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Gap Year Travelling America (2013)

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    Hi my name's Michael,

    I'm currently in Year 13 and i have applied to university, but deferred my entry, and am taking a gap year. The plan is to work for six months (from September) then spend about three months travelling in America.

    I'm creating this thread as i plan to spend the time backpacking. I have never really travelled that much but would love to go to America. But, there is no one i know who is in the same situation as me. Thus i am asking if there are any people out there who have similar plans. Obviously it is only in the early stages of development and am open to all ideas, all suggestions, all people and anyone who is just looking for a good time in the US before i figure i have been through uni, and got a job and realised it is too late to go backpacking!

    It would be great for anyone who is in a similar situation to me get in touch and let me know if you'd like to go backpacking together!

    Thank you!

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    Sorry, i probably should have mentioned i'm from the UK, and don't be put out by the dates or anything, i am just looking for people interested in travelling to america in 2013, just to see if anyone else is up for it, i am sure it will be much more fun than travelling around on my own!
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    I'm in the same sit. as you and am looking into travelling to America in my gap year

    How much were you looking to raise? And did you have any states in particular you wanted to visit?
    I'm guessing you're from the UK?

    It's nice to get ideas out there so I'll keep my eye on this thread


    Edit: Just saw you are from the UK sorry for my blindness! haha
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    Hey Lauren,

    on the money front i'm not sure really but i think for a month about 3k and for two maybe 4-5k, not really sure.

    i don't think there are any states in particular apart from new york and california, so i was thinking along the lines of planning a route from ny to california, and then factor in some of the landmarks between there, my us geography isn't fantastic but obviously whilst we won't be able to get in everything we would like i think we would be able to cover a lot. Don't know what you think to that?
    A girl called Charlotte has already been in touch, she's 20 but taking a gap year now. It'd be nice for another guy to get in touch because i think a group of 4, 2 girls 2 guys would be pretty ideal ( but to anyone else please don't let that put you off!)

    If you have any general situations just fire away, and like you say its only early so its good to put some ideas out there!

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    I've already spoken to Michael... I'm the 20 year old Charlotte haha. I don't have much to say except that I'll be really flexible in regards to dates/locations etc. I would love to go literally everywhere and anywhere!
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    hey guys

    I have a friend who has helped me out a lot and given me some great ideas for the trip.

    This is an idea and feel free to shoot it down or say what you think about it straight away. I think a good length would be about 6 weeks, any longer and it would be pretty expensive and i don't want to spend a ton, especially with fees going up and whatever.

    A possible route we can do is New York to Chicago to Denver to San Francisco to Los Angeles, via train. Originally i was pretty naive and thought we could go all over the place and do this that and see everywhere but realistically we can't, the US is a ridiculously huge place. Hopefully we could spend 5 to 7 days in each city. This is quite a lot of time but there will be lots of things to do and bearing in mind the journies may take on average about 20 hours we will also have to factor in how tired we will be after each journey.

    I have looked at a pricing for these train rides and bearing in mind i only looked 6 weeks ahead the total price came to about $500. Further to this website where i looked accept a student saver scheme thing that can be bought by people in the UK for about 20 quid and save 15% and can be used at many other places.

    Once again this is just a suggestion and if you feel put off by it don't hesitate to say. An alternative route is New York to Chicago to Grand Canyon to Los Angeles to San Francisco.

    Two useful sites are http://www.seat61.com/UnitedStates.h...A%20by%20train

    and http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Conten...mtrak/HomePage

    have a look at the first website to see the route and then go on the amstrak website and click multi city in the top left to plan out the journey. it's just an idea and thought i might as well get the ball rolling in terms of plans!

    Let me know what you think

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    Hey, and hi charlotte
    Well that all sounds good to me Michael, I'll just have to get a load of extra shifts in at work but I suppose we'd have a long time to save up from now so I should be able to manage!
    Cali and ny are definitely my top 2 so I agree with your idea there, but like Charlotte I'd be really flexible with dates and places too.
    What interests do you guys have? Like, would you want to be adventuring about the place or just poddling about checking out the landmarks? I am half thinking of applying for camp america just to put that out there, and if I got onto that it'd be july-aug time I think, but I'm just thinking about things still

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    I'll check out those sites you just posted as well, I agree about the time frame, 6 weeks seems reasonable and we don't want to be spending massive amounts. 500 seems a great price to me as well
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    hey guys

    thanks for getting back lauren, i think i want a mixture of both those things, certainly in new york would like to visit all the places such as times square central park etc. but head to more adventurous stuff as we head to california

    right i have been doing a bit of research and these are the costs i think we will incur

    Flights; multi city will from Heathrow(just an example i live in yorkshire btw) to New York then LA to Heathrow will cost us no more than $750

    Trains; About $500 but hopefully less with the student card thing

    Accommodation; Hostels vary from $30 to $50 depending on the city we go to. Lets say 40 nights at $40 thats $1600

    Everyday costs; I have seen a figure which says bare minimum of $25-35, but i would suggest about $50-80. If we can cook on our own food on the most part this will save a lot of money. Plus some days we may just chill and just eat and walk around and just explore, other days we might wanna do some expensive stuff so lets say average of $60 so about $2400

    Obviously i'm getting a bit ahead, pretty excited about the trip ahha but let me know what you think. That comes to about £3300 which is pretty expensive but i think i have erred on the high side in terms of costs. These are just estimats but think they are pretty good ballpark figures, and especially for me as i will be on quite a tight budget, not wanting to spend ridiculous amounts.

    let me know what you think of the plan, costs etc. and just say whatever you think, just a rough idea and open for development or of course a completely new idea!

    Thanks guys

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    I did a trip similar to this with my boyfriend last year, we travelled for just over 2 and a half months and spent around £4000 each for everything, including flights, accommodation, food, drink (although we avoided drinking alcohol to save money) and all attraction tickets.

    We visited Los Angeles (downtown, Hollywood and Venice Beach), Las Vegas, Santa Barbara and San Francisco on the west coast over a month, then flew over to Boston, travelling down through New York, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Washington DC over a month, then flew down to Orlando, where we hit the theme parks for 2 weeks before going down to Miami for a week before our flight back to London.

    We only stayed in private rooms, most of the rooms averaged at around £20 a night each - dorm rooms would have been cheaper but we didn't really fancy it. Some rooms were more, some were cheaper, mainly depending on the city that you are in. We stayed in both hostels and also places like Travelodge, Days Inn, etc, and a few hotels, particularly in Vegas as they are DIRT cheap if you visit in the week - we literally paid £13 a night each to stay at Imperial Palace, which is right in the middle of the strip, opposite Caeser's Palace and the Bellagio.

    We travelled around by various different methods, but mainly Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains on the West coast (they both take around the same amount of time but Greyhound were cheaper but the trains more comfortable), and a mixture of Megabus (REALLY cheap), Greyhound and Amtrak trains on the East coast. We booked internal flights through Expedia.com (US site - this was often cheaper than the UK one, but remember to add taxes onto prices - this applies to EVERYTHING in the US too), and our main flights with Virgin Atlantic on a multi-city booking through e-bookers.

    I'm happy to give any more advice or try my best to answer any questions
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    [QUOTE=Emma_B;37219837]x QUOTE]

    Hey Emma,

    thanks for that post, very helpful

    that sounds like you did a lot and not too expensive as well. The trip you did is very similar to one i was thinking of, going through nyc, washington and down to florida and miami. then get a connection flight over to las vegas area, do grand canyon and then finish off in california.

    however i think the problem is i only intend for the trip to last about six weeks and factoring in the length of travelling i just don't think we would get all the things done in a period a month shorter than yours.

    the pos before details a pretty good trip i think, definitely want to visit both the east and the west coast, and amtrak have routes from all those cities.

    can i just ask a few questions.
    first did you book all your hostels before hand and then have like a pretty clear idea of how long you would be spending in each city. second, did you have a rough itinerary of like the attractions and stuff you would visit on the days etc. or did you just explore the cities and do whatever you felt like at the time.
    my third and last question is do you have any tips to keeps costs down. Any student cards, deals, what you did in terms of food etc. anything you can think off to help us save money with the knowledge of having been to america.

    Thanks a lot for all the info you have provided and if you could get back to me on those few questions that would be great.

    Thank you!

  12. Offline

    And to any other people who are interested please just submit a message, all posts are welcome and it would be great to hear from you

  13. Offline

    If you could extend the trip to 2 months (8 weeks) then you would probably fit it all in. We found that we probably could have spent a little less time in some places than we did - we probably would have missed out Atlantic City if we had known how much of a disappointment it would be there (although I think that it didn't help that we had been spoilt by Vegas, plus it rained the whole time we were there - not great for strolling along the boardwalk), and probably spent less time in Boston, which although is a beautiful, lovely city, we found that we were a bit bored there, there isn't a lot to do there other than visit art galleries and museums, which we had already visited a lot of in various other cities. Also, two of the weeks that we were there were literally just spend lazing around on beaches in Venice Beach and Miami.

    Yeah, we pretty much booked everything before we went. We had a rough idea of the things that we wanted to see and do in each city, so we based the amount of time that we would spend in each place on that. Any bookings for hotels/motels were made on Expedia and paid in advance, any hostel bookings were made through hostelbookers.com and we just paid a deposit and then paid the balance when we arrived at each hostel. We had a rough plan in mind at first, and knew which cities we wanted to visit. I had already spent a couple of weeks on a little tour of California/Vegas with my friend the year before, so I kind of knew what things we would be doing and the places that I knew that my boyfriend would want to visit. I was a little more clueless for the East coast, but I found that you could get combined tickets for most of the main attractions in each city for discounted prices using a CityPass, which we bought (along with various other attraction tickets, mainly for theme parks etc) from attractionticketsdirect.com.

    For food, to be honest we didn't eat very well over there - McDonalds was a regular stop for a cheap eat - double cheeseburgers are only $1 over there, plus we used to use the free wifi in them a lot of the time. In hostels where we had a kitchen, we would try and buy food that we would cook there, but we found that most of the larger supermarkets (e.g. Walmart) are not really located in the main cities and are only really accessible by car, so we probably had to pay a bit more from places like Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy etc. By the way, although these are classed as pharmacies, they sell a lot of different food/drinks/snacks and will probably be your best/cheapest bet for buying things like this from - you can literally find them everywhere too, and it's worth getting the loyalty cards for each place as they often do member-only discounts/prices if you use a card, for which you literally just give them your name and some sort of phone number, it doesn't matter if you live in the US or not. Another fairly cheap place for this kind of stuff is 7-Eleven, which again you will find many of within each city. If we had a fridge in the room then we would stock up on cereal and milk for breakfast (although many of the places that we stayed at offered some sort of free breakfast, so make sure that you take advantage of these), bottles of water/soda and various snacks to keep us going, plus disposable dishes and cutlery to use. Some dinners would literally just consist of some sort of mix of crisps, chocolate and tinned/fresh fruit, but it kept us going until the morning! Amazingly we found that although we ate a lot of junk over there, we didn't actually gain any weight during our trip, and actually came back a little lighter (probably due to all the walking that we did), but it's probably not the healthiest way to live for any long period of time!

    For travelling around each city, depending on how long you plan to stay there, you can get weekly or daily passes for the transport there. A week pass averaged at around $15, but you need to figure out what places you want to visit and if you could possibly just walk to each place instead. You will probably want a subway pass for Manhattan, as a lot of things are spread out and it will be very tiresome to walk, for example, from Central Park to downtown, plus most hostels/hotels within your budget will probably be in the north end of Manhattan - staying south of Central Park is usually pretty expensive. However, in Washington DC, we found a hostel that was 5 blocks from the White House, and everything that we wanted to see (mainly the Smithsonian museums, which are all free by the way) was in walking distance, bar the zoo (also free!!!), for which we just paid for a return ticket on the subway to get to. You should also try to work out if it is cheaper just getting return or single tickets to visit each attraction - if you don't intend on going anywhere else that day then it will probably be a waste of money getting a day pass for transport.

    If you want any suggestions for things to do in each city, just name one and I'll tell you what we did there
  14. Offline


    another great answer thank you!

    i think a topic that has come up from your discussion there is should we book 2 or 3 different hostels for each city? they are obviously very big but do you think that would be sensible. Obviously the pros of that are you can visit maybe 2 or 3 different places but i suppose it would be a bit of a nightmare carrying our luggage around everywhere. Also is public transport sufficient so that you can pretty much everywhere around say L.A. for example at reasonable prices? Then can you please expand on the city passes for the transport. Like can we buy them whilst we are there and will that get us on all the transport that we would possibly need?

    since you have been to them could you let me know what you did in new york/ los angeles/ san francisco and what you would have liked to have done or what to stay clear of or where we should go to.

    Once again thank you ever so much for this answer!

  15. Offline

    hey guys,

    I'd be interested
  16. Offline


    first of all my name's michael, just a few questions. are you a girl or a guy( doesn't matter either way haha) what do you think of the plan i suggested? i have said it before but it's just an idea and one that is quite practicable but entirely open to it being dismissed hah

  17. Offline

    The only places that we booked more than one place to stay were Los Angeles and Las Vegas. We stayed in Hollywood, Venice Beach and in downtown (though I wouldn't recommend staying in the latter, there isn't much to do, it was pretty rough and we only stayed there for the night because we were getting an early Greyhound bus the following morning, and the station wasn't far from the hotel). LA has a pretty good transport system, you can get buses all over and the subway in most places - particularly Hollywood. In Vegas, we stayed at Imperial Palace for 4 nights during the week as it was so cheap, then moved to the Stratosphere for the weekend as this was the cheapest weekend rate, and we could take advantage of the free admission to the tower for hotel guests. However, this hotel was right at the north end of the strip and we had to catch the bus to get down to the main part - you could walk there but the area in between is a little rough, particularly at night, and it feels a LOT further in the heat of the day there.

    Other than those places I wouldn't really see any need to book more than one place to stay in each city, like you said it is a major hassle hauling your luggage around - it's nice to know that you will be in that one place for a few days or a week or whatever and won't be annoying people commuting in the cities with your bags on the subways and buses!

    Ok, I'll go through each of those cities and outline the free stuff that we did and the things that we paid for:

    New York:
    Free things -
    Central Park. We spent a couple of afternoons here when the weather was good (they had a heatwave last October and a lot of people took advantage!), it was great just lazing around on the grass or strolling through the trees. Times Square. We visited here a few times just to take everything in and to wander around the shops. We sat on the steps opposite the building where the ball drops on New Years eve and skyped our families from there using the free wifi, which was pretty cool.
    Things that we paid for -
    CityPass (£54). This got us entry into the Empire State Building (which we did at night), the Rockefeller building (for great views in the day of the city and also of central park), a ticket for the ferry to Liberty Island to see the statue, and also entry into the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of
    Art and te Museum of Modern Art.
    Tickets for Broadway - we paid around $80 for the top-priced tickets to see Mary Poppins, which was a discounted price, they would normally be around $130 each. Ideally we wanted Lion King or Wicked, but we would have had to pay full price for these as they are in very high demand there. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed it and glad that we picked it, and going to see a show on Broadway is just one of those must-do things in New York.

    Los Angeles
    Free things -
    Walking down the Hollywood walk of fame, seeing the Hollywood sign, walking down Rodeo drive, window shopping in Beverly Hills, walking down Venice Beach boardwalk to Santa Monica and back, chilling out on the beach, watching the skaters at Venice Beach skate park, visiting Santa Monica pier, visiting the shops at 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
    Things that we paid for -
    Hollywood CityPass (£36). This got us onto a tour of various celebrities homes and landmarks around Hollywood, entry for Madame Tussauds, entry for the Hollywood museum (alternatively you could opt for a tour of the Kodak theatre where the Oscars are held) and a walking tour along the Hollywood walk of fame.
    Universal Studios (£46 with 2nd day free). Awesome place if you like movies, shows etc, there are a few decent rides but its not quite as good as the Orlando one, although the backlot tour is unique to Hollywood and is probably the main thing worth visiting for.

    San Francisco
    Free things -
    Walking around the shops at Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, seeing the sealions that reside at Pier 39, walking along the Golden Gate bridge, walking up the ridiculously steep streets and walking down the most crooked street (Lombard Street), taking in the views of Alcatraz and the bay from the top of said streets, visiting the different areas of the city, such as Chinatown (the biggest one outside of China, allegedly) and Little Italy.
    Things that we paid for -
    CityPass (£42). Definitely worth it as this also gives you a 7 days transport pass for all buses, trams, and even the cable cars which are normally $6 for a one way fee! Also includes a boat trip around the bay which passes under the Golden Gate bridge, entrance to the Aquarium of the Bay, entrance to the California Academy of Sciences, Museum of Modern Art and either the de Young Museum or the Exploratorium. We chose the Exploratorium which we LOVED (being science geeks) as its just a really fun museum where you get to do cool stuff surrounding the weird and wonderful ways of science. These included being able to float a particle of water on a fan, making huuge bubbles, talking to each other on different sides of the room using big concave domes, making big rings of fog/mist shoot into the air, making a water vortex, putting a slinky onto a descending conveyor belt, seeing your fingertips through a microscope (which looks GROSS btw) capturing a drop of water falling into a cup of water on a camera by the millisecond and making sparks that immediately cool when they touch your skin. It may or may not be your kind of thing but we literally spent all day there!
    Alcatraz (around $30). This is another of those must-do things in San Francisco, and your ticket gets you onto the ferry over to the island, where most people then do the free audio tour of the prison, using the headphones provided. If you randomly take them off in there, it's pretty eery as there is usually a lot of people there but no sound at all because everyone is listening so intently to their headphones. Would definitely recommend doing this.

    I think that covers pretty much everything in those 3 cities. Obviously there is probably loads of stuff that we missed that you could do, but just being in those cities and just walking around is pretty awesome anyway
  18. Offline

    Thank you, wow sounds busy!

    Just two more questions. Firstly do neither LA nor New York do a travel pass and is it quite easy to get around them and see all the different attractions, especially in NY?

    Second, on average, how much do you think you spent each day? Excluding accommodation, i think about $60 a day as a figure, for food and everything we want to get done, but really just an educated guess.

    many thanks
  19. Offline

    Excluding accommodation, we spent around £10 a day on food, then we pretty much only spent what I've listed there. I guess it's hard to give a figure for each day as it literally depended on which city you are in, what you want to visit etc.

    For transport in Los Angeles, we bought a 7 day bus and metro pass for $20 to use in Hollywood, then mainly walked to places from Venice Beach (our hostel was literally just down the road from the skate park and boardwalk, we could see it all from the window in our room) and occasionally got the bus back from Santa Monica when we didn't want to walk back, which was around $1.50.

    For transport in New York, we bought a 7 day subway pass for $29, which was the most expensive transport pass that we had to buy, but was definitely worth it, as our hostel was just north of Central Park, so it would have been a trek getting to downtown, and buses are a no because of all of the traffic there. The subway is really easy to get around, it takes a bit of getting used to at first as there are various trains that go in the same direction, but some are much quicker as they stop at less places. If you just grab a subway map though and just take a bit of time to get your head around it, you should be fine. If you have been on the tube in London, it's not really any different, and it's very reliable for getting around the city.
  20. Offline

    Ahh that's great, sorry last last last question for the time being haah. What was the name of your hostel in NY and would you recommend it?



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