Wanderlust & Life

Planning the perfect 2 week USA itinerary for first time visitors – everything you need to know

Looking  to spend 2 weeks in the USA? This post is for you. We highlight the best cities to visit across the US for first time travellers. As well as providing you with information on the best places to stay and the best things to see and do.

Booking a 2 week USA itinerary can be daunting. I mean there are so many interesting places in the USA to visit, it can be hard to know where to start. In this article we break down the top places to visit for your first 2 week trip to the States. Plus we give you all our top tips, and lessons learnt from our own time traveling around the US.

Here is our guide to planning the perfect 2 week USA itinerary.

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Before you leave on your 2 week USA trip

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Before you leave on your 2 week trip to the US you need to make sure you apply for your ESTA . The ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation which allows entry to the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme. But this is only for certain countries such as Australia, UK and, Ireland. You will need to fill in a few questions online including your contact details, employment details, and passport information.

You also need to pay the $14 (approx) fee. Most often you will get a quick response as to whether this has been approved but sometimes it can take a few days. Mine took longer because I am a dual national so had to input two lots of passport details that needed to be checked. The ESTA is then valid for a series of multiple trips over a 2 year period. It also only allows you to stay in the USA for 90 days or less.

If you’re from a country not covered in the Visa Waiver Programme, you will need to complete a more formal process.

2 weeks in the USA should be ample time to get a feel for the country and will allow you to visit the east and west coast. Here are some of our tips we learnt from our own trip:

  • Check what is happening in a city on the dates you plan to visit. For instance it was only after we booked flights that we realised the Chicago Marathon was happening in Chicago. This meant that hotels were booked up and super expensive. And a lot of roads were closed making it more difficult for us to get to the airport.
  • Tipping is a big thing in the USA so make sure you tip your servers and tip them well.
  • Get to grips with the city you are visiting, as there are some areas that are probably best left unvisited.
  • Also get used to tax, just because something is advertised as being a certain price this more than likely won’t include tax.
  • Laws tend to differ state by state so just be aware when travelling between them.
  • Make sure that you have travel insurance as a hospital visit will cost you a lot!
  • The USA is quite divided when it comes to politics, so it might be best to think or gauge your audience before you start rubbishing politicians.
  • Also, each US state can often feel like a different country, for instance California and New York State are not only geographically different but can often feel worlds apart in terms of culture and lifestyle.

If it is your first trip to the USA then you will want to visit some of the big cities. Our guide includes the following:

  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • Big Bear Lake
  • New York City

If you feel too rushed then you can always skip one of the above places. For us though, our aim was to visit as many cities as possible during our 2 weeks in the USA. Also, we wanted to do a mix of East and West Coast, although our next trip will definitely need to include way more East Coast hangouts.

One of the questions you might be wondering is, is a 2 week USA itinerary enough time to see everything? Well, yes and no. For starters 2 weeks in the USA gives you ample time to explore a few major cities, and get to grips with the culture and way of life.

But you have to remember that the USA is big. Really big. Travelling between cities and states can take quite a bit of time. Whether you choose to fly or drive, you have to factor travel time into your itinerary. In an ideal world we felt like we could have spent a good 4-5 weeks alone just exploring the USA.

So very basically this is our 2 week USA itinerary at a very high level, but we will go into more detail on each of the cities below so make sure you keep reading!

Day 1- Chicago

Day 2- Chicago

Day 3- Fly to San Francisco (4.5 hour flight duration)

Day 4- San Francisco

Day 5- San Francisco

Day 6- Fly to Los Angeles (1 hour flight duration)

Day 7 – Los Angeles

Day 8- Rent a car and drive to Big Bear

Day 9- Drive to Las Vegas

Day 10- Las Vegas

Day 11- Las Vegas

Day 12- Overnight flight to New York – arrive in New York AM

Day 13- New York

Day 14- New York

A more detailed 2 week USA itinerary

So now you have seen our high level USA itinerary, here is each city in a bit more detail including tips on where to stay, what to do, eat, drink, and more.

Pin this US travel guide

For the first few days of our 2 week USA itinerary we decided to visit Chicago. One of the reasons we flew into Chicago because we wanted to break up the long flight from the UK before heading over to the West Coast. On top of that we have both always been fascinated by Chicago’s history. From the prohibition days of Al Capone, to its incredible architecture. All in all we spent  two full days in the city  before flying out to San Francisco.

Some of the architecture in Chicago

Why visit Chicago

Chicago is a must on any 2 week USA itinerary especially if you love big cities, architecture, and history. There are lots of world class museums in Chicago, and some really good food too.

Chicago is a great introductory city when traveling across the US because it’s not as hectic as New York, and it gives you the chance to get used to the culture and customs of the USA.

Wondering if Chicago is worth visiting ? Here is a helpful guide.

Things to do in Chicago

You can read all about our two days in Chicago in detail here . But the city highlights include:

Architecture Cruise

You cannot visit Chicago without admiring the city’s incredible architecture, and an architecture cruise is a great way to do this. There are a few different tours you can do, and on average they last about 1.5 hours. Not only do you get more acquainted with the city, but you also get to learn about the buildings that shaped Chicago.

It is worth booking your cruise tickets online in advance, because they do get really popular, especially in the summer.

Navy Pier is certainly iconic in Chicago, and there is a lot to explore here. The pier is 3,300-ft-and located on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. It’s one of the best places to go to get a brilliant view of the Chicago Skyline as well.

Once you get to Navy Pier you can enjoy the theatres, restaurants, and rides. One of the key attractions here is the Centennial Wheel. It reaches a height of almost 200 ft and boats some pretty fantastic views of Chicago. Tickets can be purchased online in advance , and you even have the option to skip the queue which is always handy.

Another fun thing to do at Navy Pier is to do a speedboat ride . You can learn about the city whilst doing full 360° spins and more.

The John Hancock Centre (360 Chicago)

The observation deck at the John Hancock Centre, referred to as 360 Chicago is a great place to go for those incredible views over Chicago. One of the best things though is that there is a bar, so you can sit down with a drink and take it all in. Purchase your ticket online in advance to skip to queue.

Willis Tower (Skydeck)

Another observation point in Chicago is the Willis Tower Skydeck. The cool thing about this is that there are glass boxes built into the edge of the building. When you stand in them you feel like you are floating above Chicago. If you are short on time and can’t decide between the John Hancock Centre or the Willis Tower here is a handy article to help you.

Again we recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance .

Millennium Park

One of the most popular selfie locations in Chicago is at the Millennium Park Bean. The reflective 110 tonne sculpture is a favourite amongst tourists as you fight the crowds to get that all important selfie. Don’t miss the rest of the park including the fountains with pictures of Chicago natives that spurt water every so often. If you want to learn more about the park you can even do a self guided tour .

The Chicago Bean

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute is the second largest museum in the country and is by far, one of the top things to do in Chicago. The gallery houses works from artists from Picasso to Andy Warhol. You can skip the queues and purchase your tickets here in advance .

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

When you are short of time sometimes the best way to get to grips with a new city whilst covering a lot of ground is to do a hop on hop off bus tour. You get to see all of Chicago’s top sights from the comfort of a double decker bus .

Chicago obviously has a history laden with gangsters and criminals, so this mob tour is great if you are looking for something a little different. This was one of my favourite memories from visiting Chicago, and I felt like I learnt so much about the seedy history of the city but in a really fun and interesting way.

Street Art Tour

We were kind of surprised at the amount of street art in Chicago, and one thing we wish we could have done was explore the neighbourhoods a bit more. If you want to take the burden of traveling and finding all the cool spots out of your hands you can book onto a tour that will take you to some of Chicago’s most eclectic neighbourhoods.

Getting from the Airport

Once you arrive in Chicago there are a few ways to get to the downtown core. The cheapest and often quickest way to get downtown is via the L Train. The Blue Line should have you in the downtown area in approximately 45 minutes.

If you are however severely jet lagged and the thought of negotiating a subway line with giant suitcases scares you (you are not alone), then the next best thing is to get the airport shuttle bus. They are slightly cheaper than a taxi and take you straight to the front door of your hotel. Just be mindful that the journey can be quite long particularly during peak hour.

You can book and pay for your shuttle at one of the designated booths at the airport. The good thing as well is that you can pre book your return trip to the airport too.

If you are feeling extra fancy though you can book a private transfer .

Where to stay in Chicago

If you can, stay in the downtown core. Particularly on a short trip it makes it so much easier to get around in a limited time. We ended up visiting Chicago the same weekend as the Chicago marathon and so we had to book accommodation a little out of the centre. If you decide to book accommodation out of the downtown area then make sure it is close to a subway line.

Eating and drinking in Chicago

Two things that you must do when you visit Chicago are, eat a deep dish pizza and visit a speakeasy. The deep dish pizza is one of those foods that you either love or hate. We happened to love it. There are a number of places in the city that serve it and we ended up at Pizano’s . To wash the dish down, you have to visit a speakeasy. Our top recommendation is the Green Door Tavern located in the downtown area.

There are some really cool food tours you can do in Chicago, which is quite the foodies paradise. And these include some famous deep dish pizza.

The Green Door Tavern in Chicago

We left Chicago early morning and it took just over 4 hours flying time to get to San Francisco. It is important to remember that there is a time difference between Chicago and San Francisco. Chicago is actually 2 hours ahead of San Fran. By the time we landed in San Francisco it was early afternoon, so we had a good 2.5 days to spend in the city. Make sure you factor in these time differences when traveling around the US.

Why visit San Francisco

San Francisco is like the polar opposite of Chicago. If you love beautiful scenery, forest walks, and chilled out places, then San Francisco is for you.

Located on the west coast it’s one of those places that has a little something for everyone.

If you are tossing up between Los Angeles and San Francisco for your next trip you should read this post.

Things to do in San Francisco

San Francisco is a bustling hive of activity. You can read in detail about our time in the city  by going here . But in the meantime, here is a quick recap.

Golden Gate Park

If you want to explore some of California’s natural beauty then the Golden Gate Park is the perfect place to go. One of the highlights of the park has to be the Japanese Tea Garden which is a great place to sit and reflect if you have the time.

Golden Gate Bridge

You cannot visit San Francisco without a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge. One of our fondest memories was walking across the bridge and looking out at the San Francisco skyline. It opened in 1937 and spans the 1 mile wide straight that connects San Francisco to California’s northern counties. It is a great place to go to get photos of San Francisco’s most iconic structure.

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The best thing about doing a hop on hop off bus tour in San Francisco is that it allows you to get to places that are otherwise hard to visit. The Golden Gate Bridge for instance is one of those. And honestly we will never forget that amazing feeling of being sat on the top of a double decker bus whilst going across the bridge. These tours are really popular so it is advisable that you book online in advance.

Haight Ashbury

Haight Ashbury is a great place to go if you are a fan of the unusual. There are a number of quirky shops and cafes, and it is an area synonymous with the hippie movement in the 1960’s.

San Francisco’s Chinatown is a must for any bargain hunter. It is actually the second largest Chinatown in the USA, and bartering for goods is highly encouraged. The food around here is also really good and cheap, so do pop into one of the many restaurants if you can. You can also do walking tours that go into the history of the area.

One of the best tours we have ever been on is at Alcatraz. Make sure you book your tickets in advance as if you don’t, there is a high chance you will miss out! You need to book an allocated time and the ferry will take you over to the island to explore. The audio tour here is fantastic and you do get a really good and often eerie insight into what life was like at one of the most notorious prisons in the USA.

This is one of those tours that you HAVE to book in advance as only a certain number of people can visit the island in a day. Booking can be made online and there are options to combine tours and book different attractions in one bundle.

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Probably one of the most touristy places in San Francisco has to be Pier 39. But don’t let that put you off. It is a great place to explore, and you get some amazing views of Alcatraz from here. The sea lions are also pretty amazing to see and have been drawing tourists in for years.

Do a Bay Cruise

Another highlight in San Francisco is to do a Bay Cruise. It is especially good if you don’t get a chance to visit the Golden Gate or Alcatraz whilst visiting San Fran, as you can cruise on right by both.

Historic Cable Cars

You can’t say you have been to San Francisco if you haven’t hung off the edge of a cable car as it whizzes down one of the city’s incredibly steep hills. There are two lines, one that takes you from near Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Square and one that goes past Lombard Street.

Postcard Row

To get those  postcard perfect shots of San Francisco  then you have to checkout Postcard Row, famous for the row of houses called the Painted Ladies that sit with the Skyline in the background. You will probably recognise these houses from TV shows. If TV and Movies are your thing there is a tour you can do that takes you to all the famous San Francisco filming locations.

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Lombard Street

Lombard Street is often misconceived as the steepest street in San Francisco. It is not, but it is the most beautiful. The heavily zig zagged street was designed this way as the back in the day, cars could not get up such a steep incline. These days, it is mostly tourists who drive down, although you do see the occasional resident too. If you want to experience Lombard Street a little differently you can do a Go Car Tour.

The easiest and cheapest way to get to downtown San Francisco is via the BART, although you are limited with available downtown stops. If you are staying near Union Square then this option is perfect, but if you are staying near Fisherman’s Wharf for example you will need to disembark and change onto another form of public transport. You can also get the airport shuttle which will usually drop you straight off at your hotel.

Where to stay in San Francisco

We stayed pretty close to Union Square which was really handy. It was a short walk to Chinatown and a number of restaurants and bars. It was also close to the BART station as well as the MUNI metro.

Eating and drinking in San Francisco

Our top tip in terms of food has to be Chinatown. You have so much choice including Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisine and it tastes really good too. It is also relatively cheap. If you are a fan of seafood we recommend heading down to Fisherman’s Wharf. They do some pretty good clam chowder bowls and quick bites.

Thankfully, LA and San Francisco aren’t all that far apart when it comes to flying time. So the good news is that your travel time won’t massively eat into to your 2 week USA itinerary. If you are looking for a detailed LA guide then do  checkout our post . And you are wondering how long to spend in LA we really don’t think that 2 days is anywhere near enough. For starters LA is huge. We were tempted to skip LA altogether on our trip but in hindsight we are glad we didn’t, although we would have loved to explore a lot more.

Why visit LA

Honestly LA is one of those places that divides opinion. You either love it or hate it .

So visiting is a great way to make up your own mind. LA is great for first time visitors to the USA because it gives you the chance to explore Hollywood, and the part of the US that movies have made famous. It’s great if you love movies, theme parks, and beaches.

Things to do in Los Angeles

Griffith observatory.

For some great views of the Hollywood sign and LA in general the Griffith Observatory is a must. You can also learn all about the cosmos and look through some powerful telescopes.

The view of the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Observatory

You cannot go to LA without visiting Hollywood. Contrary to popular belief it is not swarming with celebrities, instead you will find your typical tourist activities and wax museums. Some must see parts are the walk of fame as well as the handprints at the TLC Chinese theatre. This is also where you can get those celebrity homes tours from as well. Although we did one, and did not see any celebrities.

Hike the Hollywood Hills

If you want to get a bit closer to the Hollywood Sign you can do a guided tour . You will learn all about Hollywood and the surrounding areas, and the views are incredible too.

Hop On Hop Off Bus

Because LA is so big a Hop on Hop Off Bus tour is a good way to cover quite a bit of ground in the city and see some of the key attractions. There are different routes you can book onto and this can all be done online in advance.

Beverly Hills

For some great views of the Hollywood sign and LA in general the Griffith Observatory is a must. You can also learn all about the cosmos and look through some powerful telescopes. There are also some great hiking spots around here, but do be careful if you do decide to hike and follow the paths at all times. Tickets can be purchased on the day or online in advance .

Venice Beach

One of the true gems in LA is Venice Beach. It is one of the best places for people watching and is about as far removed from the Hollywood glitz and glamour as possible. If you do get the time we highly recommend visiting. Here are some of the best things to do in Venice Beach .

Also a top tip, Venice has some of the best sunsets we have ever seen, so if you get the chance to visit during sunset take it. Here is a walking tour you can do at sunset for good measure .

Venice Beach

Santa Monica

Just down the road (for LA) from Venice is Santa Monica. The area is slightly more upmarket than Venice Beach and is a great place to go if you like shopping. There is also an amusement park located on the pier which is great for a fun day out.

Universal Studios

You cannot visit LA without a trip to Universal Studios . It’s not only rides and gimmicks, here you can tour a real working studio, and learn more about filmmaking. You do need a good day here, especially if you are into rides so give yourself a good amount of time.

Warner Brothers Studio Tour

Another studio you can visit is Warner Brothers , which includes getting your picture taken at a replica Central Perk set.

LA is absolutely huge and so the best way to get to your hotel is via the airport shuttle. It is actually relatively cheap compared to airport shuttles in other cities, and you get dropped off right at your hotel door. You can book the shuttle at the designated booth in the arrivals section of LAX.

Where to stay in Los Angeles

There are so many different parts of LA to explore but one of the best areas to stay has to be Hollywood. There is a lot going on in terms of nightlife and it is much nicer than say Downtown LA. We actually ended up staying in Downtown LA at a nice hotel. The only issue was we didn’t really feel comfortable exploring at night so we were confined to the hotel during the evening.

Eating and drinking in Los Angeles

Hollywood is a great place to go for a mix of food. Our favourite place though was Mel’s Diner. It is a great place to go for milkshakes and apple pie, which is pretty much all I wanted since we landed in the US.

If you want to you could spend an extra day in LA, but we decided to take a break from the city for one night and head out to Big Bear Lake, a popular holiday destination located in the San Bernardino Valley.

Why Visit Big Bear Lake

Honestly the best reason to visit Big Bear is just to escape from the hustle and bustle of US cities and experience a bit of nature.

Things to do in Big Bear Lake

There are so many things to do in Big Bear Lake, like hiking or hiring a boat, but for us it was all about the relaxation. It also depends on what time of the year you are planning to visit. For example in the winter months it is a popular place for skiing whereas in summer it is all about the hiking.

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Getting here from LA

We hired a car in LA and drove to Big Bear Lake. It takes around 2-3 hours depending on traffic and the views along the way are absolutely stunning. If you are looking to rent a car in the US then checkout this handy guide we put together.

Where to stay in Big Bear Lake

We highly recommend booking lakeside accommodation. We stayed in a resort right on the lake where the rooms had a cabin feel. It was perfect especially in the evening as we had a fireplace which made everything feel that much cosier.

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Eating and drinking in Big Bear Lake

If you make your way into the village there are a number of places to eat and drink. Our favourite though had to be the Peppercorn Grille. They do pizzas, burgers, and steak along with other things. They also rustle up a pretty decent cocktail.

After a relaxing night we made our way to  Vegas . In our opinion Vegas is an absolute must. You literally feel like you are in another world and it is one of those places you have to see to believe. We chose to drive from LA to Big Bear and then on to Vegas. I think we may have watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and kind of had this dream of driving through the desert with the Vegas skyline up ahead, wind in our hair.

Why visit Las Vegas

Las Vegas is basically a playground for adults. Obviously, it has a strong party vibe with all the alcohol and gambling, but actually Vegas is so much more. Where else in the world can you ride a gondola, get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and visit a pyramid in the same day?

Wondering is Las Vegas worth visiting read this post. 

Things to do in Las Vegas

These are some of the top things to do in Las Vegas, but if you want more info and our Las Vegas bucket list suggestions checkout this post.

Hotel Hopping

You would actually be surprised how long it takes to walk from one end of the vegas strip to the other, so hotel hopping in Vegas can be quite time consuming. Some of the must sees though are the Paris Hotel where you can go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The Bellagio with its fountain show is another must see as well as the Venetian which was our personal favourite as you even had the chance to ride a Gondola.

Highlights include:

Floating around on a gondola at the Venetian and/or visiting Madame Tussauds.

Riding a rollercoaster at New York New York.

 Gazing out from the top of the Eiffel Tower at Paris.

Riding the High Roller at the LINQ.

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No trip to Vegas is complete without a selfie at the Las Vegas Sign. Located at the top of the strip right near the Mandalay Bay Hotel, you will find queues of people along with the occasional bride and groom waiting to have their picture taken. The best time to go is in the morning when it is a lot quieter and you can get photos with less people.

A fantastic way to get around Vegas is to do a Hop On Hop Off bus tour. Not only do you get taken to all the key attractions, but you also get an opportunity to learn about the history of this amazing city.

There are a number of day trips you can do from Vegas, including the Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon .  You can book these tours through your hotel concierge and if you have the time they are a nice break away from the craziness that is Las Vegas. Top tours include:

Grand Canyon/ Hoover Dam

If you want to be a little fancy and treat yourself you can do a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon .

Death Valley

Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Hoover Dam and Seven Magic Mountains

Freemont Street/ Old Las Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas, couldn’t be more different to the Vegas Strip. Nevertheless it is really worth seeing. For starters there are some of the old school casinos in Vegas such as the Golden Nugget. There is also a zip line that whizzes you across Freemont Street at speed. One of our favourite things though was the Mob Museum . It is a fascinating insight into the darker side of US history and the mob’s impact on Vegas itself. There is also the Neon Sign Museum which is where you guessed it, Neon Signs go to die. Again it gives insight into old Las Vegas and what the city was like in its heyday.

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Go to a show

A great way to experience all the glitz and glamour of Vegas is to get yourself to one of the incredible shows in the city. You’ve got things like:

The Blue Man Group

Mindfreak Magic Show

Cirque du Soliel

David Copperfield

The easiest and quickest way to get from the airport to the Vegas Strip is via shuttle bus. You may have to wait a while depending on what time you fly in, but the service is great and you get driven straight to your hotel door.

Where to stay in Las Vegas

Ideally you want to stay on the Vegas Strip as this is where most of the action is. We stayed at Paris, and it was centrally located and in the middle of all the action. Hotels in Vegas range in price and also standard so whatever your budget, you will be spoilt for choice.

Eating and drinking in Las Vegas

You will also be spoilt for choice for food and drink in Vegas, from the elaborate hotel buffets to the restaurants owned by celebrity chefs. There are way too many places to choose from and something to cater to all tastes.

The final city that we highly recommend on any trip to the US is New York . It really is one of the most incredible places we have visited and there is so much to see and do. We ended up getting a red eye flight from Vegas into New York that saved us a nights accommodation and meant we had an extra full day to spend in New York.

You might be wondering why New York is the last place on our 2 week USA itinerary considering that we started in Chicago. Well for us we were trying to get back to the UK and New York was a great final stop before our transatlantic flight. Obviously, you can do this in any order that makes it more convenient for you.

Why visit New York

New York has to be one of the most exciting cities in the world, and for that reason no 2 week USA itinerary is complete without a visit. If you love history, architecture, museums, art, and good food, then New York is a must.

Wondering is New York worth visiting ? This post will help you decide.

Things to do in New York

New York is epic and there is probably enough to do for months on end, but we have listed some of the highlights and must sees to help you plan your itinerary. We also have a guide if it just so happens to rain during your time in NYC. 

And if you want more ideas checkout our New York bucket list .

Central Park

Central Park was a must for us especially because we had seen it so many times in the movies or on TV. In fact you can even do a tour of Central Park that takes you to all the famous filming locations. The Park is a bustling hive of activity with rollerbladers, bikes, and tourists travelling in horse and carts.

Some highlights in Central Park include the boathouse where you can rent a row boat particularly in those summer months with the skyscrapers in the background. Another must is the Lennon memorial titled Strawberry Fields.  It is located adjacent to the Dakota Building, which is where John Lennon was living when he was shot returning home on the 8th of December 1980.

Times Square

Times Square is a must when visiting New York. Ok so we don’t recommend spending a lot of time here, because it is so touristy, but do visit it at least once during your time in NYC.

Brooklyn Bridge

One of the most iconic structures in New York has to be the Brooklyn Bridge. And taking the walk across is a must do when visiting the city.

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Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is probably one of the most well recognised buildings in New York. Located on 5th Avenue, the Empire State is a 102 story art deco style building. Construction on the building began in 1930 and doors opened in 1931, a mere 13 and a half months after the first beam was laid. You get some awesome views of New York from the 86th floor of the building, just be prepared to be pushed around by crowds of tourists. To skip the lines make sure you buy your ticket online in advance .

Top of the Rock

The Rockefeller centre was created by J.D. Rockefeller Jr, and was designed to be a city within a city. Building was completed in 1933 and since then the building has become a cultural hub.You will get to see the city from the 67th, 69th and 70th floors and like the Empire State the views are incredible. It is generally not too crowded on the observation decks. Plus the cool thing is you can get a picture of the iconic Empire State Building as well.

If you are tossing up between the Empire State and Top of the Rock here is a handy guide to help you decide which one to visit.

Again tickets can be purchased online in advance .

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The High Line

The High Line is a 1.45 mile elevated park on a disused train track and is a garden oasis in the middle of a busy city. It is a lovely place to go for a walk or just sit down and take in your surroundings.

Do a helicopter tour

If you are feeling a bit fancy you can live out my dream of flying above the New York Skyline in a helicopter . I may have watched one too many movies, but still one day!

Statue of Liberty

Another New York City icon is of course the Statue of Liberty. To see the Statue up close you can book a boat tour that takes you to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. If you are planning to do this you should set a full day aside and book in advance. It is super busy and you will spend a lot of the day just waiting in line.

We were short of time so we only managed to see Liberty Island to get a few close up shots of the Statue. It is a wonderful experience and we would really recommend it. Alternatively you could get the Staten Island Ferry for a glimpse of Lady Liberty herself, but you certainly don’t get as close as you do on the tourist boats.

We tried to buy tickets on the day and spent ages in line, so we highly recommend that you purchase these online in advance .

New York has some pretty amazing museums, from the Natural History Museum to the Guggenheim. We decided to visit the Museum of Modern Art which houses works from artists such a Van Gogh, Dali, and my personal favourite Andy Warhol. You seriously cannot go to New York without visiting at least one museum.

One of the more sombre but important museums we visited was the 9/11 museum. For my generation there is a question of ‘where were you when you heard the news about the planes hitting the tower’. The museum is beautiful, it honours the victims, and looks at the resilience and bravery of New Yorkers.

Another recommendation in NYC is to do a hop on hop off bus tour. These are really useful when you only have a short time in a city.

There are a number of airports in New York, and most of them have a shuttle bus that will take you straight to your hotel. Just be mindful that New York traffic can be pretty bad. But ultimately it is cheaper than a taxi which is handy.

Where to stay in New York

We ended up staying near Times Square which was great on a short trip, but if you are visiting for a bit longer, we recommend staying in one of the neighbourhoods like the East Village for example. There is a lot more atmosphere and you get to see the less touristy side of New York. No matter where you stay though you really want to make sure you are near a subway station which will make getting around New York so much easier.

Eating and drinking in New York

We actually write a post all about the foods you need to try in New York . There is so much choice and it is hard to narrow down. There are some great places to eat and drink in the East Village including our favourite, a 24 hour Ukrainian dinner called  Veselka , it is also a great place for drinks and one of our favourite bars was The Immigrant . Another must is a visit to the Dominque Ansel Bakery which is of course the home of the famous Cronut.

america travel plan

Before planning your 2 week USA itinerary you might be wondering when the best time of year to visit is. Summer is most definitely peak travel season (June – August). And you have that added stress in August of school holidays. If you are planning on traveling around the US at this time make sure that you book accommodation well in advance, as well as your tours and attractions.

The best time really to plan your 2 week USA itinerary will e in the shoulder seasons, so either spring (March- May) or Autumn especially September and October. Personally Autumn (or fall) is one of our favourite times to visit because you get to see the beautiful leaves change colour and begin to fall. It’s especially beautiful visiting somewhere like New York City, or Big Bear Lake.

Winters can be harsh in some of the places we have mentioned in this guide, especially Chicago and New York. So adverse weather may hinder your plans to see certain attractions. That being said December in New York is incredible with the build-up to the Christmas season.

Ok, so budgeting for your 2 week USA itinerary is a tough one. It will all depend on where you want to stay, and what you want to see. For a mid-range holiday we would probably recommend budgeting about $3000 per person for the 2 weeks.

We found accommodation to be quite expensive in the USA, particularly if you want to stay in a central location in one of the big cities we have listed. On average you are looking at about $200 per night for a mid range hotel room that is centrally located.

Food is slightly cheaper in the US (but don’t forget to tip), and you could probably get away with spending about $50 per person if you were trying to budget.

Hopefully this 2 week USA itinerary has you all excited about booking your trip to the USA. There are so many other cities to visit though and you can check out our  East Coast  and  West Coast  itinerary to cover more places you should visit. If you have found this article don’t forget to Pin it for later.

Pin this 2 week USA itinerary

Wanderlust and Life is a blog for those that love to travel.

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How much does it cost?

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america travel plan

Dotted Globe

Ultimate USA Itinerary Planner & Travel Guide

america travel plan

Planning a trip to the United States of America and looking for USA itinerary Ideas? Whether you are planning a 2-week long US trip or a 3-week long trip, we have got you covered. Use our USA Itinerary planner to see the country from coast to coast. See epic attractions along the East Coast including Niagara Falls and New York City then head to the West Coast to enjoy beach life in California. Read now for great itinerary ideas to explore America. You might also like our post on Best Places to Visit in the USA .

Welcome to our ultimate USA trip planner! 

We created this USA Itinerary Planner to help you plan the ultimate American trip. It contains all essential information including which places to visit, how to travel around the USA, sample itineraries, where to stay, what to eat, budgets and costs, etc.

Here you will find recommendations for a variety of USA trips whether you plan to fly, take a bus, or road trip around the country. Whether you are a first-time visitor or planning a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th trip to the country we have ideas for most well-known destinations to the hidden gems in the country.

Dotted Globe contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my full  Disclosure  here. Thank you!

“This is America … a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” — George H.W. Bush

Here is our guide to planning the perfect USA Itinerary around your favorite attractions. 

Where to Visit in the USA

The USA is vast and diverse. You really need to know where you want to go to plan the perfect trip. Otherwise, a lot of your time will be spent traveling from one destination to another with very little time to actually explore the cities and natural areas. To read the most popular destinations to visit in the USA, read our post on USA Travel Bucket List .

Most people usually start planning a USA trip with their favorite cities on the East Coast or the West Coast. The USA is home to many vibrant cities including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle. You can read more about the best cities in the country in our post 22 Best City Breaks in the USA . 

The USA also has stunning natural beauty. We recommend visiting at least one of the country’s most popular national parks to experience wildlife, hiking, and outdoor activities in the country. Some of the USA National Parks that are frequently visited by international visitors include Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park . 

How to Travel around the USA

If you are planning a trip around the major cities in the country, then you can either fly or take a bus during your USA trip. Amtrak Trains are also a good option while visiting certain areas. However, if you are planning to visit national parks and outdoor areas, then consider a road trip across the USA. 

If flying domestically in the US, then consider budget airlines like Spirit or Frontier. The tickets are usually cheapest if you book in advance and fly on weekdays, especially Tuesdays or Wednesdays. 

The US also has great bus service in certain regions like the Northeast, Midwest, and California. Bus operators like Greyhound and Megabus operate buses between popular cities. The journeys are often overnight which means you can save on hotels if traveling via an overnight bus. 

Amtrak operates the trains in the USA. Traveling within the USA by train is neither cheap nor fast. However, it is definitely a scenic option especially along routes like the California Zephyr from San Francisco to Chicago. Amtrak has Rail Passes which you can use to get down and explore attractions for multiple days before reboarding the train.

However, one of our favorite ways to get around the country is via road trips. The USA is made for road tripping. Americans love taking road trips and you can rent cars, SUVs, and even RVs for your road trip. Read our post on Best Road Trips in the USA to learn about iconic road trips in the country.

1 Week in USA Itinerary Ideas

While a week is a very short time to explore the country, there are many small trips that you can take in a week. We have divided these trips mostly by region – you can definitely cover the highlights of a US region in 7 days. Here are a couple of different 1 week USA Itinerary Ideas – click the names of the destinations to read in-depth articles on the best things to do in the cities and national parks:

Itinerary 1: Las Vegas Los Angeles San Francisco

This itinerary may be just a week-long but it covers 4 major highlights of the country: Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. You can complete this as a road trip or as a flying itinerary.

Las Vegas – 2 Days

Las Vegas or Sin City is famous for its casinos and gambling. Besides gambling, Las Vegas also has many free attractions including the Bellagio Fountains, the Mirage Volcano, Eiffel Tower, etc. With two days in the city, you have enough time to explore Vegas nightlife and see a show or two. You can also explore outdoor Las Vegas: there are many natural areas close to Las Vegas including Valley of Fire State Park, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead Recreation Area, and Seven Magic Mountains. 

Grand Canyon – 1 Day

The Grand Canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world. This beautiful landscape is the result of years of erosion carried out by the Colorado River. You can easily see the Grand Canyon as a day trip from Las Vegas. While you won’t have time to visit the Grand Canyon National Park, you can see the Grand Canyon Skywalk at the West Rim. Book day tours to the Grand Canyon here. 

Los Angeles – 2 Days

Next head to Los Angeles in California. Los Angeles is home to Hollywood, America’s film industry and there are a lot of things to do in the city for movie buffs. See the stars on the sidewalk on Hollywood Blvd, take a photo with the Hollywood sign, take a behind the scenes tour at Warner Bros Inc, and take thrilling movie-inspired rides at Universal Studios. Los Angeles also has many museums and is a great place for foodies. 

San Francisco – 2 Days

After seeing Los Angeles, visit the northern California city of San Francisco . See America’s icon – the Golden Gate Bridge . Spend time at Fisherman’s Wharf, see the twisting Lombard Street, and visit the notorious island of Alcatraz. Take a day trip to Napa Valley to tour wineries and go wine tasting or visit Muir Woods National Monument to see the coastal redwoods. 

Itinerary 2: Chicago NYC Philadelphia

In this Midwest & East Coast itinerary, you will be visiting some of our favorite cities in the USA. You will be seeing beautiful architecture, visit impressive museums, spend time in grand urban parks, and eat delicious food. You will also be squeezing in a day trip to Niagara Falls, one of the best attractions in the USA. 

Chicago – 2 Days

Chicago is the jewel of the Midwest. Set on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is home to famous architects and impressive architecture. To see the most beautiful buildings in the city, take the Chicago River Architectural Cruise. Spend some time at Millenium Park and enjoy its attractions including the Cloud Gate sculpture and the Crown Fountain. Go shopping at Magnificent Mile and eat Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza.  

Niagara Falls – 1 Day

From Chicago, fly to Niagara Falls, located on the border of the US and Canada. Niagara Falls are actually a group of 3 falls – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. The stunning falls are a year-round travel destination and they look beautiful even when frozen in winter. In summer, take the Maid of the Mist boat tour to see the falls from up close. The falls also look beautiful when they are illuminated at night. 

New York City – 2 Days

After seeing Niagara Falls, visit New York City – one of the best cities in the world. New York is the capital of fashion, finance, culture, art, and food. Spend a couple of days exploring the city. Visit the touristy Times Square and eat at the cafes in Greenwich Village. See the city from above at the Empire State Building and take a stroll in Central Park. See the city’s famous museums including the Met, American Museum of History, and MoMa. On your second day, see the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island.

Philadelphia – 2 Days

Last, visit the historic city of Philadelphia. Begin your visit at the Independence National Historic Park. This is where the country came into being and where the most important monuments to liberty and democracy are located. See the iconic Liberty Bell and tour Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Independence Hall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the must-visit attractions in the US. Other things to do in Philadelphia include the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the ‘Rocky’ movie steps, the Love sculpture, City Hall, and the Reading Terminal Market which is famous for its many eateries.

Itinerary 3: Southwest road trip

This road trip will take you through the best attractions of the American Southwest. Expect to see stunning natural landscapes of gorges, canyons, and deserts on this amazing trip. Camp to lower your budget and to stay closer to nature. At every turn, you will be treated to photogenic vistas and unique indigenous cultures. Read our post on Vegas Zion Bryce Grand Canyon road trip to plan a trip along these attractions.

Las Vegas is the ultimate starting point for an American Southwest road trip. Fly into Sin City and explore the attractions of the Las Vegas strip. Enjoy the unique attractions of Vegas like the roller coaster at New York New York, musical fountains of Bellagio, the volcano at Mirage, nightlife, gambling, and more at night. By day, explore the desert of Nevada. Hike at Red Rock Canyon State Park and drive the scenic route around Lake Mead. Tour the Hoover Dam and check out the museums in Las Vegas. 

Zion National Park – 1 Day

Then drive to Zion National Park in southwest Utah. Zion is located just 2 hours away from Las Vegas and can be easily seen during one day. The best way to see Zion is to take the park shuttle, which goes along the Zion Scenic Drive. You will be able to see breathtaking views of Zion’s deep red canyon walls and the Virgin River that flows through the canyon. Zion has many hiking trails but to hike the most popular trails of Angel’s Landing and the Narrows you will need more than a day. 

Bryce Canyon National Park – 1 Day

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most underrated national parks in the country. Bryce is famous for its deep red – crimson hoodoo rock formations. These spire-shaped narrow rock formations are formed due to weathering action by wind, snow, and water. You can easily see the hoodoos in the area known as the Bryce Amphitheatre. Take a walk along the Rim Trail to see the hoodoos from above or descend down into the depression along the Navajo Loop Trail to see the most famous hoodoos.

Bryce-Canyon-National-Park_Thors-Hammer

Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend – 1 Day

After seeing Bryce Canyon National Park, head over to Page, Arizona to see the famous Antelope Canyons . The two slot canyons of Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are famous the world over for their striking beauty and vivid colors. You can see them both on guided tours. The tour through Lower Antelope Canyon is more strenuous than the one through Upper and requires some climbing. Pick the Upper Canyon if you have small kids or are not physically fit. After seeing Antelope Canyon, see another Page attraction – Horseshoe Bend. From the observation area, you can see a panoramic view of the Horseshoe shaped bend in the Colorado River. 

Monument Valley – 1 Day

From Page, drive further east towards Monument Valley. This landscape of red sand desert and weathered rock formations located along the Arizona Utah border is one of the highlights of this road trip. Drive along the 17 mile Valley Drive to see the towering sandstone buttes and take iconic photographs. 

Grand Canyon National Park – 1 Day

Finally, make your way to the Grand Canyon National Park. Drive to the South Rim and Grand Canyon Village to see the best views of the Grand Canyon. If it is too crowded, take the park shuttle. Visit the Visitor Center for exhibits, souvenirs, and movies about the Grand Canyon. Take the scenic Desert View Drive to the Desert View Watchtower for iconic views. Hike into the Grand Canyon to enjoy its beauty from different vantage points. 

Itinerary 4 – Pacific Coast Highway, California

This stunning road trip will take you along the highlights of California. See the vibrant cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco and drive through the stunning natural area of Big Sur. This drive is said to be the best road trip in the world. Finish your trip with a visit to the famous Yosemite National Park. Check our post on Pacific Coast Road Trip Itinerary to plan this trip.

Los Angeles – 2 Day

Start your visit by flying into Los Angeles . Movie buffs can take a stroll along Hollywood Walk of Fame or take a movie studio tour or tour celebrity homes in Beverly Hills. Culture enthusiasts can visit LA’s top museums including the Broad, La Brea Tar Pits, LACMA, Petersen Automotive Museum, and the Getty Center. If you have kids, spend a day in Anaheim at the Disney parks. 

Big Sur – 2 Day

Take the Pacific Coast Highway up north to Big Sur . Along the way, you will pass California’s iconic coastal cities of Malibu and Santa Barbara and drive alongside small beachside communities of Pismo Beach and Morro Bay. In Big Sur, visit the highlights of McWay Falls, Bixby Creek Bridge, San Simeon Elephant Seal Rookery, Pfeiffer Beach, and Big Sur Village. Then drive north along Monterey and Half Moon Bay to San Francisco. 

San Francisco – 2 Day

Enjoy Northern California’s mild climates and foggy coastline in San Francisco , the city by the bay. See the iconic Golden Gate Bridge from Vista Point and ride a cable car to Chinatown. Eat some dim sums and egg tarts in Chinatown. Walk down twisting Lombard Street and buy chocolates in Ghirardelli Square. Admire the view from Twin Peaks and take a cruise to the former federal prison on Alcatraz Island. 

Yosemite – 1 Day

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, Yosemite has stunning mountain beauty. Visiting Yosemite is a must while visiting California. While one day is not enough to explore all of Yosemite’s attractions, you can see the highlights and tour the Yosemite Valley in that time frame. A ranger-led 2 hours tour of the Valley is your best option to see Yosemite in a day. On the tour, you can see Yosemite Falls and the granite rock formations of El Capitan and Half Dome. If you have time, hike in the Yosemite Valley and take photos of the national park. 

Itinerary 5: Best of Florida

If you want to spend your 1 week in the USA exploring Florida, then use this itinerary. Start your trip in Orlando and visit a theme park. Then visit Miami and relax at South Beach. See the architecture on Ocean Drive and visit Little Havana. Then make the trip down to Key West via Overseas Highway. Finally, visit Everglades National Park and take an airboat tour. See our post on Miami to Key West Drive: 25 Awesome Stops along the way to plan this trip.

Orlando – 2 Days

Orlando is one of the best places to start your USA trip. The city has over a dozen theme parks. Our favorite is ’The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ at Universal Studios. There are also 5 Disney Parks in Orlando including the popular Walt Disney World. There are also many other things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks. You can take a stroll through the beautiful Bok Tower Gardens and admire the wildlife at Central Florida Zoo. Explore the many different neighborhoods and sample a variety of cuisines. 

Miami – 2 Days

After exploring Orlando, head down to spend 2 days in Miami . Start your visit at the iconic attraction of Miami Beach. Get some Florida sun and swim in the water. Wander around the Arts Deco district and see the murals at Wynwood Mall. Shop and eat by the waterfront at Bayside Marketplace. For a unique attraction, stroll through the beautiful Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. End your visit in Little Havana where you can try Cuban cuisine and understand the Cuban culture. 

Key West – 2 Days

Then take Florida’s Overseas Highway to Key West. The drive is about 4 hours but there are many attractions along the way. Stop in communities like Islamorada and Key Largo. Eat fresh seafood and go snorkeling and scuba diving on the coral reefs. Then make way for Key West. Key West is the southernmost point in the Continental US. The city has a chilled Caribbean vibe. Tour Old Town Key West, visit Hemingway House Museum and take a picture at the southernmost point Buoy. Attend the sunset celebrations in Mallory Square and party on Duval Street. If you have more time, visit Dry Tortugas National Park . 

Everglades National Park – 1 Day

On your way back to Miami or Orlando, visit Everglades National Park. Homestead, which is located just an hour south of Miami, is the gateway to Everglades National Park. In Everglades, you will find a wetland of swamps, marshes, mangroves, and sawgrass prairies. The best way to experience Everglades National Park is on an airboat tour. During the tour, you can see manatees, alligators, deer, fox, bobcats, and birds like ospreys and cranes. 

Itinerary 6 – Chicago Mt. Rushmore Road Trip

While most of the trips above could be done without driving, a road trip is the only way to experience these Midwestern attractions. This trip is definitely one of the hidden gems in the US and not many visitors come here on a first visit. However, to experience the heart of the country – the Midwest bread bowl – go on this road trip in the Black Hills of South Dakota . We assure you, you will have the time of your life! 

Start on this road trip in Chicago . Experience iconic attractions of the Windy City including the Bean at Millennium Park, the Museum Campus, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Navy Pier. See Chicago from top of the Willis Tower and experience Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture in Oak Park. Eat Chicago style hotdog and deep-dish pizza before hitting the open roads to South Dakota. 

Sioux Falls – 1 Day

First, stop at Sioux Falls. Visit the Falls Park where you can see the Big Sioux River cascade over limestone bluffs. The park also has a historic mill and an observation tower. See the murals in downtown Sioux Falls before visiting the Corn Palace in Mitchell . This stunning palace is made of corn murals and is created anew every year. Inside the corn palace, you can see photos of previous corn palaces and tributes to corn farmers. This unique roadside attraction is definitely worth a visit while in South Dakota. 

Badlands National Park – 2 Days

Next, visit the bizarre and dramatic landscape of Badlands National Park . Formed as a result of erosion, the national park is filled with unique rock formations consisting of buttes, spires, and canyons. To explore Badlands, drive along the scenic Badlands Loop Road and go hiking in the park. Badlands also has a lot of wildlife. On a visit to the park, you can view bison, coyotes, mountain goats, prairie dogs, deer, and more. You can also see fossils of animals that lived in the area long ago including mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and more. 

Custer State Park – 1 Day

Custer State Park is the largest state park in the country and one of our favorites. You can do hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing in the park . Custer has 4 mountain lakes which are perfect for lakeside strolls and activities on the water. Custer State Park is also famous for its scenic drives. The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is located in the park and includes 3 smaller drives. On the Custer Wildlife Loop Road, you will find lots of bison, burros, and deer. Needles Highway has the stunning needle formations on both sides while Iron Mountain Road has three tunnels and an iconic view of Mt. Rushmore. 

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial – 1 Day

For the last part of your trip, visit Mt. Rushmore National Memorial . Here you can see the faces of 4 US presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln – carved in stone. The monument is lit at night and looks impressive. Hike the Presidential Trail to go closer to the sculptures and spot wildlife including mountain goat and deer. Visit the on-site museum to learn more about the sculptures and their sculptor Gutzon Borglum.  Do not forget to see nearby Crazy Horse Memorial to know more about the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse while visiting the Black Hills. Read our post on Ultimate South Dakota road trip to plan this route.

We hope you liked our epic USA Itinerary Planner. Let us know if you have any questions.

Nomadic Matt: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Better

The Great American Road Trip: A 4-Month Itinerary Around the USA

Nomadic Matt posing for a photo in front of the Grand Canyon

The Great American Road Trip. It’s the kind of multi-month adventure most dream about, but few actually do.

While many of us have bucket-list goals of exploring this vast and diverse landscape, more often than not, we end up heading abroad instead. International travel just seems more alluring, exotic, and exciting.

But this country has more than enough eclectic cities, small towns, regional culinary traditions, historic sites, fascinating museums, and natural wonders to keep any intrepid traveler busy.

I’ve done five big US road trips (two that completely crisscrossed the country and three in various regions) that cumulatively add up to a year on the road (and that doesn’t count all the “regular” trips, vacations, and weekend getaways). I’ve seen a lot of the United States.

When COVID-19 caused us to consider our backyard more and more, many Americans turned to domestic travel. We finally got to explore all the wonders our own country has to offer.

So, because of that, I’ve created an epic four-month itinerary for traveling around the States. I think it balances time in cities with relaxing in nature.

It may seem like a lot, but four months just scratches the surface. And, since I don’t expect most of you to have four months, you can easily break this trip into smaller portions. It’s much better to concentrate your focus rather than try to see a lot in a short amount of time.

One note before we begin: There are so many routes you could take that it’s impossible to have one “best” route. The US is just too big. The route below is just one of my favorites. Use it as a starting point for creating your own itinerary that mixes realistic drive times, national parks, and fabulous cities.

Table of Contents

Month 1: East Coast, Southern US

Month 2: south, southwestern us, west coast, month 3: pacific northwest, western us, month 4: midwest, northeast us, days 1-3: boston, ma.

The towering skyline of Boston, MA as seen from near the water with a blue sky above

  • Walk the Freedom Trail – This 2.5-mile (4 kilometer) route links many historic sites, including the Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, the State House, and Bunker Hill. To get the most out of your experience, take a guided tour . You’ll be able to ask questions to an expert local guide for a more in-depth experience.
  • Relax in Boston Common – This is one of America’s oldest parks and was once used as communal pasture land by Puritan settlers. Today, it’s a great place to relax, people-watch, and picnic.
  • See the Bunker Hill Monument – The Battle of Bunker Hill (1775) was one of the first major battles of the Revolutionary War. While the British won, the Americans wore British forces down more than was expected. The monument stands 221 feet (67 meters) tall; you can climb to the top to enjoy the best view of Boston.
  • Visit the Museum of Fine Arts – This museum has over 450,000 pieces of fine art, covering everything from the pre-Columbian era to Italian Impressionists. It’s one of the biggest collections in the country. It’s free after 4pm on Wednesdays.

For more things to do, check out my free guide to Boston . And, for places to stay, here are my hostel recommendations.

Days 4-8: New York City, NY

New York City viewed from the Manhattan bridge, with tenement buildings in the foreground and modern skyscrapers in the background

  • Take a walking tour – To get a feel for the city, take a walking tour. There are myriad free and paid tours on a variety of subjects. Nothing is too obscure. Here’s a list of suggested walking tour companies in NYC .
  • Wander Central Park – This massive, 51-block-long, 843-acre park is the best free attraction in town. There are plenty of places to bike, walk, jog, read, picnic, and people-watch. During the summer, there are free concerts and theater productions too. Free tours are run by the parks service. The “Iconic Views of Central Park” tour is offered daily at 10am from the spring to the fall.
  • See the Statue of Liberty – You can pay to visit Ellis Island if you want to see the statue up close . However, you can also take a free ferry to Staten Island instead if you just want to see it while passing by.
  • Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum – At the base of the Freedom Tower is a park commemorating the victims of 9/11. Inside the museum, there are over 14,000 artifacts from that day, as well as 3,500 recordings from survivors, first responders, and family members of those killed. It’s a sobering, eye-opening exhibit. A timed-entry ticket is $19.40 USD.
  • Walk the High Line – The High Line is an elevated urban walking park on the west side of NYC. Made from a converted train track, it runs for 22 blocks and is lined with overlooks, gardens, public art, food stalls, and greenery.
  • Cross the Brooklyn Bridge – For a view of the Manhattan skyline, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a long walk (around 40 minutes if you stop for photos), but the view is worth it — especially at night. It’s free too!
  • Explore the Met – The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the foremost fine art collections in the world. You can easily spend an entire day here if you wanted to see it all.

If you want more ideas for things to see and do in NYC, here’s a detailed suggested itinerary that can come.

For accommodation suggestions, here is my comprehensive list of hostels in NYC , my recommended hotels , as well as a neighborhood-by-neighborhood guide to the city .  

Days 9-11: Philadelphia, PA

View down Benjamin Franklin Parkway lined with trees with orange leaves in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • See the Liberty Bell – This bell, which dates to 1752, is an iconic symbol of American freedom. It’s said to have been rung when the Declaration of Independence was read in July 1776. Today, the bell is located in Independence National Historical Park, which you can visit for free.
  • Wander around Independence Hall – Learn about the founding of the United States at Independence Hall, and wander around the area’s historic colonial buildings.
  • Explore Franklin Court – This is where Benjamin Franklin lived while serving in the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention. While his house was torn down after his death in 1790, a hollow structure stands where it was located, and there’s a museum nearby with information about his life and works.
  • Climb the Rocky stairs – The stairs from Rocky , the classic boxing film, are located at the Museum of Art. You can’t visit Philadelphia without running up them and doing your best Stallone impression.
  • Visit the Magic Gardens – This quirky art gallery is one of the most unique attractions in town: a collection of indoor and outdoor art and mosaics made from broken tiles, glass, and all kinds of odds and ends. Indoors, there’s a more conventional art gallery and space for events and concerts.

Days 12-14: Washington, DC

Aerial view of Washington DC with Thomas Jefferson Memorial building and the Tidal Basin in the foreground

  • Visit the Holocaust Museum – The Holocaust Museum is informative and heart-wrenching. Its permanent exhibit takes up three entire levels and tells the story of the Holocaust through films, photos, artifacts, and first-person stories. Admission is free.
  • Tour the Smithsonian – The Smithsonian Institution is a group of world-class museums and research centers. All of them are free to enter. Some of the best museums are: the Air and Space Museum, the African American Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, and the American Art Museum.
  • See the Lincoln Memorial – This iconic 19-foot statue is located on the National Mall and pays tribute to America’s 16th president. Built in 1914, it’s surrounded by 36 columns, each of which represents a state in the union at the time of his death in 1865.

For tons more ideas on what to see, here’s my free detailed guide to DC!  

Days 15-16: Shenandoah National Park, VA

The rolling hills and mountains of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

Days 17-19: Asheville, NC

The winding Blue Ridge Parkway surrounded by forests and mountains, near Asheville, North Carolina

  • The Biltmore Estate – This is America’s largest house. It’s a whopping 178,926-square-foot mansion surrounded by 8,000 acres of land. The massive estate has over 250 rooms (including 33 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms). I love it!
  • Enjoying craft beer – Asheville has over 25 breweries (and there are another 50+ outside town too). Take a brewery tour, or just hop around and sample some local offerings. My two favorites are Bhramari and Wicked Weed.
  • Hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains – Parts of the Appalachian Trail can be found here, and there are lots of day or multiday hikes. You can also climb Mount Mitchell, the highest summit east of the Mississippi River.

Days 20-22: Atlanta, GA

The skyline of Atlanta, GA from Piedmont Park

  • See the Center for Civil and Human Rights – Opened in 2014, this museum highlights the struggles and accomplishments of the civil rights movement as well as human rights around the globe. (To learn more about civil rights history in Atlanta, take this city walking tour with Unexpected Atlanta. )
  • Wander the Atlanta Botanical Garden – Escape the urban hustle and bustle with a getaway to this 30-acre oasis in the heart of the city. In addition to its orchids and tropical plants, there’s a 600-foot canopy walk that lets you enjoy the gardens from 40 feet in the air.
  • Take a street art tour – Atlanta is one of the best destinations for street art. There are tons of murals along the Krog Street Tunnel and the Belt Line. Take a guided tour or use the website streetartmap.org for self-guided suggestions.

Days 23-27: Nashville, TN

A view overlooking Nashville, TN at night with the downtown all lit up

  • Attend the Grand Ole Opry – Opened in 1925, this is one of the most famous country music venues in the world. Today, the Opry hosts regular live performances, TV broadcasts, and radio shows. You can buy tickets here or book a guided tour of the venue here .
  • See the Parthenon – This full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, was built in 1897. It was created to celebrate Nashville’s 100th anniversary and chosen because Nashville is called “the Athens of the South” (due to its historic focus on higher education).
  • Explore the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – This museum has one of the largest music collections in the entire world. There are over 200,000 recordings here, including 98% of music released before World War II. Tickets are $29.95 USD.
  • Visit Franklin – Located just 25 minutes outside of Nashville, most people assume Franklin is just another suburb. However, it has a lot going for it: it’s bursting with small-town charm, has stellar food and drink (it’s where I discovered my favorite Bourbon, H Clark), is full of history ( there was a major Civil War battle here ), and has one of the best-preserved historic main streets in the country. I’d spend two nights here.

Days 28-30: Memphis, TN

The retro exterior and sign of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, USA

  • Visit the National Civil Rights Museum – This museum traces the history of civil rights from the 17th century to today. It’s housed in the former motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It’s powerful and poignant. Don’t miss it. Admission is $20 USD.
  • See the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum – This museum highlights the musical pioneers of blues, rock, and soul music from the 1930s to the 1970s. There are costumes and recordings, interactive media, and exhibitions on famous musicians from Memphis. A joint ticket that also includes the Music Hall of Fame is $17 USD.
  • Stroll down Beale Street – Known as “America’s most iconic street,” Beale Street features many bars where you’ll find Memphis’s best live music. There are also numerous street buskers. If you’re going out at night, start here. ( Backbeat Tours offers guided tours if you’d like to learn more about the street’s history.)
  • Day-trip to Graceland – The home of Elvis Presley, Graceland is located a few miles south of town. Even if you’re not a huge Elvis fan, it’s worth a visit to see just how impactful his life and music have been. You’ll see loads of lookalikes and die-hard fans making the pilgrimage to see the King.

Days 31-32: Natchez, MS

A pathway leading up to the historic Rosalie mansion, with white pillars and a brick façade with black wooden shutters, surrounded by lush trees in Natchez, Mississippi, USA

  • Visit antebellum homes – Built in the early to mid-19th century, these historic homes are Natchez’s main draw. Longwood, Rosalie Mansion, and Stanton Hall were my favorites. Admission is $20-25 USD at each or there is a joint ticket that includes all three for $65 USD.
  • Attend the Natchez Pilgrimage – During the Natchez Pilgrimage in the spring, all of the private historical homes open up to the public. The costumed guides explain the history of the home, their owners, and the region. It’s the city’s biggest annual event, and there are some 20 homes on display.
  • See the Emerald Mount – Constructed sometime between the 13th and 17th centuries, this was an elevated place of worship for the Plaquemine Native Americans. All kinds of animal bones have been found nearby, leading researchers to believe it was the site of religious or sacred activity.

Days 33-36: New Orleans, LA

One of the many old, colorful buildings in bustling New Orleans

  • Visit the National World War II Museum – This is the largest World War II museum in America. It’s also one of the best museums in the world. You can listen to firsthand accounts of the war, which make it all feel that much more intimate and impactful. You can get your tickets here .
  • Listen to music on Frenchmen Street – Live music is available every night of the week, and there are innumerable venues to listen to blues and jazz. My personal favorite is the Spotted Cat.
  • Wander the French Quarter and Garden District – These are two of NOLA’s most iconic and historic districts, full of old French-influenced buildings and grand mansions. You can either do a self-guided tour or go with Tour Orleans to learn more about this beautiful area.
  • Take a ghost or voodoo tour – “The Big Easy” has a creepy past. The best way to learn about it is to take a voodoo or ghost tour . You’ll get to see cemeteries, explore haunted buildings, and hear all sorts of unsettling anecdotes and ghostly tales.

For more things to see and do in NOLA, check out this detailed itinerary .  

Days 37-39: Houston, TX

A huge Boeing 747 with a replica space shuttle atop it at the Space Center Houston, Texas, USA

Houston is home to the Space Center and NASA’s astronaut training complex, as well as countless breweries and museums and a killer food scene (definitely go out for Viet BBQ).

These are some things you can do while you’re in town:

  • Visit Space Center Houston – This is Houston’s top attraction, bringing in over a million visitors each year. There are over 400 items in the collection, including moon rocks and three spacecraft that were used during missions. Get your timed-entry ticket here .
  • Explore the Museum of Natural Science – Opened in 1909, this museum has four floors of exhibitions (as well as a planetarium and an IMAX theatre). There are displays on wildlife, ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, minerals, and much more! Tickets are $25 USD.
  • Wander Buffalo Bayou Park – This 124-acre park has all kinds of walking trails and is a nice spot for a picnic, to relax with a book, or to people-watch. There are also lots of concerts and events here too, so check the local tourism office to see what’s coming up.

Days 40-44: Austin, TX

A bright and sunny day overlooking the towering skyline of Austin, Texas

  • Relax at Barton Springs – Barton Springs is a pool/creek that locals flock to in warm weather. It’s fed by a natural cold-water spring in Zilker Park and has manicured lawns that are great for lounging on and relaxing when it’s too hot to do much else. You can also rent kayaks and paddle around.
  • Go two-stepping – Two-stepping is a popular country dance — and country dancing is one of Austin’s favorite pastimes. To see it in action (and try it yourself), head to the White Horse, where there are free lessons so you can then dance your way around town.
  • Enjoy world-class barbecue — Some of the best BBQ joints in the US are here in Austin. If you’re looking to treat your taste buds (and don’t mind waiting, usually a couple of hours), head to Franklin’s or La Barbecue. For something faster, check out Micklethwait Craft Meats.

For way more activities, check out my free guide to Austin ! Since I lived here for so long, I have a lot of suggestions on how to spend your time.  

Days 45-47: Truth or Consequences, NM

Originally named Hot Springs, “T or C,” as it’s known, got its name from a radio contest in 1950. After winning, the town kept the name. Located 10 hours from Austin, T or C is known for its wellness tourism. The entire town was built over a hot mineral spring, so it’s the perfect place to relax at a spa.

Try to explore some of the nearby ghost towns. Winston and Chloride, located north of T and C, are two mining towns that were abandoned in the early 1900s; some of the original buildings still remain.  

Days 48-49: Phoenix, AZ

The view overlooking Phoenix from rocky Camelback mountain above the city

  • See the Desert Botanical Garden – This 140-acre garden is home to over 50,000 plants, including over 14,000 cacti. It’s super interesting!
  • Visit the Heard Museum – This museum focuses on Native American art. There are permanent and rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as cultural artifacts that highlight the history and traditions of the region’s native cultures.
  • Hike Camelback Mountain – With an elevation of 2,700 feet, this 2-3-hour hike is a fun way to see Arizona’s stunning and arid landscapes. There are two trails, both of which are challenging but rewarding.

Days 50-51: Joshua Tree National Park, CA

The open road cutting through Joshua Tree Park in the rugged desert of California during a road trip

A seven-day vehicle pass is $30 USD. It allows multiple entries in case you stay in one of the nearby towns.  

Days 52-54: San Diego, CA

A sunny day along the beautiful coast of San Diego, California

  • See the USS Midway Museum – This aircraft carrier was commissioned after World War II and was the largest ship in the world until 1955. It saw action in numerous conflicts, including Vietnam. After it was decommissioned, it became a museum open to the public. Skip-the-line tickets are $32 USD.
  • Visit wildlife at the San Diego Zoo – Located in Balboa Park, this zoo is home to over 3,500 animals and 700,000 plant species. It’s a massive 1,800-acre park, and you could easily spend an entire day here. It’s a fun place to visit with kids (there’s even a Children’s Zoo). A skip-the-line ticket is $72 USD.
  • Go whale watching – California gray whales migrate from Alaska to Mexico between December and April. They are spectacular to see up close, as they grow up to 49 feet long and live for over 70 years. Tours range from around $60-75 USD depending on length and tour company. A 4-hour tour with City Cruises California is $73 USD.

Days 55-58: Los Angeles, CA

Streetscape in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, with palm trees and expensive shops

  • Wander Hollywood Boulevard – Play tourist and visit the Walk of Fame (where stars have their names engraved in the sidewalk) and Grauman’s (now TCL) Chinese Theatre (featuring celebrities’ handprints and footprints).
  • Relax on the beach – At iconic Venice Beach, you’ll find all kinds of street performers, surfers, roller-skaters, and locals and tourists alike soaking up the sun. Some other beaches worth checking out are Carbon Beach, Santa Monica State Beach, Huntington City Beach, and El Matador.
  • Visit to the Hollywood sign – Don’t just settle for a photo of the sign — go see it up close. The three trails that you can take (from easiest to hardest) are the Mt. Hollywood Trail, the Brush Canyon Trail, and the Cahuenga Peak Trail. Bring water and sunscreen, as the hike will take a few hours. If you don’t want to go solo, guided hikes to the Hollywood sign cost $25 USD.
  • Go hiking – LA is an active city, and locals love escaping the hustle and bustle as often as they can. Some trails worth checking out are the Charlie Turner Trail (90 minutes), Runyon Canyon (45 minutes), Portuguese Bend Reserve (3 hours), and Echo Mountain (3–3.5 hours).

For an even more detailed list of what else you can see and do while in LA, check out my Los Angeles travel guide . For accommodation suggestions, here are my favorite hostels in Los Angeles .  

Days 59-61: Las Vegas, NV

the iconic Vegas sign lit up at night in Las Vegas, USA

  • Explore Fremont Street – Old Vegas is full of sketchy bars, vintage casinos, and a Bourbon Street vibe. It makes for an interesting contrast to the sleek and polished Strip. There are lots of cover bands, buskers, and celeb lookalikes pandering for paid photos, as well as people-watching, cheap slots, and cheap drinks. There’s also an hourly light show on the ceiling above the street. Las Vegas Walking Tours offers a 3-hour tour of Fremont Street if you’d like a bit of a deeper dive.
  • Hike Red Rock – Just 30 minutes outside town, Red Rock Canyon offers plenty of hiking and biking trails. Just make sure to arrive early in the morning before it gets too hot. Red Rock Discovery Tours also offers guided hikes starting at $95 USD (includes round-trip transportation from Vegas).
  • Visit the Neon Museum – This is essentially an eclectic graveyard for the huge lights and signs that once beckoned to tourists from casinos like the Silver Slipper, Stardust, and El Cortez. It spans three acres and gives you a glimpse into the city’s shining and sinful past. Admission is $20 USD.
  • See the Grand Canyon – Rent a car and drive the four hours to the South or North Rim of the Grand Canyon . It’s one of the most epic, iconic sights in the country and absolutely worth the drive. If you can, hike down to the bottom and stay the night. It’s an amazing experience! And if you want to dive deeper into this beautiful area, check out HoneyTrek’s Grand Circle Road Trip .

For more activities (and there’s plenty to choose from that don’t involve gambling), here is my comprehensive guide to Las Vegas .  

Days 62-64: Yosemite National Park, CA

A rugged mountain with a streaming running in front in Yosemite National Park, California

Days 65-67: San Francisco, CA

The famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA at sunset

  • Walk the Golden Gate Bridge – When it opened in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge. Spend some time walking across to enjoy the view of the bay and the ships coming and going.
  • Tour Alcatraz – One of the most infamous prisons in the country, Alcatraz housed some of the nation’s worst criminals (renowned gangster Al “Scarface” Capone spent four years here). Today, it’s a national landmark where you can take tours, step foot in the cells, and learn about its grim history. Tickets are $53.25 USD. There are also many joint ticket options, such as this one that includes a cruise around San Francisco Bay .
  • Relax at Golden Gate Park – This gigantic park features a Japanese garden, museums, an arboretum, a carousel, and many hiking and walking trails. It’s a whopping 20% bigger than New York City’s Central Park, so you easily could spend an entire day here relaxing, walking, and lounging.

Again, for even ways to spend your time in SF, here’s my guide to the city . And, for suggested places to stay, here’s a list of my favorite hostels in San Francisco .  

Days 68-69: Redwood National Park, CA

Looking upwards into the canopy of the massive Redwood trees in Redwood National Park, California

Given the drive time from SF, spend two nights here to make sure you get some good hiking in.  

Days 70-73: The Oregon Coast

The rugged coast of Oregon, USA

  • Binge on oysters – I’ve grown to love oysters in recent years and some of the best in the country can be found in Oregon. Some of my favorite places I stopped at were from Shucker’s Oyster Bar (Lincoln City), Oregon Oyster Farm and Mo’s Seafood & Chowder (both in Newport), and Clausen Oysters (North Bend).
  • See Thor’s Well – This coastal sinkhole near Cape Perpetua is known as the Drainpipe of the Pacific. While it can be dangerous to get too close (it’s very easy to get swept away into the water or rocks), you’ll nevertheless see tons of tourists posing for pictures near the well. It’s worth a stop to snap some quick pics.
  • Relax at Cannon Beach – This iconic beach is long and sandy and is best known for its photogenic Haystack Rock, a giant rock jutting out of the ocean just offshore. There are plenty of tide pools and places to picnic here, and the town itself (also called Cannon Beach) is full of all kinds of cafés and artisanal shops.

Here’s a list of my favorite things to see and do along the Oregon coast to help you make the most of your drive.  

Days 74-76: Portland

A colorful pink sunset over Portland, Oregon, USA, with Mount Hood in the background

  • See Pittock Mansion – Built in 1914, this 46-room French Renaissance-style mansion was originally owned by a wealthy couple from England. Today, it’s part of the National Register of Historic Places. Inside, you’ll find beautiful artwork and furniture collected by the original owners. Admission is $16.50 USD.
  • Devour some donuts – Portland is known for its donuts. Voodoo Doughnuts put Portland on the map with its weird and wonderful combinations, such as Cap’n Crunch and maple bacon. Some argue that Voodoo is for tourists and that actually Blue Star makes better donuts. Try both and see for yourself! You can also take a donut food tour with Underground Donut Tours for $70 USD.
  • Hike the Columbia River Gorge – Located east of town, here you’ll find waterfalls (including Oregon’s tallest, Multnomah Falls), scenic vistas, and hiking trails. Some suggested hikes are Dry Creek Falls (easy, 2 hours), Wahkeena Falls Loop (moderate, 3 hours), and Starvation Ridge and Warren Lake (hard, 8 hours). Guided hikes with Wildwood Tours cost around $80 USD (transportation included).

For more suggestions on how to spend your time in Portland, here’s a list of the best things to see and do in the city!  

Days 77-79: Seattle, WA

The skyline of Seattle from the water, with the Space Needle featuring prominently

  • Explore the Seattle Center – Seattle Center is home to the Space Needle as well as a complex of entertainment venues: the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the Experience Music Project), the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, the Pacific Science Center, and the outdoor Mural Amphitheater, as well as the International Fountain and the Armory food court. Don’t miss the views from the top of the Space Needle ( get your skip-the-line ticket here )!
  • Wander Pike Place Market – Pike Place Market is one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the US. It’s a nine-acre, four-floor sprawl of shops, stalls, galleries, and cafés (including the original Starbucks location) selling everything from crafts to flowers to fresh produce. Wander, eat, shop, and enjoy the ambiance. Show Me Seattle offers food tours of the market for a more guided experience.
  • See the Boeing Museum of Flight – This museum highlights planes and spacecraft through the ages, offering insight into how flight has evolved over the decades. You’ll also get a chance to see the original Boeing “factory.” The original Air Force One is here too. Admission is $26.

For more things to see and do, here’s my in-depth guide to Seattle . And here are some budget-friendly accommodation suggestions for your visit.  

Days 80-82: Missoula, MT

The view overlooking Missoula, Montana during the summer

  • Tour the breweries – For such a small city, there are breweries and bars everywhere (Montana has the third-highest number of craft breweries per capita in the country). Don’t miss Bayern Brewery (the state’s first craft brewery), Draught Works Brewery (which has live music three nights a week), and Imagine Nation (which is also a community center). If you visit in April, you can attend the Missoula Craft Beer Week.
  • Hike the M – Mount Sentinel is a small mountain nearby that offers some stunning views. The trail is just 1.2 miles, so it’s not particularly challenging, though you can extend the route for an all-day hike by continuing along the Crazy Canyon Trail at the summit.
  • Ski Snowball Mountain – In the winter you’ll find upwards of a thousand acres of skiing and snowboarding. In the summer, the area is open for zip-lining, hiking, and mountain biking. It’s just twenty minutes from downtown,

NOTE: While not here, if you have time, you can drive north to spend a few days in Glacier National Park.  

Days 83-86: Yellowstone National Park, WY

Bison roaming around the stunning fields of Yellowstone National Park, USA

Yellowstone is home to the largest volcanic system in North America, which is why geysers like Old Faithful (and the largest active geyser in the world, Steamboat) can be found here. Wolves, bears, lynx, cougars, and bison all call the park home as well. Spend some time here hiking, camping, and basking in the park’s magnificent landscapes.  

Days 87-90: Denver, CO

Shops and restaurants line the historic preservation district of Larimer Square in downtown Denver.

  • Visit the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum – This museum is housed on an old air base and has a collection of over 50 aircraft on display. Some of the highlights include a supersonic Rockwell Lancer and the massive B-52 Stratofortress. Admission is $19.95.
  • Hike Mount Evans – This 14,265-foot peak can actually be summited in under 30 minutes (though there are longer trails too). You’ll see sweeping panoramic views of the region without having to hike for hours. Be sure to visit Like Echo and Mount Goliath on the way here.
  • Catch a show at Red Rocks – The Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a 9,000-seat outdoor venue that regularly hosts concerts and other events. It’s one of the most beautiful concert venues in the US. Try to catch a show here if you can.

Days 91-93: Kansas City, MO

A colorful streetcar passes in front of a historic market in Kansas City

  • Indulge in BBQ – KC is one of America’s best hubs for delicious barbecue. You can find pretty much any kind of meat barbecued here, from brisket to turkey to fish. Kansas City’s barbecue dates back to the 1920s, and the city takes this tradition seriously. Harp Barbecue and Fiorella’s Jack Stack are two of the best in town.
  • Wander the Jazz District – The historic 18th and Vine area is known as the Jazz District, owing to the popularity of jazz music from the 1920s to the ’40s and performances here by the likes of Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louie Armstrong. Wander the district and bar-hop to catch some stellar live music.
  • See the World War I Museum – The award-winning National World War I Museum and Memorial of the United States sheds light on the history and horrors of the Great War.

Days 94-97: Chicago, IL

A busy downtown Chicago, USA divided by the river on a quiet, sunny day with a bridge in the distance

  • Relax in Grant & Millennium Parks – Located downtown, these two parks provide a relaxing place to hang out, have a picnic, or go for a run. You’ll find people playing chess, and during the summer, there are a lot of free concerts. The famous “Chicago Bean” sculpture is located in Millennium Park.
  • Try the pizza – Deep-dish pizza and stuffed-crust pizza were developed in Chicago, and no trip is complete without trying at least one. Deep-dish pizza was invented by Pizzeria Uno, which is now a national restaurant chain. But for something more local, Chicagoans swear by Lou Malnati’s.
  • Visit the Art Institute of Chicago – Founded in 1879, this is one of the oldest art museums in the country. It has everything from photography to architecture to textiles, and its permanent collection includes works by Eva Hesse, David Hockney, and Ellsworth Kelly. A skip-the-line ticket is $40 USD.

If you want additional things to see and do (as well as some money-saving tips), consult my comprehensive guide to Chicago!

And here is my list of the best hostels in Chicago for budget-friendly accommodation .  

Days 98-100: Detroit, MI

The towering downtown skyline of Detroit, Michigan lit up during the evening

  • Explore the Detroit Institute of Art – This 130-year-old museum is located in the heart of Midtown and has something to offer every visitor. There are more than 65,000 works of art here, ranging from classic to more modern and contemporary pieces, spread out over 100 different galleries. It’s one of the best art museums in the country. Admission is $18 USD.
  • Walk the Dequindre Cut – The Dequindre Cut Greenway is a two-mile urban recreational path that offers a pedestrian link between the East Riverfront, the Eastern Market, and several residential neighborhoods in between. Along the path, you’ll find all kinds of street art, as well as buskers in the summer. It’s a nice place to walk or jog and take in the city.
  • Shop at the Eastern Market – The Eastern Market is a huge marketplace with local foods, art, jewelry, artisan crafts, and more. It covers 43 acres and is the largest historic public market district in the United States, dating back over 150 years. It is particularly busy on Saturdays, when farmers bring in their fresh produce.

Days 101-103: Cleveland, OH

Giant red letters that say 'long live rock' in front of the huge glass pyramid of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio

  • See the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – This is one of the largest collections of musical memorabilia in the entire world. John Lennon’s guitar, Elvis Presley’s military uniform, and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust outfits are just some of the items in the massive collection.
  • Tour the Museum of Natural History – Founded in 1920, this massive museum is home to over four million specimens. There are exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, primates, animals, and more. It’s super educational, and there are lots of interactive exhibits too.
  • Hike the Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Located on the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron, this is the only national park in Ohio. Encompassing 32,000 acres, the park has all kinds of hiking and biking trails (camping is no longer permitted).

Days 104-106: Pittsburgh, PA

A red funicular car going up the mountain in the foreground with the skyline of Pittsburgh, PA with its many bridges spanning the river in the background

  • Ride the Duquesne Incline – This 140-year-old funicular used to transport workers up Pittsburgh’s steep hills before cars became commonplace. Hop on, ride to the top, and enjoy the view! Tickets are $2.50 USD one way.
  • Visit the Warhol Museum – Dedicated to Andy Warhol, Pittsburgh’s best-known artist, this is the largest museum in the country dedicated to a single person. While much of his art is unusual, it’s still worth a visit, as Warhol has had a profound and lasting impact on modern art. Admission is $25.
  • See Randyland – Created by a local artist, here you’ll find a section of the north end completely painted in all kinds of bright colors and murals. Buildings, fences, driveways — it’s a massive, bright, and fun spot to visit and unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere! Admission is free but donations are encouraged.
  • Tour Carrie Furnace – Built in 1884, these former blast furnaces were part of the Homestead Steel Works and produced over 1,000 tons of iron per day. It’s one of the only pre–World War II blast furnaces in existence. Tours are $25 USD.

Days 107-110: Finger Lakes, NY

The picturesque Finger Lakes region of New York, USA

  • Visit the wineries – There are tons of wineries all around the Finger Lakes, most of which offer tours and tastings (some also have live music and serve food). To guide your way, follow the Seneca Wine Trail or the Keuka Wine Trail, which link some of the best wineries in the region.
  • See Watkins Glen State Park – Watkins Glen State Park gorge trail is home to 19 picturesque waterfalls spread out over a two-hour hike. It’s not particularly strenuous, and there are lots of spots to relax and snap photos.
  • Visit Ithaca – This photogenic small town has over 150 waterfalls within 10 miles of the town. There’s also a charming downtown, the beautiful Cornell campus (one of the prettiest in the country), and Cayuga Lake.

Days 111-113: Albany, NY

The view of Albany, NY as seen from the water

  • Hike in John Boyd Thacher State Park – Located 30 minutes outside of town, this state park has over 25 miles of trails, as well as panoramic views from the Helderberg Escarpment. It’s a beautiful place for a day hike.
  • Visit New York State Museum – This museum has a wide range of interesting exhibitions, including on local birds and wildlife, colonial history, and the ice age, among other topics. Admission is free (though a $5 USD donation is suggested).
  • Tour the Capitol – The NY State Capitol building offers free daily tours. They’re the perfect way to learn more about the state, the city, and the building (including some ghost stories about the capitol’s haunting). Tours last one hour.

Days 114-120: Buffer Days

Nomadic Matt posing for a photo in Acadia National Park, Maine

Having some padding in your itinerary will let you explore, have serendipitous travel experiences, and dig a little deeper into the regions and cultures you’ll be passing through.

While this is a solid itinerary, please mix it up. Skip some cities and spend more time in nature — or vice versa!

At the end of the day, the United States is an amazing and diverse country. No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find it. Delicious food, adventure activities, hiking, museums, history — we’ve got it all. You just need to hit the road and see it for yourself.

Need a rental car for your epic adventure? use the widget below to find the best deals!

Book Your Trip to the United States: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner . They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld . If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)
  • Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
  • Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)

Looking for the best companies to save money with? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money — and I think they will help you too!

Want more information on the United States? Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on the USA for even more planning tips!

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Hi, I’m Nomadic Matt, the New York Times best-selling author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and Ten Years a Nomad, as well as the founder of this website! And I’m here to help you save money on your next trip.

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Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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7 Epic USA Itineraries: Planning The Perfect US Trip

Plan the perfect USA itinerary with this guide. Whether you have one week, 10 days or 1 month, I have you covered. 

Planning a trip to the USA ? The possibilities are endless. 

Do you want to scope the chilled-out vibes of the Southwest, or do you prefer a glimpse of the hustle and bustle in the Northeast? Maybe you’re planning a 1-month USA itinerary where you can see the highlights, or perhaps you only have 10 days in the USA. 

Let’s get a few things straight: with so much ground to cover, planning the perfect USA itinerary can be a tough gig. I travel to the States quite a few times a year, and it’s always difficult to balance wanting to see as much as possible during the course of a trip with the sheer scale of the place. However you plan to visit the USA, you’ll want to plan where to stay, what to do, and choose a few locations you can’t live without. Not to worry, I’m here to help. These travel itineraries for the USA will help you plan a straight-up banging trip so you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride. 

USA Itineraries

West Coast Road Trip

Twin Peaks, in San Francisco, California

Looking to see the best of the USA in 10 days? A West Coast road trip is a bucket list holiday for so many people. – Start driving down the PCH, and you’ll figure out why before your first exit. Start in San Francisco by taking the Golden Gate Bridge south (a bit of a detour, but well worth the vistas). 

On your way down Highway 1, prepare to stop a lot more than you planned. The views are epic, the towns often have their own unique charm, and there are plenty of amazing family-run restaurants (and In-N-Out burgers) you can access with a short detour.

You can take your time over 2 weeks, but if you want to do a 10-day USA itinerary, I suggest starting in San Francisco and choosing 2-3 overnight stays like I map out in this itinerary.

Route Summary

San Francisco >> Carmel-by-the-Sea >> Santa Barbara >> Los Angeles >> San Diego 

Distance: 625 miles (1,000 km) 

Length of Trip: 10 Days to 2 Weeks  

How to Do It: Car 

Highlights of the Trip

San francisco.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

When it comes to San Francisco , I like to veer a bit off the beaten path here and spend a couple of days exploring the street art in the Mission District, epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio (a former military post that’s now a national park) and take an urban hike through the sprawling Golden Gate Park. 

Save room for incredible cuisine at the best neighbourhood joint in SF – Nopa . 

Suggested Stay: Argonaut Hotel

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-By-The-Sea

Hit up white sand beaches, secret gardens, and charming boutique shops in this vibrant coastal city just before the famous Big Sur . It’s a perfect jump-off point for exploring the epic coastal hikes in Big Sur and Point Lobos .

Suggested Stay: Carmel Bay View Inn

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Mission

I love the laid-back vibes, excellent beaches, and surprisingly vibrant downtown in Santa Barbara . Check out Sama Sama for excellent Southeast Asian cuisine in a youthful, trendy setting on your 10-day trip out west. 

Suggested Stay: Kimpton Canary Hotel

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

The Hollywood Hills, Downtown LA, Santa Monica Pier – whichever part of sprawling Los Angeles in SoCal you decide to stay in, you’ll love every minute of your star-studded stay. 

Be sure to eat all the street tacos you can, shop til you drop, and visit the iconic Venice Beach for the best people-watching and chill California vibes. 

Suggested Stay:   Mama Shelter Hollywood  

San Diego

Spend a chunk of your California itinerary in San Diego , where you can enjoy a day in the sprawling open space of Balboa Park, hit up Old Town for some handmade tortillas and fiery salsa, and end your evening in the Gaslamp Quarter or North Park for craft beer and nightlife. 

Don’t forget to check out Coronado, Pacific Beach, and Mission Beach for the best fun in the sun.

Suggested Stay: Hotel Indigo

Best of the USA

Zion National Park - Pa'Rus Trail Sunset

How can you see everything the USA has to offer in 1 month? I’m not going to lie. You won’t. But you can definitely get a feel for how different each region is with this round-the-map trip throughout the United States. Start in NYC (because why not?) before moving your way west and discovering the Great Plains, Wild West, and American South. Get ready for some of the best cuisine you’ll have anywhere and everywhere, along with some epic hiking, brilliant beaches, and plenty of nightlife on this 1-month USA itinerary.

You’ll need to take a few flights on this journey to fit everything in but plan to hire a car for the national parks portion of this United States trip.

Route Summary 

New York City >> Chicago >> Yellowstone >> Utah’s Mighty Five >> Grand Canyon >> Las Vegas >> Los Angeles >> Phoenix >> New Orleans >> Miami

Distance: 6,200 miles (10,000 km) 

Length of Trip: 1 Month 

How to Do It: Plane and Car 

New York City

New York- Brooklyn Bridge

Start your trip off in the most iconic city in the United States, New York City. If you’ve never been, you’ll want to check out the bright lights of Times Square, shop along Fifth Avenue, and mosey through Central Park. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and shop in Williamsburg before grabbing a slice at Best Pizza.

Suggested Stay: The Wallace Hotel  

Chicago, IL shutterstock_1823564576

Add a stop to this great Midwest city located on one of the iconic Great Lakes – Lake Michigan. Chicago is a great place to shop along The Magnificent Mile, watch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and try a local dish like Italian Beef or Chicago-style hot dogs.

Suggested Stay: Thompson Hotel

Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park

Next up is one of America’s great national parks – Yellowstone. Check out the roaming bison, sky-high geysers, and epic hiking trails in Yellowstone National Park.

Suggested Stay: Elk Country Inn

Utah’s Mighty Five

Sunset Point Bryce Canyon National Park

For the most adventurous travellers, you can fit in all of Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks. But if you’re short on time, you can hit Arches National Park before visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon for natural bridges, sandstone and red rock formations and epic stargazing.

Suggested Stay: The Advenire

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon - South Rim Trail Monument Creek Vista

Want to know my favourite national park in the US? Grand Canyon. Visit the massive canyon along the Colorado River and take a hike around the South Rim Trail for the most stunning views. 

If you want a more challenging hike and have the time, Bright Angel allows you to hike into the canyon, but it’s a gnarly trek with 5,000+ miles of elevation change and can be extremely hot. 

Suggested Stay: El Tovar

Visiting the Grand Canyon? Here’s What You Shouldn’t Miss

Las Vegas Nevada

Now that you’ve had some time in the best national parks in the USA, it’s time to party. Whether you head to the luxury resorts and world-class entertainment along the Las Vegas Strip or want to explore hipster coffee shops and historic hotels Downtown, Las Vegas is a winner on your USA itinerary.

Suggested Stay: Circa Resort & Casino

Sunset Strip Los Angeles

Head to the Hollywood Hills and bask in the California sun, with a few days in one of the best cities along the West Coast. Los Angeles offers great shopping in areas like Beverly Hills and pristine beaches in Malibu and Santa Monica. 

The (already stellar) food scene has taken off in the past few years, so try local favourites like the 2-Michelin-starred Mélisse Restaurant.

Suggested Stay: The Hoxton, Downtown LA

Phoenix-Arizona

You can’t leave the American West without stopping by Phoenix for some desert-chic vibes in the Valley of the Sun. I found some seriously cool bars and restaurants last time I was there. 

Check out the Southwestern flavours at Valentine before hiking at Camelback Mountain and seeing a show at the historic Orpheum Theatre.

Suggested Stay: Rise Uptown

New Orleans

New Orleans

Ready to enjoy the best food in the USA? Head to The Big Easy to enjoy heaping plates of jambalaya, the rich and tangy flavours of muffulettas, and, of course, a plate of the famous fried dessert treat, beignets. 

Spend some time people-watching in the French Quarter and catch a jazz show at Palm Court Jazz Cafe for the perfect New Orleans trip.

Suggested Stay: The Pontchartrain Hotel

Miami

Want to find the best beaches in the USA? Head to Miami Beach in Miami to explore the white sands, and warm waters in this vibrant Florida city. When you’re ready to explore the city, check out the street art at Wynwood Walls and the vibrant bar scene in South Beach.

Suggested Stay: Esme Miami Beach

West Coast Road Trip

Music Trail

Saguaro National Park Tucson

Rock and roll, the blues, country, R&B, jazz… you get the picture. Visiting America’s South is full of rich history and culture dating back centuries – and music is a big part of that history. 

You can explore some of the big cities in the South and watch a show at storied theatres, visit iconic recording studios, and maybe catch an impromptu show in a park (check the Musician’s Corner Calendar). Save your appetite, the food in the American South is ridiculously good. Staples like fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, and bread pudding show up often and are usually incredible. 

If you have more time, make stops in small towns along the way, like Tupelo, Mississippi (the birthplace of Elvis), or Jackson, Tennessee, for Sun Studio and the Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame.

Nashville >>  Memphis >> Clarksdale >> Jackson >> New Orleans

Distance:  630 miles (1015 km) 

Length of Trip: 1 Week

Nashville, Tennessee

Start your one-week vacation in the USA in Nashville. If you’re a country music fan, you can mosey over to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for a history lesson before seeing a live show at the legendary Grand Ole Opry .

Suggested Stay: The Hutton Hotel

Memphis 

Memphis, Tennessee

Is there a more iconic rock and roll studio in the USA than Sun Studio? For $15, you can tour the “Birthplace of Rock & Roll,” where Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash recorded many of their hit songs. 

If you’re not content as a spectator, book a recording session at the world-famous studio. And of course, no music tour of the South is complete without a visit to Graceland. 

Suggested Stay: The Guest House at Graceland

Clarksdale, USA

When I think of music in the American South, the Blues immediately come to mind. Clarksdale is home to this unforgettable genre of music, and legends like Muddy Waters got their start right here. The history is very much alive in places like Ground Zero Blues Club and the Delta Blues Museum, where you can learn all about the artists, their stories, and songs.

Suggested Stay: Travelers Hotel

Jackson, MS

Visit the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum to learn more about slavery, the Jim Crow laws, and the heroes who fought for equal rights and freedom in the American South. 

Suggested Stay: Fairview Inn

New Orleans

End your 1-week USA itinerary in New Orleans. The home of Jazz music, New Orleans features dozens of excellent jazz clubs. I like the idea of stopping by Sweet Loraine’s, where you can check out some of the best jazz music and grab a Po Boy sandwich for a taste of The Big Easy.

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Southwest National Parks 

Queen's Garden Trail Hike Bryce Canyon

You’re getting the best of the American Southwest with this epic 14-day USA itinerary. Buckle up; this road trip sets you off from Salt Lake City through Utah’s Mighty Five before exploring the deserts and canyons in Arizona and New Mexico . I love this as an idea for a USA itinerary because you learn more about indigenous history and culture and sample delicious flavours of the Southwest. And, of course, you get to tick the most famous national park in the USA – the Grand Canyon .

Arches >> Canyonlands >> Bryce >> Zion >> Grand Canyon >> Saguaro >> White Sands

Distance:  1,3712 miles (2208 km) 

Length of Trip: 2 weeks 

Moab (Arches and Canyonlands)

Arches National Park

Between your visits to two of Utah’s Mighty Five, you can bed down in Moab, where you’ll find plenty to do around town. Of course, most of your time here will be spent exploring natural bridges at Arches and hiking around the vast trail system in underrated Canyonlands.

Suggested Stay: Red Cliffs Lodge

St. George (Zion and Bryce Canyon)

Zion National Park - Court of the Patriarchs Hike

Cross off another two of Utah’s Mighty Five when you stay in St. George. Try epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion and explore the hoodoos and rock formations at Bryce Canyon . Visit Bryce Canyon on your way to St. George and return to Zion the next day.

Grand Canyon - South Rim Trail Monument Creek Vista

The Grand Canyon is over 1,900 square miles of beautiful red-rock canyons along the Colorado River, and visiting Arizona is the most popular way to see it. 

I think hitting the South Rim along Desert View Drive is the perfect way to see the sweeping canyons from above along several different viewpoints.  

Suggested Stay: The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon  

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Next up on your trip around America’s Southwest is Saguaro National Park . 

Where else can you see cacti the size of redwoods? Ok, they might not be that tall, but the candelabra-shaped thorned beauties stretch over 40 feet high, and a hike along King Canyon or joy ride along Bajada Loop Drive are the perfect ways to take in the beauty of the desert.

Suggested Stay: The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

White Sands National Park 

White Sands National Park Tucson

Last but not least, you’ll want to head to White Sands National Park for one of the most unique landscapes you’ll see anywhere on your USA itinerary. Take the 13-mile Dune’s Drive loop to bask in the rolling snow-white sand dunes that stretch as far as you can see. 

Suggested Stay: Home2 Suites

East Coast Itinerary

New York- View from Empire State Building

Planning a USA East Coast Itinerary over 2 weeks? Check out this non-stop tour of the iconic cities and hidden gems along the Northeast United States. 

One thing I love about this trip is that it’s the rare USA itinerary in 2 weeks where you can rely on trains and public transportation to get to most destinations. 

Along the way, you’ll see the nation’s capital, the Big Apple, and the scenic coastline of Maine. You’ll want to hire a car for the final stretch, but the drive is gorgeous – especially if you’re lucky enough to see the trees change colours in Autumn. 

Washington DC  >> Annapolis >> Baltimore >> New York City >> Hartford >> Boston >> Portland

Distance:  600 miles (1,000 km) 

Length of Trip: 1 Week 

How to Do It: Train and Car

Washington DC

Cherry Blossom Season

You can’t plan a US travel itinerary over two weeks on the East Coast and not hit the nation’s capital. 

The Washington Monument and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial makes the National Mall well worth a visit, but underrated gems like Blind Whino – where local artists collaborate and host weekly live events are a fun way to experience DC like a local. 

Suggested Stay: The Normandy Hotel

Annapolis

If you want the chance to truly chill out during your 2 weeks in the USA, there are plenty of charming towns – especially in the Northeast. Annapolis is one of my favourites, and the boutique hotels, seafood restaurants, and cobbled streets will transport you to another time. 

Suggested Stay: Historic Inns of Annapolis

Baltimore

Catch a baseball game at Camden Yards, eat as much blue crab as you can in one sitting, and visit the Civil War landmark Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine for a piece of American history. 

Suggested Stay: Ulysses

New York City 

High Line

The food, the culture, the museums…NYC is the city you need to pencil into any United States itinerary. I love Manhattan, and it’s probably the most walkable city anywhere in the USA. Checking out the East Village for the best restaurants and bars, visiting Central Park or The High Line when you need a bit of fresh air, and exploring the bustling urban marketplace, Chelsea Market , are a few things you won’t want to miss. 

Suggested Stay: The Wallace Hotel

Hartford, Connecticut

The small city of Hartford, Connecticut, is the perfect stop on your USA itinerary, with some standout landmarks like Mark Twain’s former residence, the beautiful gardens at Elizabeth Park Conservancy, and the large collection of European and American artwork at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art .

Suggested Stay: The Goodwin

Boston, Massachusetts

Take the train up to Boston and explore the world-class universities like Harvard, dine on some fresh seafood, and grab a New England-style IPA at Trillium Brewery, one of the best craft beer spots you’ll find on your USA itinerary.

Suggested Stay: The Revolution Hotel

Portland Maine

Visit this charming New England town and photograph the iconic lighthouses, eat freshly caught lobster at Portland Lobster Company , and take a whale-watching tour if you’re around in May or June.

Suggested Stay: Portland Harbor Hotel

California Itinerary 

Castro District Rainbow Crosswalk Intersection - San Francisco, California, USA

Rent a nice set of wheels for this 21 day USA itinerary, you’re going to rack up more than a few miles. Start off in San Diego and drive your way up the coast, stopping by some of my favourite locations along the way. Get your hike on in the Santa Monica Mountains before exploring charming towns like Pismo Beach and Sausalito on your drive north. 

But you’ll also see everything California offers away from the Pacific Ocean, like Yosemite National Park , Lake Tahoe, and Wine Country. Top Tip: You can always plan a great 1 week trip in the US in California, so feel free to just tackle part of this itinerary.

San Diego >> Santa Monica  >> Pismo Beach >> Sausalito >> Sonoma County >> Lake Tahoe >> Yosemite

Distance:  1,000 miles (1,610 km) 

Length of Trip: 3 weeks 

Mission Beach San Diego

Start off in San Diego , where you can hit up the sandy shores of Coronado and Pacific Beach before an evening out exploring bars and restaurants in Hillcrest or Downtown San Diego.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier

Before you head to some of the best hikes in Southern California , explore Santa Monica’s beaches and nightlife. I love hanging out at the Santa Monica Pier and riding the Ferris Wheel by the beach before strolling through the shops and restaurants on the lively 3rd Street Promenade.

Suggested Stay: Shutters on the Beach

Pismo Beach

Pismo beach California

Once you reach Pismo Beach , you’ll fall in love with the small-town beach vibes in this Central California coastal gem. I don’t blame you if you want to just hang out at the state beach and pier, but you can also explore wineries in nearby Paso Robles, check out a monarch butterfly grove, or relax at Avila Hot Springs. Your call.

Suggested Stay: The Cliffs Hotel and Spa

Sausalito

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco is the charming coastal village of Sausalito. Explore the artsy town full of charming boutiques before digging into a seafood lunch at Scoma’s. You can’t visit Marin without checking out the redwoods, so reserve a spot for hiking in Muir Woods National Monument.

Suggested Stay: Cavallo Point

Sonoma County

Sonoma County, California, USA

You can’t explore Nor Cal without making a stop for wine tasting in Sonoma County. Santa Rosa is a great home base to explore amazing wineries – Patz & Hall and Gundlach Bundschu Winery are two of my favourites. Russian River Brewing Company is a great option if you’ve had enough wine tasting.

Suggested Stay: Vintners Resort

Lake Tahoe 

Where else can you paddle out in crystal clear waters overlooking snow-capped mountains on a sunny day in California? Not many places sum up a grand Alpine Lake experience quite like Tahoe.

Suggested Stay: Edgewood Tahoe Resort

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley

No trip to Northern California is complete without a visit to Yosemite . Make your way into the valley, park, and look up in awe at Half Dome, El Capitan, and the iconic Yosemite Falls.

Suggested Stay: The Ahwahnee Hotel

USA Itinerary: Practical Tips for Planning Your Trip 

  • Weather can play an enormous role in your USA itinerary. Check the forecast before you leave, and pack for all seasons if you’re planning a longer itinerary in any season but summer.
  • Summers get extremely hot in the USA. Bring lots of suntan lotion, lightweight clothing, and wide-brimmed hats. 
  • There are a lot of hotel options in the USA, but the most popular locations fill up fast on the weekends and in the summer. Book ahead for the best rates and the most options. 
  • If you’re visiting from outside the USA, apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization online well ahead of your holiday. 

Read All USA Country Guides

Sunset La Jolla San Diego

Add these to Your USA Itinerary

  • 55 Things You Should Have on Your USA Bucket List  
  • Ridin’ Along the West Coast – A Step by Step Itinerary  
  • The Ultimate California Road Trip

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USA Travel Itineraries

I’m Julianna Barnaby - a professional travel writer and geek extraordinaire. I started The Discoveries Of to help you to discover the best of new destinations from around the world.

Discovering new places is a thrill - whether it’s close to home, a new country or continent, I write to help you explore more and explore differently.

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Planning a USA Trip – A Step-By-Step Breakdown

If you’re thinking about heading to the United States of America for a quick trip or maybe even a longer one, it may sound daunting planning for a USA road trip in a country you know little about.

I know that because I embarked on my first USA trip a little over a year ago, and was overwhelmed with all the information I had to find out about.

From checking the validity of your passports to the US visa application process, planning where to go in the US, what to do in each city, whether to rent a car or fly domestically and everything else in between, I got you!

The USA is one of the traveller’s best destinations, which features many tourist places, historical destinations, monuments, theme parks, sporting events and what not. There are a lot of tourist destinations in the United States which are counted as travellers’ paradise.

That’s why I decided to write a comprehensive guide to planning a USA trip. Whether you’re planning a US road trip or just in the US for a city getaway, here are the things that you need to take note of while planning for your USA trip. I’m sure you’ll be able to glean some US road trip ideas from this guide!

At A Glance

1. Know your duration

2. research, iii. beaches, iv. mountains, v. festivals, vi. history, vii. culture, viiii. theme parks, ix. road trips, 4. bookmark attractions in the us, 5. accommodation, rental cars, tipping in the us, atms in the us, accommodation, airport shuttles, staying connected in the us, travel insurance in the us, get inspired by usa, that time i was held like a prisoner in a usa airport.., california living – last of 2020, 14 best destinations to practice water sports, how to have some fun in & around las vegas, usa, discovering the world’s top foodie destinations, best cities for digital nomads to work in, [2024 guide] 20 best coffee shops in nyc for working, roadmap for digital nomads in orlando, florida, usa.

Each traveller’s passports must be valid for at least 6 months before you can enter the United States, or any country for that matter.

Tourist Visa

If you’re from a country that can simply apply for a Visa Waiver Program to the US like Singapore, then you only need to apply for an ESTA, short for Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

This is a pretty straightforward application system and it’s pretty swift too! You can even apply for an ESTA before boarding your flight…but it probably is best to do it at least 72 hours before you board since you can encounter a bit of a setback (very unlikely though, but just to be sure) .

You might want to check if your country is eligible for ESTA and if all is well, then simply start your application. The visa itself costs USD 14 and it usually takes 20 minutes to process. The only thing that you have to do is to simply fill up an application form . Once your ESTA gets approved, then you’re now eligible to stay in the United States for up to 90 days.

If you feel like you need more time, then you can re-enter the country since an ESTA is valid for 2 years. This means that you can enter the country multiple times by simply using the same visa. Although, bear in mind that your 90 days do not reset if you cross the border between Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.

If you’re from a country who is not eligible for an ESTA, then you probably fall under the B1/B2 visa. I’m not going to lie, this one is a bit more complicated to apply for, it’s a bit more expensive and you’re not really guaranteed to get it. Although, it gives you more time to explore the country if you’re granted one so it really is worth a try.

There are two types of visas in B1/B2:

B1 is the visa category that allows you to enter the United States because you need to do some business with a company that’s based in the United States.

B2 is the visa category that allows you to enter into the United States with the sole purpose of tourism, leisure or to visit any of your family and friends.

So before applying for a B1/B2 visa, make sure to really think about the type of ‘tourism’ that you’ll be doing in the United States.

The application for the B1/B2 visa is pretty straightforward and easy so let’s get on with it! First, you have to find the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate in your home country or in the country that you’re currently staying since this is where you’ll be submitting your visa application. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Fill up a DS-160 Form . This is an online non-immigrant visa application and it basically is an equivalent for a tourist visa in the US. So you need to fill this up. Bear in mind that this is solely for a B1/B2 visa so if you’re wanting to apply for another visa type, then it probably is best to look it up first.
  • Pay the tourist visa application fee at the selection bank outlets or by the provided payment mode that the US Embassy is giving you. The fee itself is USD 160 and it really is pretty pricey, but considering that you get 6 months each time you enter is quite great!
  • Schedule your tourist visa interview. This is one of the most challenging parts of the visa application process since you’ll need to appear at your local US Embassy for an interview. Bear in mind that all applications between the ages 14 to 79 are required to appear for an interview.
  • Compile all the documents needed for your tourist visa application. Now this can range from bank statements, flight bookings, travel itineraries, sponsorship documents and anything else that you think will help you in getting that most coveted visa. Of course, you need to bring that standard required documents , some other required documents for B1 and for B2 .
  • Attend your interview and (hopefully) pass it to be granted your tourist visa. Also, make sure to reiterate your intent to return to your home country since the interviewers might try and see if you’re planning to come home at all. So, just be wise and always come prepared.
  • Now, the waiting game begins. If you’re denied a tourist visa, then the interviewer will hand you back your passport for you to take home. If you’re granted a tourist visa, then the interviewer will hold onto your passports for them to process your approved visas. It usually takes about a week to about a month depending on which country you applied from, so just be patient!

Bear in mind that a B1/B2 visa is valid from 1 month up to 10 years. If you’re lucky, then you might just get a 10 year tourist visa so you won’t have to apply again every so often. Plus, you can stay in the country for up to 6 months!

Planning your USA trip

Palm-Springs-California-USA-3-1

Palm Springs, California

First, you have to decide on the duration of your trip. As we all know, the United States of America is such a vast country. If you only have about 2 weeks or a bit shorter than that, then you really need to focus on the things that you really want to see instead of hopping everywhere since the country is so spread out and travelling time can add up.

If you want to see New York, then go focus on that. If you want to see California, then simply focus on that one area too. We’re quite sure that you’ll have more time later on to go and discover the other parts of the country. In short, if you’re on a limited time, then simply go small and focus on the places that you’re truly looking forward to seeing.

Although, if you’re on a longer travel timeline, then the whole country is your oyster!

The main thing to remember is the planning. Where do you want to start? Where do you want to go? What do you want to see along the way? It really is important to plan these things ahead before you embark on your road trip, so plan wisely!

You might want to do a bit more research by scrolling through blogs, forums via TripAdvisor or simply looking at social media for that extra bit of inspiration.

3. Decide on the type of USA travel

Here are a few places to visit in accordance to your own travel preferences:

colorado-rocky-mountains-national-park-path-to-the-alpine-lookout

Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado

We’re quite sure that you’ll never really have a shortage of nature whenever you’re coming to the United States since the country is so vast. Although you might want to focus on these three states if you’re solely wanting to focus on that beautiful nature: Oregon, Washington State and Maine.

Some of the world’s most popular cities are actually located in the United States so you’ll go crazy with the choices if you’re a city person. There’s New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. You can always find cheap apartments for rent in Chicago . There are a lot more cities than these three but these are some of the most popular ones so it’s always great to start your decision-making process somewhere, right?

New York City

Manhattan-Bridge-at-Washington-Bridge, instagram nyc new york city

Manhatten Bridge, New York City

Considered as the loveliest state of the United States, New York is well-known for its historical significance and architectural marvel. The Center of Arts, Stamford Art Center, Historical Aircraft Group and Aaron Davis Hall are worth exploring in New York.

Washington DC

washington dc-U.S.A Trip destination

Barely any U.S. urban areas remunerate the explorer as much as the country’s capital. Washington DC is crammed with notable sights – from the Capitol and the White House to the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery.

The delegated brilliance of DC, obviously, is its abundance of innumerable world-class exhibition halls including The Smithsonian, National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History, the National Postal Museum, Holocaust Memorial Museum and additionally a few displays.

Washington, DC is likewise home to the biggest and most renowned library in the nation – the Library of Congress with about 161 million aggregate things, including 23.9 million classified books.

With such huge numbers of choices to look over, you would be hard squeezed not to discover something you appreciate in DC.

las-vegas-U.S.A Trip destination

Las Vegas is an ideal destination for fun lovers. This place is known for the number of nightclubs and casinos here. There are many good tourist places too in and around the city for travellers to visit.

There are many branded clubs functioning here such as Haze, Ghostbar, Surrender, Moon and Playboy and Krave, to name a few. Las Vegas is also known for adult fun and topless shows. 😉

Las Olas Boulevard - Fort lauderdale, florida

Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale

If you’re looking for some nice beaches to explore, then Florida is your best bet! This state is the southernmost part of the United States and its beaches are heavenly! You might even forget that you’re in the US when you visit Florida…plus, their culture is so rich. Another thing I like is how they mostly stay warm even throughout winter months. This place is absolutely great for a sunny adventure!

Hanalei-Bay-sunset-Kauai-Hawaii

Kauai, Hawaii

Know as the beach city, Hawaii is well-known for the beaches and natural beauty of those. Nature lovers will find this place very exhilarating and awe-inspiring. For that reason alone, I lived on Kauai for over 2 months!

Hawaii is also one of the world’s favourite honeymoon spot. There are a lot of hotels here so the travellers may not find it difficult to get a place for desirable accommodation.

It’s a given that not everyone is a beach-lover like me ; that’s totally okay. If you’re more of a mountain person and if you want to explore more height and altitude, then you should focus on Northern California, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Alaska.

If you’re a mountain person, there are a lot of camping spots that this country has to offer. For this reason alone, they have a pass called America the Beautiful Park Pass that costs USD 80 for families and it lasts for a year. It’s a pretty sweet deal considering that a single entry to a single National Park usually costs anywhere from USD 25 to USD 35.

Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park, what is atlanta known for, unique things to do in Atlanta Georgia

For those who travel with family, Atlanta, Georgia is a wonderful place to explore family fun at best. You can enjoy the scenic beauty of this land with plenty of mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and canyons. Some other places in Atlantato explore include the Callaway Gardens, Lake Lanier Islands, Atlanta Museum, Blue Ridge Scenic Gateway, etc.

We all know that the United States is popular when it comes to festivals. Some of the most popular ones are Coachella in California, Governors Ball in New York City, and so much more!

Summer is the best time to head to the US if you want to catch a festival or two. We’re quite sure that there’s a festival that’s going to suit your liking.

If you’re looking to discover a more historical side of the United States, then why not visit these more historical states: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Georgia? Each of these states are historic in their own ways and the history bum in you will surely enjoy your time in these places!

For all of our culture seekers out there, there’s a wide variety of culture that the United States has to offer, from the Native, Tex-Mex, Irish, Italian, Creole and everything else in between. The entire country is such a big melting pot that you’ll never get tired of discovering something new when you come to the US.

Some of our favourite states for a culture trip are Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana, Tennessee and New York.

texas-U.S.A Trip destination

Besides, the special attractions of Texas as the second biggest state in the United States are countless. Any random place you choose to visit such as Riverwalk Burnet, Stonehenge Odessa, Old Stone Fort Museum, XIT Museum, Glass Cactus, HOUSTON Raceway Park has a lot to offer to be remembered for a lifetime.

If you’re a foodie, then the United States has a lot of things in store for you when it comes to their gastronomical adventures.

If you’re into the whole burgers and diners thing, you’ve come to the right place. This is such a prevalent food culture in the United States. If you’re into Tex-Mex, then head over to Texas. If you’re into that healthy vegan lifestyle, there’s California. If you’re into the whole old Italian favorites, simply head to New York. If you’re into seafood, New England is the place to be. You’ll surely be full when you visit these places, so make sure to plan your trips appropriately!

2 of the more popular theme parks in the United States are Disneyland and Six Flags. Six Flags Over Georgia in particular is now counted as the largest theme park in the South East region.

If you’re into the whole theme park experience, then these are 2 of the places that you need to go to! They are located in various states across the country.

As we have said time and time again, the United States is such a vast country and there are so many places to drive to. You can do a road trip from east to west, north to south, or in any direction that you want to go to.

horsehorseshoe bend grand canyon antelope-planning U.S.A Trip destinationshoe bend grand canyon antelope-U.S.A Trip destination

Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is a characteristic landmark dissimilar to any. The gorge vista with its unlimited size, consistently changing hues and tints, and a rich showcase of shake layers is unmatched by any on Earth. It is exceptional, without a doubt, making it a popular road trip destination .

Spilling out of the Rocky Mountains in the north to the bay of California in the south, the Colorado River is the cutting power behind this gap. The limitlessness of this scene is incredible. It is 277 miles in length, a mile down and 20 miles wide. To see the Grand Canyon out of the blue is an ordeal people will recall for whatever is left of their lives.

Disregard the photos and recordings that you may have seen of the Grand Canyon – being here to observe it with your own eyes is something totally extraordinary.

Sob at seeing the tremendous scene, unfit to contain the fantastically passionate inclination that this antiquated scene incites.

[DON’T MISS] Save up to 20% with this full-day trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon!

While you’re here, you can’t miss a trip to neighbour Sedona, which offers magnificent hikes with views to gawk at.

Did you know that you can also do fly fishing here?

After you’ve narrowed down the type of travel you want to go and the area you want to cover, make a list of all the places that you would like to hit based on your research.

  Save these locations on Google Maps for easier access. Oh, you should also download Google maps offline just in case you hit a particular place with very limited access to the internet or data…because that happens, especially in remote national parks!

There’s a plethora of accommodation types in the US, from hotels to motels, resorts and apartments, vacation homes, lodges, campgrounds and even Airbnb to rent.

To get a general sense of the different types of rates for each, below we break down the typical costs for each type.

6. Other considerations

Santa-Barbara-California-USA-11-1

Santa Barbara, California

Weather plays a big part in deciding when you want to organise your trip.

Are you travelling in winter to ski? You’ll likely want to look up ski locations and travel from one ski resort to another then.

It’s well known that the United States is one of the most popular countries in the world and this means that countless tourists try to visit this country every single year. There are different ways for you to enjoy this wonderful country , from staying connected, finding the perfect accommodation and so much more!

Transport in the US

Also, since the country is so spread out, it’s also best to find cheap flight options especially if you’re on a bit of a time crunch. There are a lot of low-cost airlines that you can take advantage of.

You can usually check out their rates by going to websites like Skyscanner, Momondo and Google Flights. Bear in mind that these are low-cost airlines and that they charge for every single thing like packed bags, snacks and extra baggage allowance. Hence, it’s better to pack a carry-on if you’re flying domestically in order for you to save on check-in fees.

Ah, you should also avoid the airline Frontier at all costs as they often overbook their flights, they’re infamous for losing people’s luggage and they have really poor customer service.

LA-California-USA

Oh, and be sure to check the toll fees in every single place that you’ll be driving off to.

If you don’t have a driver’s license or if you simply prefer not to drive, then buses are always a great idea too. Companies like Greyhound and Peter Pan offer a wide variety of destinations for a cheaper price, so make sure to check them out!

If you feel like taking a more scenic (albeit slower) route, then trains are probably your best bet! Amtrak will get you to most large cities as they have routes all around the country… even up to Canada!

You can purchase your tickets online or you can simply buy them at the train station of your choice, so buying your tickets is not complicated.

Although if you’ll be travelling during peak season, then it’s probably best to reserve your spots as soon as you possibly can to avoid any delays on your part.

Money in the US

In the US, they have coins like 1¢ (penny) , 5¢ (nickel) , 10¢ (dime) , 25¢ (quarter) and they sometimes have USD 1 in coins too! They all still use it and sometimes it can get super confusing but you’ll surely get the hang of it after a few days.

They also have larger denominations in notes like USD 5, USD 10, USD 20, USD 50 and USD 100.

Another thing to keep in mind if you’re planning on visiting the United States is their tipping system. You’re obligated to tip at least 10% to 20% whenever you’re dining in or engaged in activities that require service, for instance, porters, doormen and cleaning staff. Bear in mind that service workers usually live off tips so please be generous if you can.

If you’re wanting to go to a bar, it’s general practice to tip your bartenders as well. Be sure to leave your bartenders a dollar or two for every single drink that you’ll be purchasing.

As for the tour guides who’ll be showing you around their cities, it’s usually right to give them about 15% of the total tour cost that you’ve purchased.

We know that it can sometimes be confusing, but tipping is a major part of the culture in the United States so it’s always good to respect that.

It’s always best to travel with an international credit/ debit card since the United States accepts cards at virtually any establishment now. Most shops and drive-throughs accept debit and credit cards, with the exception of food carts mostly.

I use Transferwise everywhere I go outside of my home country, Singapore. It’s a great card to have everywhere that you go since it’s a multi-currency wallet where you can store multiple currencies in a virtual bank vault and use it to pay in the local currency as long as you have money inside.

Transferwise uses real exchange rates to convert them, with some of the lowest cost fees across the other multi-currency cards.

You can also make local transfers to different bank account holders in their local currency. All in all, really fuss-free when it comes to dealing with multi currencies!

You can also withdraw local cash at ATMs. Depending on where your card was issued , the first 200 GBP, 250 USD, 350 AUD, 350 NZD, or 350 SGD that you withdraw every month is free.

Cost of living in the US

If you’re still wondering how much money you should bring on your trip to the USA, here’s a bit of a run-down of the typical cost of living in the USA. Bear in mind that prices are always subject to change so keep that in mind.

The cost of living in every single state also varies differently in different cities. In particular, if you go to a big, popular city like New York City or Los Angeles, it will cost evidently more.

If you want to go to a fancier hotel, then it’s about USD 250 and upwards depending on the kind of room that you get. We stayed at a 3-star hotel in California that overlooks the sea, and that costs USD499 a night:

girl-working-digital-nomad-Timber-Cove-Resort-California-USA

Timber Cove Resort, California, USA

If you’re fine with a standard-class hotel, then it’s usually around USD 100 per night.

For a room at a bed and breakfast, it’s usually USD 80 to USD 150 for a double room.

If you want to try staying at an ubiquitous motel, then that’s usually USD 70 to USD 150 for a double room per night.

If you’re a solo traveller who wants to make friends at a hostel, then that’ll cost you about USD 20 to USD 40 per night. It’ll all depend on the city you go to as well. My recent stay at a hostel in Denver, Colorado, cost me USD 40 a night for a 10-bed mixed dorm.

Although, if you’re wanting to ‘rough it’ then a campsite is about USD 12 to USD 30 per tent.

A one-way domestic flight is about USD 15 and upwards! If you’re looking for a cheap domestic flight to fly to, a good trick is to keep your destination open on Google Flights:

Google flights, planning USA flight

A bus ticket to connecting cities is usually around USD 20 to USD 50, although tickets to further cities are usually USD 60 to USD 100.

My Greyhound bus from Denver, Colorado to Grand Junction, Colorado was USD 46 for a 5h 40min bus ride.

If you’re wanting to rent a car, be prepared to spend anywhere from USD 25 to USD 100 per day depending on the car type, its insurance policy and add ons. Be sure to double check every single document before signing anything as they like to include unnecessary add ons like a GPS tracker, etc.

A ticket to an airport shuttle is about USD 15 to USD 35 depending on how far the airport is to the city centre or to the place you’d want to get dropped off.

If you’re wondering how much a single meal costs in the United States, here’s a usual breakdown:

  • Breakfast meals outside range from USD 8 to USD 15.
  • Lunch meals outside range from USD 8 to USD 15.
  • Coffee or tea in a cafe costs about USD 3 to USD 6.
  • A single main course in a budget restaurant is about USD 8 TO USD 15.
  • A single main course in a moderately priced restaurant is about USD 15 to USD 25.
  • A single main course in a fine dining restaurant is about USD 25 to USD 35.
  • A bottle of wine in a restaurant is about USD 15 USD to USD 50, depending on your wine selection and on the brand.
  • A pint of beer at a pub is about USD 4 to USD 7, depending on the pub’s location and on their beer selections.

*Bear in mind that these prices exclude tipping.

As a mostly advanced country, you can find free WiFi in most public places. This includes accommodation rentals, restaurants, shopping malls and popular attractions.

You don’t need to get a travel insurance to travel the United States, but it’s always great to have one just in case. I never travel without an insurance, and having an insurance has saved my life (and money) many times. You never know when you may fall ill, get hurt (I broke my ACL on a ski trip in Japan once) or experience flight delays.

More so in the US, we all know that the US has exorbitant health costs, so I always advise every traveller to get a travel insurance . I travel with SafetyWing; you can read my review of them here. .

Vaccination

There’s also no vaccination required to travel into the United States, so you don’t have to worry about that!

In fact, the USA is a very vast country and because of constraint, what’s mentioned above are only a very few major destinations to include in your next travels to the US.

Take your time and consideration to explore the endless options this land offers and do a very careful consideration of destinations to best match to your tastes, interests, and course, budget .

I’ve been to the US 3 separate times in the past 1 year (until I got deported and had my tourist visa revoked in January 2021, which makes me rethink my impress of the US…). It’s apparent how fond I am of this big country. There’s just so much to see and so many nice people to meet!

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Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

Full-time travel blogger at Bel Around The World and SEO coach roaming the world at a whim, Isabel helps aspiring content creators and brands get the most out of their online presence by attracting organic leads/traffic and achieving financial freedom with her Skyrocket With SEO course. She's closely involved in and has been featured as a speaker in other travel & digital nomad networks & podcasts such as Traverse, Travel Massive, The Nomadic Network and Location Indie.

isabel leong, bel around the world

Hi! I'm Isabel, a full-time traveller and digital nomad from Singapore. In the past 10 years, I've lived in New Zealand , Japan , Kauai Hawaii , Mexico , Costa Rica and Bali . Pulling from my own world travel adventures and blogging lessons, I share my tried and tested tips, so that I can get YOU to work LESS and play MORE!

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Planning a 10-Day West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary

Home | Travel | North America | United States | Planning a 10-Day West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary

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Traveling along the West Coast of the United States  had been in my head since the day I found out I’d be moving there for work. Who hasn’t dreamed about a road trip across the Western US? For me, the landscapes that automatically come to mind are the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Death Valley among others, as we have seen again and again in a bunch of movies.

national parks in western us map of west coast usa

Grand Canyon

In addition to nature, the American West Coast also offers you visits to symbolic cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

My favorite part of this trip was definitely the National Parks where natural wonders of this incredible country are concentrated within. I had been taking note of them on a  Western US  map   for a long time so that I could visit them as soon as I had the chance.

That’s how I started planning the 10-day West Coast USA road trip that we took in August.

THIS WAS OUR 10-DAY WEST COAST USA ITINERARY:

10-day west coast usa road trip itinerary infography map capture the atlas

Our 10-day West Coast USA road trip itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrival in Las Vegas.  Beginning of our 10-day West Coast USA Road Trip.
  • Day 2: Monument Valley + Antelope Canyon + Horseshoe Bend.  The most popular places in the Western USA.
  • Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park. One of the less touristic national park in the West Coast USA.
  • Day 4: Zion Canyon National Park. One of the places we like the most during our 10-day West Coast USA trip.
  • Day 5: Grand Canyon,  a must-visit place on the West Coast.
  • Day 6: Mojave National Preserve + Death Valley,  the best of our 10-day West Coast Itinerary.
  • Day 7: Yosemite Valley, the best attraction in the Western USA.
  • Day 8: Upper Yosemite Falls,  the best hike of our West Coast America road trip.
  • Day 9: Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. You cannot skip this highlight of West Coast USA:
  • Day 10: Return flight from San Francisco.  En of our 10-day Western US trip.

If a Western US road trip is also one of your dreams, you will find everything you need to prepare your trip here:

  • 10-day West Coast USA Road Trip

Best places to visit in West Coast America

  • Our West Coast USA 10-day itinerary
  • How to plan a self-drive trip to the Western US

How much does it cost a West Coast USA trip?

  • Map of Western US

10-day west coast USA road trip

One of the first things I am sure you will be wondering about is how long a West Coast trip could take. My opinion is that you could be discovering the American West Coast for months and would still have things to do.

death valley west coast america tours

Death Valley – Zabriskie Point

When looking at a West Coast USA map, it may initially seem that the best tourist destinations are close to each other. However, distances in this country are huge, and you will spend a lot of time on the road during your trip.

Keep in mind that the US public transportation system is very scarce outside of the big cities, so the only practical option is to rent a car and prepare for a West Coast USA driving holiday.

On our West Coast USA road trip, more than ¼ of the trip was spent driving and still, along with the Canadian Rockies trip , it was one of the best trips of our life.

Another highly recommended option is to take a West Coast RV trip , as this country offers all kind of facilities for those who like to travel with their motorhome. You can check the best RV rental companies in the USA here.

Although it takes a long time to travel across the West Coast in depth, if you don’t have too many days or prefer to combine them, I encourage you to spend in West Coast America at least 10 days.

driving routes west coast usa grand canyon

Grand Canyon – Plateau Point

There are thousands of West Coast USA tours you can take, so the first thing you have to choose is a few must-see places. It may seem complicated to plan this trip at first, especially when you do not have much time.

To help you choose your perfect West Coast America itinerary, you will discover the main tourist attractions in this section. Then, you can design the West Coast USA holiday itinerary that best suits your needs.

I suggest that as you read through this article, write down  the things to do in West Coast America  that interest you most on a map to help determine the best itinerary.

SAN FRANCISCO

If you like to visit cities, one of the places you cannot miss on the West Coast America is San Francisco. This popular city of California, is characterized by the steep slopes and the well-known Lombard street.

The most popular thing to do in San Francisco is visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most famous bridges in the US and a classic in many American films, as seen in Godzilla and Superman.

In addition, another interesting activity to do is visiting the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary whose best-known prisoner was Al Capone. It was said that nobody could escape from this maximum-security prison island since the only way was by swimming almost two kilometers in cold and treacherous waters.

If you are visiting this city, stay in one of the best hotels in San Francisco.

Las Vegas,  also known as “Sin City”, is one of the American classics famous for its countless casinos, open container laws (aka public drinking), and legalized prostitution in nearby counties.

The largest city in the state of Nevada welcomes both domestic and global tourism, where vice is a right. It is not surprising to hear the old saying: What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

Welcome Las Vegas

Whether you like gambling or not, it is a must-see Western American city. It is also a good place to celebrate your (fake) wedding if being married by Elvis is also one of your dreams. Here you can find the ultimate list of things to do in Las Vegas.

If you are visiting this city make sure you know where to stay in Las Vegas , since its hotels are some of the most amazing in the World.

Do not miss our Guide TO THINGS to do in las vegas

  • Los Angeles

Los Angeles , also known as LA, is the most populous city on the West Coast of USA. The City of Broken Dreams and Hollywood stars is located in California.

The Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign are probably the main tourist attractions in Los Angeles , although a visit to Santa Monica , the beach where Baywatch was filmed, is also recommended.

Another place of interest is the Warner Bros. studios , where you can visit the film sets of a lot of movies, as well as Venice , where the canals remind you of those from the Italian city with the same name.

LA is a stop that you cannot miss on your 10-day West Coast US trip if you happen to enjoy both cities and film. You can find where to stay in Los Angeles here.

Do not miss our Guide TO THINGS TO DO IN LOS ANGELES

Grand canyon.

If we had to choose just a single place to start, visiting the Grand Canyon  would probably be the first that we recommend to do in West Coast USA.

The Grand Canyon is in Arizona and was shaped by the Colorado River over millions of years. In some points, the Canyon reaches a depth of more than 5250 feet.

grand canyon west coast usa packages

Grand Canyon – Helicopter Tour

If you don’t have much time, taking a Grand Canyon helicopter tour is a good option, as we told you in that article about our experience. However, if you have several days, I advise going down the canyon  through one of the many different hikes to discover the Colorado River.

Do not miss our Guide TO THINGS TO DO IN GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK and best places to stay in Grand canyon

Havasu falls.

If you like adventure, visiting the Havasu Falls is an essential of West Coast USA.

The Havasu Falls, along with others in the area, belong to the Havasupai Indian Reservation and are guarded by a tribe of Native Americans. They are inaccessible by car, so you must be in excellent physical condition to visit as you will be hiking in and out.

Plan well in advance for your visit, since you will need a permit that usually runs out shortly after the beginning of the  reservation  period which starts in February of each year. In addition to the permit, you will have to book a camping spot, as it is mandatory to stay there when visiting the falls.

SANTA BARBARA

Back at the coastal area, Santa Bárbara, located 150 kilometers north of Los Angeles, can be another interesting stop.

The main beach largely resembles Santa Mónica, except Santa Bárbara is not as popular.

However, Santa Bárbara is not just a beach: its architecture with Hispanic colonial roots is an important tourist attraction.

MONUMENT VALLEY

Between Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley is another one of the supernatural landscapes in the American West. It is a huge valley where very interesting geological formations rose with reddish colors. This was also a scene featured in many classic western films.

10 day west coast usa self drive itinerary monument valley

Monument Valley

This desert valley is located within the Navajo Nation, a territory that belongs to the Navajo natives who are responsible for both maintenance of the reserve and collection of entrance fees, which is not included in the US National Parks pass.

The best time to photograph the valley is during sunrise when the sun is behind the monuments, or during sunset when the monuments are illuminated by the last rays of the sun. In addition, there are different hiking trails that bring you closer to the main monuments of the valley, or you can even take a Jeep tour with one of the Navajo guides.

Do not miss our Guide TO THINGS TO Do IN Monument Valley and WHERE TO STAY IN MONUMENT VALLEY

Page: antelope canyon and horseshoe bend.

Page is a town inside the Navajo Indian Reservation, located in Arizona.

The most interesting attraction here is the Antelope Canyon , a geological feature formed by consecutive floods throughout history, which eroded narrow labyrinths of sandy rock into its terrain.

10 days western us destinations antelope canyon

Antelope Canyon

Do not miss our Guide to antelope canyon TOURS

In addition, if you visit Page, you cannot miss a sunset in  Horseshoe Bend, which is named after its shape. It is probably the most famous bend of the Colorado River.

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Horseshoe Bend

Do not miss our Guide to VISIT horseshoe bend

Here we leave you the best guide to know where to stay in Page.

The Wave in Arizona is another attraction to see in Western America.

To see this solidified wave-shaped dune, you must have a permit issued  four months in advance and by lottery (only 20 visitors per day are allowed).

It is one of the few virgin wonders that remain in the United States, so if you missed the date of the draw, it is always a good idea to check if someone has canceled his or her tour on the calendar. Visit this booking website both to participate in the lottery and to check the calendar.

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Bryce Canyon National Park is a reserve located in Utah and is popular for the peculiar rock formations also known as “Hoodoos”. This park should be included in any Western US National Parks itinerary.

Due to the reddish color of the terrain, the best time to contemplate the main amphitheater viewpoint is at sunrise and sunset.

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Bryce Canyon

There are also several hiking trails that will take you through the formations, where you can discover some with very interesting forms and names like Thor’s Hammer or Queen Victoria.

Do not miss THE BEST HIKES IN bryce canyon and the BEST PLACES TO STAY IN BRYCE

Close to the Mexican border, we will find San Diego, the second largest city in the state south of Los Angeles

This city is a good stop on your 10-day West Coast US road trip if you are more interested in beach areas. La Jolla Cove is the most popular beach and you can find all kinds of wildlife including sea lions there.

In addition to the beach, there are other places of interest, such as Old Town San Diego, where you can find original buildings of the first Spaniards that arrived here, and Balboa Park, where many museums are concentrated, or the Coronado Island , where you can find the best views of the city.

ZION NATIONAL PARK

In Utah, one of the most important landmarks of the state is  Zion National Park, where the main interest here is an 800-meter-deep canyon carved into the reddish terrain for 24 kilometers by the Virgin River.

There are different hikes that you can take in this park. One of the most popular is Angels Landing, where you can get a full view of the canyon after three hours of hiking and up the Via Ferrata section.

backpacking the west coast usa zion national park 10 days

Zion Canyon

Another longer route is The Narrows , which can be completed in 8 hours or done over several days. The route goes through the narrow gorges carved in by the virgin river, so you always need to check river flow the day before at the visitor’s center, and also to get water shoes.

Do not miss THE THINGS YOU HAVE TO DO IN zion national park and WHERE TO STAY IN ZION NATIONAL PARK

Joshua tree national park.

Located in a desert area in southern California, Joshua Tree National Park stands out for its unique rocks and mountain shapes.

Although its name comes from the unique Joshua Tree , what makes this park really interesting are the infinite rock-climbing possibilities .

Whether or not you are a climber, if you decide to visit Joshua Tree National Park on your West Coast USA trip over 10 days, you will experience the feeling of finding yourself on another planet.

DEATH VALLEY

On your 10-day West Coast America self-driving tour, you cannot miss the Death Valley that is located in California.

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Death Valley

This immense desert is famous for Badwater, a dry area with the highest negative elevation within North America, situated at 262 feet below sea level. In addition, it is one of the hottest places on earth during summer, with a maximum recorded temperature of 58ºC.

map of west coast usa death valley

Zabriskie Point

If you are going to cross it, be sure to fill the fuel tank and bring plenty of water to survive the extreme desert temperatures during the day.

Do not miss tHE bEST tHINGS TO DO IN Death Valley and where to stay in Death Valley

Mojave national preserve.

The Mojave Desert  spreads across Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley, Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA) and the Mojave National Preserve.

While you will find Joshua trees all over in this vast extension of land, the world’s highest concentration is located within the Mojave National Preserve .

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Mojave Desert

In addition to the flora, the fauna is abundant and diverse, from reptiles like snakes, lizards, and turtles to mammals like bobcats or hares.

Do not miss WHAT TO DO IN mojave desert

Arches national park.

Arches National Park , located in Utah, has the highest concentration of stone arches in the world, however, there is no record of how many arches there are in this extension. This is the reason why it’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in Utah.

In addition, we can find another type of geological formations that defy gravity here, such as the Balanced Rock, a rock that seems to be falling at any time, yet has been standing for thousands of years in the same position.

The best way to go across Arches National Park is through a park ranger-guided tour that takes you to the purest and most virgin area of the park, where you cannot access on your own. You can book it here.

This park is one of the most acclaimed by photographers since the impossible shapes of the arches are very easy to use in any composition.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

An essential stop in West Coast USA is Yosemite National Park , located in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.

This park is remarkable for two of the most important climbing sites in the United States and the world: the big granite walls of El Capitan and the Half Dome. In addition, we can find the American Giant Sequoia, one of the largest trees in the world, as well as extensive fauna that includes raccoons and black bears in this park.

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Yosemite Valley

If you are a lover of nature, outdoor activities, and camping , this is surely going to be one of your favorite places near West Coast of the United States.

Do not miss all you have to do in Yosemite and WHERE TO STAY IN YOSEMITE

Sequoia national park.

In Sequoia National Park, you can find the largest concentration of giant sequoias in the world. These are grouped within what is known as the Giant Forest.

The park is located about 10000 feet above sea level, a critical altitude for this type of trees to grow. However, it may be closed during the winter because of the snow.

In addition, here we can find the giant sequoia known as General Sherman standing at 275 feet. While it is the largest single-stem tree, the Hyperion , located in Redwood National Park, California, stands taller at 379 feet as the tallest living tree known in the world.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is the oldest national park in the United States. It stands out for the incredible volcanic activity in the area and for the abundant fauna that inhabits the park: buffalo, grizzly bears, black bears, moose… If you want to enjoy the authentic American wildlife and landscapes with a smell of sulfur taken from another world, Yellowstone is an essential place to visit on the American West Coast.

things to do in Yellowstone National Park West Coast USA in 10 days

I didn’t visit it during my first trip to the West Coast in the United States in 10 days, but during my next trip in which I toured Yellowstone and Grand Teton for 10 days, a great plan if you are looking for an alternative itinerary.

Check WHAT TO DO IN YELLOWSTONE and WHERE TO STAY IN YELLOWSTONE

Grand teton national park.

The mountains of Grand Teton National Park are one of the most haunted landscapes by photographers on the West Coast. If you like wildlife, hiking, and want to flee the typical 10-day US West Coast itineraries , I recommend visiting this national park that promises a quiet vacation away from the masses even in peak tourist season.

things to do in West Coast USA in 10 days grand teton

Grand Teton adjoins Yellowstone National Park, so taking a 10-day tour of the US West Coast combining these two parks is quite popular.

Check what to do in grand teton and WHERE TO STAY IN GRAND TETON

Our 10-day west coast usa itinerary.

As we stated above, our West Coast USA trip was focused on national parks and all the natural wonders of this area in North America.

Cities in the west coast are for sure some interesting destinations, but, without a doubt, if we had had more than 10 days to travel the American West Coast, we would have kept exploring the natural places that this country offers, each one so different and full of contrasts.

DAY 1 – West Coast America Trip: FLIGHT TO LAS VEGAS

We arrived in Las Vegas at noon, picked up the rental car and made a quick route to see the highlights of the city.

After a mandatory stop to make the classic photo with the Welcome Las Vegas sign, we headed to Monument Valley (6 hours driving) where we spent our first night.

DAY 2 – West Coast America Trip: DAWN IN MONUMENT VALLEY + ANTELOPE CANYON + HORSESHOE BEND

We photographed the sunrise in Monument Valley to see the incredible geological formations of the Navajo Reservation tinted in beautiful reddish colors.

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Monument Valley (Our 10-day West Coast USA Road Trip)

In the morning we went to Antelope Canyon , in Page (2 hours driving) to take both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon tours.

antelope canyon planning a west coast usa road trip

Antelope Canyon (Our 10-day West Coast USA Trip)

In the afternoon we had a rest at  Lake Powell. Then we went to Horseshoe Bend from where we watched and photographed an unforgettable sunset.

driving holiday west coast usa 15 days Horseshoe Bend sunset

Horseshoe Bend (Our 10-day Western US Road Trip)

We drove 2.5 hours until our next stop on our 10-day route along the West Coast.

DAY 3 – West Coast America Trip: BRYCE canyon NATIONAL PARK

We woke up in Bryce Canyon National Park , where we took pictures of the twilight from Sunrise Point overlooking the amphitheater.

We hiked the Rim Trail, seeing different Hoodoos as Thor’s Hammer.

usa west coast itinerary 2 weeks bryce

Bryce Canyon (Our 10-day WesternUSA Road Trip)

At night, we returned to photograph the amphitheater under the Perseid Meteor Shower, and camped inside the park.

western us road trip bryce milky way

Bryce Canyon – Sunrise Overlook

DAY 4 – WEST COAST AMERICA TRIP: ZION NATIONAL PARK

We arrived in Springdale (2 hours driving), parked our car and took the shuttle to Zion National Park.

We did the Angels Landing trail to get the best views of the valley.

west coast usa road trip 10 day itinerary zion

Zion National Park (Our 10-day West Coast USA Road Trip)

In the afternoon, we drove 4 hours to the next stop on our 10-day Western US trip.

DAY 5 – WEST COAST AMERICA TRIP: GRAND CANYON

We watched the sunrise at the Grand Canyon from Mather Point in probably the most epic light display we have ever seen during a sunrise.

national parks tour western us grand canyon sunrise

Grand Canyon (Our trip to West Coast USA for 10 days)

In the morning we take this tour , as we tell you in this article about Grand Canyon helicopter rides . Without a doubt, I enjoyed my visit the most.

In the afternoon, we descended the first section of the Bright Angel Trailhead trail.

road trip west coast usa 10 days

In the evening we drove to the next stop of our 10-day Western US trip, Mojave National Preserve (4 hours driving), where we spent one of the best nights of our life camping in the wild desert.

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Mojave National Preserve

DAY 6 – WEST COAST AMERICA TRIP: MOJAVE DESERT + DEATH VALLEY

We photographed the first sun rays of the day through the branches of the Joshua trees in the Mojave National Preserve.

10-day west coast america fly drive itinerary mojave

We filled the tank to cross the Death Valley and made stops at the main viewpoints.

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Death Valley (Our 10-day West Coast USA Self-drive Trip)

We arrived at Yosemite National Park where we set up a bivouac to spend the night in order to get accommodation the next morning at the historic Camp 4.

This day we drove a total of 10 hours, more driving hours than any other day of the entire trip.

DAY 7 – WEST COAST AMERICA TRIP: YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

Once settled in Yosemite National Park valley we went to discover the main viewpoints of the valley, from which we would photograph the last sunrises and sunsets of our 10-day trip to the West Coast USA.

taft point yoosemite western us family vacations

Yosemite (Our 10-day West Coast USA holidays)

We took the opportunity to enjoy the real camp life,  cooked on the bonfire at night and raccoon watched with our campmates so they didn’t eat our food.

DAY 8 – WEST COAST AMERICA TRIP: YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

On the eighth day, we did the most strenuous hike of our 10-day West Coast USA trip. We climbed to the Upper Yosemite Falls, where we had a bath in one of its natural pools.

yosemite west coast america things to do

Yosemite Falls (Our 10-day West Coast USA vacations)

In the afternoon we took refuge in the tent as a hail storm fell – remember that weather in Yosemite, like any high mountains, is quite unpredictable even during summer season.

DAY 9 – WEST COAST AMERICA TRIP: YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

On our 9th day, we decided to try one of the small hiking trails in Yosemite National Park, such as the hike that takes you to Bridal Veil Falls or the Taft Point viewpoint.

In the afternoon we visited Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, where we could see these giant trees.

sequoiawest coast america places to visit

Tuolumne Grove (Our 10-day West Coast USA self-drive holidays)

DAY 10 – WEST COAST AMERICA TRIP: FLIGHT BACK FROM SAN FRANCISCO

We left Yosemite National Park to head to San Francisco , where we took our return flight home.

Our initial idea was to have the last day to discover the city. However, we liked Yosemite so much that we ended up leaving just enough time to catch the flight back. It took us 4 hours to get to the airport.

How to plan an self-drive trip to the Western US

Although many travel agencies offer West Coast USA holiday packages, this destination seems more appropriate to be planned on your own (unless you are interested in photography and decide to take a photo tour to the West Coast America ).

In any case, we will explain step by step how you can plan a trip to the West Coast USA on your own in this section:

  • Choose your best West Coast USA itinerary
  • Plan how to get to West Coast USA
  • Get your US tourist visa
  • Hire the best travel insurance for traveling to the United States
  • Book a rental car
  • Buy America the Beautiful Pass to enter the US National Parks for free
  • Book the best accommodation  on the West Coast

HOW TO CHOOSE THE best West Coast USA itinerary

From the previous section where we highlighted the best places to visit in Western US, choose 8 (if taking a 10-day West Coast road trip) or 15 places (if taking a 20-day trip) that interest you most.

Jot them down on a map of  West Coast USA (I suggest using  Google MyMaps ).

Connect the different points and check on our map below to see if there is any tourist attraction that is on your way or that you can easily reach.

Finally, check that the driving hours are compatible with the itinerary or else leave them out of your list.

driving hours west coast usa road trip

Driving in the West Coast USA

Do not be frustrated, no matter how long you stay on the West Coast, you will always leave something to explore for the next trip 😉

how to get to the West Coast of USA

In order to define our itinerary, we must know how to get to the Western US.

The best way is by flying to one of the following three airports:

  • San Francisco

If you want to find cheap flights to the West Coast , the best time to book them is 3 months in advance. You can find here the best cheap flights hacks . My favorite search engine is Kiwi.com.

Also, if you want to visit too many places in the West and do not have much time, I suggest that you do a one-way trip , starting at a different airport from where you will return home through. This will increase the travel budget a bit, but you don’t get to travel to the Western US every day, do you?

VISA FOR THE UNITED STATES

There are two ways to travel as a tourist to the United States. If you belong to one of these countries you can travel to the US without a visa, but must obtain a travel authorization called “ESTA”.

HOW TO PROCESS THE ESTA

The ESTA is very easy to obtain. Simply fill out the application form on iVisa and you will receive the approval in about 6 hours by email.

We have a step-by-step guide on how to apply for the ESTA to the USA.

HOW TO PROCESS TOURIST VISA B2

If you do not have a passport from one of the countries mentioned above, you need a B2 visa to travel as a tourist to the United States.

This type of visa is more difficult to obtain. In addition to preparing the required documentation which proves that you are not going to travel to the United States with the intention of living or working, you will have to go through an interview at the embassy.

A more extensive explanation of how to process this visa can be found on the US Department of State website.

TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR THE UNITED STATES

Living in the USA, I know how important is to have good travel insurance for the USA. Since health care cost in this country is very high, hospitalization without insurance can easily make your bill rise above $100,000.

So when we moved here, we bought long-stay travel insurance , although we are currently using annual multi-trip insurance.

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Death Valley dunes

Although I always recommend buying the best travel insurance wherever you go, you must have extraordinary coverage for the US (never consider hiring anything that covers below $30,000 if you travel to the United States).

You can get the best quality-price insurance with Heymondo .

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5% OFF your travel insurance

western USA car rental

As we have said, the only practical way to travel the Western United States is by renting a car.

west coast usa car rental death valley road trip

Driving in Death Valley

If you do not have too much time, consider taking a  one-way instead of a round-trip  along the West. We picked up the car in Vegas and left it in San Francisco. Although this meant an increase in the budget because of the drop off-fee, we were able to visit more places during our 10-day West Coast trip.

The cheapest way to rent a car is using DiscoverCars , where we hired the rental car in Las Vegas.

FIND CHEAP RENTAL CARS IN THE US

ANNUAL NATIONAL PARKS PASS – AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

If you are planning a Western US National Parks itinerary, I recommend that you buy an annual America the Beautiful pass.

This pass allows access to all US National Parks, as well as other state parks.

The pass is valid for one year from when it is purchased and covers entry for one vehicle with up to 5 passengers. Display pass by hanging it over the rear-view mirror).

In addition, the pass is issued for two owners who must sign behind the card to use. A very good option is to buy the annual pass, leave one signature blank, and resell it to a second owner at the end of your Western USA tour.

Even if you don’t resell the pass, you will get your money’s worth just by visiting 3 or 4 National Parks (Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Yosemite …).

The pass can be purchased online from here or directly at the ticket office of the first national park you visit.

ACCOMMODATION ON THE WEST COAST US

It is difficult to find cheap and very good quality hotels at the same time on West Coast America. Therefore we will try to help you by listing the best places to stay, considering different budgets, tastes, and needs.

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Best accommodation in West Coast USA

Keep in mind that accommodation will be one of the major expenses of your trip to  West Coast America. On the other hand, sometimes a good hotel can even be one of the best attractions you can enjoy during your trip.

WHERE TO STAY IN SAN FRANCISCO

  • HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel: Hostel in the heart of San Francisco that has both shared and private rooms at a very low price. Free WIFI. Includes breakfast and a kitchen for those who want to cook.
  • Buena Vista Motor Inn: Hotel with complimentary parking in the middle of Lombard street. Wi-Fi and breakfast included. Totally safe area to walk at night. Just a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Guide on where to stay in San Francisco

WHERE TO STAY IN LAS VEGAS

  • Venetian:  Venice-themed casino resort with gondoliers included.
  • Circus Circus: Casino hotel with circus theme, with its own indoor amusement park that runs throughout the year.
  • Stratosphere:  Casino hotel that includes vertigo attractions at 350 meters high.
  • Bellagio: Inspired by Italy, it is one of the most luxurious resort and casinos in Las Vegas.
  • New York – New York:   Resort casino inspired by the big city where we can find a miniature statue of liberty.
  • Paris Las Vegas:   Perfect casino hotel for honeymoon or couple trips with miniature Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.
  • Excalibur:  You will find yourself in the Middle Ages in this casino resort within its castles.
  • Planet Hollywood:  Modern hotel and casino where you will feel the essence of the West Coast.

Guide on where to stay in Las Vegas

WHERE TO STAY IN LOS ANGELES

  • Hollywood Travelodge:  Located very close to the walk of fame. Includes breakfast, Wi-Fi and free parking.
  • Samesun Venice Beach:  The best option if you want to enjoy the Venice boardwalk and its beach. They have bicycle rental service.
  • Cal Mar Hotel Suites:  If you prefer to be close to Santa Monica beach this option is very well priced.

Guide on where to stay in Los Angeles

WHERE TO STAY IN GRAND CANYON

If we visit the South Rim, the most touristic edge of the Grand Canyon, it is quite important to stay in the Grand Canyon Village, since two of the main attractions of this jewel of Western US is their sunrise and sunset. So, the closer we are to the edge, the easier it will be for us.

We camped in the Grand Canyon, at the  Mather Campground on the South Rim.

If you prefer to stay at a hotel, all accommodations at Grand Canyon Village are run by the company   Xanterra ,  and you can make reservations on whose website.

Guide on where to stay in Grand Canyon

WHERE TO STAY IN PAGE

  • Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell: This hotel is located in the center of Page. As it is highly valued, you will have to book it well in advance, since rooms tend to run out being such a small and tourist place at the same time.
  • Country Inn & Suites by Radisson: Without a doubt the best hotel in Page, both the price and the charm of its rooms. It is not in the center but is closer to Horseshoe Bend.

Guide on where to stay in Page

WHERE TO STAY IN BRYCE

Bryce is one of the best places to camp in the Western US. In addition to two conventional campsites ( North Campground and Sunset Campground ), there are 12 backcountry campsites.

If camping is not your thing and you prefer to stay in one of the best hotels in the West, then I recommend the Best Western Ruby’s Inn , a historic hotel at the gates of the national park that also has a camping area.

Guide on where to stay in Bryce

WHERE TO STAY IN ZION

  • Bumbleberry Inn:  One of the few hotels near Zion whose price is below $200 a night and with a great value.
  • La Quinta Inn and Suites : Another hotel that also has good prices and is highly rated near Zion, known for its buffet breakfast that includes delicious homemade waffles.

Guide on where to stay in Zion

WHERE TO STAY IN MONUMENT VALLEY

If you want to enjoy dawn with the best views of the valley, I recommend that you camp in the Monument Valley. The campground is called The View Campground and the only way to reserve it is by calling +1 435-727-5802.

This campsite belongs to  The View Hotel , a hotel run by the Navajo Indians with equally amazing views.

Guide on where to stay in Monument Valley

WHERE TO STAY IN SANTA BARBARA

  • Hotel Santa Barbara: One of the best hotels in Santa Barbara with a great location in the city center and very close to the beach. Includes Wi-Fi, breakfast and free parking.
  • The Eagle Inn:   On the beach of Santa Barbara and in a beautiful historic building. The price is a bit higher but it includes a jacuzzi in the room.

WHERE TO STAY IN YOSEMITE

We decided to camp at Camp 4 during our visit to Yosemite. Here, the hippy movement was born in the 60s and spread throughout the United States.

However, if you don’t want to camp, don’t worry. There are very good hotels in Yosemite. Some of the best are:

  • The Ahwahnee
  • Yosemite Valley Lodge
  • Curry Village

Guide on where to stay in Yosemite

WHERE TO STAY IN SAN DIEGO

  • Staypineapple at Hotel Z: One of the best hotels in downtown San Diego. Modern design and quite affordable. It offers free bicycles to its customers.
  • HI-San Diego Point Loma Hostel: Hostel with shared rooms, very good price and located next to the beach. Ideal if you visit San Diego with the intention of meeting other travelers.

WHERE TO STAY IN JOSHUA TREE

The best place to stay in Joshua Tree is in one of its campsites. There are 4 campsites throughout the national park that can be reserved, and another 4 first-come, first-served campground. All the information regarding the Joshua Tree campgrounds can be found on the National Parks Service website.

WHERE TO STAY IN DEATH VALLEY

  • The Inn at Death Valley: This Oasis in the middle of the desert is the most luxurious resort you’ll find here. Refresh between your palm garden and its spring water pool and relax in your spa area.
  • The Ranch at Death Valley: Run by the same company as The Inn at Death Valley, it is the familiar and informal complement of the previous one. If you want to relax in a unique environment but without too many pretensions, this accommodation is for you.
  • Panamint Springs Resort:  This resort offers both tourist resorts and lodging in tents. It’s close to the west entrance of the national park, from where you’ll have stunning views of the sand dunes.

Guide on where to stay in Death Valley

WHERE TO STAY IN MOJAVE DESERT

There are no motels inside Mojave National Preserve. The only way to stay is camping. There are two family campsites, Hole-in-the-Wall Campground and Mid Hills Campground. Both are first-come, first-served campgrounds.

There is also the possibility of doing backcountry camping. If you want more information, check the US National Parks Service website.

WHERE TO STAY IN ARCHES

There are no campsites or hotels within Arches National Park. The best thing to do is to stay somewhere close to the entrance:

  • Red Cliffs Lodge:  All rooms have views of the Colorado River. In addition, you have access to a private living room with a fridge and microwave. This accommodation is the best you’ll find if you visit Arches National Park from the west. Do not miss its western cinema museum.
  • Under Canvas Moab:  This accommodation is located east of Arches National Park and offers already pitched tents, some with private bathrooms. If you are not a fan of the camps, but you would like to try, this is your place. In addition to the bed linen, the hotel will lend you towels and a flashlight. A very comfortable way to learn a little about the American camper culture.

WHERE TO STAY IN SEQUOIA

  • Montecito Sequoia Lodge: This rustic mountain accommodation offers a place to relax, surrounded by lakes, forests and rugged peaks. It has a restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet.
  • Bearpaw High Sierra Camp: This established camp has 6 canvas tents with wooden floors. The views of the surroundings are amazing. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the accommodation.
  • Wuksachi Lodge:  It is the emblematic hotel of Sequoia, an amazing mountain hut made of stone and cedar located in the heart of the park, surrounded by a powerful sequoia forest and towering peaks of the sierra.

WHERE TO STAY IN HAVASU FALLS

As we commented, if you visit Havasu Falls, it is compulsory to spend at least one night in one of its campsites, since you cannot make excursions exclusively for one day. Book both the tour and the camping permit from the official website of the Havasupai Indian Reservation.

WHERE TO STAY IN YELLOWSTONE

There are only  9 hotels within Yellowstone National Park , so in peak tourist season, most travelers only find accommodation outside the park.

You can find the best options on our guide on where to stay in Yellowstone National Park, but my favorite hotels are:

  • Kelly Inn West Yellowstone
  • Yellowstone Gateway Inn
  • Stage Coach Inn
  • Al’s Westward Ho Motel
  • Travelodge by Wyndham
  • Absaroka Lodge

WHERE TO STAY IN GRAND TETON

There are many places to stay in Grand Teton National Park but my favorite ones are:

  • Colter Bay Village 
  • Jackson Lake Lodge  
  • Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch 
  • Jenny Lake Lodge

To calculate  how much a road trip along the West Coast cost, keep in mind that gasoline in the United States is quite cheap compared most European countries, so even though you will drive many kilometers, this is not something you have to worry too much about when planning your itinerary.

Regarding the food , going to restaurants or going out to have a drink is very expensive; especially when you are looking for somewhere that serve healthy and quality food. If you’re willing to eat fast food, your West Cost travel budget will decrease since the United States is the paradise for junk food.

Regarding accommodation , while it is more expensive in the US than other countries, there are ways to make it cheaper .

Consider camping during your West Coast America tour. In addition to being cheaper, it is very fun and do not forget that there is no country in the world with such an active camping culture as in the United States. You will enjoy watching all the American accessories that make camping more comfortable, and the amazing motorhomes that are better than many houses. You can check some tips for traveling by rv in the USA here.

If you want to know how much we spent during out trip, you can check our West Coast travel budget for 10 days.

West Coast USA combinations ideas

In case you have more time, you can combine the West Coast of the USA with other destinations. Some of the most popular combinations are the following.

West Coast America and Hawaii holidays

If you love nature, combine  West Coast USA and Hawaii to enjoy the most active volcanoes in the United States. These wild islands in the middle of the Pacific, offer a native culture totally different from any other place in the world, in addition to beautiful beaches. The Western US and Hawaii landscapes are an excellent combination for the more adventurous.

RIVIERA MAYA and WEST COAST USA honeymoon

Riviera Maya and West Coast America honeymoon trips are very popular.  With this travel itinerary, we can enjoy a mix of the natural American West Coast landscapes with turquoise water beaches and the history of ancient civilizations. This is the best combination for honeymoons or for travelers interested in a mix of all-inclusive vacation packages.

WEST COAST AND ROUTE 66 road trip

If you want to travel the most famous road in the United States, plan a Route 66 – Western US road trip. With this tour, you will have a chance to visit my favorite city in the US: Chicago. I don’t recommend this combination if you do not like driving since much time of this trip will be spent inside the car.

West Coast USA tours from New york

Another very popular combination, especially if you are traveling from Europe. A New York & West Coast America fly-drive itinerary mixes the Western US National Parks with the busiest city of the East Coast. This option is perfect for those who also enjoy visiting big cities, since there are plenty of things to do in New York City.

New York view from brooklyn skyline pier night photography

With any of these combinations, I recommend spending at least 10 days in West Coast America .

However, if you only plan to travel to the West Coast and can afford it, I would recommend spending 2 or even  3 weeks.

map of West Coast USA

Finally, it is very useful to plan your trip using a map of Western US , marked with your places of interest. Then check the following map to see if there is any other attraction on the way.

SEE you ON THE WEST COAST and do not hesitate to ask if you need help preparing your itinerary!

Don't miss a 5% discount on your HeyMondo travel insurance  

and the only one that pays all your medical bills upfront for you!

america travel plan

Ascen Aynat

mejor itinerario para viajar a las montañas rocosas de canada 15 dias

80 replies on “ Planning a 10-Day West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary ”

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We are from Singapore and planning a 20 days trip in June to West Coast of US and would be our first drive trip to the US. We wanted to cover Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Yosemite, route 66, UTAH but not sure if we are able to (or worth to) cover up till Seattle. We love your advise as it will be our first trip to West Coast of US and accommodation recommendations will be helpful plus itinerary. regards Melvin

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Hi Melvin, Wow, that sounds amazing! There is so much to see the western United States. I think you’ll find our road trip itineraries from Las Vegas to be super helpful. As for accommodation, it depends on whether you’re renting a car or RV since an RV will take care of accommodation for you. Otherwise, the hotel recommendations above in this article are a great place to start. 🙂

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Hi! Wow, relieved i came accross this blog. Thank you for sharing this.

I made an almost similar itinerary and posted it in trip advisor.

we are arriving early morning in Vegas on March 10 and flying out late night from San Francisco March 20. For the 10 day trip, we’d like to see Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Most of the comments says most of the time will be spent driving hence the trip might not be an enjoyable one. Some even suggested dropping Yosemite as this is too far from the rest of the places we’re hoping to see.

With all the driving you did on this trip, do you think you still spent a good time exploring the parks?

Thanks heaps!

Yes, it was a lot of hours driving but it was a trip of a lifetime. I won’t change any of the stops I did so I highly recommend it specially if you don’t mind driving at night and you don’t have more time to spend on the West Coast USA.

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Hi, very informative post there ! May I know what route did u take to travel to yosemite from death valley ? I supposed you travelled when the tiogo road was closed ?

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We traveled in August when the Tioga Road was open. So we just drove Nort through the Eastern Sierra and enter from the Northeastern part of the park 😉

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i am planning to go to a trip with my friends but iam confused where should i go.

It’s difficult to choose when there are so many great options! My recommendation is to check the places and pictures and just pick the 4/5 places that you find more interesting 😉

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Hi Martin from Australia here. I am busy planning an 8 day self drive tour in April starting in, and returning to Las Vegas. I stumbled on your website and found it to be a fantastic resource, full of very helpful information. One thing that is puzzling me with your route. Why did you go to Monument Valley first and then criss-cross south to Antelope Canyon, north to Bryce Canyon and then south again to the Grand Canyon. This appears to add an additional 400 miles (appx). I had originally been planning a circuit through Bryce Canyon, Monument Park, Antelope Canyon and Grand Canyon. Then Back to Las Vegas via Mojave Desert and Death Valley. Thank you

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We did that itinerary because we were traveling in August (high season) and wanted to camp in Monument Valley and Grand Canyon, so we book the only days available hehehe

Your itinerary sounds great. Let me know how you do it finally.

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Hi! I would love your help in planning my itinerary for my West Coast Roadtrip Honeymoon. We would love to check as many of the same locations off our list as you have in this post. Would love to get your thoughts on cost efficiency, glamping/camping vs. RV rentals and what we HAVE to see, and what we could skip. We definitely don’t want to spend the majority of our trip in the car. Thinking of flying into Vegas and then going from there. We would be going from June 12-20th. This is by far the most helpful article I have found online so far! Thanks for writing!

We will be happy to help. Let me know any questions you may have and we will help.

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we are a couple, 60 years+ but able to drive and planning a trip next Sep. 2020. However we note that at some places you had to camp. I don’t think we are up to camping and wonder how to achieve the trip you made without camping.

You don’t need to camp if you don’t want to. There are many hotels where you can stay 🙂 Let me know your itinerary and I will give you some hotel ideas.

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I wish more people would post valuable content like this. This is the first time I’ve been on your website, but after this, I doubt it will be the last time.

Thanks Robert!! You are always welcome 😉

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Planning a trip in mid December. Is your 10 day trip feasible at this time of year ? Thanks.

Yes, it’s perfectly fine. Just bear in mind that you might find snow in some places like Bryce and Yosemite and the main roads to Yosemite from the east (Tioga road) is gonna be closed.

Hope you have a beautiful trip!

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Have you ever thought of planning a trip of the Four Corners States of the Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado & Utah). There are so many sites that would be a tough decision. New Mexico has the Gila National Forest, City of Rocks in the southwest, Carlsbad Caverns to name just a few, Colorado, Arizona, Utah you could go on and on. This would also the sunrises and sunsets, rivers canyons. It is so vast that each state could provide what every photographer would want to see and shoot. Just think about it. if you more information, please contact me.

Sure! We still have a bunch of places we want to visit!

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Thank you It was very useful

Thanks Isabel!

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Great post, thanks for the info I’m considering doing this trip with my dad, how fit do you have to be to do this trip? He can’t really walk a whole lot at a time.

Hi Emiliano,

You don’t need to walk if you don’t want to. Just visit the main lookouts accessible by car.

Let me know if you have any other question.

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Well, that was a pretty fascinating read, not going to lie. I really hope you continue to write. Probably one of the more informative pieces I’ve read on this subject. Thanks!

Thanks Justin! Glad to see our USA West Coast article was useful and you enjoyed it reading!

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You know if you are not on Instagram, you should be. I know you can’t put text up, but just throw in a few pics and build an audience there. I think you’d find a ton of people who would be super interested in your blog here.

Thanks for the advice. We already use Instagram, our account is: @Capturetheatlas

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Well… consider yourself added to my blogroll. I have like six other blogs I read on a weekly basis, guess that number just increased to seven! Keep writing!

Thanks Chris! and Welcome to Capture the Atlas! 😉

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Way to go on this post man. Really killer stuff. I’ll be back to read your other posts.

Thanks Travis! Glad you found the information helpful!

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Wow! What a scenery. I hope I can visit those place in the future too! People on your newsletter must love you. This content is pure 100% gold

Thanks Matthew for your kind words! I am sure you will be fascinated by the West Coast USA landscapes when you visit them.

Feel free to join our community and receive our newsletter 😉

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Hi, My family of 3 will be travelling to West of USA for about 12 to 14 days this coming September month 2019. Can you help us to plan the trip visiting all the interesting places and also advise us the cost.

We give a lot of piece of advice on our blog. Please read it and let us know if you have any question.

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I am flying from Toronto, Canada and am unsure which airport to arrive and leave in. I am planning on visiting Zion, Bryce Canyon, Cathedral Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Grand Canyon (South Rim). I am unsure whether to fly to Las Vegas and leave from Arizona, or vice versa, or do a loop. Any suggestions?

Amazing blog by the way!

Which airport in Arizona are you considering? Las Vegas in quite close to those places you want to visit and usually there is cheap flights to go there.

Let me know if you have any question

Thank you for your reply! I was thinking Phoenix airport. Just not sure the best route and will be renting a car!

Also, do you know if its possible to rent a car at one airport and return it to another?

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Hi, i am traveling with 6 adults. Planning to arrive in New York, then fly to LA and hoping to have a glimpse of the city and its surrounding and fly to vancouver . We will fly back home from Vancouver.

How many days do you think is good for us? I am travelling with my parents aged 60yo.

Can you give me any recommendations

Hi Felicia,

I would say to book at least 10 – 15 days. As recommendations I would suggest hiring good travel insurance for the USA and check the different articles we have at the blog.

Let me know if you need something else,

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Hello there,

We have about 8-9 days along the West Coast after a conference in Vegas. Looking at the following itinerary/places we want to visit. Do you think this is something workable/have any comments? Thanks so much!

Day 1: (From Vegas) Antelope Valley/Horseshoe Bend (Find somewhere to stay for the night – is there a recommendation where we can stay in that area?) Day 2: Grand Canyon Day 3: Travel back to Vegas, fly to San Francisco. Day 4: San Francisco Day 5: San Francisco -> Monterey, Big Sur (Find somewhere to stay?) Day 6: Travel to LA Day 7: LA Day 8: LA

Thanks very much for your message and for reading us!

Until day 4 your itinerary is gonna be very intense but definitely doable, as we made a very similar itinerary at the beginning of our trip. You can find recommendations for the night near horseshoe bend/Antelope Canyon in this section of our article.

As for the second part of your trip, We didn’t travel from SF towards the south so don’t know if that would be something possible.

Please let me know if we can help with any other questions.

Best regards,

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Hi I am trying to plan a trip with my son for September 2019 have i left enough time to do this? And could you help us with an itinerary Also if we choose to camp do we purchase this in the USA as we are travelling from the UK Thanks

Hi Richard,

Thank you very much for your message.

You are still in time for planning the trip, so I ‘d definitely try to do it!

You can see different itineraries in our US articles depending on your days and preferences. Hope that helps.

As for the campings it depends on the campsite, some accept online reservations like the one in Monument Valley while others are filled in a first-come first-served basis like Camp 4 in Yosemite.

Please let us know if we can help with any other questions.

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Hi everyone! Could you help me to make a itinerary with the time and 10 destinations?

We will need some more information to help you. When and where are you starting your trip, days, preferences and so on.

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Hi guys, Love your work. I’m a photographer and looking to do a road trip through the west cost of the USA, covering as much of the national parks as possible (Yellowstone a must). We only have a 2 week gap during July to do this. Do you have any tours available for July 2019 for 2 super fun people?

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Me, along with spouse and 13 year old son, are planning for a 10 day trip to LA, LV & SFO from India during June last week.

Request if you could help build us an itinerary for First Timers to US. It would be with a driver if we have to hire a car.

Do you deal in hotel accommodations too – 4 star?

Could you please let me know a rough expenditure on all this.

Kindly do mention your charges too for helping us out with a good itinerary and any help on ground that you could provide during our stay.

Thanking You, MOHAN

I have sent you an email with our service rates.

Have a nice day!

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I am planing with my boyfriend our trip in June to California for 10 days. We are landing in LA and we would like to visit Yosemite, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and San Diego. Could you please give us some tips? We are afraid that Tioga Pass might not be opened at the beginning of June..

Thanks a lot!

Hi Anabel, I think you have enough time in 10 days to visit the cities and NP you mentioned. You can do 2 days for LA, 3 days for Yosemite, 1 day for Death Valley, 1 day for Las Vegas, 2 days for Grand Canyon and 1 day for San Diego.

As you said, Tioga Pass maybe is still close in June, so I recommend you booking a hotel around Fresno (in case Tigoa Road is close) and other around Mammonth Lakes (in case it is open). And cancel the one you are not going to use once you know the Tioga Road status?

Let me know if you need anything else.

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Hello, Thanks for the detailed analysis of west coast. We are planning to visit west coast from Philadelphia and would like to cover California/LA/SFO/Las Vegas. We would however fly to Seattle from PHL and take our trip to west coast from Seattle.

Please provide us with an itinerary.

We are planning 10 days for this trip and would like to over not just national parks but also Golden gate bridge/Hollywood/Alcatraz etc. We don’t want to do the theme parks.

Sure, I have sent you an email with our planner services rates.

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Hi, Thanks for itinerary! We are going on a trip from LA in September for 16 days, and this helped a lot! If you could give some tips on showering…it’s not available in a lot of camp sites. Also, if you have some experience with laundry service, I would appreciate some info. Thanks!

Hi Soma! Thanks for your message and words!

You can check beforehand which campsites offer shower utilities and plan according to your needs. We booked camping with showers in Grand Canyon and Yosemite, taking a shower at least every 2 days. As for laundry service, I would suggest doing the same. We went just for a week and didn’t really need to do any washing but if you are staying 16 days some campings have some sort of place for washing. As an example again, you can find those utilities in Grand Canyon and Yosemite, and I am sure there will be more in other important campgrounds.

Hope that helps and have a wonderful US West Coast trip!

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Hi we are planning a 15 day stay flying into LA hiring a car can you recommened a route then we fly back out from LA.Thanks

The US West Coast is huge and there are endless possibilities doing a round trip from L.A.

Depending on your personal taste and the number of miles that you are willing to drive, there are many itineraries.

I recommend that you check all the main attractions explained throughout the article and once you know your preferences, you can design your own route.

Hope it helps and you make the most of your trip!

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Planning on driving to monument valley and staying at View hotel I need driving directions from Salt Lake City

Take I-15 S, US-6 E, US-191 S and US-163 S to Main Monument Valley Rd/Monument Valley Rd in Oljato-Monument Valley

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Hi my husband and I are planning a trip to tour the west coast next June/July next year for 4 weeks starting in San Francisco driving down the coast then across to Vegas by car then possibly hiring a camper van to visit the national parks, would you be able to advise us of some places to stop and stay and give some advice as to how long we should stay at certain places, we would also like to spend a week in Washington and New York at the end of our stay but we will fly to the east coast, thanks Tracey

Sure, I have sent you an email more information about our trip planner services. I can also help you to plan your visits to NYC and Washington. I live in Philadelphia, that is 2hours from NYC and two hours from Washington, so I know these cities very well and I can help you too.

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Hello Jaz, thank you for the useful information. I am planning for the west coast trip but could you confirm will it be too much to digest if I cover all/most of the destinations mentioned in your article above in just one trip?

Or shall I split the trip in multiple trips to enjoy and assimilate the delightful view which each destination has to offer?

That is up to you. How much time do you have? Where are you coming from? If I could, I would do it in one trip (3-4 months).

Let me know if you need something else, Ascen.

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We are planning a tour of West Coast starting and ending at LA. Can you suggest a good travel itinerary for family of 3 or 6 pxs. for 8-12 days sometime in June or July 2019. Thanks Jaz

Hi Jasmine, I have sent you an email with our rates. Ascen.

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Planning to gravel to west coast of USA Visiting friends & also travelling (self drive) . I have 14 days from Sep15 to Sep30 Would like to visit Yosomite, Death Valley Coastal Drive & Las Vegas and Grand canyon. Thanks for your help with an itinerary.

Sure! I will help you to plan your West America trip. I have sent you an email.

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Hi, I am planning for west coast tour for 10 days in July. I would like to start from San Francisco . Could you please suggest road trip plan

Hi Rajan, I will be happy for helping you to plan your west coast USA itinerary.

I have sent you an email regarding our travel planner services.

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Hi, I am planning a 15 days trip to USA with my family of 5 (2 sons aged 24, 25, Daughter 18). What route would you recommend us to take? We are looking to rent a car and drive around ourselves. Thank you.

Hi Sharon, I have sent you an email regarding our travel planning services.

Thanks, Ascen.

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Hi.. myself and 2 friends are planning a trip up the west coast from San Francisco in April.. We are renting an RV ..we would like to try and go as north to Portland maybe Seattle.. could you advise of the best route and places we should try to see.

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Hi we are planning to Visit West coast in the month of June 19 . Not sure about self drive option but could u please suggest some best places to explore in 10 days . We are landing at San Francisco & leaving to New York from LA .

Would appreciate if u could help us to arrange our trip .

Thanks Sunil

I have sent you an email regarding our travel planning services.

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Hi Loved reading your information on USA! My husband and I want to travel the west coast in September this year. We have booked so far return flights from Sydney to San Francisco. We would like to see Yosemite Bryce Zion Death Valley Redlands Lake Tahoe Sequoia and Grand Canyon. Not interested in Los Angeles or Las Vegas. We thought we would return via The big Sur to San Francisco. Do you think we can do this in a month? What would be the best driving route to do all this. Can we also purchase driving maps? Any help you could give I would be most grateful! Thanking you

Hi Cath, I have sent you an email regarding our travel planning services.

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Hi, thanks a lot for your details itinerary which is very much appreciated. I’m planning my self-drive trip to west coast USA for about 12 days, in May 2019. Just wondering any tips on what to wear? Will it be cold in the Yosemite national park? I’m planning for Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon + Horseshoes band, Yosemite, is it still worth to get the annnual pass? There are total 6 of us.

Hi Joey, If you are only visiting two national parks (Yosemite and Grand Canyon ) it is not worth getting the annual pass. Pay just for the standard fee in each of them. Horseshoe Bend is free and Antelope Canyon is private, so you will have to pay the Navajo fee.

In 12 days you have enough time to visit Death Valley, Bryce and Zion too.

Regarding what to carry in the backpack, please check the camping and cold weather section of this post.

P.S: Next sunday we will be posting our Guide to Yosemite and I am sure you are going to find it interested!!

Best, Ascen

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america travel plan

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2 Weeks In The United States [5 Sample Itineraries]

  • By Site Staff
  • January 19, 2024
  • In USA Travel

We've traveled extensively across the United States, exploring 45 states and gathering many experiences. When planning a trip to the US, the options can seem endless.

That's why we've compiled five sample itineraries to guide you through some of the country's best offers.

These itineraries draw from our travels and in-depth research, including for states like Florida, where we've meticulously planned our upcoming visit.

Whether you're drawn to the West Coast, East Coast, or the majestic Rockies, these plans are designed for road trip enthusiasts.

So, buckle up, grab your favorite beverage, and join us on a journey through these exciting routes. We'd love to hear your thoughts on these itineraries, so feel free to leave a comment at the end!

NIagara Falls, Los Angelos City, New York City, and Silver Springs Florida Collage picture

Itinerary #1: The East Coast

Touring the United States' east coast in spring, summer, and fall is best. These months will see the largest coastal cities burst with life and activity.

Come winter, most of the pit stops on any potential road trip will still be busy, but you'll need to take extra precautions to endure the eastern winter. This first road trip will take you over 1,278 miles in two weeks.

That may seem like a lot to cover, but with this itinerary, you won't miss a thing.

Day 1-3: New York City

Starting any United States East Coast tour in New York City is best. The city that never sleeps will keep you more than occupied during the first three days of your trip.

No matter what your interests are, you'll be able to find a unique and appealing attraction in NYC. This includes theater through Broadway or smaller organizations, art and science exhibits at any of the local museums, and shopping for anyone looking to bring souvenirs back home.

Some of the most notable attractions in New York City include:

  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Central Park
  • Fifth Avenue Shopping
  • The Empire State Building
  • Top Of The Rock Observation Deck
  • The American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum

Don't feel you must hit all these attractions over your three-day visit, but do your best to find the spots that interest you the most!

In our experience:

We've spent only four days in New York City, and while it's certainly a bucket list destination, we're in no rush to return. There's a lot to do there, but it's expensive too.

Traveling with young kids, we settled for Central Park (including the zoo!), taking the ferry to view Lady Liberty and walking just about everywhere in Manhattan.

Our favorite spot was the Highline Trail - just a lovely long park in the middle of the city.

Father with his sons walking at Highline Trail Central Park, New York City

Stay charged while exploring the endless attractions of New York City with a reliable Portable Power Bank, a must-have for any urban adventure.

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Day 4: Philadelphia

Once you've wrapped up your time in New York City, it's time to head south towards Philadelphia. This trip by car will take you about two hours and is 95 miles in total.

Philadelphia isn't quite as busy as New York City, but it's no less appealing to the inexperienced traveler. Here, you'll find icons from American history alongside modern marvels, including:

  • The Liberty Bell Center
  • Independence Hall
  • Peddler's Village
  • Reading Terminal Market
  • Valley Forge National Historical Park
  • Longwood Gardens
  • Please Touch Museum

You can't go to Philadelphia without trying a Philly cheesesteak. Even if you can only visit for the day, make sure to weigh in on the local debate between cheesesteak shops.

You'll be able to determine whether Joe's, Tony Luke's, or another shop makes the best cheesesteak in the city.

For Americans, a tour of Philadelphia could easily take two full days. For us, a single day was enough. We visited the Federal Mint, took a tour of the Independence Hall, viewed the Liberty Bell from outside, and even had lunch at the City Tavern restaurant, part of the historic national park.

Day 5-6: Washington, D.C.

After spending a day in Philadelphia, moving to the nation's capital is time. Washington, D.C., is 139 miles and two and a half hours away from Philadelphia.

Once settled in, you can explore the political center of one of the planet's most expansive and complicated nations.

If you're intrigued by the nation's ongoing political struggles, why not schedule a White House or Capitol Building tour? Alternatively, you can spend your day walking from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument .

Any history buffs you bring on your trip will not want to miss the Smithsonian and its many exhibits on the National Mall . The National Mall is also the best place to score a Washington D.C. hot dog, so plan your visit accordingly!

We spent three days in DC on one of our trips. There is a lot to see and do here. In addition to everything mentioned so far, we booked a Pentagon tour. If you have the time, do that too.

Father holding his son while posing in the Lincoln Memorial Statue

Be prepared for unpredictable weather in Washington, D.C., with a Compact Travel Umbrella, perfect for those sudden rain showers.

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Day 7: Shenandoah National Park

One hour and 19 minutes away from Washington, D.C., rests Shenandoah National Park, a must-see for nature lovers and history buffs alike. Seventy-five miles outside Washington, D.C., you can tour Skyline Drive free of the urban hustle and bustle.

You can spend your day hiking along the park's many trails or biking past some of the area's most diverse patches of wilderness. You can return to a hotel or spend your night camping under the stars.

The park is open 365 days a year, though it will close if the weather is set to be poor. You'll be able to visit from sunrise to sunset. Entrance fees range as follows:

  • Single Vehicles: $30
  • Single Motorcycles: $25
  • Individual Walk-Ins: $15

This is a great park for hiking and experiencing the Appalachian mountains. If you've already visited some of the parks of the Western US, such as Yellowstone or Yosemite, lower your expectations.

The scenery doesn't compare, though it is gorgeous in its own right. Still, it is a great place for hiking in the woods and taking a break from the big cities.

Mother walking along with sons on the Appalachian mountain trails

Day 8-9: Pennsylvania

Once you've finished your day in Shenandoah National Park, you can spend the next day or two touring through Pennsylvania.

You can drive back to Philadelphia if you like or visit some of the state's other attractions, including Gettysburg , Lancaster , and Amish Villages , including Intercourse and Bird-in-Hand. Other must-sees in Pennsylvania include:

  • Hershey Park - any chocolate lovers on your trip with you can smell Hershey Park before they spot it. Near the Hershey plant, this amusement park embraces its founders' love of chocolate with sweet-themed rides, plays, and attractions.
  • Falling Water - any art buff will recognize Falling Water as one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous architectural feats. Schedule a tour of this renowned home and see how Wright made history with his architectural creativity.
  • Eastern State Penitentiary - are you afraid of ghosts? If so, maybe keep the Eastern State Penitentiary off of your itinerary. Those brave enough to visit will be able to tour this historic prison and learn more about its tragic history and the superstitions that haunt the halls today.

Even though our kids were the right age, we skipped Hershey Park. We did have a lovely time couchsurfing with a local Mennonite family and experiencing the Dutch farm way of life.

We also enjoyed visiting Gettysburg, where the kids got another Jr. Ranger badge.

Kids holding toy guns with the instructor behind them at a Jr. Ranger activity at Gettysburg

Day 10: Niagara Falls

Once you've finished your time in the city, you can spend a day getting back to nature by visiting Niagara Falls . Three hours and 41 minutes (and roughly 228 miles) away from Shenandoah National Park, you can tour the falls at your leisure. Schedule a tour with the Maid Experience to get up close and personal with America's largest waterfall.

This was hands-down the most impressive spot we visited on the East Coast. Yes, it's a bit too touristy and feels commercial, but it's also the most significant natural landmark on this side of the continent.

We didn't spend a lot on the attractions and mostly experienced the falls by walking along the promenade, but we didn't miss taking a boat tour to get closer to the falls.

A happy family wearing water cellophanes near Niagara Falls

Day 11-12: Finger Lakes Area

You'll find the Finger Lakes Area just 2 hours and 15 minutes and 137 miles away from Niagara Falls. Spend a few days decompressing from your trip with time out on the water. You'll be able to fish, hike, bike, and swim in any of the area's larger lakes, including:

Spend an afternoon in Watkins Glen State Park , or head out on the town for some low-pressure souvenir shopping. You can also visit the Corning Glass Museum to taste the local art scene. If you happen to visit during the winter, you may even be able to enjoy a few days of skiing!

We enjoyed our time in the Finger Lakes area. Hiking along Watkins Glen was fantastic!

Beautiful hiking trail at Watkins Glen with a cute kid lying his back at rocky wall

And the glass museum was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise. There were tons of demos and activities, and the kids enjoyed it all. Dan even helped create a glass goldfish, which he got to take home.

A young boy holding a glass goldfish at Glass Museum

Day 13-14: Boston

After a few days out in the Finger Lakes area, you'll want to make your way back to another one of the East Coast's urban hubs. 5 hours and 41 minutes away from the Finger Lakes area, you'll find Boston ready and willing to help you wrap up your trip.

After driving 370 miles, you'll be able to pick up any last-minute souvenirs while hitting some of Boston's most exciting attractions, including:

  • The Freedom Trail
  • Boston Common
  • The Museum of Fine Art
  • The Paul Revere House
  • The Museum of Science

We spent a couple of days touring Boston. The kids loved the Freedom Trail, which we walked from the Boston Common to the USS Constitution at the harbor.

We didn't check out the museum (having seen too many of those that week), but the USS Consitution was a great tour in its own right.

Father happily raising their arms while taking a picture with the USS Constitution

Itinerary #2: The West Coast

I confess we love the American West. The sheer size, distances, places to see, unique things you can find nowhere else, and scenery like no other.

This itinerary will get you the very best of the urban destinations of the southern west coast, with a taste of Vegas.

Days 1-3: San Francisco

There's no better place to start a tour of the West Coast than San Francisco. The city is full of exciting attractions, including:

  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Alcatraz Island
  • Fisherman's Wharf

You can spend a few nights in San Francisco before moving on to your next spot. To date, we've spent three weeks touring San Francisco and the cities of the Bay Area. There's much to see and do, and we love the atmosphere.

If you're a science geek like us, don't miss out on the California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park.

A young boy taking picture at a scenic view of San Francisco

Day 4: Monterey

After a few days in California's cultural north, you'll want to head south two hours and 119 miles to Monterey. This resort town is one of the best places to rest, relax, and enjoy the best that California has to offer.

While you're in the area, you can visit:

  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Cannery Row
  • Old Fisherman's Wharf
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • Point Lobos

Monterey is a perfect family destination. We ended up spending over a week there in total and never got bored. You can read more here about things to do in Monterey and about day trips around Monterey .

Days 5-6: Highway 1 to LA

Once you're finished in Monterey, you'll want to take the scenic Highway 1 down to Los Angeles. You'll want to spread this trip over two days, stopping in Morro Bay overnight.

As you go, enjoy the unmatched view of the Pacific Ocean - the highlight of any West Coast road trip.

It's scenic, and we do not regret driving it along this bucket list road. However, it is a very long drive, and the road is pretty curvy in parts, so if you're prone to car sickness or don't have time, this could be a place to save a day.

If you're going on the drive, check out this post about driving Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles for more information on what to see and do along the way.

Mother and son taking picture near a bridge located in Highway 1

Days 7-9: Los Angeles

At the end of your five-hour, 318-mile trip, you'll have made your way to Los Angeles. Take a few days to rest and visit many of the city's hotspots, including:

  • Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Disneyland Park
  • The Hollywood Sign
  • The Hollywood Walk-of-Fame
  • Santa Monica Pier

LA can be a lot of fun but very urban, and traffic can be difficult. If you're visiting, try to avoid driving during rush hour. Our favorite and most "LA" thing was to tour the Walk of Fame and then catch a movie at the official Disney El Capitan Theatre . And sure, Disney and Universal Studios!

Young kid standing at one of the stars in Hollywoods Walk of Fame

Days 10-11: San Diego

After a few days in Los Angeles, it'll be time to move on. San Diego is two hours and 120 miles away from Los Angeles and has as many attractions for you to explore as the City of Angels. Whether you're looking to relax or want to keep the high of your road trip going, you can visit any of the following spots:

  • Black's Beach
  • Coronado Beaches
  • San Diego Zoo
  • Balboa Park

San Diego was the first place we ever visited in the United States. We fell in love with the city and spent ten days there. It's an awesome destination for families with young kids, and the long stay allowed us to make the most of the multi-day passes to local theme parks and attractions.

If you want to save, check out our list of free, fun things to do in San Diego .

Days 12-14: Las Vegas

However, California doesn't make up the full extent of the West Coast. After San Diego, Nevada, waits for you. Take the five-hour, 332-mile drive out of California, and you'll find yourself in Las Vegas.

There's more to do in the area than visit casinos. If you're looking to end the last two days of your trip on a high note, you'll want to try and visit the following attractions:

  • Red Rock Canyon National Park
  • Fremont Street Experience
  • The Neon Museum
  • Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay
  • Adventuredome Theme Park

I have to say we're not huge fans of Sin City, especially not with kids. However, there's plenty to do; if you're not traveling with kids, this is a bucket-list destination.

You may love or hate Las Vegas, but it's unlikely to leave you indifferent. And if things get too hectic, there are plenty of cool things to do in the area. Check out this list of awesome day trips around Las Vegas for more ideas.

One place that many people don't want to miss out on is the Grand Canyon - you can take an organized tour from any Las Vegas hotel or even book a helicopter ride above the greatest canyon on earth.

Zion National Park and Bryce National Park are also not far away, and you can switch a couple of days in Vegas and add them to your plans.

Itinerary #3: California & Las Vegas

What if you want to add a bit of wilderness to your tour of the west coast? You can diversify the previous itinerary with  a trip to Yosemite , so long as Tioga Pass is open. We recommend traveling in the spring, summer, and fall when the weather will be most agreeable and the wildlife most active.

Be prepared for a long trip over two weeks, and you'll be traveling 945 miles! Let's highlight some of the stops you'll come across along the way.

Days 1-3: Los Angeles

We've already touched on Los Angeles' many appealing hotspots. You'll start this modified road trip in the City of Angels. For your first three days, you'll have ample opportunity to explore the area's many theme parks, beaches, and other attractions.

Days 4-5: Highway 1

After that initial taster, you'll want to take the road via Highway 1 and follow the coast of California up to Monterey. You can break this five-hour trip up into two days, stopping at Morro Bay for rest after your first day.

Be sure to have your camera ready - nothing beats the view off Highway 1.

Day 6: Monterey

Once you've pulled off the highway, you can spend a day exploring the nooks and crannies that make up Monterey. A solid 318 miles away from Los Angeles, you'll enjoy a bit of urban energy without the stand-still traffic.

Days 7-9: San Francisco

After Monterey, driving to San Francisco is two hours and 119 miles. You can spend two days in this sprawling city, traveling via cable car and enjoying the local food scene. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or sun yourself on the beach before hitting the road again.

Days 10-11: Yosemite

After your trip north through California, it'll be time to head east. You'll drive for just over three hours and 167 miles to reach the outskirts of Yosemite. Over the next day and a half, you can explore the national park while staying in Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite National Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Entry fees break down as follows:

  • Motorcycle: $30
  • A non-commercial vehicle with 15 or fewer passengers: $35
  • Bicycle, horse, or foot entry: $20

You can camp in the park if you've made a reservation.

Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places we've ever visited. If your trip happens anytime between April and early July, you must visit to see the waterfalls in all their glory. We visited the park three times already, and I know we'll be back!

A family taking a picture at Mirror Lake Yosemite National Park, Trip Memos

Check out this post for even more gorgeous photos of Yosemite National Park .

Day 12: Drive from Yosemite to Las Vegas

After you've spent a few days hiking, biking, canoeing, and enjoying one of the United State's best known-natural attractions, you can pack up your bags and head south down into Nevada.

After a six-hour and 341-mile drive, you'll find yourself in the Entertainment Capital of the World. There's more than one way to cover the distance and plenty to see en route. Read this guide to learn more about driving from Las Vegas to Yosemite National Park .

Days 13-14: Las Vegas

You can spend the last two days of your trip enjoying all of the wonders Las Vegas has to offer. This could mean visiting one of the many casinos on the Las Vegas strip or touring the local theme parks and other attractions.

Once you've reached the end of your visit, you can head home via car or flight through McCarran International Airport.

Itinerary #4: The Rocky Mountains

Probably our favorite area in the entire continent. For summer-specific road trips, you can always take to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. By far the longest of the road trips noted here, this itinerary will take you over 1,107 miles in two weeks.

Pack your bags carefully, and research gasoline prices ahead of time! This trip may be long, but it's well worth the time.

Day 1: Salt Lake City

You'll start on your Rocky Mountain adventure when you land in Salt Lake City, Utah. Get comfortable for your first day by taking a leisurely tour around town. Salt Lake City is full of exciting places to eat and visit, including:

  • Temple Square, for Mormon architecture
  • Red Butte Garden

Be sure to book a hotel for the night - you'll need all the rest you can get for the days ahead.

Salt Lake City is a great base for starting and ending a tour of the Rockies. Half a day to a day exploring the city itself is probably enough unless you are very interested in the local history.

Day 2: Drive to Jackson, WY

After your day in Salt Lake City, it'll be time to pack up and head towards Wyoming. You'll spend roughly four and a half hours on the road as you drive toward Jackson , covering 277 miles. Be sure to stop for food and photos along the way!

Day 3-4: Jackson and Grand Tetons National Park

After spending a relaxing night in Jackson, you'll have two days to explore the town and the nearby Grand Teton National Park . Grand Teton is a mere eight minutes from the center of Jackson, making it a quick and easy trip for anyone looking to stretch their legs or spot some of the state's iconic wildlife.

Grand Tetons National Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You'll ideally want to visit in the summertime to avoid the worst weather. Entry fees break down as follows:

  • Private vehicles: $35
  • Motorcycles: $30
  • Foot or bicycle entry: $20

Register for an annual pass on the national park's website.

We spent a total of a week here, and that wasn't nearly enough! This is a gorgeous park, and Jackson is a fantastic Western-style town. The only downside to visiting Jackson is that it's also incredibly expensive.

Here's a tip: Look for accommodation at least half a year before your trip and search for vacation rentals and condos. You should spend at least a few hours in Jackson and at least a day and a half hiking in the Grand Tetons.

Father with his sons at Grand Tentos

Days 5-8: Yellowstone National Park

Once you've finished exploring the Grand Tetons, it's time to head towards the west's other iconic state park: Yellowstone. Drive just over two hours and 100 miles from Jackson, and you can explore Yellowstone National Park at your leisure.

We recommend staying overnight in the park - camping or at one of the local resorts - to get the full Yellowstone experience.

Yellowstone National Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Entry fees break down as follows:

  • Single vehicles: $35
  • Bikers or foot traffic: $20

In a nutshell, Yellowstone is awesome. A unique combination of out-of-this-world scenery, wildlife, and a unique backstory. We spent three weeks in this park, and I'm sure we'll be back. Here's our top 10 list for visiting Yellowstone .

Hot spring caused by a hot surging lava beneath at Yellowstone National Park

Day 9: Drive to the Denver area

After a few days in Yellowstone, you can head towards Colorado and the broader Denver area. This leg of your journey will take just under ten hours and will have you crossing 587 miles.

Read our 37 road-tripping tips to ensure these long drives are easy and fun!

Day 10: Rocky Mountain National Park: Estes Park to Granby via Trail Ridge Road

Once settled in the Estes Parks area , you can visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Take Trail Ridge Road into the park to enjoy truly unbelievable views. The drive down Trail Ridge Road will take an hour and a half for 74 miles.

Once you arrive at Rocky Mountain National Park, you can stretch your legs on many hiking and biking trails.

Rocky Mountain National Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week - though do be careful if you're visiting during the colder months of the year, as snowfall can block off some of the roads. The park's entry fees break down as follows:

  • Hikers or walkers: $20

You can spend the night after you visit Breckenridge for a smoother morning drive or head straight to Independence Pass.

Rocky Mountain is a gorgeous national park that many people ignore. Spectacular scenery and lots of hiking trails. Remember that the mountains are tall here, so you must be prepared for mountain conditions even in the summertime. 

This picture was taken along the Trail Ridge road in the middle of June.

Family wearing snow gear at Trail Ridge road

The weather was much better on lower elevations that day:

Man standing at the top of a huge rock between two trees

Day 11: Drive along the Independence Pass & hike the Maroon Bells

You'll want to leave Rocky Mountain National Park via Independence Pass the next day- or that same evening. Take some time out of your 45-minute drive to hike the Maroon Bell.

Once you're satisfied with the local views and exercise, you can follow the pass out to I-70. Alternatively, you can spend the night in local Aspen to enjoy local cuisine and relaxation.

Driving the Independence Pass and hiking the Maroon Bells were highlights of visiting Colorado. So much so that we have a post dedicated to driving the Independence Pass. Aspen is an interesting little ski town; it's quite fancy. Possibly too fancy for our taste.

Family standing at the Maroon Bells, Colorado taking a picture

Day 12-14: Drive via I-70 to Denver Area

As your trip ends, you'll want to take the I-70 back into the Denver area. You can use these last two days of your trip to visit the places you didn't see in Denver previously. Ski, shop, eat, and make the most of your time.

Once satisfied with your stay, you can head to the Denver International Airport to return home.

Itinerary #5: Florida

This trip through Florida will take you over 909 miles in two weeks. Tour Florida between winter and early spring, and you'll be able to enjoy some of the state's biggest attractions without worrying about traffic or crowds.  Here's more about the best time to visit Florida .

Day 1: Miami

Aerial shot of the beautiful Miami, Florida

Where better to start on a trip through Florida than in Miami ? As one of the largest urban centers in the state, you'll find plenty to do in the city alone. You're also free to use Miami as a base of operations, going back and forth as you explore the rest of the state.

Some of the best attractions in Miami include:

  • The Bayside Marketplace
  • Jungle Island
  • Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
  • Miami Seaquarium
  • Perez Art Museum Miami

Be sure to try a Cuban while you're in town! There's nothing quite like the Miami good scene.

Day 2: Everglades NP Flamingo area

48 minutes and 41 miles from Miami, you'll find one of Florida's largest natural wonders: the Everglades. On the second day of your trip through the Sunshine State, you'll want to make your way down to the NP Flamingo area.

Open between 8 AM and 4:30 PM between November and April, the NP Flamingo area is the perfect spot to canoe, hike, bike, and get a closer look at some of Florida's native wildlife.

Make sure you read our detailed guide about visiting the Everglades National Park .

Days 3-4: The Florida Keys

You'll want to head further south once you've spent the day in the Everglades. You'll find the Florida Keys 48 minutes and 36 miles away from the Everglades. The Florida Keys are the perfect marriage of bustling and relaxed.

You can spend two days exploring the island's nooks and crannies or sunning yourself on the beaches.

Some of the Keys' best attractions include:

  • Molasses Reef
  • Dolphins Plus Bayside
  • The Overseas Heritage Trail
  • Island Dolphin Care
  • Key West Sunset Sail

At the end of your days, you can return to Key West and Key Largo to rest and recharge for the day. Here's our list of the best things to do in the Florida Keys .

Day 5: Fort Lauderdale and the Treasure Coast area

Fort Lauderdale and the Treasure Coast are just north of Palm Beach. The city is only 91 miles and an hour and a half away from the Florida Keys. While you're in the city, you'll be able to visit:

  • The Historic Stranahan House Museum
  • The Museum of Discovery and Science
  • Butterfly World
  • Bonnet House Museum and Gardens

Day 6: Kennedy Space Center & Ocala

The Kennedy Space Center is 170 miles from Fort Lauderdale and is Florida's hub for space activity. Daily admission for adults costs $57 and $47 for children.

There are applicable discounts for active military representatives and seniors. Once you've paid your way in, you'll be able to tour the on-site attractions like:

  • Heroes & Legends
  • Behind the Gates
  • Race to the Moon
  • Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other
  • NASA: Now + Next
  • Plan Your Mission

While you can make the 3-hour road trip back to the city, spending the evening after your tour in Ocala will be much easier.

Day 7: Silver Springs State Park or Homosassa State Park

Big trees with dense vegetation reflecting the waters of SIlver Springs State Park

If you're looking for a day away from Florida's urban centers, you can drive twelve miles to one of the local state parks. Silver Springs State Park and Homosassa State Park are nearby and will offer you a full day of relaxation and exploration.

  • Silver Springs State Park is open from 8 AM until sunset all year round, and it only costs $2 per person to enter.
  • Homosassa State Park is open weekly between 9 AM and 5:30 PM. Children can enter for $5, and adults can enter for $13.

You can hike, canoe, and bike at both parks.

Days 8-10: Orlando

After a day of relaxation, why not head to one of the most magical places on earth? Orlando is only an hour and a half and 76 miles from Ocala. While there are other attractions besides Universal and Disney, visiting Orlando without dropping by one of the two amusement parks is almost impossible. Read more about the cost of a trip to Orlando .

  • The Disney Parks are open between 7 AM and 11 PM daily. A one-day ticket costs $109 for adult visitors.
  • Universal Orlando opens at 9 AM, and its closing time varies. A one-day ticket costs $110 for adult visitors.

Day 11-12: Tampa Bay area

Tall buildings and skyline photograph at dusk

After exploring Orlando's theme parks for a few days, you can drive an hour and a half to the Tampa Bay area. After your 85-mile drive, you'll be able to spend a few days coming down from your theme park visit while exploring some of the local attractions, including:

  • Anna Maria Island
  • Fort De Soto Park
  • The Florida Aquarium
  • The Salvador Dali Museum
  • The Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge

Day 13: Sarasota and Naples

On your way out of the Tampa Bay area, you'll want to pass through Sarasota and Naples via the Tamiami Trail and Shark Valley. On your way, you can stop by the Everglades National Park and take one last airboat tour. Here's our post about things to do in Naples, FL .

Day 14: Miami

Beaches and tall buildings in Miami with clear blue oceans

At the end of your trip, you'll want to drive back to Miami to wrap up your tour. After a two-hour and 126-mile drive, you can continue exploring Miami or go to the airport, where you can head back home.

Explore the USA!

There is much to see and do; two weeks is just the beginning! If you can, take more time to explore or plan on returning soon (we usually do both!)

We hope these itineraries inspire you to go out and explore these amazing destinations! Please use the comment form below if you have any questions or comments. We love sharing our experiences and helping others make the most of their traveling!

Fort Lauderdale beach at high noon with tall buildings at background

Hi… Do you have a blog on using public transpo in going around different states or within a state? 🙂

Hi Chariza, I haven’t don’t that myself, but I know people who have traveled across the US using public transport. The best way to get a sense of what’s available for your itinerary would be to use Google maps, set your course and see what comes up under public transport. Good luck!

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Planning a trip to United States

New York City with Statue Liberty

Plan your trip to the USA with Insight's travel advice on visas, embassies, transport, health care, currency and what to read.

• Visa and entry requirements

• Embassies and consulates

• Transport

• Health and safety

• Money and budgeting

• What to read

Visa and entry requirements 

Visitors coming to the United States must have a valid passport, visa, or other accepted documentation. However, in an effort to attract more tourists, the US initiated the Visa Waiver program for those coming on vacation for a maximum of 90 days. With 36 countries participating, the program allows for select travelers to enter the US with only a machine readable passport. Recent increased security now requires all VWP participants to apply with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Done on-line, authorization does not take much time and can occur at any point before entry into the US.

Embassies and consulates

UK: 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC; tel: 202-588-6500; www.gov.uk/world/usa   Canada: 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC; tel: 202-682-1740; http://international.gc.ca   Australia: 1601 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC; tel: 202-797-3000; www.usa.embassy.gov.au   New Zealand: 37 Observatory Circle, NW, Washington, DC; tel: 202-328-4800; www.mfat.govt.nz   Ireland: 2234 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC; tel: 202-462-3939; https://www.dfa.ie/irish-embassy/USA/   South Africa: 3051 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC; tel: 202-232-4400; www.embassy-worldwide.com

Getting to the USA

By air Dozens upon dozens of airlines serve the US on domestic and international routes. Websites for the largest and most popular are:

American Airlines: www.aa.com

British Airways: www.britishairways.com

Continental Airlines: www.continental-corporation.com

Qantas: www.qantas.com

Virgin Atlantic: www.virginatlantic.com

Every major American city has an airport. Two of the biggest international hubs are New York City's JFK International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. Within the US, there are several non-stop flights every day betwen major cities. From Europe, the UK usually has the best airfares to the US, so some Europeans fly to London and then on to New York to take advantage of the lower rates.

Getting around the USA

Air travel is the quickest and easiest way to travel between major centers. Once you're in a given region or city though, driving is often the most convenient way to get around. In some cities, especially in the Northeast, public transit is the most efficient (and cheapest) way to explore.

Domestic flights

The largest and most popular airlines providing extensive coverage of domestic routes are:

American Airlines

Continental Airlines

Delta: www.delta.com

Southwest Airlines: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southwest_Airlines

It takes roughly six hours to fly non-stop between east and west coasts. Flights running north and south between coastal cities, such as routes between LA and San Francisco, take anywhere from one to four hours. Aggregator websites for discounted airfares are an easy way to simultaneously search several airlines for their best prices. Some, such as Momondo and Kayak, act as search engines just to review prices. Online travel agencies such as Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia let you compare costs and book tickets directly.

Many of the most reliable routes are those that are popular with daily commuters, such as the Northeast Corridor line between Boston and Washington, DC. There are also good services along popular scenic routes, such as the Coast Starlight from LA to Seattle. Otherwise, intercity train travel is far more limited than in Europe.

Amtrak ( www.amtrak.com ) is the national rail provider. Tickets can be bought online, via the hotline, or at train stations from an agent or automated kiosk. The cheapest tickets are usually reserved several weeks in advance. Amtrak also offers several rail-pass options: the USA Rail Pass and the California Rail Pass. These passes cover multiple days of travel over a set time period. In addition to having a pass, you must reserve a seat for each leg of your journey.

By inter-city coach

Greyhound Lines ( www.greyhound.com ) is the largest national company, with services around the clock. In addition to single-journey tickets, Greyhound offers a Discovery Pass for unlimited travel within a certain time frame - for 7, 15, 30 or 60 days. Regional companies include Peter Pan Bus Lines (www.peterpanbus.com), which provides services between New England and Mid-Atlantic cities. For destinations that are a few hours apart, bus fares can run at less than $30.

Some discount bus lines have sprung up in regions with heavy commuter traffic. For instance, BoltBus ( www.boltbus.com ) runs between New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Newark and Washington, DC, with tickets costing less than $20.

Despite the rising cost of gas, driving can be one of the cheapest ways to get around. A few cities are known for being difficult to drive in because of their confusing street systems and aggressive drivers. Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Dallas are perhaps the worst. LA has notoriously bad traffic, but since this sprawling city is built around freeways, it is almost impossible to get around without driving.

Road conditions

The interstate highway system is extensive, well-signposted and well-maintained. Odd-numbered highways run north to south, while even-numbered highways run east to west. Many, but not all, highways or turnpikes are toll-free. Gas stations stay open late or 24 hours along main arteries.

The average minimum driving age in the US is 16, but this limit is determined by individual states. Foreign drivers' licenses are generally accepted in the US if they are in English; otherwise, it is best to get an international driver's licence before your visit. All states have adopted .08 as the legal limit of blood alcohol content for drivers.

Health and safety

Medical care.

No vaccinations are required for travel to the US, though you should make sure you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations. Health-care provision in the US is generally of a good standard, but it doesn't come cheap. Free medical services are not available in the US and a visit to a doctor or hospital can be very expensive. Federal law obliges emergency rooms to admit and care for any patient, but hospitals may balk at international-insurance carriers. Holiday medical insurance is essential.

For relatively minor health problems, such as coughs and colds, seek out a walk-in health clinic. Many pharmacy chains are adding these inexpensive treatment counters. The Walgreens chain, for example, offers Take Care Clinics, staffed by nurse practitioners, in over 300 drugstores across the country.

While there is no general symbol indicating a pharmacy, you will soon become familiar with the national drugstore chains such as Rite-Aid, Walgreens and CVS. In larger cities, you can usually find a 24-hour pharmacy or drugstore. In smaller communities, pharmacies may only stay open from 8am to 6 or 7pm.

Drugstores fill prescriptions and sell over-the-counter remedies. Some medicines you may buy over the counter in another country must be filled by a prescription in the US. The ban on HIV-positive travelers entering the US was lifted in 2010. 

American police officers are generally fair and friendly. Don't hesitate to approach one for assistance or information. City police handle local crime and traffic violations. Highway patrol officers or state troopers ensure road safety and watch for people speeding or driving while under the influence of alcohol. If you have been the victim of a crime, seek out the nearest police precinct station to file a report.

Since September 11, security checks have been stepped up at airports and other transportation hubs. In large cities, you may see armed security officers in train stations, subways, and other transit centers. Bags may be searched. Government buildings, museums, and other institutions usually run basic security checks as well. Tourist-centric areas are generally safe - though the risk of pickpockets is ubiquitous. 

Emergency contacts

Call 911 for all emergencies, including police, fire and ambulance. This call is toll-free. Emergency responders speak English; in large cities there may also be assistance in Spanish or other common languages.

202-546-1127: Travelers Aid International. This is another resource for visitors who need assistance. This network connects travelers in need with affiliate organizations in each state, which can help anyone who is stranded, lost, or otherwise seeks help.

Money and budgeting

The US dollar is divided into 100 cents. Coins: 1 (penny), 5 (nickel), 10 (dime), 25 (quarter), 50 (half-dollar), and $1. Bills: $1, $2 (rare), $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Larger denominations ($500 and $1,000) are not in general circulation. Travelers arriving and departing are required to report currency or checks that exceed a total of $10,000. 

Cash and cards

You can find ATMs (cash machines) at banks, convenience stores, some pharmacies, and some shopping malls. A transaction fee is usually charged, which varies between locations. (Tip: avoid using casino ATMs). Before your trip, ask your bank about their withdrawal policies abroad. If you bank is a member of the Global ATM Alliance, it won't charge you a withdrawal fee for taking out money from another bank in the network.

These play an even greater role in the US than in Europe. The major credit cards, such as MasterCard and Visa, are accepted almost everywhere, as is American Express.

This is a very common practice in the US. Service charges are generally not included in bills. Shelling out gratuities to all kinds of service staff, from hotel wokers to coffee-shop baristas, is the norm. Taxi drivers are usually tipped 15 to 20 percent. Porters and doormen are slipped a couple of dollars per bag; hotel cleaning staff should get a few dollars per day of your stay. Waiters are tipped 15 to 20 percent of the total restaurant bill, though at higher-end restaurants 20 percent is standard. At bars, leave the bartender a dollar or two per drink. Tour guides may suggest, implicitly or explicity, 15 percent or so.

There is no federal sales tax in the US but instead, sales taxes are levied by individual states or counties. Most states have sales taxes ranging from 4 percent to 8.25 percent; a few states, such as Oregon and New Hampshire, do not have sales taxes. In most states, but not all, food and medicine are not taxed. Hotel rooms usually get their own extra tax, which can be as high as 12 percent. Travelers also have to pay a $16.30 international transportation tax on any flight arriving in or departing from the US, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands.

Budgeting for your trip

Top-class/boutique hotel: $250-300 and upwards for a double Standard-class hotel: $120-150 for a double Bed and breakfast: $80-150 for a double Motel: $70-100 for a double Youth hostel: $20-40 per person Campsite: $12-30 per tent Domestic flight: $250-500 to fly between coasts one-way Inter-city coach ticket: $20-35 between NYC and Boston, or between NYC and Washington, DC. Inter-city train ticket: $68-100 between NYC and Boston Car hire: $25-100 per day Airport shuttle bus: $15-35 Breakfast: $8-15 Lunch in a cafe: $8-15 Coffee/tea in a cafe: $3-6 Main course, budget restaurant: $8-14 Main course, moderate restaurant: $15-24 Main course, expensive restaurant: $25-35 Bottle of wine in a restaurant: $15-50 Beer in a pub: $4-7

What to read

Here is New York - E.B. White's poignant observations are both particular and universal. On the Road - Jack Kerouac's Beat classic about the American road trip. Roadfood - Jane and Michael Stern travel all over America's smaller back roads to report on the best regional home cooking. Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck's travelogue of his 1960s cross-country journey. Walden - Henry David Thoreau's memoir of rural Massachusetts in the mid-19th century.

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As the world’s only superpower and biggest economy by a huge margin, almost everyone on the planet knows something about the USA, even if they’ve never been. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State, the Hollywood sign, Las Vegas neon, Golden Gate and the White House have long been global icons, and American brands and images are familiar everywhere, from Apple computers and Levi’s to Coca-Cola and hot dogs. Yet first-time visitors should expect some surprises .

Where to go in the USA

Outdoor activities in the usa, sports in the usa, usa: the musical melting pot.

Though its cities draw the most tourists – New York, New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco are all incredible destinations in their own right – America is above all a land of stunningly diverse and achingly beautiful landscapes . In one nation you have the mighty Rockies and spectacular Cascades, the vast, mythic desert landscapes of the Southwest, the endless, rolling plains of Texas and Kansas, the tropical beaches and Everglades of Florida, the giant redwoods of California and the sleepy, pristine villages of New England.

You can soak up the mesmerizing vistas in Crater Lake, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks, stand in awe at the Grand Canyon, hike the Black Hills, cruise the Great Lakes, paddle in the Mississippi, surf the gnarly breaks of Oahu and get lost in the vast wilderness of Alaska. Or you could easily plan a trip that focuses on the out-of-the-way hamlets, remote prairies, eerie ghost towns and forgotten byways that are every bit as “American” as its showpiece icons and monuments.

The sheer size of the country prevents any sort of overarching statement about the typical American experience, just as the diversity of its people undercuts any notion of the typical American. Icons as diverse as Mohammed Ali, Louis Armstrong, Sitting Bull, Hillary Clinton, Michael Jordan, Madonna, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley, Mark Twain, John Wayne and Walt Disney continue to inspire and entertain the world, and everyone has heard of the blues, country and western, jazz, rock ’n’ roll and hip-hop – all American musical innovations.

There are Irish Americans, Italian Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans and Latinos, Texan cowboys and Bronx hustlers, Seattle hipsters and Alabama pastors, New England fishermen, Las Vegas showgirls and Hawaiian surfers. Though it often sounds clichéd to foreigners, the only thing that holds this bizarre federation together is the oft-maligned “American Dream”. While the USA is one of the world’s oldest still-functioning democracies and the roots of its European presence go back to the 1500s, the palpable sense of newness here creates an odd sort of optimism, wherein anything seems possible and fortune can strike at any moment.

Indeed, aspects of American culture can be difficult for many visitors to understand, despite the apparent familiarity: its obsession with guns; the widely held belief that “government” is bad; the real, genuine pride in the American Revolution and the US Constitution, two hundred years on; the equally genuine belief that the USA is the “greatest country on earth”; the wild grandstanding of its politicians (especially at election time); and the bewildering contradiction of its great liberal and open-minded traditions with laissez-faire capitalism and extreme cultural and religious conservatism. That’s America: diverse, challenging, beguiling, maddening at times, but always entertaining and always changing. And while there is no such thing as a typical American person or landscape, there can be few places where strangers can feel so confident of a warm reception.

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The most invigorating American expeditions are often those that take in more than one region. You do not, however, have to cross the entire continent from shore to shore in order to appreciate its amazing diversity; it would take a long time to see the whole country, and the more time you spend simply travelling, the less time you’ll have to savour the small-town pleasures and backroad oddities that may well provide your strongest memories. Unless you’re travelling to and within a centralized location such as New York City, you’ll need a car – that mandatory component of life in the USA.

Florida

The obvious place to start for most people is New York City – international colossus of culture and finance, with a colourful history and numerous skyscrapers to prove its status as the essential American city. While you could easily spend weeks exploring the place, just a little more effort will take you into the deeper reaches of the Mid-Atlantic region to the north. Here, whether in upstate New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, major cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh border a landscape of unexpected charm and beauty, from the bucolic hamlets of Amish country and the wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains to iconic sights such as Niagara Falls and holiday favourites like the Catskills. Next door, New England has a similarly varied appeal; most visitors know it for the colonial and history-rich city of Boston, but there’s much to be said for its rural byways, leading to centuries-old villages in Vermont and New Hampshire, bayside Massachusetts and the rugged individualism of the lobster-catching harbours and mountains of Maine – which take up nearly half the region.

Seven hundred miles west lie the Great Lakes, on the whole the country’s most underappreciated region; vigorous cities including Chicago and Minneapolis, isolated and evocative lakeshores in Michigan and Minnesota, and rousing college towns such as Madison, Wisconsin, reward any visitor with more than a few days to explore. Bordering Ohio to the east, the nearby Capital Region is the home of Washington DC, capital of the nation and centrepiece for its grandest museums and monuments. Nearby Baltimore is one of the region’s few other big cities, and to the south the old tobacco country of Virginia holds a fair share of American history while coal-mining West Virginia has a scattering of curious natural treasures.

Although Virginia is technically part of the South, for the purest experience you’ll need to venture even further to get the feel of its charismatic churches, BBQ dinners, country music and lively cities such as Atlanta and Memphis. The “deepest” part of the South lies in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, and in these states – with their huge plantations and long history of slavery – you’ll get a very different view of American life than anywhere else in the country. Other Southern states have their own unique cultures: Florida is a mix of old-fashioned Southern manners and backwater swamps leavened with ultra-modern cities including Miami, Latino culture, miles of tempting beaches and the lustrous Keys islands; Louisiana offers more atmospheric swamps and “Cajun” culture, with New Orleans one of the few spots in the USA with a strongly Catholic, yet broadly indulgent culture of drinking, dancing and debauchery; and Texas is the country’s capital for oil-drilling, BBQ-eating and right-wing-politicking, with huge expanses of land, equally big cities and plenty of history.

The Great Plains, which sit in the geographical centre of the country, are often overlooked by visitors, but include many of America’s most well-known sights, from Mount Rushmore in South Dakota to the Gateway Arch in St Louis and the Wild West town of Dodge City in Kansas. To the west rise the great peaks of the Rockies, and with them a melange of exciting cities such as Denver, beautiful mountain scenery like Montana’s Glacier National Park, the geysers of Yellowstone and great opportunities for skiing throughout at places like Idaho’s Sun Valley. Bordering the southern side of the Rockies, the desert Southwest region is also rich with astounding natural beauty – whether in the colossal chasm of the Grand Canyon, striking national parks at Zion and Canyonlands or the Native American heart of the Four Corners region – along with a handful of charming towns and less interesting big cities.

The country’s most populous state is, of course, California, synonymous with the idea of “the West Coast” and its freewheeling culture of surfing, libertine lifestyles and self-worship. However, the further from the water you get, the less the stereotypes hold, especially in the lava beds and redwoods of the far north, the ghost towns and magnificent Yosemite in the Sierras and the intriguing deserts of Death Valley. To the state’s north, Oregon and Washington – the rain-soaked pair making up the Pacific Northwest – offer pleasantly progressive towns such as Seattle and Portland and some of the most striking scenery anywhere in the USA: the stunning landscape of the Columbia River Gorge, the pristine islands of the San Juans, the snowy peaks of the Cascades and more.

Beyond the lower 48 states, Alaska is a winter wonderland of great mountains and icy spires, with few roads and people, but much to offer anyone with a zest for the outdoors and the unexpected. Hawaii is the country’s holiday paradise, a handful of splendid islands in the central Pacific with remote jungle settings and roaring volcanoes.

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A view of Golden Gate bridge from the top of Twin Peaks mountain, the highest place in San Francisco

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Coated by dense forests, cut by deep canyons and capped by great mountains, the USA is blessed with fabulous backcountry and wilderness areas. Even the heavily populated East Coast has its share of open space, notably along the Appalachian Trail, which winds from Mount Katahdin in Maine to the southern Appalachians in Georgia – some two thousand miles of untrammelled woodland. To experience the full breathtaking sweep of America’s wide-open stretches, however, head west: to the Rockies, the red-rock deserts of the Southwest or right across the continent to the amazing wild spaces of the West Coast. On the downside, be warned that in many coastal areas, the shoreline can be disappointingly hard to access, with a high proportion under private ownership.

National parks and monuments

The National Park Service administers both national parks and national monuments. Its rangers do a superb job of providing information and advice to visitors, maintaining trails and organizing such activities as free guided hikes and campfire talks.

In principle, a national park preserves an area of outstanding natural beauty, encompassing a wide range of terrain and prime examples of particular landforms and wildlife. Thus Yellowstone has boiling geysers and herds of elk and bison, while Yosemite offers towering granite walls and cascading waterfalls. A national monument is usually much smaller, focusing perhaps on just one archeological site or geological phenomenon, such as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Altogether, the national park system comprises around four hundred units, including national seashores, lakeshores, battlefields and other historic sites.

While national parks tend to be perfect places to hike – almost all have extensive trail networks – all are far too large to tour entirely on foot (Yellowstone, for example, is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined). Even in those rare cases where you can use public transport to reach a park, you’ll almost certainly need some sort of vehicle to explore it once you’re there. The Alaska parks are mostly howling wilderness, with virtually no roads or facilities for tourists – you’re on your own.

Most parks and monuments charge admission fees, ranging from $5 to $25, which cover a vehicle and all its occupants for up to a week. For anyone on a touring vacation, it may well make more sense to buy the Inter-agency Annual Pass, also known as the “America the Beautiful Pass”. Sold for $80 at all federal parks and monuments, or online at store.usgs.gov/pass, this grants unrestricted access for a year to the bearer, and any accompanying passengers in the same vehicle, to all national parks and monuments, as well as sites managed by such agencies as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and the BLM. It does not, however, cover or reduce additional fees like charges for camping in official park campgrounds, or permits for backcountry hiking or rafting.

Two further passes, obtainable at any park but not online, grant free access for life to all national parks and monuments, again to the holder and any accompanying passengers, and also provide a fifty percent discount on camping fees. The Senior Pass is available to any US citizen or permanent resident aged 62 or older for a one-time fee of $10, while the Access Pass is issued free to blind or permanently disabled US citizens or permanent residents. While hotel-style lodges are found only in major parks, every park or monument tends to have at least one well-organized campground. Often, a cluster of motels can be found not far outside the park boundaries. With appropriate permits – subject to restrictions in popular parks – backpackers can also usually camp in the backcountry (a general term for areas inaccessible by road).

Other public lands

National parks and monuments are often surrounded by tracts of national forest – also federally administered but much less protected. These too usually hold appealing rural campgrounds but, in the words of the slogan, each is a “Land Of Many Uses”, and usually allows logging and other land-based industry (thankfully, more often ski resorts than strip mines).

Other government departments administer wildlife refuges, national scenic rivers, recreation areas and the like. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the largest holdings of all, most of it open rangeland, such as in Nevada and Utah, but also including some enticingly out-of-the-way reaches. Environmentalist groups engage in endless running battles with developers, ranchers and the extracting industries over uses – or alleged misuses – of federal lands.

While state parks and state monuments, administered by individual states, preserve sites of more limited, local significance, many are explicitly intended for recreational use, and thus hold better campgrounds than their federal equivalents.

Camping and backpacking

The ideal way to see the great outdoors – especially if you’re on a low budget – is to tour by car and camp in state and federal campgrounds. Typical public campgrounds range in price from free (usually when there’s no water available, which may be seasonal) to around $30 per night. Fees at the generally less scenic commercial campgrounds – abundant near major towns, and often resembling open-air hotels, complete with shops and restaurants – are more like $20–35. If you’re camping in high season, either reserve in advance or avoid the most popular areas.

Backcountry camping in the national parks is usually free, by permit only. Before you set off on anything more than a half-day hike, and whenever you’re headed for anywhere at all isolated, be sure to inform a ranger of your plans, and ask about weather conditions and specific local tips. Carry sufficient food and drink to cover emergencies, as well as all the necessary equipment and maps. Check whether fires are permitted; even if they are, try to use a camp stove in preference to local materials. In wilderness areas, try to camp on previously used sites. Where there are no toilets, bury human waste at least six inches into the ground and 100ft from the nearest water supply and campground.

Health issues

Backpackers should never drink from rivers and streams; you never know what acts people – or animals – have performed further upstream. Giardia – a water-borne bacteria that causes an intestinal disease characterized by chronic diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, fatigue and weight loss – is a serious problem. Water that doesn’t come from a tap should be boiled for at least five minutes, or cleansed with an iodine-based purifier or a giardia-rated filter.

Hiking at lower elevations should present few problems, though near water mosquitoes can drive you crazy; Avon Skin-so-Soft or anything containing DEET are fairly reliable repellents. Ticks – tiny beetles that plunge their heads into your skin and swell up – are another hazard. They sometimes leave their heads inside, causing blood clots or infections, so get advice from a ranger if you’ve been bitten. One species of tick causes Lyme Disease, a serious condition that can even affect the brain. Nightly inspections of your skin are strongly recommended.

Beware, too, of poison oak, which grows throughout the west, usually among oak trees. Its leaves come in groups of three (the middle one on a short stem) and are distinguished by prominent veins and shiny surfaces. If you come into contact with it, wash your skin (with soap and cold water) and clothes as soon as possible – and don’t scratch. In serious cases, hospital emergency rooms can give antihistamine or adrenaline shots. A comparable curse is poison ivy, found throughout the country. For both plants, remember the sage advice, “Leaves of three, let it be”.

Mountain hikes

Take special care hiking at higher elevations, for instance in the 14,000ft peaks of the Rockies, or in California’s Sierra Nevada (and certainly in Alaska). Late snows are common, and in spring avalanches are a real danger, while meltwaters make otherwise simple stream crossings hazardous. Weather conditions can also change abruptly. Altitude sickness can affect even the fittest of athletes: take it easy for your first few days above 7000ft. Drink lots of water, avoid alcohol, eat plenty of carbohydrates and protect yourself from the sun.

Desert hikes

If you intend to hike in the desert, carry plentiful extra food and water, and never go anywhere without a map. Cover most of your ground in early morning: the midday heat is too debilitating. If you get lost, find some shade and wait. So long as you’ve registered, the rangers will eventually come looking for you.

At any time of year, you’ll stay cooler during the day if you wear full-length sleeves and trousers, while a wide-brimmed hat and good sunglasses will spare you the blinding headaches that can result from the desert light. You may also have to contend with flash floods, which can appear from nowhere. Never camp in a dry wash, and don’t attempt to cross flooded areas until the water has receded.

It’s essential to carry – and drink – large quantities of water in the desert. In particular, hiking in typical summer temperatures requires drinking a phenomenal amount. Loss of the desire to eat or drink is an early symptom of heat exhaustion, so it’s possible to become seriously dehydrated without feeling thirsty. Watch out for signs of dizziness or nausea; if you feel weak and stop sweating, it’s time to get to the doctor. Check whether water is available on your trail; ask a ranger, and carry plenty with you even if it is.

When driving in the desert, carry ample water in the car, take along an emergency pack with flares, a first-aid kit and snakebite kit, matches and a compass. A shovel, tyre pump and extra petrol are always a good idea. If the engine overheats, don’t turn it off; instead, try to cool it quickly by turning the front end of the car towards the wind. Carefully pour some water on the front of the radiator, and turn the air conditioning off and the heat up full blast. In an emergency, never panic and leave the car: you’ll be harder to find wandering around alone.

Adventure travel

The opportunities for adventure travel in the USA are all but endless, whether your tastes run towards whitewater rafting down the Colorado River, mountain biking in the volcanic Cascades, canoeing down the headwaters of the Mississippi River, horseback riding in Big Bend on the Rio Grande in Texas or Big Wall rock climbing on the sheer granite monoliths of Yosemite Valley.

While an exhaustive listing of the possibilities could fill a huge volume, certain places have an especially high concentration of adventure opportunities, such as Moab, Utah or New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Downhill ski resorts can be found all over the USA. The eastern resorts of Vermont and New York State, however, pale by comparison with those of the Rockies, such as Vail and Aspen in Colorado, and the Sierra Nevada in California. Expect to pay $45–100 per day (depending on the quality and popularity of the resort) for lift tickets, plus another $30 or more per day to rent equipment.

A cheaper alternative is cross-country skiing, or ski touring. Backcountry ski lodges dot mountainous areas along both coasts and in the Rockies. They offer a range of rustic accommodation, equipment rental and lessons, from as little as $20 a day for skis, boots and poles, up to about $200 for an all-inclusive weekend tour.

Watch out for bears, deer, moose, mountain lions and rattlesnakes in the backcountry, and consider the effect your presence can have on their environment.

Other than in a national park, you’re highly unlikely to encounter a bear. Even there, it’s rare to stumble across one in the wilderness. If you do, don’t run, just back away slowly. Most fundamentally, it will be after your food, which should be stored in airtight containers when camping. Ideally, hang both food and garbage from a high but slender branch some distance from your camp. Never attempt to feed bears, and never get between a mother and her young. Young animals are cute; their irate mothers are not.

Snakes and creepy-crawlies

Though the deserts in particular are home to a wide assortment of poisonous creatures, these are rarely aggressive towards humans. To avoid trouble, observe obvious precautions. Don’t attempt to handle wildlife; keep your eyes open as you walk, and watch where you put your hands when scrambling over obstacles; shake out shoes, clothing and bedding before use; and back off if you do spot a creature, giving it room to escape.

If you are bitten or stung, current medical thinking rejects the concept of cutting yourself open and attempting to suck out the venom. Whether snake, scorpion or spider is responsible, apply a cold compress to the wound, constrict the area with a tourniquet to prevent the spread of venom, drink lots of water and bring your temperature down by resting in a shady area. Stay as calm as possible and seek medical help immediately.

As well as being good fun, catching a baseball game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on a summer afternoon or joining the screaming throngs at a Steelers football game in Pittsburgh can give visitors an unforgettable insight into a town and its people. Professional teams almost always put on the most spectacular shows, but big games between college rivals, Minor League baseball games and even Friday night high-school football games provide an easy and enjoyable way to get on intimate terms with a place.

Specific details for the most important teams in all the sports are given in the various city accounts in this Guide. They can also be found through the Major League websites: mlb.com (baseball); nba.com (basketball); nfl.com (football); nhl.com (ice hockey); and mlssoccer.com (soccer).

Major spectator sports

Baseball, because the Major League teams play so many games (162 in the regular season, usually at least five a week from April to September, plus the October playoffs), is probably the easiest sport to catch when travelling. The ballparks – such as Boston’s historic Fenway Park, New York’s famed Yankee Stadium, LA’s glamorous Dodger Stadium or Baltimore’s evocative Camden Yards – are great places to spend time. It’s also among the cheapest sports to watch (from around $10–15 a seat for the bleachers), and tickets are usually easy to come by.

Pro football, the American variety, is quite the opposite. Tickets are exorbitantly expensive and almost impossible to obtain (if the team is any good), and most games are played in huge, fortress-like stadiums far out in the suburbs; you’ll do better stopping in a bar to watch it on TV.

College football is a whole lot better and more exciting, with chanting crowds, cheerleaders and cheaper tickets, which can be hard to obtain in football-crazed college towns in parts of the South and Midwest. Although New Year’s Day games such as the Rose Bowl or the Orange Bowl are all but impossible to see live, big games like USC vs UCLA, Michigan vs Ohio State or Notre Dame vs anybody are not to be missed if you’re anywhere nearby.

Basketball also brings out intense emotions. The protracted pro playoffs run well into June. The men’s month-long college playoff tournament, called “March Madness”, is acclaimed by many as the nation’s most exciting sports extravaganza, taking place at venues spread across the country in many small to mid-sized towns.

Ice hockey, usually referred to simply as hockey, was long the preserve of Canada and cities in the far north of the USA, but now penetrates the rest of the country, with a concentration around the East Coast and Great Lakes. Tickets, particularly for successful teams, are hard to get and not cheap.

Other sports

Soccer remains much more popular as a participant sport, especially for kids, than a spectator one, and those Americans that are interested in it usually follow foreign matches like England’s Premier League, rather than their home-grown talent. The good news for international travellers is that any decent-sized city will have one or two pubs where you can catch games from England, various European countries or Latin America; check out Live Sport TV for a list of such establishments and match schedules.

Golf, once the province of moneyed businessmen, has attracted a wider following in recent decades due to the rise of celebrity golfers such as Tiger Woods and the construction of numerous municipal and public courses. You’ll have your best access at these, where a round of golf may cost from $15 for a beaten-down set of links to around $50 for a chintzier course. Private golf courses have varying standards for allowing non-members to play (check their websites) and steeper fees – over $100 a person for the more elite courses.

The other sporting events that attract national interest involve four legs or four wheels. The Kentucky Derby, held in Louisville on the first Saturday in May, is the biggest date on the horse-racing calendar. Also in May, the NASCAR Indianapolis 500, the world’s largest motor-racing event, fills that city with visitors throughout the month, with practice sessions and carnival events building up to the big race.

Some of the world’s greatest musical genres took root in cities and small towns across America, products of the collisions of European, African and indigenous cultures.

The blues was forged from a combination of African and gospel sounds into a simple twelve-bar form during the late nineteenth century. You can still catch Mississippi blues in Delta juke joints, and electrified urban blues in the gritty clubs of Chicago.

Jazz took root in the Creole culture of New Orleans, blending African traditions with western techniques to create a distinctly American art form. Jazz is still dance music in New Orleans; cooler urban stylings can be enjoyed in clubs in New York.

Nashville remains synonymous with country and western ; outside the cities, rural Appalachia brims with backwoods fiddlers and Louisiana’s sleepy bayous are alive with Cajun and zydeco.

Rock ’n’ roll has come a long way since its blues-based infancy, when young trucker Elvis Presley shook up white country with raw R&B in 1950s Memphis. Spiky New York punk, quirky Ohio industrial, furious LA hardcore, slacker Seattle grunge, and spaced-out neo-psychedelia are but a few of the rock genres that continue to thrive in the USA.

In the 1960s, the heartfelt soul of masters like Otis Redding preceded the explosion of talent that came to define the Motown era, born in Detroit.

Loaded with attitude, street-style and political savvy, hip-hop was born on the streets of New York, and later LA. Today any city with a major black population has a distinctive rap scene, including in the so-called “Dirty South”, where rappers play on the raw call-and-response stylings of early blues.

Modern dance music had its genesis in Chicago house , New York garage and Detroit techno , though club culture is now a global phenomenon.

Top image: Monument Valley © corumov/Shutterstock

Travel advice for USA

From travel safety to visa requirements, discover the best tips for traveling to USA

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  • Getting around USA: Transportation Tips
  • Travel Tips USA for planning and on the go
  • Best time to visit USA

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Andy Turner

written by Andy Turner

updated 26.04.2021

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Three Week Traveller

3 Weeks In USA: East Coast, West Coast, Road Trip

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Everyone should experience visiting the US at least once in their lifetime. It is a country with diverse nationalities and races, you’ll get to experience various cultures, from food to events. And honestly, they are undoubtedly one of the most influential countries when it comes to the economy, politics, and well, public figures.

Aside from that, it is also filled with natural and man-made wonders, tons of activities you can participate in, and overall make great memories. Less than a week and even a week is not enough, the United States is massive. That’s why I created a list of things that you can do and places to visit for 3 weeks in USA. 

This itinerary doesn’t only cover one location. I created one for those who plan to go to the east coast, west coast, north coast, and even south coast. This detailed guide might convince you to start looking for great deals right now, arrange your passports and visas, and book a flight for your trip to the US of A.

ALSO READ: Safety tips for a first-time traveller or solo traveller

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO THE US

4 images - Chicago cloud gate, California cost line, las vegas sign, Grand Canyon - 3 WEEKS IN USA ITINERARY

Before you go and book your flight and accommodation, there are a few things you should know and remember for travelling to the US. These tips will help you write a travel itinerary suitable for you and your budget.

When is the best time to go

Depending on what you want to do, the season is important Summer can be tricky if you want to go on a beach holiday. It’s a busy season since locals are also travelling during this time. This means a price hike is related to anything about holidays and travelling. It is also very crowded, and long lines are inevitable. You may consider going just before June or after August if you hate these things.

If you are coming to the US for a winter break, remember that the North of the US can have extreme weather that could lead to delays or cancellation of flights. So, make sure to leave a wriggle room for these situations.

Are 3 weeks enough for the US

Three weeks in the US is not enough. However, with good planning and realistic idea, it can be done. What I meant by that is choosing the places you want to see. For example, if it’s your first time in the US, it’s understandable that you want to see everything. But that’s just not possible.

Instead, you can see 2-3 states for this trip. It will even be better if you can stick to one region for now. Let’s say you’re visiting in the summer. For that, focus on the coastal states with fantastic beaches, such as California, Florida, and even spend 3 weeks in Hawaii .

But if you want to hike, the national parks have so much to offer, which is better than hiking in summer. There are plenty of options for those planning to go from California, Colorado, and Utah in winter. New England has many places for the autumn trip for beautiful fall foliage.

Another thing to remember when choosing where to go to maximise your time in the US is transportation. You might have to book a domestic flight if you want to visit multiple states. But if the places are near one another, road-tripping can do that.

One thing that many people fail to realise is how big the US is. The bottom line, be realistic and make sure not to cram too much on your itinerary. >> Read smartly packing for a 3-week trip

Average cost of 20 days in the US

Accommodation is the most expensive part of touring the US. On average, a decent double room costs about $100. You can find something cheaper but expect it to be low-quality, or you must book a bunk bed in a hostel. This is why if you plan to make a road trip, you might want to look at car rentals where you can also sleep in them.

On average, a single person can spend $2,500 for a 20-day trip in the US . If you’re on a t ight budget, you can do it for under $1,800 if you don’t mind staying in dorm rooms. For people planning to stay at luxurious hotels, around $5,000 will do it very comfortably.

These prices per person don’t include flights to and from the US. Purchasing travel insurance is also recommended to avoid insane medical bills if something terrible happens.

Getting around

Moving around the US is pretty easy but costly. Most tourists would rent a car and drive around. It’s much cheaper and more convenient. However, driving can be exhausting and very time-consuming if you plan to travel from coast to coast or even from one state to two states over.

Of course, there are so many domestic flights. The challenge is how expensive it can be. Flying between European countries is far cheaper than flying between states in the US. Their geographical distance is really far, but maybe flight tickets are expensive.

Because you can find flights from Boston to London or Iceland for about the same price as flights from Boston to Los Angeles.

The US has one of the most challenging visas, like Australia and the UK. If you are from Canada, most of Europe, East Europe, some Oceania, and Chile, you don’t need a visa for 90 to 180 days. However, you must need to obtain an ESTA (electric authorisation) if you arrive via air or sea.

One last thing, medical services are costly in the US . Ensure you have travel insurance that covers medical and is valid in the US. Some immigration officers would even ask you to show proof of your coverage, and failing to provide one can be a reason to deny you entrance to the US.

Other basic tips

Just a quick blurb of tools I always use when travelling anywhere in the world, regardless of how long I’ll be there. Some of these services even offer flexible cancellations in case your plans change. Booking your hotel in advance is recommended, especially if you are coming during the peak season.

PINNED MAP OF MUST-SEE PLACES IN THE US

You can check out this map to help you visualise the must-visit spots in the US.

The US is such a massive country we won’t be able to cover all the must-see attractions there in this post. I only added the ones that we will mention in this itinerary.

Credit: Map data: Google , click the top right corner to enlarge the map

3 WEEKS IN USA ITINERARY

This itinerary will help you write your own travel plan. Of course, you don’t have to follow my travel, but I hope I can give you a tip or two on places to see and good to enjoy. I recommend you do the East Coast as a road trip.

Perhaps another road trip for the West Coast before catching a flight to Chicago. We have a specific 3 weeks on West Coast USA with 2 different itineraries you can choose from.

Package tours

For those who are looking for more convenience, you might want to look into package tours. These tours are basically an all-inclusive trip. The tour operator will book the transportation, accommodation, activities, getting tickets, and even arrange the meals throughout the trip.

This will ease the planning and ensure that you see the top sites the US has to offer. However, these package tours usually doesn’t include your main flight to the US (and back home), souvenir shopping, and gratuity (which is expected in the US).

Itinerary #1: 3 Weeks In USA East Coast

The summer lasts from June to September for people who want to get tanned or are just fond of the beach. That’s why this is the perfect time for you to visit the East Coast, as it has a lot of beaches. If you prefer the snow, the best months are from December to February. I listed some states where you can spend your winter/spring/summer/fall vacation. 

You can visit these places by driving, especially if you’re going to stay for 3 weeks in the USA, it will be a great idea. So, here are the places you could visit for your 3 week US road trip. You can pick up the car in Massachusetts and drop it off in Florida.

>> ALSO READ: An article that focuses on 3 weeks on east coast USA – there are two itineraries to choose from

Massachusetts for 4 days

Massachusetts is part of the original New England region, established by Brits when they arrived in the US. It holds a lot of history and is rich in fantastic natural beauty. It’s great to start your trip here because Boston Logan International Airport is one of the busiest hubs on the West Coast.

Most people visit Boston, but there is more to explore, such as Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, and world-class Harvard University. If you are planning to rent a car , you should set a pick-up at the airport, but see if you can drop it off in Florida or at one of your stops along the way down south.

  • For exploring Boston downtown, get a hop-on, hop-off trolley pass or get a Go City pass
  • Cape Cod National Seashore
  • Boston Common and Public Garden Swan Boats
  • Plimoth Patuxet
  • Spooky Tours – Haunting of Salem – Haunting Salem or Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley
  • Museum of Science
  • Fenway Park – join a tour with a local guide
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Freedom Trail – discover with history and food
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Day trip to Martha’s Vineyard – book a tour with a round-trip ferry
  • Faneuil Hall
  • Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum – enjoy an interactive tour
  • Crane Beach
  • Boston Harbor Islands State Park
  • Carson Beach
  • John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library
  • Harvard University – explore with a student guide
  • Wachusett Mountain
  • Jiminy Peak
  • Learn about the cuisine of Massachusettes – book a walking tasting tour or underground donut tour or buffet cruise at Boston Harbor

Massachusetts’ trademark foods that are must-try include lobster rolls, cannolis, Boston cream pie, and a whole lot more which you’ll discover once you get there.

Accommodations in Boston:

  • Budget hostels – HI Boston Hostel or Boston Homestel
  • Mid-range hotels – Oasis Guest House or DoubleTree by Hilton
  • Luxury hotels – Encore Boston Harbor or InterContinental Boston – if you are looking for something very unique, you should definitely check out these awesome hotels with rooftop pools in Boston

New York City for 3 days

One must not miss New York City if one is visiting the west coast of the US. From great shows, news network headquarters, music scene, nightlife, great food, tasty dishes, and rich culture – New York has it all.

Three days here might not be a lot, but it’s an expensive destination, so this short of time should be enough to see the top sites such as Time Square, Film Studios, the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, see a show, and joining a food tour.

You can reach New York from Boston in 4 hours if you drive. You can also book a bus for 4 hr and 20 min. The train is the fastest, the travel time is 3 hr and 50 mins. A direct flight is only an hour and 30 mins.

  • Discover New York – on a one-day sightseeing tour or purchase a New York CityPass
  • Central Park
  • Manhattan – go on a helicopter ride
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Statue of Liberty – combo with Ellis Island tour
  • Times Square
  • One World Observatory – get your admission ticket
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • 9/11 Memorial Museum – purchase an entry ticket
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • Summit One Vanderbilt – read the tour reviews
  • Empire State Building – skip the line and go to 102nd Deck
  • The High Line
  • American Museum of Natural History – get your pass
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Friends Experience – visit the production set
  • Top of The Rock
  • Ice Cream Museum – book a ticket in advance
  • Bryant Park
  • Go on culinary experience – visit Chinatown and Little Italy or Greenwich Village or Brooklyn food tour or Hell’s Kitchen Tour
  • Washington Square Park
  • Enjoy a dinner cruise

Accommodations in New York City :

  • Affordable: The Local NY or HI New York City Hostel or West Side YMCA
  • Mid-range: The Herald by LuxUrban or Raven Hotel by Wyndham
  • Luxury: Riu Plaza Manhattan Time Square or Arlo Midtown or citizenM New York Time Square

Washington D.C. for 3 days

Washington D.C. is known for being the capital of the US. It’s also the home of many excellent museums and historical locations. It is a great place to visit if you love history and culture. It also has so many government buildings that are open to the public. If you love history and politics, this is a must-not-miss destination.

Washington D.C is a historical destination filled with many places to explore. However, if you have a limited time here, you can still do a lot in 2 days in Washington D.C . Also, don’t miss out on food to try! This place’s signature dishes include avocado toast, saganaki, and pumpkin curry, among other varieties.  

Do not confuse it with Washington State (located on the west coast).

You can get from New York to Washington D.C by bus , which will take around 4 hr and 20 mins. The train travel is about 3 hr and 50 mins. If you’re driving, that’s approximately 4 hours. You can fly here , but you might need to make a connection somewhere.

Jefferson Memorial and Cape Cod - 3 WEEKS IN USA ITINERARY

  • Learn about Washington DC – in a one-day tour or on a bike tour or Capitol Hill guided tour
  • Library of Congress
  • United States Capitol and Capitol Hill – book a Moonlight tour by trolley or simply get your reserved entry pass
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Discover DC Monuments – via big bus hop-on, hop-off or a night tour
  • Washington Monument
  • The White House – advance planning must be done
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • National Mall – tour on an electric vehicle
  • Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin
  • Mount Vernon – do a day trip combo with Alexandria
  • National Gallery of Art
  • Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Museum – visit the museum with a private guide
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Arlinton National Cemetry – walking tour with changing of guards
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  • National Harbor Capital Wheel – check the ticket price
  • International Spy Museum
  • Try out local food and drinks – on a food and history tour or pub crawl and history or cruise and gourmet

Accommodations in Washington D.C :

  • Budget hostels – Duo Housing or Duo Nomad
  • Mid-range hotels – Washington Plaza Hotel or citizenM Washington DC
  • Luxury hotels – JW Marriott or Sofitel Lafayette Square

North Carolina for 3 days

Some fantastic dishes that you can try out while staying here are chocolate chess pie, steamed oysters, shrimp hushpuppies, Malayan chicken tikka, and more. If you want to explore this state more, here’s a fun guide to the best North Carolina road trip itineraries .

You can take the bus from Washington D.C., to Raleigh in 6 hr and 30 mins. Surprisingly the train is now faster than the bus, around 6 hours. Driving to Raleigh will be the quickest option, taking 4 hours and 20 mins. Flying directly is the most comfortable, just a little over an hour.

  • Charlotte 90-minute electric cart tour – read the reviews and check the price
  • James B. Hunt Jr. Library
  • Pullen Park
  • Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park
  • Clingmans Dome
  • Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
  • Juniper Level Botanic Garden
  • Pisgah National Forest
  • Wright Brothers National Memorial
  • Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State
  • North Carolina Museum of Art

Accommodations in Raleigh, North Carolina:

  • Budget hostels/Inn – Super 8 or Days Inn – both are by Wyndham
  • Mid-range hotels – Best Western Plus Crabtree Valley or Hyatt Place
  • Luxury hotels – Embassy Suites or The StateView

Georgia for 3 days

Georgia is well-known for various foods and dishes, including fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, pralines, and peaches. Apart from that, Georgia is also loved for its diverse and wide range of activities, such as hiking, bird watching, and water excursions.

Regarding food and drinks, Georgia has a massive and passionate food scene featuring the best fried chicken, biscuits, and peach cobbler. There are also plenty of vineyards throughout the state if you want to do wine-tasting tours.

If you’re visiting at the right time, you can join Atlanta Dogwood Festival, Savannah Music Festival, and Georgia State Fair. Get to Savannah from Raleigh by bus or train, where the journey is around 9 hours. Driving will be the best option, which is about 5 hours. There’s a flight , although it requires a connection.

  • Save money and get an Atlanta CityPass
  • High Museum of Art
  • Explore Savannah – by land and sea tour or hop-on, hop-off ancient trolley or join a narrated trolley tour or Riverboat Cruise
  • The Davenport House Museum
  • Atlanta – learn about Black History and Civil Rights
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park
  • Wormsloe Plantation – join a tour from Savannah
  • Savannah Theater
  • Spooky Savannah – check this history and haunted tour
  • Forsyth Park
  • Tybee Island – book a guided tour
  • Service Brewing Company
  • World of Coca-Cola – get your skip-the-line ticket
  • Piedmont Park
  • Victorian Districts – combo with Bonaventure Cemetery tour
  • Centennial Olympic Park
  • Discover food and drinks culture – culinary and culture walking tour or pub crawl and food
  • Atlanta Botanical Garden
  • Enjoy nightlife – Savannah Drag Queen Show or Comedy Trolley Tour
  • The Olde Pink House
  • Day trip to North Georgia Wine Country – join a tour
  • Stone Mountain Park
  • Ride a helicopter on a scenic tour – read the reviews

Accommodations in Savannah, Georgia:

  • Mid-range hotels/Inn – Hotel Indigo or The Thunderbird Inn
  • Luxury hotels – Mansion, Kessler Collection or The Marshall House

Florida for 5 days

This 3 weeks in USA itinerary is incomplete without visiting the famous state of Florida. You and I both know how beautiful the beaches in Miami are. Do you also know that there are also nude beaches in Florida ?

If you are a foody, don’t miss visiting local Latin American restaurants, you can even find vegan and gluten-free spots in Miami. And, of course, don’t miss seeing the Everglades. If you are going to rent a car , you may want to check out this Florida road trip guide.

Some of the best local dishes in Miami are Chicharron, Ceviche, Stone crabs, and the Cuban sandwich, among others. If you are travelling with children, check out this list of activities in Everglades National Park with kids .

You can drive down to Miami from Savannah in 7 hours, but you can also just go to Florida and spend a day or two there before continuing to Miami to break up the drive. There’s a non-stop flight to Miami as well, around 1 hr and 30 mins. If you want an affordable option, book a bus to Miami or to Orlando .

There are a lot of flights from Florida back to Europe or some other parts of the world, making it a suitable place to end your trip.

  • Miami – cruise to see Millionaire homes or join a speedboat sightseeing or evening cruise on Biscayne Bay
  • Walt Disney World Resort
  • Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
  • Everglades National Park – book Everglades Airboat Tour and Wildlife Tour
  • Deering Estate
  • Fort Lauderdale – get a water taxi all-day pass
  • Magic Kingdom Park
  • Orlando – enjoy a pirate show with dinner
  • Universal Orlando Resort
  • Rock Spring – go kayaking with a glass-bottomed boat
  • Key West – sunset sail and live music
  • Coral Castle
  • St. Augustine – get a hop-on, hop-off trolley pass
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
  • Snorkel with Manatee – tour with a photographer
  • SeaWorld Orlando
  • Tampa Bay – purchase a city pass
  • The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum)
  • Go Food and Drinks Exploration – join Little Havana food walking tour (Miami)
  • LEGOLAND® Florida Resort
  • Go to Kennedy Space Center – reserve an entry ticket

Accommodations in Miami:

  • Budget hostel – Art Hostel Wynwood Concept
  • Mid-range hotels/Inn – Hampton Inn/Coconut Grove or Hilton Garden Inn
  • Luxury hotels – East Miami or InterContinental

Itinerary #2: 3 Weeks Across USA

Unlike what was discussed above, this portion of the article will focus on places where flying would be required as it would save time compared to driving, and the sites are more distant compared to the locations listed above. This road trip will span from California to Las Vegas, Arizona, Chicago, and Boston.

If you plan a road trip on some parts of the west coast US, you can r ent a car in California , and then take it to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. Drop it off in Arizona and take a domestic flight to Chicago , then another to New York.

California for 5 days

California is famous for many things, but to ensure you don’t end up cramming too many attractions in your 3 weeks in USA itinerary, I recommend you list five things you want to see. It’s better if they are near each other and you can visit quickly without spending too much time driving around.

Remember that California is a massive state, though. So, it’s best to plan to see 1-2 cities only. Maybe for this trip, you can visit Los Angeles and San Francisco or Los Angeles and Anaheim if you want to go to Disneyland.

Venice Beach – Venice Boardwalk is a must-do in this area; there are lots of restaurants, wall paintings, and even a skate park.

  • Disneyland Park
  • Visit Hollywood and Beverly Hills or Hollywood tour only or Celebrity Homes Tours or ride a helicopter tour
  • Los Angeles – half-day sightseeing tour or get a 40+ attraction pass
  • Yosemite National Park – tour from San Franciso
  • Hop-on, Hop-off Bus – check the pass fee
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Marina del Rey – hop on a luxury boat cruise
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Echo Park – ride the swan boat
  • Griffith Observatory
  • Warner Bros Studio – book a tour
  • Balboa Park
  • Universal Studios – get your admission ticket in advance
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Petersen Automotive Museum – book an entry ticket
  • Redwood National and State Parks
  • Yosemite National Park – book a day tour for a hiking trip .

Accommodations in Los Angeles:

  • Budget hostel – Samesun Venice Beach or HI Los Angeles Santa Monica
  • Mid-range hotels – Hotel Figueroa by Hyatt or H Hotel by Hilton
  • Luxury hotels – Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills or Four Season Beverly Hills

Las Vegas for 3 days

A place that will make you forget what day it is or it is too early to start hitting the bar – Las Vegas have so much to offer. Whether you like gambling or not, the Las Vegas casinos are unique and worth visiting at least once.

But if you want to avoid that, you can still visit the desert, and fantastic buildings, do thrilling activities and get crazy with buffet options. You can even book a day trip to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. That way, you can save time and spend it on another destination or stay long in some cities.

To reach Las Vegas by car from California, the travel time is 5 hours. You can also get on a bus , a more affordable option, but it might be just a little slower. A direct flight is 1 hr and 20 min.

  • Head to The Strip – free things to do in Las Vegas or get a GoCity Pass where you can enter 30+ attractions or join a big bus night tour
  • The Stratosphere Tower
  • Vegas Indoor Skydiving
  • Madame Tussauds – get your entry ticket combo with a gondola cruise
  • The Neon Museum Las Vegas
  • High Roller – purchase a ticket beforehand
  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
  • Helicopter Ride – at night over Las Vegas, check the price
  • Day trip to the Grand Canyon – stop at West Rim and Hoover Dam by bus, read the reviews or do a helicopter tour
  • Bellagio Hotel & Casino
  • Drive ATV at the Dunes – book your trip
  • The STRAT Hotel, Casino & SkyPod
  • Emerald Cover – sign up for a kayak
  • Day trip to Bryce and Zion National Park
  • Join a food tour or pub crawl for Las Vegas

Accommodations in Las Vegas:

  • Budget hostel – The STRAT Hotel or The D Las Vegas
  • Mid-range hotels – Bally’s or Downtown Grand Hotels & Casino
  • Luxury hotels – Bellagio or The Palazzo

Arizona for 4 days

Many don’t know that Arizona is just a bunny hop from California when people think of exploring the West Coast. If you have Las Vegas on your itinerary, you might as well visit the home of the most popular attractions in the US – the Grand Canyon.

You can actually fly from Las Vegas to Phoenix, Arizona, in just an hour. Driving will take 8 hours if you’re reading to Phoenix, but if you’re going towards the Grand Canyon, drive to Flagstaff instead, which is only 4 hours or board a bus .

yosemite park and grand canyon - 3 WEEKS IN USA ITINERARY

  • Grand Canyon – join a tour from Phoenix or enjoy a 45-minute helicopter ride
  • Monument Valley
  • Lower Antelope Canyon – get your ticket
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Upper Antelope Canyon – purchase your ticket
  • Arizona Desert – explore by ATV
  • Trail of Time
  • Phoenix ZooLight – book an entry ticket
  • Desert Botanical Garden
  • Verde Canyon – do the railroad adventure

Accommodations in Arizona:

  • Mid-range hotels – Hilton Garden or Best Western
  • Luxury hotels – Renaissance Downtown or Sheraton Downton

Chicago for 3 days

Personally, when I was writing my itinerary for 3 weeks in the US, Chicago was not on the radar. Not only it’s kind of out of the way but also because I didn’t know or didn’t have an attraction in mind that I wanted to see.

However, a friend sent me a list of must-see places in Chicago, so I squeezed it into my itinerary. Here are the things to do and see in Chicago. If you have limited time, this two days in Chicago itinerary will be convenient.

The flight between Phoenix and Chicago is not about 3 hr and 30 mins. You can also fly from Flagstaff, but you need to connect somewhere, and the flight cost might be double.

  • Explore Chicago – get a city pass or join a food walking tour
  • Field Museum
  • Chicago Architecture – book a 1-hour river cruise or 95-min river cruise or 45-minute river cruise
  • North Avenue Beach
  • Mob, Crime, Ghosts- join a Mob and Crime bus tour or Gangsters and ghosts tour
  • Fly over Chicago Skyline – for 45-minutes
  • Willis Tower
  • Chicago Art Institute – get your skip-the-line pass
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • 360 Observation Deck – book your admission
  • Wrigley Field
  • Navy Pier – ride the centennial wheel
  • Buckingham Fountain
  • Sunset Cruise – check the reviews or fireworks cruise
  • Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Museum of Ice Cream – get your entry ticket
  • Brewery of Chicago – ride the brewery barrel bus

Accommodations in Chicago:

  • Budget hostels – Freehand Chicago or HI Chicago Hostel
  • Mid-range hotels – Club Quarter Hotel Wacker or Central Loop Hotel
  • Luxury hotels – Sofitel or Viceroy

RELATED POST: 3 weeks in Canada

New York City3 days

Finishing the trip in New York is an excellent plan because two significant airports fly internationally. It will be easier to catch a flight home or to your next destination.

New York is popular for many things, but more importantly, it’s rich in culture, art, food, and unique people. Not on can you explore downtown New York, but you can also plan some day trips nearby.

One thing you can’t miss when visiting New York is seeing a live show, going on a food tour, taking photos at Time Square, and riding the infamous subway.

Plenty of flights between Chicago and New York, between 2 and 5 hours. But you’re up for the final stretch of driving, and you can stop by Cleveland to take a break for the night and continue the next day.

Accommodations in New York City:

SUMMARY OF 3 WEEKS IN USA ITINERARY

The USA is filled not only with diverse people and cultures but different types of places as well. There’s always something to see and do, regardless of your preferences. They have something in store for history buffs, beach bums, adventure junkies, and food lovers. Because there are just so many places to go to, some might even get overwhelmed or confused about where to start.

I hope that this guide has been helpful for those who are planning to stay for at least 3 weeks in USA. This comprehensive guide contains the most famous attractions in various states, the opening hours and ticket costs (if any) of the said attraction, and the states’ trademark foods that are must-try. 

SAVE THIS 3-WEEK ITINERARY ON YOUR PINTEREST:

Backpacking the USA reveals diverse landscapes, from the grandeur of national parks to bustling cities. Experience the varied cultures, iconic landmarks, and vast wilderness areas. It's a journey of discovery across the continent's vast expanse. via @threeweektraveller

Kate Abroad

Kate Abroad

Ultimate 3 Week East Coast USA Itinerary (+ 2 and 4 week options)

The USA is not a small country so if you’re planning a trip it’s best to focus on one region and this 3 week East Coast USA itinerary is a great place to start.

This itinerary is really the highlights of the East Coast as it’s impossible to see the whole place in only 3 weeks. However, if you have a bit more time, there’s a 4 week East Coast variation that squeezes more in.

The itinerary is designed to start in New York, which is the easiest place to fly into and ends in Miami so you can choose to fly home from there or return via New York. If you have more time you could continue on cross country to Los Angeles (I did this in reverse on my second USA trip). 

3 week east coast road trip map

3 week east coast usa road trip map

How to get around the East Coast on this itinerary

Even though the great American road trip is an iconic experience, and definitely the most flexible way to get around, this East Coast itinerary is designed to be doable by train using Amtrak. I’ve travelled the East Coast by both train and road and both options have their advantages. 

On the whole, trains are a lot cheaper and the rail infrastructure is really good on the East Coast so you won’t find the train schedule particularly limiting. However, if you decide to travel by train you will need to plan ahead as tickets increase in price closer to departure.

If you’re driving, I would recommend picking up your vehicle on the morning of day 4 when you leave New York. You won’t need a vehicle to get around New York and you can save money by not paying for those days, plus you’ll avoid the hassle of parking. 

Where to stay on your 3 week East Coast road trip or train trip

This itinerary doesn’t work very well for campervanning/taking an RV as it includes several big cities without central campsites so you’ll need to book accommodation for each night.

Unfortunately, accommodation on the East Coast of the USA is far from cheap but I have included hostel options where available. 

Affordable independent hotels can also be hard to find so you may want to commit to using one chain of hotels (Marriott or Hilton are the most widely available I found) throughout your trip so you at least end with some loyalty benefits. 

The 3 week East Coast USA road/train trip itinerary

Days 1-3: new york.

There’s no better place to start a USA road trip than the Big Apple, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of…. While you can (and I have) easily spend a week or more in NYC, 3 days is a good amount of time to see the highlights and get a taste.

I recommend structuring this first part of the East Coast itinerary as follows:

  • Day 1 – Mid-town Manhattan
  • Day 2 – Downtown Manhattan 
  • Day 3 – Brooklyn and Uptown

On Day 1 you’ll knock off the big ticket items including Times Square and the Empire State Building . Take a walk around Central Park and window shop on Fifth Avenue.

Start the next day at the bottom of the island with a ferry trip to the Statue of Liberty, either the free Staten Island Ferry or the paid Statue Cruises (I’ve done both and the paid version is worth the money). Then stroll down Wall Street, touch the bull, visit the 9/11 Memorial and grab some noodles in Chinatown.

Finally, make your way across the Brooklyn Bridge, get your photos in DUMBO and eat your way through Time Out Market. Then spend the afternoon taking in thousands of years of art at The Met and seeing how the other half live on the Upper East Side.

To help save money on attractions, try a Go City pass . They have 2 and 3 day all-inclusive passes that would be perfect for this itinerary – click here to see how you can save .

Don’t forget to make time for plenty of pizza slices, lox bagels, pretzels and hot dogs!

  • Luxury: Kixby
  • Mid-range: Hotel Indigo Downtown
  • Budget: HI USA Hostel

Click here to compare NYC accommodation prices on Booking.com

Met Museum New York City East Coast USA

Day 4-5: Boston

Drive: 220 miles – approx. 3.5 hours

Train: Amtrak Northeast Regional from Moynihan Train Hall – approx. 4 hours

After the craziness of New York, head up north for a dose of history in Boston. Take your time exploring Boston on foot, the city is super walkable and there are historical monuments almost on every corner. 

There are plenty of walking tours available but I’d recommend just downloading an audio guide for the Freedom Trail and going at your own pace. And don’t miss the Boston Public Library, it might not be on the Freedom Trail but it was my favourite spot.

Boston is no less a foodie city than New York. While you’re there make sure to try a lobster roll, chowder, Boston Cream Pie and of course some Italian food in the North End including one of the famous cannoli from Mike’s or Modern Pastry.

On your second day in Boston, head out to Cambridge to see the Harvard campus (students run walking tours ) and try some of the fun student bars.

If you have extra time, you can take the train out to Salem to explore the witchy museums and filming locations. It’s only a short ride from Boston’s North Station or you can take a day tour from Boston . 

  • Luxury: The Liberty Hotel
  • Mid-range: Revolution Hotel
  • Budget: Found Boston Common

Click here to compare Boston accommodation prices on Booking.com

Boston Public Library

Days 6-7: Providence/Newport

Drive: 50 miles – approx. 1 hour

Train: Amtrak Northeast Regional from Back Bay or South Boston – approx. 1 hour

Rhode Island, the smallest state in the USA, might not be on every East Coast road trip plan but it’s very much worth a visit.  

Providence itself is quite a small town with a very compact city centre. The main things to do are to explore the Rhode Island State Capitol – unlike the one in DC, here you’re allowed to just wander around at will and see all the rooms – and the Brown University campus.

The number one reason for coming to Providence however is because it’s the gateway to Newport, which you’ll want to dedicate at least one whole day to seeing. 

Newport is a beautiful seaside town full of cute boutiques and restaurants, but its biggest draw is the Gilded Age mansions.  These homes are straight out of The Great Gatsby and it’s 100% worth spending a few hours touring 2-3 of the mansions, you’ll feel like you’re in a European palace! 

While you’re in Newport check out the Cliff Walk, a stunning (but windy) hike along the ocean. Warm up afterwards with a hot chocolate or some of the famous New England clam chowder.

  • Luxury: The Beatrice
  • Mid-range: Graduate Providence
  • Budget: Courtyard by Marriott Providence Downtown

Click here to compare Providence accommodation prices on Booking.com

The Breakers Mansion Newport

Days 8-9: Philadelphia 

Drive: 300 miles – approx. 4.5 hours

Train: Amtrak Northeast Regional from Providence – approx. 5.5 hours

If you didn’t get enough American history in Boston then don’t worry, there’s plenty more to find in Philadelphia. 

Historic Philadelphia is quite pretty with its open squares and occasional cobblestone streets. The main attraction here is Independence Hall which you’ll have to be organised to get into as it books out well in advance (despite visiting Philly twice I haven’t managed to go inside yet). 

Even if you miss out on tickets though you can still line up to go see the Liberty Bell across the street and wander through the remains of George Washington’s house. We also really loved the Museum of the American Revolution which is full of Revolutionary memorabilia and well worth a few hours.

One of the best places to go during your Philly stay is Reading Terminal Market. It’s a foodie paradise full of stalls churning out the best local dishes. And if you want to try an infamous Philly Cheese Steak then there are some great ones sold here (just look for the queues).

For a different side of Philly, go tour the Eastern State Penitentiary , once the biggest prison in the US and now incredibly haunting.

  • Luxury: The Franklin on Rittenhouse
  • Mid-range: The Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square
  • Budget: Apple Hostels of Philadelphia

Click here to compare Philly accommodation prices on Booking.com

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Days 10-11: Washington DC

Drive: 150 miles – approx. 2.5 hours

Train: Amtrak Northeast Regional from Philadelphia 30 th  Street – approx. 2 hours

By Day 10 it’s time for a trip to the nation’s capital. One of the best parts of visiting DC is how much you can do there for free. There are so many museums, galleries, monuments and historic buildings to see it’s hard to know where to start.

One piece of advice, make sure to plan and book ahead because many places will book out months in advance or require anyone without an advance booking to queue, sometimes for hours in the full sun. 

If you want to go inside the White House it’s a whole process and to my understanding, you have to be a USA resident (the website says foreigners can book through their embassy but our embassy said they weren’t taking bookings post-COVID).

Some must-dos in DC include a walk along the National Mall, taking in the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, a tour of The Capitol and seeing the Da Vinci painting in the National Gallery.

  • Luxury: Eaton DC
  • Mid-range: Lyle DC
  • Budget: Hotel Harrington

Click here to compare DC accommodation prices on Booking.com

Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

Days 12-13: Charleston

Drive: 600 miles – approx. 9.5 hours

Train: Amtrak Silver Meteor from Washington Union Station– approx. 10 hours (can be overnight)

After DC it’s time to head south and there are few cities in America’s South prettier than Charleston. This coastal town is famous for it’s stunning antebellum architecture, especially the “Rainbow Row” of colourful mansions.

While you probably don’t need a full two days to see Charleston, the atmosphere of the South is to take things a bit slower, so enjoy having the time to stroll along the oceanfront and take in the views.

Charleston is also great for foodies so this stage of your 3 week East Coast vacation is a great point to try some popular Southern foods including barbecue, grits, biscuits and pies. If you’re wondering where to find these, the Charleston City market is a good place to start with both food and trinket stalls so you can do your souvenir shopping at the same time.

  • Luxury: The Palmetto Hotel
  • Mid-range: Francis Marion Hotel
  • Budget: Holiday Inn Express DWTN

Click here to compare Charleston accommodation prices on Booking.com

rainbow row houses Charleston

Days 14-15: Savannah

Drive: 120 miles – approx. 2 hours

Train: Amtrak Silver Meteor from Charleston – approx. 2 hours

If there’s one city that’s more beautiful than Charleston its Savannah, known for its countless squares lined with overhanging Spanish moss and full of graceful fountains and historic statues. 

Savannah is very walkable and the best way to discover it is on foot, popping into the cute boutiques down by the river (don’t miss River Street Sweets) and taking lots of photos. The classic Savannah photo is sitting on the bench from Forrest Gump where Forrest waits for his bus.

While it’s quite cliché and touristy, some fun Savannah activities include a river cruise or a trolley tour of the historic centre. 

You can also take day tours out to the surrounding plantations for a dose of history. Wormslow is the most popular for its photogenic tree-lined drive.

  • Luxury: The Gastonian, Historic Inns of Savannah Collection
  • Mid-range: Foley House Inn
  • Budget: Springhill Suites by Marriott Savannah Downtown Historic District

Click here to compare Savannah accommodation prices on Booking.com

savannah square

Days 16-17: Orlando

Drive: 300 miles – approx. 4 hours

Train: Amtrak Silver Star or Silver Meteor from Savannah – approx. 6 hours

It’s theme park time! You’re not on an American vacation without a bit of Disney (or Universal Studios) magic. Orlando is really all about the parks, so pick two and spend a day at each or go all out on one park and work your way around as many rides as you can.

I’ve done Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando and loved them both, but if you’ve done Disneyland in California then maybe go for something different like SeaWorld.

Personally, I went for the budget accommodation and spent all my cash on park tickets but there are some very fancy resorts in town so you could take the opportunity to stay somewhere nice. You’ll definitely appreciate a nice pool in the Florida heat!

  • Luxury: Walt Disney World Swan Reserve
  • Mid-range: Hilton Grand Vacations Club Las Palmeras  
  • Budget: The Delaney Hotel

Click here to compare Orlando accommodation prices on Booking.com

Days 18-19: Miami

Drive: 240 miles- approx. 3.5 hours

Train: Amtrak Silver Meteor from Orlando – approx. 6 hours

Miami is such a unique place, it feels like a mix of Las Vegas and the Caribbean, it’s definitely somewhere you must experience on any East Coast vacation itinerary.

There are so many different sides to the city and you won’t get to see them all in two days but you can make a good start. I’d suggest staying in South Beach to immerse yourself in the beachy, glamorous side of the city but still be close to Downtown and Little Havana.

If you can tear yourself away from the beach, make sure to visit the Wynwood Walls with their famous collection of murals and leave time to explore the greater Wynwood area as there is so much street art around that you don’t have to pay to see. 

Also on the arty side, there are some very cool digital art exhibits in Miami. We went to Artechouse in Miami Beach, which is free to visit with a Go City pass , but Superblue in Downtown Miami is also meant to be amazing.

While you’re in the mainland part of Miami, head to Little Havana for a taste of Cuban-American food and culture. Calle Ocho, the main street of Little Havana, is definitely touristy but it’s still fun to explore, whether you’re keen on joining a game in Domino Park or a dance in one of the Cuban bars.

Finally, Miami is built on the water, so you’ve got to get out in a boat of some kind to see it properly. I’ve tried both the sightseeing cruise option and the speedboat option and they’re both fun experiences in different ways, depending on whether you want an adrenalin-fuelled ride, or you’d rather take it slow and get more commentary on the sights you pass. Both will let you see some of the insane celebrity mansions lining the shores of Miami’s island.

  • Luxury: The Betsy Hotel
  • Mid-range: Avalon Hotel
  • Budget: Freehand Hostel Miami Beach

Click here to compare Miami accommodation prices on Booking.com

wynwood walls Miami

Days 20-21: Florida Keys

Drive:  170 miles – approx. 3 hours

Bus (no train option): Grayline or Flix

Even though this East Coast in 3 weeks itinerary didn’t start at the top of the East Coast, it ends at the bottom, at the southernmost point of the USA in the Florida Keys.

While basically all of the Florida Keys are worth visiting, Key West is the best place to base yourself as it has the most accommodation and activity options. It’s a very fun place with a unique mix of chill beachy vibes and party atmosphere.

The drive there from Miami is incredibly scenic, so if you can take it slow and get heaps of photos. If you’re doing this East Coast trip without a car then you can book either a day trip or return transfers with several tour companies including Grayline who I’ve used in the past and can recommend.

While in the Keys, some of the fun things to do include snorkelling, diving, boat cruises and of course eating key lime pie!

  • Luxury: Pier House Resort & Spa
  • Mid-range: Opal Key Resort & Marina
  • Budget: Southwinds Motel

Click here to compare Key West accommodation prices on Booking.com

sign by the ocean in key west Florida usa itinerary

Alternative: 2 week East Coast itinerary 

This shortened itinerary is very action-packed, suited to fast-paced travellers and those who want to see as much as possible in one trip. 

This is basically what I did on my first East Coast trip (but in reverse) and it definitely left me wanting to return and spend more time. 

  • Philadelphia
  • Washington DC

Alternative: 4 week East Coast itinerary 

This extended itinerary fits even more in, while also allowing some extra time in the top destinations for those who prefer to take things at a slower pace. 

  • Providence/Newport
  • Williamsburg
  • Florida Keys

In Short: 3 Weeks on the East Coast of the USA

It’s hard to narrow down the best parts of the East Coast to a short itinerary as there’s so much to see and do and there’s no wrong way to see the USA. Hopefully, these East Coast itineraries give you some inspiration to get started.

P.S. Click here to find all of my USA trip-planning guides

Happy travelling!

USA Travel Resources

  • Find the best prices on hotels with flexible cancellation at Booking.com
  • Find tickets for attractions and awesome day tours on Viator
  • Save $$$ on attractions in NYC, LA, Miami and more with a Go City Pass
  • Compare prices on cars and campervans at RentalCars.com
  • Sort your US dollars with a Wise currency card

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Kate is the founder of Kate Abroad. She has travelled to nearly 40 countries from Austria to Vanuatu, and lived in 3. She's on a mission to empower other Gen Zs and Millenials travel affordably by sharing helpful travel guides, stories and tips to over 200,000 readers.

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Ultimate NORTH AMERICA Travel Guide

North America is the third largest continent  in the world and is home to Canada, the United States and Mexico. These are the three major countries that are associated with this continent.

Technically speaking, though, the continent includes 23 countries. This would mean that both  Central America  and the  Caribbean Islands  are considered to be part of North America from a geographical standpoint.

This guide, however, will be focusing on the major three. We will also be including Greenland, even though it is considered a political territory of Denmark, it is also geographically part of the North American continent. Weird, we know!

As citizens of the USA, we love to travel around North America simply due to the vast diversity that it offers. There is an overload of nature, culture, and history to be found here across all the countries.

This guide is put together to serve your travel curiosities and provide information about the places we have traveled across the continent. You’ll find our top recommendations, advice, tips, and extensive guides to various North American destinations.

Destinations

North america travel: quick tips, don’t visit north america without:.

UNIVERSAL TRAVEL ADAPTER

america travel plan

GET A GUIDEBOOK

america travel plan

REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE

america travel plan

NORTH AMERICA BUCKET LIST

Explore the canadian rockies.

Canada offers some of the best mountain landscapes in the world. Drive the  Icefields Parkway  between  Banff  and  Jasper  National Parks. You’ll discover glaciers, mountains, bright-colored lakes, and plenty of wildlife along the way too. 

DISCOVER THE FLORIDA KEYS

One of the best road trips in the USA will take you from  Miami to Key West  through the Florida Keys. Stopping in  Key Largo ,  Islamorada , Marathon, Big Pine Key, and  Key West , it showcases traditional Americana with a tropical island vibe. 

VISIT THE HEART OF MEXICO

Mexico has many wonders and while most people flock to the Yucatan, Central Mexico offers up a connection with the country like none other. Climb the massive  pyramids of Teotihuacan , tour  Mexico City  and take  day trips from Mexico City  to nearby towns.

MORE THINGS TO TRY IN NORTH AMERICA

There is no shortage of great things to do in North America during your visit and the biggest problem you’ll face is fitting them all into your itinerary.

Each place has its own offering and unique things to check out during a visit, so be sure to look at our city guides once you decide where you’re itinerary will take you.

HIKE THE ARCTIC CIRCLE TRAIL:   Take on one of the world’s  Top 100 Travel Adventures  and literally walk across Greenland. This trek starts at the edge of the Greenlandic Ice Sheet and navigates a vast stretch of Arctic wilderness to the coast. Trekkers start in  Kangerlussuaq  and end in  Sisimiut . The trek typically takes 9 days and requires you to carry everything with you to camp and eat along the way.

VISIT ILULISSAT:  Home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Ilulissat Icefjord and Sermermiut, this is one of few places in the world where you can easily access big ice. Think Antarctica sized icebergs.  Ilulissat, Greenland  offers a chance to get up close with nature, Greenlandic culture and ice.

VISIT VANCOUVER ISLAND:  British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places in Canada and home to the coastal rainforest that makes the Pacific Northwest so unique. Vancouver Island is an extension of this and offers a unique culture in towns like  Tofino , as well as some world-renowned  kayaking on the Clayoquot Sound .

DRIVE THE SEA TO SKY HIGHWAY:  Heading north from the city of Vancouver, you’ll find yourself on the incredibly scenic  Sea to Sky Highway . This road trip will take you into the mountains, through  Squamish  and ultimately end in Whistler.

UNITED STATES

VISIT THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST:  Bursting with iconic natural landscapes, the American Southwest is one of the best areas to visit in the USA. You’ll uncover cities like  Las Vegas ,  Laughlin  and Page, while visiting places like the  Grand Canyon ,  Antelope Canyon ,  Horseshoe Bend ,  Monument Valley ,  Red Rock Canyon  and more.

DISCOVER THE EAST COAST GEMS:  In stark contrast to the deserts of the southwest, the east coast offers a variety of lush forests, rolling mountains and stunning coastline. Discover places like  Southwest Virginia ,  Asheville  and  the Outer Banks .

MAKE THE TRIP TO ALASKA:  The last frontier and biggest state in the country, Alaska is as stunning as it gets. Home to the largest mountain peak in North America, Denali, this state is full of adventure for intrepid explorers and history lovers. Enjoy the food scene in  Anchorage , drive south into the Kenai Peninsula, visit a couple of the 8  Alaska National Parks , head north to  Fairbanks  and explore above the Arctic Circle. To change up the scenery, head towards the Inside Passage and  explore Juneau , the only capital city in the USA you cannot access by road.

VISIT ONE OF THE EXOTIC US TERRITORIES:  While this comes as a surprise to most people, the USA has 5 territories that offer  exotic travel without a passport . If you’re from the USA, you can visit these places even if you do not have a passport. This includes Guam, American Samoa,  Puerto Rico ,  US Virgin Islands  and the Northern Mariana Islands.

TOUR THE YUCATAN PENINSULA:  The Yucatan is the gem of Mexico. Home to famed  Cancun ,  Riviera Maya ,  Playa del Carmen  and Tulum, this area features lush jungles that creep their way right into turquoise waters. The beaches are bright white sand and the water offers access to the second-largest barrier reef in the world, the Great Mayan Reef. The entire peninsula is also dotted with Mayan ruins and an underground cave system.

CRUISE THE SEA OF CORTEZ IN BAJA:  In stark contrast to the Yucatan, the Baja Peninsula offers towering mountains and desert landscapes. It’s also ripe with wildlife both on land and in the water. Beach bums will want to head to Cabo while those looking for something more should head for  La Paz  where you can access the UNESCO listed  Isla Espiritu Santo . For the ultimate adventure, head off on a small ship  cruise around the Sea of Cortez .

DISCOVER THE PACIFIC COAST:  Before the Yucatan became famed, it was all about the Pacific Coast. With built-up resort towns in Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit, Nuevo Vallarta and Mazatlan, it’s still a great place to escape to. To get off the beaten path, consider less popular places such as  Manzanillo .

NORTH AMERICA FESTIVALS

North America is always a lively and colorful place, and each country has its own unique festivals and celebrations throughout the year.

In the  United States , notable festivals include  Mardi Gras in New Orleans  that takes place in February each year.  Independence Day  is celebrated all across the country on July 4 and  Burning Man  happens every fall in the Black Rock Desert.

In  Canada , the  Calgary Stampede  is held annually in July and is a place to witness the cowboy culture of Alberta. In February, the  Quebec Winter Festival  celebrates the frigid cold with ice sculptures, castles, ice skating and more.

In  Mexico , the most famous festival is the  Day of the Dead , known locally as Dia de los Muertos, a celebration of death and the afterlife. Major celebrations take place all across Mexico, where participants dress in colorful clothing and paint their faces like skeletons. The most famous celebrations happen in Central Mexico in Oaxaca and Mexico City.

SEE SOME OF THE BEST LANDSCAPES IN NORTH AMERICA!

North america travel budget.

Setting a budget for travel to North America is highly dependent on your travel style and the region that you are planning to visit. It is possible to visit just about any place in North America on any budget and still have a great trip. That said, you can make your trip as basic or as luxurious as you desire too.

To help you set your budget, we’ve included some base range price estimations. Of course, keep in mind that prices can fluctuate based on seasons, availability and festivals.

ACCOMMODATION:  Varies by type and rating. Generally, you can expect  a local guesthouse to be around $50 USD per night,  mid-range hotels  from $100 USD per night and  luxury hotels  to be from $200 USD per night. In Mexico, you can also get  hostel accommodation  starting at $20 per night in a shared dorm.

ATTRACTIONS : Costs vary. You’ll be able to book tours across the entire continent from $10 to way beyond $100 and everything in between.

TRANSPORTATION:  The most popular method of travel around North America is by flight or car. It is possible to take trains in the USA and Canada, but the systems are nothing like you would find in Europe. In all three countries, there is an extensive bus system. In Greenland, your only options are to fly or take ferries.

FOOD:  Food will vary widely depending on your tastes and what restaurants you choose to visit on your trip. Generally, though, in the  USA and Canada , you can expect to find  local restaurants  for around $5 to $15 USD per meal, take a meal in a  mid-range restaurant  for $30 USD per person and pay around $5 USD for a  beer . In  Mexico , street food can be obtained for as little as a couple of dollars.

50-100 USD PER DAY

Staying in cheap hotels in the offseason, eating local food, or cooking own food and transport to a few attractions.

100-300 USD PER DAY

Staying in nicer hotels. Eating restaurant meals. Enjoying a few tours, attractions and activities each day of your trip.

250-400 USD + PER DAY

Staying in resorts with beach views, in peak season. Enjoying lots of activities and eating out or staying all-inclusive.

WHERE TO STAY IN NORTH AMERICA

Below you will find some of the places we have stayed during our travels in North America. These are individual properties that we enjoyed and would recommend to other travelers.

For more specific advice, check out:

  • Best Area to Stay In Maui – Best Hotels & Travel Tips
  • Best Area to Stay in Mexico City – Best Hotels & Travel Tips

HOW TO GET AROUND IN NORTH AMERICA

There are a few ways to get around the countries in North America during a visit, including cars, trains, buses, cruises, ferries and flights. Availability will vary by country and region that you are aiming to explore, so be sure to do your research in advance to know the best options for your itinerary.

CAR RENTAL:  Road tripping is a wonderful way to explore Canada, the United States, the Yucatan and Baja Peninsulas in Mexico. Cars can be booked online in advance in any city that has an airport across North America. There are car rentals in Greenland, but know that there are no roads that connect the villages. So if you rent a car there, it is only to cruise around one place. Personally, we used UBER in Greenland and it worked great for getting around the villages. Check out  Discover Rental Cars  for great deals.

CRUISES:  This is one of the best ways to explore coastal Mexico, Greenland and the Canadian Inside Passage. A variety of major cruise liners and small-ship companies ply these waters offering a varity of itineraries.

BUS:  If you’re on a budget or have a lot of time to travel in North America, taking the bus systems across both the United States and Canada can be a real adventure. Bus rates are cheap compared to car rentals, trains and flights, leaving it is a viable option for many. In Mexico, regional buses are available, but you’ll be harder pressed to find buses that will traverse the country.

FLIGHTS:  Flying within the USA, Canada, Mexico and Greenland is very popular when it comes to transportation. All of these places, with the exception of Greenland, offer decent routing and plenty of flights. Flying within these countries is also decently affordable, which lends to its popularity among travelers, especially in the United States. Be sure to search flight routing and schedules during the planning process.

FERRIES:  This is one of only two ways to really travel around Greenland. With no roads to connect villages, you can either fly or take the ferry. Greenland has a comfortable and efficient ferry route that runs the entire west coast of the island, taking you from  Nuuk  to  Ilulissat  and everywhere in between. It is affordable and doubles as a scenic tour of the coastline.

TOP NORTH AMERICA TOURS

Discover the canadian rockies.

12 Days Vancouver to Calgary Visits: Vancouver, Whistler, Jasper NP, Icefields Pkwy, Lake Louise & Banff NP

NATIONAL PARKS OF THE AMERICAN WEST

15 Days Las Vegas to San Francisco Visits: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce & Zion

CLASSIC MEXICO ADVENTURE

14 Days Mexico City to Playa del Carmen Visits: Puebla, Oaxaca, Palenque, Campeche, Merida, Chichen Iza & Valladolid

WHEN TO VISIT NORTH AMERICA

North America spans a large area of the globe, subsequently, though, the entirety of the continent resides above the equator. This means that you will find tropical weather and also frigid cold, all depending on the area that you choose to visit.

In Canada , you’ll experience the harshest of winter weather. The entire northern border of the country sits against the Arctic Ocean. The country experiences 4 strong and distinct seasons across its entire span. Summers are warm and pleasant, winters are long, dark and cold. That said, Canada is a spectacular skiing destination if your like winter travel.

To figure out what’s best for you, have a look here:

  • Best Time to Visit Canada: A Month by Month Breakdown
  • Best Time to Visit Banff: Month by Month Breakdown

In the United States , you’ll find similar season differentiation to Canada. However, as you head further south, the weather is milder and even transitions to arid and dry to the west, as well as humid and tropical to the east. The Midwest experiences a true winter season, as do the mountains to the northwest. You’ll get bright colors in the fall, plenty of sunshine in the summer, snow in the winter, and flowers in the spring across a surprising amount of places in the USA.

For more specific advice about different USA destinations, have a look here:

  • Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park: A Month by Month Breakdown
  • Best Time to Visit Alaska: Month by Month Breakdown
  • Best Time to Visit Maui: MONTH by MONTH Breakdown
  • Best Time to Go to Zion National Park (A Guide to Zion Park Weather)

In Mexico , you’ll find a warmer average climate. This ranges from the dry desert heat in the west to humid, jungle head in the east. You will not, however, find any traces of real winter and certainly no snow. This makes Mexico a popular destination for people escaping the cold during the winter months from both the USA and Canada, along with several European countries too.

  • Best Time to Visit Mexico: A Month by Month Breakdown
  • A Month by Month Guide – Best Time to Go To Cancun Mexico

In Greenland , despite its position in the far north, you can find a rather pleasant, albeit short, summer season. The days are long and with the heat being mild, think 70F average, it’s no wonder people journey to this hiking destination. The winters, though, are harsh, long, and dark. That said, Greenland offers some of the most consistent and best chances to view the Northern Lights. So I’d say it’s a fair trade if you can brave the cold.

BEEN THINKING ABOUT EXPLORING MEXICO?

Safety in north america.

As with anywhere in the world, safety can vary from city to state to region to country. If you are staying in touristy areas or resorts, then you’ll be quite safe from harm, but you will want to keep an eye on your personal belongings, as opportunistic theft can be a problem.

In Canada, your biggest safety concerns will be preparedness when exploring the outdoors. Be sure you’ve done your research, have enough water and if you’re in the mountains, bear spray with you.

In the USA, opportunistic theft can happen and the big cities have dangerous areas like any other country, but you’re generally safe here. Heed local advice and be prepared if venturing into nature.

In Mexico, the main tourist areas are generally safe. Of course, don’t carry large sums of money on you, flaunt valuables or buy drugs. If you’re using local transportation, keep your things close. We’ve traveled all throughout Mexico and the biggest threat we encountered was sunburn and dehydration.

As with any destination, we recommend learning and adhering to certain safety practices when you travel. Be sure to read our personal  travel safety tips , compiled from our travels across 7 continents.

NORTH AMERICA TRAVEL: BOOKING RESOURCES

North america travel guide: related articles.

Looking for more info? Check out all the articles we’ve written on travel to North America and start planning your dream trip.

22 Unique & Fun Things to Do in Key Largo, Florida (2024 Edition)

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protect your cruise vacation

Cancellation Protection Starting at $79

Cancel your vacation plans, for any reason, and receive a refund with a Holland America Line Cancellation Protection Plan (CPP). Get a refund of up to 80% of your total cruise vacation with a Standard Plan, or upgrade to the Platinum Plan to receive additional refunds, worldwide emergency assistance and other protections. 

5 Reasons to choose Holland America Line’s Cancellation Protection

Our standard & platinum plans at a glance.

Unforeseen events happen. When you book your next cruise, be sure to ask about our Cancellation Protection Plans to protect your cruise investment.

This is only a brief description of the programs – see additional details below

* In addition to Holland America Line's baggage liability ** Trip interruption benefits apply at the start of your scheduled travel (sea, land and/or air) arrangements made by Holland America Line. ○ Additional benefits underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ◊ Worldwide Emergency Assistance Services provided by CareFree Travel Assistance TM

NOTE: CPP Standard is available to all guests, regardless of residency (excluding permanent residents of the United Kingdom).

CPP Platinum is not available to residents of New York State, Quebec, British Columbia, Puerto Rico or the United Kingdom.

More Information on Cancellation Plans

Standard cancellation plan details - read more.

Our Standard Cancellation Protection Plan (CPP Standard Plan) will allow you, for any reason, to provide written cancellation up to 24 hours prior to the start of your scheduled travel (sea, land and/or air) arrangements made by Holland America Line and receive a refund equal to 80% of the eligible amounts paid to Holland America Line. CPP Standard is available to all guests, regardless of residency (excluding permanent residents of the United Kingdom).

In addition, Holland America Line (HAL) automatically assumes an additional $500 (USD) of liability for lost, damaged or delayed baggage of guests who purchase the CPP Standard Plan still subject, however, to the limitations in our baggage policies. For example, we do not cover losses while baggage is in the custody of airlines. Please review our  Baggage Policy .

Please note: The CPP Standard Plan is not insurance – this is an optional purchase offered by and administered by Holland America Line. It may be added to your reservation to provide you with trip cancellation protection for up to 24 hours prior to the start of your scheduled travel. It provides no rights other than those explained above. For example, it does not protect double-triple-quad occupancy rates should one or more members of your party cancel, nor does it cover expenses for unused services due to trip interruption.

The CPP Standard Plan is available for purchase prior to the date on which cancellation fees begin to accrue. Payment is due at time of purchase. The cost of CPP Standard is non-refundable once cancel fees begin to accrue. The per person, per cruise cost is listed with the cruise fares. To add our Cancellation Protection Standard Plan to your new or existing bookings, please visit  Manage my Bookings  or call us at 1‐877‐932‐4259.

Platinum Cancellation Plan Details - READ MORE

Our Platinum Cancellation Protection Plan (CPP Platinum) enables you to supplement the benefits provided under the CPP Standard Plan with higher cancellation reimbursement and extends the eligible cancellation period up until the start of your scheduled travel (sea, land and/or air) arrangements made by Holland America Line. CPP Platinum also provides insurance coverage for trip delays and interruptions, medical expenses and much more. In addition, CPP Platinum includes 24-hour worldwide emergency assistance services.

CPP Platinum is comprised of the following:

Cancel for Any Reason Waiver - Provided by Holland America Line You may cancel for any reason prior to the start of your scheduled travel (sea, land and/or air) arrangements made by Holland America Line and receive reimbursement equal to 90% of the eligible amounts paid to Holland America Line. Note: CPP Platinum does not protect double-triple-quad occupancy rates should one or more members of your party cancel prior to departure.

TRAVEL INSURANCE PROGRAM - Underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies, Columbus, OH

  • Trip Interruption:  Enables you to cancel or interrupt your cruise vacation for illness, injury or death to you, an immediate family member or a traveling companion, as well as certain other non-medical reasons affecting you or your traveling companion, and receive up to 150% of your cruise vacation cost.
  • Trip Delay:  If you miss the departure of your cruise due to carrier-caused delays or other specified reasons, you could be reimbursed up to $500 for additional accommodations, meals and “catch-up” transportation expenses.
  • Baggage Protection:  If your baggage or personal property is lost or damaged, you could be reimbursed up to $1,000. If your bags are delayed or misdirected by a common carrier for more than 24 hours, you could be reimbursed up to $500 for the purchase of necessary personal effects.
  • Medical Expense Coverage:  Should you become injured or sick during your vacation, you could be reimbursed up to $20,000 for medical expenses.
  • Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation:  In the event that serious illness or injury requires air or ground transportation to a specialized facility or to return home, you could be provided up to $75,000 in covered medical services and supplies (coordinated by our 24-hour assistance provider) to help ensure your safe transport. Repatriation coverage provides for shipment of remains in the event of death during the cruise vacation.

This plan provides insurance coverage that applies only during the covered trip. You may have coverage from other sources that provides you with similar benefits but may be subject to different restrictions depending upon your other coverages. You may wish to compare the terms of this policy with your existing life, health, home and automobile policies. If you have any questions about your current coverage, call your insurer, insurance agent or broker.

WORLDWIDE EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE - Services Provided by CareFree Travel AssistanceTM

Provides 24-hour assistance services including: pre-cruise health, safety and weather information; assistance with travel changes; lost luggage assistance; emergency cash transfer assistance; emergency medical and dental assistance; lost travel document assistance; and emergency medical payment assistance.

Note that the benefits and services provided in CPP Platinum are available only to guests who enroll in and pay the appropriate program cost to Holland America Line. Payment of the required cruise deposit does not automatically activate enrollment in CPP Platinum Protection. In order to activate enrollment, you must pay the appropriate program costs  in addition  to the required cruise deposit amount.

IMPORTANT:  This is only a brief description of the program

To obtain your state-specific Certificate of Insurance providing the terms, conditions and exclusions of the certificate, visit  http://www.affinitytravelcert.com/docs/nwehal01 .

The CPP Platinum Plan is in effect for cancellations for any reason up to the start of your scheduled travel. Other benefits and services provided in CPP Platinum are effective once you depart on your trip.

The CPP Platinum Plan is optional and available for purchase prior to the date on which cancellation fees begin to accrue. Payment is due at time of purchase. The cost of the cancellation portion of CPP Platinum is non-refundable once cancel fees begin to accrue. The per person, per cruise cost is listed with the cruise fares. To add our Cancellation Protection Platinum Plan to your new or existing bookings, please visit  Manage my Bookings  or call us at 1‐877‐932‐4259.

NOTE: CPP Platinum is not available to residents of New York State, Quebec, British Columbia, Puerto Rico, or the United Kingdom. For permanent residents of the U.K., it is a condition of the contract that every guest must have full and valid medical insurance. In the UK we have a relationship with Holiday Extras Ltd. who can offer comprehensive travel insurance covering our requirements. You can obtain a quote and full terms and conditions by calling 0800 316 3061 or by visiting https://www.holidayextras.co.uk/hollandamerica/insurance.html  .

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I purchase one of Holland America Line’s Cancellation Protection Plans (CPP)?

CPP may help protect your cruise payment in the event of unexpected occurrences that may affect your travel plans. You may also want to consider purchasing this coverage to ensure you have medical protection while traveling. Some medical policies, like Medicare, may not provide coverage for medical expenses incurred outside of the United States.

One of Holland America Line’s Cancellation Protection Plans could help reimburse you for unforeseeable losses if:

  • You should need to cancel before departure for ANY reason
  • Your luggage is lost, damaged, or delayed
  • A family member back home becomes ill and you must return from your vacation early
  • The flight on which you were scheduled is delayed or cancelled and you miss your cruise departure
  • You become injured or sick during your vacation

What is the difference between the two plans?

The Standard Plan (Cancel for Any Reason Waiver) offers the opportunity to receive a refund from Holland America Line beyond the published refund policy for the otherwise non-refundable cancellation fees. This waiver allows you, for any reason, to cancel up to 24 hours prior to the start of your scheduled travel arrangements made by Holland America Line and receive a money back refund equal to 80% of the prepaid, non-refundable cancellation fees applicable to your cruise vacation.  Please refer to the brochure for your cruise for the applicable cancellation fee policy. CPP Standard (Cancel for Any Reason Waiver) is available to all guests, regardless of residency (excluding permanent residents of the United Kingdom), and is a non-insurance feature provided by Holland America Line.

The Platinum Plan provides a 90% cancellation fee reimbursement and extends the cancellation waiver period up until the start of your scheduled travel arrangements made by Holland America Line. CPP Platinum's Cancel For Any Reason Waiver is a non-insurance feature provided by Holland America Line. The Platinum Plan also provides travel insurance coverage underwritten by Nationwide® for trip delays and interruptions, medical expenses and more. Worldwide 24-hour emergency assistance, non-insurance services provided by CareFree Travel AssistanceTM , are included as well. CPP Platinum is not available to residents of New York State, Quebec, British Columbia, Puerto Rico, or the United Kingdom.

If something comes up or I test positive for COVID-19 and I need to cancel before my cruise, am I protected?

Absolutely. Under Holland America Line's Cancel For Any Reason Waiver, no matter the reason, you can cancel by providing written cancellation notice up to 24 hours prior to the start of your scheduled travel (sea, land and/or air) arrangements made by Holland America Line with CPP Standard (or right up to the start of your scheduled travel with CPP Platinum). What's more, you'll get a money back refund. Other programs may not refund cancellation fees if the reason for cancellation is not a "covered" claim.  Written cancellation notice should be sent to: Reservations, Holland America Line Inc., 450 Third Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119. Cancellations may also be sent via email to [email protected] or faxed to 1-800-628-4855; please retain your fax confirmation.

Are my airfare and pre- and post-packages protected as well?

Yes. If you purchased Holland America Line's Flight Ease Plan and/or our pre-/post-packages, you'll get 80% of your air and package cancellation fees refunded when canceling up to 24 hours prior to the start of your scheduled travel (90% with CPP Platinum when canceling right up to the start of your scheduled travel). Any Future Air Credit generated by the airline will be owned solely by Holland America Line and cannot be redeemed.

If an emergency occurs during our trip, will I be able to see a doctor who speaks English?

If you have chosen CPP Platinum, you'll have access to a 24-hour emergency assistance hotline whose staff will refer you to local doctors who speak your language.

Does CPP Platinum cover my medical expenses if I become ill or should develop COVID-19 during my cruise?

Yes, if you become sick or a pre-existing condition suddenly worsens or becomes acute during your vacation, the plan provides reimbursement for eligible medical expenses for any illness, including COVID-19.

Are there exclusions? I have a history of back trouble. What if my back goes out on the trip and we have to cut it short?

There is no exclusion under the Platinum Plan for pre-existing conditions that cause a trip interruption or a medical expense-related claim.

Does CPP Platinum cover me if I am injured on shore?

Yes. You could be reimbursed up to $10,000 (USD) for covered emergency medical, surgical and dental care should you become sick or are accidentally injured while traveling.

What if I am isolated in my stateroom for part of my voyage due to COVID-19?

CPP Platinum provides reimbursement for any days that you are confined to your stateroom if the confinement is ordered by a medical professional.

What happens if I become ill and must leave the ship?

If you must disembark the ship for a covered reason, including COVID-19, and you incur extra expenses to get home in addition to the lost days of the cruise, CPP Platinum reimburses your covered expenses, up to 150% of your total vacation cost.

What is the cost for CPP?

The plan cost is based on the total cruise fare (including Alaska Tour Supplement) paid, and is the same price for all ages.

How do I enroll in the CPP Standard or CPP Platinum Plan?

The CPP Standard and Platinum Plans are optional. You may enroll by paying the appropriate plan cost in addition to the required cruise deposit payment.

When is payment for the plan due?

Either plan is available for purchase prior to the date on which cancellation fees begin to accrue. Payment for the plan is due at time of purchase. The plan cost is non-refundable once cancel fees begin to accrue.

When does the protection take effect?

The Cancel For Any Reason Waiver is in effect once you activate enrollment by purchasing the plan, up to 24 hours prior to the start of your scheduled travel (sea, land and/or air) arrangements made by Holland America Line with CPP Standard, and up to the start of your scheduled travel with CPP Platinum. Other benefits and services provided with the Platinum Plan are effective once you depart on your trip.

Will I need to file a claim if I have to cancel?

No. If you cancel 24 hours before departure with the Standard Plan or prior to departure with the Platinum Plan, you do not need to file a claim. Holland America Line will reimburse 80% - 90% of the eligible amounts paid (minus the plan cost). Written cancellation notice should be sent to: Reservations, Holland America Line Inc., 450 Third Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119. Cancellations may also be sent via email to  [email protected]  or faxed to 1-800-628-4855; please retain your fax confirmation.

How would I file a claim (for something that occurs while I was traveling) if I purchased the Platinum Plan?

Participating guests who incurred a loss while on their cruise vacation may initiate a claim at:  www.travelclaim.com .

Where may I obtain more information?

To view the state-specific plan documentation for CPP Platinum which provides the terms, conditions, and exclusions of the plan, visit  http://www.affinitytravelcert.com/docs/nwehal01 .

The CPP Platinum plan provides insurance coverage that applies only during the covered trip.  You may have coverage from other sources that provides you with similar benefits but may be subject to different restrictions depending upon your other coverages.  You may wish to compare the terms of this policy with your existing life, health, home and automobile policies.  If you have any questions about your current coverage, call your insurer, insurance agent or broker.

CPP Standard Protection’s and CPP Platinum Protection’s Cancel For Any Reason Waiver are non-insurance features provided by Holland America Line. 

CPP Platinum’s Travel Insurance benefits are underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies, Columbus Ohio.

Sign Up for Special Offers 

Local hidden gems: A spotlight on the American treasures in our backyards

america travel plan

There's so much to discover in our backyards.

Some of America's best treasures can be places, monuments, festivals or even local traditions we may not give a second thought to. "Local Hidden Gems" looks to highlight those to our neighbors. The USA TODAY Network staff, which is spread from coast to coast, is putting a spotlight on and opening the doors to their communities.

Imagine stumbling upon a hidden beach in California, a forgotten jazz club in New Orleans, or a charming bookshop in a small New England town. These are the places that locals cherish but often remain undiscovered by tourists. Our reporters have dug deep into their communities to bring you these gems, offering a fresh perspective on destinations that deserve more attention.

Whether you're planning your next adventure or simply curious about the marvels tucked away in your backyard, our list of local hidden gems promises to inspire and delight.

We'll highlight a new gem each week. See below.

From Acadia to Zion: What travelers should know about each of America's national parks

  • The Hess Triangle in New York City, New York
  • Lake Sidney Lanier, Georgia
  • Radnor Lake, Nashville
  • The Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, New York

Planning a national park trip this summer? Booking changes, new features in the works

A view of Half Dome from Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park in California.

More sites require reservations, the annual pass gets a big change, Juneteenth is now a new free entrance day and more changes for 2024

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In 2023, the seashores, lakeshores, battlefields, historic sites, monuments and more that make up the National Park Service had 325.5 million visits , an increase of 4 percent from the year before.

The National Park Service director, Charles Sams III, praised the surge of interest in “learning our shared American story throughout the hidden gems of the national parks system.”

Expecting an even greater turnout in 2024, the Park Service and Recreation.gov, the booking platform for federal land reservations, have implemented new measures to streamline the park experience, manage overcrowding and safeguard the environment.

More parks requiring reservations

To better avoid congested trails, packed parking lots and overflowing trash cans, additional parks are joining Rocky Mountain , Arches and Glacier National Parks this year in requiring day-use permits, timed entries and other reservations for travelers who wish to visit, particularly during peak hours, holidays and the parks’ high seasons. Yosemite National Park is reinstating a timed-entry system it instituted in 2020, but paused in 2022.

Many park enthusiasts expressed mixed feelings about the reservation policies, with some lamenting a lack of first-come, first-served campsites while others find comfort in knowing they have a confirmed booking. As nearly 75 percent of visitors each year descend on national parks from May to October (and often on weekends), park officials stand by the system.

“In some parks, the level of demand is exceeding the capacity for which infrastructure was designed or is outpacing the National Park Service’s ability to sustainably support visitation,” said Kathy Kupper, a public affairs specialist for the service. “This trend is resulting in the need to explore new strategies to protect natural and cultural resources and provide opportunities for safe and meaningful visitor experiences.”

It can be confusing.

Angels Landing in Zion National Park in Utah

New to implementing timed-entry reservations for vehicles is Mount Rainier National Park , in Washington, for its popular Paradise and Sunrise Corridors during certain times in the summer season. Reservations cost $2, are valid for one day and must be purchased along with the park ticket, but do not apply for visitors with wilderness permits or camping or lodge reservations. Similar vehicle reservations are now required for certain periods for viewing the sunrise at Haleakalā National Park in Maui, Hawaii, and driving the Cadillac Summit Road in Maine’s Acadia National Park .

Visitors wishing to hike Old Rag Mountain in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park must obtain a day-use ticket between March 1 and Nov. 30, and in Zion National Park, in Utah, hikers wishing to visit Angels Landing , the dramatic 1,488-foot-tall rock formation, also need to purchase a permit. Fees range from $1 to $6, in addition to the parks’ entrance fees.

As each destination is managed differently, check the park’s webpage for the type of reservation required. Although most bookings can be made through Recreation.gov, some sites, such as Muir Woods National Monument , use a different system.

New features on Recreation.gov

In 2023, Recreation.gov reported that more than 4 million camping reservations and 2 million timed-entry reservations were booked online, and 1.5 million permits were issued. Some 2.9 million new users signed up for the site. With its expanding user base, the booking platform has added 58 reservable national park locations — including 17 campgrounds — such as Central Avenue Walk-In Sites at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Bluff Hike In Camping in South Carolina’s Congaree National Park .

Recreation.gov has also improved an alerts feature, piloted in July 2023, that can notify users through email or mobile push notifications when a sold-out campsite becomes available. After Recreation.gov notifies you of availability, you must book the campsite yourself online — and quickly, as you’ll be shown how many other people (possibly hundreds) have received the same alert.

While its customer support center and mobile app are still only available in English, Recreation.gov recently introduced a Spanish language translation option. The Park Service partners with Latino Conservation Week , which hosts nationwide hikes and events on environmental education and in-park stewardship, and will celebrate its 10th year in September.

Beachgoers relax at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, where new beach wheelchairs will be available.

A limit to the annual America the Beautiful pass

The 2024 America the Beautiful pass no longer allows two owners. The annual interagency pass, which costs $80 and covers the entrance fees for more than 2,000 federal recreation sites (of which roughly 100 do not charge for admission year-round), is now marked by a single signature line on the back of the card. The pass owner must show ID and be present with any accompanying travelers wishing to access the park with the pass. (Annual passes issued in 2023 will still be valid until their expiration date.) The pass covers all passengers in a vehicle — up to four adults, and children under 16 are admitted free — or up to four cyclists riding together. Active military or veterans and people with permanent disabilities are eligible for a free lifetime pass; fourth grade students may receive a free annual pass; and senior citizens may purchase a $20 annual pass or pay $80 for a lifetime pass.

At the parks, more accessible features, EV chargers and new lodging

To better protect against global warming, the Park Service is putting more than $65 million from the Inflation Reduction Act and Great American Outdoors Act into climate mitigation and ecosystem restoration.

Using $15.9 million budgeted for zero-emission vehicle deployment, charging capacity and infrastructure, the Park Service is prioritizing a reduction in carbon emissions, said Sams, by installing new electric-vehicle charging stations and running electric buses.

An interactive online locator tool created in 2023 shows EV charging stations throughout 27 national parks and the type of chargers available. In addition to the tool, every national park page displays alerts on road closures, parking lot capacities, construction work and other incidents.

Sams also said the Park Service is investing $1.3 billion from the Great American Outdoors Act to improve accessibility features, ranging from a new ADA-compliant visitor center at Morristown National Historic Park in New Jersey to new beach wheelchairs at Sleeping Bear Dunes , Channel Islands and Virgin Islands National Parks . Each destination’s website has an accessibility tab to help visitors plan their trip, and Recreation.gov now has a search filter on its homepage to make it easier to locate accessible accommodations.

Mount Rainier is reflected in a lake in Mount Rainier National Park, Wash.

New lodging options now available across the country include the Flamingo Lodge , which opened inside Everglades National Park last fall with 24 guest rooms built from repurposed shipping containers. In March, along the southeastern border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cataloochee Ranch reopened with 11 renovated cabins and a new restaurant. This spring, the Clubhouse Hotel & Suites will welcome its first guests in Rapid City, S.D., the closest major town to Badlands National Park , and opening in May in Idaho is the Yellowstone Peaks Hotel , a 30-minute-drive from Yellowstone National Park. This fall, California-bound travelers planning a visit to General Sherman, the largest known tree on Earth, might book at AutoCamp Sequoia , just outside Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park .

Also in California: Those who don’t score a highly coveted (and contentious) spot at the newly reopened High Sierra Camps in Yosemite could book Wildhaven Yosemite in Mariposa, which offers more affordable rates, hiking trails and views of the Sierra Nevadas. Reservations for its first season are available beginning May 1.

Celebrating milestones and a new free entrance day

On the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, visitors can pay tribute to African American heritage at over 100 parks , including the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument , and the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail .

This year also marks 100 years since Indigenous people were recognized as U.S. citizens. Although many parks have Indigenous programming , Sams, who is the first Native American to serve as NPS director, suggested visiting Hopewell Cultural Historical Park in Ohio and Whitman Mission Historic National Historic Site in Washington, where he recently brought his daughter.

“In order to celebrate the diversity that makes our country great, we must share the complete story of America, which includes both the successes and challenges encountered on the way to form a more perfect union,” Sams said.

Juneteenth National Independence Day is the National Park Service’s newest free entrance day . Visitors can also take advantage of free admission on Aug. 4, the four-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act ; Sept. 28 on National Public Lands Day ; and Nov. 11 for Veterans Day .

Matison is a freelance writer. This article appeared in The New York Times.

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A San Diego insider’s look at what talented artists are bringing to the stage, screen, galleries and more.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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A young woman looks out at the Italian countryside on TrenItalia's Intercity Notte sleeper train from Palermo to Rome.

New to riding a sleeper train in Europe? Here’s what to know

More climate-friendly option growing in popularity in Europe

May 26, 2024

Snowboarding through Alpine villages in Zermatt.

Springtime in Switzerland a revelatory homecoming

Hitting the slopes by skis, board, bike or on foot, less-crowded season an ideal time for a peaceful visit amid exhilarating beauty

May 19, 2024

Conceptual art that shows a lush alien world and a potential boat ride.

Avatar land coming to Disneyland resort, Disney CEO confirms

An Avatar-themed land had been dangled as a tantalizing possibility during the extended Disneyland pitch that also floated potential themed lands based on Tangled, Frozen, Peter Pan, Zootopia, Toy Story, Black Panther, Coco, Tron and Encanto as potential expansion projects in Anaheim.

May 17, 2024

Drew Deckman at Deckman's en el Mogor in Baja California's Valle de Guadalupe.

San Diego Dining and Drinking

Drew Deckman and 3 other chefs with San Diego ties among Michelin Guide first awardees in Mexico

Deckman, Roberto Alcocer, Ruffo Ibarra and Javier Plascencia have current or past restaurant interests on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border

May 15, 2024

Thousands of beach-goers lined the San Diego coast at La Jolla Shores as temperatures soared inland during Labor Day weekend. Photos by K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune

Memorial Day: Best and worst times for San Diegans to travel and other tips

For Southern California travelers, San Diego will be the second most popular destination, just behind Las Vegas, so expect plenty of crowds over the holiday weekend

May 14, 2024

Line at the San Diego County Assessor's Office

San Diego apostille event, for certifying documents for international use, draws big crowds. It’s open again today.

The San Diego County Assessor’s Office is authenticating the documents Monday and Tuesday — a service that usually requires a trip to L.A.

May 13, 2024

  • Credit Cards
  • Best Travel Credit Cards

19 Best Travel Credit Cards Of May 2024

Becky Pokora

Expert Reviewed

Updated: May 24, 2024, 1:38pm

For anyone who travels enough to have a separate savings account, like I do, credit cards are a valuable resource toward booking and paying for your trip. The rewards can offset a huge portion of your out-of-pocket expenses, and the best travel cards often pay for themselves in money saved and headaches avoided.

Why you can trust Forbes Advisor

Our editors are committed to bringing you unbiased ratings and information. Our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers. We use data-driven methodologies to evaluate financial products and companies, so all are measured equally. You can read more about our editorial guidelines and the credit card methodology for the ratings below.

  • 113 countries visited
  • 5,500 hotel nights spent
  • 93,000,000 miles and points redeemed
  • 29 loyalty programs covered

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card : Best Travel Credit Card for Beginners
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card : Best Premium Travel Rewards Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® : Best Travel Credit Card for International Travel
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express : Best Travel Rewards Credit Card for Lounge Access
  • American Express® Gold Card : Best Travel Rewards Earning for Foodies
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card : Best Flat-Rate Rewards Credit Card for Travel
  • Bilt World Elite Mastercard® : Best Travel Rewards Credit Card With No Annual Fee
  • Credit One Bank Wander® Card : Best Travel Credit Card for Fair Credit
  • Aeroplan® Credit Card : Best Airline Rewards Program for International Travel
  • United Quest℠ Card : Best United Credit Card
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card : Best Premium Airline Card
  • British Airways Visa Signature® Card : Best for British Airways Passengers
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card : Best for Southwest Passengers
  • IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card : Best Midrange Hotel Card
  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card : Best Travel Credit Card for Hyatt Loyalists
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card * : Best for Marriott Customers
  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express * : Best Premium Hotel Card
  • Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card * : Best No Annual Fee Hotel Card
  • Best Credit Cards Of 2024
  • Credit Cards With Travel Insurance
  • Best Hotel Credit Cards
  • Best Credit Card For Lounge Access
  • Best No-Annual-Fee Cards For Travel
  • Best Airline Credit Cards

Best General Purpose Travel Credit Cards

Best travel credit card for beginners, chase sapphire preferred® card.

Up to 5x Reward Rate

Earn 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all Read More

Welcome Bonus

75,000 bonus points

Regular APR

21.49%-28.49% Variable

Credit Score

Excellent, Good (700 - 749)

I jumped at the chance to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card when it was first launched. More than a decade later, I’m still a loyal cardholder.

Why We Like It

For a modest annual fee (which is partially justified with an annual hotel credit) you get a rare mix of high rewards rates and redemption flexibility.

What We Don’t Like

The highest earning rate requires making reservations through Chase Travel℠ and doesn’t include direct bookings or online travel agencies.

Who It’s Best For

Travelers who want to earn transferable points without a steep annual fee.

Julian Kheel

I​​t’s the granddaddy of travel credit cards, but it still earns its reputation as one of the best around with solid bonus categories, strong travel protections, a great set of domestic and international transfer partners and a reasonable annual fee to boot. You can’t go wrong with it as your first travel credit card.

  • Earn high rewards on several areas of spending
  • Transfer points to travel partners at 1:1 rate
  • Many travel and shopping protections
  • No intro APR offer
  • Best travel earning rates are only for bookings through Chase
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC

Best Premium Travel Rewards Card

Capital one venture x rewards credit card.

Up to 10X Reward Rate

Earn 2 miles per dollar on all eligible purchases, 5 miles per dollar on flights and 10 miles per dollar Read More

Earn 75,000 bonus miles

19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)

Excellent (750 - 850)

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card ( rates & fees ) is packed with extras that put it firmly in competition with other upscale credit cards. Just as important, the easy earnings structure is ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to stress over details.

Its annual fee is easily recouped through an annual travel credit and bonus miles, which makes the perks feel almost free.

The flat-rate earnings mean that if you have high spending in a single category, you might be better off with a different card.

Travelers who want premium benefits and are willing to book through Capital One travel at least once a year.

If you’re looking for lofty perks without a lofty annual fee, the Venture X fits the bill. While other cards with elite benefits can run close to $700 a year, the Venture X is nearly half that. And you’ll still get Capital One and Priority Pass airport lounge access for you and your eligible guests, an annual travel credit and solid earnings on everyday purchases.

  • Annual fee lower than others in its category
  • Annual travel credit through Capital One Travel and anniversary miles alone could justify the annual fee
  • Miles are easy to earn and easy to use
  • Lack of domestic airline and upscale hotel travel partners
  • Capital One lounge network in its infancy
  • Lack of hotel status benefits
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®

Best Travel Credit Card for International Travel

Chase sapphire reserve®.

Up to 10x Reward Rate

Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Read More

22.49%-29.49% Variable

Earn superior points rates if you spend frequently on travel and dining out with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® . Its greatest selling point, though, is the awesome list of 1:1 transfer partners.

The $300 travel credit compensates for much of the annual fee, and the travel protection benefits have personally reimbursed me more than $1,000.

There’s an extra fee to add an authorized user to your account.

Anyone looking to take advantage of built-in travel insurance protections.

Lori Zaino

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is one of the most valuable flexible rewards credit cards thanks to its lucrative bonus categories and easy-to-use travel credit. Cardholders can offset the annual fee and get great value when redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned on the card, thanks to partnerships with numerous airlines and hotels and its convenient travel booking portal, Chase Travel.

  • $300 annual travel credit is incredibly flexible
  • Generous welcome bonus
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase
  • Points transfer to valuable airline and hotel partners
  • High annual fee
  • High variable APR on purchases
  • Excellent credit recommended
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $1125 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card for Lounge Access

The platinum card® from american express.

5X Reward Rate

Earn 5 Membership Rewards Points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel and on flights booked directly Read More

Earn 80,000 points

See Pay Over Time APR

Good,Excellent (700 - 749)

The Platinum Card® from American Express (terms apply, see rates & fees ) is destined for frequent travelers who intend to fully leverage the rich set of travel benefits. Trust me when I say the perks can make you feel like a VIP. The staggering annual fee for this classic status card won’t be worth it for everyone, but in the right hands the expense can be well justified.

Lounge access with this card extends beyond the Priority Pass membership you see on other premium cards.

Many of the statement credits and other offers have limitations for how you can use them.

Cardholders who will track and maximize the long list of member benefits.

Ben Nickel-D'Andrea

Being an Amex Platinum cardholder grants access to the International Airline Program, which can save you money on first and business-class seats on more than 20 airlines, as well as premium economy tickets for you and up to seven traveling companions. Start your search on the Amex Travel website to find international flights departing or arriving in the U.S. for any of those premium cabins.

  • High reward potential on flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • Multiple credits can help justify the fee
  • Comprehensive airport lounge access
  • Luxury travel benefits and elite status with Hilton and Marriott with enrollment
  • Very high annual fee
  • Maximizing the statement credits takes some work and could be impractical for many
  • Reward rate outside of travel is sub-par for a premium card
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market. As of 03/2023.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Save on eligible delivery fees, shipping, and more with a Walmart+ membership. Use your Platinum Card® to pay for a monthly Walmart+ membership and get up to $12.95 plus applicable taxes back on one membership (excluding Plus Ups) each month.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only. Terms Apply.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: CLEAR® Plus helps to get you to your gate faster at 50+ airports nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Card. CLEARLanes are available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues.
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 year period for TSA PreCheck® application fee for a 5-year plan only (through a TSA PreCheck® official enrollment provider), when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at saks.com on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Runner-Up Travel Cards

Best travel rewards earning for foodies, american express® gold card.

Up to 4X Reward Rate

Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.; Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at Read More

Earn 60,000 points

Excellent/Good (700 - 749)

Foodies and travelers can leverage the American Express® Gold Card (terms apply, see rates & fees ) to the hilt, earning up to 4 points per dollar. The annual fee may seem intimidating—I get that. But my household comes out ahead by taking advantage of the card’s dining credits and rotating Amex Offers.

The grocery earnings on this card are impressive and rare for a travel card. Earn on everyday spending and redeem toward vacation: perfect.

The dining credits and Uber Cash are provided monthly rather than in an annual lump sum.

Cardholders with high spending on food expenses.

Barbara King

This card makes it easy to earn Membership Rewards points while doing regular grocery shopping since the card earns bonus points at supermarkets. And for the nights that cardholders don’t want to cook, they can make use of the monthly dining and Uber credits (which can be used on Uber Eats orders).

  • High rewards earnings possibilities
  • Points transfer option to many partners
  • Add up to 5 authorized users for no additional annual fee
  • Can choose from regular or rose gold versions
  • No lounge benefits
  • Limited options to carry a balance
  • High APR for pay over time feature
  • High pay over time penalty APR
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Get a $100 experience credit with a minimum two-night stay when you book The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel. Experience credit varies by property.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.

Best Flat-Rate Rewards Credit Card for Travel

Capital one venture rewards credit card.

Up to 5X Reward Rate

Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Earn 5X miles on Capital One Entertainment Read More

Casual travelers who don’t plan to carry a balance will find good value in the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card‘s ( rates & fees ) earnings rates. And if you appreciate the skip-the-line perks of TSA PreCheck® and Global Entry as much as I do, you’ll be grateful for the up to $100 credit toward program fees.

You can earn double miles on every purchase and access transfer partners without ponying up a triple-digit annual fee.

The card is light on big-ticket benefits compared to peers.

Cardholders who want to earn travel rewards at a flat rate.

Kimberly Shearer

The Capital One Venture Rewards card is extremely low maintenance as far as travel reward cards go. It provides consistent value and flexibility when it comes to earning and redeeming points for travel and is an excellent alternative for anyone a bit leery of the high Venture X annual fee.

  • Solid rewards rate
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® statement credit (up to $100)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles are easy to redeem either via partner transfers or by applying against travel purchases
  • $95 annual fee
  • No introductory APR on purchases or transfers
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card With No Annual Fee

Bilt world elite mastercard®.

Up to 3x Reward Rate

1x on rent payments with no transaction fee (on up to 100,000 points each calendar year). 2x points on travel Read More

Good/Excellent (700 - 749)

Pay rent, earn rewards and use your earnings for travel. I wish the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® ( rates & fees ) existed when I was still renting, so something positive would have come out of those expenses. Even without a rent payment, the earning rates and redemption options aren’t too shabby.

There aren’t many options to earn transferable miles without an annual fee or a card pairing, especially considering how many partners Bilt has.

There’s no welcome offer on this card whatsoever.

Anyone who regularly makes rent payments.

It’s almost impossible to earn rewards on what is the biggest monthly expense for many people, which is why anyone who pays rent should have a Bilt Mastercard in their wallet. Not only will you earn points just from paying your rent, you’ll do it without being charged a fee for the transaction, and Bilt points are among the most versatile travel points around. ( Pro Tip: Don’t redeem Bilt points to pay rent when you can get much more value for them for travel!).

  • Earn rewards on rent
  • Primary car rental and cell phone insurance
  • Points can be transferred to partners
  • Requires five card transactions per statement period to earn rewards
  • No welcome bonus
  • High regular APR range
  • Rewards outside of rent spend are relatively low compared to other cards
  • Earn points when you make 5 transactions that post each statement period
  • $0 annual fee
  • 1x points on rent payments with no transaction fee (on up to 100,000 points each calendar year)
  • 2x points on travel (when booked directly with an airline, hotel, car rental or cruise company)
  • 3x points on dining
  • Plus 1x points on other purchases
  • Cell Phone Insurance
  • Purchase security (theft and damage protection)
  • Mastercard® World Elite Concierge
  • Lyft Credits
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • Rewards & benefits terms

Best Travel Credit Card for Fair Credit

Credit one bank wander® card.

Earn 10X points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site; earn 5X points Read More

29.74% Variable

Fair/Good (650 - 699)

The Credit One Bank Wander® Card is a rare card that combines high-value travel and gas earnings but requires only average credit to apply. Once you get it, I’d recommend working hard to rebuild your credit and apply for a similar card without an annual fee, but it’s a great stepping stone in the meantime.

Almost everyone looking for a travel card will spend on the card’s bonus categories of airfare, gas and dining.

Maximizing the 10x categories requires booking through the Credit One travel partner.

Travelers with fair credit.

Albert Hsieh

The Credit One Bank Wander Card offers lucrative points-earning opportunities within key travel categories, however, its extra perks and benefits fall short when compared to other premium credit cards.

  • High reward potential
  • Issuer advertises requiring an average minimum credit rating
  • No low introductory APR period
  • High 29.74% Variable APR
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees

Best Travel Cards for Airlines

Best airline rewards program for international travel, aeroplan® credit card.

Earn 3x points for each dollar spent on grocery stores, dining at restaurants including takeout and eligible delivery services, and Read More

Earn 70,000 points

21.74% - 28.74% Variable

Good, Excellent (700 - 749)

Many people—myself included—might be tempted to overlook this card that seems geared toward Air Canada passengers. But the Aeroplan® Credit Card recently caught my eye for its strong earning potential and the option to redeem miles for award flights on partner airlines, of which there are dozens.

Not only can you earn quickly with this card, but your miles stretch far, too. Cardholders may have access to reduced price award flights.

Learning the ins and outs of Aeroplan rewards requires a little extra attention.

Savvy travelers who mostly fly internationally.

Chase and Air Canada’s co-branded Aeroplan Credit Card will serve as an excellent companion for frequent flyers of Star Alliance and its carriers from United to Lufthansa as you earn valuable Aeroplan points. Maximize your Aeroplan points and redeem for flights and hotels through an extensive partner network. Enjoy additional points-earning opportunities in key everyday categories.

  • Excellent rewards earning
  • Travel benefits including perks for Air Canada flyers
  • Lacks non-travel related benefits
  • Earn 70,000 bonus points
  • Earn 70,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • $95 Annual Fee
  • Redeem points for both international and domestic flights with the Aeroplan® Credit Card.
  • Fly to another continent and travel the world with the Aeroplan® Credit Card.
  • Earn 3X points for each dollar spent at grocery stores, on dining at restaurants, and Air Canada directly. Earn 1X point for each dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • 500 bonus points for every $2,000 you spend in a calendar month – up to 1,500 points per month.

Best United Credit Card

United quest℠ card.

Up to 3X Reward Rate

3 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases. 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, select streaming services & all Read More

Earn 60,000 bonus miles

21.99% - 28.99% Variable

Frequent United Airlines customers will appreciate that the United Quest℠ Card comes with an annual $125 United credit, rewards on travel and dining and travel protections such as primary car rental coverage and trip cancellation insurance.

This card rewards your loyalty. You can earn award flight credits after renewing the card and booking eligible award flights with your miles.

The annual fee on the United Quest is more than double the average airline card.

United flyers who aren’t interested in committing to an ultra-premium card.

Ben Luthi

Don’t let the card’s annual fee scare you off. Even if you’re not a frequent flyer, the perks can make this card worth your while, and the rewards rates are better compared to most airline cards.

  • $125 annual United purchase credit
  • Earn up to two 5,000-mile award flight credits annually
  • Two free checked bags for cardholder and a companion traveling on the same reservation
  • Earn up to 6,000 Premier Qualifying Points annually
  • Primary auto collision damage waiver for eligible rentals
  • Checked baggage benefit only applies to one companion
  • Earnings for general purchases are only 1 mile per dollar
  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 500 PQP after qualifying purchases
  • Earn 3 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel, dining and select streaming services
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Free first and second checked bags – a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip (terms apply) – and priority boarding
  • Up to a $125 United® purchase credit and up to 10,000 miles in award flight credits each year (terms apply)
  • Earn up to 6,000 Premier qualifying points (25 PQP for every $500 you spend on purchases)

Best Premium Airline Card

United club℠ infinite card.

Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases; Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and Read More

Earn 80,000 bonus miles

United’s top-tier card ties up the whole package. A suite of travel perks makes the United Club℠ Infinite Card a compelling value, with the United Club membership alone worth more than the annual fee. If I flew more often, I’d be tempted by the ability to earn Premier Qualifying Points with eligible charges.

Airport lounge access can turn the frustration of airports into an actually relaxing experience.

Many loyal customers may already have elite status with United, making the included Premier Access benefits redundant.

United flyers who want airport lounge access when traveling.

Emily Moore

If reaching a higher status with United is a priority, the United Club Infinite all but guarantees it, as long as the card is used regularly. Cardholders also enjoy frequent seat upgrades (depending on route and availability) plus always-free United Club access. But these perks come with a hefty price tag.

  • No foreign transaction fee
  • United Club membership is worth more than the annual fee
  • First and second checked bag free when you pay for your flight with your card
  • High regular APR
  • Earn 80,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and dining
  • Free first and second checked bags – a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip (terms apply) – and Premier Access® travel services
  • 10% United Economy Saver Award discount within the continental U.S. and Canada
  • Earn up to 10,000 Premier qualifying points (25 PQP for every $500 you spend on purchases)

Best for British Airways Passengers

British airways visa signature® card.

Earn 85,000 Avios.

British Airways’ Avios reward currency is looked down upon by lots of travelers, but the British Airways Visa Signature® Card  offers value if you know where to look.

This card makes it even easier to lock in a deal, thanks to flight discounts, statement credits toward award flights and the chance to earn a Travel Together Ticket .

Many British Airways redemptions have really high fees associated with them, which takes some of the fun out of booking award flights.

Travelers who fly British Airways annually or more often.

Those who spend enough to earn the Travel Together Ticket can get 50% off the price of their award ticket when traveling solo or get a second seat on the same flight and cabin for a companion at no additional cost beyond taxes and fees. Travel Together Tickets are now valid on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus flights and any of their subsidiaries on itineraries from anywhere in the world for both one-way or round-trip flights.

  • Generous rewards on eligible flights
  • Potential to earn a companion ticket
  • Lucrative welcome bonus
  • Rewards rate poor outside of Avios-earning airlines
  • Subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule
  • No checked baggage or lounge perks
  • Limited time offer! Earn 85,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • Earn 3 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and LEVEL.
  • Earn 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel.
  • 10% off British Airways flights starting in the US when you book through the website provided in your welcome materials.
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
  • Simply tap to pay with your contactless British Airways Visa Signature Card. Just look for the contactless symbol at checkout. It’s fast, easy and secure!

Best for Southwest Passengers

Southwest rapid rewards® priority credit card.

Earn 3X points on Southwest purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare, 2X points on internet, cable, Read More

Earn 50,000 points.

21.49%-28.49% variable

My biggest gripe with Southwest is the lack of assigned seating, but the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card solves that issue with four upgraded boardings per year when available, a $75 annual travel credit toward Southwest purchases (upgrade to an Anytime fare for EarlyBird Check-In) and the chance to earn tier qualifying points. Once you’re A-List, you’ll always get complimentary priority boarding.

Stick with this card and you’ll get a 7,500 anniversary points bonus each year after renewal. Sounds like another free flight to me.

Rapid Rewards doesn’t partner with other airlines, so your redemption options are limited.

Southwest flyers who can consistently maximize the annual travel credit and anniversary points.

The perks on this card are practical and useful for regular Southwest flyers. Four upgraded boarding passes per year plus an easy-to-earn $75 statement credit on Southwest purchases and a 7,500-point anniversary bonus can all make this card worth keeping in their wallets.

  • Earn points toward A-list status
  • Unlimited reward seats with no blackout dates
  • Rewards flights only available on Southwest, no partner airlines
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 7,500 anniversary points each year.
  • Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
  • Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
  • $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Best Travel Cards for Hotel Points

Best midrange hotel card, ihg one rewards premier credit card.

Up to 26X Reward Rate

Earn up to 26 points total per $1 spent when you stay at IHG Hotels & Resorts; 5 points per Read More

Earn 140,000 bonus points

21.49% - 28.49% Variable

I stay at IHG properties only a few times a year, but the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card is a mainstay in my husband’s wallet. Get it for the benefits, not the points potential: We love the Anniversary Free Night—which alone justifies the annual fee—and appreciate the fourth-night-free feature.

High spenders are showered with extra love. You can earn statement credits, bonus points or upgraded elite status when hitting spending thresholds on the card.

The earning rates aren’t as high as they seem once you realize that IHG One Rewards are typically worth less than a penny apiece.

Travelers who stay at IHG properties one or more times per year.

The IHG One Rewards Premier blows all other mid-tier hotel credit cards out of the water with perks alone. You don’t even have to use the card regularly to offset its annual fee every year.

  • Earn up to 26 points per dollar spent on IHG hotels worldwide
  • Free night award every account anniversary
  • Fourth night free on point redemption stays
  • Automatic Platinum Elite status
  • Poor earnings for everyday and non-category hotel purchases
  • Low overall point value
  • No worthwhile redemption options outside of IHG properties
  • Earn 140,000 Bonus Points
  • Enjoy an Anniversary Free Night at IHG Hotels & Resorts. Plus, enjoy a fourth reward night free when you redeem points for a consecutive four-night IHG® hotel stay.
  • Earn up to 26 total points per $1 spent when you stay at IHG Hotels & Resorts
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on purchases on travel, at gas stations, and restaurants. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Automatic Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier cardmember
  • Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS Statement Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
  • IHG One Rewards Bonus points are redeemable at Hotels & Resorts such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®

Best Travel Credit Card for Hyatt Loyalists

The world of hyatt credit card.

Up to 9X Reward Rate

Earn up to 9 points total per $1 spent at Hyatt - 4 bonus points per $1 when you use Read More

Up to 60,000 Bonus Points

21.49% - 28.49% variable

While Hyatt doesn’t have an extensive network of properties compared to other chains, the value offered by The World of Hyatt Credit Card is outstanding. If you’re a regular at Hyatt, a combination of high redemption values, sweet perks and one free night per year easily covers the annual fee and then some.

The card comes with five qualifying night credits, but cardholders can earn more through card spending to work their way up the elite ladder.

The automatic Discoverist elite status for cardholders is, frankly, uninspiring.

Hyatt loyalists looking to earn extra points and work toward status.

For many Hyatt loyalists, earning Globalist status each year is a priority and this card can help them get there faster by providing five elite night credits annually. Plus the complimentary yearly certificate for a category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotel counts toward elite status too and can offset the card’s annual fee.

  • Annual free night certificate on cardmember anniversary
  • Complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status
  • High points redemption values
  • Limited number of properties
  • No worthwhile redemption options aside from Hyatt properties
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.
  • Enjoy complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status for as long as your account is open.
  • Get 1 free night each year after your Cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort
  • Receive 5 tier qualifying night credits towards status after account opening, and each year after that for as long as your account is open
  • Earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel if you spend $15,000 in a calendar year
  • Earn 2 qualifying night credits towards tier status every time you spend $5,000 on your card
  • Earn up to 9 points total for Hyatt stays – 4 Bonus Points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member
  • Earn 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships

Best for Marriott Customers

Marriott bonvoy boundless® credit card *.

Up to 6X Reward Rate

Earn 6 points for every $1 at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3 points for every $1 spent each year (up Read More

Earn 3 Free Night Awards

Overwhelmed by all of Marriott’s credit card options? So am I. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card * is the best value for most customers, given a robust set of perks and rewards potential without an eye-popping annual fee.

The Free Night Award, provided each year after renewal, is valued at 35,000 points and can be topped off if you prefer an upgraded stay.

If you’ve held a Marriott-branded credit card in the past, you may not be eligible for this one. Choose your card wisely before applying!

Marriott Bonvoy members looking for a little extra without a high annual fee.

The card’s free award night perk alone makes the card worth a spot in any traveler’s wallet. The option to combine the certificate with up to 15,000 points to get more flexibility for your annual stay is a nice touch.

  • Free night certificate every year (valued at 35,000 points)
  • 15 Elite Night Credits per year
  • Automatic Silver Elite status
  • Stingy earnings structure
  • Earn 3 Free Night Awards after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
  • Earn 6 points per dollar on qualifying Marriott Bonvoy hotel stays
  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on groceries, gas stations, and dining
  • Earn 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Points don’t expire as long as you make purchases on your credit card every 24 months

Best Premium Hotel Card

Hilton honors aspire card from american express *.

Up to 14X Reward Rate

Earn 14X Hilton Honors bonus points on eligible purchases at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton portfolio; Earn 7X Read More

Earn 175,000 points

20.99% - 29.99% variable

The flagship card from Hilton, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express * comes with a price tag to match its top-tier status and perks. It’s a perfect fit for big spenders who haunt Hilton properties enough to leverage the rich suite of benefits that come with the complimentary Diamond elite status.

Hilton status is actually meaningful, giving you benefits like food and beverage credits, executive lounge access and room upgrades.

Since the annual fee is $550, you’ll need to travel often to make the perks worth the cost.

Travelers willing to pay for automatic top-tier hotel status and other benefits.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

Top-tier elite status from simply holding this credit card is its most endearing quality. Hilton Diamond status–granted every year you hold the card–gets you room upgrades, food and beverage credits, executive lounge access and more. Since there’s no spend requirement for the Diamond status, this benefit even on its own can make the card worth keeping long term.

  • CLEAR® Plus membership credit with enrollment
  • Over $750 in value annually
  • Instant Hilton Diamond elite status with rich set of benefits
  • Free standard night award with no category limits at participating properties
  • High annual fee with no first-year waiver
  • High regular APR and penalty APR
  • Credits are doled out in increments, making them harder to spend
  • Points have a lower value than most rewards programs
  • Earn 175,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of card membership, offer ends 7/31/2024
  • Earn 14 points for every dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio
  • Earn 7 points for every dollar spent on dining and eligible travel purchases including: Flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on other eligible purchases
  • Up to $400 in statement credits each year of card membership ($200 semi-annually) for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors™ Diamond status
  • Annual free night reward, terms apply
  • Up to $200 flight credit ($50 in statement credits each quarter)

Best No Annual Fee Hotel Card

Wyndham rewards earner® card *.

Earn 5X points per $1 spent on eligible purchases made at participating By Wyndham hotels and on gas; Earn 2X Read More

Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card * is for road warriors and frequent stayers at Wyndham properties who are looking for a no annual fee card. You might be surprised at what you can do with Wyndham points.

This can be a backdoor way to earn points for vacation rental redemption options instead of traditional hotels, which opens up a new world of travel opportunities.

Wyndham Guest Rewards expire if you don’t use them, even if you have activity on your account.

Travelers whose trips tend to be U.S.-centric.

Wyndham loyalists will enjoy the array of perks and benefits offered by the Wyndham Earner Plus card. By providing complimentary PLATINUM loyalty status, this card is primed to ensure an enhanced experience at Wyndham’s 9,000+ properties

  • Automatically receive Wyndham Rewards Gold elite status
  • Enjoy extra discounts on local attractions when booking “go free” awards
  • APR can be high, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Target and Walmart are excluded from the grocery bonus and only earn 1 point per dollar
  • Only hotel redemptions offer high value
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening
  • Earn 5 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases made at Hotels by Wyndham and qualifying gas purchases
  • Earn 2 points per dollar spent on eligible dining and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart)
  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases (excluding Wyndham Timeshare resort down payments)
  • Automatically receive a Wyndham Rewards GOLD member level
  • Earn 7,500 bonus points each anniversary year if you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases
  • Redeem 10% fewer Wyndham Rewards points for go free awards, and earn your free nights faster

Here's a Summary of the Best Travel Credit Cards

Overview of the best travel credit cards of 2024, best travel credit card for beginners: chase sapphire preferred® card.

Travelers looking to dip their toe in the water of travel rewards will appreciate the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card as a place to start. It carries a $95 annual fee but packs in enough value to make it worth it. Cardholders earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for access to transfer partners or for easy, no-strings-attached redemptions in Chase Travel℠. There’s no foreign transaction fee and a wide selection of travel insurances.

Rewards: Earn 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs), 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases and 1 point per dollar on other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Annual fee: $95

Other benefits and drawbacks: Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed through Chase’s travel portal, transferred to Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partners or redeemed for a statement credit. The card also offers a $50 hotel credit when booked through Chase’s portal and a 10% anniversary points boost. This means that if you spend $10,000 on the card, you’ll earn an additional 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points when renewing your card.

Read more: Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits and Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Worth It?

Best Premium Travel Rewards Card: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is among the best travel cards on the market in any category. The points are easy to earn and simple to redeem, plus the card comes with a bevy of benefits and credits that easily make the annual fee worthwhile ( rates & fees ).

Rewards: Earn 2 miles per dollar on all eligible purchases, 5 miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel, 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25 and 10 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars when booking via Capital One Travel.

Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $395

Other benefits and drawbacks: The annual fee may give you pause, but the card comes with a $300 annual credit for bookings through the Capital One Travel portal and a 10,000 point anniversary bonus worth $100 in travel. A Priority Pass membership also provides value, giving you access to more than 1,300+ lounges worldwide.

Capital One miles are easy to redeem as they can either be applied toward travel purchases or transferred to travel partners. The main downside to the Venture X is a lack of domestic airline transfer partners, meaning that points will take a bit more knowledge to redeem than American Express Membership Rewards® or Chase Ultimate Rewards® .

Read more: Capital One Venture X Benefits and Is the Capital One Venture X Worth It?

Best Travel Credit Card for International Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® makes our list of best travel rewards cards for many reasons. While it does charge a high annual fee, it earns valuable rewards at a solid rate with transfer partners that cover redemption options all over the world. There’s also best-in-market travel insurance benefits and no foreign transaction fee. As a Visa card , it’s also widely accepted worldwide. If you travel at least a couple times per year, this card deserves serious consideration.

Rewards: Earn 5 points per dollar on flights and 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals when purchasing travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Annual fee: $550

Other benefits and drawbacks: Chase Ultimate Rewards® points earned with the Sapphire Reserve and redeemed for travel through Chase Travel℠ are worth 1.5 cents each or points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to Chase’s travel partners. Cardholders can also make up for a chunk of the annual fee with the $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership and up to a $100 credit every four years to cover your Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS application fee, all of which make far-flung travel easier to bear.

Read more: Chase Sapphire Reserve Benefits and Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Worth It?

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card for Lounge Access: The Platinum Card® from American Express

If you’re looking for a giant welcome bonus to get things started, The Platinum Card® from American Express (terms apply, see rates & fees ) might be for you. After meeting initial spending requirements, you’ll earn valuable Membership Rewards points redeemable toward travel and other options. The downside is it carries the largest annual fee on our list.

Rewards: Earn 5 Membership Rewards Points per dollar for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 per calendar year, 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel and 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $8,000 on eligible purchases on the card in the first 6 months of card membership.

Annual fee: $695

Other benefits and drawbacks: If you’re willing to put in the work to get all of the rebates offered on the card, the benefits can easily offset the annual fee and then some. Many of the perks are very specifically applied and may also require enrollment. Examples include statement credits toward Uber, Saks Fifth Avenue, select digital entertainment, select hotel stays and airline incidental fees. Industry-leading lounge access to more than 1,500 Priority Pass locations worldwide is another major draw.

Read more: Is The Amex Platinum Worth the Yearly Fee?

Best Travel Rewards Earning for Foodies: American Express® Gold Card

Some cards offer bonuses on dining, some on groceries, but you can earn bonus points on basically anything you eat with the American Express® Gold Card (terms apply, see rates & fees ). This is an appealing option for anyone who wants to redeem travel rewards but doesn’t spend enough on flights or hotels to require elevated earning categories on travel itself.

Rewards: Earn 4 Membership Rewards® points per dollar at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 4 Membership Rewards® points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1 point per dollar), 3 Membership Rewards® points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express travel and 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of card membership.

Annual fee: $250

Other benefits and drawbacks: Although this card earns Membership Rewards, which are great for travel, it doesn’t pack travel-specific benefits. Instead, it includes monthly credits, some requiring enrollment, that are great for more common expenses, such as Uber Cash and dining credits valid at GrubHub (including Seamless) and more. For someone who wants to transform everyday expenses into a vacation, this card seamlessly blends the experience.

Read more: Amex Gold Benefits and Is the Amex Gold Worth It?

Best Flat-Rate Rewards Credit Card for Travel: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

There are no complicated earning structures with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card , just simple, straightforward, flat-rate points in exchange for an easy-to-swallow annual fee ( rates & fees ).

Rewards: Earn 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5 miles per dollar spent on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25 and an unlimited 2 miles per dollar spent on other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Other benefits and drawbacks: Expect dialed-back benefits compared to more premium travel cards, though that’s only fair with an annual fee at a fraction of the cost. You’ll still enjoy select trip protections along with no foreign transaction fee. Keep in mind that you’ll want to redeem for travel bookings or transfers to partner programs (cash back is only worth half the rate).

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card With No Annual Fee: Bilt World Elite Mastercard®

The Bilt World Elite Mastercard®  offers a unique opportunity to earn rewards on rent without paying processing fees, but it has value for anyone seeking transferable points without an annual fee ( rates & fees ). This card is impressive enough to stand as a travel card on its own even if you don’t pay rent.

Rewards: Earn 1 point per dollar on rent payments without the transaction fee (on up to 100,000 points each calendar year), 3 points per dollar on dining, 2 points per dollar on travel (when booked through the Bilt Travel Portal or directly with an airline, hotel, car rental or cruise company), and 1 point per dollar on other purchases.

Welcome offer: This card does not offer a welcome bonus.

Annual fee: $0

Other benefits and drawbacks: The Bilt World Elite Mastercard® has a few limitations—you’ll only earn points when making at least five transactions per statement period and earnings on rent are capped at 100,000 points per calendar year—but it’s otherwise a strong card.

Bilt points are transferable to a number of valuable transfer partners including World of Hyatt and American Airlines or you can redeem through their travel portal where point values vary with your redemption option. You can also save your points towards a down payment on a home if you decide travel takes a back bench to homeownership.

Best Travel Credit Card for Fair Credit: Credit One Bank Wander® Card

If your credit score isn’t quite ready for a premium travel card, take a look at the Credit One Bank Wander® Card . The card earns at exceptionally high rates on travel purchases and there’s no foreign transaction fee. Sadly, the card isn’t perfect: You’ll miss out on fancy extras like airport lounge access or the ability to transfer points to other programs.

Rewards: Earn 10 points per dollar on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner, 5 points per dollar on eligible travel, dining and gas and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Other benefits and drawbacks: Don’t be fooled by this low-frills card. The earning rates alone will have you traveling in no time. The card is also well-suited to simultaneously work on improving your credit, with options to choose your own due date and track your credit score. Eventually, this could lead you to even more card options in the future.

Best Airline Rewards Program for International Travel: Aeroplan® Credit Card

The Aeroplan® Credit Card provides a generous rewards program, but for those who fly Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, the card also provides an accelerated route to elite status. Like most airline cards, this card makes the most sense for those who predominantly fly Air Canada.

Rewards: Earn 3 points per dollar spent on dining, takeout and eligible delivery services, grocery stores and each dollar spent directly with Air Canada including vacations and cruises and 1 point per dollar for all other eligible purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

Other benefits and drawbacks: New cardholders will enjoy 25K status through the rest of the calendar year after approval and the next. To maintain status thereafter requires $15,000 of spending on the card in a calendar year. Existing status holders can upgrade to 35K status with $50,000 in spending per calendar year. Cardholders receive the first checked bag free for themselves and up to eight travel companions on the same reservation when flying Air Canada.

A $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS application fee credit every four years as well as preferred pricing on award flights sweeten the deal, which includes a list of protections such as trip cancellation/interruption insurance , baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement , secondary auto rental collision damage waiver and purchase protection.

Best United Credit Card: United Quest℠ Card

The United Quest℠ Card is a midrange United card. It’s a bit pricier than the Explorer card but not nearly as much as the United Club℠ Infinite Card. But with a $125 annual credit on United purchases, two 5,000 MileagePlus credits earned annually after your first cardmember anniversary valid for eligible flight redemptions (see offer for details) and two free checked bags for you and a travel companion when flying United, the Quest could be just right for you.

Rewards: Earn 3 miles per dollar on United® purchases, 2 miles per dollar on dining, select streaming services and all other travel and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Other benefits and drawbacks: In addition to offering extra travel benefits, the Quest card is also a better option for earning miles than the cheaper Explorer card. You’ll earn miles at an elevated rate and can also earn 25 Premier Qualifying Points for every $500 in net purchases (including purchases made by authorized users) up to a maximum of 6,000 PQPs in a calendar year.

Best Premium Airline Card: United Club℠ Infinite Card

As a general rule, if you’re looking for an airline-specific card, you’ll want to get a card with the airline you fly the most. For earnings potential, valuable points and additional useful benefits including lounge access, the United Club℠ Infinite Card comes out ahead.

Rewards: Earn 4 miles per dollar on United® purchases, 2 miles per dollar on all other travel, on dining including eligible delivery services and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Annual fee: $525

Other benefits and drawbacks: The most prominent benefit of the United Club℠ Infinite Card is access to United Club airport lounges and other Star Alliance Gold lounges. You’ll also benefit from two free checked bags for yourself and another person traveling on the same reservation, expedited check-in, security screening and boarding, a trusted traveler application fee reimbursement, expanded access to award flights and Premier Upgrades on award tickets if you have status. Other travel protections and benefits are also included.

Best for British Airways Passengers: British Airways Visa Signature® Card

For those who can make the most of the British Airways’ mileage redemptions , the British Airways Visa Signature® Card makes sense. It offers a sizable welcome bonus, providing solid value against its relatively low annual fee of $95. Big spenders have an opportunity to earn a companion ticket , making it attractive to people who travel regularly back and forth across the Atlantic.

Rewards: Earn 3 Avios per dollar on purchases with Iberia, British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL, 2 Avios per dollar on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel and 1 Avios per dollar on all other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 85,000 Avios after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Other benefits and drawbacks: The British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers Visa Signature benefits such as extended warranties and fraud liabilities, but it also offers several airline-specific benefits. Each calendar year you spend more than $30,000 on the card you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket, which adds an additional seat on the same flight and in the same cabin when booking a British Airways flight (business-class inclusive).

Cardholders can also earn credits of $100 for economy and premium economy or $200 for business and first class, up to three times per year. Additionally, you can use this card to earn 10% off British Airways flights originating in the U.S. when using a special link provided to cardholders.

Best for Southwest Passengers: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card beats other Southwest cards in terms of value, rewards and perks, but it may not seem as impressive compared to other options—especially Chase Ultimate Rewards®-earning cards which permit users to transfer their rewards at a 1:1 ratio to Southwest.

Rewards: Earn 3 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, 2 points per dollar on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental purchases, 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including rideshare, 2 points per dollar on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming and 1 point per dollar on other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Annual fee: $149

Other benefits and drawbacks: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card provides a $75 annual travel credit, 7,500 bonus points each anniversary year and four upgraded boardings (subject to availability). Cardholders also get 25% back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi when they pay with their card, but unlike other airline cards, there’s no need for a baggage credit, since all passengers’ first two checked bags fly for no extra charge. For those seeking companion passes with Southwest airlines (an industry favorite among domestic travel hackers) the card provides 10,000 extra qualifying points as a boost each year.

Best Midrange Hotel Card: IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card

For those who frequently stay at IHG properties, the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card offers generous rewards on hotel stays for an annual fee of $99.

Rewards: Earn up to 26 points per dollar spent when you stay at IHG Hotels & Resorts, 5 points on travel, gas stations, and restaurants and 3 points on all other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Annual fee: $99

Other benefits and drawbacks: The IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card benefits list includes a complimentary fourth night benefit—when booking four consecutive nights with points, you will receive your fourth night free. Additionally, on your cardmember anniversary, you can enjoy a Free Anniversary Night at properties that cost 40,000 points or less per night. You can also qualify for a credit of up to $100 for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS membership every four years.

Best Travel Credit Card for Hyatt Loyalists: The World of Hyatt Credit Card

Travelers that love Hyatt, love Hyatt. The World of Hyatt Credit Card isn’t necessarily the best way to earn World of Hyatt points. But between the annual free night and the ability to spend toward status, it’s a good option for people who frequent Hyatt hotels.

Rewards: Earn 9 points total per dollar spent at Hyatt - 4 bonus points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels and 5 base points per dollar from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member. Earn 2 bonus points per dollar spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships and 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening, plus up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points per dollar spent in the first 6 months on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point on up to $15,000 spent.

Other benefits and drawbacks: In addition to the ability to earn points in a wide range of categories, The World of Hyatt Credit Card offers cardholders a free hotel night valid at Category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotels each cardmember anniversary year and the ability to earn a second one after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Depending on how much you spend on non-Hyatt travel purchases and at restaurants, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® could offer you the ability to earn more Hyatt points in a year because Chase Ultimate Rewards® points transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.

Best for Marriott Customers: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card *

Of the many Marriott credit cards, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card * balances a moderate annual fee with the heavy-hitting benefit of an annual free night award and other hotel perks.

Rewards: Earn 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3 points per dollar spent each year (up to $6,000) on combined grocery stores, gas stations and dining purchases and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 3 Free Night Awards after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Other benefits and drawbacks: This card’s earning rates won’t win any awards, but travelers can still find value with this card. Automatic Silver Elite status comes with some nice bonuses when staying with Marriott and you’ll also receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year to help you hit the next status level faster. If your stays alone won’t hit that level, you can also earn additional Elite Night Credits through spending: One night per $5,000 in eligible card charges. Or, earn Gold Elite automatically by spending $35,000.

Best Premium Hotel Card: Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express *

In addition to earning points at a relatively quick rate, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express * also offers complimentary top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status. Other Hilton benefits include a free night award annually and up to $400 in resort statement credits each year.

Rewards: Earn 14 Hilton Honors bonus points at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio, 7 points per dollar on eligible purchases for flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and U.S. restaurants and 3 points per dollar on other eligible purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 175,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of card membership, offer ends 7/31/2024.

Other benefits and drawbacks: While the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express * earns more points per dollar than some other cards on this list, hotel points are generally not as valuable as airline miles or flexible rewards points. That said, it packs in the benefits.

In addition to hotel perks, cardholders also receive up to $200 in statement credits semi-annually ($400 per year) when using their card to cover eligible Hilton resort charges. You can also earn up to $50 in statement credits quarterly toward qualifying flight charges for a total of $200 per year if maximized.

Best No Annual Fee Hotel Card: Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card *

With no annual fee, the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card * offers solid hotel benefits and earning rates for travelers—especially road trippers, thanks to gas rewards and properties that line the interstates.

Rewards: Earn 5 points per dollar spent on Hotels By Wyndham and gas purchases, 2 points per dollar spent on restaurants and grocery purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) and 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening.

Other benefits and drawbacks: There’s no glitz on this card, just the basics. Still, the welcome offer is reasonably achievable and guests have access to discounts on both paid and award stays with Wyndham-family hotels. Cardholders are also boosted to Gold status for upgrades and extras while traveling. And high spenders get an additional reward on top of all this: You’ll earn 7,500 bonus points each anniversary year after spending $15,000 or more with your card.

Methodology

Forbes Advisor considered dozens of airline, hotel and flexible-rewards credit cards to create this list of the best travel credit cards. The primary factors taken into consideration for all types were:

  • Estimated annual earnings—25% to 50% depending on card category
  • Welcome bonus—15% to 25% depending on card category
  • Travel benefits—15% to 25% depending on card category
  • Annual fee—5% to 15% depending on card category
  • Consumer benefits—0% to 10% depending on card category
  • Foreign transaction fee—0% to 5% depending on card category

Hotel earnings rate was weighted 25% for hotel credit cards and airline earnings rate was weighted 15% for airline credit cards.

Forbes Advisor rates cards both as stand-alone products (the card rating on the review) and compared to others in a specific use case. Sometimes, cards with average stand-alone ratings may still rank highly on a particular list according to how a person looking for a card in that category may value certain card features.

For instance, a card that might be considered mediocre overall could be the top card on a list of rewards cards with no annual fee. That’s because the card might offer limited features compared to other rewards cards, but after we remove cards that charge an annual fee, it’s the best card that remains.

Forbes Advisor uses data from multiple government agencies to determine how much a typical cardholder might spend. We use the same numbers for cards in the same category to make sure we are comparing cards the same way. The bonus categories for spending included with each card are factored into our determination of how many rewards a cardholder could expect to earn if they use the card as a consumer normally would.

Read more: How Forbes Advisor Rates Credit Cards

Complete Guide to Travel Credit Cards

What is a travel credit card, how do travel credit cards work, types of travel credit cards, co-branded travel cards vs. general travel cards, pros and cons of travel credit cards, should i get a travel credit card, when should you use a travel credit card, why you should consider a travel credit card, how to choose and compare travel credit cards, evaluating airline credit cards, evaluating hotel credit cards, how to maximize credit card points for travel, how to travel for free with credit cards.

  • Travel Rewards Cards in the News

Are Travel Credit Cards Worth It?

Frequently asked questions (faqs).

A travel credit card is a card that earns rewards on travel. Those rewards come in a variety of ways. It can earn airline miles, hotel points or flexible points that can be redeemed either with transfer partners or applied towards travel charges.

Many travel credit cards also come with additional benefits such as free checked bags, priority boarding, access to airport lounges and even discounts on hotels or rental cars. Some cards offer welcome bonuses when you sign up, which can provide a nice cache of points or miles to help you start redeeming for valuable rewards.

Travel credit cards may offer value for frequent travelers who want to earn rewards quickly and easily while they’re on the go. These credit cards can be used in any country that accepts major card networks (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, etc) and they often charge no foreign transaction fees, which means there is no extra charge from the credit card company to make purchases abroad.

By using a travel credit card, it’s possible to pile up points over time and redeem them toward flights, hotel stays or other travel expenses.

A travel rewards credit card accrues miles or points for each purchase made with the card. After earning miles or points, there are usually a few redemption options including redeeming for airline tickets, gift cards or statement credits. As a general rule, redeeming miles and points for travel will result in the most value.

How Do Credit Card Points Work?

Credit card points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards®  or American Express Membership Rewards , are earned for each purchase made with the card. Every card has a different earning structure, so one card may earn high rewards on travel and dining purchases while another may earn more points on groceries and gas spending. Often, credit card points will have multiple redemption options, like for cash, travel or gift cards vs. a co-branded card , which tends to earn rewards that can only be redeemed for one thing like travel with a specific airline or hotel or merchandise.

How Do Credit Card Travel Miles Work?

Airline and hotel point values often are variable, which means that the worth of a point may fluctuate depending on the specific redemption. Some programs will tie the value of their points or miles to the cash equivalent of a ticket or hotel night. Others have a tiered system based on something like peak or off-peak travel times, seat class or hotel category—or a combination of the two.

Since airline and hotel rewards are primarily redeemed towards nights or flights, it makes sense to do the research before cashing in a stash of points to make the most of your redemption. Forbes Advisor’s guide to redeeming points and miles is a good place to start.

Not all travel credit cards are alike. Here’s how the various types break down, so you can choose which type of rewards card is best for your unique circumstances.

Transferable Rewards Credit Cards

These types of credit cards earn rewards that can be transferred to other programs, like airline or hotel loyalty programs. Transferable rewards include Capital One Rewards , Bilt Rewards , Brex Rewards , Chase Ultimate Rewards® , American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points .

Airline Credit Cards

Airline credit cards earn miles that can be used to redeem for future purchases with that airline. You can also use that airline’s miles to book flights on partners or other carriers within the same airline alliance , which may yield greater value for your earnings.

Many of the best airline credit cards offer perks beyond earning miles. Usually the higher the annual fee, the more benefits you’ll get. Some common airline credit card extras may include free checked baggage, priority boarding, a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credit and airport lounge access. If you’re able to max out these extras, the perks can often be worth more than the annual fee.

Hotel Credit Cards

Anyone who stays in hotels at least semi-regularly and who can pledge loyalty to one brand may find that a hotel credit card is right for them. With these cards, you’ll earn rewards in the hotel’s currency, like Marriott Bonvoy points , Hilton Honors points or World of Hyatt points , which are redeemable towards any eligible hotel property under that brand’s umbrella.

Owning a hotel credit card can be a much faster path towards accruing points than earning them on stays alone. Some cards confer automatic elite status upon ownership, which comes with its own set of benefits that can range from late check-out to free breakfast to room upgrades. Additionally, many cards will also offer one night free annually every year you renew your card membership as well as other perks such as airport lounge access.

Fixed-Value Credit Cards

Credit card points may often have a fixed-value when redeemed for things like cash back or travel, where the issuer publishes the cash value per point. For example, a card may offer a value of a penny per point when redeemed for any valid travel purchase.

With some cards, fixed-value points currencies can also vary by redemption type. For example, points on a card might be worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel rewards but only be worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash back.

Business Credit Cards for Travel

If you’re traveling for work and you want to keep your business expenses separate from your personal expenses, a travel business credit card may be worth considering. Business credit cards for travel function the same as consumer credit cards for travel, although the business versions often offer different earning rates and perks, as well as a different annual fee structure.

A co-branded card generally makes sense if you tend to stay loyal to that brand when you travel. Using a co-branded card can fast-track you towards elite status with a hotel or airline and often comes with other valuable benefits. If you’d prefer to fly any airline you choose and stay at any hotel brand you’d like, a general travel card is likely a better choice for your needs.

What You Get With General Travel Credit Cards

With travel credit cards, the level of benefits will most likely be associated with the annual fee. A premium card might come with airport lounge access, travel protections including trip cancellation and delay insurance and exclusive privileges at luxury hotels. A midrange card might still offer auto rental insurance and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck benefit. Even a card with no annual fee might offer some basic benefits depending on the card.

What You Get With Co-branded Travel Credit Cards

A co-branded travel card will offer benefits specific to that brand. For airline cards, you might see a checked bag benefit or a rebate on in-flight purchases. For hotel cards, you might see a status level, a free annual night award or anniversary points. Both types of cards might offer you the ability to spend towards higher levels of status.

To learn more about the best co-branded credit cards, see our guides below:

  • Best Southwest Credit Cards
  • Best American Airlines Credit Cards
  • Best Delta Credit Cards
  • Best United Credit Cards
  • Best Hyatt Credit Cards
  • Best Marriott Credit Cards

Ask an expert

Is it better to choose a flexible travel rewards card or one branded to a specific airline or hotel?

Yanely Espinal

Credit Cards Expert

Clint Proctor

Credit Cards Lead Editor

Becky Pokora

Credit Cards Writer

If I had to choose, I’d say flexible travel rewards because it allows for much more versatility in your redemption options beyond just flights and hotel stays. But the best approach is to have both so you can maximize benefits from each card type by earning rewards across all of the spending you normally do, while getting perks with your favorite travel providers at the same time.

Since I’m not particularly loyal to any airline or hotel, I prefer the flexibility of general travel cards. I especially appreciate travel cards that offer transfers to travel partners. With flexible rewards, I can access 10 to 20 or more loyalty programs from a single card. This increases my chances of being able to take advantage of the best award deals that are available for my next trip.

I love that most co-branded travel cards include benefits when booking with that brand. Free night certificates on hotel cards and free checked bags with airlines are valuable perks. Plus, even though earning a single type of point might seem limited, big hotel chains have more than a dozen brand choices and airlines may have 10 or more alliance partners, so you’ll still find plenty of versatility.

Pros of Travel Credit Cards

  • Fast-track to free or discounted travel. You’ll earn rewards on your spending that can be used to reduce the cost of future travel.
  • Elite perks and benefits. Many cards offer money-saving extras like free luggage or complimentary breakfast.
  • Lack of foreign transaction fees. Some of the best travel credit cards won’t charge you extra for using your card abroad.

Cons of Travel Credit Cards

  • Limited-use rewards. The best value in owning and using a travel rewards card comes from redeeming the rewards for more travel.
  • Annual fees can be high. Cards with the most premium perks tend to also have the most premium price.
  • Redemptions can be complicated. For some reward programs, squeezing the most outsized value out of your points or miles can require some work.

It’s safe to say that travel credit cards will likely only appeal to travelers. Their benefits and rewards are specialized and would be hard to use if you don’t intend to travel. For anyone who travels even once or twice a year, though, these credit cards can make a lot of sense compared to cash-back cards or other rewards credit cards due to all of the included perks.

  • Business travel: If your work requires you to travel, having a dedicated travel card can make it easy to keep your business expenses separate from your personal expenses.
  • International travel: If you’re planning to travel abroad, travel credit cards often come with perks like no foreign transaction fees, airport lounge access and application fee reimbursements for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck that can make your journey more comfortable.
  • Luxury travel: If you want an upscale experience like access to exclusive airport lounges, automatic hotel room upgrades and property credits, a travel credit card with these features can grant you access to these features.

How Many Travel Credit Cards Should I Have?

The number of travel credit cards you should have will depend on how often you travel, which benefits you value, your financial situation and whether you’re willing to spend time tracking multiple cards. Frequent travelers will find value in holding at least one travel card, but may consider holding several. For example, having both an airline card and a hotel card can provide complementary benefits and the ability to earn rewards for all aspects of your travel plans.

Travel cards often include numerous membership benefits such as elite status when traveling with partner programs, free checked bags, lounge access or discounts on ancillary travel fees. These benefits can make your trips easier, more comfortable and more affordable. Additionally, travel credit cards offer the opportunity to earn valuable rewards and in some cases may provide higher yields than cash back or other types of rewards.

When comparing travel credit cards, items to consider include:

1. Annual Fee

The annual fee on credit cards ranges from zero to several hundred dollars. In general, the more expensive the card, the richer the perks and rewards. It can be well worth it to pay an annual fee if you’ll use the associated benefits, but there are travel credit cards without an annual fee if you’re more comfortable with that structure.

2. Foreign Transaction Fee

If you’re traveling out of the country, be sure your travel card doesn’t carry any foreign transaction fees. This can be an additional 2% to 3% surcharge on top of the price of your purchase and makes everything you buy with a card in a foreign country more expensive than a card without this fee. Foreign transaction charges also apply to purchases made in other currencies, even if you haven’t left the U.S. The best no foreign transaction fee cards ensure you’re not paying this surcharge.

3. Sign-up Bonus

If you’re trying to decide between two similar cards, it can help to consider the welcome offer on a given card. These welcome offers ebb and flow and if a card you’re thinking about offers a particularly generous offer, it can help offset the annual fee and/or the cost of future travel.

4. Rewards Rate

When choosing a card, think about your spending patterns. If you rarely fly, it may not make sense to own a card that offers the most rewards on airline purchases.

5. International Acceptance

In some countries, all credit cards may be accepted, but that isn’t always the case. When traveling outside of the United States, Visa and Mastercard tend to be more widely accepted than American Express or other cards. Because of this, if you travel often, you may want to choose a Visa or Mastercard either in addition to or in lieu of other types of cards.

6. Travel Protections

Many travel credit cards include various forms of travel protections, such as trip interruption coverage or collision damage waivers for rental cars. These included protections could save you money compared to separately purchased policies but won’t necessarily be as comprehensive. Check with your card benefits guide to get information on your coverage terms. If you travel often, it might be worth specifically seeking out the best credit cards with travel insurance or the best credit cards for car rental insurance .

— Yanely Espinal , Forbes Advisor Credit Cards Advisory Board Member

Also consider any special perks associated with cards you evaluate. These might range from airport lounge access to statement credit reimbursements for certain purchases made with specific brands or on purchases in specific categories.

Airline credit cards typically earn frequent flyer miles on every purchase. Co-branded airline cards also frequently come with perks while traveling, like free checked bags, enhanced award space or lounge access. They may also help you achieve elite status more easily.

When evaluating the best airline credit cards , think about:

  • Earning rates.  Many airline credit cards don’t offer elevated earnings on categories other than airline spending, so you’ll need to choose carefully if that’s important to you.
  • Perks while flying. Typically, only cards with an annual fee include benefits while flying such as priority boarding or complimentary checked bags.
  • Elite-qualifying bonuses.  Some cards include bonus elite-qualifying miles when hitting spending thresholds, which can further enhance your flying experience.
  • Companion fares.  Some airline cards offer the opportunity to earn a companion certificate, which allows you to bring a second traveler on your trip for a reduced price.

Additionally, redeeming frequent flyer miles can be more complicated than requesting cash back or other types of rewards. Though using miles for award flights can lead to tremendous value, you’ll need to learn the ropes of the program.

7 Ways To Earn More Airline Miles

The most common ways to earn airline miles are either through flying with the airline (or its partners) or by using a credit card that earns frequent flyer miles on every purchase. You can also earn more airline miles by:

  • Making purchases through airline shopping portals
  • Booking hotel reservations through the airline’s platform
  • Renting cars and opting in to frequent flyer miles instead of rental credits
  • Completing partner activity, which varies by airline but may include partnerships with Starbucks, Lyft or other brands you use anyway
  • Checking your account to register for promotions
  • Dining with partner restaurants
  • Transferring flexible credit card points

Hotel credit cards will earn points toward future free stays, but this is one case where the benefits can often outshine rewards. More often than not, hotel cards come with automatic elite status as well as a fast track to even higher levels of status. Plus, annual free night certificates or statement credits add to their value proposition.

Many hotel loyalty programs offer multiple co-branded cards to choose from, making it even more important to compare the characteristics of an individual card. It’s not uncommon for a single hotel brand to offer a no-annual-fee card, a mid-tier card and a premium card—each with different earning rates and benefits.

When evaluating hotel credit cards, consider:

  • Elite status offers.  Generally speaking, cards with higher annual fees may automatically bump you to higher elite status levels which can be invaluable on frequent stays.
  • Free night certificates.  Many, but not all, hotel cards offer free night certificates either upon renewal of your card or when hitting spending thresholds. Each certificate may come with restrictions on when or where you can redeem it, so compare fine print.
  • Earning rates.  Hotel cards may offer huge multipliers on bonus categories, allowing you to earn five to 10 times on certain purchases. However, keep expectations in check: Hotel points may not be worth a full penny per point.
  • Statement credits.  Some cards may include statement credits toward eligible purchases made at hotels and resorts or even on airline fees or restaurant purchases, which can be valuable, but you’ll need to actually use them.

8 Ways To Earn More Hotel Points

In addition to booking hotel stays or using a hotel-branded credit card, you can also earn hotel points through other methods such as:

  • Charging incidental purchases made at hotel properties to your account, such as spa, parking or dining expenses
  • Booking events or meetings at participating hotels
  • Making purchases through hotel shopping portals
  • Renting cars and opting in to hotel points instead of rental credits
  • Completing partner activity, which may include partnerships with Starbucks, Lyft or other brands you use anyway
  • Transferring flexible credit card points to your preferred hotel program

The best way to make the most of your credit card is to use a card that aligns with your spending patterns.

  • Choose a card that offers bonus points in spending categories meaningful to you
  • Pair credit cards that offer identical awards in different areas of spending
  • Use your credit card instead of cash or debit when possible

Airline and Hotel Rewards Loyalty Programs

Understanding how to get the most out of the points and miles you earn from your travel credit card goes hand-in-hand with using the loyalty programs offered by most airlines and hotel brands. It’s free to join and you can belong to as many loyalty programs as you like. Typically, when you sign up for a co-branded credit card affiliated with a particular brand, you’ll automatically become a member of the loyalty program if you aren’t already.

Track Your Credit Card Points and Miles Earnings

Tracking your spending allows you to make sure that every time you make a purchase, you’re using the card that will earn you the most rewards. This means knowing which card to use in which scenario based on how a particular merchant codes the purchase . For example, if you own two credit cards, one that earns high rewards on dining and one co-branded airline card, it might not make sense to use the airline card to pay your restaurant tab since the dining card likely earns more rewards. You can do this by various methods as complicated as creating a spreadsheet or as simple as putting stickers on each card to remind you when to use it.

How To Use Credit Card Points for Travel

Beyond earning rewards, there are strategies to get the most value when it comes time to redeem your rewards, too. When it comes time to cash in your travel rewards, there’s generally two ways to do it. You can plan the itinerary you want and use your rewards to fully or partially off-set the cost. Or, you can research to see where the rewards you have can be used to get the most bang for your buck. Now, American Express is making it easier for some cardmembers to redeem miles for flights due to a partnership with Point.me .

Find the Best Hotel Rewards Credit Cards of 2024

Credit cards can save you a lot of money on travel compared to paying full price. Often, the most substantial way to travel for free with credit cards is by redeeming rewards for travel. A combination of welcome bonus offers and the rewards you earn from everyday spending can add up to hundreds of dollars in value toward free travel. However, you’ll need to learn to redeem points and miles from your specific program to do so.

Included statement credits or card benefits can also help you travel for free. Premium credit cards may offer annual credits toward the purchase of select travel, effectively serving as a rebate. Alternatively, you might have airline companion certificates or hotel free night certificates, which work more like a coupon.

Travel Rewards Cards In the News

Travel lovers now have another great credit card option with the launch of the Wells Fargo Autograph Journey℠ Card in March 2024. This new card earns 5 points per dollar on hotels, 4 points per dollar on airlines, 3 points per dollar on other travel and restaurants and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. Those are high reward rates for a card that doesn’t require you to make reservations through a dedicated booking channel or proprietary travel portal.

Though cardholders will be able to transfer points to a limited number of travel partners beginning in April, this card may be a better fit as the best rewards credit card for travel spending. Learn more about how this card is making waves .

Nearly Half of Americans Hold Less Than $100 Worth of Rewards

Credit card rewards are big business, but most Americans aren’t hoarding their earnings. According to a Forbes Advisor survey conducted in April 2024, 49% of Americans have less than $100 worth of rewards in their card accounts right now.

Bar chart showing survey results on the average number of credit card rewards respondents hold

Credit card rewards aren’t worth anything until you redeem them, so the strategy to redeem rewards as you earn them—rather than collecting them indefinitely—is a smart way to handle things. That’s particularly true with travel rewards, which are ripe for devaluation. While sometimes it makes sense to hold onto points until you reach a goal amount, unintentionally hoarding risks leaving value on the table.

Generally speaking, yes, travel credit cards are worth it —if you’ll use the benefits. Travel rewards credit cards can be a strategic addition to your finances if you travel with any regularity. You’ll be able to earn rewards on every purchase and later redeem those rewards toward future trips, often at a higher yield than if you had chosen cash back or other types of rewards. Many travel cards also include benefits to enhance your travel experience along the way to add even more value.

To view rates and fees for The Platinum Card® from American Express please visit this page . To view rates and fees for American Express® Gold Card please visit this page . To view rates and fees for Bilt World Elite Mastercard® please visit this page . For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.

What is considered travel for credit cards?

Each issuer’s definition of which purchases or which purchase categories may vary slightly, but categories likely to be included by any issuer include airfare, hotels, rental cars and cruises. For example, Chase offers a fairly wide definition of travel, with airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways and parking lots and garages all considered travel eligible for rewards.

Even if your purchase would typically count toward a category, it’s worth noting that merchants are typically responsible for the categorization and if the merchant you purchase from isn’t categorized correctly, your transaction likely won’t earn rewards.

What credit score is needed for a travel credit card?

A travel rewards credit card will typically recommend good to excellent credit in order to qualify. Plan to have a credit score of at least 700 to get approved by the top credit cards on the market. Some of those cards might even require applicants to have a credit score of 720 or higher.

What is the easiest travel credit card to get?

Most travel credit cards require good to excellent credit scores. However, generally speaking, no-annual-fee travel cards are typically easier to be approved for than the ultra-premium travel cards with high annual fees.

What is the best credit card with travel insurance?

Forbes Advisor’s best credit cards for travel insurance list has a variety of cards offering solid travel insurance. Although you shouldn’t get a credit card for this feature alone, it can be a useful money-saving extra. Credit cards that offer travel insurance tend to have high annual fees, so keep this in mind when weighing whether or not you are likely to use the feature.

What is the best card for international travel?

Many credit cards are well suited for international travel. You want to make sure that the card has no foreign transaction fees . It also helps if the card’s points are suitable for the locations where you wish to travel. For instance, if you want to go to Asia, an airline card co-branded with a U.S.-based airline that doesn’t fly to Asia, like Southwest, will not help you.

How many miles do you need for a free flight?

The number of miles you need for a free flight depends on different factors, including which airline miles you are using, where you are flying to and from, when you are traveling and other factors. Most domestic airlines have ditched award charts, meaning the price in miles for any flight can vary even between flights on the same day.

Domestic flights in the U.S. will generally require fewer miles than international flights. Typically, count on spending between 5,000 and 20,000 miles for a domestic one-way flight in economy.

Long-haul international flights can cost quite a bit more. Plan on spending between 20,000 to 40,000 miles each way to fly to Europe in economy and even more for flights to Asia, Africa and Oceania.

Don’t forget to consider the cost of checked bags and fuel surcharges before booking your ticket. Flights booked with rewards are also often subject to government taxes and fees, which you’ll still be responsible for even when you redeem miles.

How much is a point or mile worth on travel credit cards?

Point values are as varied as the types of points themselves. Some cards’ points values are more straightforward because rates are somewhat tied to the cash prices. However, if a program uses an awards chart, the value of the point will vary widely depending on how you are redeeming it. In general, you’ll get the highest value per point on premium airline seats and luxury hotel stays.

What is the difference between points and miles on a credit card?

Points and miles are effectively the same, they’re just different names for the rewards earned on a particular credit card. Some credit cards offer points, some—particularly airline cards—offer miles. But the fundamental function is the same in that these rewards cards all earn a specified type of award currency based on your spending that can be used in various ways.

How should I inform my credit card company of upcoming travel?

Notifying your credit card issuer of your travel plans before you travel can help avoid denied transactions due to suspected fraud. An issuer’s system may flag a transaction as suspicious and prohibit a transaction if it suspects your card or card information has been stolen. For this reason, issuers typically make it fairly easy to notify you when you’re headed out of town. You can notify your issuer of your travels by calling the number on the back of your card or logging onto your card issuer’s website and finding the option to submit a travel notice.

Are travel cards with annual fees worth it?

Travel cards with annual fees can be worth paying for only if the extra rewards and benefits outweigh the added cost of the annual fee. Just because an annual-fee card earns more rewards and provides more benefit does not, however, make it more rewarding than a no-annual-fee card —the extra reward must exceed the amount of reward received from the best no-annual-fee option for you. The risk you take when paying an annual fee is that you won’t receive a benefit worth the annual fee, so be sure to carefully evaluate this risk before applying.

Do I have to tell my credit card company when I travel?

Most credit card issuers no longer require you to notify them before travel. In fact, Chase and some other companies have removed the travel notification tools from your online account or app. Card fraud alerts are more advanced now and legitimate transactions should post without incident.

However, you may want to be sure you have access to confirm whether or not something is suspected of fraud just in case—either by making sure your phone number has service abroad to respond to automated text messages or by downloading your card app in advance to manage your account.

Other Credit Cards To Be Considered

  • Best Business Credit Cards for Travel
  • Best No Annual Fee Travel Credit Cards

*The information for the following card(s) has been collected independently by Forbes Advisor: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card, Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card . The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Becky Pokora

With more than 50 million redeemed miles under her belt, Becky Pokora is a rewards travel expert. She's been writing about credit cards and reward travel since 2011 with articles on Forbes Advisor, BoardingArea, The Points Guy and more. Her redemptions have helped her travel to more than 50 countries and all seven continents.

Yanely Espinal

Yanely Espinal is the director of educational outreach for Next Gen Personal Finance, a nonprofit working to ensure that every high school student gets a full semester of personal finance education—including lessons in proper credit card usage—before graduation. She is often described as a ball of energy, with a gift for storytelling, and a passion for explaining credit cards and other financial concepts in a straightforward way.   While working as an elementary school teacher, Yanely decided to change her financial life by paying off $20,000 of debt in just 18 months. In 2015 she created MissBeHelpful, a YouTube channel and social media platform that now has over 5 million views, to help others learn the money skills she never learned in school. Some of her most popular videos on the channel include “5 Things to Consider When Applying for a Credit Card” and “When To Pay Your Credit Card Bill and Increase Your Credit Score.”   Her book, “Mind Your Money,” is an Amazon bestseller and was a Plutus Award finalist for Best New Personal Finance Book of 2023. She hosts Financially Inclined from Marketplace, a video podcast for teens about money lessons for living life your own way. Yanely is also a member of CNBC's Financial Wellness Advisory Council and an Advocate at the NGPF Mission 2030 Fund.  

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america travel plan

U.S. issues severe ‘do not travel’ warning for this Caribbean country

Don’t even go there.

 The United States has renewed its “do not travel” warning for Venezuela, urging American travelers to understand that their government “has no ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens” who run into trouble.

Officials blamed the notice — the most severe the Department of State can issue — on civil unrest, a “slide towards dictatorship,” ongoing threats of terrorism, and anti-American bias.

“Violent crimes, such as homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking, are common in Venezuela,” the agency added .

The threat is so dire that the U.S. government advises travelers who insist on going to first “establish a ‘proof of life’ protocol with your loved ones.

“If you are taken hostage, your loved ones know specific questions (and answers) to ask the hostage-takers to be sure that you are alive (and to rule out a hoax),” officials explained.

“The Department has determined there is a high risk of wrongful detention of U.S. nationals in Venezuela. Security forces have detained U.S. citizens for up to five years,” the agency added, warning that the American government is hardly notified or allowed access to incarcerated nationals.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans typically traveled to Venezuela annually . The country is known for its miles of largely undeveloped Caribbean coastline and pristine adjacent islands.

Those numbers began to drop off, eventually going into sharp decline, when Nicolás Maduro rose to power following the death of the iron-fisted Hugo Chávez in 2013.

Of the most recent election, the State Department said Maduro “illegally claimed the presidency of Venezuela, despite global condemnation of a rigged election” and is moving the country towards dictatorship.

Reminiscent of Chávez, Maduro is strengthening “alliances with outside nations including Cuba, Russia, Iran, and China, that repress the Venezuelan people further.”

The new warning, which was originally issued in 2019 when the U.S. began pulling personnel from Venezuela, was reissued on May 13.

It comes ahead of a July election that the fate of the South American nation depends on.

“Political rallies and demonstrations occur, often with little notice. Anti-Maduro demonstrations have elicited a strong police and security force response,” the department added, “including the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against participants.

These events “occasionally devolve into looting and vandalism,” they said.

Additionally, Venezuela is enduring a crisis of shortages that include, water, gasoline, electricity, and medicine.

Worse, terror groups from neighboring Columbia are highly active in the border regions.

U.S. issues severe ‘do not travel’ warning for this Caribbean country

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