From the 7th June until 24th August 2016 I embarked on a road trip around America with my boyfriend (Omar). We drove approximately 15,000 miles. I will split this blog into different parts, so this first part is my journey from the UK to Texas and some basic points about my trip. I will then create more blog posts about each state I visited.
At the time of the road trip, I found it difficult to write about the trip as we were always on the move, any free time was either when I was sleeping or travelling in the car. I can’t read or write while travelling as it gives me travel sickness, so that wasn’t an option. My memory is a little rusty for all the little details, so I will only write the most memorable things. Hopefully, this will be of interest to anyone who is planning their road trip or deciding where they would like to go in North America.
What I decided to take. Something I will say is that comfort is more important than style when doing such a long road trip over the summer. Going to America, no offence to Americans, but they aren’t all running around in the latest fashion trends. It’s more denim and a t-shirt kind of look and there is nothing wrong with that. Let’s face the facts, myself and Omar were seeing a lot of the main tourist attractions, so you find yourself with a lot of tourists who don’t really care what they look like. Plus, when we did any hikes in national parks, again, nobody cared what you looked like. So don’t get too hooked onto what clothes to take. Just make sure you have clothes and accessories suitable for the weather, choose items you could wear with different outfits, always have a comfortable pair of shoes, swimming gear, a good sized handbag, and something nice to wear if you want to go out in the evening.
Money. An estimate of the amount I spent on this trip is £4500. Bare in mind, my flights only cost $190 because my boyfriend had plenty of airline points which heavily reduced the cost. Something I would recommend investing in, is the post office travel money card. You can sign up online, put a minimum (I have a feeling its $500 dollars but I could be wrong) on the card, the card then gets delivered to your house and you basically treat it like a debit card. They request you download their app, or you can go to their website, to top up the card so you are never short of cash. You transfer money from your English bank account onto the card and it converts the money into dollars based on the current currency rates. This made life so much easier while travelling. I would say that make sure you have cash on you as well. Occasionally the card didn’t work, particularly in gas stations and some independent shops (no idea why). I will say that check how the pound is doing to the dollar. Near the end of my trip, Brexit came to play and the pound to the dollar dropped so I got significantly less than I did at the beginning of the trip.
Budgeting. Other things need to be taken into consideration when budgeting for the trip, such as travel insurance, buying a visa, car rental (if this is what you are doing), budgeting for accommodation (I would recommend cheap motels), buying food, attractions etc. I will say for accommodation, there are some websites that if you book hotels/motels through and there you can develop points or after a certain amount of bookings, there might be an offer where you can stay a night for free. Don’t always feel you need to book through these sites. Do your research. Sometimes we booked through these sites and found a way cheaper motel while driving around.
Petrol didn’t seem a problem. But more paying for parking. I would recommend leaving your car at the hotel/motel and using public transport (if there are good links). When we were in New York/Washington, travelling by the tour bus or trains was much cheaper than trying to park in the inner cities.
Planning. Before I went, we made a list of the main things/places we wanted to go/see. We worked out the total of miles and how long it would take to get from A-B (you can easily do this on google maps). Give yourself extra time in case something goes wrong. We did this and arrived back in Texas a week before I had to fly back home. Better early than late!
In terms of planning where to be at which date, this didn’t come into play until I got to America. We planned the journey as we went along. We both felt that this worked out quite well, sometimes you get somewhere and you think you will be there for a couple of days but you end up being there much longer (Las Vegas). Whereas others you think you will be there longer but you end up being there for less amount of time (San Francisco). This isn’t necessarily based on the places being good/bad, but sometimes you could see everything in a day, and some bad experiences would prevent you from exploring more so you would move to the next place.
Planning for multiple people. I had a preference for national parks and cities like New York and Washington. He had preferences for national parks and the Presidential Libraries. Personally, I thought the presidential museums were interesting although it would’ve been my first choice. But, I needed to take into consideration that everybody has different tastes and it’s not just my trip. So we made sure we balanced what each of us wanted to do.
Food: Eating out in America can be expensive, it can also be incredibly cheap but likely to be unhealthy. Plan to eat out once or twice a week. We bought a portable electric cooker which allowed us to cook our own meals. Lots of hotel/motel rooms don’t provide a microwave or cooker so it was a good investment. You can easily get a cheap one from Walmart, and then buy one or 2 pots with some plastic bowls. Oh (random thought) lots of motels/hotels you have to pay extra for Wi-Fi and it doesn’t always come with good signal.
3 months off (approximately). How did I get 3 months off? I quit my job. No workplace is going to let you off for that amount of time. But I was planning on moving on anyway so it wasn’t a big deal for me.
Going to America: My mother kindly dropped me off at the airport and walked with me through the airport as much as she could. She seemed a bit teary eyed when she left me/said goodbye. Like I was never going to return after, and even I got a bit teary! Perhaps because it was the first time flying by myself. But I’m 24 so….surely it isn’t a big deal? My mum can be a worrier so….perhaps that’s why. Bless her golden hear!
London Heathrow airport, no problems, everyone was nice and it’s easy to get around the airport. No problems with that!
The flight. 10 hours. Bloody hell. I hate flying anyway but luckily there was barely any people in the seats so I was able to lay across 4 chairs. I can’t sleep sitting up, so this was a blessing! The flight attendants were….moody? I could see the ones from first class were very polite. But from economy plus, dam, learn to smile. Not all the time because that’s freaky, but still. The ones on my side of the isle seemed a bit…rude. Even if you misheard what they said they seemed irritated by you. They weren’t just like it with me, but with others. Bit disappointing to be honest, but hey, just bad luck I guess. – I flew with united airlines.
Houston airport. Easy to get around and I had no problems. Got to the immigration part and the gentleman who looked at my passport etc, was incredibly nice. But even though he could see my age from my passport, he treated me like a 12-year-old. Bit cringe. He took my fingerprints and a picture of your face. When he took a picture of my face he said “smile for Santa”. WHAT THE ACTUAL F*** DID YOU JUST SAY?? So cringe….but looking back on it = hilarious.
The rude man. Got my bags and made my way to the exit, we needed to give our declaration forms in. This wasn’t well signposted, so I didn’t have a clue what people were giving to the staff just before the exit. I unfortunately gave him the wrong form, instead of him telling me this, he threw the piece of paper to the floor in front of everyone and stood there in silence staring at me. I never felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed. I even got a bit teary eyed because I had no idea what he wanted. Finally I see on the table he wanted another type of form, which he then snatched from me. I picked up the form he threw to the floor and walked out of the airport. I’m still a bit bitter about how he treated me, because I feel he would probably do the same to others. I feel this would be especially worse for those whose first language is not English, because this guy doesn’t understand the concept of communication.
Out of the airport. Finally, I was greeted by my boyfriend, all the bad feelings went away. He’s been in my situation where you speak to someone who should help you, as it’s their job, but they end up being a d***. When he first came to England, he got lost in London, asked a police officer for help. To which the office replied in a sarcastic tone “I am a police officer, I arrest people”. When he told me, I felt so embarrassed, I always speak about how lovely people are here and then he comes across an absolute douche. Disappointing. But obviously, both encounters don’t reflect the majority of people in each country.
At this point, I was just happy to be with Omar. It had been a while since I saw him!
And that was my journey from the UK to America. Throughout the week I will discuss what I did in each state, starting with Texas. If you have any questions or want me to write more about particular things. Just comment below 🙂