America. In all honesty America is not the country that I would have chosen to travel to of my own accord. But when the people you love are there that’s where you go! And we had an amazing time there anyway. Before starting my in depth series on our American adventure I thought I’d start with a few things you should think about if you are considering a trip to the US of A.
1.Budget, budget, budget
Look at that money. It is expensive. This was by far one of the most expensive trips we’ve done. And the Americans are sneaky buggers. Tax isn’t included in the prices displayed, city tax gets added to your bill, and insurance on a rental cars costs more than the actual rental of the car.
2. Location. Really.
America is big. Real big. Really really big and each state is so different that it actually feels like going to different countries. We went from -28 degrees Celcius in Colorado to +24 degrees in Houston in the space of a few hours. So think about where it is that you want to go because you really can’t see it all in one trip. And you need to know what to pack.
3. Getting to America legally.
Visas are both more and less than min than you think. Out visas cost about twice the amount of a Shengen visa BUT, they last ten years. You fill in a rather extensive form online, and make sure that you have good, recent digital photos of yourself with a white background and very little shadow. After this you need to head off to either Sandton or Cape Town for the interview and a few days later your visas will arrive via courier to a town close to you. I was nervous as hell but it was a very calm and quick process once the online form was handled. You can click here for info on the how-to’s for an American Visa.
4. Know how to get to where you want to go
Research your busses, trains and planes. Internal flights are expensive, as is hiring a car. Return to my first point again. Fortunately most American cities have fantastic public transport. We took the subway while in New York, and a bus in every day from New Jersey. It was cheap, reliable and safe. Also check your prices for long distance travel. We found that buying all our internal flights one shot was both cheaper, with less travel time, than taking busses or trains over the long distances.
5. Timing is everything
Think about when you want to go. Remember that during the holidays, places get busy. And more expensive. If you are able to travel during American off-peak seasons the queues tent to be shorter and accommodation is easier. Also be aware that some American cities vary vastly in temperature. Washington, Missouri and New York are blisteringly hot in summer and well below freezing in winter. Texas on the other hand cannot be survived in summer. Goodness, we were walking around in shorts and t-shirts in the middle of winter. Keep in mind that Thanksgiving is even busier than Christmas in America so November flights can be challenging.
6. You are headed to the home of junk food
So you think you are going to maintain your gluten-free-low-fat-now-carb-no-sodium-soda-less diet. Unless your budget is a lot greater than ours was, you will, at one point, end up eating deep-dish-oily-stromboli at 11 one night on a subway staircase and be so thankful for it because it was the cheapest food you get your hands on before missing your bus. Or some such other scenario. As much as we eat clean at home, I indulge in local delights while traveling. I had a Carlo’s bakery cannoli, I had a cronut, and after walking ten blocks to find any reasonably priced food that wasn’t McDonald’s in New York City I dabbed oil from my Famous Amadeus pizza with a serviette and a smile. My skin let me know what it thought about my dietary choices, which meant that I was fighting breakouts through most of the trip.
7. Like a footballer, keep recovery time in mind.
The jet lag is real. The only times in my life I have suffered from jet lag was coming back from America. Both times. Ten years apart. Make sure you have a day or two to recover before jumping back into your usual work schedule when you get home. On more than one occasion Mauritz and I have landed from Europe at about 8 in the morning and gone straight to work. Don’t count on that with an American trip. And if your job requires you to be in front of a camera, as mine does, keep in mind that it took my skin a few days to recover from the food, the flights and the air pollution.
8. America is a n all-in-one kind of place
Politics aside, it’s an amazing melting pot. America has such diverse influences throughout its history, that it is almost as if you see little parts of other parts of the world. The art, architecture, adventures, museums, and might I add shopping are all amazing. And you get to meet other people from all over the world too. In fact, while walking the streets of New York almost the only language I didn’t hear was English.