Backpacking across USA West coast to New York
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Feb 10, 2013 10:21 AM Last Post By: Fudgy_the_Whale
Jan 14, 2010 6:18 AM
I am currently on a Gap year and looking to travel around Central America and the USA. I am flying into Costa Rica on the 26th of January (2010) then traveling up through Central America to the USA, then across the USA to New York where I have my flight home booked for the 25th of May 2010.
So basically I am looking for a route to take me from San Diego most likely crossing into the U.S.A from Tijuana, across to New York, I am 19 and its my first time properly traveling on my own. I am looking to include most of the common things to see such as the Grand Canyon/ Yosemite national park, Los Angeles? New Orleans, Washington? Also I had been thinking of getting a greyhound bus pass, I don't know whether that's the best way to it or if there are any better/cheaper alternatives? I wanted to see if anyone on here had done a similar thing to me in the past or even anyone with similar plans to me???
So I was wondering If anyone had any advice on places to visit or routes to take or things to do? or even any general backpacking advice or tips? Also I'd like to include as many common backpacker places as possible to give me a chance to meet other people traveling.
I'd really appreciate any tips or advice, thanks.
Jan 14, 2010 7:30 AM
1When will you enter the US? If you are coming in on the Visa WAvier, then it can't be earlier than early March. I see from your other post that you are interested in surfing. That is the kind of information that is helpful.
You might want to look into Green Tortoise trips. Most leave from San Francisco. They cater to younger backpackers (in the travel-on-the-cheap sense.) Most of their trips depart after May, but you might be interested in the Yosemite trips or in the Western Roadrunner, which includes the Grand Canyon Las Vegas, and the California coast.
The US does not really have the backpacking culture you may be familiar with. There is no recognized "backpacker circuit." You will find hostels in larger cities, but not necessarily elsewhere.
Be aware that as a 19 year old, you cannot purchase alcohol, not even a glass of wine with dinner.
Jan 14, 2010 8:20 AM
2So, you'll be traveling across the U.S. in spring (between February - April more or less). And, you say you are "backpacking" which in the European sense of the term means budget traveling with a rucksack (here it means packing into the wilderness for multi-day trips with all your food and gear on your back in a backpack).
With that information, I'd say you are restricted to the southern half of the country at that time of year since the mountain west and northern plains will still be locked in winter - you'd freeze your ya-yas off "backpacking" through there. Also, the higher elevations in the southwest will be cold, cold, cold.
The Greyhound bus pass is an option, but the bus system here is NOT as comprehensive, or as good, as those in Central America or Mexico. The AMTRAK train system could be an option, but it is somewhat expensive and has limited routes. There are some budget airlines, like Southwest or Frontier, and you may find a deal on them especially if your dates and destinations are flexible. Hitchiking has become dicey in the ole U.S. of A. over the past thirty years (lot more nuts on the road nowadays and hitchiking is illegal in some states i.e. Utah). There are some homestay websites that include U.S. members, in fact a good friend in Austin, Texas is a host. That may be the best for you. Sorry, I can't remember the sites.
Jan 14, 2010 8:31 AM
3I have had my Visa Waiver program application accepted, and I will be less than 90 days in the U.S. so I think I'm fine.
I'm interested in lots of things, sports for example I was thinking of watching something I know the football season will be finished by February but maybe basketball or baseball something like that. I'm also into surfing so would like to do some especially in California. also interested in seeing national parks and monuments etc such as Yosemite and Grand Canyon. Also I'd like to see Cities like New Orleans. L.A, Washington, New york, San Fransisco etc. I am thinking of taking a route through the southern half of the U.S. aswell because of the time of year.
Also I'm looking for things to do that are maybe not as well known, things people may have done in the past that they would recommend?
With the lack of 'backpacking' culture. There must be certain places, areas and routes that people traveling around U.S must do. I know it is a common thing for many travelers to come back across U.S.A after visiting Asia, Pacific, Australia etc. So there must be a reasonable amount of people my age doing a similar thing?? yes sorry I do mean "backpacking" as in Budget traveling with a rucksack is there an American word for that??
Also with age restrictions I am aware of all the things you have to be 21 to do such as car rental, Drinking, Clubbing etc.
Also I'd thought about towns with college's in or towns/cities with a large student population??
Jan 14, 2010 9:46 AM
4I hope you are more knowledgeable and organized than you sound, or else the US leg of your trip could become quite unpleasant and expensive.
I wouldn't worry about a best route--sounds like Greyhound and/or Amtrak will determine it for you. And the airlines. Green Tortose doesn't go anywhere outside of California and Mexico until May.
You'll probably want to stick to big cities so you can sleep cheaply in hostels. It would make more sense to start on the east coast, where those large cities are closer to each other and transport between (and within) them is easier. I'd go so far as to suggest flying east as soon as you get here, and then flying back east at the end--if you can afford it. Someone in your situation will have a lot more flexibility and options in the east. And it will be less pressing to develop a plan more detailed than "thinking of getting a Greyhound pass."
Jan 14, 2010 9:49 AM
5I think that as soon as you visit a few hostels, you will meet the backpacking crowd. They will not be Americans and you should fit in fine.
Instead of buying a bus pass, you might just try and wing it. Catch rides with older packpackers that have cars. Find rides through Craigs list. Take some short tours with groups like the Green Tourtise. I believe Amtrak offers some deals within a region. You might be able to go up the west coast on one ticket with a number of stops. Research their web site.
Pay attention to hollidays and spring break from schools. Hostels and transport will be booked up in advance.
Jan 14, 2010 10:11 AM
6In California, the paces that people on this board seem most interested in are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Yosemite, and all the places on the coastal route between SF and LA.
If you arrive in Tijuana, then your first city will be San Diego (take the trolley from the border). There are hostels and the Gaslamp Quarter is pretty lively. Some clubs will have liquor licenses that will allow you in as long as you don't drink. You can do much of San Diego without a car, but a car is better. If you meet up with someone who has a car, you will be happier.
Los Angeles is tough without a car. people do it, but it can be time consuming and cumbersome. Finding someone who wants to drive from San Diego to LA & hang out with you there would be a bonus.
Going up the coast to SF can be done by Greyhound or by train,but you miss the most scenic part which is not served by public transit. San Luis Obispo is a college town that I like very much. There is a hostel near the train station. They have a great Thursday Night Market that is part farmers market, part crafts fair and pat music festival.
You can get to Monterey and Santa Cruz by transit, but not south of Monterey, except in summer. There are hostels in both towns.
You can easily get to Yosemite from San Francisco with Green Tortoise or Incredible Adventures or by a combination of train & bus you do yourself. If yo do it yourself, you MUST have lodging booked in advance. The Yosemite Bug hostelis outside the park and can be reached by transit. It might be a place to meet fellow travelers. (One note, I have recently seen some negative reviews of the Bug). Or you can stay in the park.
Jan 14, 2010 10:17 AM
If you are truly interested, you cannot miss a few places:
Baseball: Wrigley Field in Chicago, Fenway in Boston (the last remaining old school parks), PNC in Pittsburgh (often considered the nicest), Camden Yards in Baltimore (the first retro park), Yankee Stadium (it's the Yankees)
Basketball: Madison Square Garden in NYC (very well-known), Staples Center in LA (it's the Lakers)
There is also ice hockey, which you may or may not enjoy.
And "off the beaten path," lacrosse.
I can tell you this, though, LA without a car is a nightmare. Doable, but a nightmare.
Jan 14, 2010 10:52 AM
8Do make use of friends or friends of friends that might live in the USA that could put you up for a night or two and even give you a ride around their area (she stayed on my parents couch in NYC). People are generally pretty friendly about this. A 19 year old dutch girl who is a friend of our family did this last year and got around quite well using her network of people, greyhound, rides with new friends (got to see Big Sur this way) and airfare sales. Lucky girl even got a $400 RT flight to Hawaii and had a fun 4 days there. Don't plan too much ahead, just be sure to head in the general direction of your flight out buy the end of your Visa. BTW, be careful in Tiajuana.
Edited by: MarkMark
Jan 16, 2010 11:56 AM
9If you do the bus option, I recommend you plan a lot of activities for your downtime,as it will be plentiful.
When I'm alone, I like to listen to the radio/media player as I ride buses and trains. It helps pass the time and still allows you to do some looking out the window. I recommend you at least get a transistor radio or even a internet-capable digital media player (or laptop and cheap DMP combo) if your budget allows. American podcasts are a free and informative way to learn about American culture, with topics ranging from sports to news to entertainment to fiction to whatever! I also recommend you grab some reading material. Most cities you'll likely visit have free alternative weekly newspapers. You could also spend $0.75 and get a local/national newspaper.
A lightweight laptop will be invaluable, if you have $350.00 to throw down for it. At hotspots (I suspect wifi is NOT available on the greyhound buses), you can use it as a phone to call make budget calls to friends back home, to hostels, etc. with Skype or a similar service. You can also check bus schedules and points of interest and walking/public transit directions on maps. Also, a mobile phone is a good option. The big carriers (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, TMobile) have prepaid plans where you buy a cheap phone and then phone cards with a certain amount of money that you use up when you make calls. Check out coverage maps on those carriers' websites because some parts of the US do not have coverage with some carriers.
Visit libraries in cities if they're easy to get to. They're free and have plenty of newspapers and travel books.
Invest in some good, comfortable shoes.
A pack of cards can help you make friends with other travelers.
I have friends who use couchsurfing, and they seem to enjoy the experience.
Give a friend or family member a tentative itinerary before leaving and regular updates while traveling.
Unfortunately, as bzookaj noted, many of the national parks are hard to get to without a personal vehicle. Perhaps you can return to do all that when you can rent a car.
If you're into sports, try a pick-up game of ultimate frisbee or football in an urban park on a weekend.
Last, it's a big country and there's no shame in not hitting it all. Plus, you're young and learning about travel. If your budget, age, etc. do not allow for your ideal plans, then do something else. I'm sure you'll have fun.
Jan 16, 2010 1:13 PM
Jan 16, 2010 5:56 PM
Feb 19, 2010 12:51 AM
12hey, im going to be doing kinda the same. im an 18 going on 19 girl, in mexico at the moment but am planning on traveling up the west coast then across over to chicago with stops and then over to nyc with stops... if your planning on travelling around the north east and little north mid.. i.e before you fly home from nyc if youi plan on visiting washington d.c. or bosten then i sugest the mega bus.. you can normally only book 3 months in advance at most but the further you do book in advance the better as you can get 5 hour journeys for a doller. well worth it. we have the same thing in the uk and its perfect to save money even if you book it and end up changing your plans .. youve only lost a doller.
good luck.. may even bump into you at some point .. my flights close to yours. ha
Feb 19, 2010 12:57 AM
Feb 10, 2013 9:32 AM
14Hey man - you are on your way up here by now, but here are my recommendations for Los Angeles since this is my hometown.
Even though it is one city, it is spread out. There is public transit, but it doesn't take you everywhere you want to go, so here is my suggestion. From San Diego, there are plenty of trains (Amtrak) and busses that take you up to LA. You can do the following in any particular order, based on any special events you may want to catch. There is a backpackers hostel in Santa Monica, which is a beautiful coastal city 20 miles west of downtown LA. You should stay here for a day or two. It is close to the Santa Monica Pier, and a long walk (if you walk take Main St, or it's a short bus ride) from Venice Beach, which is another great place to see. Keep in mind that the Venice Beach people are a subculture of Los Angeles, but truly unique.
I would then try to find a couch (couchsurfer) in the neighborhood of Westwood, home to UCLA - a notable university. While you are here, check out the Getty Center, a great free museum just up the hill from where you will be staying. This building houses a lot of great art, but the building itself is the biggest piece of art. And the views are incredible.
Then head over to Hollywood. There are multiple hostels here, so housing shouldn't be a problem. Places you should hit are: Hollywood+Highland, Griffith Observatory and Downtown Los Angeles. If you stay along Hollywood Blvd or Vermont, there is a metro that will take you to Downtown. There are a handful of museums in downtown, but while you are there you should check out Grand Park, it was recently redone and is beautiful.
Now if you have the time, I would suggest seeing something that most travelers don't see, and that is Northeast Los Angeles. There are a few great neighborhoods, as well as the anchor city, Pasadena. Pasadena is a city in its own right, a lot quieter than the other places in LA you will see. There are a ton of great restaurants in "Old Town", great hiking in the nearby foothills, and a ton of other destinations nearby - there is even a Metro (gold line) to get you here from Hollywood.
If you need any more specific information I'd love to help you out, just shoot me a message.
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