Apparently, I’m a “Trexpert“. I’ve been on 3 TrekAmerica trips, over 3 years and each trip has been a different form of accommodation. Working in travel since I left University also kind of helps. I love going away with TrekAmerica. America is my favourite country (so far) and I’m close to visiting all 50 states (32 down). I really want to go to Alaska or Hawaii next to experience one of the state off the mainland. Whatever I chose, I know exactly the process to keep myself organised and my anxiety down to the minimum.
If you get easily stressed out and get pre-trip anxiety, you’re in good company. Here’s a list I’ve made to help myself and others be prepared for the best trip of your life.
BEFORE YOU BOOK
Decide which TrekAmerica trip you want to book
There are so many tours to pick from, it’s hard to decide which one to do first or in my case next. I remember spending months going over the TrekAmerica brochure and watching YouTube videos to try and make my final decision. Take your time, pick what’s best for you, book the time off work and get a deposit on it asap.
Can I afford it? Working out how much money you need
Money is something you need to take into account first. Work out if you can afford the trip before you book it. I booked my first trip a year in advance. I worked out how much I needed to pay for the trip and how much spending money I needed. Then, I calculated how much I needed to put away each month. Once I figured out it was doable, I put a deposit down. The Trek Tips which you can download from the website, have a great guide on Tipping, Food Kitty and Optional activities so I knew how much I was going to spend whilst I was away.
Get your Visa
If you’re visiting the USA you’ll need an ESTA. You can apply for that here. Once you’ve applied you will need to log back in after 3 days to check the status of it. They won’t email you once it’s done. It’s electronic so you don’t need to print anything off. It’ll go straight onto your passport (chipped passports are now required). Your ESTA might take longer if you have any criminal convictions and you might have to provide paperwork or go to the Embassy.
If you’re going to Canada, you will only need to apply for an ETA VISA Waiver if you are flying into Canada. If your trek goes into Canada by land then you can enter Canada with no problems. However, getting back into the USA you might need a stamp or valid re-entry on your VISA. If you have a working visa then you will need to check this before the trek to ensure you can get back into the States.
If you need to apply for an ESTA or an ETA, use the link via the TrekAmerica website as it also has the address you need to fill out the form. The other address you need will be your first hotel you staying at which will either be on your booking information or if you’ve booked elsewhere use that.
Some selected countries may require additional VISAs and/or Embassy visits. Some countries can no longer enter the states without additional requirements. You will need to check with your local Embassy for this information.
If you are applying to camp, an Au Pair or doing any other work programs in America, your agency will assist you to obtain your VISA. You will need to ask them about the rules of your VISA or contact your local embassy.
AFTER YOU BOOK
Buy Travel Insurance NOW!
You need travel insurance straight away. Why? So it starts your cancellation policy when you buy it. If you get injured or ill then your covered for cancellation. Then you can claim your money back. Cover yourself. Book insurance now.
Book your Flights
Flights are released 11 months prior to departure. The emptier the plane, the cheaper your flights. Unless there is a sale on. FACTS. I worked for an airline and I’ve been selling flights for years. Get your flights asap.
I’ve booked my flights through TrekAmerica every single time. They are protected within your package so if your tour isn’t guaranteed yet then get them with Trek. They’ll be protected in case your tour doesn’t get enough people and the tour gets cancelled. You’ll also get a good deal instead of waiting and watching the flight prices increase till it’s guaranteed. Treks are guaranteed when 4-5 passengers have booked onto the trip so it could be at anytime. Here’s a video I made with some more information on how to find cheap flights.
Is your Passport in date?
CHECK YOUR PASSPORT! I can’t believe how many times I’ve had clients not realize their passport is about to expire before they are about to travel. You no longer need 6 months validity on your passport for the states, it just needs to be in date for the full length of your trip. If your passport expires before you get home, you will need to apply for a new one NOW!
6-3 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Book your Pre and post accommodation
Going a few days before of after your trip? Book pre and post accommodation. Location is everything but if you are going straight home or just doing the trek then book their pre and post as it’s where you meet the group and get dropped off. Easy.
Book your Optional activities
So most of your Optional Activities you can book when you get there with the tour leader. There maybe some activities where you can pay by card but some will require cash. Your Tour Leader will let you know when money is needed for these so you have enough time to decide if you want to do it and get money out.
Some activities you need to book before you even get there. These are Alcatraz (book on Day 2 of San Fran which is your free day – check your Trek Tips for exact dates), Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and a popular Las Vegas show. Some Vegas shows you can buy on the strip but if you want to see Magic Mike Live or a popular pop act then book early. This should be for your 2nd day in Vegas which will be your free day.
Join the itrekcommunity
Start meeting your fellow Trekkers! I did use the itrekcommunity for my first trip but my 2nd and 3rd trip I wanted it to be a surprise. If you really want to meet people now and start planning then make a profile on the forum. However, not everyone joins this so don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear back from some people or anyone. You might just have to wait to meet them in person. Personally, I think it’s better that way.
Have you got all your Vaccinations?
Bit of a given but you will need to check you’ve got all your vaccinations up to date. More so if you’re going to central or south America. Check with your doctor to see if you need any top up injections or check this website to see if you need to book into a Travel Clinic.
3-1 MONTH BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Order and activate your Travel Money Card
Money, Money, Money! Currency cards are the best way to keep track of your money, keep it safe and have easy access to it. TrekAmerica suggest the FairFX Card but I have a Post Office card which I find really easy to use. If I’m having trouble with cash, you can even get your parents, partner, friends to put money onto it in case of an emergency too.
Do you need a SIM card?
I’ve never bought a US sim card for a TrekAmerica trip. I had a US phone while I was at camp but only used it for phone calls. I use the on free WiFi for every trip. Gives me a nice little detox. However, if you do want to get a Sim card for America, start looking for deals now or you might need to order one which might take a few weeks for it to get to you. I was pretty jealous of the people who had 4G sim cards to be honest.
Have you got any Dietary requirements
If you have any specific dietary requirements, make sure TrekAmerica know about it so they can pass this onto your Tour Leader. Some Tour Leaders will plan your first dinner before you get there to save time. For the rest of the trip you can monitor what you eat at restaurants or even be involved in the food shopping.
What kind of Luggage are you taking?
The big question, holdall or suitcase. Honestly, IT DOESN’T MATTER! I’ve done a BLT, PLUS and Camping tour where I took a suitcase every single time. It didn’t effect my trip at all. I don’t see the point in buying something new when I have something perfectly suitable already. It’s personal preference, so if you want to take a holdall or backpack then take one, if you want to take a suitcase then take that. There’s no right or wrong asnwer.
Missing any Clothes?
I made a shopping list of new clothes I wanted to buy before my trip. You can see if there’s anything you might be missing on your Trek Tips which is attached to your Booking email. Check my packing list to see if you’re missing anything for your Camping or BLT/PLUS trip.
Need a Sleeping bag?
Check your Trek Tips to see if you need a sleeping bags. You won’t need one for a BLT or Plus trip. Camping and South America trips you probably will need one. TrekAmerica recommends a 3-4 season sleeping bag. Make sure you have one or you’ll be very cold. Grab a sleeping bag liner too.
There’s a reason it’s called TrekAmerica but it doesn’t mean hardcore hiking. There might be some days on your trip where you get to explore the National parks. I found it helped going to the gym and doing long walks before I went away. Nothing drastic but just so I could enjoy it as my current exercise is going from home to work and back again. Remember you don’t have to do any of the hikes or walks if you don’t want to but I highly suggest you give them a go.
Get a Travel Journal
I love a good travel journal. Great for blogging purposes so I don’t forget anything but pretty much all the girls on my trip had one to remember everything. I’m not the best at handwritting, can’t really read my own writing so my Travel Vlogs are more my style nowadays.
1 MONTH BEFORE YOUR TRIP
What’s your Luggage size
Check with your airline to see what your luggage allowance is so you don’t over pack. Make sure you leave space for all your souvenirs.
Get your Travel Money
Go to the the Foreign Exchange and get your holiday spends. Get most of it on your card but have about $300 in cash and put it in a safe place. Don’t forget if your doing a camping trip, you’ll need your food kitty money for the first day of the trip.
Have a Social media detox
Prepare for the lack of WiFi by cutting the hours you spend on it. Also, don’t forget to let people know where your going and the WiFi will be bad so they don’t think you ignoring them and don’t panic you haven’t responded in a day. If your going camping or going to Canada, WiFi will be next to nothing. Enjoy it.
Decide on collectibles
I wish I started collectibles on my first trip. I do T-shirts for every state and I have my travel vlogs but I wish I did something else too. Some things people collect are National Park badges, magnets, shot glasses, postcards, badges, pins, etc. How do you want to remember all the places you went to?
Make an epic TrekAmerica playlist
If your in the front seat of the van, you’ll also get DJ duties. Make sure you have an epic playlist ready to go! Make sure you have something cheesy in there too. I suggest making 2 lists, 1 fun playlist and the other a chill out playlist for those days where everyone wants to sleep in the van.
Make space in your phone for photos
Delete as much things in your phone as possible to free up space because your going to take A LOT OF PHOTOS.
DAY BEFORE YOUR JOURNEY
Put your Important Documents in a folder
Put everything together in a folder, in order of what you’ll be needing them. Monica Geller style. Insurance, vouchers, booking information, all that stuff. This way you don’t lose anything and you can use it as a keep sake folder when your out there.
Prepare for Customs
Business or pleasure. The answer is pleasure, unless your on a working visa and I guess that’s a bit of both. The customs people are intimidating. Just don’t let them scare you. Have all your documents with you and make sure you tell them a straight answer. Don’t waffle.
Pack your checked luggage
Time to pack everything if you haven’t already. Once you’ve packed, take everything out and repack it. You probably don’t need half the stuff you’ve packed. There must be a few things you can take out. Make sure you weight it before leaving the house.
Park your carry on luggage
If you’ve got a sleeping bag, attach this to your carry on luggage. Don’t pack it in your checked luggage. Double check all your important documents are in there and some extra clothes….just in case.
Plan your journey to the airport
How are you getting to the airport? Car, Train, Uber, Tube? Plan your journey. For international flights they suggest getting there 4-3 hours before your flight. Nothing wrong with getting there early. Getting there late is a lot worse.
Check in for your Flight
You can check in for your flight 24 hours prior to departure. This is when you can select your seat too and print off your boarding pass. You can also yoour boarding pass at the airport or download it to your phone depending on the airline. PLANE TICKETS DON’T GET SENT BY EMAIL, MAILED OR PICKED UP FROM TRAVEL AGENCIES ANYMORE. Welcome to the future. I highly suggest getting the airlines app so they can send you notifications to check in, when the gate it open, boarding, delayed, etc. Really helpful.
Set your alarm
Get some sleep. Long day tomorrow.
MORNING OF YOUR JOURNEY
Re-check your packing list
Have you got everything? Even the things you couldn’t pack before bed? Tooth brush, phone, charger. Pick them up. It’s time to go. Also, make sure there’s no liquids in your hand luggage.
Check the status of your flight
Is the plane on time? Quick check before you leave.
Check the train or traffic
Is there any traffic or delays to the airport? Yes, allow yourself extra time or find an alternative route.
One last thing…
HAVE AN AMAZING TIME!!!!
Watch my latest TrekAmerica Travel vlogs from the Northern Trail:
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Do you get pre-trip anxiety? What do you do to help feel less anxious? Let me know in the comments below.