How do you prepare for a trip to America? Buy a ticket and go? Think again. Our journey to America/Canada was not as easy as you think and required several bookings, visas, flights and Airbnb's. Whilst everyone assured me I would have an amazing time on my travels to America, no-one warned me of the extensive planning a trip to New York over New Year would be, or how many airports there are in the state. If you're planning a trip to different destinations within the USA and Canada then read on for our timeline of how we prepared for our break to New York and Toronto.
5-6 months to go...
Statistically 20-24 weeks prior to travel is the cheapest period to book flights to America so I would advise looking for flights around this time. If you think that during your search the prices may fluctuate and decrease you can set up flight tracker alerts on skyscanner, simply search using our link below. You can save yourself hundreds booking flights and accommodation in advance so this is definitely one of your first steps when booking a trip to America.
Use skyscanners tool to search your best time to book here
My long time favourite, I will always use skyscanner to compare all my flights as well as searching which dates are best to travel on.
As for accommodation if you are visiting popular tourist destinations such as New York I would recommend browsing your accommodation options even earlier, as hotels, Airbnb’s and even hostels can sell out months before your dates of travel. The subways are very frequent and cheap in New York so don't be afraid to stay in a less central location if it saves you some money.
3 months to go...
If there’s one thing that brexit has taught me it's to be vigilant when it comes to visiting other countries, no less America. 3 months may be too late to check if your passport is still ‘in date’ but now is time to check you have the correct documents for travel. This includes America’s compulsory visas.
US border and customs protection website describes pretty clearly who is eligible and what you will require in order to make an application for an ESTA:
You qualify if:
- You are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country.
- You are currently not in possession of a visitor's visa.
- Your travel is for 90 days or less.
- You plan to travel to the United States for business or pleasure.
What You Need:
- Valid passport from a Visa Waiver Program country
- Valid credit card or PayPal to pay the US $14 per application.
- Your most recent employment information, if applicable.
Whilst our applications were approved almost instantly, this may not always be the case and if there are any extra precautions or steps you may need to take achieve a successful application. Without this you will not be allowed entry to the country.
1 Month To Go
If you plan on visiting lots of tourism attractions, more often than not you will find admission is cheaper online than paying on the day and this is also a great opportunity for you to create an itinerary for your trip, as your attractions are already booked. That being said if you don't know when you want to visit each site, and you want to save money across all attractions then I would definitely recommend a CityPass. Whilst each city may have various tourism passes, CityPass is a company which has compiled passes for 13 American cities including New York, San Francisco and Seatle to name a few. Often city passes like this will charge a one off payment for a card or digital pass which allows you free entry to the main attractions in your destination, these can be valid for a set number of attractions or during a time period. The CityPass in particular is a one off payment for a set number of attractions valid for 9 days and also provides discount for additional services such as cruises or tours.
Now you are armed with your citypass, giving you free admission to the top attractions in New York next you need an itinerary of your time in the city that never sleeps that caters to your preference in attractions, favourite foods, the pace you like to move at and your primary modes of transport. Sounds tiring? Think again. This is where the UGotIt app came in for me during my trip. It took all the boring work out of planning the holiday for me, something I would have spent DAYS if not WEEKs pouring over and gave us a personalised itinerary for our time in the city, I would seriously recommend it to anyone visiting New York and I have a seperate blog post all about it here.
1 Week To Go
This can be done anytime really but is essential: purchase travel insurance for your trip. Whilst sometimes it may seem like a waste of money, cancelled flight, muggings, tropical infection? That'll never happen to me. The one time you don't buy it you'll need it and whilst flight companies will do whatever they can to squirm out of paying for cancelled or delayed flights, travel insurance will give you that peace of mind that if something does go wrong, you're covered.
While packing I found using vacuum clothes bags really helped free up space in my luggage. They are cheap, easy to use and reusable and allowed me to bring lots of presents (for myself) back with me. They were especially helpful as we were visiting Canada in winter so my suitcase was mostly full of jumpers, which were easily compressed with these bags. You can get them at pound shops, ebay or amazon!
24 Hours To Go
Most airlines will only let you check in on your flight 24 hours in advance of your departure time, so to avoid extra fees at the airport make sure you complete all your passport information online, confirm your checked bags are booked and download your boarding passes. I always think it's better to have a paper copy of your boarding pass as well as an electronic version should anything happen to your phone, or it's battery!
Before leaving make sure you have your essentials, you’ve weighed your bag before (no one wants to pay the ridiculous overweight baggage fees) and that your flight hasn’t been delayed or cancelled for any reason. Also be cautious about liquids in your hand luggage, anything that is over 100ml you will be asked to dispose of, painful if you bring a big expensive bottle of perfume!
Let me know in the comments your essential tips for preparing for a trip to the USA!