The Little Ladybirrd had an amazing adventure in the USA; our young travel writer spent a year working there and then spent several weeks travelling; here is her account of one of her adventures:
So I thought today’s blog would be about my incredible, life changing experience of travelling around the west coast of America! So first off – Why did I choose Trek America?
I was working in America but on the East Coast so I couldn’t wait to go to the West Coast and soak up some sun! My visa (J1 if you’re interested!) allowed 1 month travel at the end of my placement, so almost immediately I started looking at the most cost efficient way to see all the main sites. Previous interns had recommended Trek America and Contiki, as well as just renting a car and doing it yourself! Trek America (as you can tell from the name) seemed to have the best itineraries and were right in our price range! After scrolling through all of the options I eventually settled on the Westerner 2. This tour included stops such as Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Death Valley – basically all of the main sites on the beautiful west coast! Me and my friend chose the camping option as this was cheaper and also we thought camping may be really fun – why not go all out?!
Booking the tour itself was super easy, you can even save space while you gather up your deposit! Depending on the tour you choose, deposit will be 10% and full payment isn’t due until 8 weeks before you leave so you have plenty of time to pay any amount at any time! This makes it really easy as I know I certainly struggle saving up, so I found it easy just paying an amount out of each paycheck. You can make payments online or over the phone; we chose to do it over the phone just to make sure everything went through okay!
Westerner 2 – The chosen one!
Check out the website here to see for yourself! http://www.trekamerica.com/
Before you head off you also have access to a forum called Trek America Live, where you can meet other trekkers, ask any questions and find other people who are going on your tour! I loved this as I ended up finding 2 other trekkers and we met up at the hotel in LA the night before tour to have some drinks, dinner and a general chinwag! We chose to do a pre night as the tour starts early and we wanted to get going as soon as possible! The first hotel was the Custom Hotel and it was really nice! It had a pool and a bar which was really nice to relax by whilst getting to know our new friends!
The first day of the tour started with us filling out a couple of forms about insurance, and meeting our tour leader, Michelle, who gave us more detailed itineraries with distances between destinations. Michelle then introduced herself properly and we then each introduced ourselves – learning names was definitely a struggle but being on the bus is a real bonding experience so you soon learn!
We were then given the option to either stay in LA for a little bit or to get going to San Diego to hit the beach – as a group we chose to get straight to the beach! San Diego was beautiful, and an amazing start to the tour! Michelle had already been to the shops so we made up a sandwich by the van, then brought some crisps and biscuits with us to the beach, got the portable speakers out and started sunbathing and socialising – what could be better?! One piece of advice I would give is to carry your passport with you if you are wanting to drink (legal drinking age in the States is 21 remember!) as very few places will accept UK driving licences.
We stayed in San Diego for two nights in a really cute campsite, and once the camping lights and everything were up it looked even cuter! Every evening your tour leader will give you the info needed for the next day, times we need to leave etc! The next day me and my friend woke up super early so we decided to take a walk around the campsite before having a look at what we could do that day as it was a free day. One couple went off to SeaWorld and the rest of us decided to try our hand at sea kayaking – best decision ever! Michelle dropped us off by the beach, we then headed off to Le Jolla Bike and Kayak Tours (http://www.bikeandkayaktours.com) where we got changed into our bikinis and trunks (they offer free lockers for your belongings!), got kitted up with helmets and life jackets and trotted down to the sea. We then met our guide, a young man who unfortunately I can’t remember his name! But he was amazing, after learning the basics off we went! It took a little while but we all got the hang of it pretty quickly and were soon kayaking alongside sea lions amongst the caves! The rest of the day was spent catching up and comparing stories before hitting the sack early for our early start!
Day 3 involved visiting Salvation Mountain, visiting the original London Bridge and finally ending up at Lake Havasu which is a part of the Colorado River. This was my favourite campsite! Straight away we got into the water and started messing about! We had inflatables, a water gun and a group of us even made a synchronised swimming routine! Some of us then just sat on the edge with our toes in the water while drinking our new favourite drink Bud Light Strawberita! Beer pong, tag and British bulldog was then followed by what we called “piggy back wrestling” which is.. well exactly what it sounds like in the now cool river! Michelle then suggested sleeping under the stars as she had checked the weather and OMG it was amazing. There is nothing like sleeping under the stars, waking up at sunset with views of the river and mountains!
Day 4 and 5 was spent at the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. The best bit was before we even saw it, Michelle bought us bandannas for the Big Reveal! This was where we covered our eyes with the bandannas, and held onto each other’s shoulders as Michelle led us to the viewing point. I have no idea what we must have looked like to all the tourists but it was such a good idea! The reveal was incredible!! We were lucky enough to view the canyon from all angles and times, we went at sunrise, sunset, hiked around part of it and then some of us took an optional extra of a helicopter tour of the Canyon, well worth it! It’s a little pricey at around $200 but honestly it’s worth every penny.. I knew I wasn’t going to get this chance again so decided to again go all out!
Day 6 and 7 were spent getting to and around Las Vegas! On the way we stopped at Seligman which is an original section of Route 66 where we grabbed a bite to eat at the highly recommended Delgadillo’s Snow Cap. The group was shocked I had never had milkshake so insisted I had one and after trying one of my friends malt shakes I bought one and didn’t regret it! Although I can’t say the same about my waistline! After Seligman we went off to Hoover Dam which despite being incredibly windy (check out the stunning photos!)
I’m glad we stopped to see it! Then onwards to the neon city, and we were not disappointed! We stayed at the Golden Nugget Hotel, famous for its waterslide through a shark tank! Five of us then grabbed a cab to the main part of Las Vegas and had a look around the Bellagio, The Venetian and some very expensive shopping malls before heading back to get ready for our first night out! It was strange seeing everyone dressed up, as up until now all us girls had their hair scraped back with no make up on! Just a warning to the boys, Las Vegas will be a lot more expensive for you than for the girls!
The next day again was a free day so we went to a pool party at the hotel and just lounged around for the day! In the evening we had tried to do a zipline along Fremont Street however it was fully booked, so I would definitely recommend pre-booking if this is something you’re interested in!
So that was the first half of my Trek America Experience and the week had already gone so quickly! Your camp-mates become your best friends. Before this trip no one had seen me in a bikini or without make up, not even previous boyfriends! Yet in this company it just feels so natural and no one judges you! Just from this first half I would get on another tour at the drop of a hat, I didn’t want it to end!
Check out Little Ladybirrd’s blog, and this post with other pictures: