I apologise in advance for asking a USA related question on a SE Asia forum- I love Travelfish and check it every day, and just haven't been able to find a good, friendly alternative for USA travel.
Basically I just wondered if anyone on here had travelled around the USA/lives in the USA, and if anyone could give me budget ideas for my trip in Summer 2012 (after my Thailand trip this year!). I'll be travelling with my boyfriend on the student summer work/travel program from the beginning of June until September (so about 3 months), and we'll be taking about £4750/$6000 with us in the bank, and hopefully finding some work along the way. We basically just want to see all of the places we've dreamed about seeing for years, and so hope to just travel across the country during the three months.
In terms of how we spend money, we will only stay in a private room but don't mind sharing facilities in hostels or wherever. We don't mind cheap food or cheap travel but will want to do some touristy things in the big cities like New York for example. We also don't drink or smoke at all.
Again, i'm sorry for hijacking with a completely unrelated thread! I will really appreciate any advice anyone can give, and promise to stick to SE Asia in the future!
The New York Times has a good travel section. Unfortunately, they just erected a pay wall and you can only view 20 articles a month for free. I think this offer is still available
So for 4 weeks you can download up to 100 archived articles. But I think you will have to inform them ahead of time to cancel your subscription, otherwise you will be charged.
The LA Times is still free but I don't find it as enjoyable as the NY Times.
I am American and the reason you are struggling is because the USA is done easier by regions. It is big and that amount of money for 3 months may or may not do it. We don't like budget travel in the states. Many of us who do it in other countries would never even consider it at home. I haven't a single friend including myself who does budget USA travel. Usually foreign kids do it. I don't know any Americans who use hostels often in America. having said that many will possibly help you now because I said that but that is true. We look for the best hotel and flight deals but it is not what you may b used to as budget after seeing many cheaper destinations in your travel. Budget to me in America means a cheap flight. I don't know a single person in my standard of living who would take a greyhound bus more than 2-3 hours. They suck and they are shady. Why do that when I can get a 99 dollar flight? Amtrak from my house to New York costs more than a plane.
You can't do the USA in 3 months and make a dent. So pick a region like the west coast. Renting cars for non-Americans can be a hassle. Just do it locally not for long haul. It is better to go to the city you want to see and fly to another. Flying from NY to L.A. for example can be done for a few hundred dollars give or take and depending on the time of year. There are route sales all the time.
Some towns in the US don't even have hostels and budget accommodation can be very seedy. So make a list of what you want to see. Break it up by regions like the west/swest/northeast/seast etc.
Read this front page.....
If you decide you want to do the west for example.....L.A., Vegas, Grand Canyon, all done easily. There are tons of package deal. I myself took a local bus the SanFran/L.A. route. Stayed in SF in a hostel down town. In L.A. you can rent a car locally and do the Malibu, PCH and all of that. You can find bus deals from the west coast hostels that work with the hostels and avoid the seedy bus stations. Go up to Portland, hang out with the Eco folks Bus or flight up to Seattle...see mountains in Washington state and snow board....hell cross over to beautiful Vancouver,Canada! You can do so much in 3 months in a REGION. If you have money left you can still find a cross country flight to NYC and finish off there for a bang. I just saw a 209 dollar flight from Seattle to NYC one way today. And I didn't search for deals yet!
This was just an example. Every region can be done in chunks. Just list out what you wanna see and look if you have a lot of plans in one region. Then it gets easier to plan.
i do a lot of web-based research for my travel within the states, but that usually means checking lots of individual websites rather than just one central, convenient, well-designed site like Travelfish. there are a few websites like hotels.com or tripadvisor that can give you general price ranges and a good range of reviews for hotels in different cities.
i've had mixed luck with hostels in the united states too, but cities like san diego or seattle or san franciso or miami, for example, have some good choices. you'll likely have a bit of price shock, however, after your visit to thailand, as hostels here aren't as budget-friendly an option as in other places. there are several international hostel websites that have listings and reviews like hostelz.com or hostelworld.
outside of the larger cities, you can often find decently-priced mom&pop-style motels at a good price, but even $40 a night will eat up your budget fast. to save money, we often take basic camping gear with us. that is particularly useful if you are in or near the national parks too.
car hire can be pricey, but there are some great deals out there as well. shop around (kayak.com, for example) to see which cities offer better rates. it is always cheaper too, to pick up and return at the same place, and often cheaper to pick up and return in town rather than at the airport. in any case, a series of loop trips, as suggested above, will save you money rather than a long-distance one-way rental.
i haven't tried this one, but i've read about couch surfing websites where folks score a free place to stay, often just a couch or even floor space, in the homes of people interested in meeting folks from other places. that might be worth a look and a great way to save cash.
one website definitely worth checking for you is green tortoise. it is an adventure bus trip company that offers trips ranging from cross-country adventures (new york to san francisco) or local trips (san francisco to yosemite and back) and everything inbetween. you pretty much live communally on the purpose-built sleeper bus, with shared meals, etc. you'll meet great folks on the bus, but the best part is that it is a relatively inexpensive way to get around and see places that you would otherwise only see if you had a car.
in any case, if we had a better idea of where you wanted to visit, we could offer some location-specific tips as well. for example, las vegas is a lot of fun but much much cheaper sunday through thursday than it is on the weekends. try vegas.com to find great deals on places to stay in the city. las vegas also often has excellent rental car deals, and makes for a great base for exploring the grand canyon, zion national park, and bryce canyon, among other places.
there is a series of hostels along the california coast between santa cruz and san francisco that are not too expensive and very cool. they'd be a great addition to a loop out of san francisco that could also include napa valley (our premier wine country), and yosemite national park.
i hope that gives you a few ideas to get started. with a year to plan, you've got plenty of time to collect information. best wishes.
There are some quite good bus companies covering mostly northeast cities in the US. http://megabus.com/ and https://www.boltbus.com/ are both good companies. I have ridden them several times and they aren't shady and usually have working wi-fi on the buses. They are much cheaper than driving or flying the same distance and the buses are quite nice and new.
I totally agree with Thomas922 - budget travel in the USA means that you travel with the unfortunates in our society (criminals, dope addicts, the very poor and homeless). If you don't have a car here, you're in trouble!
I can't afford to travel in my own country, and I find the value here to be very low (everything is chain motel or chain fast food) with very little individuality. I prefer to spend my money in places like Indochina or Eastern Europe - places where I'm sure to find value for my dollar.
A good alternative to hostel sites is Airbnb.
as you can tell from my entry above, my experience travelling in the states is very different and much more positive than yours. for example, i live in a small town in southern Utah, not far from Zion and Bryce National Parks, Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, and lots of other smaller national and state parks. like everywhere else, we have a Holiday Inn and a Pizza Hut, but we also have about a dozen local restaurants and at least that many local hotels that are one-off, independent, unique, family-run places with a great deal of individuality. that is true of all the small communities around here as well.
it is true, of course, that to get here you would need a car, just like you said. but there are quite a few places in the states, like Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego, to name a few, that have good public transportation. i know first hand that you can visit those places and get along just fine without a car.
there is also the green tortoise adventure bus tours that i mentioned above, and in the greater Yosemite National Park area, for example, there is YARTS, which is a shuttle bus service that gets you from A to B as needed.
personally, i love travelling in the states, with a great mix of big cities and small, rural towns. the better values are out in the countryside, like where i live. i won't argue that it is less expensive here than in southeast Asia, but then again, airfare from here to Bangkok isn't cheap either. besides, the reason my town is swarming with european guests about half of the year is because of the great values they enjoy here compared to back home - they say exactly that.
keep in mind that the types of things my town has to offer might not thrill you because it is what you grew up with. but the folks who visit here from europe and asia are generally thrilled at what they discover travelling in the states, particularly the national parks and scenery that rival even New Zealand. cheers.
I hear you exacto but I can't say that Utah would be my cup of tea. I am an east coast city boy. I am sure the parks are beautiful and I can see why some people go there..I will snap some shots one day too, but I am American and the last place I want to be if I have vacation money is in the states, or in particular between the coasts, sorry. But many Europeans are into that. I have learned many have this fascination with salt flats and Yosemite. I am more into the culture itself which as an American I find it boring here between the coasts. For me Pizza Hut does not count to me as good food. It's "well we don't have many choices" food. But hey to each his own.
Having said that you basically agreed with what I said about doing regions. You can go all over SE Asia which is the crux of this website. Try going all over the states that easily and cheaply staying for 6 months or so like we do in Asia. Think of the cost if you want decent rooms and non fast food mostly. And the cost room area to area. If you want to hang out in the region you are from and move west from there its doable.
You want to do the Southern California region its doable. But on limited funds you ain't gonna "do" the USA. Unless you are a hitch hiker couch surfer penny pincher type. I don't travel bottom barrel. Especially not in the states. But in one particular region it is doable with buses and trains. That is what I am pointing out. Stay in a particular area and milk it.
There is a cross country fare on Amtrak for 400 buck but you have two weeks. you can take 8 trains across for example like New York-D.C.-Chicago-New Orleans-Houston-Touscon-L.A.-Sacramento-ending in San Fran. But you have two weeks. That is too much train for me and not enough visiting.
So sticking with a region be it the western area near you plus Nevada and all the parks n stuff or the West Coast or the Northeast.......makes more sense to me unless you are just flat out paid $$$$$$$ and can do whatever.
least that many local hotels that are one-off, independent, unique, family-run places with a great deal of individuality. that is true of all the small communities around here as well.
@Exacto...didn't mean to skip over that. that is important. I guess if I make it to UTAH one day you will have to help me find a decent meal. (non greasy will little starch). And make sure I don't get lost in some wild life wilderness haha!
Don't take it wrong though, there are budding outdoorsmen just chomping at the bit to hit Utah. My sister is going to Idaho in a couple of weeks and I am like ....really? See it's just me I guess. Too city-fied.
Update....someone sent me a few pictures from some place called Bluff, Utah. Nice! Now As I take my foot out of my mouth "choke", I still insist on someone with a rifle walking with me. Us city folks only like dogs n cats!