visas final entry permission is up to the custom officers.

Searching Flights to the USA

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a dream trip to the USA. Click inside now for travel tips on travelling to America.
Boston Common on Memorial Day

Check Skyscanner or Momondo to find great deals on flights to the USA. Then go direct to the airlines own website.

And don’t forget to pop into your local travel agent. They can have great deals.

My parents saved $900 on their flights to the US by popping into Flight Centre just to check and there was a surprise sale on.

Domestic flights within the US are frequent, and you can fly almost anywhere. They are competitively priced, although I find quite expensive to what they used to be.

But they are notorious for charging you with extra fees – like baggage.

You’ll have to pay $25 to check in any luggage – you don’t get any luggage allowance unless you have status.

Some airlines, like United Airlines, will now charge you for overhead baggage on the plane.

Unlike Australia, however, they do not weigh your check in luggage. Now I understand how so many travellers in the US can travel carry-on luggage only.

Major airlines include:

You can book via their websites, or compare fares and book using sites like Skyscanner.com

Package Deals

When booking a trip to the USA, package deals can be a low-stress option for travellers who don’t want to organise their flights, accommodation and on-the-ground transport separately.

For package deals that include flights, hotel and car rental, check a site like Expedia.com and travel agents.

If you book your ticket from Australia, including domestic transfers in the one reservation, you will not have to pay extra for your luggage on the domestic flights.

6. Getting Around the USA (apart from flying)

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning your dream trip to the USA. Click inside now for travel tips for travelling to America
Vermont Route 100

Flying domestically can be such a nightmare.

With long lines and delays, sometimes it can be better to get to your different destinations in other ways.

I understand the importance of security but dealing with ever growing security measures and chaotic airports due to a large population has taken the fun out of flying.

We prefer a USA road trip as much a possible.

Our general rule is if the destination is less than four – six hours away we’ll drive.

We recently drove from Raleigh, North Carolina to New York City (8-hour drive) as it was cheaper for our family of four than flying, even with the expensive parking tickets and tolls!

The classic American road trip is always fun as there are so many quirky roadside attractions and cool places visit in America.

Train Travel in the USA

Train travel in the USA
Amtrak Surfliner. Image by DepositPhotos.com

Trains connecting US cities are operated by Amtrak.

You can buy Amtrak train tickets online or at stations. The earlier you book the better deal you’ll get. You can book up to 11 months in advance.

Amtrak also offers USA Rail Passes for 15, 30 or 45 days.

If you have the time, it’s possible to cross the country by train travel, seeing a lot more than you would from a plane.

Bus Travel in the USA

Buses and coaches run between major cities and serve some rural areas.

Greyhound is the largest provider, covering all 48 states as well as Canada and Mexico.

Tickets can be bought online, at bus stations, over the phone or at some convenience stores. You can get deals sometimes booking online. I’ve ridden the Greyhound once and that was enough.

Megabus, is a cheap bus service that is often raved about, mostly for the incredible deals you can pick up – like $1 fares.

Totally worth it when you can snag a deal like that. They serve more than 100 cities.

USA Road Trips and Car Rental

Vermont Route 100
Vermont in the fall

America really is a driving destination, except if you are visiting major cities like New York or Chicago.

But to be honest, when you visit the USA you will have a better experience in most places when you road trip USA with your own vehicle.

Good news is fuel is cheap!

We have always found the best car rental deals in the US with RentalCars.com (using them since 2007).

  • Be sure to check with the rental company on collection what the fuel costs are – sometimes you can get an excellent rate if you buy a tank of fuel upon collection. That way you can return it empty and secure yourself against running late and not being able to top up the fuel and so pay premium price.
  • GPS may be a good ad on service if you have limited Wi-Fi on your phone and can’t access Google Maps. (Um, what did we do before Google Maps – oh that’s right, paper maps!)
  • Put all drivers on the rental agreement (you may have to pay per additional driver)
  • Although you may pay extra, sometimes one way drop offs may work in your favour.
  • Be sure to thoroughly inspect your car and record any defects you see before you leave with your rental car. Capture photos with your phone.

Read More – 19 ways to save money on rental cars

Important Information About Rental Car Excess

You may snag an unbelievably cheap rental car deal on the internet for your USA road trip, but when you arrive to pick up the car, you learn that it has minimal insurance coverage and huge excess fees.

You’ll be offered collision damage waiver policies which can double your daily rate. Not such a great deal after all.

We’ve been caught out with this before, arriving after a long flight, tired and flustered and just saying yes (with a grunt) without realising we could get it way cheaper elsewhere.

Rental car companies know this will happen and it’s how they lure you in with cheaper daily rental rates.

You can get cheaper collision damage waiver (or excess waivers) through other insurance providers.

An Allianz Comprehensive Travel Insurance Policy will cover those high excess the rental car companies want to charge, saving you from having to purchase their expensive collision damage waivers^.

We have a discount code exclusive for our readers offering up to 10% off Allianz Comprehensive Travel Insurance Policies. Just use the code YTRAVEL online or over the phone! Note: Up to 10% means if there is already a discount running on the policy, the code will make the difference up to 10% in total.

USA travel tips
On the road in Colorado

Look out for toll costs – we paid nearly $60 in tolls driving from North Carolina to New England on Interstate 95. We were not expecting that at all, so you’ve been warned.

The I-95 between DC and New England is dreadful.

Check the law in the state you are visiting to see if you’ll need an international drivers licence. We’ve never needed one, but we have mostly always driven in our own vehicle or had a US driver’s licence. Best to know for sure.

Bus Tours and Group Tours

If a bus tour is more your thing, or small group independent USA tours, check out these companies:

  • Insight Vacations – every part of the USA, from east to west, and north to south.
  • Trafalgar – bus tours for the 35 to 65-year-old demographic.
  • Intrepid Travel – small group specialists who cater to a range of styles and budgets.
  • G Adventures – small-group tours in a responsible and sustainable manner.

7. Finding Wi-Fi & Staying Connected

Finding wifi in the USA

The biggest question you want to ask yourself is, how much do you want to be connected to the internet and for what purposes?

I know you do not want to let a single Insta and Facebrag opportunity pass you by, and in the US,  you will find a lot of opportunity to do that.

But, is that why you’re really traveling on a USA trip?

Unless you really need to be connected for work purposes, I’d encourage you to disconnect as much as you can and just enjoy the trip you’ve spent a lot of time planning and saving for.

We all need time to unplug, and holidays are the perfect way to do that.
Leave the stress of being permanently connected in your office and home.

Finding Free WiFi

If you only need to be connected to stay updated with family and friends and the odd social update, you’ll get plenty of opportunities in the US with the plethora of FREE Wi-Fi available.

In fact, you could probably get away with using that for your whole trip, even if you wanted to be connected a little more.

Almost all hotels and accommodation rentals like Airbnb offer free Wi-Fi now.

Plenty of cafes and restaurants will have it, and even grocery stories and movie theatres.

Popular attractions will as well, because they want you to share your photos of their attractions (with their hashtags of course).

However, remember that the more people in an area using the same Wi-Fi, the harder it will be for you to get decent speeds.

And for Netflix binge watchers, your downloads will often be limited with free Wi-Fi.

Although we’ve stayed in plenty of hotels that offer Netflix as part of their service and many Airbnb’s will have that all hooked up to their in-home entertainment systems.

If you are using free Wi-Fi, we recommend using a VPN service to keep your data private and secure. We have a review of this service here.

Wi-Fi Service Providers

If you are an intense internet user and want your own Wi-Fi connection, there are a couple of options:

  1. Roaming devices like WiWander and SkyRoam will give you that, although I feel they can be expensive for travellers on a holiday. I prefer WiWander. You get more data with them and the connection was super-fast. SkyRoam for me have been an underperformer.
  2. Pop into a Verizon store in the US (the best service connection) or AT&T and by a local sim card with a short-term plan. When we visited Denver in 2016 on a short trip, we got a $60 plan which gave us unlimited Wi-Fi, and local calls and texts for the month.

Double check when you sign up to any plan, but the plan may include free texts to international numbers.

Our plans with Verizon do, which is great for when I quickly want to tell my Mum something.

8. Accessing Your Money on your USA Trip

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a trip to the USA. Click inside for travel tips for America and to see beautiful places like Akaka Falls in Hawaii
Akaka Falls, Big Island of Hawaii

Accessing your money in the States will be, in part, dependent on what kind of cards you have back home.

Getting accessing to your money in America is easy as there are ATMs everywhere and, unlike Australia, everyone takes credit cards and debit cards.

I’ve rarely come across cash only establishments. That can be good news as you won’t have to carry around lots of cash, and you may be able to rack up some reward points.

However, it might not be good news if your card issuer charges you a lot of fees.

Using ATM’s

Withdrawing money from an ATM in the USA, that is not your banks ATM, can have hefty fees.

Average is $3 (on top of what your card issuer charges) but I have paid up to $6 before on a cruise. I know. Outrageous!

Check if your card issuer has a relationship with a bank in the US, so you can withdraw money from the ATM without being charged a fee.

HOWEVER, some banks charge an international conversion fee on any money you withdraw, which is outrageous. Most will charge it only on card purchases.

As Australians, our favourite method of accessing money in America is the Qantas Cash Card, (or even the Virgin Global Wallet). Both of these are the best when it comes to fees.

You won’t be charged any fees when using the card like a credit card AND you’ll earn points.

You also have low fees when withdrawing money from an ATM. Be sure to withdraw large amounts at a time, so you don’t get stung with too many fees.

You will need some cash on hand when you travel in the United States to pay for all those tips!

Hot Tip:

If you can access a bank account in the USA, the best way to access your money is to transfer money using OFX. They are by far my preferred way and have saved me hundreds of dollars in fees and good conversion rates.

You may be able to pay for accommodation and tours using OFX and pay via direct deposits.

9. Cost of Travel in America

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a trip to the USA. Dreaming of visiting NYC? Click inside to learn more!

It’s a clever idea to know what the costs of travel in America will be before you leave so that you save and bring enough spending money.

Accommodation:

  • Low budget: $50 – $100 a night
  • Mid-range: $100- $250 a night
  • High: $250+
  • Airbnb: $80 + (varies widely depending on type of property)

Food

This can vary widely depending on where you are visiting. Popular destinations will be much higher.

  • Fast food: < $6
  • Coffee:
    • $2 for drip
    • $3.50+ for espresso
  • Alcohol:
    • $5+ pint of beer (look for happy hour prices and local bars to reduce it)
    • $5-10 glass of wine
  • Healthy takeout meals: $7-10
  • Restaurants:
    • Appetisers, wings and burgers: $5-10
    • Entree (main meals): $12-$18 ($25 for classier restaurants)

Transport

  • Fuel: Will vary state by state. Here in North Carolina it’s currently (Feb, 2018) around $2.20 a gallon, which is about 60 cents a litre. California can be double that. The GasBuddy app can help you find good fuel prices.
  • Flights: avg around $120 a leg (what we have experienced so far, but can vary widely)
  • Buses: as mentioned with Megabus you can get as little as $1, but also fares around $10. My greyhound trip from Huntsville to Nashville (2.5 hours) was $30
  • Rental cars:
    • Budget: approx $200 per week (good for 2 people + luggage). We’ve had to upgrade before when arriving to see our budget car and realising we couldn’t fit us all in with our luggage.
    • Mid-range: approx $250 – $300 (good for 4 people + luggage)
    • High-end: approx $350 – $500
  • Train: Our 7 day unlimited pass to ride the New York Subway cost $32 p/p
riding the subway New York City
Go down!

Sightseeing Costs

This is hard to give you a budget for as it does depend on your preferences, family size, type of activity, and city.
Take advantage of the free activities (of which there are a lot of), free museum days and attraction days, and use sightseeing passes and check Groupon for any local deals.

But your careful research from step 3 above will give you a good understanding of these costs before you leave for your dream USA trip.

Two things to be aware of when preparing your finances for your trip to the USA

1.Taxes

Sales taxes are added onto the purchase price once you pay.

It’s super annoying and still catches me by surprise. Tax varies by state, but you can expect to add on anything from 0% to over 8% of the purchase price.
2. Tips

Again, this is a cost to add on to your bill.

As an Australian, you are going to hate tipping and it can become costly. We’ll have a entire post on it with plenty of tips to help you as it can get confusing.

Basically, you are looking at 15-20% extra for any services you receive.

It’s one reason I prefer to stay in Airbnb’s and will prepare my own food or eat at take outs rather than restaurants. It can seriously eat up your travel money.

10. Travel Insurance for the USA

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for visiting the USA on your dream trip to America. Click inside now for important travel tips

Don’t travel to America without travel insurance. Just don’t.

A friend’s son here in North Carolina recently broke his arm. Hospital costs were $30,000. Even with their health insurance they still had to pay several thousand dollars.

It’s insane.

Anything can happen on your travels and the last thing you want is your dream USA trip to turn into a bankruptcy nightmare.

For a small investment, you get a ton of security and peace of mind.

We always say,

“If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel”

The US is the only country in the world where my luggage has been lost or delayed on a flight and multiple times at that.

Flights can also be delayed due to weather (especially in snow storms) and it’s very easy to miss a connecting flight, especially when travelling to America from Australia.

Be sure to include any extra adventurous activities you may be doing so you can ensure your coverage is adequate e.g. Skiing.

And nominate any pre-existing conditions so you can include a waiver for them should you require help when traveling in the USA.

Stand up paddle boarding in Mission Bay - one of the best things to do in San Diego
San Diego, California

Hot Tip:

Get your travel insurance as soon as you book your flights and/or accommodation so that you are covered in case of any trip cancellation emergencies.

And what happens if:

  • You need to cancel your trip unexpectedly
  • A hurricane damages your destination
  • You get sick or injured on your trip
  • Your luggage is lost or stolen
  • You lose your passport

All travel insurance policies will have specific ones for the US and the cost of them will be higher than travelling in other countries.

We were a customer of Allianz Travel Insurance before we became ambassadors and have been impressed with the customer service.

We have experienced a very smooth claims procedure for our cruise trip interruption thanks to Hurricane Irma.

I also spent time with the Allianz team in New York last month, learning more about the products and the emergency medical assistance.

I was very impressed with the quality of care and the focus that is given to the customers safety and health. It is Allianz’s number one priority.

We have a discount code exclusive for our readers offering up to 10% off* Allianz Comprehensive Travel Insurance Policies. Just use the code YTRAVEL online or over the phone!

Note: Up to 10% means if there is already a discount running on the policy, the code will make the difference up to 10% in total.

11. What to Pack for Your USA Trip

Delsey Helium Aero Luggage - one of the best travel suitcases for style, ease, and durability.
INNSIDE New York Nomad Hotel, NYC

This will depend on what season it is when you visit the United States, and for how long.

But generally, you don’t need to pack a lot for your trip to the US.

North America can be cheap for many travel related items, so you can always pick up anything you forget.

Leave room in your suitcase for shopping as you can find some great shopping deals at US outlet stores. And then there is Amazon!

However, depending on the Aussie dollar rates at your time of travel, the shopping might not be so good.

You’ll know the basics of what you normally pack when you travel, so I won’t go too in-depth here.

Here are a few tips specific to the USA:

  • Bring any medical prescriptions you may need. You do not want to refill them in the US. We have a medical packing checklist here. 
  • Ladies, in the US, tampons are usually only of the applicator kind. Bring your own if you don’t like them. Otherwise, you can get them at Whole Foods stores and Trader Joes.
  • Electrical adaptors and voltage. This international travel plug adaptor lets you plug in your charger, phone, and laptop. USA operates on a 120V supply voltage and 60Hz. It can be dangerous to use an electrical appliance that is rated at a voltage different from the supply and it may affect the performance of your appliances. Your laptops, for example, will be much slower to charge. You may need to use a voltage converter or transformer whilst in USA.
  • Even if you are traveling in the summer, be sure to pack a cardigan or sweater. Americans are crazy on air conditioning so you will freeze whenever you step indoors.
  • Pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes and hiking shoes (more tips on finding the right travel shoes here). America is full of great cities and exceptional outdoor activities. You’ll be using those feet quite a bit – at least I hope you will.

Booking Your Trip to America

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We hope you found our USA trip planner post useful? Any questions or travel tips you having for visiting the USA please leave them in the comments section down below!

*Discount based on standard premium rates and applies to International Comprehensive policies only. Please note some discounts may have already been applied to premiums when a product is purchased through a certain channel (for example, online) (Original Discount). In such a case, this discount will equal the amount required to make up the difference between the Original Discount and the total discount offered under this voucher. Discount applies to standard premiums only. No discount will be applied to other premium components.

Allianz Travel Insurance is issued and managed by AWP Australia Pty Ltd ABN 52 097 227 177 AFS Licence No. 245631, trading as Allianz Global Assistance, on behalf of the insurer Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFS Licence No. 234708. Any information or advice here does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the Product Disclosure Statement available at allianz.com.au before buying this product.

^Terms, conditions, limits, and exclusions apply. Please see the Product Disclosure Statement for more information. If you purchase a policy, Allianz Global Assistance receives a commission which is a percentage of your premium – ask them for more details before they provide you with any services on this product.

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