Top USA Holiday Tips
With 50 states and one federal district, there are pockets all over the country just waiting to be explored; each unique in its landscape, identity and cultural offerings. To make the most of your time there, take note of these travel tips when planning your next USA getaway.
Consider a stopover in Hawaii
Keep an eye out for discounts
Don't pay for excess baggage
Tip your hat
One of the most common faux pas in the USA is tipping incorrectly. Australians are notoriously bad tippers; however, you can avoid falling into the ignorant tipper category by following a simple policy to always tip your waiter a base of 15 per cent when eating out, or pretty much any occurrence where service is provided.
At bars, a dollar bill is customary with each drink order and will also help guarantee prompt service. Bigger tips can often mean a stronger second round of cocktails. Lots of restaurants will add up the service charge for you in the bill and give you options for scale of tipping. If in doubt, pull out your calculator or smart phone and there are plenty of apps for this very purpose.
While you might not agree that tipping is necessary, by ‘bucking the system’ so to speak you’re marginalising workers on the frontline of the service industry and these are the people who are going to make or break your USA stay.
When you arrive in the country, get your hands on a stack of dollar bills and hold onto them - you’ll need them! Here’s a breakdown of recommended tipping for various situations:
- If a porter helps you with bags: $1-2 per bag.
- Taxi-rides: 15-20 per cent or a few extra dollars if paying cash.
- If you hire a car and use valet: $3-5 upon pickup depending how fancy the establishment is.
- Housekeeping in hotels: for excellent service for the duration of your stay, $2-5 on your pillow and a thank you note each morning will go a long way.
- Coffee: pop a dollar in the tip jar if you feel inclined or you got an exceptional coffee, maybe one with crema art on it. Beware of suggested tips when paying with card.
- Hairdressers or massage therapists: 10-20 per cent.
- Tour guide: 15-20 per cent.
Take a ride on the fun side
Hire a Mustang and take a drive
Once you get out of the cities, the highways are wide and well signposted. Hire a Mustang (they are so much cheaper to rent in the USA when compared to Australia), then choose a route and do that dream drive. If the budget doesn’t permit for a sports car, go for something a little more economical.
Seeing America your own way is a great opportunity to explore the rural parts of the country. Independence still costs though – rental rates and gas prices can soon eat away at your budget. Look into ‘drive-away cars’ where you could land a gig driving a vehicle from A to B for only the price of the gas, timing and availability pending.
To drive in the USA you must be at least 23 years old with a valid driver’s license (Australia licences are permitted). However, most rental companies require that you have a major credit card for security deposits, and that you are at least 25 years old.
Let someone else do the driving
If you’re looking to save money, bus travel in the USA can be a great way to travel, particularly in-between major towns and cities. The major bus lines operator is Greyhound and competitor Trailways offer regional services but are less useful for long haul trips. Greyhound will take you cross country from New York to San Francisco in three days for around $185.
Amtrak runs an extensive rail system all over the country, with several long distance lines passing through the nation from east to west, and even more from north to south, effectively connecting all of America’s biggest cities and most of its smaller ones too.
High-speed trains run between some major cities, offering fast and frequent services. Generally the earlier you book, the cheaper your fare will be. If you are planning on doing a lot of train travel you’d be in good stead to obtain an Amtrak rail pass.