Nicknamed “America the Beautiful”, the United States is located on the continent of North America, between Canada and Mexico. The country is comprised of 50 states and five geographic, social, and economic regions. While most people know the United States for its big cities, beautiful parks, Hollywood films, top restaurants, and shopping scenes, there's something for every kind of traveler in the U.S.A.
Travelers visit the United States for the lush mountain ranges and lakes, deserts, waterfalls, and some of the best national parks in the world. With over 300 million people living in the U.S. (and cities and terrain that lead the world's list of bucket list destinations), travel in the United States will surely leave you with breathtaking memories.
Here are some of the best tours to take around the United States:
Outdoor travel is one of the United States' top activities. Explore famous National Parks throughout the U.S. and you might find some of the world's leading natural wonders. If you are a winter sport junkie, head to the slopes throughout winter high season for great skiing, snowmobiling and boarding, or a mountain getaway. For warm weather adventures, the U.S. offers some of the best surf, underwater, and beach scenes thanks to Hawaii, Florida, and California.
Food & Drink Tours
Some of the major cities in the United States are known around the world for their delicious restaurants. Destinations like New Orleans, Philadelphia, Napa Valley, Sonoma, Chicago, and New York City can be the start of a tasty adventure. Food, wine, and craft beer tours can help you find the best establishments on and off the beaten path. Choose to rent a car and make a road trip out of your gastronomic journey, or add it on to a city tour.
Road Trip Tours
The United States is a very driver-friendly country: in fact, you can't explore some states at all without a vehicle. With well-paved and regulated roads on almost all highways and interstates, road trips are a common activity and there are plenty of tour companies that can arrange this for you. Despite fluctuating gas prices, highway adventures offer the chance to experience coastlines, beaches, cities, deserts, and mountains.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit the United States
According to the Köppen climate classification, the United States has about 17 different climates throughout its territory. From warm and cold deserts to humid, cool, and tundra climates, the spread of available activities seems to be never ending.
In general, the best times to visit most places in the U.S. are between May and October (summer and shoulder seasons) unless you are a snowbird, when mountain season lands between November and April (but can start earlier or stay open later depending on the weather).
- The Midwest and Northeast: If you desire to camp and trek throughout the United States' parks, it is best to visit New England and Central Atlantic, Midwest, and Rocky Mountain regions, during the summer months (May - September). Otherwise, the winter conditions will cause road blocks and seasonal closures.
- The South: Winter to late spring months (November - May) are most comfortable for travelers visiting these areas. Summer brings unbearable heat and humidity followed by Gulf hurricane season for southeastern states, causing flight delays and possible weather-related mishaps.
- The West Coast: Travelers and locals love the west coast's consistent weather, southern deserts, and northern greenery. Fall and spring will likely be best if you are seeking good weather in every location. Northwestern U.S. “winters” can be a bit rainy, and Southwest summers are hot, hot, hot.
Whatever you do, avoid visiting the States during Memorial Day weekend (last Monday of May), Labor Day weekend (first Monday of September), July 4th weekend, and Thanksgiving and Christmas. Prices will skyrocket wherever you go.
What to Look For in a Tour to the United States
After you decide on a U.S. destination, consider the following options before booking:
- How much for the flight?
- How much will your accommodations cost?
- What is the cost of living in that state? (This number varies greatly.)
- When is high and low season?
Whichever trip you decide, make sure you pay close attention to any hidden fees. If you find a cheap tour price for instance, make sure it isn't based on two-person occupancy.
Typical Tour Costs
Depending on what is included, tour prices can range from $200 - $5,000, depending on the length of the tour. These tours typically do not include flights and vary by occupancy, season, meals / accommodation inclusions, and duration. Tour prices also often do not include taxes and gratuity.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Luckily most of the cities in the United States offer the opportunity to rent sports equipment and hiking gear, and purchase travel-size toiletries in common drugstores at low prices. This should be an easy packing job.
Due to the high cost of airline baggage fees, it is recommended to pack light and weather appropriate. Light-colored cotton for warm months; wool socks and under armor for the mountains; and a billed cap with layered clothing for the national parks should suffice. As always, comfortable shoes and sunscreen is a must.
Other Tips for Travel in the United States
- Budgeting and currency: The U.S. uses the U.S. dollar (USD) and accepts cash, credit, or debit in most places. Other currencies are not accepted as a means of payment. There are plenty of ATMs to retrieve cash, but beware withdrawals in high touristic areas (like Las Vegas or Times Square) due to high transaction fees. Lastly, gratuity is not included in prices and 15-25% tip is expected upon payment in restaurants, bars, spas, and taxis, depending on the city.
- Visas: If you are not a U.S. Citizen, the tourist visa process may be long, expensive, and arduous. Allot enough time for the application, interview, and processing, and keep things running smoothly by completing necessary tasks at a U.S. Embassy / Consulate in your city of residence. Learn more about how to get an American tourist visa while overseas on the US Department of State website.
- Transportation: The United States has a comprehensive bus, train, and plane system, but can become costly if not adequately planned. While public transportation in the most touristic states is sufficient, some small towns may not even have a local bus system, let alone Uber service, and will require renting a car. Seasonal locations like the mountains also require tire chains during snowfall.
- Accommodations: The U.S. is generally not a hosteling country, though major cities ofter more options. Hotels are often $100+ per night, though you may find budget options for $50 per night, and luxury options for $400+. Apps like Hotel Tonight are helpful in finding deeply discounted (last-minute) hotels during your stay. Additionally, while the legalities regarding short-term rentals (like AirBnB) fluctuate by state, home rentals may also be a useful option for large groups staying longer periods of time.
Health & Safety
Luckily there is one category you can save money on by visiting the United States: vaccinations. The U.S. generally does not require visitors to be vaccinated. Always check the CDC website to make sure you know the latest requirements for your country, of course.
trong>Note: If ill, please note that American pharmacies do not employ onsite doctors. Therefore, medication prescriptions can only be written if you visit the hospital or a clinic.
The United States is generally a safe place to visit, with clean drinking water and expensive, but decent healthcare.
To avoid legal issues, note that hitch hiking, sleeping in stations, and nude sun bathing are not allowed. It is also important to know that the country experiences tense relations regarding racism and gun ownership. Though often seen in smaller states and counties, this can become uncomfortable and unsafe, depending on the city you visit.
Travelers should also use caution when roaming cities after hours, showing jewelry and electronics, and traveling alone in woods and natural parks. Many Americans are generally helpful in providing directions and, in large cities, can often speak more than one language.