My trip seems like a lifetime ago now and after deciding to dedicate Tuesday’s to travel posts I thought it would only be right to do a post answering lots of the questions I have been asked about trek America and things I wish I had known before going.
What is trek America?
Trek America is a tour operated travel company who organise tours for groups of up to 12 people age ranges between 18-30 but they have recently added new tours for larger groups. They organise different styles of trips across the USA, Central America, Alaska and Canada. You can opt for either a camping tour or a budget lodging tour (BLT).
Why did you choose trek America?
I have wanted to travel across the states for a long time, I had previously wanted to do ‘Camp America‘ and work over there for a summer, but after deciding not to go to university and getting a full time job I realised this wouldn’t really be possible. I then heard about Trek America through friends and had a look at their website. You can order a free brochure too. I immediately loved the sound of their trips and decided to book it. I liked the idea of it being organised for me, one big price to cover everything from travel to accommodation and a few extras. I wanted to travel solo so thought that doing it through a tour company would be the safest way for me to go.
Why did you choose trek America over doing it independently?
As mentioned above I wanted to do the trip solo anyway, so doing it with a tour company was a safe option for me as it meant I wasn’t actually on my own in a different country traveling for the first time with no idea what I was doing. I liked the idea of having it all planned for me, I could just hop on the plane and relax knowing that I just had to turn up. There were elements of planning that I had to do but no where near the amount I would of have to have done if I did the trip on my own. It is all included in on price, where if I did the trip on my own I would have had to of budgeted a lot more. Having a tour leader to show me places I would never of known before was so handy and he helped with things like tipping etc… Also as Trek America are such a large company and they take so many people to the same places they often get it at discounted rates so most of the optional activities were cheaper than if I had gone on my own. I also knew that I would 100% meet new people and make friends by going on a tour operated trip!
What should you consider when choosing a trip?
I originally wanted to do the Americana road trip which was slightly longer and it was camping. I knew I wouldn’t be able to camp and travel for that amount of time so started looking for other alternatives. I think the main things to consider are; the length of the trip for several reasons such as the cost and traveling for that amount of time. Also consider the locations, there are so many trips some with places I really wanted to see and some with some places I wasn’t bothered about and then I found the tour that had everything! So it’s important to do your research. Also consider the time of year you are going think of the weather and if it’s the school holidays. I specifically wanted to be in America for the 4th of July so booked my trip with that in mind.
How much did the trip cost you?
Each tour is different, depending on the length of the trip, the destinations and also whether it’s camping or BLT. I did the cross country, Southern BLT. The trip itself was £2100 – this includes the travel whilst you are away, accommodation whilst on trek and a few little extras such as party limo in Las Vegas and entry to sun studios. I did book my flights through trek America too which were £530. I then booked my travel insurance through trek America too which was £85 (I could have got this cheaper if I had looked around). I had to book hotels for the nights in the cities either side of my trek which was about £400. I then spent whilst I was away just short of £2000, this was on food, activities, a little bit of shopping and tipping! So in total my trip cost me around £5000 (roughly).
How did you save/budget for the trip?
I booked my trip in the September last year and went in June this year so that gave me 8 months to save for the trip. This was really not a lot of time considering the cost of the trip so I would recommend giving yourself a bit more time but I worked it all out before I booked it and knew that I would be able to afford it, it just meant giving up a few things here and there and going on a serious spending ban! The last year I did so many Bootsales, sold the majority of my wardrobe and bedroom on eBay and was extremely nice to my family and friends around Christmas and my birthday… I had to cut down on my luxuries and think of the bigger picture but it was all worth it! I did a post on how to save for your travels which you can check out here!
Why did you go on your own?
Over the last year or so I have been doing more and more things outside my comfort zone and it’s mainly down to my blog which has given me more confidence. This year I turned 21 and I said right at the beginning it was going to be my adventurous year, I wanted to push myself to do new things, try new things and meet new people. Trek America for me was something I wanted to do for myself, something I can look back on for years and remember I did that myself! It was difficult saving for it and scary getting on that plane on my own but the memories I have from that trip are priceless and I would do it again in a heart beat.
Can you find the people on your trek before hand?
Yes you can use the trek America live forums or their Facebook page. I used the hashtags #trekamerica #southernblt on Twitter and Instagram to find people which I found most useful!
How do you pack?
This was a question I kept asking myself before I left… How on earth are you meant to pack enough stuff for 4 weeks in under 23 kilos?! I bought some vacuum pack bags from poundland which were an absolute life saver, they kept everything organised and saved space which is essential when you are living out of a suitcase for 4 weeks! I had a few pieces that I could wear with different things so it wasn’t the same outfit all the time. I bought my toiletries when I was out there. Trek America have a packing list which I used – it was very thorough. But after going I think that could have been a bit better as I packed things that were unnecessary so I am thinking of doing my own packing list!
How did you budget whilst you were away?
Trek America have a list of additional activities that will be available to you when. You are away so I looked at that as a rough guide before I went to see what I would want to do and how much it would cost. They also recommend $30 a day on food etc… So I just roughly estimated how much I would need and added a little extra for shopping and emergency money and not to forget tipping! (it’s always better to have more than not enough).
What is one thing you would recommend doing on a trek America trip?
This is so hard to choose one thing. From my trip I would 100% say do the helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon. It’s something I probably won’t do again and I’m so glad I got the chance to do it! But in general just let go a bit and just enjoy every experience and opportunity you get whilst away as it really is a once in a lifetime sort of thing!
Did you stay longer than the trip?
Trek America recommend staying an extra day or two anyway in the cities you start and end in. I booked 2 days extra in LA before my trip and 2 days extra in New York for after my trip. I booked the hotels through trek America in the ‘gateway hotels’ which are the hotels you meet at the beginning and get dropped off at at the end. I booked these as I wanted it to be as easy as possible as I was travelling on my own. However I know others on my trip who booked hostels cheaper and closer to the city. So I would say have a look around!
What tips would you give for planning your trip before and after the tour?
I would 100% recommend planning these days properly. If you want to go somewhere specifically that needs tickets etc do this all online before you go. For example in New York City you can buy a ticket online for $240 that includes all of the tourist attractions such as the Empire State Building, the rockafella centre and the Statue of Liberty. There is a lot to see and do so having a plan will mean you can make the most of your time.
Are there long drives?
The simple answer to this is YES! To drive from one side of the states to the other in 21 days is quite a challenge… There are some really long drives I’m not going to lie but… They are broken up with picnic stops, fun playlists and random stop offs in places you would never of known about if it wasn’t for the road trip but end up being some of the funniest memories ever! I really didn’t mind the road trips and you get quite attached to the van!
Do you need to be 21 to go?
No, trek America is aimed at ages 18-30. My group ranged from ages 20-33! If you aren’t 21 I wouldn’t let that stop you however all I would say is on my tour it was very heavy on nights out especially in Vegas, Texas and Tennessee! I felt bad for the girl who wasn’t 21 as she wasn’t able to get in most of the places and if she did get in she wasn’t able to drink and had to have her hand stamped to show she was under age. It’s important to remember that the drinking age is different in the states. I personally would wait until I’m 21 so I can get the full experience, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from booking the trip if you really badly wanted to go.
Would you recommend taking a camera?
I bought a brand new camera especially for the trip (Canon 700D) as I wanted to capture quality pictures of the amazing places I was going. It overheated 4 days into the trip and I was devastated and I was then stuck with carying around a big heavy, £400 camera around with me for the rest of my trip. Luckily my phone takes good pictures. I would say don’t go out especially for it and get an expensive big camera. It’s a pain in the ass to carry and you just want to enjoy yourself when you are away. My phone did a good job and I have the memories to last me. Some girls on my trip had Go Pros which were fantastic so if you are thinking of getting a camera for it then have a look at the go pros as they were small, compact and took some great pictures and videos.
What was the accommodation like?
Considering it was a ‘budget lodging tour’ some of the places we stayed at were lovely! The hotel in Las Vegas was luxury! Even some of the hostels were really nice, expacially the one in Nashville! Some of the motels were a little basic but it’s what you expect. I was genuinely surprised at the accommodation throughout the trip!