For many Americans the warm months of summer (June, July and August) mean vacation—a time to get into the car and head for the “open road.” Summer travel is especially popular among U.S. university students, who are typically “on break” from classes. During this period of the year, they have time to travel to different parts of their own country.
For international students summer is also a perfect time to travel, or it is a nice time to visit colleges, universities and English language programs.
It is a challenge for people from other regions to fathom the vastness of the United States—driving across the USA from New York to Seattle or L.A. would take days! The best part of travel in the U.S. is that each region of the country has its own flavor and culture, much like the different countries of the E.U. or South America. This diversity makes it difficult to make generalities. Take advantage of your free time—travel and form your own impression of the USA!
Going by Air
Air travel is the most convenient and time-effective way to travel within the United States. Most airlines offer discount fares for travel between major cities and from coast to coast (New York to Los Angeles). Special student fares are also available. Be sure to shop around for the best prices. Look for web promotions and special offers.
Recommended air travel sites: expedia.com, travelocity.com, lowestfare.com, orbitz.com, or kayak.com. Kayak is especially effective because it searches across multiple airlines sites. These websites can help save money on airfare. Do take note of how many stops are in the flight plan. Sometimes the less expensive flight tickets will have stops, making your trip longer.
For students and educational visitors (or anyone under the age of 25) a good travel-booking source is STA. It is the world’s leading travel organization for students and young travellers. You may also consult a travel agent to help you find the most convenient fare for you. Be aware that you will usually pay a $5 to $20 booking fee if you book your ticket over the phone with a travel agent; booking online is free.
Going By Bus
The large commercial bus lines, such as Greyhound and Gray Lines, have inexpensive, long-distance rates for travelers. Often, students have more time than money, so bus travel can be the way to go. Plus, you can enjoy the scenic route and experience more of the local flair than if you were traveling by plane.
For those traveling from abroad, Greyhound also offers the option of an International Ameripass. It is good for up to 60 consecutive days of travel, and provides unlimited travel in most parts of the U.S. It is a low-cost way to see many diverse locations across the country. Since there aren’t train connections throughout the USA, busses or cars are the main modes of transportation. Purchasing a car in the United States is an expensive and involved process—you are probably better off traveling by bus and saving yourself the hassle.
You may purchase an Ameripass at any U.S. Greyhound terminal. For the international Ameripass you must purchase your ticket 21 days prior to your arrival in the USA and it is only available for purchase online at greyhound.com, at participating travel agents abroad or from Greyhound’s international office:
Greyhound International Office
Port Authority Terminal
625 8th Ave. at 41st St.
New York, NY 10018
Going by Train
Railway travel is also a great way to see this large country. It is generally more expensive (especially compared to train travel in the E.U.) than travel by bus, but it is usually more comfortable. While either bus or train travel will impart you with a sense of the country’s expansiveness, the railway offers unique and rare glimpses into U.S. history and culture. You can get a feel for what it was like in the U.S. before Ford invented the first automobile in 1893, which changed life in the USA forever!
Amtrak, the largest passenger train service in the United States, offers 15 or 30 days of unlimited rail travel with either their USA Pass or North America Pass. You may buy these passes via travel agents worldwide or at any Amtrak-staffed station. To locate an international sales representative in your country, go to Amtrak’s international sales representative link at amtrak.com. There is also information on railway travel packages and other discounts at Amtrak’s website or contact their main office:
Amtrak International Sales
50 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Washington, D.C. 20002 USA
Tel: (U.S.) 1-800-872-7245
Going by Car
Americans have had a long-time “love affair” with the automobile. The sense of freedom that comes with just “hitting the road” is something that most Americans would not want to live without.
If you plan to drive in the USA, make sure to come prepared; you will need an international driver’s license, insurance and knowledge of road signs. For assistance with maps and directions, visit the American Automobile Association (AAA) website at aaa.com or contact the company at:
American Automobile Association (AAA)
1515 N. Westshore Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33609 USA
If you do purchase a car while you live here, you may even want to join AAA (commonly referred to as “triple A”). They provide excellent benefits such as roadside service and customized trip planners with door-to-door directions for members. You may also want to consult the Department of Motor Vehicles, dmv.org, for information about United States’ driver’s licenses, vehicle registration, insurance, and more.
Staying in Hostels
Hostel accommodations are inexpensive, clean, friendly and secure. The best source for locating hostels in the USA is through the American Youth Hostels (AYH) at hiayh.org. You can also procure membership and information about U.S. hostels at the International Youth Hosteling Foundation (IYHF) in your country.
Visit their website at hihostels.org. You will also find links and information on IYHF/AYH services and summer trips.
Campsites are available at private camping grounds or at state and national parks. Many public campgrounds are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, but some require reservations. You will usually pay a small fee and display a tag at your campsite. The easiest way to be certain of campground availability is to contact the park directly, usually the park ranger.
Via the U.S. National Parks website or State Park websites, you can locate either national or state parks around the country and obtain specific information on seasonal events, regulations and camping: nps.gov. For details on other camping options, check some of the links located at camping-usa.com. Camping is a fun way to explore the beautiful parks and landscapes of the USA, and costs almost nothing!