Tips For Your First Trek America Trip
Let me start off by saying that i am by no means an expert on this. This is just some friendly advice from one Trekkie to another. If you do have any other questions, just email me and i will be happy to answer these! Click HERE (TBC!) for more tips about your Stateside adventure.
Before the trip i spent hours scouring the internet in search of information about my upcoming adventure. This was to be my first solo trip abroad, and although being driven across America is a little different to backpacking, i was nervous none the less! Now and then, i return to the Trek America Facebook page to give advice to the newbies and to tell them how amazing their trip (whilst i try to hide my jealousy!)
As i have mentioned, i am no expert on these trips. You would probably be better off asking Trek America themselves or an ex-Trek Leader but hopefully this information will help someone…somehow. I have only been on one trip with Trek – Southern Sun NY to LA in the Summer of 2011 but im sure this information can be used for other tours.
If you are reading this you are probably thinking about one of these trips, or have already booked yourself on one. If you are still pondering over your decision i have only one thing to say – Click Here and go book it! It will be the best decision you will ever make, i assure you! If you have reserved and/or handed over your hard-earned cash – congratulations! (…take me with you…)
After booking your trip you will be directed to “Trek America Live“, which is a live forum hosted on TA’s website. This is a good place to start looking for your fellow passengers. About four weeks before your trip is due to start you will be able to find out who is on your trip through this feature (as long as they have also signed up) Another place that i managed to find people on my trip was on the Facebook group, “Join Team Trek America” Post a comment about what trip and date you will be going on and just wait for your new buds to come find you! Here begins the awkward, “Should i add them to facebook!?” whilst hoping that they request friendship first. These guys will be your weird, international family for the next few weeks.
To Take With You
If you are on one of the BLT trips, then overlook the next section, as this will be about camping. I had serious reservations about spending the majority of the trip in a tent, but it turns out that staying in tents is actually a lot of fun! This section is just covering some important items, obviously you will need to take a lot more with you…
Sleeping Bags – If you have one at home that you don’t mind taking, then brilliant – that’s one thing you can tick off your list. But be warned, they may get damaged after a couple of weeks in the southern heat. I ended up buying one from my leader on the first day, in an attempt to save room in my luggage. If you do choose this option, make sure you phone up Trek America and let them know BEFORE your trip begins. If you are heading down South to the hotter states, it may be worth getting a sleeping bag liner to use. It was unbearably hot at times and i was glad to be able to lie on top of my sleeping bag without the fear of having something…crawl over my legs whilst i slept. A pillow is also worth getting during a Walmart stop, for both night time and van snoozing.
Camping mats – A debated topic, as there is the option to borrow a mat from the van equipment. However, when i booked my trip i was underweight and decided that i would need some extra padding. Don’t bother with proper air beds or inflatable mattresses, they will only turn you into a raging beast when it comes to packing up your tent in the blazing sun. I went with a Base180 self inflating mat for £30 from www.alpkit.com. It rolls up neatly and only needs a few puffs of air to be fully inflated. I was very grateful for a bit of comfort after those long days of hiking through canyons.
Torches – You will be camping, so you will definitely need some form of light. A headlamp would be an even better purchase. Imagine this – its 11pm at night, you are slightly inebriated from beer pong and there are two of you rummaging through your luggage trying to find various items. You will need all available limbs for this task and it is here that a headlamp comes in handy.
Bags – This was the most researched aspect of my trip. I decided to leave the suitcase at home and bought a holdall with wheels and a handle. Having something that opens along the length of your luggage is great for finding those items when you are in a hurry. Unless you are combining a Trek trip with travelling, i would avoid the large backpacks as you end up having to re-pack it each time. Along with your luggage, you will also need a day bag. This should be big enough to fit wallets/purses in, phones, mp3 players, books or anything for the van, with extra space for snacks and a drinks bottle. I took a medium sized satchel bag but should probably have just stuck with a generic backpack.
Chargers – I’m sure you will, but DO remember to bring all your chargers with you and adaptors to use in American sockets. It may also be worth buying an adaptor to use in the van lighter sockets. This is useful if you forget to charge your camera battery and are enroute to some exciting destinations. The front of the van is usually covered in wires about 90% of the driving time. I found a cheap one on Ebay for about £3.
The Girly Section
Guys, look away now. Girls, read more here as I had to make a separate post as it got rather lengthy. Plus, I wouldn’t want to inflict our female troubles on any males reading this.
One cost i did not factor into my budget was snacks. I literally bought something from each gas station stop and it does add up. Another thing i forgot about was VAT and tipping. VAT is not added to the price of some items, such as clothing etc. This extra cost will get added on at the till. So, put away the $20 note, because that $19.99 top will actually cost you something completely different. As for tipping, 15-20% is usually the standard for bars, restaurants, guides or for anyone that gives you a service. One important tip that you need to factor in is for your Trek Leader. We all collected this on the last day and its all done anonymously – but don’t be a tight ass, these guys deserve a tip after hauling you foreigners around!
Be cautious with your finances. Let me direct you to a previous post so you can learn what NOT to do during your stateside adventure. Its worth splitting your money/cards up, so that if you have a back up if something does go missing. I managed to lose everything including my debit cards, cash, travellers card and even my Boots Advantage Card (why i brought that one along, i’ll never know) For travellers cards, i went with www.fairfx.com which is used like a top up card. Adding funds was easy, hassle free, and could be done online or by text. If possible, tell your debit/credit card company that you are going abroad to avoid having it blocked at an inconvinent time. If this does happen, you should be able to phone an international number to reverse it, this is usually located on the back of the card itself.
So overall how much did i spend? Including flights, the price of Trek, an extra day in New York, an additional 4 days in LA and spending money – approximately £3000. Although i am probably not the best person to ask as i ended up losing track of my finances after having my purse stolen. It may seem like a lot of money but it was worth every single penny!