Planning a trip to the USA and Canada is usually a fairly simple procedure. There are those for whom planning goes smoothly and easily and there are those who due to excess information and excess advice (from anyone who has traveled and seen and wants to help) get confused and find themselves helpless. Many come to me for advice, sometimes after booking flights to wrong cities, having to plan a route that is not ideal considering the constraints of this booking. Therefore, when planning a trip to the USA and Canada (which is not a cheap trip and in such is to many a once-in-a-lifetime adventure), it is worth investing quite a bit of thought beforehand – especially in the pre-booking stages. Whoever does so will certainly be rewarded.
Below, you can find 8 steps in planning a trip the USA/Canada. If you follow these steps, planning your trip will probably be easy and fun.
1. Check that you have a valid passport and visas (depending on you nationality).
2. Decide where to land and where to take off:
This step is actually the most important and essential part of planning a trip to the USA and Canada, and you should not compromise on it even if it delays the reserving flight tickets. During this step you should of course decide to where you wish to travel. This stage is the most difficult stage of your trip planning, during which most mistakes occur – for example a decision to travel to Florida in September which is the peak of the hurricane season, or alternatively a decision to travel to Yellowstone in October in which this area ,may already be covered with a thick layer of snow (plus significant road closures). At this stage, irrational decisions are also sometimes made, such as deciding on a circular route when the destinations you want to visit and the allotted time does not allow a circular route but requires a one-way route, which is usually shorter. After this stage (if the decisions were correct) everything is usually much easier and planning will probably be smooth.
3. Build a basic travel itinerary in the following style:
July 21 – Flight to San Francisco, Accommodation: San Francisco
July 22 – Excursion to San Francisco, Accommodation: San Francisco
July 23 – Excursion to San Francisco, Accommodation: San Francisco
July 24 – Travel to Yosemite National Park, Accommodation: Yosemite, Travel hours: 3
July 25 – Travel and hike in the Yosemite Valley, Accommodation: Yosemite
July 26 – Travel through northern Yosemite along the Tioga Pass Hwy, Accommodation: Mammoth Lakes, Travel hours: 3
July 27 – Travel to Las Vegas, Accommodation: Las Vegas, travel hours: 5
And so on…
A. When building your travel itinerary don’t forget to take into consideration the long drives from place to the other. Also, don’t build a travel itinerary that has many days of long drives one after the other (allow more ‘easy’ days in between), and if possible choose one day with long drives (for example an 8 hour drive) and one day of relaxation – instead of two days with a 4 hours drive in each day.
B. For international travelers – It should be noted that the first day of the trip is actually a lost day, since even if you land early, you are usually very tired (due to the Jet lag). Therefore it is not recommended to count this day in the number of days of the trip and it is advised to leave it for acclimatization and rest.
C. It is best not to combine both a trip to the East and the West of the USA/Canada on the same trip (unless the trip to the East is limited to New York/Washington or unless it is a particularly long trip).
D. Google Maps shows travel time without stops or other delays – for the real travel time it is advised to add at least 20% to this time (and 30% if travelling in an RV).
E. Keep in mind to allocate time for grocery shopping, laundry etc.
At this stage and in the previous stage it is advised to take advantage of our route generator in which you can enter a starting point and preferences and receive as an output (and free of charge) a travel route.
4. Check that the trip is planned correctly:
For example Disney theme parks should not fall on Saturday or Sunday, or a visit to the Yosemite National Park should not fall on the weekend of Memorial Day (the last Monday of May) or Labor Day (the first Monday of September) which are relatively busy in nature sites.
5. Book flights, and for RV travelers in a trailer – book an RV.
As the date of your trip gets closer – flight prices rise and availability decreases. Same goes to RV rental. Book well in advance (for example the price of an RV rental 10 months in advance can be 30% or more less than the price 2 months in advance).
6. Book hotels and/or campgrounds/RV parks:
Spontaneous travel – without booking a place to sleep in advance, can be very problematic. In some places, during certain seasons hotel reservations should be made well in advance. In most hotels the cancellation policy is very convenient (it is not advisable to book overnight stays in an option that does not allow cancellation). You can book either directly through the hotel Web Site of through commercial booking sites such as booking.com.
Regarding campgrounds and RV parks – if you want to stay in the beautiful public campgrounds of the National and State Parks, you should usually book accommodation well in advance (unless you want to try the First-Come First-Served system which can add quite a lot of stress to your trip). The booking window for most public campgrounds opens a few months before the arrival date (varies from park to park), for example, in most National Parks the booking window opens 6 months before the visit but the Yosemite the booking window opens around 5 months in advance, in Yellowstone about a year In advance, in Utah State parks 4 months in advance. In the Canadian Rocky Mountains National Parks the booking window usually opens in the first or second week of January. As with hotels, there are places that are known to be problematic in advance, such as: Yosemite (California), Arches (Utah), American Rocky Mountains (Colorado), Tofino/Pacific Rim (British Columbia, Canada), the Canadian Rocky Mountains Reserve (British Columbia and Alberta, Canada). In general finding a place in a beautiful public campgrounds is a challenge. An alternative can be staying in the usually less scenic (and more crowded) private campgrounds and RV parks, in which there is usually much more vacancy.
7. Reserve a vehicle:
The car can be booked at a late stage of planning (a month or two before the trip starts) now or at an earlier stage – after booking the flights.
Important points to pay attention to regarding this stage:
A. Families with more than two children are advised to rent a minivan (or a larger car). This vehicle is not significantly more expensive than a regular vehicle and is highly recommended for long travel distances and allows for extensive storage of equipment.
B. Renting a car in the USA and returning it to Canada (or vice versa) is usually not possible.
C. If you travel in places where there is a chance of ice, snow (for example Yosemite in March or the White Mountains in April or the Canadian or American Rocky Mountains in the transition seasons) you should rent a 4WD car and/or purchase snow chains. You can usually buy chains at any car accessories store for less than $100. You may usually return the necklaces at the end of the trip and get your money back if you have not used them. Using chains is not complicated. Car rental companies do not rent chains and usually officially do not allow using them – yet, in certain areas in certain weather conditions it is obligatory to carry them in your trunk. The chances of using them is slim and carrying them is mainly for safety in extreme conditions.