A huge expanse of towering redwood trees filled with picnic areas, places to camp, and miles upon miles of hiking trails. Trails range from easy to strenuous, and there are many loops that head out to nearby beaches. The trees range from 200-240 feet tall. It’s utterly beautiful, awe-inspiring, and humbling in every way. Admission is free, though the three adjoining state parks (Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park) each charge $5 USD.
Known as the Mile High City (the city is one mile above sea level), Denver offers a mix of outdoor ruggedness and big-city living. It has a huge craft beer scene, excellent restaurants (including, Sushi Sasa, one of my favorite sushi restaurants), a large international airport with lots of connections, and proximity to the mountains. It’s clean, lively, and the locals are incredibly friendly. There are few cities in the U.S. I want to live in, but I love Denver enough to say that it’s one of them.
Sitting on Georgia’s coast, Savannah escaped the wrath of the Civil War, allegedly because General Sherman thought it was too pretty to be destroyed. With streets lined with Spanish moss-covered oaks, large and inviting parks, and a bustling waterfront, Savannah is a wonderful place to experience the slow pace of the Old South. I visited this city years ago and its tranquil beauty and tasty Southern comfort food have stuck with me since.
A little bit country, a little bit tech, Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. It’s got a wonderful music scene (duh), a growing cocktail bar scene, and some down-home Southern restaurants. There’s not a lot of “touristy stuff” to do here, but what makes this city one of my favorites are the music, the food, the wildly friendly people, and the positive energy the city seems to exude. When you’re here, plan to spend a few hours at the Tennessee State Museum. It goes into detail about the state’s history (and it’s more exciting than you might think!).
USA at a glance: Each region of the US has its own culture that can feel as different as if you’d hopped on a flight to the other side of the world.
There’s the Pacific Northwest with its mountains and driftwood-strewn beaches, California is a vibe all its own with a geographical diversity to rival entire countries.
Note: Unlike in other countries, it is customary for your server at a restaurant to take your credit card away from the table while they charge for your bill.
Tipping in the USA: The US has a big tipping culture and 20% is the customary tip for good service at a restaurant, bar or place of service. However, 15% is adequate. Always look at your receipt to see if service is included your bill or not.
Take a free tour – Taking a free walking tour is the best way to get introduced to a new place, and most major cities in the U.S. have free walking tours. You get to see the main sights and ask all your questions to a local guide. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
Take the bus – The cheapest way to get around the U.S. is by bus. Bus fares cost as little as $1 USD, though 2-3-hour journeys are generally under $20 USD. Between cities, the best companies are Megabus, Greyhound, and FlixBus.
Redeem hotel points – Be sure to sign up for hotel credit cards before you go and use those points when you travel. This is especially helpful in big cities. Be aware that most hotels charge parking fees if you have a car.
Get a U.S. Park Pass – This national park pass lets you into all the national parks for free so you don’t have to keep paying admission. The annual fee is $80 USD and it pays for itself after four parks.
Cook – The United States has some of the cheapest groceries in the developed world, while eating out here can add up quickly once you factor in a tip and tax (which varies by state). Grocery shopping can cost less than $60 USD per week and is way cheaper and healthier than eating out every day. Cook and save!
Stay with a local – Couchsurfing lets you stay with a local for free, cutting your accommodation costs drastically. You’ll get to spend time with a local who can share their tips and advice while sharing your own travel stories and culture. You can also use the app to meet people for activities (coffee, museum visits, etc.) if you don’t feel comfortable staying with a stranger.
A 4-5-hour bus ride from New York to Washington D.C. starts at $25 USD, while the 7-hour journey from Chicago to Detroit starts at $30 USD. Austin to New Orleans is around $57 USD. Booking early can save you upwards of 50% so try to plan ahead if you’re going to be taking the bus.
Flying – Flying is your quickest option for long distance. You can occasionally find sales for as little as $100 USD so it’s worth it to check several websites ahead of time to see what deals are on. Post-COVID, fares are a lot higher than they were in the past but if you find a deal, book in advance, or go off season, you can usually get a cheap fare. Sample one-way fares include San Francisco to Maui for $120-160 USD, Seattle to Austin for $85-115 USD, or New York to L.A. for $250 USD (round trip). However, prices can easily double if booked last minute.
Train – Amtrak is the rail provider for the United States, but it’s not the quickest or most affordable way to travel. They have routes all around the country (here’s their route map) and offer a cross-country pass for $499 USD. The USA Rail Pass gives you 30 days of travel over 10 segments, which averages out to around $50 USD per leg.
As for prices, A 20-hour train ride from Chicago to New Orleans costs around $110 USD, while a multi-day trip from New York to Los Angeles is around $250 USD. Book in advance to find the best deals. Shorter trips lasting 2-4 hours are usually under $50 USD.
Car rental – Roadtripping is a great way to explore the country, and car rentals can be found for as little as $35 USD for a multi-day rental. Renters need to be at least 21 years old. For the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars.
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in the United States is common and safe. Dress respectably, smile while making eye contact with drivers, and use a cardboard sign to tell people where you’re headed. Be prepared for long bouts of no pick-ups, especially if you’re traveling through more rural areas. Pack plenty of water and a light meal or two, like sandwiches and fruit. Hitchwiki is a great resource for additional hitchhiking tips.
For more information and suggestions, here are 14 tips to help you safely hitchhike across the United States.
Since the United States is such a large country, the climate and temperature change drastically from coast to coast. The north has defined seasons. Winter can bring heavy snowfall and more severe temperature. Spring can start as late as May, but the summers are gorgeous and temperatures climb into the 80s°F (30s°C). Coastal areas tend to be cooler.
The south has less defined seasons. Summers get incredibly hot and humid. Winters tend to be dry and warm, while autumn and spring make for pleasant travel weather. In the desert areas, like Las Vegas, temperatures can soar as high as 104°F (40°C) on some days.
Ultimately, the best time to travel to the United States depends on where you’re headed and what kind of activities you’d like to do.
The United States is a massive country and “safety” changes a lot depending on where you go and what you do. Generally, the US safe place to travel around — even if you’re traveling solo.