Some of my most stand out holidays have been to the USA over the years and I’ve got loads of great memories to look back on. One thing that is key though, to ensure a stress free holiday, is to make sure you have done your research and preparation, so that your trip goes smoothly and you have a holiday to remember for all the right reasons.
One of the most important things to sort out ahead of your departure is that you have all your travel documents in place and up-to-date. As well as making sure your passport is valid for your stay, you need to have your entry to the USA authorised either by a visa, a permanent resident card or the Visa Wavier Programme (usually known as an ESTA, which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation).
Getting an ESTA
Most UK passport holders can get an ESTA through the Visa Waiver Programme, which allows travel to the US for up to 90 days. An ESTA visa can cover tourism, certain types of business visits and transit or transfer onto another country. If you don’t have the valid documentation, such as an ESTA, then you won’t be able to board your flight to the USA. An ESTA is valid for two years from the time that it is granted. During these two years, travellers are allowed to make an unlimited number of trips to the USA. These visits can be for business as well as holiday trips. The maximum length of each stay in the USA is 90 consecutive days.
Sort out your travel insurance
Travel insurance is important for any sort of trip abroad, but it’s more vital for visits to the USA as medical costs can be high. In fact, policies that cover trips to the USA often cost more than those that exclude traveling there. If you don’t put travel insurance cover in place and you have an accident, or you fall ill or your luggage is lost or stolen, that dream trip of yours could quickly turn into something of a nightmare. The peace of mind that a comprehensive travel insurance policy from a reliable provider gives is invaluable. Make sure your cover is in place as soon as you book your trip. Or if you have an annual policy double check your level of cover to make sure it’s sufficient for your needs and that particular trip (especially important for longer visits).
Hiring a car
Hiring a car is a great way to get around the USA and outside of the biggest cities, it will probably be the best way to get yourself from A to B. You can rent a car in the US with your UK driving licence as long as you have held it for over a year. A lot of car hire firms will want you to be above 21 years of age, but there are some companies will say you need to be 25.
If you are hiring a car in the US, you need to consider three types of insurance, Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) and Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) when hiring a car. CDW provides cover in the event of a collision or damage, LDW provides cover in the event of theft or loss of use of the vehicle and SLI provides covers for damage done to a third party’s property or person (injury). Even with these insurances in place, there can be large excesses built into the policies and it’s worth checking that the excess is an amount you could cover if the worse should happen and you were involved in a road traffic accident.
Check out sales taxes
Sales tax works a bit like VAT does in the UK, but unlike VAT it’s often charged at the till when you pay and may not be shown on the advertised price when you are picking an item off the shelf. It also varies from state to state as sales taxes are levied by the individual states themselves, rather than by the national government, so the taxes will vary across the country and could change as you move around on your trip.