I’m sure that quite a few of my readers have already been to America for a holiday. If this is the case then apologies for saying what you may already know.
However, I ran a poll on Instagram to see if this post – What To Know Before You Go – would be interesting to anyone out there, and it got a great response as a YES.
I 1st holidayed in America 10 years ago. I went to New York with Ste for a week. We had the most wonderful time. All the sightseeing parts are ingrained in my memory. Sadly the parts where I needed to remember about tax, tipping and a credit card were not.
The Credit Card Situation
I guess regularly holidaying in the UK and Europe we take it for granted. You pay either before you go for your hotel, or on arrival, check in & enjoy! This was not quite the same with the states.
Even though we had pre-paid all our hotel accommodation, each and everyone one wanted a “Security Deposit” upon check in. Now if you’re only heading to one place in America, like we did for New York, that’s fine. They would hold around $200 and then release it back to you on check out.
Now, with a road trip, we stayed in 5 different hotels, and hired 2 cars (which also needed security deposits). Adding all that up, you’re looking at almost $1000 in security holdings on your card.
We were lucky as we travelled in a group. We used either my Mums card or mine to secure these check in’s. But if we didn’t have a few cards to share it round, we’d have been stuck.
This is something to bare in mind before travelling. You could either apply for a credit card, and use this simply for this type of spending. The money does come back to you, but takes 3-5 working days after check out. Or think of alternative accommodation in each place. Air BnB is a good alternative because all up front fees are all you pay.
Please don’t think I’m saying “just get a Credit Card”, all very blase! Please only consider this if you’re financially stable, or able to pay off the money spent on it. A holiday is great, but there’s no need to get in to debt over one!
Tax and Tipping – Watch Out
Let’s start with Tax! For some reason, and if anyone knows it please do tell me in the comments, the US doesn’t add tax in to their individual item prices – until you get to the till!
For instance, you’re in a store and you find a top/shoes/chocolate bar/souvenir that you like. You join the queue, get your correct money ready from what it says on the label or price sticker, then the cashier totals up a completely different price.
The tax added on to goods changes from State to State and the type of item. It’s on everything that will hit a tourist though, food, eating out, drinks, and shopping. Watch out for this!
When you add it up, it means that shopping in the US isn’t as much of a bargain as it was once thought of.
Now for the tipping situation. I’ve heard that the service industry is paid pretty horrifically in the US so most workers rely on their tips. That sounds about fair right? Until you get your groups bill and they’ve added 20% on to it!
The common rule for tipping in the States is anything between 15-20%. But if you tip 15% you’ll more than likely get an eye roll, very obviously to your face!
We had not much extra cash on us one day and were only able to tip the cab driver 10%. To be fair we lifted our own bags in & out of the car, and he still said to our faces, “what? No TIP!”
Just be prepared to bring a little extra cash for drinking out, eating out, concierge/tour guide staff, and cab drivers. Tipping is a big way of life out there!
America Doesn’t Do Tea
By “America Doesn’t Do Tea” I mean English Breakfast Tea. You’ve never seen anything funnier than my Mum who drinks a regular 7 cups a day trying to hunt down one.
Someone said before I left that I should take a travel kettle, and I forgot. If I had taken one it would have been the No.1 Travel Essential.
Pretty much no hotel room has a kettle. They have a coffee machine that could pass through boiling water (but this takes a while). And some of the hotel rooms just have coffee machines where you have to use a pod to get it working at all.
Hand in hand with this is the milk situation. Before normal milk you’ll be offered “cream”. This is like milk but thicker. The half and half stuff is the best. It’s really creamy and is lovely in coffee, not so much tea!
Be a true Brit abroad and pack a small travel kettle, you’ll thank me!
Watch Out For Added Extras
The added extras that will get you will probably come from hotel check in’s and car hire. Some states have a room tax, Vegas is one of these. It was $35 a night, per room.
This is paid upon check out and will most likely come off the card you gave in on arrival. But you can pay cash, so say that as soon as possible on check out.
Watch out if you’re hiring a car. This is where they’ll get you. If you’re considering car hire, definitely book before you go. We used Hertz and they were great.
Book one of the best policies, not the bog standard. But on arrival they will still try to add on things. Roadside breakdown cover, in car Wifi, extra drivers on the car etc.
Stay strong when picking up your car … we weren’t.
We took out the Roadside Assistance, purely because we were driving through lonely desert roads. And, we got the Wifi package for our 1st weekend of the trip, when camping.
The added charges aren’t great, and some can be charged by day, or as a whole. If you do fancy them though, these are good examples of “emergency” credit card charges.
Still Though, Definitely Go
Although we found out all these little horrors as we went along with the trip, they didn’t spoil our fun.
It’s a learning curve when travelling, but it gives me something good to write about. I’m sure this info is out there somewhere, but I read all kinds of blogs based on visiting America and this never came up.
Is that us being clueless and naive? I wouldn’t say so. Why do you consider or question all this when booking a holiday.
I hope now though you have a little more knowledge and a heads up if you’re thinking of travelling to the States for the first time.
I’d love to know if you discovered any of this once already on holiday too, or you have any other advice for visiting the US that I might have missed.
Stick with me on my travel blogs as I have a lot coming up.