I’ve been to the USA a fair few times before and visited destinations such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Orlando and of course my favourite of them all, Las Vegas. With that in mind, having visited often I’ve learnt a thing or two as to how’s best to prepare for your first trip to America.  There are a few handy tips that you should keep in mind before you travel so that you can enjoy your holiday when you get there.

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ESTA Application

You must possess a valid ESTA for the USA, failure to do so will result in you not being allowed into the country. An ESTA (short for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) is the mandatory documentation you must apply and pay for before you travel. So that you can visit your holiday destination in the US. As airport security became heightened in America after the devastation of 9/11. ESTAs were introduced as a way of sifting out those wanting to enter the country with unwanted intentions. Such as those wanting to endanger the safety of people and/or law enforcement. This way an ESTA Application can be denied, to prevent unwanted people from entering the country

Applications are completed online. They’re a simple series of questions and once acceptance is confirmed by the US Authorities, it will be sent to your email or via SMS. 

Why would your ESTA be denied?

Your ESTA may be denied due to one or more of the following reasons’

  • On a previous visit to the United States, you overstayed beyond the amount of time allowable for your visa or visa waiver.
  • On a previous visit to the United States, you did not have the appropriate visa to work
  • You previously made a request for a visa or visa waiver and were denied entry into the United States.
  • You provided the passport details for a passport that you claimed to be lost or stolen. Yet actually was still in your possession.
  • The answers you provided on your ESTA application form were incorrect, once cross-checked with the US government systems.
  • You have a criminal record. And regardless of your answer to question 2 on the ESTA application form, you were found to have a conviction history.
  • You have the name of someone who committed a crime in your name. Or you are a victim of identity theft.

Border Control

Once you’ve secured your ESTA and you know you’re allowed to travel into America there’s border control at the other end. Of course, the country goes to great lengths to be safe and we highly commend them for this. However, border control can be intimidating if it is your first trip to America.

The main takeaway is, always be pleasant and polite to the agent at the desk. And comply with any questions they may have. Don’t try and be smart or cocky and don’t joke around. Stay behind the line until called and follow all instructions when in customs halls. This way you’ll get through as efficiently as possible and allow you to head onto your holiday destination with no drama.

Often the lines can be long and sometimes take a little while for everybody to be processed. Which is in the interest of everybody’s safety and security. If you want to time hack and save yourself a little bit of time then see if you can fly through Dublin Airport. This way you can clear customs in Dublin. So when you arrive at your US destination you are able to head straight for your luggage without all the huge queues. We’ve only done this once before flying Newcastle to Dublin and then Dublin onto Boston. It really made the use of the time whilst waiting for our connecting flight. Then when we arrived in Boston we were out of the airport with our luggage within 15 minutes.

Coupons

Americans LOVE coupons. In fact, I recommend you watch ‘Extreme Couponing’. A programme where Americans are prolific couponers and you’ll often see them with $1,500+ baskets only paying $50 for the items after coupon deductions. 

Make the use of coupon websites before you go by checking out different deals online. You can also purchase coupon books online (if you’re going to Vegas there’s a few on Amazon worth looking at).

And of course, when you arrive before you pay for anything, search around leaflets and coupon books for any discounts. If you’re going to the Designer Outlets always head straight to guest services for a coupon book. As well as looking on their websites prior to shopping.

A lot of coupons are stackable too, meaning you can use them on top of each other. Often you’ll see a coupon for 70% off and another for 20% off, you can use these together and get an additional 20% off the price from the 70% off. If you’re unsure, hand all the coupons you have to the checkout assistant. They’ll be sure to let you know which ones you can use together. If it is your first trip to America and you aren’t used to coupons don’t be afraid to ask for a discount.

Empty Case

With all that couponing you’re probably going to have the stress of space in your suitcase. If you’re not flying business class or higher chances are you’ll have a 23-25kg allowance (some airlines 32kg). You can ALSO take on a cabin bag. So here’s the greatest travel hack if you love to shop I’m about to tell you.

Pack for going on holiday in your cabin bag and put that inside your large suitcase, which should be empty. When you start to shop and buy lots you’ll not have to worry as you’ll have an entire empty suitcase and your cabin bag. As somebody who travels virtually fortnightly, trust me when I say you can easily pack for a week in a cabin bag including 7-day and 7-night outfits with spare clothes too! Roll everything, that’s the key to save space!

Have you been to the USA and have any tricks and tips for somebody going on their first trip to America to help them prepare? Drop a comment below with your advice

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