how we planned our USA road trip: map print notebook, passport, travel brochure and Stella and dot pastel pink sunglasses

This is so cliché, but it's true, for as long as I can remember, I've wanted to do the classic USA road trip. I've never been to America before, most people head to Orlando or New York when they're growing up, but I never got the chance, so when I was 16, me and my best friend Beth started saving for our dream USA road trip. Of course, like most fashion students, New York is the be all and end all for me. Think the devil wears Prada kind of clichés and that's me. I used to sob my eyes out whenever that beautiful skyline appeared on tv (bearing in mind I watched friends an awful lot growing up) and to be honest, it's always been my dream to visit. I could just go for a few days on a shopping trip, but seeing as I'm finishing up my masters, in that weird in between stage of education and career, I thought there's no better time to travel. That's why, as you're reading this, me and Beth are having a ball on our six week trip across the states.

HOW WE PLANNED OUR USA ROAD TRIP

Now, I use the term road trip lightly, as although this trip was initially me and Beth cruising along Route 66 in a Cadillac (lol, or not), it turns out I hate driving and haven't bothered to drive since passing my test in 2015, and Beth hasn't even had a driving lesson yet. Instead, we're getting around by plane, bus and train, which kind of adds to the fun I reckon. Ive always been told one of the best things about travelling is meeting new people, and using public transport is a great way to do that. Plus it's a lot cheaper. Anyway, here's how we planned our USA road trip. This post might not be the most informative, but hopefully you'll pick up one idea along the way, or just learn more about our trip, which you can follow on my Instagram.

OUR USA ROAD TRIP ROUTE


use road trip route

Probably the most important part of any trip is planning your route, and believe me when I say ours has changed a lot over the years. Initially, about six or so years ago when we began planning this trip, we had about 20 stops, all located hundreds of miles away from each other, but seeing as we don't have an unlimited budget, we had to be ruthless and put some stops on hold for a future holiday. This can be really hard, but you have to be realistic and prioritise where you really want to go. For me, that was New York, Wisconsin as I have family there, LA and San Francisco. Beth had similar choices, but Disneyworld in Orlando was her priority. We planned these out on a map and found the best routes, with some advice from my aunty out there. Apparently, Orlando and Vegas are some of the cheapest places you can fly to as they're major tourist destinations, so it made sense to fly here. You can kind of see how our route panned out on the map, right?

To book our flights, we used Kayak and even popped into our local STA branch. With past trips, we've booked exclusively online ourselves, but seeing as this was our first backpacking trip we thought it would be best to get some expert advice, and our travel agent James was so great we decided to book our international flights with him. For a flight to Orlando, and a flight from San Francisco to Manchester, stopping over in Atlanta, came to under £700 in total. Bargain. We booked our international flights gradually, doing lots of comparisons along the way. This was easy enough to do online, but watch out for baggage fees. A lot of USA domestic flights won't let you add baggage until you get to the airport, where it will cost you $25 a bag.

Some of the domestic flight routes we've booked, we did originally plan to get the bus, but it's actually around about the same price and half the amount of time to fly sometimes. Of course we couldn't fly every bit of the journey, otherwise we wouldn't get to see some beautiful country views, which is why we picked carefully which legs we would get the bus or a train. Who else is excited for Pacific coast train views on Instagram?!

WHERE TO STAY


I realise a lot of people book accommodation as they go along on backpacking trips, but me and Beth are both worriers, and that would be beyond stressful for us, so we booked all of our accommodation before we set off. Luckily, I have family in Orlando and Wisconsin who are very kindly putting us up, and not only am I really grateful for the money savings, but for getting to spend time with family I hardly ever get to see. I love staying with people when I travel, it's a great excuse to catch up with family and get immersed into local life as they'll probably know the best, and cheapest, places to visit whilst you're there.

Having already used Airbnb in Berlin and Milan, there was no question that me and Beth would be using the site in the states. The east coast leg of our trip was the first to be booked, with lovely rooms in DC, New York and Chicago (and two of them have doggos). I know some people can be sceptical of staying in somebody else's home, but seriously consider Airbnb if you haven't already as it can save you a hell of a lot of money. For six nights in Brooklyn, me and Beth are paying less than £150 each, which is amazing. Another thing I love about using Airbnb is how you really do live like a local whilst you're there. No tourist traps or expensive mini bars, just what you need to have a great time.

We have however booked a hotel for Vegas, as the only affordable flight times meant we'd be getting into the city pretty late at night, and wanted somewhere that was affordable and close to the airport. We used booking.com because you can cancel your trip up to a few days before and still not have to pay anything, giving us a chance to change our mind. We also used booking.com to find our hostel in San Diego. I'd seen this place in the STA brochure and thought it looked like an Instagrammer's dream, just a minute away from the beach, and luckily enough we found a great deal online, even cheaper than an Airbnb! Of course you don't get the privacy you do in most Airbnbs, but if you can't stay in a hostel when backpacking, when can you?

WHAT WE USED TO PLAN OUR TRIP

planning a backpacking trip across the USA by Liverpool blogger

Sunglasses* Stella & Dot

Genuinely the most helpful tool we used to plan our trip around the states was Google maps. I know, I know, obvious choice, but if you didn't know, Google maps has a 'my maps' tool, which means you can create your own map and add a bunch of locations on there, which makes it dead easy to see your route and helps decide on neighbourhoods you want to stay based on places you want to go. We used different symbols for different things so we could clearly see our accommodation, places to eat, museums, shops, etc. Plus it's collaborative, so anyone with the link can add to it or alter the map, making it easier to plan your trip as a group.

As I've already mentioned, we used STA travel agents to help start off our trip, but also booked some flights on Kayak as we found it the best for finding good deals. Of course there was also Airbnb, which not only helped us find somewhere to stay but there's also bookable experiences on there, like a comedy tour or art class with a local. Some of these are pretty expensive though, but still worth a look. Rome2Rio is another great comparison site that we used for trains and buses, showing prices from Amtrak, Greyhound, Megabus and more.

For finding places to go, besides the obvious choices like Times Square etc. we mostly used social media for recommendations. I've been asking on Twitter, we've both watched vlogs and read tonnes of blogs. Who knew there were entire blogs dedicated to Disneyworld? I didn't. Tar Mar's channel probably gave me the most recommendations, as she's recently(ish) moved to NYC and has loads of vlogs featuring fab and cheap places to visit in New York. Me and Beth like to go off the beaten path sometimes, meaning we didn't really use the likes of TripAdvisor, instead turning to people we know (online or irl) who've been there or even live there for ideas. Except for San Diego, where pretty much everywhere we want to go is based on our love for Blink-182. I'm beyond excited to sing Josie in Sombrero's. Just because (HA bonus points if you got that).

And that's how we planned our USA road trip! It's probably more descriptive than informative, but hopefully it gave you some ideas for planning your next trip. Where are you going next?

Good vibes guys ✌🏼