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 Post subject: Help GR plan a trip to the USA
PostPosted: Sat May 04, 2013 12:32 pm 
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So... If I do get to DragonCon, it would be as a part of a longer trip. About a month long.

Big picture:
After consulting a friend of mine, who traveled quite a bit and know me well, we reached the conclusion that I don't come to America for the places, but rather for the people. This means I don't want to come with a check list of things to do, but rather find nice/interesting/fun people and hang out with them. If that's the case, than DragonCon is an excellent place to start the trip, as it gives me the chance to find some kindred souls to roll with.

I do, however, need to know some things beforehand. Specifically about prices, so I can budget myself. Now I know prices change wildly from place to place, but your feedback is still better than what my friend remembers from his trip back in 2007.
!) How much will it cost to feed myself? As in, how much does a decent meal costs?
@) How much does it costs to rent a room for the night?
#) Do you have suggestions for places/events I might enjoy visiting?
$) How viable are the difference modes of transportation? Renting a car, traveling by bus, traveling by train, traveling by airplane etc. Not only prices, but travel time as well. I don't want to spend half my trip waiting (whether it's inside or outside a vehicle).
%) Most importantly, what questions do I need to ask? This is my first solo adventure, and I'm bound to make some stupid decisions. What do YOU think I need to know?

tl;dr: help :confused: :confused: :confused:

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 Post subject: Re: Help GR plan a trip to the USA
PostPosted: Sun May 05, 2013 1:38 am 
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Well, if you're traveling around for a month... INFODUMP!

Food costs vary pretty wildly, depending on what you plan to eat. If you're hooking up some sort of electric cooker in your hotel room every night and eating food that you make, you can eat quite inexpensively (this is part of why I plan ahead and cook at Dragon*Con, and had half planned on feeding the lot of you at least some of the time). If you're traveling with things like cereal and fruit and veggies, you can also eat inexpensively. Rather than buying cookers and dishes new, stop by the closest thrift store or yard sale, as those are generally perfectly useable and much cheaper. If, on the other hand, you're eating out all the time... I'd estimate $10-$15 a meal, eating out. It could be more, it could be less, it depends on where you go. If you aim for non-chain restaurants, you can generally eat healthier meals more inexpensively. Diners are a good bet, but they tend to be either bland or gourmet and rarely in between. American portions are quite large, I can frequently make two meals out of one, but I also have a weird appetite. Also, if you're visiting PEOPLE rather than places, we'll often be quite happy to feed you. Most people, in my experience, will refuse help with the dishes in return, but I am not one of them. I'm a practical soul and I hate doing dishes. ^-^'

Renting a room can also vary pretty wildly, depending on WHERE you're renting. There are hotels for as little as $50 a night, and they're not always terrible. Generally, you want to aim for the outskirts of a city for those, the kind of area where urban sprawl has reached and there's a bunch of yuppie strip malls and shopping centers and a bunch of generic office parks. They'll usually have a handful of hotels that cater to people who travel regularly for business... cheap, clean, no frills. I would still budget for $120 a night, though, as some areas are more expensive than others. However, there is an alternative if you'd prefer people-based travel, and that is couch surfing. There's a website set up to help facilitate that, you can find it here: https://www.couchsurfing.org/ I have many friends who have had good luck with that, and when I travel alone it's my preferred approach (though I have a network of family and friends that I generally stay with).

The first major trip I took on my own was to Atlanta the spring before I met Poe. I went down with no place to stay, got in at 3 am, and spent the night in my car in the parking lot of the Quaker meeting house. The next morning I attended meeting for worship, and as is the custom in Quaker meetings at the end I introduced myself and said what meeting I was from, and asked if anyone had a floor I could borrow. A nice couple not only had a floor, they had a guest suite with high speed internet and its own bathroom, and they GAVE ME THE KEYS TO THEIR HOUSE, loaned me a cell phone, and told me they weren't headed home yet but I should make myself at home and call if I got lost. They then appointed themselves my grandparents for the few days I was there and did things like taking me out to dinner every night. Their example was so amazing that they are the reason Poe and I have a guest room in our house. I refused to buy a place where we couldn't accommodate a traveler. Long story short, the Quakers are good people and if you find yourself in a pinch on a Sunday morning, stop by the closest meeting house and ask for help. It will not matter at all that you're not a Quaker, though it would be helpful to sit through the worship first (this is not difficult, Quakers practice silent worship and all you have to do is sit there and listen if someone gets up to speak).

I'll skip the places to visit for the moment and talk about the modes of travel. I'm assuming you're going to start by flying into Atlanta. There are no trains to speak of from there, as the American train system is a disgrace in many parts of the country (okay, technically you can go to NYC, Charlotte NC, or New Orleans LA, so it's at least less useless than Cincinnati where for some reason you have to take a bus to Chicago to board a train that goes through Cincinnati). It becomes useful mainly on the coasts, and if you're going to spend most of your time in one of those areas it might be a good idea to buy a rail pass for a few hundred dollars so that you can go from city to city. Otherwise, I'd say don't plan on riding trains. That leaves planes, buses, and cars. If your plan is to cross the country after Dragon*Con and visit the west coast, definitely fly there, otherwise you'll be spending a week in the car. If your plan after Dragon*Con is to go anywhere on the east side of the country, plan to drive, as that can be done in a maximum of three days of driving. There will be ride shares available from Dragon*Con, not just with our group but in general through their Livejournal community. If you can plan your route ahead, you can probably catch a ride for at least the first leg of wherever it is you're going.

There are buses to pretty much anywhere you'd want to go, and there are advantages to using them... I recommend checking out Megabus, as I've heard excellent things about them, and you can literally cross the country for a dollar if you buy your ticket early (for example, I just checked Atlanta GA to Buffalo NY at random, and it is actually $1 for that ticket). They do take longer to get anywhere, though they make up for it with power outlets and sometimes wireless as you travel. Basically, to travel long distances, it's cheaper to ride a bus than it is to rent a car. However, those only take you to the bus stations, and then you have to get around once you're there, which can mean taxis or deciphering the local public transit systems (which also only takes you to designated stops). So you may end up spending a lot to move around once you're at a place, and you'll be limited as to how much you can move around by what kind of transit is available. If you're driving, you can go anywhere, but the baseline cost is higher. Probably the best plan is to take buses for the long distances and rent cars at your destinations. A rental car is probably about $40 a day, plus gas, which will be approximately $0.14 per mile. You MUST have a credit card (not a visa-enabled bank card, an actual credit card) in order to rent a car.

It may actually be better suited to your needs to buy a used junker, drive it while you're here, and then sell it to a used car lot to recoup some of your costs, but it's also a higher risk proposition. Junkers can be obtained for very little, though I'd aim for $1400 and get something less likely to break on you. You should be able to get at least half what you paid when you sell it again, maybe more. If you do that, get AAA service for the time you're in the country. If something does happen, at least they'll be able to help get you out of it.

Now, back to events and such to see/do. It's an ENORMOUS country... there's stuff to do all over the place. Personally, I recommend tracking down street fairs. They generally have live music, sometimes fireworks, plus artists and entertainers and food and beer. It's a pretty pleasant way to kill time if you like being outdoors and people watching, and while it does take a bit of cash you don't always have to spend a lot to enjoy the atmosphere. Zoos, museums, and botanical gardens are good, but tend to be expensive. All of those things can be found in any city. I like to go to local artist events, but those can be harder to find. If you're playing Ingress, you'll have a ready-made network of people who can show you around anywhere you go (and I have an invite handy for anyone who wants one). You could plan to go to Disneyworld or something, but that tends to be very expensive and it's more fun to do with other people, as are the other amusement parks that can be found all over the country. Really, it depends on what kinds of things you'd WANT to do, finding them is the easy part once you know that. So what sorts of things might you like to experience?

^-^'

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 Post subject: Re: Help GR plan a trip to the USA
PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 4:23 am 
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First, let me say 'thank you' for the information.
Taking your numbers, I get a price range of 1800-4000$ living expenses for a month. I can handle this much, with enough set aside for whatever. I also checked how hard it is to get a visa to the US, and apparently as a student I get a 10 year visa with no questions asked.

In conclusion, I don't see any reason to not come. :dance:

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 Post subject: Re: Help GR plan a trip to the USA
PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2013 3:17 pm 
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Whoo!

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