"Gift trip" to the US - completely lost
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Oct 31, 2012 9:04 AM Last Post By: Untracked
Oct 30, 2012 8:32 AM
"Gift trip" to the US - completely lostHi everyone!
My sister has been wanting to go back to the US for a long time and, since it's a big year for her (turning 18, finishing high-school...), my family and I would like to make her wish come true. Problem is, she is the only one who has been there (unless you count my short stay near Seattle) and we can't ask her: it's a surprise. As for the rest of us, we are completely overwhelmed with the amount of information available...
A few things we are sure about:
1- The trip will have to be in August (mid July possible), up to 4 weeks (length depending on costs).
2- I'm going along, so there will be two of us.
3- We'll be travelling as cheaply as possible, dorms, fast-foods (yuk)... any thing that help lower down the costs.
4- We won't be renting a car as none of us has a driving license.
She likes shopping (or at least, oggling), going out, having the latest technology available... but she doesn't mind spending sometime in the wilderness (she spent a week in the mountains in Morroco this year and loved it). As for me, well, this isn't about me, but I absolutely hate cities, noise, crowds and above all shopping. This is going to be a challenge, I know ^^. It's her present though, so I'll suck it up and just enjoy spending some time with her.
So far, this is what I have in mind (very vague)
West coast: she said she wanted to go back there to see stuff she didn't last time and wouldn't mind doing it all again. NYC & DC at the very least.
Pittsburgh: her host family lives there, she wants to see them again
AMTRAK to Spokane (my host family lives there)
Other than that... Help! ^^
Thanks for any idea you might share !
PS: I'll post more once I find out more
Oct 30, 2012 8:40 AM
Many clubs and some bars will also refuse entry to those under 21.
Without a car, getting away from cities will be very problematic. See FAQ 271.
xBoston, xNYC, xPhiladelphia and DC. That's about 2-2.5 weeks. Take buses between them. Buses are cheap, plentiful and take not much longer than the train.
From there, xPittsburgh for a couple days.
Then xChicago for a couple/few more.
Fly to xSan Francisco for a few days. Spend a couple/few nights in xYosemite.
Skip Spokane. Too far out of the way.
Oct 30, 2012 9:08 AM
2Thanks for pointing me toward the faq on dorms! I hadn't come this far into the FAQ yet... I know I won't be able to get away from cities, as I said it's not about me ^^
She doesn't drink, so she won't mind not being able to get alcohol but won't she be able to enter clubs under "adult" (I'm older than 21) supervision? If not, I'm sure there are other options to entertain her on evenings.
West coast itinerary looks great, thanks for the "timing". AMTRAK has a line going all the way from Chicago to Seattle (takes 2 days) via North Dakota. I thought this may be a way to "grasp" US's vastness and perhaps see something other than cities (even if just riding through). There is another road going through Denver and Salt Lake City... I think she might be interested in a side trip to Port Angeles (near Seattle) because she is a huge fan of the "Twilight" series. But I understand it's really far away, so... We'll (I'll ^^) see.
Oct 30, 2012 9:15 AM
Oct 30, 2012 9:16 AM
There are a smattering of underage clubs out there. You might want to look into those when you finalize where you'll be.
Btw, the California Zephyr is generally considered more scenic, and gets you to the bay area.
Oct 30, 2012 11:14 AM
5I don't know you or your sister, so take what I say with a large grain of salt. IMO, trying to arrange a surprise month-long trip for an 18 year old just out of high school is just asking for trouble. She needs to know in advance, and she needs to be involved in the planning. You can develop some ideas and establish some parameters (money, time, etc.), but if she's not involved from the start you're almost begging for disaster.
The fact that you, as older sibling, are taking a position of responsibility despite apparently knowing far less than she does about almost everything makes it extra likely your plans won't work out.
Again, take this for whatever it's worth to you.
Oct 30, 2012 12:56 PM
Or by state law. In most states, those under 21 may not legally enter a bar or club. A bar will likely not have a doorman checking IDs at the entrance (though bars that attracts a young crowd sometimes DO card at the door), but an observant bartender may ask an underage person to leave. Their liquor license is on the line, after all. And clubs almost always certainly will check IDs.
Oct 30, 2012 12:56 PM
AMTRAK has a line going all the way from Chicago to Seattle (takes 2 days) via North Dakota. I thought this may be a way to "grasp" US's vastness and perhaps see something other than cities (even if just riding through).
That would be the Empire Builder - and it stops at Glacier National Park. Glacier has a shuttle bus system that runs during the summer months, so it's one of the few national parks you don't have to have a car to see. (Details here .) That would be an easy way for you to add some "nature time" to your trip, and keep it from being completely city-bound. You could spend a few days on the East Coast, followed by a couple of days seeing Chicago, then take the train to West Glacier, spend a few days in the park, then board the train again for Seattle and make your way from there to Spokane.
Oct 31, 2012 2:38 AM
8Thanks again for your help!
Bars & clubs: we'll look for those that allow underage customers. No alcohol is absolutely fine (even a + as I don't drink either). That will be up to her anyway and can be decided "last minute". Though in France I'm usually the one asked for an ID while no one bothers her... ^^
Glacier National Park looks great! If we do indeed go all the way to Seattle, we'll stop there. It may also interest my host family as they love outdoor stuff. Apparently the train stops in Spokane before reaching Seattle...
I know it's hard to plan a surprise trip, especially since I know so little about the US... Europ, no problem, China, fine but the US? We want to keep it secret from her until her birthday party, in April. After that, well, it's her trip so she can decide what we do there, but we need to figure out the logistics in advance (flights, motels/hostels on the East Coast) and the budget... I'll also contact her host family this weekend.
Oct 31, 2012 5:50 AM
9If you decide on the northeast, have you thought about adding a bit of Canada, specifically Montreal? The train from NYC is quite pretty. Being from France, you might find exposure to Quebecois language and culture interesting. As well, the drinking age is 18 so you can party together without a problem. (You could even consider taking the train across Canada to Vancouver, through the Rockies...)
If you want to see a lot of the US's spectacular nature without a car, have a look at Trek America or Green Tortoise. They offer tours designed for younger people. I don't have any personal experience but you could keep that option on the table, at least.
Oct 31, 2012 9:04 AM
10The Northeast (Boston, NYC, Philly, DC, perhaps a side trip to a beach) is by FAR the easiest place to travel w/out a car. In fact in most of those cities a car is a burden, one stores it and pays a storage fee to do so.
Oct 31, 2012 9:04 AM
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