Summer travel is popular among U.S. university students while on break from classes. It is a challenge for people from other regions to fathom the vastness of the United States—driving across the USA from New York to Seattle or L.A. takes days! The best part of travel in the U.S. is that each region of the country has its own geography, flavor and culture, much like the different countries of the E.U. or South America. This diversity makes it difficult to make generalities. Take advantage of your free time—travel and discover the USA!
You Can Travel by Air, Bus, Train or Car.
Going by Air
Air travel is the most convenient and time-effective way to travel within the United States. Most airlines offer discount fares for travel between major cities and from coast to coast (New York to Los Angeles). Special student fares are also available. Be sure to shop around for the best prices. Look for web promotions and special offers.
Recommended air travel sites: expedia.com, travelocity.com, lowestfare.com, orbitz.com, or kayak.com. Kayak is especially effective because it searches across multiple airlines sites. These websites can help save money on airfare. Pay attention to how many stops are in the flight plan. Sometimes less expensive tickets will have multiple stops, making the trip longer.
For students and educational visitors (or anyone under the age of 25), a good travel-booking source is STA. It is the world’s leading travel organization for students and young travellers. You may also consult a travel agent to help you find the most convenient fare for you. Be aware that you will usually pay a $5 to $20 booking fee if you book your ticket over the phone with a travel agent, while booking online is free.
Going By Bus
The large commercial bus lines, such as Greyhound and Gray Lines, have inexpensive, long-distance rates for travelers. Often, students have more time than money, so bus travel can be the way to go. Plus, you can enjoy the scenic route and experience more of the local flair than if you were traveling by plane.
For those traveling from abroad, Greyhound also offers the option of an International Ameripass. It is good for up to 60 consecutive days of travel, and provides unlimited travel in most parts of the U.S. Purchase an Ameripass at any U.S. Greyhound terminal. For the international Ameripass you must buy your ticket 21 days prior to your arrival in the USA, and it is available online at greyhound.com or at participating travel agents abroad.
Going by Train
Railway travel is also a great way to see this large country. It is generally more expensive —especially compared to train travel in the E.U.—than travel by bus, but it can be more comfortable.
Amtrak, the largest passenger train service in the United States, offers 15 or 30 days of unlimited rail travel with either their USA Pass or North America Pass. You may buy these passes via travel agents worldwide or at any Amtrak-staffed station.
Going by Car
Americans have had a long-time “love affair” with the automobile. The sense of freedom that comes with just “hitting the road” is something that most Americans would not want to live without.
If you plan to drive in the USA, make sure to come prepared; you will need an international driver’s license, insurance, and knowledge of road signs. For assistance with maps and directions, visit the American Automobile Association.
If you do buy a car in the U.S. you might want to join AAA (commonly referred to as “triple A”). It provides excellent benefits such as roadside service and customized trip planners with door-to-door directions for members. Also consult the Department of Motor Vehicles, dmv.org, for information about driver’s licenses, vehicle registration, insurance, and more.
You Can Stay in Hostels, Hotels, and Rentals (i.e. Airbnb) or Go Camping!
Staying in Hostels
Hostel accommodations are inexpensive, clean, friendly, and secure. The best source for locating hostels in the USA is through the American Youth Hostels. You can also procure membership and information about U.S. hostels at the International Youth Hosteling Foundation. You’ll also find links and information on IYHF/AYH services and summer trips.
Campsites are available at private camping grounds or at state and national parks. Many public campgrounds are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, but some require reservations. You will usually pay a small fee and display a tag at your campsite. The easiest way to be certain of campground availability is to contact the park directly, usually the park ranger.
On the U.S. National Parks website or State Park websites, find national or state parks around the country and obtain specific information on seasonal events, regulations and camping. For details on other camping options, check some of the links located at camping-usa.com. Camping is a fun way to explore the beautiful parks and landscapes of the USA, and costs almost nothing!