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This summer we are finally going to the USA

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

Basically, I could leave the title of this blog alone and be satisfied with it. You must know how long I have been planning to fly to the United States of America. The land of unlimited possibilities has been a place of longing for me since I was 15. Here you can also find out how much it costs!

Pictures in my head

While I'm not a cowboy who thinks everything that comes from there is abolutely fucking awesome, I do think Americans are lucky to live in one of the most beautiful and diverse countries imaginable. On top of that, I grew up with American culture and images from the States. Hundreds, if not thousands, of films and series have left their mark on me and planted images of a country in my head that I desperately want to see "for real" one day.

I want to stroll through "the streets of San Francisco", would like to have a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and would love to ride with a "Taxi Driver" to "Wall Street". I'd like to have "Boogie Nights" in L.A. and would love to drive down "Mulholland Drive". I want to sing in "Chicago", see the "Grand Canyon" and soak up the American way of life "in the heart of the city". I want Las Vegas, without "Fear and Loathing". Even if there was no more beer in Hawaii, I could take it. The only thing I would skip is the chainsaw massacre in Texas. It's too loud for me!

Where to start?

The first question you inevitably ask yourself when planning to travel to the USA is where to start. The country is huge, and it is impossible to fit everything in during a "normal" holiday - by the way, we have never managed to do that in any country. The United States spreads over an area of 9,834,000 km2, making it no less than 1,100 times the size of Austria. Crazy! The question of where to start is truly justified.

Originally, I always wanted to go to the West, and I was particularly taken with the city of San Francisco. The images of steep streets and cable cars, of Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge when the fog has lifted are burned into my memory. But Los Angeles with Hollywood, Palm Springs and the entire West Coast are certainly worth a longer trip, not to mention the great National Parks and the impressive and incredibly vast landscape. All really powerful, yet we decided otherwise for our first trip to the USA.

The decision has been made

Actually, we had already planned our first trip to the USA for summer 2020. My wife and I had a little more time (and also more money) this summer due to a move and wanted to travel through the USA and Canada for seven weeks. Unfortunately, a little something like a worldwide pandemic got in the way and we had to reschedule. The fun cost us a few thousand euros. Instead of North America, we went to Greece in 2020 - also nice, but not longing-satisfying. When our annual travel plans quietly knocked on our doors in December 2021, the USA came up again. It won't play for seven weeks this time, but four will do. We decided on New York followed by a rental car trip through Florida. After all, you don't treat yourself to anything else.

Deadline: 1 July 2022

Our beloved planning phase began during the Christmas holidays. We got several travel guides of the Big Apple and Florida, scoured the internet for nice accommodations and places that were "a must-see if you're already there". Our first trip to the USA slowly took shape. We decided to fly to New York on 1 July with Austrian Airlines. Between us, our two children missed the school report distribution because of it, but the flights would have been comically more expensive the next day already. By the way, Austrian Airlines has a wonderful offer for passengers who like to travel comfortably but don't want to afford Business Class. In Premium Economy Class, there are wider, more comfortable seats and a few other extras for what we consider a moderate surcharge. This time we afforded it and are really looking forward to it.

Ab nach New York

Ab nach New York

Seit der Buchung im Dezember sind bereits etliche Tage vergangen, genau genommen 123, denn bei 185 Tagen hat unser Reise-Countdown begonnen. Da sind wir ganz genau. Wir ihr euch vorstellen könnt, steigt unsere Aufregung täglich, man fliegt schließlich nicht jeden Tag über den großen Teich, und schon gar nicht in eine Stadt wie New York. Ich musste 46 Jahre darauf warten. Unser Flugzeug startet am 1. Juli um 10.40 vormittags und landet, aufgrund der Zeitverschiebung, um 13.55 am Newark Liberty International Airport. Man muss bei der Reiseplanung berücksichtigen, dass es in New York drei verschiedene Flughäfen gibt, die unterschiedlich gut zu erreichen sind:

· John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Queens, New York.

· Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Newark, New Jersey.

· Fiorello LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Queens, New York.

Unser Rückflug geht vom John F. Kennedy Airport. Es wäre blöd, wenn wir am falschen Flughafen stehen würden. Saublöd!

Die Möglichkeiten die New York bietet, erschlagen einen auf den ersten Blick. Auf den zweiten auch. Es gibt tausende Unterkünfte und unglaublich viele Sehenswürdigkeiten. Allein die Suche nach einem gut gelegenen und nicht allzu teuren Hotel, hat ein paar Tage in Anspruch genommen. Zentral sollte es sein, also in Manhatten und unweit von Times Square, Broadway, Central Park und Grand Central Station. Die Auswahl ist riesig und nachdem wir eine Hand von Hotels in der engeren Auswahl hatten, haben wir uns für das Hotel Element New York Times Square - the price-performance ratio seemed quite reasonable. One thing to know about a holiday in the USA: It won't be cheap. On the contrary.

We spend the first four nights at the Hotel Element New York Times Square.

What does a trip to the USA cost?

This will be the longest part of this blog, because America is expensive. When you research prices in the US, you wonder how the American people can afford it. In fact, the salary structure in the US is different. I recently talked to a neighbour who was born in New York and lived there for 33 years. She came to Austria 13 years ago and started working here. When she was told what she earns here, she first thought it was the weekly wage. But she also said that with the lower cost of living and the social security costs already deducted, it easily makes up for it. The social safety net is better here, that much is certain. On the other hand, people with great entrepreneurial spirit have more opportunities in the US.

The biggest cost factor of a long-distance trip is almost always the flight, with New York probably being the cheapest destination in the US. In our research, we even found flights for less than 400 euros - there and back, mind you. However, it always depends on the travel time. If you can make the route Vienna - New York without a stopover in just over 8 hours, cheap offers require exotic times like 26 hours and 35 minutes. The savings must be worth it! Besides, in my opinion there is nothing worse than a stopover with a 10-hour wait for the next flight. My tip: Book early, because last-minute flights are usually more expensive.

We pay just under 4,000 euros for the four tickets Vienna - New York - Vienna in the better Premium Economy Class and are already looking forward to the more comfortable flight. In addition, there are the domestic flights. Since we have decided to fly back from New York, we also have to return to the Big Apple after our Florida round trip. We fly New York - Orlando and Tampa - New York. These flights cost us about 1000 euros for four people, but we could have saved another 200 euros with less favourable connections. Domestic flights are quite cheap in and of themselves, but you have to be careful: The costs for luggage are often not included and can add up!

If you do your research well, hotel prices are up to 35 percent more expensive than ours (personal experience!) - with some cutbacks in catering. We pay an average of around 250 a night for our colourful mix of hotel rooms and flats with kitchenettes for two adults and two children. Breakfast in US hotels is usually not that great, but the choice of restaurants and snack bars is huge when you're out and about. So you don't have to starve in the States (an important factor for me, as I love to eat). Eating in restaurants is expensive, though, so we'll probably cook for ourselves on the road, even though the prices in the supermarket are also high. We reckon on 25 euros for food and drink per person per day, which would bring us to 100 euros. But that's calculated economically!

The rental car and fuel costs are not exactly account-friendly either. We did a lot of research and decided to rent a car through our motorists' club ÖAMTC and its partner Hertz in Orlando. We also had an international driving licence issued there. Three weeks in a minivan (very spacious) cost us a little over 1500 euros - you couldn't get much cheaper in this category. The fuel prices are around 7-8 euros per 100 kilometres. The last really big chunk is the cost of entrance fees and excursions, and that's where it gets really expensive.

An example: We would like to see a musical on Broadway. If you book in advance for four people, you quickly reach 600 euros. And so it goes on: swimming in a dolphin for 800 euros, visiting a skyscraper for 180 euros, an amusement park for 1000 euros, and so on. All in all, the four-week stay in the USA will cost us around 22,000 euros. Fortunately, we have been saving diligently! For us, if we're already there, we want to experience something, even if it's expensive. You only live once.

An important tip at the end

Don't forget to take one (or more) credit cards with you, as this is the most common payment method in the States. Attention: Make sure to check your monthly limit before departure. Ours is 1,000 euros, which is absolutely ridiculous for a trip like this. Get the IBAN of your card account and pay a generous sum into it, then you're on the safe side. And don't forget: Tell your card provider about the trip by phone. If they see that several bookings are being made in a foreign country, the card may be blocked for security reasons. Oh, and don't forget to apply for ESTA, otherwise the USA will remain "closed" to you.

In my next blog, I would like to write about the excursions in New York that are on our agenda. The choice wasn't easy and we'll probably have to cut out a few more when we get there!

We look forward to your feedback and are open to a lively exchange. You also want to travel, like to travel often and have a question, just write us and comment.

Kind regards,

Steffi, Max and the kids

(Author of this blog: Max)

Our shopping tips for New York

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Inside Lonely Planet 's

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We gave this small LEGO model kit to our son before the trip. He was very happy and assembling it together was a lot of fun. The great thing is that the height ratios are correct and you can see how small the Statue of Liberty is in comparison.

LEGO interpretation of the New York City skyline

Includes the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty


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