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Booking a holiday in the USA is a big deal! Not only is a really exciting but it’s also usually fairly expensive. A holiday like this isn’t something you want to mess up so here are some top travel tips to think about before you go!
Research your destination
Unlike the UK, the USA is HUGE and each state can be extremely different to another. Before you decide on a destination it’s a good idea to really research your options. You might love the sound of Orlando and the big theme parks such as Disney or Universal but Florida is a state that gets very hot and can have a lot of storms. On the other hand, you might want to visit somewhere with mountains and you could easily pick the wrong state without doing any research.
Make sure your passport is valid
There’s not much worse than booking a holiday, or coming close to your holiday and realising your passport isn’t valid! If you’re planning to travel to the USA then your passport needs to be valid for the duration of your visit, unlike the EU which has slightly different rules.
If you do find yourself in a tricky situation with your passport, depending on the time you have there are a few things you can do. Depending on your circumstances, a fast-tracked application might work for you. This could see you with a new passport in only a week but it costs quite a bit more than a regular application. There’s also an option to book an appointment at a passport office, in either London, Liverpool, Newport, Peterborough, Durham, Belfast and Glasgow. These appointments can be quite hard to come by but it would mean getting your passport on the same day.
Apply for your ESTA in time
In order to visit the USA you must have a valid ESTA, which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This is basically pre-approved entry into the USA. You can complete the ESTA visa application online and you must do separate applications for everyone in your party, including children. Bear in mind that your ESTA will be valid for 2 years so although you might book your trip in advance, you want to make sure your ESTA will actually be valid when you travel.
It’s really important when filling in the ESTA form to pay attention to what’s being asked. If, for any reason, you answer questions incorrectly or put the wrong information your ESTA could be denied or you could find that you won’t be granted entry to the USA.
One big difference between the USA and the UK is the tipping culture. Generally speaking, if someone provides a service such as cleaning your room in a hotel, carrying your bags, serving you at a bar or bringing you lunch in a restaurant then you need to tip them.
It’s said that a tip should be at least between 15-20% although it’s expected that this should be closer to 20% or higher in a lot of cases. Tipped employees, such as restaurant servers and bartenders get paid less than the minimum wage and rely on tips to top up their income.
Unlike in the UK where we might not tip if something was wrong, you’re still expected to here. Staff can be quite vocal about customers not leaving tips so don’t be afraid to say something if you’re not happy and give them chance to rectify the situation.
Don’t forget the tax
A lot of people go to America planning to do a lot of shopping and to grab some bargains. Unfortunately, what some people might not realise is that the price on the tag is not the price you’ll pay at the till. Each state has it’s own rules and amounts when it comes to additional sales tax. This is something you can find out before your holiday though and make sure you work out final amounts accordingly.
Travel insurance is a must
When you take any kind of trip you should always get travel insurance at the earliest possible time. In America, health care costs can be extremely expensive if something does happen while you’re away, even from something simple like seeing a GP. If you need medical assistance while on holiday it could land you with a really hefty bill, should you not have insurance.
How to get around
The USA is huge and it’s not always easy to get around, especially if you’re planning on visiting more than one place. For going from state to state, driving sounds wonderful but it could take a lot longer than you imagine. You can get flights all over though so this might be worth looking into.
The New York Subway is so famous but other cities might not have the best modes of public transport. For example, in Orlando you might need to take 3 different buses to get somewhere and it could take a while. Familiarise yourself with Lyft and Uber before you go and be prepared to pay to get around.
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