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First Time Travelling to the States (Solo)

Old Feb 16th, 2016, 01:53 AM
  #1  
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First Time Travelling to the States (Solo)

Hi All,

New member, and my first post, so please forgive any faux pas on my part.

I'm considering making a trip over to the states this summer from the UK. I'll be travelling solo (it will be my first time doing so) and I'm a little apprehensive because in the past I have always travelled as part of a group, and generally on package deals or just to standard Brit resorts in Spain and Greece etc.

I'm 32, fairly outgoing and world wise. I'm not looking to do this on a shoestring, but neither am I rich enough that money is no object. I like to walk around cities and absorb the atmosphere and culture, find nice places to eat and maybe have a few beers. I like to take in some of the more interesting tourist traps but also try and find a few things a little off the beaten track. I'm fit and healthy so walking around isn't an issue. I'm looking at around 2 weeks’ vacation in total, provisionally around June time, but I am very flexible in this.

I have in mind to start in New York, spend a few days (more if required) there looking around, then travel around the north east for a little while. Finally, I thought to either head North to Canada, or South to Miami depending on cost/recommendations.

Now, after spending the last 24 hours feverishly consuming as many forums and articles as I can on the topic, I throw myself upon the mercy of the forums as I’m finding myself lost with just too much information.

My questions are as follows:
a) Where do you feel it is best to source accommodation? Hotels, air bnb? A friend has had great look finding apartments in the past on craigslist, but that feels a little weird to me.
b) What is the best way to travel around once I am in the states?
c) What would be better to do? Head North to Canada, or South to Miami?
d) What places should I visit - and how long of the two weeks should I allocate to each place?

Reading back I see how long that post got, so thanks for bearing with me! And thank you for any help you provide. Nick x
monkeyb33f is offline  
Old Feb 16th, 2016, 02:09 AM
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Airbnb is a source of contention in NYC as most short term rentals as most are illegal. The only ones that are legal are where the owner/renter is present when you are.

Most people head north during the summer as the south can be sweltering and oppressive.

Mode of transportation depends on where you going and how long you intend to stay.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 02:33 AM
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Welcome!

Miami in the summer is problematic unless you like 31C and afternoon monsoons, day after day. Between November and April, it is brilliant, as are the Florida Keys.

So, North.

Take the train to Boston, a very walkable city, not always the case in the US. There is a great deal to do, from fabulous museums to an active music scene, both classical and club. All this comes at the cost of expensive lodging.

You can get a long-distance bus from Boston to Burlington, Vermont, that passes through a great deal of beautiful country. You could continue directly on to Montreal, but Burlington is a university town with a pedestrian center and lots of bars and music and is worth two nights. You can take the public ferry to the New York State side of Lake Champlain and back for a low-effort scenic day out or you can get yourself to the Shelburne Museum, a mostly outdoor collection of everything to do with American life.

Take the bus from Burlington on to Montreal. The border crossing may take a while, but you don't have to worry about rental car documents or bringing it back across the border. I am not a huge fan of Montreal, so I would probably give it a day and a night before taking another bus on to Quebec City, which is in a gorgeous setting and has lots of charm at the cost of lots of tourists.

Now what?

Well, I would get myself to Toronto, probably by train, and I would fly home from there rather than going back to NY. Toronto is a terrific city, and the Art Gallery of Ontario is spectacular. It is very multi-cultural and safe.

Lodging: forget Craig's List. Lots of scams.

Others will have to advise about airbnb. It can be great or it can be a horror, particularly where it is not legal.

It is tempting in NYC and Boston because hotels are expensive, but location, location, location. Pin this down or don't sign up. Where is it in relation to what you want to see and experience? How do you get there? How long does it take? How much does the transport cost? Is it safe if you come back late ate night?

Will you be sharing in a student flat (a student in Boston recently listed his room in a university hall of residence) or will it be, for all practical purposes, a B&B? Will you have the property to yourself or will you be sharing baths with strangers? Will the owner be on site? Etc.

Have a wonderful trip. If you have 3 weeks and can fly into NYC and out of Toronto, this will be fantastic. If you have 2 weeks, you will have a lot of choices to make. With a week, stay in NY.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 02:36 AM
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@IMDonehere.

Thanks for the advice, I’ll avoid Airbnb and think about heading North.

As a rough itinerary, I had been thinking New York > Washington > Boston > Canada (Montreal or Toronto). Although looking at the map, and depending on flights, I do wonder if I would be better going to Washington first?
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 02:47 AM
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@ Ackislander.

Thank you so much for the information! I definitely feel like I have a plan forming now - Canada it is.

I don't think I can stretch to 3 weeks, as I simply don't have the time to take off work and the cost might start to get prohibitive.

In terms of accommodation, I think now I have an idea of where I am going to be, I can look up hotels (I only want B&B as I plan on being out all day and evening - it will simply be somewhere to sleep).

How long do you think I need to stay in NYC to do it justice? I want to see most things, but I want to leave myself enough time to get up North and see other places too.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 02:55 AM
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Geographically, it would be better to fly into Washington (Dulles IAD) unless fares are much much better than into New York since there would be no "backtracking" required.

Washington to New York by rail would be easiest I suspect as would NY to Boston. The latter MIGHT be easier depending on how one defines that term by flying; it could be considerably faster but you give up the center city to center city "advantage."

You could easily fly Boston to Toronto and fairly inexpensively on a carrier like Air Canada but prices will rise the longer you wait to book. You can check prices on www.skyscanner.com or on www.kayak.com
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 02:56 AM
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Starting in Washington and heading north does make more sense: Washington, NYC, Boston, Toronto/Montreal (I prefer Montreal, but that's just MHO).

You can use bus or train to get from city to city. You won't want or need a vehicle in any of those cities. You might want to spend a little time researching the public transportation options -- subways, etc, -- in each city so that you'll know the best and easiest ways to get around once you're at each location.

VRBO.com is a good source for finding apartments. Familiarize yourself with each city and the best locations so that you'll be able to make a smart choice about the location of your accommodation. One thing to think about: While I like to stay in apartments, realize that for the first-time visitor, you'd be without the assistance and advice you get while staying in a hotel. That means extra research on your part to make sure you know the best attractions and how to get to them.

With two weeks, counting travel time between cities, you have about three days in each city, meaning it's all the more important to plan carefully about what you want to see and do in each.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 03:17 AM
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Aww shucks you guys - way to make a newbie feel welcome!

Thank you all for some really appreciated advice, I’m taking it on board, and plan on doing further research this evening and really nailing down where and how long I plan to be etc.

I do have two further quick questions. As it is a little out of the way from my original plan - is Washington DC worth bothering with? I just wonder if I might be better served trying to spend more time in less places? Finally, is early June a good time to travel? I'm completely flexible in when I go so if you'd recommend earlier/later in the year, please shout up.

Many many thanks!
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 03:31 AM
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I'd fly in to DC and take the train to NYC, then Boston and Canada. Maybe stop in Philadelphia between DC and NYC. Fly home from Canada. That's if you're set on your itinerary.

But I find DC too humid in the summer. It's worth keeping because the museums are mostly free, so it's budget friendly, but if that holds little interest, I'd fly into NYC, take a train to Boston, then a ferry to Provincetown (Cape Cod), then take the ferry back to Boston and continue onto Canada. I loved Provincetown and the cape in general. Ptown is pedestrian friendly and quirky- and the cape in general is terrific if you enjoy the ocean or biking.


I've only been to Toronto briefly for a conference, so I can't help you there, but on the us portion, I'd do at least 4-6 nights in Boston/DC/NYC each, and 2-3 nights in Ptown. Time allotment really depends on budget and interests. I'm a history geek and I could easily use up that whole two weeks in just Boston. But Boston is much, much more expensive than DC, so you may want to put a greater chunk of time into elsewhere. I'd make a list of everything you absolutely want to see in each location and then figure out how long travel is going to take you and how much crowds may slow you down (Boston Freedom Trail, for example, took me about as twice as long as it should have because of tour groups).

Lodging: if hostels are something you might consider, I'd definitely do that for at least Boston. Part of Boston's awesomeness is that it is very compact, so this is the one city you should stay somewhere central- but Boston is probably the most expensive city I've been to. And I'm not talking splurging here- just typical, mid range chain hotel. If I went back, I'd look at nontraditional lodging options first! Have fun, it sounds like an amazing trip
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 03:36 AM
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I agree with the DC-NYC-Boston and then someplace in Canada plan. It would be a rushed 2 weeks, but you can do it - especially since people post about wanting to see all of the east and west coasts of US in 2 weeks! This is how I would do it.

Fly into DCA (Reagan National) if you can - but many international flights go into IAD (Dulles). Stay in Arlington or DC - near a Metro stop. June is great - not usually too hot. Spend 3-4 nights. Take the train to NYC. (lots of posts here on places to stay and things to do in NYC). Stay 3 nights.

Train to Boston. (word of caution - trains in the US are not nearly as nice as trains in Europe - but for 4 hours, they are fine). Stay 3 nights. You will likely be shocked at the price of hotels in Boston (my city). Be careful. If you find a deal, it is not a good location. Hotels list themselves as things like Boston/Waltham - and are not actually in the tourist/interesting part of Boston. Although travel distance to downtown might be small, the commute could be awful.

You now have 3-4 nights left. Get to Montreal or Toronto and fly home from there. There are sometimes inexpensive flights from BOS-Toronto, and you might choose to do that.

In Boston, look at the Park Plaza hotel - it is in a great location, old historic hotel, but gets mixed reviews since the older part has smallish rooms. It is often available at a lower price than other decent Boston hotels. Walk the Freedom Trail (to see how we commemorate independence from your country), have dinner in the North End (Italian section), take a Boston Harbor cruise or whale watch. A Red Sox game in the oldest major Major League Baseball park might be fun. These are all things that would be fun to do alone. Guarantee if you go to a baseball game, everyone sitting around you will be happy to give their opinions and explanations of the game!

In DC, many museums have no entry fee - a few privately run ones do, but there is plenty to see for free.

I will leave NYC and Toronto/Montreal to others.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 03:37 AM
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And just my opinion- since you are flexible about time of year- I wouldn't do June. I'd do September after Labor Day. That would cut down on crowds somewhat, because schools are mostly back in session then. Boston (mostly the historic sites) was packed in summer. Even later- like October- might help with hotel prices in Boston. There isn't a way to avoid school groups in DC, though (that I know of).
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 04:22 AM
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As far as itinerary it makes more sense to start in DC, then train to NYC, either train or drive to Boston (depending on where you want to see some countryside) and then fly from Boston To Toronto (a great city and very inexpensive since the fall of the Canadian $). You should know that driving a car across the border is not allowed by most rental companies and requires special documentation and insurance - or you would be turned back at the border).

A car makes no sense IN any of the cities - but depending on your interests you might want to rent one in the area between/around cities. Although it sounds like you want mostly cities.

If you are interested in a couple of days at the beach there are great beach resorts (and gorgeous pure white sand beaches and north atlantic breakers) along the Jersey shore, the Hamptons on Long Island or Cape Cod in MA.

As for places to stay, avoid Craig's List at all costs anywhere - a good number of their listings are simply scams. You an look at short term apts in other cities (but they may not make much sense based on number of days and if you want hotel services) but you really can't do it in NYC (sublets less than 30 days are illegal here - except under very rare/hard to find conditions).

I suggest you try to pin down your itinerary in the next week or two and at the same time looking at flight options and start investigating hotels. The best deals sell out early and this is not a cheap time of year to travel. Also if training you should buy tickets several weeks in advance for prices about 50% off. (Amtrak northeast regional service is reasonably efficient, do not go for "high speed" Acela, which costs much more but cuts very little travel time off your schedule.)

If you provide people with info on your nightly hotel budget we can start to make possible recos. and If you have special interests let us know - since there is something for everyone.

Also try to use all of your 2 weeks - that is fly to the US on a Friday and back to the UK on the Sunday 2 weeks plus later.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 06:01 AM
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Flying from the UK, you can forget National Airport; you will either fly into Dulles or perhaps even further out Baltimore-Washington International.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 06:15 AM
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" As it is a little out of the way from my original plan - is Washington DC worth bothering with?"

Absolutely! Aside from all the monuments, there are some great museums, all free (if I am not mistaken). My favorite is the Air & Space museum where you can see the original Wright brothers aircraft, Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, space capsules and even some moon rocks.

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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 06:45 AM
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I agree with nearly all of the advice given. Reagan National is your best choice to fly to Washington. It has its own Metro stop.
Since this is a solo trip, both Washington and Baltimore have HI hostels that are cheaper than the one in New York.
Boston also has a HI hostel.
Leaving Boston you can leave on the northern branch of the Amtrak Lake Shore Limited via Albany and go to Rochester NY.
Spend a night in Rochester and take the next days Maple Leaf to either Niagara Falls Ontario or on into Toronto.
The ViaRail system will get you from Toronto to Ottawa or Montreal.
If you skip Boston, you can take the Amtrak Adirondack north to Montreal.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 07:11 AM
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>>Reagan National is your best choice to fly to Washington. >I only want B&B as I plan on being out all day and evening - it will simply be somewhere to sleep
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 07:14 AM
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Ok - I am seriously overwhelmed with your helpfulness and kindness. Thank you all for your input so far. I'm going to spend the next evening or two working out what are the 'must-see's' for the trip and planning my itinerary. I really am grateful for all your suggestions and ideas.

Once I have this, I will report back
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 08:33 AM
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JanisJ we already know that... re-read all the responses for a change.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 08:55 AM
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Dukey: >>JanisJ we already know that... re-read all the responses for a change.
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Old Feb 16th, 2016, 09:59 AM
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Some of these suggestions offer you little time to savor each destination. If you are into city exploring and history, I would go with DC and the Mall and Smithsonian Museums for a few nights, train to NYC for a few nights and then train to Boston and maybe do some exploring. I think trying to fit in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec is pushing a 2 week holiday.

I find it interesting that people assume you won't be driving and will use public transportation, as I have just done.
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