Top Tips When Travelling to America

So you’ve decided that you want to travel to America, now you need to make sure you’ve got everything you need. When entering any country, you need to make sure you have the right visa and entry requirements to ensure a stress free entry and America is no different.

The United States of America is one of the most popular travel spots in around the world with Florida and New York hitting the top spots. However, to ensure your travel is smooth, there are a few rules and regulations you should be aware of.

Your Passport and ESTA

This probably sounds daft but before you travel to America, you should check your passport and ensure it’s valid with a minimum of 6 months left on the passport. This should be 6 months after the planned return date, not the outgoing date. Without 6 months validity on your passport, authorities could deny your entry to the country.

When you travel from the UK to America, passport requirements are regulated by the US Visa Waiver Program and ESTA. To gain entry to America you will be required to travel with an ESTA visa so ensure you have a valid ESTA as well as valid passport. The ESTA will allow you to travel to the USA for up to 90 days.

You should fill in your ESTA form at least 72 hours before you plan to travel. This is a simple process by which you pay a small fee and are usually approved right away. This isn’t always the case though so doing this sooner rather than later is more beneficial. As your ESTA will last for 2 years, you can apply before you book anything else to ensure there aren’t any issues you need to sort out like duel citizenship.

Your Luggage

When travelling anywhere, you should be very aware of what you are and aren’t allowed to take with you in your suitcase and hand luggage. This is pretty obvious really for anyone who is travelling to avoid any unnecessary baggage hold ups. However, for added piece of mind, you should lock your luggage while travelling. One annoyance of this though it that all checked bags are scanned, screened and checked. If the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) deem it necessary to check your bags, they can break the lock to check your bag’s contents. If you use a TSA approved lock, your lock can be opened using a TSA master key meaning you won’t have to fork out for a new lock.

Transfers

When you arrive in America, the next step is getting to your destination. Booking a transfer might be the easiest option for you. Public transport might not be the most reliable method of travel and after a long flight, you may just wish to forget about any daunting drives on very bust roads. Ensure when you book that you allow enough time to get through customs and immigration.

If you need a car for your travel, pre-book your hire car before you arrive. Think about whether you  need to hire car seats for children or if you are going to bring them with you. If you don’t want to take your own car seats or buggy, it can actually be cheaper to buy something from a local mall rather than hiring for your entire trip.

Mobile Data

Unless you know for sure that your mobile contract allows for data roaming in the USA, turn off your mobile data. Roaming data rates can be extortionate so check your mobile plan before you travel. You may be able to pre pay for a mobile bundle before you travel. If not, just log on to the free WiFi spots wherever possible.

Tipping is a big deal

In America, tipping is a big thing. Although tips are usually optional, there is an expectation in America and it can be a little confusing. In America you are expected to tip between 15-20% in restaurants. While this might seem ludicrous to you, the reason behind this is because the minimum wage is so low in America so tips are an important part of their income. Staff can sometimes earn 3 or 4 times more from tips than their wages.

It’s not just in restaurants though, you may be expected to tip your bar tender ($1-$2 per drink), housekeepers ($2-$5 per night), hotel porters ($2 per bag), doormen and taxi drivers (15-20%). So it might be a good idea to take a wallet full of dollar bills with you so you don’t get caught out.

Enjoy yourself

Having navigated all of this before you’ve even got to your destination, once you do arrive, ENJOY! You can plan your day trips and itinerary before you go or be more relaxed in your approach. Whichever you decide to do, here are a list of top activities in America to give you some inspiration and don’t forget your ESTA!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this, why not head on over to Jenny Lord at Midwife and Life  to see what she’s been up to?

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