6 Tips to Make your Visit to the USA Better

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

You’ve got a travel bug to see the USA – welcome! There is plenty to think about when visiting the US – visas, money, accommodations, weather, culture, and more.

Here are 6 of our best tips to make your visit better. 

6 Tips to Make your Visit to the USA Better

Getting There

Most flights from abroad arrive at major airports. If you’re transferring to another flight within the US, check and see about flying into smaller airports. You’ll save money, have shorter lines, and find it a bit easier to get out, get your rental car, and get going! If you can, book a hotel somewhere near your final destination that first day. Jet lag is real, my friends, and as you know, it’s not a good idea to drive far that first day.

6 Tips to Make your Visit to the USA Better

Getting In

Here’s where you have to follow exact guidelines to enter the USA. The Department of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State “work together to create and maintain an effective, efficient visa process that secures America’s borders from external threats yet ensures that our country remains open to legitimate travel. Such travel is important to our international, economic and national values and interests and we welcome these visitors to the U.S.”

What does that mean for you? To visit, you need a visitor visa. If you’re coming for work or study, that’s a different type of visa. Either way, you need to do this before you leave home.

There’s also the ESTA, Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It’s available for the 38 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program. If you’re in that group, this should be fast and easy.  

So you’ve got your visa, and you’ve arrived – now to get through customs, run by the US Customs and Border Patrol. On the plane, you’ll receive a customs form for entry. They note: “Every traveler must complete the CBP Declaration Form 6059B. This form provides CBP with basic information about who you are and what you are bringing into the country, such as agriculture products and whether or not you have visited a farm prior to traveling to the United States. If you are traveling with other immediate family members, you can complete one form for your entire family.”

6 Tips to Make your Visit to the USA Better

Getting Around

You’ll probably need to rent a car to travel in the US, unless you’re staying in one large city. There are trains and buses that cross the US, but it’s not as easy as in other countries. Public transportation within large cities is easy and accessible. 

When you rent a car here, you’ll need a valid driver’s license and a credit card. You’ll also need to be over 25. Be sure to fill up the gas tank before you return the car – there’s a hefty fee for less than full tanks. Opt for the best insurance possible, in case of problems. Familiarize yourself with road rules, signs, and more. Take your time, and enjoy the drive!

Get insurance, just in case! From 6 Tips to Make your Visit to the USA Better

Not good. But you knew that...

Saving Money

There are many ways to save money here. My motto? The more you save, the more you can travel. So, with that in mind:

•    If you’re driving, always stop at the first rest area in a state. There is a plethora of discount coupons for attractions, lodging, and meals there.
•    About a month before you leave home, sign up for Groupon and Living Social notifications for the areas to which you’ll be traveling. Cross-check with Yelp before purchasing, so that you know you’re getting a deal to a place you actually want to visit or dine. 
•    Visit grocery stores (my favorite part of travel!) and get picnic meals. Then find a great place to picnic – beach, national or state park, or even a roadside park (most rest areas have great picnic spots) and enjoy. 
•    Travel in shoulder seasons – the weather won’t be perfect, but you’ll have less crowds and cheaper pricing.
•    If you’re in one place for a while, consider renting a house or apartment. This will save you money not only on accommodations, but also on food (cook meals at home!).
•    Look for the free! There are free events every day, across the US. Hop online and discover them! It might be Shakespeare in the park, a concert, or free art/museum days. 

Budget travel tips - From 6 Tips to Make your Visit to the USA Better

Where to go

Where have you longed to visit? Pick a spot and emjoy – and then explore out from there. Heading to Chicago? Make a trip up to Milwaukee – there’s so much going on there, and fantastic places to eat. In Seattle? Be sure to take a ferry across to Bainbridge Island and explore. 

Decide what you want to do. Do you want to experience the outdoors (we love our national parks!)? Stick with big cities? Wherever you go, try to include big cities and smaller towns. You’ll get a better glimpse of the US – we’re more than New York City and California! 

Where to go? 6 Tips to Make your Visit to the USA Better


The USA is vast. You can have a hot day down in Miami and a cold one up in Fairbanks – on the same day. Research where you’re going – and what the weather trends are for that area. Pack accordingly. But also, if you don’t love cold weather, and want to visit Alaska, then go during the summer. If you don’t do well in hot weather (like me), then visit places that have hot weather in the winter, when it is less hot. I am always surprised to find a windy place, since we don’t live in one. 

If you have allergies, do more research. You might not want to travel in the fall, if you’re allergic to dust in fallen leaves. If you’re allergic to pollen, pick your travel times to avoid blossoming trees.  

The weather should be a complement to your journey – not something that keeps you inside, waiting. 

6 Tips to Make your Visit to the USA Better - check the weather!

Note: Seattle is NOT the rainiest city in the US - but it's worth checking weather trends before setting travel dates


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