Travelling, Backpacking & Gap Years in USA
The USA is one of the best destinations in the world where you can visit iconic places like New York, California, Las Vegas, Route 66 and the Grand Canyon. There is so much to see and do, from great cities, live music, amazing sights, friendly people and world famous cities - the States will not disappoint.
Activities, Trips & Tours in USA
Find inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to travel, go backpacking or take a gap year to the United States.
Best USA Travel Operators
Find local & international companies offering the best trips and experiences in USA.
USA Travel Guide
If you’re looking to visit the USA, see famous locations or stay longer; go test the American dream. Get destination information, tips, itineraries and inspiration for visiting the United States.
- Capital: Washington DC
- Currency: US Dollar $
- International Calling Code: +1
- Tourist Visa: Need to apply online in advance
- Area: 9,830,000 km2 (approx)
- Population: 309,000,000 (approx)
- Language: English
How to Get to the USA
The USA has airports connected to international destinations so you can get there fairly easily, the easiest places to get to include New York and LA. Generally the cost of a flight from London to New York is around £400. Book in advance or check for special offers for the best deals.
Weather & Best Time to Visit
What time of year you visit really comes down to when you are free and what you would like to do. Summer is generally the most popular time of year to visit (around May to September). If you are planning an escape purely on the weather than the following information will help you:
- Atlantic Coast: The East Coast and cities like New York have a warm humid climate. You can expect the temperature in summer to be around 18°C to 32°C and in winter around -10 to 5°C.
- Southwest: The Southwest has a hot desert climate and covers cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas. The average temperature in summers would be around 40°C to 25°C; in winters it would be around 18°C to 4°C.
- Southeast: Southeast USA has a warm to hot, humid climate and covers cities like Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Charleston. The average temperature in summers is around 20°C to 35°C; whilst in winter it is around 0°C to 10°C.
- Midwest: Areas like The Midwest, Great Lakes, and New England have a warm climate. The average temperature in summer is around 14°C to 28°C; in winters it is around -9°C to 2°C.
- Pacific Northwest: The Pacific Northwest has an oceanic climate and this region includes cities like Seattle, and Portland. The average temperature in summer is around 18°C to 30°C; in winters it is around -3°C to 5°C.
Visa & Entry Requirements
If you would like to visit the USA, you will need to apply in advance for a tourist visa. To enter the USA as a tourist you will need to apply for an online ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) at least 3 days before, you will need a valid passport and also pay a fee of around $14. Most Nationalities are eligble for a tourist visa but please check online to confirm if your country is on the list.
Top Things to See & Do in the USA
- Sightseeing in New York - see all the places made famous in films
- Seeing the Grand Canyon in Arizona
- Being part of mardi gras in New Orleans
- Watching a live sport like baseball, basketball or American football
- Travelling Route 66'
- Getting close to the impressive Niagara Falls
Travelling & Backpacking in the USA
For those of you who are considering visiting a new country, the good old USA is a popular choice and for good reason. The thing about America is that although the country is huge, it is easy to get across. Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains offer deals and you can get around on little money by booking with a travel operator. So, where to begin on your American odyssey?
Think of places you want to visit, look at a map and plot it from one coast to another; it couldn’t be easier. Start off at the city that never sleeps - New York; there’s a multitude of things to do here. Head to Broadway, see the Statue of Liberty and be dazzled by the bright lights and bustling streets in Times Square. Then visit the site of Ground Zero before walking a few miles to the Empire State Building, tasting a giant slice of pepperoni pizza on the way.
Once you’ve munched your way through the Big Apple, head over to Washington DC, America’s capital and home of the White House. The architecture of the state is renowned, with Union Station remarkably elaborate. Next, make your way through Virginia to Memphis, Tennessee. Essential viewing is Graceland, where Elvis Presley lived and is now buried. There’s also Beale Street (the birthplace of the blues), and the National Civil Rights Museum, built on the site of the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated.
From there, you’re not far from Florida, where there’s a strong Latin influence blending with American culture. As well as the many theme parks (Disney World being the most famous) you can see alligators in the Everglades, taste some delicious Sunshine State oranges and look around NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre. If French culture interests you, head over to the French Quarter in New Orleans. Devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, people still flock to the Big Easy, famed for jazz and Creole dishes gumbo and jambalaya. Here, you can get drunk on Bourbon Street and get around on a mule-drawn carriage.
Once you’re finished there, it’s hard to miss Texas. Over twice the size of Great Britain, Texas is also famous for its cowboy ranches in Dallas, many of which make fantastic experiences for internationals. Other things Texas boasts are: being the birthplace of singer Beyonce Knowles; and, of course, the Alamo, a fort in San Antonio, which is considered to have provided the turning point in the Texan revolution.
Head from the second largest state to the largest, Alaska. With rugged beauty and lots of crude oil and gold, Alaska is home to the world’s biggest bears. It’s recommended you go here in June so you can see the midnight sun. Other activities include river rafting, whale watching and glacier trips. From icy scenes to mountains, welcome to Arizona. Of course, the most famous thing to see here is the Grand Canyon, which was carved by the Colorado River and is over a mile deep. The state of Arizona has vast deserts, which spread over into Nevada, where Las Vegas is located.
Spending time exploring the West Coast of the USA will be one of the best experience of your life. If you would like to see as much as possible you might want to hire a car. You could fly into LA which is connected to a lot of worldwide airports and then travel to see places a little further afield like San Diego, Las Vegas, Monument Valley and the Yosemite National Park. Backpackers come from all over the world to visit the casinos in Sin City. Another reason for visiting is the pyramid lifts in the Luxor Hotel. Nevada is right next to California, another must-see state.
Then mingle with the rich, famous and beautiful in LA, marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and explore the amazing Yosemite National Park. Plus, wouldn’t you like to visit the state in which Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected as governor? After all this, you’ll probably feel you’ve earned a few days doing nothing, so spend some time relaxing and catching rays on Venice Beach, before taking your flight back home.
Each destination is different and the chances are you will pass by New York which is one of the most unique and interesting cities in the world made famous by various big blockbuster films. LA is a great stopover and home to Hollywood which attracts millions of visitors, people pay homage to their favourite stars on the walk of fame and perhaps even catch a glimpse of a few famous people.
The USA isn't just about sightseeing, there are also so many other places to check out including shopping at one of the multitude of malls and amusement is also to be found at the theme parks. You could choose to visit a specific region e.g. the West Coast like California and the Grand Canyon or even travel across country and take in the sights from LA to NYC.
If you are looking to kick back and escape the crowds you might want to make your way to Hawaii, a string of volcanic island overgrown with lush tropical vegetations in the centre of the Pacific is also a popular destination. Turquoise bays, sandy beaches, tropical palms and sunshine mean visitors consider this beautiful archipelago of soaring volcanic peaks a tropical paradise. Most international visitors focus on the six southerly islands and Hawaii is famous for Aloha and surf culture having some world famous surf breaks.
If you want to try something a little more extreme you could try sky diving, bungee jumping or even taking a helicopter ride over places like the Grand Canyon and New York City. Some other activities include mountain climbing, white water rafting, snorkelling, scuba diving, hiking, trekking and canoeing. Booking as early as possible in advance is recommended as spaces can fill up quick. We have a selection of things to do which are perfect for students, graduates, career breaks or anyone looking to travel to the USA.
USA Travel Tips
Accommodation will be one of your biggest costs in the USA, generally hostels and hotels are more expensive in the most popular destinations like New York City and Chicago but in other more rural places it is cheaper. The facilities on offer make hostels in the USA up there with some of the best in the world. Throughout the USA there aren't many hostels unless you are in a big city like New York, Chicago, Boston or LA.
Accommodation can be really expensive and you will need to book in advance for the best deals, you can also find cheap motels and just pay on the day. Hostels dorm beds generally cost around $10 - $25 but in places like New York this can be as high as $50 per night. Motels generally cost around $25 - $40 per night whilst a hotel can cost around $75, but again in places like New York you can easily spend over $100 per night on a basic room. If you are travelling on a budget althernative options include Couchsurfing.
Buy city pass cards when visiting places like New York and Las Vegas - this will save you a lot of money.
Food is cheap but it isn't always that healthy. You can find cheap fast food throughout the country and meals usually cost around $4 - $8 so it is very cheap place to grab lunch or dinner. We highly recommend going to local supermarkets and buying fresh food, this will be a lot cheaper and healthier. Diners and restaurants have varying prices depending on where you are, you can expect to pay around $8 - $20 for dinner.
Transport & Geting Around the USA
Internal flights are operated throughout the country and if you book in advance you can get great deals. An alternative is to travel by train or take a bus service like the Greyhound or Megabus. These will take longer than flying but you will save a lot of money and also get to see more places. Bus services are daily and connect the whole country. Sometimes though the distances can be daunting and a lot of destinations require overnight journeys where you might have to stop and change bus.
Cost, Money & Budget
The USA is quite an expensive country to visit so you will need some savings to travel here. To save money it's important to plan ahead too, make sure you book flights and accommodation well in advance so you can save money. Usually the later you leave it the higher prices are.
USA Gap Year
Researching ideas for the best things to do on your gap year in the USA? Our website will help you book an experience.
The United States is one of the most popular gap year destinations in the world and you can find a range of programs for all interests. There are lots of gap year jobs in the USA for summer and year round which are a great way to live in the States and get paid. Our USA gap year programs are perfect for students, graduates, and anyone looking to learn, work or travel.
Spending your gap year working in the United States will be one of the best decisions you will ever make. There are lots of trips and programs for internationals where you can live in amazing locations like LA, Chicago and New York just to name a few. Some companies offer flexible summer trips which are very popular with students.
With cheap flights to the States this is making traveling more affordable even if you are on a small budget, there are some great deals to be had on flights, packages deals and more. Need some more reasons, check out our list below:
- See new places which might have only ever previously been seen on television or in the movies, visiting in real life is a lot more exciting
- To do something new and exciting, traveling is a way of stepping into the unknown and waking up not knowing what you will see or do that day
- There are lots of opportunities to spend time away doing something amazing like volunteering or being more than just a tourist and working for a prolonged period
- Make new friends
- Get paid - there are lots of gap year work and travel programs available
"If you are looking for a short term summer position then apply to work at a camp in the USA - I did and loved every minute of it" - Scott, UK
“I have gained many new skills and experiences, which will not only be good on a resume but have given me a far broader knowledge and understanding of the world.” - Hamish, New Zealand
“I decided to be an Au Pair as I felt that the job would be a very rewarding learning experience; the different culture and being away from home and family for a year, potentially two, is such a worthy way to spend time in your life.” - Emily, Cardiff, au pair in Minnesota with Cultural Care
"I did a working holiday in the States during uni, it was the best summer of my life" - Alex, Hungary
"In 2014 I signed up for AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and flew off to California for ten months of nonprofit work with a team of ten other people who were strangers in the beginning, but soon became family. My team worked, lived, cooked meals, traveled and explored together. We traveled through California, Oregon and Alaska and lived in tents, apartments, cooperatives, and barns. We worked for state parks, conservation agencies, learning to help farm on communes and built tundra gardens in the Arctic. This program instilled immense growth and sense of community for my team mates. If you are aged 18–24, sign up to experience it yourself." - Cecelia Barrow, USA
“I have gained many new skills and experiences, which will not only be good on a resume but have given me a far broader knowledge and understanding of the world.” - Hamish, New Zealand
The USA is a huge country and when travelling off your own, transport and arranging everything by yourself can be stressful and expensive. The whole experience can be made easier and more fun by booking with a tour company. A tour guide that is assigned to your group does all of the worrying here and this makes the trip more enjoyable. There are a lot of different tours you can join in USA during summer and every month of the year where you will get guided to the best places in the country. Most of our tours are exclusively designed for 18-35's, where you can discover the country with likeminded similar aged travellers.
Best USA Tour Operators
Are you wondering what are the best European tour companies to book with are? On One World 365 you can search and compare trips from top rated European tour operators including Contiki, G Adventures and Topdeck Travel. Thousands of people travel with these companies every year and they offer highly rated guided tours with good reviews. Search and compare tours of the USA and book a dream trip today.
USA Small Group Tours
Most tours generally operate using a 10-20 person vehicle which is more than adequate in terms of having enough living space. As well as this, buses sometimes carry a trailer which holds all of the passenger’s luggage which leaves plenty of space inside the van. Much of the bonding on these tours is done on the bus, and you get an opportunity to catch up on some much-needed sleep after a long day of adventuring so you will be able to make the most of ‘bus-time’.
Adventure & Overland Tours in the USA
Joining an adventure tour is a great way of entering out of your comfort zone and guess what, there are even active family breaks available. It can be difficult when you look at the size of the USA to decide where to go. Travelling overland on a tour is also a much better way to explore a new country as you will see things which you would never normally see when flying. Trips start from a few days to over 2 months where you can explore cities or travel overland taking in every major attraction. Most of our USA adventure tours cater for the 18-35's age group but there are also options for all ages.
There are tours all year round which travel overland and take you to places like New York, California, New Orleans, Chicago, Route 66, Alaska and more. If you have a lot of free time you could travel coast to coast which will let you see as much as possible. Southern USA has lots of places to see, New Orleans is a great city but watch out for hurricane season whilst the South-Western corner can be a good area to focus on. The states of California, Nevada and Arizona all contain areas of natural beauty and it is relatively easy to travel between the three states on a tour.
You will also get to take in large cities and smaller towns depending on what your interests are, a lot of tours in the West Coast USA finish in Las Vegas which is a bustling city full of nightlife and attractions. There are also lots of National Parks to visit, or if you fly into California we recommend doing the celebrity tours of Hollywood. From West to East you can find a large selection of trips, if you are traveling solo tours allow you to travel with other people who might become good friends. The West Coast USA has a good climate almost all year round, you could join a road trip down the coast visiting places like Santa Monica and Santa Cruz, be sure to head to the beaches which are amazing.
Budget Tours in USA
There are lots of cheap tours of the USA available to join all year round. Most tours start from around £250 for 2 weeks but prices can go higher depending on the trip and company. Usually all gas prices and accommodation are included in your initial payment which also helps you budget your trip beforehand. On most tours you will stay in a range of hotels, hostels, guest houses whilst some even include camping. To get the best deals you will need to book well in advance or last minute. Where you stay can vary depending on the trip and also price. Some companies offer a discount rate of around 10% for international camp counselors, au pairs and anyone interning or working in States.
Post-Summer Camp Tours
If you are working at a sumer camp in the USA and you would like to travel afterwards, our tours will appeal to you. There are lots of good value tour packages available which last a few days to over a month. You can visit a specific destination or travel overland and see multiple destinations. This is perfect if you are planning to work in the USA and want to travel afterwards.
Here is a selection of some of the amazing places you could visit:
With its sandy beaches, world famous cities and stunning coastal roads, California has all the ingredients required for the perfect road trip. But, in a state bigger than most countries, how do you even start planning such an epic adventure? Well, that’s where we come in. Here’s our guide to the ultimate Californian tour experience. You will get to experience and visit the very best places in California on exciting overland adventure which usually start in San Francisco or Los Angeles. You will get to see iconic locations made famous in various films like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Las Vegas, National Parks and more. The undoubted highlights of California include seeing the breathtaking Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park and Yosemite National Park which you will get to explore, there is also an option helicopter ride for thrillseekers.
Not only is Cali spoilt with the Pacific Ocean on its western side but it also has the Yosemite National Park in the east. Spanning 760,000 acres, there are few places on earth that take the breath away quite like Yosemite. Its diverse wildlife coupled with stunning scenery including waterfalls, giant sequoia trees and granite cliffs will leave you in awe of this wonderful park. There’s also the small matter of 800 miles of hiking trails. A particular beauty spot is Glacier Point which offers outstanding views of Yosemite Valley. One final and spectacular voyage into California’s vast land is required to fully complete your trip. To the south of Yosemite National Park is Death Valley, the driest and lowest point of North America. It’s a wilderness unlike anything else California has to offer yet you can enjoy plenty of outdoor activities in the Mojave Desert. Make sure to head to Zabriskie Point, especially at sunset, for breath taking panoramas. These are just some highlights of this unique state. Wherever you visit on a tour in California, this state will leave a special place in your heart.
The Grand Canyon
There are over 100 tours to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and other Las Vegas areas. If you would like to visit the West Coast of the United States make the most of the experience with a visit to the Grand Canyon . Tours are available every day of the year and usually depart from California, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Arizona and Sedona. Some trips usually stop at the Hoover Dam too. The price depends on the tour option you choose - prices published online are the prices you will pay, there are no hidden fuel or airport surcharges, national park entry fees, or extra fee add-ons. All tours offer great value.
Yosemite & Yellowstone
Join an ultimate journey through iconic national parks offers the outdoor enthusiast plenty of time to spot wildlife, soak in the scenery and experience the bubbling, gushing wonder of it all - there is more geothermal activity in Yellowstone than anywhere else in the world. Even when you close your eyes, you can sense the immense beauty surrounding you. Most tours start in Seattle, San Francisco or LA and a sample itinerary looks like this:
- Coeur D'Alene: See all the hype on an orientation tour of Seattle. Enjoy the scenery en route to Idaho with its beautiful mountains, rivers, and valleys.
- Glacier National Park/Helena: Enter Montana and enjoy a picnic lunch at Flathead Lake. Explore Glacier NP with over 50 glaciers and 200 lakes and streams. Enjoy a boat tour of a Lewis and Clark landmark.
- Yellowstone National Park: Travel to Yellowstone, home to the most wild animals in the US. Tour the Northern Loop—Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Take the South Loop including Old Faithful, Lake Village and Grant Village.
- Grand Teton National Park/Jackson/Salt Lake City: Enjoy the view of more than 12 peaks and take an optional boat ride on Jenny Lake. Opt to visit an authentic cowboy bar for Western line dancing or go rafting. See the sights of Salt Lake City on an orientation tour.
- Tonopah: Drive the 'Loneliest Road in America' before arriving to the silver mining town of Tonopah.
- Yosemite National Park: Marvel at spectacular views of Yosemite's peaks and granite domes. Take hikes to majestic waterfalls, lakes, meadows and amongst giant sequoias.
- San Francisco: Catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge on the way into one of America's most popular cities. Take an optional cable car ride over the steep hills, or set sail to the setting sun.
Experience the Great Outdoors on an adventure get-away in Alaska. You will be able to see the real North Western America on this exciting adventure holiday, expect the most spectacular nature, scenery and wildlife on this trip, bears, otters, bald eagles and if you are lucky you might even see whales off the Coastline. Highlights include seeing Mount Alyeska, going hiking in rainforests and spending time of the Kenai fjords.
Explore Hawaii and see a different side to the island on a tour. You will get to escape the beach and see a different side to Hawaii on exciting adventure breaks. These are quite active trips perfect if you are looking for an exciting new adventure. Highlights include seeing the crater of Kilauea, meeting local coyboys, cycling along spectacular routes and going snorkelling in remote areas. We recommend Hawaii if you are looking for an off the beaten track destination where you can escape the tourist crowds seeing volcanoes and stunning coastlines.
You will get to visit an active volcanoe - Kilauea and see the crater up close which is spectacular. Some days might be spent riding bikes and visiting local parks and travelling along the stunning Hamakua Coast where you will be able to stop off on route. A popular excursion is to experience the crystal clear waters of Hawaii on a kayaking excursions which lasts around 3-4 hours, there will be lots of breaks and you should get to see sea turtles in their natural habitat. There is free time in the evening to relax. A lot of trips travel to the Kohala Mountains where you will get to meet local cowboys and learn about their lifestyles. Later you will get to go horse riding to the Hawi and Kohala Coast. Most tours start and finish in Hilo / Kona.
"Having your itinerary sorted, but also the option to participate in rare opportunities, is a huge benefit of joining a tour with a company. I’ll be honest, it would have taken a lot of reading and research for me to have done everything that I managed to do on my three week trip with Trek America." - Helen Winter
"The experience that you have on one of these treks is exactly what you make it, it’s hard not to have a great time when you’re with great people and have very little to worry about so if you are considering travelling anywhere, check out some touring company websites. If you want to see the USA, I’d highly recommend you check out Trek America. I paid £1700 for a three week trek, but you can pay up to £6500 if you fancy an eighty-day adventure across the States. Remember to take into account the fact that you’re up-front cost does not include flights (unless stated so) but Trek America does offer the opportunity to book flights via their website which can be substantially cheaper than doing it directly. Looking back on my trip, it is the best £1700 I have ever spent on travel. If you were to do a three-week trek across America off your own back you could expect to double this cost, and with the added stresses of travel taken away, it’s well worth it. Also, although very cheesy, it’s hard to put a price on the friend’s you’ll make." - Ken Brooksbank
"I joined the LA to San Francisco Highlights Tour with Geckos Adventures which was amazing. My group (8 travellers including me) was fantastic and our guide always made sure we were comfortable." - Phoebe, Australia