Best of America Trip Notes

Explore North America with Intrepid Travel. Starting in New York City, discover the wonders of Washington DC, New Orleans, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and San Francisco on this all-encompassing journey through the United States.

    • 23
    • SSRXC
    • Total price tool tip
      USD $3,295
      CAD $3,340
      AUD $3,460
      EUR €2,295
      GBP £2,080
      NZD $4,115
      ZAR R31,605
      CHF FR2,835
      *
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    • Explorer
    • Basix
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There is a later version of this trip also available for travel from Jan 1, 2015 to Dec 31, 2015. View later Best of America.
Print Version
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2014
Best of America
Trip code: SSRXC
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesEmergency funds
ThemesGroup sizeVisas
MapYour fellow travellersIssues on your trip
ItinerarySingle travellersWhat to take
Itinerary disclaimerAccommodationHealth
Culture shock rating Meals introductionSafety
Physical ratingMealsTravel insurance
Physical preparationTransportResponsible Travel
Included activitiesGroup leaderA couple of rules
Optional activitiesJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsResponsible Travel projects
Spending moneyFinish point descriptionCarbon offset
TippingFinish point instructionsFeedback
Departure taxEmergency contact
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
Style
Basix
  • The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Themes
Explorer
Map
Best of America
Itinerary
Day 1 New York
Welcome to the USA!
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Often proclaimed to be the 'Centre of the Universe', New York is a truly global city that manages to balance its epic scope with a fervent cosmopolitan nous. Never a dull moment, New York is full of classic locales and famous names - from Broadway to Brooklyn, you'll want as much time as possible to take a slice of the Big Apple.
As there's no time spent in New York City on this trip, we recommend you arrive a few days early to see the sights. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Consider doing our one-day sightseeing tour of New York (see www.urbanadventures.com).
Optional Activities
  • American Museum of Natural History - USD22
  • Brooklyn Bridge - Free
  • Central Park - Free
  • Empire State Building - USD27
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art - USD25
  • Museum of Modern Art - USD25
  • Urban Adventure - USD65
  • Guggenheim Museum - USD22
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Washington DC
Today we drive south towards the nation's capital, stopping at Philadelphia on the way. The journey will cover 400 km and, depending on the busy east coast traffic, can take anywhere from 4-5 hours, including a lunch stop.
Philadelphia holds the distinct moniker of being the ‘City of Brotherly Love’—and rightfully so. With its tourist-friendly local environment landmarked by historical monuments and cultural centers, visitors to Philly can virtually tour the city on foot for miles.
We then continue on to Washington DC. Tonight your leader will take the group on an illumination tour of Washington's monuments.
The nation's capital, Washington DC, is easily explored by foot. Don't miss the White House, Capitol Building, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and National Air and Space Museum, as well as many other museums of interest. In the evening you can stroll through Georgetown, the centre of the city's nightlife.
The following day is free to explore the monuments and museums of Washington.
Included Activities
  • Philadelphia city tour
  • Washington DC city tour
Optional Activities
  • Arlington National Cemetery - Free
  • Bike and Roll Night Tour - USD45
  • International Spy Museum - USD21
  • National Air & Space Museum - Free
  • National Archives - Free
  • National Gallery of Art - Free
  • National Museum of American History - Free
  • National Museum of Crime and Punishment - Free
  • National Museum of Natural History - Free
  • Newseum - USD22
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 4 Appalachian Mountains
Journey into the breathtaking scenery of the Appalachian Mountains, also called the Blue Ridge Mountains (500 km, approx 5.5 hrs).
Shenandoah National Park is one of the highest and most scenic portions of the Appalachian Mountains. Taking the Skyline Drive along the crest of the mountains, travel through deep woods and past spectacular vistas. Stop to stretch your legs under the impressive oak trees and admire the gorgeous views.
Included Activities
  • Shenandoah National Park
Optional Activities
  • Shenandoah National Park Hikes - Free
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 5 Nashville
Continue on to Nashville (600 km, approx 6 hrs).
The undisputed capital of country music, Nashville is home to the famous Wildhorse Saloon and Country Music Hall of Fame. Outside of its music credentials, Nashville is also the capital of Tennessee and the state's second largest city after Memphis. Situated on the banks of the Cumberland River, it was established as a major river port by settlers in 1779.
Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, which contains Elvis' golden Cadillac. Another point of interest is Music Row, where more than 50 record studios and approximately 200 music publishing houses are located.
Optional Activities
  • Country Music Hall of Fame - USD25
  • Grand Ole Opry Tour - USD19
  • Ryman Auditorium Tour - USD14
  • Tennessee State Museum - Free
  • Wildhorse Saloon - USD10
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 6 Memphis
Head west to Memphis (approx 3.5 hrs).
Memphis is the home of the Blues. In the evening, you can head down to Beale Street's traditional blues clubs, made famous by legends such as Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. For those with an interest in history, there's the National Civil Rights Museum at the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
A must-see in Memphis is Sun Studio - the 'Birthplace of Rock'. It boasts the first recordings of legendary performers like Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Just out of Memphis is Graceland - Elvis Presley's former home and the site of his tomb. You can tour the mansion - including the famous Jungle Room - and also see Elvis's cars and private planes.
Optional Activities
  • Graceland Museum - USD35
  • Sun Studio - USD12
  • Peabody Hotel Duck March - Free
  • Rock 'n' Soul Museum - USD11
  • Sun Studios Tour - USD13
  • National Civil Rights Museum - USD13
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 7-8 New Orleans
Head 650 km across the state of Mississippi to New Orleans - the 'Big Easy' (approx 7 hrs with a lunch stop).
Otherwise known as the 'Big Easy', New Orleans's eclectic mix of European, Creole and Cajun culture manifests itself in every aspect of the architecture, cuisine and music scene. Take in the sights and sounds of Bourbon Street, relax in the Garden District and absorb the ambience of the French Quarter, known also as just 'The Quarter'. Founded by French traders in 1718, there are many layers of history in this city and its many attractions combine to make it one of the most visited cities in the USA – a trend that was only momentarily halted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Optional Activities
  • Bourbon Street - Free
  • Cabildo - USD5
  • New Orleans - French Market - Free
  • Honey Island Swamp Tour - USD25
  • Mississippi Riverboat Cruise - USD70
  • New Orleans School of Cooking - USD29
  • Presbytere - USD6
  • Preservation Hall Jazz - USD15
  • Ursuline Convent Tours - Free
  • Voodoo Museum - USD7
  • New Orleans - Cemetery Tour - USD25
Accommodation
Hostel (2 nts)
Day 9 Houston
It's quite a journey from Louisiana to Houston, Texas (nearly 700 km, approx 7 hrs). There may be the chance to stop for a swamp tour, or Tabasco tour en route.
Houston is the largest city in Texas, and the fourth largest in the US. Big and modern though it is, it also retains some of that Texas 'cowboy boots and pickup truck' charm. In free time there are myriad museums and shops to explore. Houston is also renowned for its arts and is an up-and-comer in the dining scene.
Optional Activities
  • NASA Space Centre - USD21
  • Houston Urban Adventure - USD30
  • Tabasco Factory Tour - USD1
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 10 San Antonio
Drive with the truckers along Highway 10 to San Antonio (430 km, approx 4.5 hrs).
A little piece of Mexico in the US, San Antonio is the home of the Alamo, an original reconstructed Spanish-Mexican fort from the 18th century. You can stroll along the famous River Walk and get to know the city's many canals and backstreets by night.
Optional Activities
  • The Alamo Mission - Free
  • The Alamo IMAX Theater - USD14
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 11 Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Driving across Texas, enter the deserts of New Mexico on our way to Carlsbad Caverns (745 km, approx 9 hrs including lunch stop).
One of the largest caverns in the world, Carlsbad Cavern is still only partially explored. Hike deep into the 8.2 acre 'Big Room' and beyond. In the evening, take a seat outside the park to witness the overwhelming sight of a bat flight - thousands of bats swarming out of the caverns. This is seasonal, as the bats migrate south in October for the winter, and is best viewed in July/August.
Included Activities
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 12 Santa Fe
Continue the journey north to Santa Fe (470 km, approx 6.5 hrs).
The capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe, is the oldest capital city in the US. You can visit the town plaza surrounded by pueblo architecture, view the south-western art and décor at local museums or enjoy a drink and take in Santa Fe's quaint atmosphere.
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 13 Mesa Verde National Park
Continue on to Mesa Verde National Park. Total driving distance is about 430 km (approx 6.5 hrs).
Mesa Verde National Park is home to the largest and best-preserved cliff dwellings of the Anasazi Indians. It protects over 4,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the US.
Explore a cliff dwelling on a short walk or (for a small fee) join a ranger-led walk to the harder-to-access sites.
Included Activities
  • Mesa Verde National Park
Optional Activities
  • Mesa Verde Guided Tour of Ruins - USD13
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 14 Monument Valley
After a ride through fascinating desert regions, we reach Monument Valley (200 km).
The backdrop for countless westerns, Monument Valley is part of the biggest Indian reservation in the US and home to more than 200,000 Indians of the Navajo Tribe. Monument Valley is so-named for the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert. The angle of the sun means that the landscape is constantly changing colour and it's near impossible to take a bad photo.
See all the magnificent sights Monument Valley has to offer in the back of a jeep with a Navajo guide. Visit areas only open to the Navajo, see traditional Navajo homes, hike the sand dunes and gaze up at spectacular rock formations - all with the insight of a local guide.
Included Activities
  • Monument Valley National Tribal Park
Optional Activities
  • Navajo-guided jeep tour (2.5 hrs) - USD55
  • Jeep tour & overnight experience - USD90
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 15-16 Grand Canyon
Drive from Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon (260 km, approx 3 hrs), stopping at Native American trading posts on the way.
The Grand Canyon is one of the world's seven wonders! It's 450 km long, 6-30 km wide and 1600 m deep. Marvel at this immense canyon on a rim walk or, for those that are feeling more active, a short hike into the canyon will help stretch those legs out.
For a bird's-eye view, there's an option to take a helicopter ride over this breathtaking landscape.
Included Activities
  • Grand Canyon National Park
Optional Activities
  • Helicopter flight (25 mins) - USD244
  • Helicopter flight (45 mins) - USD274
  • Grand Canyon hiking - Free
  • IMAX movie - USD15
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Days 17-18 Las Vegas
Drive on from the Grand Canyon and cross the western deserts of Arizona to Las Vegas (450 km, approx 5 hrs). Along the way, drive a section of the famous Route 66 and stop in the nostalgic township of Seligman.
Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the world, but there's plenty to do along the Strip for gamblers and non-gamblers alike - there's the casinos and shows, of course, plus shops, amusement rides, dance clubs and great value 'all you can eat' buffets.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Optional Activities
  • Las Vegas Go-Karts - USD25
  • Las Vegas Helicopter Strip Tour - USD110
  • Las Vegas Limo - USD250
  • Roller Coaster - Las Vegas - USD14
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 19 Death Valley
This is a long driving day covering more than 550 km through Death Valley and across the Eastern Sierra.
One of the hottest deserts on the planet, temperatures in Death Valley rise to record-breaking levels (up to 56C in summer). The National Park includes a wealth of geological phenomena: large sand dune formations, sculpted rocks, isolated valleys and volcanic craters. The canyon and mountain walls change colour with the changing sunlight. Elevations fluctuate from 85 m below sea level near Badwater Point (the lowest point in the United States) to 3756 m above sea level at Telescope Peak. Stop at the visitor centre and, heat permitting, take a walk on the stunning salt flats.
Included Activities
  • Death Valley National Park
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 20-21 Yosemite National Park
Drive 300 km to the west, travelling over the Tioga Pass (snow levels permitting) into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our destination is Yosemite National Park.
One of the most famous parks in the USA, Yosemite National Park's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood trees attract visitors from all over the world.
There are plenty of hikes available in Yosemite, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Hike under the cooling breezes of Nevada Falls (4-5 hours) or to the serenity of Mirror Lake (45 minutes). Keep an eye out for squirrels, and perhaps even a bear, along the way. There are also non-hiking activities such as bicycling around Yosemite Valley, visiting the park's museum, photo gallery, shops, restaurants and just walking the trails on the valley floor. In the heat of summer, a relaxing float down the Merced River followed by a few drinks at the park's cafe is just the trick.
Included Activities
  • Yosemite National Park
Optional Activities
  • Cycling in Yosemite Valley - USD12
  • Yosemite National Park Hikes - Free
  • Yosemite Raft Rental (seasonal) - USD30
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Days 22-23 San Francisco
Leave Yosemite behind and drive 240 km (about 3.5 hrs) west towards San Francisco - the 'City by the Bay'.
San Francisco is a chilled-out city with a vibrant, multicultural heart. You can catch a tram to visit the waterfront, feast like a king in Chinatown or peruse zany artwork in SoMa.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
As there's a great deal to do in San Francisco we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist. Consider doing our one-day sightseeing tour of San Francisco (see www.urbanadventures.com).
This trip doesn't allow time for a visit to Alcatraz, so you'll need to make your own arrangements to visit. Tickets must be booked in advance as they sell out quickly and tickets are limited. You can make your reservations online: http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/ or by calling +1.415.981.7625 between the hours of 8am-7pm, Pacific Standard Time (USA). We recommend you reserve your tickets for the day after the tour finishes.
Accommodation
Hostel (1 nt)
      Itinerary disclaimer
      We've allowed plenty of room for freedom and flexibility in our trips. In fact, flexibility is one of the ingredients that makes each of our trips so exciting. This style of travel offers us some unexpected circumstances at times, for example, bad weather and road conditions, technical defects of transportation, inconveniences caused by local operators and authorities, and other circumstances beyond our control. Changes in the program may be required to make the best of the unique situations that we encounter.
      Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group. Our described itineraries are to be used as a general guide only.
      Culture shock rating

      This is the least confronting of Intrepid's product range. English is the native language and the food, customs and access to services will be similar to home.
      Physical rating

      Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
      Physical preparation
      We recommend that you undertake regular aerobic exercise in the weeks before you travel, particularly if you are not in the habit of regular exercise. Walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike are all good ways to increase your aerobic fitness, which will allow you to enjoy the trip to its fullest.
      Many of the National Parks that we visit have hiking opportunities where walks of up to 4 hours can be an option for you. There are often easier options. Throughout the trip there are more adventurous optional activities that require some consideration regarding your physical abilities to complete the activity.
      Included activities
      Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
      Optional activities
      A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
      Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
      The receipt of commissions or kickbacks in exchange for recommending particular shops or services is ingrained in the culture of the North American tourism industry. Rather than turn a blind eye to this unavoidable issue, Intrepid has established a centralised system whereby commissions from recommended suppliers are distributed back to the leader. Details of these arrangements will be provided by the leader on request.
      While Intrepid endeavours to ensure that these recommended suppliers and services maintain reasonable levels of quality - they are chosen based on the feedback and experiences of past travellers - we can't explicitly guarantee the quality or safety of the product or activity.
      A priority in establishing this service is that your travel experience isn't compromised in any way. Please let us know via the feedback form completed after your trip if we are successfully meeting this objective.
      Money Exchange
      It can be difficult to exchange money while on the road so we suggest that you bring some cash in US dollars, or exchange/withdraw money at the airport when you arrive, or at least before you start the trip.
      Your individual budget will depend on your personal plans. Think about how much you want to spend on souvenirs, shopping, entertainment, food, drinks, excursions and attractions that aren't included in your trip (eg. helicopter flights etc). Please bear in mind that North America has endless things to do and see. Not all possible optional activities are listed in our Trip Notes.
      The cheapest and most convenient way to acquire money is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) which are plentiful throughout all cities and towns, and even at roadside stops. This allows you to draw funds from your personal account at a superior exchange rate. Bank fees for these withdrawals can be either a flat rate or a percentage of the amount withdrawn. Check with your bank for information on their international fees.
      Don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it's stolen. Keep this in a safe place. When using your debit card, check your receipts and keep them to compare against your statement when you get home.
      Occasionally banks will also allow cash advances on your credit card, but it's not recommended to rely on this method only. We recommend that you carry some cash for situations when ATMs can't be accessed.
      Spending money
      Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
      Tipping
      If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group as our group leaders are prohibited from collecting cash for tips.
      The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
      Restaurants: We suggest 15% to 20% of your bill.
      Bars: Recommended US$1 for each drink ordered to ensure you are served again.
      Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$3 per day for local guides.
      Your Group Leader: You should also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. Your leader works long and hard for you. He or she may well become your friend during the trip but they do need to pay their bills. If the leader's performance meets or exceeds your expectation they will gladly accept a tip from you. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however you should plan to tip your leader US$5-$7 per person per day.
      Another charge not normally listed in North American costs is the state and federal taxes, keep this in mind when your bill comes out slightly higher than the original price listed.
      Departure tax
      All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
      Important notes
      MINIMUM AGE:
      The minimum age for this trip is 15 at the time of travel. Any travellers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian, or in lieu of a legal guardian, by an escort over the age of 18, appointed by their legal guardian. The legal guardian or their designee will be responsible for the traveller under the age of 18 day to day’s care. If a legal guardian elects to designate an escort in their lieu, they will be required to complete and sign a relevant document, to delegate their authority.
      LEGAL DRINKING AGE:
      Please note that the legal drinking age in the US is 21 and in some parts of Canada it's 19.
      NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
      The following national holidays are observed in the US, which can affect our itinerary as traffic can be extreme, and shops, restaurants and attractions can be closed:
      - New Year's Day
      - Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
      - Washington's Birthday
      - Memorial Day
      - Independence Day
      - Labor Day
      - Columbus Day
      - Veterans Day
      - Thanksgiving Day
      - Christmas Day
      Group size
      Maximum of 13 travellers per group.
      Your fellow travellers
      As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
      Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
      Single travellers
      Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
      Accommodation
      Camping (with facilities) (16 nts), Hotel (3 nts), Hostel (3 nts)
      The campsites that we use are selected for either their scenic beauty, their convenient location to places of interest and/or the facilities available. We aim to offer you a selection of different types of campsites.
      If you've never camped before - no problem! We provide a complete set of camping and cooking equipment. This includes roomy easy-to-pitch tents, which are shared by only two people and are equipped with thin foam rubber mattresses and vinyl floors. Your leader will show you how to pitch a tent on the first day. On many trips we also spend a few nights in reasonably priced hotels / motels / hostels (as per the itinerary).
      For the group, we also provide two burner stoves, efficient camp kitchen equipment, dishes, coolers, food storage boxes, a water container, lamps and a sun and rain roof. Please take good care of all the equipment. You'll be assigned a specific tent so please look after it well. The equipment has to be returned clean, complete and in the same condition as you received it. Please keep in mind that sleeping bags are not provided and you'll need to bring your own. Please read the 'What to Take' section of these notes for more information on choosing a sleeping bag.
      Our high quality camping equipment (including tents) can be affected by bad weather conditions. This can result in some wet and cold conditions inside the tent. Your spirit of adventure and flexibility will help make your adventure trip an exciting and unforgettable experience. On nights where the group is camping and weather conditions are extreme (such as snow or heavy rain) there may be an opportunity for the group (if everyone agrees) to stay at an alternative location such as a nearby hostel or hotel. When this is the case the upgrade is at your own expense.
      You'll find the necessary facilities - toilets and in most cases showers, washing machines and driers - at many of our campsites. The showers at some campsites only have cold water available and some may require a payment (usually no more than US$1-$3 for a quick shower). This is payable locally and is generally a contribution to paying for a limited water supply. Please be aware that some campsites won't have any facilities, however it will rarely be for more than one night at a time. This is true of many campsites within Yosemite National Park, so if your trip is visiting this park, please prepare to go without a shower on this night, although it can often be arranged to stop and utilise facilities on our way out of the park.
      In all the campsites there are strict quiet hours, when absolutely no loud noise is allowed. This means that all music, singing and group gatherings have to stop. We request that all our travellers respect these campsite rules.
      Our trips extend beyond the traditional vacation months (June - September). This is because over the years we've recognised there's a demand from our travellers for trips outside this period. Many enjoy the experience of North America in the snow, or in the crisp and clear atmosphere of spring. We've operated successful trips throughout the year however some consideration must be taken when choosing a trip that travels in the colder months such as:
      - Have you got a suitable sleeping bag?
      - Do you have suitable warm clothing - fleece, waterproofs, thermals?
      - Are your walking and hiking boots waterproof and warm?
      If you come prepared and are willing to experience North America at this very special time of year, then you will be set for a great time.
      For trips where there are lodges/cabins used, couples travelling together may be separated as our rooming arrangements are based on single gender.
      Meals introduction
      While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
      Meals
      No meals included
      Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
      USD 400.00
      On our trips in North America, we operate an optional kitty, where travellers are encouraged to contribute to a central fund which is used to buy groceries which then supply meals to the entire group. In our experience all travellers generally participate, however some with special dietary requirements may prefer to opt out. The kitty is administered by the group and is payable per week of the trip. The cost is:
      USA - US$50 per week
      Alaska - US$70 per week
      Canada - CA$70 per week
      While camping, some breakfasts and dinners are paid from the food kitty, while lunch is not included. Sometimes we'll go out for dinner and eat at restaurants at everybody's own expense.
      Your leader will participate in the food kitty as well. On hotel nights (if included) the food kitty doesn't operate and everybody eats at their own expense.
      Chores such as buying and cooking the food, washing up, etc. will be shared by everyone on the trip. Teams of two people will carry out the camp duties on a rotating basis. On camping nights, we usually cook our evening meals together on our own stove, or barbecue food over the camp fire. We usually prepare salads, grill meats and cook pasta, rice and vegetables. For breakfast we usually buy milk, coffee, tea, cereals, bread, jam, butter etc. Not all personal eating preferences can be catered for, however we endeavour to provide tasty, basic meals.
      We keep our food costs as low as possible by sharing the expenses. The kitty is based on the average cost from our past experiences and from passenger feedback about what they are prepared to pay for shared meals. Personal beverages, lunches and snacks are not included in the food kitty. If there's any cash left over it will either be redistributed to the group or put towards paying for a group activity.
      Transport
      Private vehicle
      FLEET
      Our large fleet of vans are fully equipped with dual air-conditioning system, V8 engines and any camping or cooking equipment needed for your trip. Most have cloth-upholstered seats and carpeted interior with radio/tape or CD players. Your baggage is transported in a trailer which is towed behind the van.
      The vans are regularly serviced in our own maintenance facility and continuously checked and serviced by a well established network of maintenance and service facilities throughout the continent. However, unforeseen maintenance problems can still occur while on the road and we appreciate the patience of our travellers as we make necessary repairs as quickly as possible.
      WI-FI
      Beginning 01 January 2013, all private vehicle trips through the United States, including Alaska, will feature mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. Please note that trips in Canada will NOT have Wi-Fi hotspots in your van. Whilst travelling in the van, use Wi-Fi to check-in back home and share your background and cultural interests with your fellow travellers. Some usage restrictions may apply depending on demand and use. Hotspot devices provide wireless connections for up to five devices (up to two for optimal service and speed). Many camp grounds and hotels supply Wi-Fi for additional use outside the van.
      DRIVING TIMES
      All driving times mentioned in our itinerary are intended as a guide only and represent the minimum driving time - not including lunch stops, fuel stops, photo stops, traffic congestion, adverse weather conditions or any last minute alterations to the itinerary for any unforeseen circumstances. Please note that there are some long driving days on this tour - we'll have some starts as early as 7am and late arrivals at our final destination, sometimes after dark). As always, your group leader will make stops for viewpoints, short walks and lunch/rest breaks to help break up the journey.
      We recommend you are fully prepared for these long travel days by reviewing our notes and indicated drive times (which are based on average drive times from past trips). Some travellers prefer to bring pillows on board for added comfort, others prefer reading material or games and puzzles. The reality is that to get from one fabulous location to another, the distances are great and we like to think at least some of the adventure is in the journey - not just the destination. You'll be on board with up to 12 other passengers plus your group leader so patience and cooperation goes a long way in making this journey a comfortable one.
      SEAT BELT POLICY
      Safety is our priority and therefore our travellers are asked to sign a document on Day 1 of the itinerary indicating your understanding of our seat belt policy.
      Group leader
      Your Intrepid group leader’s role involves organising the overall operation and smooth-running of the trip, managing trip logistics and camp responsibilities. They will work to make the trip as safe and enjoyable as possible for all travellers. Intrepid's North American trips are built around the co-operation and participation of all the group members under the supervision of the group leader. On our camping trips, your leader will show the group how to set up and use the camp equipment, and form work groups to take turns cooking, cleaning and shopping. Everyone is expected participate and carry their share of the workload, making camp chores easier. If the whole group participates it will be quicker, easier and more fun.
      Your leader will provide basic information about the sights and cities you'll be visiting but please note that our leaders are not 'tour guides' in the traditional sense. They are adventure travel specialists and are there to organise your trip, arrange activities and help with questions or problems you may have while on your tour. Your leader will provide you with all the important information you need to embark on your own explorations.
      They are also responsible for driving the van and navigating across the country. The allowable driving times for drivers is strictly controlled in North America. This ensures our drivers are well rested and are not over-tired from too many hours on the roads.
      While your group will have a minivan for all included activities on the trip, please note that the services of the van and the driver may not be available for your use during free time, or after you have arrived for the day. If you need a special trip into town you may need to arrange transport or a taxi.
      We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
      It's strictly forbidden for non-qualified rangers to present any information about some National Parks in North America, therefore we adopt a system (as requested by the park rangers) where our leader will encourage travellers to visit the information centres in the National Parks for details about the site.
      We have designed our trips to make the most of your time in the States, but please understand that there are certain times during each day that your leader will need to be off duty from work. This includes having meal and rest periods and personal time. Your leader will provide you with all the important information you need to embark on your own explorations.
      Joining point instructions
      The Best Western Kennedy Airport provides free 24 hour shuttle service to and from JFK airport. From JFK airport take the AIR Train to Station C Federal Circle and follow signs for the Hotel Shuttle.
      PRE/POST TOUR ACCOMMODATION:
      If you have booked additional accommodation in conjunction with your trip, please note that it is standard policy in the USA for debit and credit cards to be authorized at check-in by hotels for the amount of your stay, plus an amount to cover incidentals. The authorization will hold the funds until check out, at which time the amount actually incurred during the stay will be charged. Authorized amounts can take up to 30 days after departure to be released by your bank or financial institution. If you are unsure at check in as to what your card is being charged for, please ask the staff to explain their policy. Please also clarify with the hotel when you check in or out that all deposits will be refunded as promptly as possible.
      Arrival complications
      We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the emergency contact section below for who to contact depending upon your starting location.
      No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
      Finish point description
      The Good Hotel is a hip San Francisco hotel that practices philanthropy and believes in doing good for the planet, located south of Market Street - in the SoMa district - one of San Francisco's youngest and most stylish areas. The eco-friendly hotel décor features reclaimed and recycled construction materials. Rooms include cable TV, coffee and tea-making facilities, personal safes, free WiFi and iPod docks. You can borrow one of the resident Globe® bicycles for free and wander the city on two wheels.
      www.thegoodhotel.com
      Finish point instructions
      Your hotel reception will be able to book a taxi or shuttle transfer for you.
      To catch public transportation to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) you can take a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train. Walk up Seventh Street to Market and take a left turn, then walk to the Civic Cente / UN Plaza station at 1150 Market Street (approximately a 5 minute walk). Take the San Francisco International Airport train, disembarking at the International Terminal, Level 3. The trip to the airport will take approximately 30 minutes.
      Emergency contact
      For cases of genuine emergency or crisis, please contact 1-800-786-8735 (within the USA)
      From outside the USA please call +1 707 483 9460
      Police and Ambulance - In case of an emergency, local authorities can be contacted by calling 911 – this is the toll free phone number for the police, fire department and the ambulance in the USA. In case of doubt, call the operator on 0.
      For further contact details please use the following page:
      Emergency funds
      Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
      Visas
      Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
      We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
      Entrance requirements to the USA have changed in recent years so please read the following instructions carefully, even if you have travelled to the USA before.
      Many countries now operate under a visa waiver program (meaning a visa isn't required) however you still need to obtain an authorisation which confirms that you have been approved to travel. This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel.
      Many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can travel to the USA without a visa for a 90 day stay, if they meet certain requirements. Travellers from all Visa Waiver Program countries must present a machine-readable passport (which meets US requirements) at the port of entry to enter without a visa, otherwise a US visa is required. Canada doesn't require a visa for many foreign nationals however you should check to see if this applies to your country. You can get further information from the US Department of State and the Canadian government websites:
      - http://travel.state.gov/visa/tempvisitors.html
      - http://canadainternational.gc.ca
      Also please note, all travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to their flight from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
      All ESTA registration applications or renewals require a US$14.00 fee paid by credit or debit card. You should apply for your visa waiver authorisation at least 1 week prior to travel to avoid any last minute delays. You will require your passport details and your address in the US (you can use the starting point hotel/hostel address).
      USA TOURIST VISA:
      Australia: No - ESTA required
      Belgium: No - ESTA required
      Canada: No - not required
      Germany: No - ESTA required
      Ireland: No - ESTA required
      Netherlands: No - ESTA required
      New Zealand: No - ESTA required
      South Africa: Yes - in advance
      Switzerland: No - ESTA required
      UK: No - ESTA required
      Issues on your trip
      While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
      We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please contact our operations base on 1-800-786-8735 (toll free in the USA and Canada) or +1 707 523 1800 (office hours).
      You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
      What to take
      What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes).
      Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
      You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
      LUGGAGE RESTRICTIONS:
      All luggage is carried in trailers or inside the vehicle so please don't bring more than one medium sized bag, backpack or suitcase (20kg maximum) per person, plus a sleeping bag where required on your trip. Your suitcase/rucksack may get some rough handling, so make sure it's a tough one. A small daypack and camera may also be carried inside the vehicle.
      SLEEPING BAGS AND WARM CLOTHING:
      As we offer trips throughout the year and travel in diverse climate zones, we recommend you carefully consider the weather and choose an appropriate sleeping bag and clothing. Please bear in mind that nights can be very cold even in the warmer months. We can experience temperatures as low as -5C and even snow.
      Your own sleeping bag is required for some nights on this trip. Please bring one from home or purchase one before your trip starts - you may not have time once we're on the road. Sleeping bags can easily be bought in the US and Canada at big stores like Walmart, Kmart, Target or at sports and camping supply stores. Renting sleeping bags isn't possible on our trips.
      If your trip departs from November to March sleeping bags may not be required as accommodation will vary to accommodate for the cooler weather. Please check the overview page of your trip for more information.
      CLIMATE & CLOTHING:
      Keep in mind that our dress tends to be informal. Take a practical selection of clothes for both warm and cool climates to suit the season. You may encounter a wide variety of temperatures en route due to altitude and unforeseen weather conditions - so be prepared! Make sure to pack a warm fleece and a waterproof jacket as well as comfortable walking shoes.
      CLOSED-IN SHOES:
      As this trip includes camping and/or bush walking we highly recommend that you take a pair of comfortable, closed-in walking shoes. Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings from dangerous animals in this environment.
      WATER BOTTLE:
      Please bring your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments.
      Health
      All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
      You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
      PERSONAL MEDICATIONS:
      Medical prescriptions written outside of the US and Canada aren't accepted at pharmacies. Therefore, we recommend you bring along your personal medications in the necessary quantities for your trip.
      DEHYDRATION & SUN PROTECTION:
      The most likely medical incidents to occur on our trips are dehydration, over exposure to the sun, and twisted ankles from walking on uneven ground. While hiking please ensure you drink enough water to remain hydrated as some hikes don't have refill stations for your water bottles. The sun (especially in desert areas in the West) can be harsh, particularly in the warmer months. Ensure you apply adequate sun protection cream and wear a hat. Travelling with sunburn can be uncomfortable.
      Safety
      Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
      We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
      Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
      For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
      PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
      While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
      UNFENCED CAMP SITES:
      On some trips you will at times stay in unfenced camp sites within national parks. While this is a fantastic experience, there are a few safety rules to follow. While staying in national parks it's important that you listen to any advice given by your tour leader and the park rangers regarding responsible and safe behaviour.
      BEARS:
      Whilst travelling throughout North America it's not uncommon to encounter bears within campsites and national parks. Your group leader has been specifically trained for these situations and, if camping, will inform the group on how to 'bear proof' the camp in the evenings or when the site is unattended. There's absolutely no reason to be alarmed by this possibility as it is extremely rare for bears to attack humans.
      Travel insurance
      Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
      When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
      If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
      Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
      Responsible Travel
      We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
      A couple of rules
      Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
      The Intrepid Foundation
      Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
      The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
      Responsible Travel projects
      Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in America include:
      * Bay Area Wilderness Training creates opportunities for urban youth to experience wilderness first hand and often for the first time. Operating out of the San Francisco Bay Area, BAWT supports teachers and youth workers with training, gear, funding and community support to help them get youth outdoors.
      Carbon offset
      Carbon Offset C02-e 1550.00 kgs per pax.
      Feedback
      After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
      Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.