The United States is a vast country that has something for every traveller. Whether you like the hustle and bustle of the city life, venturing out into one of many National Parks, or to experience the culture, this ultimate USA travel guide has you covered.
This could be your first time visiting the USA or you’re a frequent traveller, it’s still important to have a travel guide, that will help you make the most of your trip.
In this guide, we will cover the best time to visit the USA, how to get around, visa requirements, how to set a budget, things to do and activities.
Make this an unforgettable trip to the States.
There may be affiliate links within this article, using these links will not cost you anything extra, but we may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.
Table of Contents
When to visit USA
The best time to visit the USA, will depend on the region you intent to visit, when you want to travel and the activities you plan to do.
The shoulder months of Spring and Autumn are an ideal time to visit, as conditions are mild and pleasant. Cherry blossom in Washington DC is famous during the spring, while the National Parks offer stunning scenery.
Summer is the busiest time, with warm sunny days and plenty of outdoor activities to do.
Winter in the north can be a challenge with cold and in some area’s snowy conditions. Although ideal if you love winter sports, such as snowboarding and skiing.
December becomes busy in Winter, with Christmas markets and New Year celebrations. New York City is the best place to be during Christmas and New Year.
To avoid the crowds, plan your visit to the USA during Spring and Autumn and for milder weather conditions and a more relaxed holiday.
Try and avoid travel during school holidays, for cheaper and more budget friendly options.
Are you wanting to visit New York during the festive season? Then get into the Christmas spirit with these best places to visit in New York City.
You will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, without the need for prior covid testing and quarantine.
If you are unvaccinated, then you may not be able to enter the USA. You’ll need to check with your local government website for the latest travel Covid updates.
It is also recommended, that a Covid test is taken within 3-5 days of arrival in the USA.
All other vaccinations are not required but you should be vaccinated against the MMR (Measles, mumps and rubella) and make sure you’re up to date on all other vaccines and boosters.
We would recommend purchasing travel insurance before you travel to the USA, as travel insurance will protect you should you require any emergency medical treatment. Not only will travel insurance protect you should you need treatment, which can get costly depending on the condition, but will also cover you for cancellations, lost luggage, and more.
Want to find out more about travel insurance? Then check out our post on Should I get Travel Insurance?
Visitors to the United States will require a visa before entry depending on the country of origin.
You can apply for a short holiday visa, called and ESTA and depending on your nationality you can complete the ESTA visa application online.
We applied for our visa to the USA, which was easy and simple.
You can find out more on visas for the USA on our post on How to get a Visa to the USA.
The currency used in the Unites States is the US $ (dollar).
ATMs are available in the USA and most companies accept debit or credit card payment, although some smaller businesses may ask for cash. It is a good idea to take some cash with you.
Always notify your bank of your intending travel, as most providers may place a stop on your card, if they feel your card has been cloned or stolen.
You should also check if you’ll be charged interest for using the card overseas. Our bank does, so we use cash or a prepaid card, with no interest for overseas transactions.
Some airlines offer credit card that have zero interest on purchases used locally or internationally and you can earn airmiles from the transactions.
Shop around for the best deal on credit/debit cards that suit your needs.
Plan route and itinerary
Planning your route and itinerary is important before embarking on your USA adventure.
Start by mapping your route and destinations, how long do you want to spend in each location, how to get between each destination. Are there any festivals and events you might be interested in, check out places to stay and eat in that location and what activities you might want to do.
Having a plan will help make the most of your trip and avoid any unexpected surprises.
Need help with your travel planning? Then we have you covered with this free travel planner. It’s free to download and you can use it for any upcoming trips you may have planned too.
Research your destination
Another important step in planning your USA travel itinerary is to research your destinations.
Research what the top tourist attractions are in the locations you plan to visit, get off the beaten path too with some lesser-known hidden gems that’s waiting to be discovered.
Diving into the USA culture is another great experience that could make this an epic adventure.
Consider any safety concerns or travel warnings in place. You can usually find out if there are any warnings or advisories, through your government.
Stay safe and enjoy your trip when you research ahead of time.
What to pack for the USA
There is that saying, less is more, which is the case when packing for your USA travel adventures. Always stick to the essentials and avoid overpacking, it will only cost you more at the airport if your baggage is overweight.
Think about the climate and activities you intend to do and pack accordingly. Always include all the important documents, passports and visas.
You may want to leave some space for any souvenirs you may purchase along the way.
If you do forget something, it’s likely you’ll be able to purchase it in the USA, or something similar to what you have back home.
Need a comprehensive guide on what to pack for the USA, then check out comprehensive guide to packing for the USA. Plus, you can download the free packing check list, that way you won’t miss a thing or overpack.
How to travel the USA on a budget
Before embarking on a USA travel adventure, you must consider your budget and determine how much money you have to spend on transport, accommodation, food, activities and tours.
Look for deals and discounts on flights, hotels and attractions. Be flexible with your dates and choose the shoulder months or winter for cheaper deals.
Hostels are the cheapest, but you may find some budget friendly B&B’s, motels or hotels. Stay further out of the city for cheaper accommodation rates.
If you plan and research your budget ahead, you can make the most of your USA travel experience without breaking the bank.
Here are a few tips on how to set a budget and some simple ways to save while you travel.United States of America Travel Costs
Getting there and around
The USA might be a large country, but getting around is relatively easy, with good public transport links.
The most common mode of transport is planes, buses, trains and cars. Renting a car can be an excellent way to explore the country and some of its remote locations.
We have always dreamt of taking a road trip around the USA, with Route 66 top of our list. But if you do hire a vehicle, just be aware that driving law and regulations can vary from state to state.
Here are some options:
Most tourists will arrive in the USA via a domestic or international flight. You can find airports in large cities or some more rural and smaller cities.
Flying is a great way to get from one region of the country to another, it’s quick, but is the most expensive way to travel.
We have flown into Newark Liberty International Airport, which is in Newark, about 12 miles from New York City. It’s cheaper to fly into Newark Liberty International Airport, but John F Kennedy is the other airport with a short distance from New York City.
We have also taken a flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Las Vegas McCarran Airport. To keep costs to a minimum, we used Spirit Airlines, which is a budget airline in the USA.
What better way to explore the US, than on a US Road Trip!
If you are arriving from outside of the US, then you will need to hire a vehicle. You could hire a car, or even a camper van or motor home, and in most cases, you hire the vehicle from a hire company at the airport.
If you are from the US, then you can always hire a vehicle, or take your own vehicle to your holiday destination.
Driving your own vehicle is one of the best ways to get around, it makes it convenient, and easy. However, parking in some places such as major cities may be expensive or limited.
We drive in the UK on the left, so driving on the right is a little different and unusual, so be careful if you are not familiar with driving on the left.
On our next trip to the USA, we are planning to do the classic Route 66, so watch this space!
Travelling around the USA via train, is a great method to get around. Most cities will have great connections with other towns and cities around America, making it a great way to sit back, relax and take in the scenery.
Trains are more expensive than taking a bus, but quicker.
On our last trip to New York, we took a day trip to visit a friend, who lives about 2 hours train journey from the city.
It was a different way to experience the USA.
Travelling via bus is another great way to get around. Buses allow for great connections within a city, and many major towns and cities around the US.
Although it is slower, but cheaper.
Walking around the large cities is a great way to stay on budget and discover some hidden gems along the way.
We will always recommend walking where possible, not only is it budget friendly, but better for the environment and our health.
An adventurous way to explore the USA, is with an amazing hike in some of the most wonderful National Parks. Get out into the great landscape and see what you can discover.
The United States has a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference.
You could stay in a luxury hotel in New York City, or a budget friendly hostel, there is something for everyone.
Budget travellers may prefer staying in a hostel, Airbnb is a great option if you’re travelling as a family or a group splitting the cost.
You may prefer a luxurious place to lay your head, the options are endless.
We have stayed in basic motels, on our 3-day trip tour from New York City, to Philadelphia, Washington DC and Niagara Falls, to the large luxury hotel of Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Always do your research to find the best deals on accommodation.
Things to do in USA
The United States is home to several world-famous destinations, each offering a unique experience. Here are some of the top destinations you shouldn’t miss:
New York City
Known as the city that never sleeps, New York City is a vibrant metropolis with iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and Times Square.
New York City has a special place in our heart as it was the first holiday we took as a couple. We have since returned to New York City, to discover the city again.
Budget travellers should take advantage of the several free things to do.
Is it the first time to New York, or you’re a frequent traveller, you should check out these helpful posts to get you started with your travel planning:
- Best day trips from New York
- Best places to eat in New York City
- Ultimate 1 week New York City itinerary
- Things to do in New York City
The capital city of the USA and the home to politics, with iconic landmarks such as The White House, Washington Monument and monuments and museums.
Budget friendly travellers should make the most of the many free monuments and museums. We loved the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. It was stunning after the sun set and the light of the monument reflects on the pool below.
Looking for things to do in the capital, then check these out:
Known as the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas is a city that’s all about glitz and glamour, with casinos, nightclubs, and world-class shows.
Make a point of wandering from hotel to hotel on the Las Vegas strip, admire the different architectural designs, Bellagio Water Fountain is famous, along with New York New York and Paris hotel.
Need more tips on visiting Las Vegas, then check out these posts:
- Where to stay in Las Vegas
- Places to eat in Las Vegas
- 3 Days in Las Vegas itinerary
- Bellagio Hotel review
- Things to do in Las Vegas
The bright red and orange of the Grand Canyon is a stunning place to visit. The Canyon has formed over thousands of years and is a great day trip from Las Vegas.
Easy bus tours offer trips to the rims of the Canyon, with overnight stays if you wish.
Here are a few tours you could book:
We would also recommend these famous cities in the USA to visit, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco.
Looking for more inspiration on where to visit in USA? Here are 20 things to do in Orlando with toddlers. There’s plenty to see and do, that doesn’t include Disney world Orlando.
There’s never a shortage of things to do in the United States, no matter what your interests are. Here are some of the top activities to consider:
- National Parks – The United States has several stunning national parks, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon.
- Theme Parks – From Disney World to Universal Studios, the United States is home to several world-famous theme parks.
- Sports Events – The United States is home to several professional sports teams, making it a great destination for sports fans.
- Shopping – From luxury boutiques to outlet malls, the United States is a shopper’s paradise.
How to stay safe in USA
Like most countries, it will depend on the city or region and the time of day, but in general the USA is a safe place to visit.
Although we would recommend taking some basic safety precautions when travelling to any destination.
A few tips we would recommend is to be aware of your surroundings, avoid unlit or poorly populated areas at night and keep valuables like passport and cash secure.
It’s a good idea to research the areas you plan to visit before you go and to be aware of any potential safety concerns or issues.
Need more tips on how to stay safe while travelling, then check out our post here.
The United States is always worth visiting, with a wide range of destinations and activities that suits everyone’s interests.
It’s so important to research and plan your trip, from when the best time to travel, applying for a visa, to setting a budget.
Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or something in between, we’re sure that the USA will leave a lasting impression on you.
So, research and plan your trip with this USA travel guide, pack your bags, hit the road and start exploring all that is incredible about this country.
Have you visited the USA? What was your highlight? Where would you recommend visiting? Maybe you haven’t yet been to America, but have something you have always wished to do? Is there anything from this list that we haven’t included, but think we should mention?
We would love to hear about it, so please just leave a comment below.