Trek America – Trek Tips (Part One)

Tips For Your First Trek America Trip

(Part One)

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.

Starting Out

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.

Early morning in Tennessee

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.

This is where all your stuff goes!

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.

Somewhere along Bourbon Street i was robbed 😦

Money Factors

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!


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29 thoughts on “Trek America – Trek Tips (Part One)

  1. Hi, thank you for the above it has been very useful in be finding things I need to take with me. I’m doing the grand trek this august till end of September. I was wondering if you could tell me what size holdall to get and also where to get one from. And another vital question, any idea on the weather? Thanks in advance, Kelly x

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    1. Hi Kelly. I’m glad it was of use! For my luggage i went with http://www.tripp.co.uk with their “Black pillo large wheel duffle” which is 99 litres capacity (they tend to have a lot of sales, so may be worth hanging on for a while) All my belongings fitted in nicely, including my air mattress (which i was too lazy to fully deflate a lot of the time) so it has a lot of room. After being beaten up for 3 weeks in the trailer, i can safely say that it is also very durable! As for weather – the majority of places should be pretty warm, especially the south. The north i’m unfamiliar with and it may be worth giving Trek a ring to see if they have any information. But definitely bring warmer clothing and a waterproof jacket. I was very unprepared for how cold the Grand Canyon was at night! Thanks for stopping by and i hope you have a great time! Amy x

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      1. Thank you Amy you have been a huge help. I’m so excited now, just have to buy a few more bits and then I’m good to go. I think I will give trek a call and ask about the north as I’m easily cold. And I shall check out the duffel bags today, they may have a late Easter sale. thanks again. Kelly x

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  2. Wow, amazing read, I havn’t booked a trek yet, but was looking at the Western Trail for two weeks, the only thing that’s holding me back from booking is the fear of camping and creepy crawlies. Imagine someone terrified of every bug, and double it (and that’s me), will I be able to cope? Do they get into the tents 😦 ? Having also never camped before, I am a tad terrified! Hope you can help, but you’ve given me lots to think about. Emma X

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    1. Hi Emma, thanks for your comment! Before i left, i had convinced myself that i would hate the camping but i actually miss living in a tent! It adds more of an adventure to the trip and being outside with your trek mates is a bit of a bonding experience, which you wouldn’t get with one of the BLT trips. There is nothing better than sitting around a campfire, making s’mores and playing drinking games. As for the bug aspect…i wont lie, i did encounter a few! I was also terrified of the bugs, as i tend to have encounters with local wildlife when i go travelling (for example, i managed to get a grasshopper in my ear once..) As long as you keep your tent zipped up, you should be fine. After a few days you get used to being outdoors and i was sleeping out of my tent by the second week – which i never thought i would do after the ear incident! Most of the bugs we saw were in the southern states, so you should be fine with the Western Trail. Definitely don’t let the camping and the bugs hold you back from booking it – i’m glad i didn’t as i ended up having the best three weeks of my life! Amy x

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  3. Hi! This was such an interesting read, I’m seriously thinking about one of the treks for next summer (not sure which yet!) but the only reservation I have really is that when we go I will only be 20 so not able to drink etc. Though this doesn’t bother me hugely, I’m just worried I’ll miss out on loads of stuff if the majority of people are over 21 and can go out etc. Did you find there were a lot of times under 21s were left behind on your trek?
    Thanks very much! Chloe

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    1. Hey Chloe! Four of the guys were actually under 21 and they didn’t have too much trouble. The majority of the boozy socializing is done at camp, so there wasn’t an issue there. New Orleans it was 4th July, so it was manic and i don’t remember being ID’d at all (although…i don’t really remember much of that evening) You wouldn’t be able to get into the clubs in Vegas but you are allowed to drink on the street and on the party bus. The only place that i can remember them having problems was at the Cowboy club in San Antonio – they were allowed in but couldn’t drink. Your liver may want a rest every now and then anyway! I think i drank more during those three weeks than during the first term of university! Amy x

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  4. Hey!

    I’m off on a grand trek in a few weeks, I was wondering if there was anyone under 18 on your trip? Does it make much difference? Will I be left out a little? I’m only 18 and starting to freak out that this will have a big effect 😦 Thanks!

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    1. Hiya! Well you won’t find anyone under 18 on your trip. If i’m not mistaken, Trek is only for 18-30s. However we did have 19 years olds (…i think they were 19!) in our group and it didn’t matter at all. The only thing that was different was the fact that we had to buy booze for them! You will have a great time – i am ridiculously jealous of your adventure! You will be a big family and age didn’t seem to affect any of the friendships in our group. We had ages ranging from 19 to 30+! Dont worry about it and definitely don’t freak out – you are going to have an awesome time! 🙂

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      1. Under 21 I meant. DUHHHHHH. Sorry, I really should have read that before posting. What a retard haha! Thanks! Put my mind at ease a little. I think i’m the only under 21 on my trip which is for 6 weeks so I was a little bit worried!

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  5. Was linked over here via the Trek America Facebook page 🙂 What a great read – I may have just wasted an hours revision time going through it haha!!

    Went on my first trek last summer after working at a camp and will be doing the same this summer 🙂 Your tips are great and right on the mark, wish I had found your blog before my first trek! Was taken by surprise by the leader tipping – wish we had done it anonymously!

    Looking forward to further updates on your recent travels.

    Emily

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  6. Hi Amy! Thanks for this post!! Was a very interesting read!! I have booked onto southern sun for this summer so found what you’d written very useful!! Am going to check out the site you recommended for a holdall. And would you recommend not taking walking boots then? As I was going to take mine. Thanks 🙂 Eryn x

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    1. Hi Eryn, thanks for stopping by! Oh man, i am so jealous – you are in for some good times! I took flip flops, those Teva sandals i mentioned (sturdy walking sandals) and some good trainers (Asics). So as long as you have something along these lines, you shouldn’t need the walking boots. Just make sure the trainers are good quality and worn in. Have a great time! 🙂 Amy x

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      1. I have some of those sandals, but they’re sooo unattractive! Ha. I’m so excited!! But worry it will be too hot?! I’m going from end of July to mid august… X

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      2. Also, how did you get robbed?! Would you say that your size holdall was a good size? Did you do the helicopter rode over grand canyon? Sorry..questions! X

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      3. I was there end of june/july and it was very hot at times, but it was bearable. The worst will be in the south where it can get humid but you are in the van for the hottest parts of the day, so you’ll have lots of air con time!

        I got robbed in New Orleans – it was 4th July, so Bourbon street was insane. Ended up drinking one too many hand grenades (famous drink) and i either dropped it, or it got taken from my bag. Learnt my lesson with that one – do not take valuables out! (such an idiot!) And i didn’t do the helicopter ride but i wish i had. The photos my friend took looked incredible! x

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  7. Hi, this is really helpful blog thank you!!! A very girly question, but just wondered if your straighteners worked at the different wattage or if you had to get a special adaptor?? Thank you 🙂

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    1. Hiya! No problem, girly questions are welcome! The only thing it affected was their temperature, they didnt seem to get as hot as they normally do. So you should be okay, you’ll just need a standard adaptor. If you do have any concerns, especially if they are good ones, it might be worth investing in some travel ones or a cheaper pair. I bought myself some cheap £20 Remington’s for my recent backpacking trip, just in case i broke/lost/completely annihilated my GHDs.
      Amy x

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    1. Hi there, thanks à lot for this information. Im going to do the southern sun in à month. I had à question as well. What kind of food do you eat at the campside?

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      1. Hiya, thanks for stopping by. It sort of depends on how efficient at cooking everyone is! We cooked on a rota basis and we had chilli con carne, varieties of pasta dishes, beef stroganoff, BBQs, stir frys, fajitas, tacos etc. We had a LOT of fussy people too! We also went out for a few meals. You are going to have such a good time! Enjoy it! 🙂

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  8. Hey thanks for the great tips 🙂 I’m doing Southern Sun in 2 weeks, so excited! Just wondering, I only just noticed that the New Orleans and Las Vegas hotels are paid locally, do you remember how much you paid?

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    1. Hiya – I had a look on our itinerary (i still have it!) and our New Orleans hotel cost us $105 each and our Vegas hotel was $49 – both for two nights. This was two years ago now and in New Orleans we stayed during independence day – hence the higher price. So i wouldn’t have thought it was anymore than that 🙂 I hope you have a fantastic time!

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  9. ive just got back! I paid $120 for new Orleans (but we were in the suites, so all in one place with kitchen and lounge, was lovely!) and $60 in Vegas x

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