Do you feel like visiting the United States but do not know how to organize the trip? Which cities or road trips to choose, how to move around the country, what to consider …
Welcome to this United States guides! Since we live in New York, we travel as much as we can to discover the 50 states of this fascinating country, each endowed with unique personalities and landscapes.
On the map you will find the guides we have published so far, and then we compile the preparations to travel to the United States, with tips and many guides to start planning your adventure!
Surely you are familiar with the map of North America, but there is one aspect that is hard for us to imagine: the United States is a giant country, much more than the map suggests. It is almost as big as whole Europe!
So, to start preparing your trip, we recommend you choose an area and focus on it instead of trying to run a race in the 50 states in a few days.
The four regions of the United States
The first thing you should know is that the United States is divided into four zones:
Northeast. It is the region where cities such as New York, Boston or Philadelphia are located. It is formed by the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Midwest. Don’t confuse the word palabra west ’: this region occupies the center of the United States in the north, with cities like Chicago. It is formed by the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
South. The southern United States extends from the east coast of the country to the center, with cities such as New Orleans, Washington DC, Miami or Nashville. It is formed by the states of Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, DC, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.
West. Finally, there is the western region, with cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles or Las Vegas. It is formed by the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, California, Oregon and Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.
Now that you are an expert in American geography, it is time to consider the type of trip. Do you fancy a road trip that involves driving several hours a day? Would you rather settle the base in a city and discover it thoroughly? Or maybe a combination of both?
Each of the 50 states is so different from the others, so rich in nature and unique landscapes, that the trip will be unforgettable choose the place you choose. But, to give you some ideas, here are some of our favorite routes and cities in the United States.
Routes and road trips.
Do you fancy a road trip through the United States? Road, music and good company. There are as many routes as travelers, but we will recommend only those that we have lived in first person:
West Coast Route – Cailfornia, Nevada, Utah and Arizona (15 days or more). An emblematic and unforgettable road trip is the route along the West Coast and through the natural parks of the west of the country.
We did it in 15 days, leaving San Francisco, arriving in Los Angeles and enjoying the road of such amazing places as Yosemite, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado and a stretch of Route 66. Here is our itinerary along the West Coast.
West Coast Route USA Monument Valley Itinerary
Route through Colorado – Denver, Boulder, Rocky Mountains and mining towns (5 days). This road trip combines the incredible lakes and alpine landscapes of the Rocky Mountains with the old mining towns of Colorado. One of the destinations that has surprised us the most!
Route through the Big Sur – California (2 days). A road trip along the most spectacular coast road in the country, the Pacific Coast Highway. You can include it on the West Coast route or spend a couple of days if you are going to visit San Francisco or Silicon Valley.
Route 61 – Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana (5 – 7 days). The blues route runs between forgotten towns and the cotton fields of the Mississippi River. We started it in Memphis and finished it in New Orleans, and, along the way, we visited several of the southern plantations. An experience that we would repeat a thousand and one times!
Route through Florida – Universal Studios, Miami, Everglades (4 days or more). In this road trip we combine a little of each: the adrenaline of the Orlando Universal Studios amusement park, the atmosphere of the city of Miami and the incredible nature and the alligators of the Everglades natural park. If you have more time, also spend a couple of days at the Florida Keys, the keys of the southern part of the state.
Route through New England and Cape Cod (3 days or more). We have not written about this road trip yet, but it is a very charming getaway. Travel along the coast of the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts stopping at small towns and lighthouses (Mystic, Newport, Chatham …), bathe on the beaches of Cape Cod and board a cruise to watch whales (we recommend Hyannis Whale Watchers). Here is our guide to Rhode Island.
Vermont route (4 days). A delicious road trip among autumnal forests, covered bridges, farms, dreamlike houses … and lots of maple syrup! In the link we tell you what corners of the state we visit in 4 days.
Maine route (3 days or more). The state of Maine is perfect for combining wild nature with lighthouses and coastal villages. We traveled the coast from Portland to Camden (a distance of just 2 hours but to which we spent several days), exploring each peninsula and lighthouse. If you have more time, reach the beautiful Acadia National Park.
Would you rather leave the roads for another occasion and focus your time on a city? Of those we have visited for now, these are our favorites:
New York. What a surprise, right? But, of course, our city had to occupy the first place on the list. Whether you have 5 days or 15 days, in New York you won’t get bored for a second! Hotels in NY.
Chicago (Illinois). Skyscrapers, architecture and giant pizza. What more could a city be asked for? Chicago is incredible, yes: it is better to visit it in spring or summer, in winter it is cold that peels! Chicago hotels.
New Orleans (Louisiana). From the balconies and bustle of the French Quarter to the cemeteries full of legends, the cradle of jazz is another city that has us in love. New Orleans hotels.
San francisco California). Infinite slopes, Alcatraz prison, the Golden Gate Bridge… San Francisco is an essential city. San Francisco hotels.
Nashville (Tennessee). What we love about Nashville is the combination of music and street life: country bars, restaurants, terraces with live bands… A great city for a short break! Hotels in Nashville.
Washington DC The capital of the United States is ideal to explore on foot while you run into old acquaintances: the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the White House … Another of the attractions of the city: its great museums! Hotels in Washington DC.
Boston (Massachusetts). Like Washington and Philadelphia, Boston is one of the most important historical cities in the country. But, in addition, we love the good atmosphere that always breathes in its streets. Hotels in Boston.
Miami Florida). Swim in turquoise water beaches, take a giant cocktail between Art Deco buildings on the South Beach party and enjoy Cuban cuisine in Little Havana. Miami doesn’t stop! Hotels in Miami Beach.
If you are already clear about the destination, it is time to search for flights. We always use the Skyscanner or Kayak search engine. It is likely that you have to stop: here we tell you how to find flights at the best price taking it into account.
How much scale time should I calculate?
If the second flight takes off from the same terminal and airport, you will need at least one hour of stopover. If it is longer, better than better, so you will not have to worry in case the first flight is delayed a little.
If the scale is within the United States, you will need to look for a longer scale, since you will have to pass the security check.
In any case, if you arrive with just the right time, always inform the airport employees. If they consider it appropriate, they will let you skip the lines so you don’t arrive late.
When and how will I pass customs in the United States?
You will pass the security and customs control at the first American airport where you land, even if you are only stopping.
Here we tell you in depth how are the security control and customs in the United States (putting the airports of New York as an example).
Below, in this article, you will find information about the documentation you need to enter the country.
How to move around the United States
What is the best method of transportation to travel in the United States? With few exceptions, the car.
Most urban areas are designed to go everywhere driving. This is something that shocked us at the beginning, since, in Europe, almost all cities have a center full of shops where people walk, look at shop windows, have a drink …
In the United States, the centers of many cities are limited to one main street, but the bulk of stores are concentrated in the malls, shopping centers on the outskirts, and people usually drive everywhere.
Even so, of course, there are exceptions. New York, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia or Chicago, to name a few, are easy cities to visit on foot and by public transportation.
If you move between large cities, you can do it by bus or train and, once there, use urban transport or taxi services like Uber. But, if you plan to visit natural parks and regions without large urban centers, the car will be essential.
Rent a car
The advantage that the use of the car is so widespread is that it will be very easy to find rental offices. We usually rent with companies such as Avis, Enterprise or Alamo, but look for a car rental on Google Maps and you will see all the options in the area that interests you.
If you rent a car in one state and return it in another, it is usual for the company to charge you a supplement.
Remember that vehicles are automatic. Here are some tips for driving in the United States, with information on speeds, automatic transmission, how to refuel …
The bus is the slowest way to get around the United States, but, on many routes, also the most economical.
If you don’t mind spending hours and hours with your butt stuck to the seat, on websites like Megabus, Greyhound, Bolt Bus or Peter Pan you can hunt bargains starting at $ 1 (a regular price is $ 10 – $ 20 per way).
One tip: if you travel accompanied, choose a company that allows you to select the seats when buying the ticket. If not, you will have to introduce yourself a good time before the bus station to queue and be able to sit with your companion.
Travel in the United States by train
The train is such a common mode of transport in many countries, it is surprising to see how expensive tickets are in the United States.
Try your luck on the website of Amtrak, the American rail company (in some states, there are also smaller rail companies in the metropolitan areas).
If you buy them months in advance, you can get prices of about $ 50 each way, but, a few weeks before, the figure is closer to $ 100, $ 200 … A quick and convenient option, but, often, not very affordable.
Another myth that we do not know who invented (what is clear is that he had not traveled too much in the country): Are flights within the United States cheap?
After dozens of trips, we can only answer no, they are not cheap. Although there is some low cost company, such as Spirit, finding low rates similar to those in Europe is almost impossible.
From New York, the cheapest flights are usually to Washington, Boston and Miami, and even so, they do not fall from the $ 100- $ 150 round trip. The usual thing is to pay about $ 200 – $ 300 round trip if you travel to the middle of the country, and about $ 400 – $ 500 round trip if you travel to the opposite coast.
Even so, enter Skyscanner and browse with the search engine. If you have flexible dates, it will always be easier to find an affordable ticket. An airline that we like very much and that often launches offers is JetBlue.
The documents mentioned below will be essential to travel to the United States.
It is highly recommended that you make a digital copy of the documentation and save it in the cloud (we use Dropbox), send it to your email or download it to your mobile, to have it in case of loss.
Passport. It is imperative that you have a valid passport.
ESTA form. If you are a citizen of one of the countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program, such as Spain, and you travel to the United States for tourism for less than 90 days, you will not need a visa.
But you will need to fill out the ESTA form in advance to enter the United States (in the article we tell you step by step how to do it).
If you are a citizen of a country that is not part of the Visa Waiver Program, see how to apply for a visa on the website of the US Consulate or Embassy in your country.
Customs declaration. This document does not have to be filled in in advance, but instead distributed on the plane at the end of the flight or, increasingly, you fill it in a machine when you arrive at the terminal.
It is a very simple form where they ask for your name and that of your companions (one is filled in per family), as well as if you transport valuable goods.
International driving license In Spain, you have to make an appointment at the DGT and provide the necessary documents and they will issue it to you at the moment. It lasts a year and has no validity on its own, it is only a required translation that you have to present with your driver’s license in case the police ask for it.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes! It is essential to travel to the United States, and it is very important that you hire it before leaving.
In the United States, healthcare is private, and any consultation or emergency, however small, can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars. If they had to have surgery, for example, for appendicitis or for a fracture, the bill would exceed $ 10,000. We do not overdo it.
Our advice is that you have a coverage of at least € 200,000 in medical expenses. Insurance that we recommend and that meets this requirement is the Mondo Premium Travel plan. You have a 5% discount when you hire it from here (it is applied when you see the prices).
If you want to compare between several insurances, here we tell you how to choose the travel insurance for the United States.
Is it necessary to book a ticket from home? In general, you can buy them at the ticket offices of each attraction, but inform yourself well according to your destination, because there are activities that you will have to book in time.
To give you an example, if you want to visit Antelope Canyon it is essential to book, and, if you travel to San Francisco and want to go to the Alcatraz prison, we also recommend that you do so.
Here you can see the most famous tours and excursions in the most important cities:
New York – Tours and excursions.
San Francisco – Tours and excursions.
Los Angeles – Tours and excursions.
Chicago – Tours and excursions.
Las Vegas – Tours and excursions.
Miami – Tours and excursions.
Washington DC – Tours and excursions.
Boston – Tours and excursions.
Philadelphia – Tours and excursions.
National park pass
Since Yellowstone became the first national park in the country in 1872, the United States has not stopped adding natural spaces to its list of National Parks.
If you plan to make a road trip that leads you to discover several, you may want to buy the Annual Pass, a ticket that gives you free admission to all national parks and other nature reserves for a year.
Keep in mind that, in parks that charge entry per vehicle, you don’t have to pay anything. On the other hand, in the parks that charge admission per person, the pass includes 4 people; The rest have to pay.
You can buy it on the web or in the first park you visit.
t depends on your destiny, of course. But, in broad strokes, what we indicate in the article of what to put in the suitcase to travel to New York.
These are some of the essential objects:
Universal adapter. In the United States, two flat-pin plugs are used, and the voltage is 120 V (in Europe it is usually 220 V). We always buy universal adapters, which are suitable for any trip.
But keep in mind that, due to the change in voltage, more powerful devices (such as hair dryers) may not work well. With small devices (mobile, camera, laptop) you will not have any problems.
Powercube It is like a strip of several shots, but in compact size. Very useful to plug several devices at once and not have to buy an adapter for each of them.
Power Bank, or external battery. For trips outside large cities, the external battery seems essential to charge the mobile on the go. It is crucial when you do not have access to any plug for hours.
Spare memory card To save the thousand and one photos you will take. If you use your phone as a camera, make sure you have space before the trip, or save the photos in Dropbox or in the cloud.
Kindle or books for the trip. Above all, for long flights to and from the United States.
TSA lock. When you fly to the United States, they can check your bag randomly and, if locked, break it. For this reason they advise to close it with TSA locks, which the authorities can open with a master key without having to break them.
Photocopies of important documents. As we mentioned above, it is important to have copies of important documents such as your passport, hotel reservations …
Scan them and upload them to the cloud, or download them to your mobile. It will take only a few minutes and they can get you out of trouble if you miss a document.
Dollars, cash and cards
Do you need to change money to dollars, or can you pay by card? In the big cities of the United States, you can pay everything by card (some shops have a minimum cost of $ 5 or $ 10, but each time they are less).
If you are on the road, you may also be able to use the card for everything from gas stations to restaurants, although in remote locations you are more likely to find an exception.
Therefore, we recommend a combination of both. Change some money to dollars and pay as much as you can with a card, which offers the best change.
In addition, it is recommended that you carry more than one card, in case one does not work, and that at least one of them is credit. To rent the car, for example, the usual thing is that they require a credit card. We talk about all this in depth in the card and cash article in New York.
To finish the preparations to travel to the United States, here is a compilation of practical information and advice.
What time is it in the United States?
Within the country, there are four main time slots (Alaska, Hawaii and other territories follow different schedules):
Eastern Standard Time (EST). The schedule of the east side and of cities like New York. They are 6 hours less than in Spain and 5 hours less than in the United Kingdom (UTC-5).
Central Standard Time (CST). It includes the center of the country and cities such as Chicago or New Orleans. They are 7 hours less than in Spain and 6 hours less than in the United Kingdom (UTC-6).
Mountain Standard Time (MTS). It covers the western part of the country inland. They are 8 hours less than in Spain and 7 hours less than in the United Kingdom (UTC-7).
Pacific Standard Time (PST). The schedule of the west coast and cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles. They are 9 hours less than in Spain and 8 hours less than in the United Kingdom.
As you can see, there is a difference of 3 hours between the east coast and the west coast. When San Francisco wakes up, New York is already underway, and when the Big Apple sleeps, San Francisco still has night ahead.
Attention if you travel to the west, because the Navajo Nation and Arizona are not governed by the same system as their peers, as we tell you in the preparations to travel to the West Coast.
Here you can see what time it is anywhere in the United States right now.
Holidays in the United States
What happens if you agree with a holiday on your trip to the United States? In large cities, many shops open even on holidays, and, in addition, clothing stores often take advantage of those days to offer large sales.
However, there are two holy days in which most attractions and shops close: Thanksgiving (the most important holiday in the country) and Christmas day.
Also, if you plan to buy an internal flight on one of the calendar holidays, you are likely to find prices for the clouds. Americans travel a lot within their country, and, as holidays usually fall on Thursday or Monday, they take the opportunity to take minivacations.
These are the national holidays in the United States:
New Year 1st of January
Martin Luther King Day: third Monday of January
President’s Day: third Monday of February
Memorial Day: last Monday of May
Independence Day: July 4
Labor Day: first Monday of September
Columbus Day: Second Monday of October
Veterans Day War: November 11
Thanksgiving Day: fourth Thursday of November
Christmas is on the 25th of December
One of the aspects of the United States that drive anyone crazy is the system of units of length, weight and temperature scale. Miles, ounces, degrees Fahrenheit?
If the metric system is used in your country, confusion is assured. After several years here, we still have a poker face if they ask us how much we measure or weigh!
The temperature is measured in degrees Fahrenheit (ºF) instead of degrees Celsius (ºC). The formula to pass from Fahrenheit to Celsius is as follows: C = (F-32) / 1.8. Yes, faster to use a converter!
To calculate quickly, we use a formula of being at home that approximates a lot (but do not take it seriously, it is a little trick): C = (F-30) / 2. That is, if the forecast for the day is 90 ºF, we calculate that it will be about 30 ºC (in reality, 32 ºC).
The length is calculated in miles (1 mile = 1.6 km, miles per hour are also used for speed), yards (1 yard = 0.91 m), feet (1 foot = 0.3 meters) and inches (1 inch = 2.54 cm).
The weight is calculated in pounds (1 pound = 0.45 kg) and ounces (1 ounce = 28.3 g).
The liquid volume is calculated in gallons (1 gallon = 3.78 l) and pints (1 pint = 473.17 ml).
In addition, when cooking, cups, teaspoons (small teaspoons) and tablespoons (tablespoons) are used as a measure.
To calculate quickly, put in Google, for example, 30 thousand to km, and the search engine will do the calculation without having to enter any web page.
Should we tip in the United States?
Yes. In all the places where someone serves you (especially in restaurants with table service) you are expected to leave 15% to 20% of the total tip price, depending on how you value the service.
We’ve read everything: people who consider them ‘a myth’, people who ‘don’t believe in them’ and don’t leave them, people who get angry…
Believe us, we have all been shocked by this system. And our intention is not to defend it (little by little, it is the Americans themselves who are trying to find new formulas), but to remind you that it is so. We tell you in depth in the article of tips in New York.
What to see San Francisco Itineraries 1500 Painted Ladies
So far the tips to prepare a trip to the United States! We hope you have been served.