Common Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Trip to the United States

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Trip to the United States

            When travelling to any new country, there are bound to be rules, regulations, and cultural nuances that are unfamiliar to visitors. This is certainly true when visiting the United States. In this article, we help you prepare for avoiding common mistakes that tourists make when visiting the United States.

            One of the first pitfalls occurs upon arrival to the United States. Visitors to the USA must make sure that they have obtained a necessary visa, such as a B1 or B2 visa and have had their application approved. If you try to enter the United States without valid paperwork, you will be turned back by customs officials before your trip even begins. Additionally, trying to enter without a valid visa will make it more difficult to enter the next time, even if you have a valid visa.

            A second mistake is trying to enter the United States with a passport that is about to expire. Even if your passport is still currently valid, officials will want to know your passport has at least six active months left before it expires. Aside from your passport and US visa, you will want to make sure that you have accurately completed all requisite paperwork.

            A third big mistake is overpacking or under packing for your trip. Overpacking for your trip can lead to costly baggage fees and the hassle of having to lug your suitcase or bags around, likely to multiple locations. It can also make it challenging to repack your bag upon departure or in the case of multisite visits when you are getting ready to head out to your next destination. Most visitors also purchase souvenirs of their time in the United States, but overpacking leaves little to no room to add additional items that you may want to purchase. On the other hand, packing can also be very costly. The United States can vary greatly in temperatures, ranging from hotter climates out west and in Hawaii to cooler climates up north and in Alaska. Check out the weather before you go to aid you in packing. Make sure to pack destination-specific gear as needed (e.g., swimsuit for beach destinations, many layers of warm clothing for ski vacations, etc.). Consider using an online checklist, such as The Travel Packing Checklist to help you plan out what to take and what to leave behind.

            Another major mistake is trying to fit in too many destinations. With the high cost of travelling abroad, it makes sense that many people want to fit a lot into their trips. However, delayed trains, waiting for check-in times at accommodations, and constantly moving from place to place can lead to delays in itineraries and exhaustion. Try to choose a few main things that are your top choices to see or do while in the United States. Make sure you also include some downtime or free choice days in case you need a break from site seeing.

            Visitors from other countries often forget that not all countries use the same type of electrical plugs and outlets. The United States uses the 120-volt system. Therefore, unless you purchase an adaptor, the 220-volt electronics (phones charger, hairdryer, laptop charger, etc.) will be useless. If possible, purchase an adaptor prior to leaving to make your trip go more smoothly.

            Not budgeting well is another problem that many visitors face. This is understandable given the high cost of food, lodging, and activities, especially in major cities. In order to avoid this pitfall, check out free things to do wherever you are going, such as free walking tours or free museums. Instead of eating out all of the time, consider grabbing some groceries or having groceries delivered and preparing some low-cost meals. Make sure you check your budget regularly using budgeting apps and adjust for unexpected expenses, such as credit card fees, additional activities, or purchasing items you forgot to pack.

            One of the most expensive pitfalls of travellers is not obtaining temporary health coverage. The United States has one of the most expensive health care systems in the world. If you are injured while travelling, you will want to have medical coverage so that you are not responsible for paying the high costs of emergency care.

            The United States has different rules than some other countries, especially when it comes to driving. If you are a passenger or driver in the car, make sure that you always wear your seatbelt and you can incur fines in most states for not wearing one. Likewise, the United States has very strict penalties for drinking alcohol and driving. Penalties for drinking and driving can be expensive and may include jail time, court fees, and legal fees. If you have been drinking, call a cab! Most states in the United States also do not allow texting while driving. Make sure that you are aware of other laws that may be different from your home country.

            While in the United States, you also want to make sure that you are practicing cultural awareness and sensitivity. This may include being aware of English terms, knowing that using your middle finger is a sign of disrespect, or understanding that Americans tend to value independence more so than other countries. Learn as much as possible about American culture before leaving, by watching videos, reading, and asking friends. Doing so will help you avoid uncomfortable interactions.