Ahh America…the land of the free!
I’ve been a little (ok, a lot) quiet on the blog front lately because I’ve been traveling around America for the last 3 months! It’s been an amazing experience and I’ve definatly managed to tick quite a lot of bucket list items off! Needless to say, every day or 2 I get messages from people asking questions which I LOVE because I wish I had of thought to ask MORE questions to people before we left so that some things weren’t a shock…but you know what they say, you do your best learning when you’re thrown in the deep end!
Anyway, obviously I can’t cover everything in one post, there will be many to come that will cover the main areas we have been but I thought I would start off with my top 20 hints & tips, and just a few weird things in general that we have come across!
Also, some of our hints for apps to use, grocery stores to keep an eye out for etc.
In no particular order –
- This one is a given that everyone told us before we left, but I think we really under-estimated. The food portion sizes are HUGE. Like, I have yet to finish even a burrito properly over here. If you’re traveling with someone, you can save money by ordering one main and one entree or side dish and sharing. Trust me, it will be enough!
- Another given, you need to tip pretty much everyone. We probably didn’t as much as we should have, purely because we didn’t realise the extent of people you are actually supposed to tip. As a general rule, 15% for average service and 20% for good service. More than 20% if you were impressed…and if you were very un-impressed leave 10% and be prepared for angry looks as you’re leaving haha. But, if they rely on tips as their wage then they should be giving great service, right?!
- It smells like weed EVERYWHERE. Literally, everywhere. It’s been legalised in the majority of the Country, so if you’re into it, you can buy it from stores in the street. Particularly Myrtle Beach and LA.
- A lot of places don’t take eftpos, so make sure you carry cash with you just in case.
- You will use the Uber and Lyft apps every single place you go. (If you’re not driving.)
- You can do FREE walking tours in a lot of major cities. We did the French Quarter tour and the Ghost tour both in New Orleans and they were awesome! The guides were great and you just give a donation at the end as to what you thought it was worth…some people give $5, some give $20!
You can get to the website here: http://bit.ly/free_tours
- Public transport is awesome in NYC and also Washington DC. If you’re not driving, it’s really easy to get the Metro or Subway pretty much anywhere you need to go for around $3. We got a weekly ticket for $30 in NYC and that saved us heaps of money. Public transport is not so good in LA – actually, transport in general isn’t great in LA and if you’re driving from Hollywood to Santa Monica or Venice expect it to take upwards of an hour. More in peak times.
- EVERYTHING has tax – so it’s never the price it says. Yep, that includes food, alcohol, clothes, makeup…everything. So save those annoying coins for the extra cents you need to pay the tax!
- You will get asked for ID any time you try and buy alcohol, no matter your age. Especially at grocery stores because they need to enter your birth date into the computer to complete the sale. Some bars also require not just your license but your passport as well so check before you go out just in case you need to bring it with you, otherwise you will get turned away at the door. (Yes, it happened to people we were with, especially in New Orleans.)
- In saying this – there’s a lot of States that you can’t purchase alcohol from on Sunday’s. There’s debate about whether it dates back to the prohibition or is more because the ladies used to get the shits with their men not coming home on Sundays (lol). But if you’ve had a long drive and stop in to a grocery store on a Sunday after 5pm don’t expect to be able to buy dinner and drinks…you will be in for a wine-less night.
- The cleaners came into our room around 7am at nearly every single motel or hotel we stayed in, even if we were checking out that day. I found it strange as I’ve worked in a Hotel before and we would never have done that, but it’s obviously different over here! So, if you like your privacy or don’t particularly want to get woken up early after a big night out, make sure you use the do not disturb signs.
- A few of you have heard me mention this one before but I find it SO weird…they don’t have ‘vacant’ or ‘engaged’ locks on the toilet doors so most of the time you just have to pull the doors and hope for the best. The gaps between the doors are massive too so most of the time peeps can see you pee-ing.
- Their car blinkers are red – which is VERY confusing because you can’t tell if they are breaking or changing lanes. It’s been 3 months and I just can’t wrap my head around it and am still on the edge of my seat every time we drive.
- You have to go into the station and pay before you fill up with gas. (It’s also super cheap to fill up, we were paying about $15 through the middle of the USA – Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona etc. and about $20 on the East and West Coast’s).
- The water from the tap tastes really weird, but bottles of water are super cheap anyway…I’m talking $2.50 for a 1L bottle.
- You can buy EVERYTHING from the pharmacies, Walmart and Target. Some pharmacies are 3 stories! So if you’re stuck in the middle of no where and searching for food, drinks, batteries, clothes, whatever! Jump onto your maps app and look for a CVS, Wallgreens or Wallmart.
It’s also a good idea if you’re staying for a while to get a CVS card and a Wallgreens card. You get discounts and special prices on most things.
- Taco Tuesday’s is a real thing, especially in California and you will find most bars will do $5 all you can eat tacos every Tuesday. Not that you NEED all you can eat, but considering 1 taco is normally around $5 it’s a great deal! Every one we went to was delish and included any sides you wanted…salsa, guac, salads etc.
- Fast food is EVERYWHERE. I was already expecting this, but you really do have to see it to believe it. There is literally a Jack In The Box, Taco Bell, McDonalds, In N Out, Chick-Fill-A within walking distance of where ever you are and most of the time you will find what looks like an outdoor shopping mall but it’s a strip of fast food takeaways rather than clothing stores.
In saying this, McDonalds salads are actually really great over here and if I get stuck on the road I will go for their grilled chicken ranch salad because the chicken is grilled fresh and the salad actually has mixed greens and baby spinach…not just iceburg lettuce.
- There is Outlet Malls everywhere. Literally in every major city. You can get some great bargains (I got Levi’s for $35 and also a Michael Kors bag for 75% off).
- There is sauce and mayonnaise on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. If you’re not a fan of sauce, ask for it on the side because they reaaaaaaally over do it.
GROCERY STORES TO SHOP AT
Food 4 less
WEBSITES THAT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE
Google Flights: http://bit.ly/googleflights_
Rome 2 Rio (to figure out how to get literally anywhere by uber, car, bus, plane etc.): http://bit.ly/rome2rio_