You may be aware that I spent three months over summer 2013 travelling all the way around America. I uses a company called Trekamerica and I cannot recommend them enough. They helped me to organise it all and to pay for it the I wanted to and were always on the end of a phone when I had a panic about packing. I thought that instead of you having a panic as I did, that I would write down a fool proof plan to your trip, whether going with Trekamerica or not. I truly hope this helps!
How much Spending Money do you suggest?
To be completely honest, after paying for the trip and flights for the trailblazer, I probably spent £9000+ all in all, but that includes about £1000 of personal shopping probably. I would say for the Great 48 (that will be awesome by the way) that you would probably need about £5500 spending money just to feel that you never need to worry about cash. It also depends on what activities you will be doing. I literally went through the Trekamerica catalogue and calculated how much it would be to do the top end price of every single activity. Then add $10 a day for the food kitty and then add a couple of grand if you want to buy extras for yourself. Be aware that although I thought I would limit myself to a small amount extra per day, you stop at so many pit stops on the way, that pretty much every time you get out and go and buy yourself something. Crisps, chocolate, drinks, so you’re spending another $10 on that a day. Then meals out cost more, your hotels are extra ($40+), so it all mounts up. I would take around £6000 if I was to do the new Great 48 trip, so around $8500.
What were the long van journeys like?
This is something I dreaded as I get so car sick. But I just stocked up on loads of travel sickness pills and I was totally fine. Some days youre in the van for up to 10 hours, on average around 7, and it can get tedious. However, I never got sick of it. You can sleep for hours in there. In fact most days you would turn around in the van and everyone would be flat out, lying over one another and snoring. You get so friendly with everyone that you just use each other as cushions. Other times you get to sit in the front seat and DJ, other times you watch films on iPads, or listen music for hours. I also spent some time writing my day to day travel diary which Id recommend if you dont want to forget anything. Plus you stop every two hours or so, or when anyone needs a wee, so you can get out, stretch your legs and buy some food to break up the trip. Its made me appreciate shorter journeys, thats for sure.
Where can I wash my clothes?
There are usually washing and tumble dryers in most parks which costs around $4 for both on average. They can be altered in pressure so you dont have to worry about your clothes getting ruined and I even washed my sleeping bag in there once which I recommend half way through a long trip. I probably washed my things every 7-10 days when you get a night to yourself. Youll find that everyone else does the same and everyone washes together, sometimes sharing washing machines.
What do I really need to bring with me?
There are a few things that I would recommend you only buy when you get there! Sleeping bags and pillows being one! Dont fill up your case and needed space with these. Buy them from a walmart when you make your first stop on the trip. I wish I had done this. It means you can throw it before you come home too. Pillows cost $2 from walmart and was the best thing I bought. I used it in the van most days to sleep, and every night in the tent and I was actually upset to throw it away in the end. Same goes for a towel, water bottles, repellants, shower gels, shampoos, toothpaste, sleeping mats (f you need one). Just buy it all there at Walmart as its mega cheap and save yourself space! It can all go in the trailer if needs be.
What do we get given to us?
You get your tent of course. Generally good quality and perfect for two people. You also get a thin sleeping mat to sleep on. Totally fine for me with my sleeping bag on top. Depends how fussy you are. You then have four huge cooling boxes that you fill your food and alcohol into, but the lads on our trip also bought a small cooler just for their Budweisers to go into. You also have all cooking equipment there, so nothing else is required for you to buy. Its pretty much all done for you.
What will I have to help with?
You are given chores on a rota system. For half of my trip there were three groups and each would rotate. The jobs were cooking, washing up and van cleaning. Two people were also given the task of one – loading the trailer and the other – writing the food lists. But in the second trip, we split into smaller groups of three, and the four groups cooked, cleaned, van cleaned and loaded the trailer on a rota. But you get used to it, and it was always fun when your cooking turn came round and you could decide what you would cook for 14 people.
What are the showering facilities like?
They’re all totally fine. Not once did I feel as though I couldnt go into a bathroom, theyre all brilliant really. Either your own shower cubicle or a block of three with your own door and curtain obviously. All usually well maintained. Only in Yellowstone did we not have a shower facility out of all the parks, so you’ll never be unclean.
Do I need to take electricals?
Girls did take straighteners, I didn’t, but then I ended up buying a cheap £10 pair over there so I could curl my hair in Vegas and Miami for the nights out. Otherwise you just wont feel the need to use them as its all about being more natural. I took a huge hair dryer and it was a big mistake. Either take a tiny travel dryer or don’t bother. I used the hand dryers in the bathrooms most of the time as I don’t care about blow drying my hair, as long as I can dry it upside down for volume. For the evenings out, you can choose to have more time to get ready, I always opted for 2 and a half hours to get ready, although the lads brought it down to much less, hah!What were the tents like?
In all honesty, totally fine. The first five weeks, we were in tents that were a little older and had a few tiny holes, but nothing that really ruined our days. If it rained heavily on the East Coast, then we did get waterlogged twice, but that is due to bad weather, that wont always happen! In those cases, you just get a cabin for the night instead for an extra $8-10 and you’re fine. The next day, the sun will dry our your tent within an hour and youre good to go again. Of course they smell like the outdoors, but so do you, and so does everyone else and that is the fun of it. Its not about going and looking amazing every day, its about not caring about all the materialistic stuff and just having an amazing time. You get a tent between two, and you get to choose who you stay with. Generally girls with girls but if you want to stay with a guy specifically, theyre so chilled out its not a deal at all. On our trip, we all seemed to swap and change tents anyway when it came to night time, and you’d end up sleeping next to different people now and again. All in the fun of it. You also get a sleeping mat to sleep on, and sometimes the tour leader will have a stash of sleeping bags to use. So on my second trip, me and Georgie lay out three sleeping mats, with a double sleeping bag over the top, then put our two sleeping bags on top with our $1 Walmart pillows and I slept like a baby. In the hotter areas, its sometimes hard to sleep for the heat and everyone just pretty much sleeps in bikinis, but again its all in the fun.
Did you feel safe in the tent?
I felt totally safe all the time, even in bear territory and even when I slept alone in a tent some nights. You place the tents around in a circle so you’re all next to each other, so you’re never out on your own. The leader often sleeps in the van or the trailer so they’re near by if there are any issues. But I never found any.
Were there many bugs/spiders?
You get bugs and spiders everywhere but not really in the tents. Now and again, mostly mosquitos in the tents, but you’ve just got to pop them and wear repellant. I got bitten a lot but it was just part of the journey. I barely saw spiders in tents, but we did see ground tarantulas, scorpions in Texas and the biggest cockroaches youll ever see roaming around, but again, not in the tents. You should be fine if you keep your tent closed. Plus, you totally get used to them all after a while. I went so scared of insects, and came back pretty immune as you see them constantly.
What suitcase shall I take and how should I pack?
In terms of packing, get a huge suitcase. I thought mine was big until I saw the lads cases and then I wished I’d looked around for one that was bigger. I wanted to take far more clothing and generally you have a 25k allowance on the plane so use it al! But make sure you dont go over that as excess baggage prices are really expensive. Make sure you double check with your flights and know how much your case weighs. The trek leaders don’t really question how big your case is at all, they just throw it in the trailer with the rest of the cases. Or you do, depending on who’s on packing duty. As I mentioned, but most things in the US on the first Walmart stop on the day you set off and save yourself hassle. Yet make sure you can fit some extras in your case. Theres nothing worse than having a spare plastic bag lying around with things in it. For the journey home when I had gathered loads of new products, I bought myself a little cabin suitcase to take on the plane. It meant that I could get away with extra luggage and also keep my more fragile items with me rather than being thrown onto the bottom of the plane.
What items are essential?
I did a post on what makeup to take with you for three months which you can find in the travelling label with a few other tips and posts. Make sure you take 3/4 bikinis, a few pairs of shorts, maybe 5 pairs of shoes you will wear such as one pair of heels, two pairs of sandals, a pair of toms and then walking trainers. You wont need walking boots really, I used trainers for the hikes and they took up less room and weight. Take loads of vests and smaller light tops, then for Canada areas you will need some thick pyjamas and a hoodie most nights. I’d also recommend one pair of skinny jeans, as they can be dressed up and down, a pair or two of leggings, again to be dressed up and down. Then a denim skirt always works for casual and evening, as do your shorts. I took a few posher dresses too, for Miami, New Orleans, Vegas and Chicago, or anywhere you decide to go out. But again, there are so many stores over there, I bought a few evening outfits whilst I was there. Remember America is massive and you can buy anything there that you can here so don’t panic about what clothes to take.
I hope that all helps. Please leave me any comments below with any other questions and I will add them into the post. I cannot recommend Trekamerica anymore. It was the best three months of my whole life and I made some incredible friends there. It totally changed my perception on life, friendships, the future and the way I see the world and it opened my eyes to some of the most beautiful sights you could ever see. It was overwhelming and sometimes too much so, but never once did I even begin to miss home. I was there for 75 days and never missed my own bed or home comforts. Life at that moment was for living and I grasped it with both hands every day. I really recommend you do that too. Your bed will always be there, that moment will not.