Whether you live in the States or you’re visiting from abroad, USA travel will show you that America is vast, varied, and definitely worth a visit. Regardless of your budget or tastes, there is something for everyone to enjoy!
America has bustling cities, quiet countryside, epic mountain and canyon hikes, luxury beaches, amazing nightlife, and mind-blowing food. If you are looking for the ultimate holiday destination, the US and all its attractions should definitely be on your bucket list.
Living just 30 minutes from the Canada/USA border, I find myself in the USA often! So, here are some tips and tricks to help you create an itinerary for backpacking USA.
Places to Visit in USA
While visiting every state in the US would be worth your while, some are more visitor-friendly than others. Here are the top 9 states to visit during your USA travel:
- New York
You will find some things to do in these states listed below!
Like any destination, the accommodations are the biggest cost on the list. However, if you can figure out ways to lower it while you travel USA, you will have money for things that matter, like trying all those American snack foods at diners and dives in every single state you visit. Fortunately, services like Airbnb and Couchsurfing were started in US, so you have plenty of options to choose from.
Cities, like Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago also have a number of super-cheap, luxe hostels which are perfect for USA travel. Depending on where you are, you can find decent hostel rooms for as little as $20 a night. If you want to travel alone, though, it’s recommended you go with Airbnb options over hostels, because you’ll be paying the same price for a private room on Airbnb for a bunk bed in a cramped dorm.
If you like the outdoors, you can also set up a campsite at a number of US national parks throughout the country while you travel USA. Campsites range from $10-30 a night. There is even a sharing economy site called Campspace that allows you to set up a tent in someone’s backyard for a tiny fee!
Gay resorts are also a great option when it comes to accommodation in the USA. Check out some of the hottest gay resorts in the USA!
America is huge and can’t be explored by foot easily. Depending on where you plan on going, you can take budget flights to smaller airports throughout the country using airlines like JetBlue, Frontier, and Spirit airlines. However, most people don’t jump from coast-to-coast when on a USA trip. That’s why many travellers choose rental cars to get around, but this is also the most expensive option. If you are booking a rental car, use sites like Expedia and booking.com to get a discounted option, then remember to install apps like GasBuddy, which help you find the lowest gas prices in a target radius!
If budget constraints make domestic flights and car rental an invalid option, consider traveling by bus and train. Sure, it might not be the most glamorous or time-efficient, but you will get to see some remarkable sights during your USA travel. For example, Greyhound bus lines travel to over 4,000 destinations throughout the US, have free Wi-Fi and power outlets at every seat. Plus, you go hop on and hop off at various places if you’re feeling spontaneous!
Food and drink
Well, you’ll have no problem finding food in the USA. Americans love to eat, after all! However, if you’re trying to save money, buy your own food from local supermarkets like Aldi, ShopRite, Acme, Giant, and Lidl. Some places have eat-in spots and pre made dinners for you to purchase; but if you’re staying at an Airbnb or hostel, you can easily use the kitchen space to make your own meals.
Avoid Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and other stores that are known to have exceptionally high prices. You should also avoid gas station food, because it can add up and become quite costly during your USA travel. However, swap out your Starbucks addiction for gas station coffee, especially if you’re traveling some place that has either a Wawa or Sheetz!
Internet and wifi
Being that almost everyone has a smartphone nowadays, internet access will come as no issue to you during your USA travel. Many places like malls, shopping centers, department stores, gas stations, banks, and restaurants have free WiFi for you to connect to. Most of these places don’t have limits on their WiFi either, so you can spend as long as you need to on the internet.
General Safety in the USA
Although it’s a shame to say that America is not one of the safest countries to travel to, that is the truth. Some areas are less save to travel around, especially in places of poverty and high crime. By knowing where these locations are, such as some places in Chicago and NYC, or in rural sections of the United States, you can avoid trouble.
As always, don’t make yourself a target. Keep your valuables locked up and secured either in a safety lock box in your luggage or on your person. Don’t leave things like passports, identification, and wallets out in the option. Pickpocketing is common in places with high volumes of pedestrian traffic, so be sure to keep items like purses and backpacks zipped shut at all times.
As always, it is a very good idea to have travel insurance whenever you plan to leave your county, just incase anything happens to you, your belongings, or your flights. I could not recommend World Nomads for their outstanding insurance plans enough. Click here or check out the link below to get a quote!
Lgbt Safety In The USA
Just as not all of America is entirely safe for international travelers, LGBT travelers also need to exercise some precautions. Some populations in America are more intolerant of LGBT individuals and their partners than other locations. Avoid uncomfortable situations by staying away from locations with high amounts of conservatism, such as the Deep South, Montana and Wyoming.
If you are traveling the USA, I recommend picking up one of these Amnity Jack bedside boxes. They have everything you might need, should your night get a little wild.
The Safest Places for LGBTQ Travelers in the USA
- Fort Lauderdale – pride festivals galore and even the Wicked Manors, a gay Halloween party, happen here
- San Francisco – the gay mecca of America
- Philadelphia – check out the gayborhood in Washington Square around Chestnut, Pine, Juniper, and 11th Street.
- Atlanta – Midtown has some great gay bars and rainbow crosswalks worth checking out!
- Chicago – there’s a gay neighborhood called Andersonville and LGBT-hostels and bars.
- New York City – there’s plenty of gay nightlife and clubs around the Soho area
- Los Angeles – head to Will Rogers State Beach, and West Hollywood.
- San Diego – Hillcrest is the heart of the gay community here
- Washington, DC –check out H Street, 17th Street, Shaw, Dupont Circle, NoMA, and Navy Yards for a number of LGBT-friendly establishments, accommodations, and gay bar
USA Budget Tips
To save money during your USA travel, keep in mind several of the aforementioned points, such as avoiding costly luxuries like Starbucks and rental cars. However, there are a couple of other ways for you to save money
1. City tourism vouchers and cards
2. Free attractions and events
Throughout America, many cities have started a discount card program that includes a number of popular tourist attractions and free public transportation at a flat rate. Usually, the cost of these discount cards is around $30-40.
When considering that these cards cover transportation to the attractions, free access to museums, food discounts, and reduced fees for national parks and amusement parks, this is quite the savings! Check out the local tourism website of your destination beforehand to purchase a discount card.
Similarly, many places host free events or have free admission days. Every single day, all throughout the United States, there are free attractions to check out. Do a quick Google search to find what’s nearest you during your USA travel!
Places to go and things to do in The USA
The top states to visit in the United States are also home to some of the best things to do during your USA travel. Here are some ideas to add to your travel itinerary:
Experience the Gay District of West Hollywood, California
More than 40% of West Hollywood’s residents are LGBT. That means that this is the prime destination for international LGBT travelers looking to experience America. West Hollywood has a thriving gay community that is visible in the designer hotels, gay bars, LGBT-aimed nightlife, landmarks, and even the June LA Pride festival and gay Halloween street party during October. Some of the best nightlife is located on Santa Monica Boulevard (it doesn’t hold a candle to the Vancouver nightlife we have at home) and includes places like The Abbey, Fiesta Cantina, and Flaming Saddles.
Check out this article for a complete guide to the gay nightlife in West Hollywood!
Drive Along The Oregon Coast in Oregon
No American road trip is complete without the Oregon Coast, where you can see the misty beaches of Astoria, cruise along Cannon Beach, and visit top attractions like the Tillamook Cheese Factory (just 80 minutes beyond Cannon Beach), the stunning Yaquina Head Lighthouse, and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Whether you want beaches or picturesque small towns, the Oregon Coast makes for an epic drive.
Surf In Malibu, California
The internationally renowned surfing scene of Malibu has reached such a level because there’s a spot on the waves for every skill level. Check out the beloved Surfrider Beach for iconic surf scenery or check out the plethora of waves at Zuma Beach. You can always book a surf lesson if you’re new, or you can jump right into the action if you’re seasoned.
See a Broadway Show in NYC, New York
Whenever someone mentions theatre, New York is bound to come into the picture eventually. Seeing a Broadway Show is a memorable experience, for the historic theatres, groundbreaking theatrics, and atmosphere add something to the shows that can’t be found anywhere else.
Besides, who doesn’t want to walk out from the theatre later in the evening and see NYC awash in fluorescent lights and gleaming billboards?
Broadway can be expensive, especially during peak season. If you are traveling the USA on a budget, check out this guide to some things to do in NYC for $10!
Visit the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington
The Space Needle is a famous symbol of Seattle. Even if you aren’t a fan of heights and don’t want to ride up to the spinning observation deck, you can still enjoy everything there is to do around the Space Needle.
Though the structure is undergoing renovations (as of June 2018), once the reconstruction is complete, the Sky Needle will feature the new “Skyrisers” experience, a new cafe and wine bar, lounge (with a glass floor), the Oculus Stars, and improved landscaping.
Check Out the Beaches In Miami, Florida
The beaches of Miami are where some of the hottest scenes in American films are shot. Aside from the abundance of art deco buildings, Miami has dozens of beaches, surfing, the Bill Baggs Cape State Park, gay-friendly areas, and so much more. I would even say that Miami beaches are almost on par with Mykonos beaches! You can soak up the sun, go swimming, surf, hit the bars, and check out where the millionaires live in Bal Harbour.
Attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana
Every year between February and March, New Orleans, one of the most soulful cities in the US, is alive with the energy of Mardi Gras. There are parades, brightly-colored costumes, and crazy amounts of food and booze. How wild you get is up to you, but those traditional beads aren’t going to collect themselves!
Watch a Vegas Show in Las Vegas, Nevada
Broadway and Vegas are two different stars in the sky, each with a unique gleam. Nothing compares to a Vegas show. From the light design, to the special effects, audience, and ambiance, a stage performance in Vegas becomes an indescribably astounding display. Your jaw will definitely drop, regardless of whether you see a burlesque show, Cirque du Soleil, lounge singers, or the Blue Man Group.
The United States might not be the best destination for backpackers and budget travelers, purely because of the size and cost of travel throughout the country. You may also find that cross-country transportation and hostels are also lacking in many regions during your USA travel.
However, if you are looking for a vacation that stops in 2-3 cities in a single state, or if you are looking to travel around by bus for a few weeks, a USA trip is completely doable on a budget. There is a ton of culture, history, and nature to explore, making the USA a place that you can come back to time and time again and always discover something new and exciting.