• Roxii Hoare-Smith

Around the States in 9 Weeks

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

This blog post is very lengthy but there’s a lot to cover over nine weeks!

When planning this trip I spent hours on the internet trying to find articles by those who had done similar trips but I couldn’t find anything. So to help those who may be looking to do a similar trip I’ve written about each place we went to – how we got there, how much it cost, where to stay and what to do. At the end of the article I’ve answered all the questions I’ve received about the trip. 

In October I flew to Toronto to begin my 9 week journey around the States (with a 6 day stop in the Canadian city). *I originally told my friends and family I was away for 8 weeks and realised a week in I’d actually miscalculated it and I was away for 9 weeks altogether!

So a lot of people ask, why did I do it?

I’d never gone travelling before or after uni but it was something I had always wanted to do. I went on weekend breaks to Europe and last year I went on a 2 week trip to China and Japan. But I still longed to go on a longer trip and America was somewhere I was always keen to see more of. So why did I do? well WHY NOT? Everything starting falling into place at work, with my health and my contract for my London flat was coming to an end so there was no better time to just go for it and do what I’d always wanted to do. I’m not getting any younger! Now is the time for me to be selfish and there’s no point holding off from what I’ve always want to do. 

I’m also getting asked a lot, how did I do it?

I don’t drive so I always assumed a trip travelling around America wasn’t possible without a car. But we did all of this without driving!

I always saw a trip around the States as totally unreachable and an unaffordable dream but thanks to budget airlines and accommodation booking websites (like Air B&B, Trivago, Booking.com etc.) it really is affordable. As long as you are able to be thrifty, you enjoy planning (as there’s lots and lots of planning involved) and are happy to stay in locals spare rooms or in hostels and travel overnight on trains then you can do it on a budget. 

We stayed in B&Bs, hotels, hostels, motels, Air B&Bs and with friends. We travelled by plane, train and bus. We found that it was a lot cheaper this way. We planned everything ourselves and booked absolutely everything individually (buses, trains, planes, accommodations, day trips and excursions). Although it takes a lot more time, thinking, and effort,  it was totally worth it!

I got sent The Marvellous Map of Genuine American Place Names which has been developed by British mapmakers Strumpshaw, Tincleton & Giggleswick (ST&G). I thought this would be the perfect way to show my route around the States while also adding a bit of humour too! 

Here’s how you can travel around the States for 9 weeks at a much lower cost and a lot easier than you may expect…

Stop 1

Toronto, Canada

(6 nights)

Our trip begun in Toronto, you can see my blog post here

How to get there:

We travelled with Canadian budget airline WestJet. Onboard you get complimentary soft drinks and snacks (biscuits and pretzels). There is onboard entertainment – but you have to download the app before you board on a phone/tablet otherwise you have to pay to rent a screen. 

Downtown is easily accessible by train from the Toronto Pearson airport. We used the subway to get to our hotel but found that Toronto was so walkable that we didn’t need to get cabs or use public transport our whole time there. 

Cost: £200 for a one way flight

Where to stay:

We stayed at McGill B&B which we booked via Booking.Com. If you invite a friend to Booking.Com you both get £15 too – every little helps when you are on a budget!

What to do there:

My highlights were Kensington Market, Chinatown, Toronto Island and a day trip to Niagara Falls.

We booked a Megabus to Niagara as this worked out a lot cheaper than doing an organised trip. You get dropped off 10 minutes away from the falls, here you can catch a bus straight there. Remember to check bus times before you go as we visited in October and there was a reduced bus service so we had to get a taxi back to the bus station. 

Stop 2

Buffalo, New York 


After six days in Toronto we took an early morning Greyhound to Buffalo, New York. We were actually heading to Cleveland, Ohio but there was no direct bus so we stopped over in Buffalo for the day. 

How to get there:

We got a Greyhound from the bus station in Toronto which is downtown so easily accessible. A lot of people had warned us about Greyhounds (and were pretty shocked every time we said we were getting around by Greyhound!). But teenage me had always wanted to travel by Greyhound after watching The Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie (HA!). 

It wasn’t very encouraging when the driver got on and sat in his seat which was covered by a sort of bullet proof plastic. Plus the bus was absolutely freezing and the driver said he couldn’t put on the heat even after many people requested it. But most of the Greyhounds have wifi so that was bonus…

As we were entering the US we had to get off the bus and enter US customs. Our luggage was scanned and we had to pay £6 for an I94. It was a lot more intense than customs at the airport (but probably because we planned to spend the next 8 weeks in the US.) We had to show proof of a return flight to London which fortunately we had booked a week earlier. Originally we didn’t plan on doing this until half way through our trip but we were so pleased we had done.

Cost: $14 per person

Where to stay:

We didn’t stay in Buffalo as we were heading to Cleveland but we did experience great service at the Hilton Garden Inn. They let us store our bags there for the day even though we weren’t guests as the bus station does not have bag storage.

What to do:

A lot of people warned us to stay away from the bus station so we hung around there for a little as we could!

As we only had a few hours and we were still carrying heavy bags we didn’t want to go too far. So we ventured to Pearl Street Brewery which had some of the best beers I tried the whole trip and the most amazing buffalo wings!! We also spent some time walking around the Canalside and around the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park. 

Second stop: Buffalo 🇺🇸 & of course we had to have Buffalo wings! They were amazing, seriously best wings I have EVER had 🤤 Today we also saw The Purge being filmed and Eyewitness news – where Bruce Almighty is set 😜 #buffalo #newyork A post shared by Roxii Hoare-Smith 🦄 (@studdedkissesblog) on Oct 12, 2017 at 1:23pm PDT

Stop 3

Cleveland, Ohio 

(4 nights)

How to get there:

After a traumatic Greyhound journey (where I vowed that I would never ride a Greyhound again. Spoiler: I did) we made it to Cleveland around 11pm which took about 4 hours from Buffalo. Greyhounds can be fine but I just would not recommend travelling at night.

Cost: $26 per person

What to do:

We had such a great time in Cleveland but unfortunately we didn’t bump into Khloe Kardashian…

My highlights included rum cocktails at Porco Tiki Bar and Lounge, the amazing wall artwork (below) around Cleveland, tacos at Barrio, West Side Market in Ohio City (make sure you try a Buckeye!!), dinner and drinks along the waterfront at The Flats and Cleveland’s theater district – Playhouse Square. I’m not a sports fan myself but I loved Cleveland’s passion for sports being the home of Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians. I definitely left this city with more of an interest in sports.

Above: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located by Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. 

Below: One of my favourite memories was visiting a pumpkin patch and corn maze at Szalay’s Farm. We drove there in a pickup truck listening to country music – I was SO happy!

Stop 4

Chicago, Illinois 

(4 nights)

You can read more about Chicago in my blog post here.

How to get there:

We caught an Amtrak train at 3.45am from Cleveland to Chicago. Here we got chatting to people from the Amish community which was really fascinating. They were as interested in hearing about our lifestyle as we were about theirs. We shared stories about the UK and gave them British coins to keep as souvenirs.

Cost: $46 per person for an economy seat

Things I learnt about Amtrak:

– The trains are most likely to be delayed. Our 7 hour ended up taking about 10/11 hours. 

– You can check in your luggage but like an airport they weigh your suitcase (the limit is 23kg/50 pounds) and you have to get there around an hour before the train departs to check it in.

– The trains are a lot more comfortable and spacious than UK trains. Being on a budget we booked economy seats and our seats reclined so it wasn’t too much of an issue that we didn’t book a sleeper bunk. 

Where to stay:

Chicago is absolutely huge so there are plenty of areas to choose from! We booked a private room on Air B&B which was affordable and in the Ukrainian Village – a cool and safe area of Chicago. We booked our accommodation only five days before we went and still got a cheap deal. 

What to do:

I adored Chicago! My highlights included The Skydeck, Shedd Aquarium, The Magnificent Mile for restaurants and shopping, Millennium Park (where you can see The Bean!), and Portillo’s for hot dogs.

In Chicago I also tried Vander Mill Blue Gold, a cider from Michigan. I wasn’t able to find this drink anywhere else in the States and I’m claiming it as the best cider I have ever had!

Stop 5

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 

(1 day)

How to get there:

We went on a day trip to Milwaukee from Chicago as it was only 2 hours by Megabus. The bus station is located in downtown Milwaukee so is easy to access.

Cost: $10-20 return with Megabus (Check out Amtrak, Greyhound and Megabus as their prices differ depending on the date and time).

What to do:

Go to Lakefront Brewery for a brewery tour that you won’t regret it – great beer, great value and amazing tour guides plus their cheese curds are insanely good! Milwaukee Public Market is a great stop for food and drink and Milwaukee is the home of my favourite beer – PBR – and here you can visit the brewery and taproom. I ate some of the best nachos I’ve ever had at Jackson’s opposite the Pabst brewery.

Stop 6 

Memphis, Tennessee 

(3 nights)

How to get there:

We took the City of New Orleans Amtrak from Chicago Union Station to Memphis. The train left Chicago at 8pm and arrived at 6.30am. Memphis train station is located a short taxi journey from the centre of town.

(We got interviewed at the Chicago Union Station by Comedy Central’s show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah which was interesting!)

Cost: $86 per person for an economy seat.

Where to stay:

We stayed at The Sleep Inn at Court Square. It was located a short walk from all of the attractions plus it was affordable, clean and cosy.

What to do:

My highlights included a Saturday night out on Beale Street (live music and drinking in the street), a Mississippi River sightseeing tour, a visit to the Lorraine Motel (where the National Civil Rights Museum is located) and a visit to the Bass Pro Pyramid on a rainy day – check out the bar the Fish Bowl. Two very popular and obvious attractions include Graceland and Sun Studio.

I had some of the best food throughout the whole trip in Memphis including Memphis BBQ at Central BBQ and burgers at Huey’s Burgers. I would go back to Memphis just for their Bluez 57 Burger!!!

Stop 6.5


How to get there:

We had to take advantage of the newly opened Big River Crossing and tick off another state! One morning we took a leisurely stroll over to Arkansas from Memphis and admired the fantastic views of Memphis and the Mississippi River. 

Cost: Free!

Stop 7

Nashville, Tennessee 

(4 nights)

How to get there:

We travelled from Memphis to Nashville by Greyhound. The journey took around 4 hours and it was amazing driving through the Tennessee countryside, I even saw a Coyote! The bus station is Nashville is a short taxi ride from downtown and midtown. The bus station in Memphis is located near the airport so is a drive away from the town centre. 

Cost: $49.50 return from Memphis

Where to stay:

We stayed at the recently opened Kimpton Aertson Hotel in Midtown in Nashville (right by Taylor Swift’s Nashville pad!). We had a luxurious corner room with a gorgeous marble bathroom. My favourite part of the whole stay was the complimentary wine hour from 5pm in the lobby.

What to do:

Nashville was one of my favourite places! My highlights include the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, taking a trolley bus around Nashville, a visit to the Belle Meade Plantation and trying their incredible wines, going for drinks along Broadway and seeing Jake Owen and Kane Brown play the Wildhorse Saloon in a special Halloween show. 

Stop 8

Jackson, Mississippi 

(2 nights)

How to get there:

There’s no direct route from Nashville to Jackson so we had to get the Greyhound back to Memphis and stay there for night. We stayed in a Super 8 Motel which wasn’t the best place to stay but we would only be there for a few hours (and I got to stay in an American motel so that’s something to tick off the bucket list hahahah!)

We got on the City of New Orleans Amtrak from Memphis which took about 4 hours to Jackson, Mississippi. The City of New Orleans starts in Chicago and ends in New Orleans so we made stops in Memphis and Jackson to break up the 19 hour journey over 10 days. Jackson Amtrak and Greyhound station is located downtown. 

Cost: $34 per person

Where to stay:

I absolutely adored Belhaven, the neighbourhood we stayed in. We stayed in the cutest cottage where we experienced true Southern hospitality. 

What to do:

My favourite place was Brent’s Drugs in Fondren because of the stunning, retro style decor and because scenes from The Help were filmed there. Fondren is a great place to wander around and for shopping to find unique items you won’t find elsewhere. The Fairview Inn in Belhaven is great for cocktails in the sun and Kiefers sells the best chicken wraps I have ever had. 

You can see my blog post here for more on what to do and where to stay.

Stop 9

New Orleans, Louisiana 

(3 nights)

How to get there:

We got the train from Jackson to New Orleans which took a further four hours, again this was the City of New Orleans Amtrak service. The train starts at 8pm in Chicago stopping in Memphis at 6.30am, Jackson around 11am and New Orleans at 3pm. It was nice to be on the train at a reasonable time and get to take in the scenery as we were passing as it was daylight this time. It was amazing going through the small towns throughout Mississippi including McComb where Britney Spears is from (haha!)

The trains are usually delayed so Amtrak keep you updated via text (but because we don’t have a US number we never received these updates).

The lounge cart is great for watching the scenery. There’s also a cafe onboard where you can buy food, drinks and alcoholic drinks. New Orleans Amtrak station is located a short drive from the French Quarter. 

Cost: $22 per person

Where to stay:

We heard that some areas of New Orleans can be unsafe so we decided to stick with accommodation in the French Quarter. As we were arriving on Halloween and there had been a huge festival over the past few days the hotel prices were SO expensive (3* hotels were priced from £400 a night!).

We managed to find City House Hostels located in the French Quarter which cost around $30 a night per person. This was my first time staying in a hostel but it was great! The location was perfect, everything was so clean and we met some really great people. On Halloween we went out as a group and it was so great having the hostel staff show us around the French Quarter and where the safest areas to go where. We started the night with flip cup (which was I was freaking out about) but turns out I’m not too bad at it 😉 

What to do:

Halloween on Frenchmen Street was incredible! I have never seen crowds like it. Although I must admit that New Orleans wasn’t my favourite place but I would go back for Halloween or Mardi Gras for that atmosphere and the incredible live music on the streets.

I love that open containers are allowed so you can buy drinks in a bar or grocery store and just walk in another bar across the road with it or drink in the street.

I had some of the best food throughout the whole trip in New Orleans. Beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde are a must-have. I ate shrimp Po’Boys most days because its the best things ever and you can’t go to New Orleans without trying a Hurricane cocktail. 

Must do things include a visit to Magazine Street, a drink along Bourbon Street, a walk around the French Quarter to admire the beautiful architecture and a visit to Frenchmen Street for the local nightlife and incredible music. Frenchmen Street is definitely my favourite place in New Orleans. 

Oh and remember it’s pronounced New ORlins not New Or-LEENS. 😉

Stop 10

Austin, Texas

(4 nights)

How to get there:

We flew with SouthWest from New Orleans to Austin which took just over an hour. SouthWest does not allocate seats free of charge so it is first come first served. Soft drinks and peanuts are complimentary. There isn’t really any public transport in Austin so we relied on Uber to get us around.

Cost: $80 including one suitcase up to 50 pounds/23kg 

Where to stay:

We stayed in an Air B&B near the University of Texas at Austin which was such a cool area (especially for one who grew up obsessed watching American college movies!). We were staying by lots of cool food and cheap trucks – my favourite had to be the ice cone truck which had about 30 different flavours on offer. There was also an In & Out Burger and Chick-fil-A nearby – I’m not a huge fast food lover but these were two places I’d always heard about and wanted to try.

What to do:

Austin was my favourite place we visited. It was SO much fun (and 30 degrees in November!)

I have lots of favourite things about Austin but I’ve narrowed it down to this: Shopping, Mexican food at Guero’s and Italian Cream Sodas along South Congress, Rainey St for awesome bars, the best beef brisket and Texas BBQ you’ll ever try at Freedmen’s at West Campus and the awesome grafitti park for great artwork and wonderful skyline views of Austin. 

On our first night we managed to sneak into a Frat party at one of the nearby Fraternity houses close to our Air B&B (living my American college movie dream, thanks Kappa Alpha) and drank free whiskey and pretended I was a uni student again. 

Another highlight had to be Chicken Shit Bingo at Little Longhorn Saloon. Here you buy a bingo ticket and the first number the chicken poops on is the winner. (The chicken pooped on the line above my number but because it was on the line I lost out on $114)

Stop 11

Las Vegas, Nevada

(4 nights)

How to get there:

We flew to Vegas with budget airline Frontier. Frontier allow a personal hand luggage on for free but other carry on luggage is charged ($45 online or $60 at the desk). I had been carrying two bags on the buses, trains and planes so I had to reduce this to one which meant my suitcase was then overweight which they tried to charge me $75 for! So instead I just layered up and wore a few extra items of clothing onboard.

On arrival at McCarran airport you will be able to see the strip from the airport as it is only a short ride away. Like most of our other stops, we relied on Uber to get us around. 

Cost: $68 plus $25 for one suitcase up to 50 pounds/23kg 

Where to stay:

You can get amazing deals for Vegas hotels. Although it is considered slightly outdated now we stayed at Circus Circus Hotel which actually had really decent rooms and was really worth the price. It was slightly further up the strip but you could get taxis for around $6-10 to the strip. 

There’s so much to do in Vegas but here’s my highlights:

On arrival we saw an advert for a Vegas Benefit show at OMNIA in Casears Palace and booked tickets before we’d even collected our luggage! We got to see Tiesto, Zedd, Steve Aoki, Lil Jon plus a surprise appearance from Celine Dion for $30 each. (Although it cost $12 for a budweiser in there).

We left the club at 4am and then got on a coach at 6am for our Grand Canyon tour. We had an absolutely amazing time. It was absolutely breathtaking and even more stunning than I could ever imagine.

Other highlights in Vegas included seeing the touching memorial by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign for the shooting victims (however this has since been moved to the Clark County Museum), $6 Champagne happy hour at Fizz in Caeasars Palace, the shopping (the biggest Forever 21 I’ve ever seen!) and just wandering around the hotels in awe of everything!

Stop 12

San Diego, California

(4 nights)

How to get there:

We flew with SouthWest from Vegas to San Diego. San Diego airport is located close to downtown and is easily accessible. Again we just jumped in an Uber as our flight was a few hours delayed and we just wanted to check in and get dinner!

Cost: $50 including one suitcase up to 50 pounds/23kg 

Where to stay:

On our first night we stayed in USA Hostels in the Gas Lamp District. This was super cheap (about $25-30 each a night) and the rooms were so clean and had personal night lights and plug sockets on each bunk. Our stay even included breakfast the next day (where I was able to fulfil my English breakfast tea craving). The only downside was there was A LOT of stairs which was such a struggle with all of our luggage!

On the other three nights we stayed in Del Mar. A lovely beach town a short drive from downtown San Diego. 

Spot the sealion! (I forgot to bring my sunglasses this day oops!)

What to do:

I loved the Gas Lamp District on the Saturday night. It was full of so many great bars and restaurants all with a very lively and fun atmosphere. We had a great dinner at Barleymash and afterwards found a Froyo place which sold an amazing Graham Cracker frozen yoghurt. 

We got a ferry to Coronado where we spent hours exploring and chilling by the beach area. 

Del Mar is such a beautiful coastal town and the sunsets are unreal! I have never seen such a beautiful sky with gorgeous shades of red, pink and orange. My favourite place was Jake’s bar and restaurant in Del Mar where I enjoyed their all day happy hour on a Monday and had a few glasses of Californian Cab Sab.

Visit La Jolla to see the seals and sea lions (but be prepared for the smell!) and Pacific Beach for California burritos and great happy hours.

San Diego is very close to Tijuana, Mexico so we did consider a day trip there. We didn’t have time in the end but something I would love to do if I ever get to San Diego again.

Stop 13

Los Angeles, California 

(5 nights)

How to get there:

We got an Amtrak from San Diego Old Town to Los Angeles Union Station. The four hour journey went through amazing coastal towns so as you can imagine the scenery was so pretty! The onboard cafe had a cocktail menu so that was a bonus (*hint* SouthEastern *hint*)

Both stations were a short uber from downtown. 

Cost: $20 

Where to stay:

We wanted to stay somewhere central, in an area that we knew would be quite safe and close to the tourist attractions so chose to stay on Hollywood Blvd. We stayed at the Hollywood Downtowner Inn and we got upgraded to an apartment with a separate bedroom and kitchen with breakfast bar. 

The motel was a 20 minute walk to the Hollywood walk of fame and walkable to Los Feliz and the Griffith Observatory.

What to do:

I adored LA! I’d been dreaming of going for years but so many people had warned me that it wasn’t as good as it was made out to be. I think this lowered my expectations so that meant I loved LA even more than I thought I would. 

There’s so much to see in LA and its surrounding areas that I definitely need to go back and see more. However my favourite spots include Santa Monica (happy hour at Copa d’Oro is SO good and look out for Davy Rocks dancing on the pier), Venice Beach (but don’t have a palm reading there ha!), the Griffith Observatory for the Hollywood sign and great views of downtown, breakfast at Mel’s Drive Inn in Hollywood, a rooftop brunch with jugs of mimosas at The Wilshire, dinner on Sunset and lunch on Melrose (where all the walls are that you’ve seen all over Instagram). We spent Saturday night in Pasadena which was so much fun. 

We also went to Disneyland for the day which was THE BEST. Disneyland is about an hour from LA and cost $40 each way in an Uber. LA is not walkable so we relied on Uber to get us everywhere.

LA traffic is crazy so make sure you leave plenty of time to get to places!

Stop 14

San Francisco, California 

(5 nights)

How to get there:

We flew from LAX to San Francisco with Virgin America which was the best airline we flew with and the cheapest. Although the flight was only an hour, every seat had a TV screen where you could watch movies or live TV and you could also order complimentary soft drinks on there which the hostesses brought straight to your seat. Their safety instructions video was pretty awesome too (you can watch it here!)

Cost: $33 plus $25 for one suitcase up to 50 pounds/23kg 

Where to stay:

We stayed at Hotel 32 One in Union Square and across from Chinatown which was such an amazing location and really affordable. From there it was very walkable to Fisherman’s Wharf – where we got the ferry to Alcatraz and Sausalito – and SOMA. I know there’s a lot of talk about wine in this post but one evening we came back to a trolley in the hall full of wine and we were just able to pour ourselves a glass – now that’s my type of hotel!

What to do:

We celebrated Thanksgiving in San Francisco by going out on Thanksgiving Eve in the Castro District and then going for late night food at Orphan Andy’s – an awesome 24 hour diner where I got to have a sloppy Joe. (There are so many amazing 24 hour diners in San Francisco!). We spent Thanksgiving at the oldest restaurant in San Francisco – The Old Clam House – pigging out on clam chowder, turkey and pumpkin pie.

Other highlights included Fisherman’s Wharf (where we had amazing clam chowder), seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, amazing food in Chinatown, and just seeing the incredible steep roads throughout the city was fascinating!

We took a trip with Grayline Tours to Napa Valley and Sonoma – which was a 1-2 hour drive from San Fran – for wine tasting which was an absolute dream come true.

Stop 15

Seattle, Washington

(4 nights)

How to get there:

We considered getting a train to Portland and Seattle but it took a very long time and as we wanted to spend as much time in both places before our trip ended we decided to fly. We flew Thanksgiving weekend which was probably a big mistake and why our flight was so pricey. But it worked out cheaper for us to go to Seattle before Portland. 

We flew with Delta as they allowed us to bring on 2 carry ons and like similar airlines we had flown with, it was $25 on for one suitcase each. This was a very small flight so didn’t have screens but one benefit was the captain came down the aisle and picked people to sit in 1st class, sadly I wasn’t one of them!

Cost: $113 plus $25 for one suitcase up to 50 pounds/23kg 

Where to stay:

For one night we stayed at the W Seattle. A trendy and fashionable hotel in the heart of Seattle and within walking distance of all of the main sights.

For the next three nights we stayed in Capitol Hill which was my favourite area of Seattle and so close to downtown. 

What to do:

This was one of the first cities (since Toronto and Chicago) where public transport was similar to back in the UK. We were able to get the light rail everywhere and didn’t need to get a taxi the whole time – which was relief after spending what was probably hundreds on Ubers in the previous weeks!

My highlights of Seattle include Pike Place Market, visiting the disgusting but mesmerising bubblegum wall and Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room. My favourite things to do in Capitol Hill included hitting the thrift stores (the area where Macklemore actually filmed the Thrift Shop video too!), Dick’s Drive In for amazingly cheap burgers and fries, and happy hour at Fogon Cocina Mexicana. I just loved how quirky Capitol Hill was, it was like the Shoreditch of Seattle. 

During our time in Seattle I fell a bit in love with B Dubs which sold all of my favourite food we’d tried across the States – Buffalo wings, Po’Boys and Cheese curds!

Stop 16

Portland, Oregon

(2 nights)

How to get there:

We got the Cascades Amtrak train from Seattle to Portland which took around four hours. Both stations were located downtown so were really easy to get to. 

Cost: $26 per person for an economy seat

Where to stay:

We stayed at the luxurious The Benson hotel which was located downtown and a 10 minute walk from the station. Like Seattle we could walk everywhere in Portland and only needed to get an Uber when we left for the airport (and a karaoke Uber with a live YouTube video stream picked us up!)

What to do:

Portland has no sales tax so this is where I did some shopping (I got a pair of platform vans for £15 cheaper than the UK). Portland was the cheapest place we went to our whole trip. We enjoyed $3 pints, $4 mimosas and $4 breakfasts and it’s where I finally got to have cookie dough. There’s an awesome 24 hour diner called The Roxy and I didn’t just love it because of the name 😉 

While we were there we managed to get tickets to a Portland Trailblazers basketball game and even picked up t-shirts to support our team in the mall before the game. 

Stop 17 and 18

New Jersey and New York City 

(7 nights)

How to get there:

We flew from Portland to Newark which took a whole day due to the change of time zones (the East Coast is 3 hours ahead) and because we had a four hour layover. 

Cost: $151 plus $25 for one suitcase up to 50 pounds/23kg 

What to do:

We stayed in New Jersey and took the NJ Transit to Penn station whenever we wanted to go into New York City.  

In New Jersey we visited Morristown which has lots of nice bars and great shops for bargains such as Century 21. We also played TopGolf in Edison which I realised I am REALLY bad at.

In NYC we did all of the usual touristy things including Times Square, Central Park, Top of the Rock, Empire State and the 9/11 museum and memorial. Highlights include brunch in Nolita, strolls around Tribeca and Greenwich Village and a night out in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where we watched the sunset over Manhattan from the rooftop bar at the William Vale. 

Above: After our TV appearance on The Chew! See a clip here

Getting home

We decided to end our trip in New York as flights to London are more regular and cheaper! We flew home with Norwegian for £205 including one checked bag. (I’ve looked up flights since and you can get flights for £135 with one checked bag!)


How much did it cost?

I don’t know how much I spent exactly but I do know that I am really broke…

I would estimate that the whole trip came to around £5500-6000 for transport, flights, food, drink, attractions and even including some shopping over the whole 9 weeks. 

How can I get it cheaper?

When booking trips I always try to go for the best deals I can which is why we booked everything individually on this trip. I look at every comparison site to see where I can get the best deals. Sometimes you may even find that booking directly on the hotel or airlines website may even work out better. 

We made the mistake of visiting during special occasions (Canadian and American Thanksgiving, Halloween and holiday season in New York) so the prices were higher than usual. Always check if you are travelling during a local or national holiday or celebration. 

How long did it take to plan?

We booked our flight to Toronto about 6 weeks before we went and gradually booked the rest after that. We booked the last 3 weeks of our trip when we were in Memphis so not everything was booked too far in advance (although it may have worked out cheaper). We didn’t book some accommodation (such as Chicago) until days before we went!

I would recommend booking Amtrak a few weeks in advance as you get a cheaper deal. Amtrak also offer travel passes but we found it was a lot cheaper booking each train individually. 

How did you get to go?

I took a 3 month sabbatical so I am returning to work in January. When I was there everyone assumed I was a student, recent graduate or a rich kid who just travelled the world…unfortunately not 😉

How much luggage did you have?

I dragged around a suitcase and a back pack and a tote bag for nine weeks (I’m not cut out for that back packer life!). I’m so proud of myself that I managed to cope with just a few outfits over 9 weeks! Being home I still can’t get over the fact that I have my whole wardrobe to choose from so I keep wearing the same things.

I packed enough toiletries for two weeks and then bought the rest out there (and realised how much I missed Superdrug and their cheap deals!). I also bought clothes to last 2-3 weeks and mixed and matched my outfits. As we were travelling through a variety of weather conditions we also had to pack summer clothing and swimwear as well as winter clothes that would be suitable in the snow! 

Can I do it without a car?

Yes! I don’t drive and managed to do all of the above through public transport. It also worked out a lot cheaper than hiring a car which can be complicated when you are travelling from one side of the country to the other. 

Where was your favourite place(s)?

I have many favourite places but the places I fell in love with were Austin, Fondren and Belhaven (Mississippi), Nashville and LA. 

Are there restrictions on luggage for Amtrak?

If you are checking in bag you are allowed 2 bags no more than 50lbs/23kg and 2 personal bags no more than 25lbs/11-12kg. I didn’t expect our bags to actually be weighed like at an airport but they were so this is something to consider. 

Are there restrictions on luggage for Greyhound?

The same rules apply for Greyhound (which I also did not expect to be as strict!). Every suitcase/large bag goes under the bus and is weighed and must not be over 50lbs/23kg.

Apart from accommodation and transport, what else do I need to pay for?

When saving for this trip there were a few things I forgot to consider.

– Tipping between 15-25% is customary in the US

– Tax is often added to the price at check out

– Buying an ESTA before travelling. Make sure you do this from the official government site and not a third party and get charged 3x the amount like me…

– If you are coming into the US by land border you will need to pay $6 for an I94

– Don’t forget to buy travel insurance. This cost me £125 for 9 weeks and this was one of the cheapest options! (Check the small print, I considered visiting a doctor for a pulled neck muscle but my excess for medical visits was £500 so wasn’t very useful. I ended up just buying heat patches from Walgreens for $6 which was fine!)

– Get a credit card without international fees! I booked a few hotels on UK sites so assumed I wouldn’t get charged fees but the payment would come out directly from the hotel so I was shocked when I checked my bank statement and had £15 international fees for hotel bookings.

– To avoid drawing out cash and get charged or carrying a large amount of cash on us we used Post Office Travel Money cards which we could top up through an app on our phone and it didn’t charge transaction fees (but the exchange rate wasn’t very good!)

What made you pick this route?

We wrote a list of all of the places we wanted to go to and we narrowed it down to the most doable options (and the places we’ve always dreamed of going to). We ended up adding in extra stops along the way such a Milwaukee. 

We chose the locations based on how easy it was to get there and how affordable it was. Sadly places like Hawaii had to be removed because it can cost around £600 for the cheapest return flight from California and we also removed Dallas because the airport was so far away from the city and we had a tight time frame. 

Although we visited so many places during our trip as you can see from the map below, there’s still so much to see.

So I have started planning my next American getaway…

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