The United States of America or the USA is located in North America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Having Canada and Mexico as its neighbors, the US is spread on 3,539,227 square miles. The geography of the US varies a lot – it has a broad central plain with mountains in the west and low mountains in the east.
The government system of the US is a constitution-based federal republic, and it has a strong democratic tradition. The president is both the head of government and chief of state.
The US consists of 50 states. New York is the largest city in the United States, while Washington DC is its capital.
If you just cannot wait to go on vacation in the USA and want to know everything about vacationing in America in detail, you are reading the right guide. We have tried our best to put together every helpful information on various topics, such as top spots, transportation system, accommodations, hidden gems, and important stats regarding vacationing.
But before jumping directly to the main points, let’s first talk about how the idea of vacations in America came into being in the first place.
History of Vacations in the United States
Vacationing in the USA – either by individuals or couples – is a tradition in the US that dates back to at least the early 19th century.
Generally, vacations probably began in ancient times, which can be proved by the presence of inns and travel lodges during the Roman Empire period. The Roman Empire allowed wealthy individuals to travel and enjoy the countryside or peaceful places within the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire might be among the first states to give the idea of a vacation, but it is also possible that the idea goes even further back in Achaemenid Period. In that period, roads, hotels, and lodges were purposely built so wealthier, upper-middle-class could enjoy their stay away from their normal daily life. However, the Roman Empire was the first to extend the idea of vacationing beyond just rich, upper-middle-class individuals.
Vacations may have died after the end of the Roman period, at least in Europe. But it may have continued in more prosperous regions, such as China and the Middle East (in early medieval periods). In these regions, only wealthy individuals were most likely to participate in vacations. For instance, in Jordan and other Middle East countries, Desert castles have been found – suggesting that they were holiday homes for the wealthy elites.
During the Renaissance period, the idea of touring Europe and exotic locations was introduced among the elites. For instance, the Grand Tour was introduced for touring ancient countries and regions for educational purposes and leisure.
Elites back then would spend some time away from their hometowns in the countryside to enjoy the true essence of nature, which was another early influence on the idea of vacations in the US. The popular examples of this are Thomas Jefferson’s home and the Poplar Forest – the top two oldest vacation or retreat homes for early elite Americans.
Railroads changed the perception of vacations. In the 1830s, the USA started building railroads initially outside cities like Boston and New York. People then began to travel on railroads on their days off from work to experience beyond the confines of their towns.
The earliest destinations were the coastal beaches on the east and then in the south as well. Coney Island became the first island where vacationing individuals and families would come to spend quality and enjoy mesmerizing views.
However, the steam-powered trains would only allow vacationers to enjoy a short stay – perhaps no more than a few days or even shorter. That being said, a majority of Americans were still not able to go on vacations because almost no jobs offer paid time off.
By the mid-19th century, Americans started touring Florida and then California for longer vacations. In addition to beach holidays and partying there, rowing and boating offered great leisure activities in lakes and rivers around the country.
Although railroads spread in the United States, the civil war put a full stop to all those leisure activities for some time. By the end of the 19th century, the concept of vacationing widened. The lower class also started taking part in leisure activities and vacations.
In the 1890s, local councils, governments, and many companies began to pay their employees for leisure and vacation time. Some organizations also built vacation homes so their employees can enjoy some time away from their urban life along with their families. These subsidized vacations made vacationing for every class quite affordable.
Later, almost all companies started including employee vacation policy as leisure activities became a part of the American lifestyle. These companies realized the benefits of time away from home as vacationing played an important part because of the health benefits. Also, due to vacation, employees would often be more productive and better rested – thus, less stressed after vacations.
While visiting exotic locations, nature spots, and having beach holidays were already popular in the mid to late 19th century, city breaks also became common in the 1910s and 1920s. Travels included cities like Philadelphia and New York. Hotels and resorts were built in these cities to boost tourism; some catered for every class while others were made for wealthier Americans only.
Although World War II and the Great Depression did slow travel, people still went on shorter holidays to relieve their stress and have fun with their families or alone. For the wealthy, holidays in the mountains, such as in Colorado, became popular. However, luxury hotels and these more isolated destinations made vacationing expensive and also time-consuming.
With the end of World War 2, the development of the airline industry opened another path for rich individuals to go on vacations with their families to exotic areas far away from their hometowns. This was the period when theme parks were made and became a part of the American tradition of summer holidays. First, Disney Land was developed in 1955 and then Disney World in 1965.
On the other hand, various travel companies introduced tour packages for middle-class Americans, which made The Mediterranean, Mexico, and Central America popular places for them to visit.
Most Popular Places to Vacation in America
According to Morning Consult, the following are the places that the US adults said would be “most interesting” in visiting:
Figure 1: Data by: Morning Consultant
According to this 2018 data collected by Morning Consultant between June 4 and 5, 51% of the US adults said to be more interested in visiting Hawaii than New York City – maybe because of the stunning beaches? This data also shows that more people were interested in places that were closer to nature.
Note: The following list is in no specific order.
1. New York City
In 2019, New York received a record 66.6 million tourists, according to NYC & Company. This makes NYC the number 1 popular place to visit in the US.
As they say, New York has it all. Here, you can find a lot – be it good food, art galleries, the energy, the people – and the list never ends.
Every traveler with a good experience of vacationing in mind would never miss a chance to visit New York City. What makes this city the best compared to others is the energy you will experience here. The city never sleeps as you can always find something open every hour.
As it is one of the main centers of the US culture, you can find New York well represented in most Hollywood music, movies, books, games, etc. If you are planning to visit New York City, you need at least a week to experience all that the city has to offer.
Following are some top attractions in New York City that you should include in your list:
- Times Square
- The Statue of Liberty
- Central Park
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Empire State Building
- Madison Square Garden
- Guggenheim Museum
- Grand Central Station
- Broadway and the Theater District
- The High Line
Moreover, your tour won’t be complete without sampling some or all the food of New York City. The list includes New York-style pastrami, New York-style cheesecake, pizza, bagels, pretzels, Manhattan clam chowder, and many more.
2. Wailea, Hawaii
Want to visit the best North American island for a memorable vacation? Wailea is for you. Known for its five alluring crescent-shaped beaches, luxurious resorts, stellar golf courses, and nearby Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve, the destination makes travelers feel out of this world.
If you are looking for an escape from the city life and all that hustle and bustle that comes with it, pack your bags and head to Wailea, where you can rejuvenate yourself.
3. The Grand Canyon, Arizona
One of the world’s premier natural attractions and an iconic landmark, the Grand Canyon is one of the most famous places to visit in the United States. It is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world for a reason. It was carved by the Colorado River millions of years ago to form an immense steep-sided gorge.
The Grand Canyon spans over a whopping 277 miles (446 kilometers) in length, over 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) in-depth, and over 10 miles (16 kilometers) in width. This region was inhabited by humans about 12,000 years ago. It receives more than 5 million visitors each year that come to visualize its never-ending beauty.
You can do so much there, such as go on an aerial tour, hike into the Inner Canyon, or a boat ride along the river.
The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is during the spring or fall months when crowds are limited, and temperatures are pleasant. If you just want to experience its beauty, a one-day tour would be great, but you need at least 3 to 4 days to explore the beauty.
4. Las Vegas
Las Vegas, also known as the entertainment capital of the world, is home to some of the biggest casinos in the world. Located in the southwestern state of Nevada, Las Vegas or LA deserves a spot on your travel list for its amazing nightlife, fun, entertainment, and all that comes with them. Apart from partying and gambling, there are a lot of things to do in LA, such as shopping, exploring nearby natural spots, resorts, and you name it!
You can eat at restaurants owned by world-renowned celebrity chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, Giada De Laurentiis’ GIADA, Buddy V’s Ristorante by Buddy Valastro, and many more.
5. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is one of the best cities in the USA to explore, and that too for a reason (or reasons). This bustling urban hub is known for its grand museums, rich history, iconic skyline, and striking architecture. In addition, it is famed for its diverse cultural experiences, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, jazz music, and hot dogs.
Due to its geography alongside Lake Michigan, you can experience some of the bluest water in the world. Furthermore, Chicago is home to a man-made 28-mile long lakefront shoreline comprising 24 beautiful beaches.
Top sights in Chicago include:
- Cloud Gate
- Navy Pier
- The Art Institute
- Millennium Park
- Willis Tower
- Field Museum
- Shedd Aquarium
Head to 360 Chicago Observation deck, Skydeck at Willis Tower, or the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier for the best views.
The best times to visit Chicago are April to May and September to October when the temperature is pleasant, places are not heavily crowded, and festivals are ongoing.
Top Hidden Vacation Destinations for Adventurers
1. Valley of Fire – Nevada
Located just an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park is a hidden gem in the US. You can do so much there, such as experiencing the beautiful scenery, hiking, camping, and doing much more. What makes Valley of Fire so underrated are the heavy-hitting attractions in nearby Utah and Arizona.
In fact, if Valley of Fire wasn’t close to some of the country’s most famous national parks, such as the Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion, it would be a National Park instead of a state one.
2. Gatlinburg – Tennessee
Gatlinburg, a beautiful mountain town located in eastern Tennessee, is also known as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What makes it one of the best hidden gems and vacation spots in the US are its mesmerizing scenery, adrenaline-inducing activities, etc. You can do a lot here – including biking, horseback riding, ziplining, and whitewater rafting.
Gatlinburg transforms into an alluring snowy paradise during the winter, unlocking more fun opportunities, such as skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.
No matter when you decide to visit Gatlinburg, you will absolutely fall in love with this country’s stunning and rural core
3. Blackwater Falls State Park – West Virginia
If you love nature and waterfalls, this state park has you covered. West Virginia itself is a hidden gem, and the Blackwater Falls State Park within it is among the under-the-radar vacation spots in the United States. There, you can view the 57-foot waterfall and click photos in front of it. Other must-see sites in the park include Pendleton Point Overlook, Lindy Point, and Elaka Falls.
During the warm months of the year, adventure-lovers flock to this state park for fishing, biking, hiking, and camping.
4. Stowe – Vermont
Stowe is a perfect combination of Austria and Vermont, making it one of the best hidden vacation spots in the US. This town has a lot to offer, including stunning backdrops, skiing, camping, and whatnot. Alchemist Brewery, a family-run small brewery, makes the best beer that people from all over the world come to taste.
From beautiful snow-capped mountains to Austrian-style lodges, you can find so much to do here in Stowe.
5. Jekyll Island – Georgia
Located off the coast of Georgia lies a peaceful island escape called the Jekyll Island. The island is known for its immaculate nature and rich history – and that too without the crowds. During the Gilded Age, Jekyll Island was a private retreat for the world’s elite class, such as J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, and William Vanderbilt.
After World War 2, the island was sold to Georgia as a state park, but many mansions stayed intact. Interestingly, there are no traffic signals in Jekyll Island, and only 35% of the island is developed because most of the land there is state-protected. This tells a lot about the laidback and unhurried lifestyle of the island.
Leading City Destinations in the United States (2020)
Figure 2: Data by: Statista
According to the 2020 data by Statista, New York City received the most international arrivals (5.42 million), followed by Miami, 3.43 million.
Best Times to Visit the USA
The United States is a big country; hence, the climates and weather can vary greatly depending on the location and season.
- Summer: June to August
- Fall: September to November
- Winter: December to January
- Spring: March to May
During summer, northern states of the US get warm (77°F) and even hot (104°F) days and cooler nights and mornings. On the other hand, the southern states and tropical areas have very hot temperatures.
Temperatures begin to cool down in the fall season, and the weather becomes pleasant around the country. This is the best time to visit northern regions as leaves change to beautiful red, orange, and yellow shades.
Winter in the northern, northeastern, western mountains, Midwestern, and Great Plains regions often encounter cool temperatures and snow. But in southern regions, winter is fairly mild. Also, winter can bring heavy snowfalls and frozen lakes
During the spring, temperatures become to get a bit high again. Rainstorms and thunderstorms are common across the US into the summer months.
Besides fall, spring is also the best time to visit the USA to experience pleasant weather.
Types of Vacation People Would Generally Like to Take
Figure 3: Data by: Statista
According to an online survey conducted between January 25 and January 28 of 2017, 52% of people said that they would go on a beach vacation over any other type of vacation. Moreover, 33% of people were in favor of all-inclusive vacation packages that included everything in the booking price.
Hence, beach vacations were the most popular type of holiday for US adults, ages 18 and above.
 “Which of the following types of vacation would you generally like to take?” Retrieved from Favorite types of vacation U.S. adults 2017 | Statista
General Information Regarding America
A Brief Guide to the US Time Zones and General Operating Hours
A 12-hour clock system is used to read the clock in the US; AM is before noon, and PM is afternoon. If you are told 9 o’clock, it could be 9:00 or 21:00; so, make sure to confirm if it’s AM or PM they are talking about.
- The United States and its territories follow these 9 time zones:
- Eastern Standard Time (EST)
- Central Standard Time (CST)
- Atlantic Time (AST) – Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands
- Hawaii-Aleutian Time (HAST)
- Pacific Standard Time (PST)
- Alaska Standard Time (AKST)
- Mountain Standard Time (MST)
- Samoa Standard Time (SST) – American Samoa, Midway Islands
- Chamorro Standard Time (ChST) – Guam, Northern Mariana Islands
Daylight Saving Time
The US is also among 70 countries that change their clocks midyear for Daylight Saving Time. Clocks in the US are set ahead an hour on the second Sunday in March and turned back an hour on the first Sunday of November. However, Hawaii, Arizona, and the territories of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands do not follow DST (Daylight Saving Time).
Shopping & Spending Money
You can shop around in the USA using cash, traveler’s checks, and credit/debit cards. The official currency of the US is dollar ($), and when planning for a vacation in America, you can exchange your money for dollars in your home country or exchange it at the airport or around the USA, such as banks.
It is highly recommended not to travel with large sums of cash.
Currently, there are approximately 470,135 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) around the country. But keep in mind that you may be charged various fees, including an ATM operator access fee, a non-bank ATM usage fee of up to $3 per use, and an international transaction fee.
Therefore, make sure to check with your credit card company or bank before making a transaction. Also, check the conversion rate of banks before withdrawing money in dollars from their ATMs.
Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the US – from hotels to restaurants and entertainment to public transport, you can use your credit card for everything. Depending on your credit card, you may be charged a fee (international transaction fee or currency conversion fee).
Before flying to America, contact your bank or credit card company and tell them about your travel to ensure your credit cards work properly upon arrival.
The biggest advantage of travelers’ checks over cash is that they can easily be replaced with one phone call even if they are stolen or lost. The most common denominations of traveler’s checks are $20, $50, $100. You can purchase these checks at various banks.
Holidays & Special Events
When planning your trip to the US, you should consider national holidays and other cultural celebrations. Most US schools, businesses, and government offices are closed these days. Moreover, so many attractions, museums, and events may be crowded or closed as a result. Also, airfare is on the higher side during holidays.
Following is a list of major US national holidays and special events that you should consider before flying to America.
- New Year’s Day: Jan. 1
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Third Monday in January
- Presidents’ Day: Third Monday in February
- Memorial Day: Last Monday in May
- Independence Day: July 4
- Labor Day: First Monday in September
- Columbus Day: Second Monday in October
- Veterans Day: Nov. 11
- Thanksgiving: Fourth Thursday in November
- Christmas Day: Dec. 25
In addition to these holidays, there may be other unofficial holidays and special annual events in the US, making your travel experience much better and more fun.
Various modes are available in the US, making it easy for US citizens and tourists to travel around the country. Following modes of transportation are available in the US:
The US is home to more than 5,200 airports (as of 2020). Although not all airports serve international flights, connections are readily available.
Following are the top 10 international airports in the US:
- John F. Kennedy International Airport – New York City, New York
- Miami International Airport – Miami, Florida
- Los Angeles International Airport – Los Angeles, California
- Newark Liberty International Airport – New Jersey (serving the Greater New York City area)
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport – Chicago, Illinois
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – Atlanta, Georgia
- San Francisco International Airport – San Francisco, California
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, Texas
- Dulles International Airport – Virginia (serving the greater Washington, DC area)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – Dallas, Texas
Despite several good-value airlines, air travel is a much less appealing way of getting around the country than it used to be. Most major cities of the US have at least one airport with direct and connecting flights available, making it easy for you to travel domestically.
Traveling from East Coast to West Coast and vice versa takes less than six hours by air, compared to car or train travel that may take several days.
According to CNBC, the following are the top 10 US airlines :
- Delta Air Lines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Allegiant Airlines
Modes of Transportation
If you are planning the trip on your own and want to make a lot of stops, bus travel is the best option for you and the cheapest way to get around. The main long-distance operator, the Greyhound, links all major towns and cities. However, in the countryside, bus travel is fairly scarce as busses sometimes appear only once a day, if at all.
For some people, cruising the beautiful countryside or highways of the US, preferably in a convertible with songs blasting, is one of the top reasons to set out on tour to America. Yes, a car makes it easy for you to choose your own itinerary and explore the amazing wide-open landscapes of the country.
However, the same cannot be said about driving in cities as it can be hair-raising.
To rent a car in the US, you must have held your license for at least a year. On the other hand, drivers under 25 may have to pay higher than normal insurance premiums. Also, rental companies expect you to have a credit card, and if you don’t, they may allow you to leave a cash deposit
The fastest way to get around is by traveling on the national Amtrak network. However, the rail system of Amtrak isn’t much comprehensive. Wondering how? For instance, East Coast states from Virginia northward are well covered with rail routes; however, some western states are left out altogether.
Also, for any specific journey, train travel is expensive compared to Greyhound.
How Do US Travelers Usually Travel on a Vacation?
According to a survey conducted from March 23 to April 24 in 2017, groups of people were questioned about how they traveled in the US when on a vacation. These were the people who had been on vacation for the past five years. 73% of people answered that they used a car when traveling on vacation.
As per the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Americans take around 411,000 million daily trips a year, which makes about 1500 trips per person.
 “How do you usually travel on vacation?” Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/711072/transportation-used-by-residents-when-traveling-on-vacation-us/
 “National Household Travel Survey Daily Travel Quick Facts.” Retrieved from https://www.bts.gov/statistical-products/surveys/national-household-travel-survey-daily-travel-quick-facts
Average Vacation Time Based On Years of Service
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average paid vacation days are increased by service length. For example, after 1 year of service, full-time employees get 11 paid vacation days off compared to 20 days after 20 years. The same goes for the part-time employees of an organization.
Money Spent on a Vacation
The average cost of pleasure can vary widely, depending on how one spends. Of course, not all vacationers will incur all these expenses. For instance, if a person stayed at their friend’s on vacation would spend nothing on lodging. Moreover, vacation expenditures also depend on the age group of vacationers. For example, near-retirees might spend four times more on a trip, on average, compared to young people (under 25).
Best and Cheap Ways to Stay While Vacationing in America
You can go for luxury ways of living, such as in resorts and 5-star hotels while vacationing in America, but when traveling on a budget, every penny spent counts. Aside from airfare, accommodation/lodging is typically the expense that takes the biggest bite out of your vacation budget.
If you are willing to consider alternative ways to stay while not breaking the bank, the following are the best ways to stay:
1. Short-Term Room Rentals
This is a popular trend in the travel world – it is a combination of vacation rentals and homestays. The best websites you can use are Airbnb, 9flats, Homestay. You can rent a room in someone’s private studio, house, or cottage for low nightly rates. It is an excellent way for owners to open up their homes and make a little extra money while doing nothing but just renting a free space in their homes.
The best thing about this type of stay is that you will have a chance to meet new people and make good links.
Although these are known as “youth hostels,” they can be a great option for travelers of all ages, especially those on a budget. Even if you are not up for a shared room, you can get a basic private room at a hostel for a significantly lower price compared to a low-end hotel.
3. B&Bs with Shared Bathrooms
Bread and Breakfasts can often save you a lot of money compared to hotel rooms. The best thing about B&Bs is that they are cozy, and breakfast is covered.
Living on someone’s couch or in a spare bedroom is by far one of the cheapest ways to travel. In many cases, owners offer space free of cost, and on top of everything, it is also a great way to meet new people. You can organize a homestay by checking out sites like Couchsurfing.
5. Vacation Rentals
Vacation rentals offer affordable and unique lodging around the world. Since they tend to be more affordable and spacious than hotel rooms, families and groups prefer opting for vacation rentals as they can easily divide the cost. On top of everything, having your own kitchen can save you big bucks on restaurants.
6. Academic Housing
When students living in academic housing go home for the summer vacations, many universities and colleges open up their dorms to travelers and visitors. You can expect very basic but affordable accommodations. The best way to see the availability is by calling a few local campuses and asking them directly to see if anything is available.
Interesting Facts about Vacationing in America
- Scientists have proved that Kansas’ terrain is flat – flatter than a pancake.
- Las Vegas is home to more than 100 casinos – in fact, it is the gambling capital of the world.
- Kentucky is home to a number of distilleries. According to manufacturers, 4.7 million bourbon barrels are sold per year, while the total population of Kentucky is about 4.5 million.
- There is a town named “Boring” located in Oregon that partnered up with another town named “Dull” in Scotland. Oregonians have designated a day as “Boring and Dull Day” to celebrate their partnership.
- There are about 61,000 people in the air over the US at any given time on any day.
- Almost 50% of Americans research, plan, and book their trips to a new destination using just their phones.
- New Jersey is home to the world’s largest roller coaster (45 stories high).
- There are about 182 places in the US that have “Christmas” in their names. For instance, Christmas Valley, Christmas Island, Christmas Lake, etc.
- The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is the world’s second most visited museum, receiving around 8,300,000 visitors a year.
- Sitka, located in Alaska, is the largest city in the US by area (2870.339 square miles).
- English is not the official language of the US. In fact, it doesn’t have one.
- New York was once known as “New Amsterdam.”
- The Statue of Liberty, located in New York, was a gift from the people of France to the United States.
- In the earlier 19th century, Alaska wasn’t a part of the US. In fact, it was a part of Russia until it was sold to the Americans.
- The United States is home to the longest cave system in the world.
- Hawaii is the only US state that is solely made up of islands.
- Alaska is both the westernmost and easternmost state of the United States.
- The USA lacks widespread public transportation, which might not be a problem for citizens having a private car, but it is for tourists.
- Top Taxi apps, Lyft and Uber, are available in all the US states. These apps are much better than super expensive regular taxis.
- Sales Taxes are generally not included in the tag price, so make sure to check out the taxes on the items before buying them.
- It is important to always keep your passport with you all the time when vacationing in America because you might get asked for it often.
 “Lionel Casson, 1994. Travel in the ancient world. Johns Hopkins Paperbacks ed. ed. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.” Retrieved from https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/title/travel-ancient-world
 Data Retrieved from https://morningconsult.com/
 “Leading city destinations in the United States in 2020, by number of international arrivals.” Retrieved from Cities with the most international tourists US 2020 | Statista
 “When is the best time to visit the USA?” Retrieved from https://www.audleytravel.com/usa/best-time-to-visit#nov-dec
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