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A Complete Guide to USA Travel

By: Swena Kalra

Edited By: Scott Sidders

Updated on November 6, 2023

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The United States of America is a massive country with so much to offer visitors. From the bustling cities of New York and Los Angeles to the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park, there is something for everyone in the USA.

If you are planning a trip to the USA, then this complete guide will help you plan the perfect vacation. We will cover everything from the best time to visit, the best place to visit, where to stay, and how to get around.

Best Time to Visit the USA

Mother and Child Travels Grand Canyon National Park Arizona USA

The best time to visit the USA depends on what you want to see and do. If you are interested in visiting the big cities, then the best time to visit is between September and November or March and May. These months have the best weather for exploring cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

If you want to visit natural attractions like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park, then the best time to visit is during the summer months of June, July, and August. It is worth noting that some attractions, like the Grand Canyon, are very crowded during the summer months.

In general, the best time to visit the USA is during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. The weather is pleasant in most parts of the country, and there are fewer crowds than during the peak summer months.

Weather in the USA

Winter in New York City

Depending on where you are visiting in the USA, the weather can vary greatly.
The east coast of the USA, including cities like New York and Boston, has four distinct seasons. Winters are cold with occasional snowstorms, while summers are warm and humid. Spring and fall are generally mild with some rainfall.

The west coast of the USA, including cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, has more mild weather year-round. The summers can be quite hot, but the winters are much warmer than on the east coast.
The Midwest has warm summers and cold winters, with some parts of the region seeing very heavy snowfall in the winter months.

Before you start planning your trip, it is a good idea to check the average temperatures and rainfall for the time of year you want to visit.


US visa, vintage map and passport background

If you are a citizen of Canada, the UK, or any other country in the European Union, you do not need a visa to enter the USA with some exceptions. Citizens of most other countries will need to apply for a visa before they can enter the USA.

The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose of your visit and how long you plan to stay in the country. There are several different types of visas that can be obtained, including tourist visas, student visas, and work visas. The best way to find out what type of visa you need is to contact the US embassy in your home country.

Travel Insurance for the USA

Traveler filling out a travel insurance form

It is always a good idea to purchase travel insurance before you visit the USA.
There are many different things that can go wrong when you are traveling, from losing your luggage to getting sick or injured. Travel insurance will protect you from financial loss in the event that something goes wrong during your trip.

When looking for travel insurance, be sure to find a policy that covers medical expenses and emergency evacuation. You should also make sure that the policy covers you for the activities you plan to do, such as hiking or skiing.


Staying Safe in the USA

Scenic view of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

The USA is a safe country to visit, but there are always risks when traveling to any new place.
There are a few things you can do to stay safe while you are in the USA.

First, be sure to research the areas you will be visiting before you go. This will help you avoid any dangerous or unsafe areas. Secondly, keep your belongings close to you at all times and be aware of your surroundings. Thirdly, always carry a copy of your passport with you in case you lose the original. Fourth, it is a good idea to register with your embassy or consulate before you travel. This will help them assist you if something happens while you are in the USA. Lastly, always follow the advice of local authorities and trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

By following these simple safety tips, you can help ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip to the USA.

Getting Around The Country

 Road to Mount Rushmore

The USA is a large country, and it can take some time to get from one place to another. The best way to see the country is by car. This gives you the flexibility to stop and explore along the way. If you are short on time, then flying is the best option. When traveling within the USA, you will need a valid driver's license. If you are renting a car, you will also need a credit card.

The USA has an excellent network of roads and highways. The interstate highway system connects all major cities and is the quickest way to get around the country. Traveling by train is another option for getting around the USA. Amtrak operates passenger trains all across the country. The downside of traveling by train is that it can be slow, and you may have to make several stops along the way.
If you are visiting multiple cities, then flying is the best option. There are many domestic airlines in the USA, and fares are often very reasonable.

Tipping in the USA

Young woman purchasing coffee

Tipping is common in the USA, and it is expected in some situations. For example, you should tip your waiter or waitress 15-20% of the bill in a restaurant. You should also tip bellhops, taxi drivers, and other service workers. When traveling in the USA, it is always a good idea to have some cash on hand to tip service workers.

Where to Stay

Downtown Cleveland Hotel Entrance and Waiting Taxi Cab

In the USA, there are several different types of accommodation to choose from. Here are some of the most popular options:

Hotels: Hotels are the most popular type of accommodation in the USA. There are hotels of all shapes and sizes, from budget motels to luxury resorts.

Airbnb: Airbnb is a popular website where you can find private rooms or entire apartments to rent. This is a great option if you want to have your own space and kitchen facilities.

Hostels: Hostels are a popular option for budget travelers. They offer basic dormitory-style accommodation at a fraction of the cost of a hotel room.

RV Parks and Campgrounds: If you are traveling by RV, then there are many RV parks and campgrounds to choose from. These provide a great way to see the country and meet other travelers. You can also save money by cooking your own meals.

When choosing accommodation, it is important to consider your budget and the location of the property. If you are visiting a major city, then you may want to stay in a hotel near the attractions you want to see.
If you are traveling on a tight budget, then hostels or Airbnb are great options. You can also save money by staying in a less popular tourist destination.

Food and Drinks in America

American fast food and drink on a table.

The United States is known for its fast food, such as hamburgers and hot dogs. However, there are many different cuisines to enjoy in the USA.

If you're in New York City, then you have to try a slice of pizza. Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizzas. Los Angeles is known for its Mexican food, such as tacos and burritos. And if you're in San Francisco, then you have to try the seafood.

The USA is also home to many different types of wines. Napa Valley in California is one of the most famous wine regions in the world. You can also find excellent wines in Oregon, Washington, and New York.
If you're looking for a traditional American drink, then you have to try beer. The USA is home to many different breweries, such as Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. You can also find craft beers in many different states, such as California, Colorado, and Oregon.

A trip to the USA would not be complete without trying some of the local foods and drinks. From fast food to fine dining, there is something for everyone in the USA.

What to See and Do in the USA

The USA is a vast country with so much to see and do. It would be impossible to cover everything in one guide, but here are some of the highlights:

1. The Grand Canyon

Horse shoe bend: the Colorado river

The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. Located in Arizona, the canyon is over a mile deep and 18 miles wide at its widest point. Visitors can hike, raft, or take a mule ride down into the canyon. There are also several lookout points where people can admire the views.

The Grand Canyon is a popular spot for both photographers and artists who come to capture the unique beauty of this natural wonder. In addition to its visual appeal, the Grand Canyon is also an important archaeological site. Numerous Native American tribes have lived in or near the canyon over the centuries, and there are many ancient ruins to explore. Whether you're looking for adventure or simply want to admire some stunning scenery, the Grand Canyon is a must-see destination.

2. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Falls: River, Grand Canyon, National Park, Montana, USA

The park is located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and covers almost 3,500 square miles. Yellowstone is home to a variety of landscapes, including forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers. The park is also home to a large number of wildlife species, including bison, elk, bears, and wolves.

Visitors to Yellowstone can enjoy a variety of activities, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and sightseeing. There are also a number of educational opportunities available at the park, such as ranger-led programs and geyser walks. Whether you're looking for adventure or simply want to learn more about the natural world, Yellowstone National Park is sure to have something for you.

3. Las Vegas

Beautiful view of hotel buildings on blue sky background

Situated in the heart of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is a city like no other. Visitors come from all over the world to experience the city's unique blend of entertainment and excess. Whether you're looking to gamble in one of the many casinos or take in a show on the world-famous Strip, there's something for everyone in Las Vegas. And that's just during the day.

At night, the city comes alive with lights and music. The Strip is transformed into a veritable playground for adults, with nightclubs and bars that stay open until the wee hours of the morning. Whether you're looking to party or simply take in the sights, there's no better place to be than Las Vegas.

4. New York City

Freedom Tower and Lower Manhattan from New Jersey

Any trip to the United States would be incomplete without a visit to the country's most populous city, New York. Though often thought of as a concrete jungle, NYC is home to over 30,000 acres of parks, from the world-famous Central Park to smaller playgrounds and green spaces sprinkled throughout the boroughs.

Visitors can spend days exploring the city's museums, monuments, and historical landmarks, from the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island to the Brooklyn Bridge. And, of course, no trip to New York would be complete without taking in a show on Broadway or sampling the city's legendary food. From hot dogs and pretzels on the street to haute cuisine in Manhattan, there's something for everyone in New York City. If you're looking for more to do in New York City, see our complete article on things to do in NYC here.

5. San Francisco

Golden Gate bridge with clouds over San Francisco, California, USA.

Situated on the West Coast of the United States, San Francisco is a vibrant city with a diverse range of activities and attractions to suit all tastes. For those interested in the arts, the city offers a wealth of museums and art galleries, as well as a live theatre and music scene. San Francisco is also home to a number of iconic landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, making it a popular destination for sightseers.

Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the city's many parks and open spaces or taking a trip to one of the nearby beaches or hiking trails. And with its abundant restaurants, cafes, and bars, San Francisco is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal or a night out on the town.

6. Los Angeles

Los Angeles FIgueroa Street after sunset

Los Angeles is a city full of life and activity. There is always something to see and do, no matter what your interests are. For the outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore, as well as beaches for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. The city also has a vibrant nightlife, with bars and clubs open until the early hours of the morning.

And of course, there are famous Hollywood attractions such as the Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Whether you're looking for excitement or relaxation, Los Angeles has something to offer everyone. See our full article on the hottest spots to visit in LA here.

7. Miami

Looking down South Beach in Miami.

When most people think of Miami, they think of the beautiful beaches and the exciting nightlife. However, there is much more to this vibrant city than just sand and sun. From art and culture to history and outdoor activities, Miami has something to offer everyone. One of the best ways to experience Miami is to stroll through one of its many art districts.

Wynwood is home to some of the best street art in the world, while the Design District is full of trendy galleries and shops. For a truly unique experience, head to Little Havana and explore Cuban culture through its food, music, and art. History buffs will also find plenty to do in Miami. Take a tour of the Freedom Tower, which served as an immigrant processing center during the early 20th century. Or explore Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a stunning estate that was once home to one of America's wealthiest families.

Outdoor enthusiasts can spend a day exploring Everglades National Park or Biscayne National Park. Or take a walk or bike ride through one of Miami's many green spaces, such as Jungle Island or Bayfront Park. No matter what your interests are, you'll find plenty to see and do in Miami.

8. Hawaii

Waikiki area of Honolulu Hawaii with the volcanic crater, Diamond Head, in the background.

With its white-sand beaches, lush rainforests, and active volcanoes, Hawaii is one of the most beautiful and diverse states in the USA. Oahu is the most popular destination, home to the state capital of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, but there are plenty of other islands to explore. The Big Island is the largest island in Hawaii and is home to Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes.

Maui is a popular honeymoon destination known for its dramatic coastline and picturesque towns. And Kauai is the perfect place to get away from it all, with its unspoiled beaches and lush vegetation. You can also visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, which pays tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in the 1941 attack. No matter which island you choose to visit, you'll be amazed by the natural beauty of Hawaii.

9. Washington, DC.

Pennsylvania Avenue and United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. USA.

Washington, DC, is a city steeped in history and full of iconic landmarks. The best way to see the city is on foot, so be sure to pack comfortable shoes. Start your tour at the National Mall, where you can see the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. From there, head to the Smithsonian Institution, where you can explore 19 museums and galleries, including the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of American History.

If you're visiting with kids, don't miss a stop at the National Zoo. Then, walk over to Georgetown University and enjoy some shopping and dining in this historic neighborhood. Finish up your trip with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where you can pay respects to the men and women who have served our country.

10. Boston

Boston, Massachusetts Skyline

Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and one of the most historic and iconic cities in the United States. Founded in 1630, Boston is rich in Revolutionary War history and is home to some of America's most famous landmarks, including the Freedom Trail, Fenway Park, and Beacon Hill.

Visitors to Boston can also enjoy its vibrant food scene, world-class museums, and lively nightlife. Whether you're looking to explore American history or simply want to enjoy a good meal, Boston has something for everyone. You can easily spend a week exploring all that this charming city has to offer. You can find a more in-depth article on places to see in Boston here.

11. Alaska

Group of Alaska Brown Bears Fishing Salmon at McNeil River

With its towering mountains, gorgeous glaciers, and abundant wildlife, it's no wonder that so many people come here to experience the natural beauty of Alaska. There are plenty of ways to explore Alaska's great outdoors. Hiking and camping are popular activities, and there are many trails to choose from. For a unique experience, you can try dog sledding or even glacier kayaking.

And, of course, no trip to Alaska would be complete without taking a cruise through Glacier Bay National Park. In addition to its natural wonders, Alaska is also home to some interesting cultural attractions. The capital city of Juneau is worth a visit, with its charming streets and Victorian-era buildings. You can also learn about the state's Native American heritage at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

12. New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA Downtown Skyline Aerial

New Orleans is a city unlike any other, with its French Quarter, lively Jazz scene, and annual Mardi Gras celebration. When you're not partying on Bourbon Street or listening to live music, there are plenty of other things to do in New Orleans. Be sure to take a stroll through the French Quarter, where you can see the iconic St. Louis Cathedral and visit the shops and cafes along Royal Street. For a taste of the local culture, head to the French Market or take a plantation tour.

Final Thoughts

Passenger airplane getting ready for flight

The USA is a vast country with plenty of things to see and do. From the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and New York City to the natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon, there's something for everyone in America. If you're planning a trip to this amazing country, this detailed guide will help you make the most of your time. And remember, with a country so big and diverse as America, we still haven't scratched the surface here. There's so much more to see and do, like Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, and countless other options. Don't let our guide hold you back. Have a blast on your trip and remember to take lots of pictures! Happy travels!

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