“ Travel agent offering trips around America aimed at 18 - 32 yr olds. „
Maybe I've seen too many films but I've always been desperate to see a little bit of the good old US of A and Trek America offers no better road trip to do this. Once you have bitten the bullet and decided to book up - you're probably going on your own and fear of that will make you hesitant about doing it - your only regret will be not doing it sooner.
I had a mild panic attack after booking, the oh no what have I done - am I really going to spend two weeks with a bunch of random strangers sinking feeling in your stomach... A visit to the trek community message board is the best antidote... I was exchange emails, calls and texts with my fellow trekkers before the trek which not only removed the fear but only heightened the excitement. On the whole it's generally people travelling on their own, like minded people who want to see the States and have a good time.
The Trek America hotels are extremely good value for money - don't get me wrong, if you are expecting luxury then book a fortnight in a five star hotel and forget about Trek. What you'll get is a clean, safe and central hotel and if you are on a camping/hotel trek then those hotel nights will feel like the Ritz! I'm not a big fan of camping but the scenery definitely makes up for any discomfort. The tents supplied are easy to assemble and all the basics are provided by Trek. Everyone takes turns in washing up and cooking. Every few days we would stop at a supermarket and buy supplies. At the end of the Trek, we even got back a share of the food kitty that we hadn't spent.
I did the Westerner 2 trek out of LA in the summer of 2008 and I can honestly say, I've never had a better two weeks. Be prepared for a lot of driving - America is a continent after all and your going to see a hell of a lot.
First up LA - we didn't hang around and I get the impression most treks don't so if you want to really explore your departure city I would recommend flying in a day or two early. Our Trek leader wanted to hit the road straight away as we had quite a drive up the Pacific coast. I had flown in a couple of days before and had seen a fair bit of LA but the brochure does allude to a guided tour of Los Angeles. Also be prepared for your Trek Leader to take the money for your food kitty and hotel stays on the first morning.
Unfortunately forest fires meant that we didn't get to camp out on the Big Sur but our Trek Leader found us an available camp site on our alternative route. It wasn't great but damn if a road is shut then what can you do! Sitting round the camp fire, on the Pacific coast, knocking back a few drinks and getting to know your new buddies soon makes you forget any route deviations. That's the thing with Trek - anything can happen but you know you are in safe hands - the trek leader and trek teams in the office soon sort out any problems.
San Francisco was up next and I believe they have changed the brochure now. Don't turn up in San Francisco expecting to be able to see Alcatraz - that tour needs to be booked up weeks in advance. Alcatraz disappointment aside - we drove across the Golden Gate bridge, watched the sunset from a sail boat cruise around the harbour, played drinking games till the sun came up in an Irish bar, took a tram through the strangely familiar streets down to the piers and watched the seals sun bathing. All in all, a pretty good couple of days!
Only a few days in, you can't believe how much you have seen and done when you find yourself in Yosemite national park. The scenery is like nothing you have ever seen before - those hikes are worth all the blood, sweat and tears (with a hangover like I had after San Fran there were plenty!) and there's nothing quite like the thrill of hiding your food in the bear proof bins. If you get the chance, do the white water rafting that's on offer, the instructors are professional, knowledgeable and above all - want you to have a great time.
Viva Las Vegas, you know the saying, what happens in Vegas... Try as I did, our trek leader couldn't be persuaded to put the food kitty on red... Vegas is were you start to experience problems with the younger members of your Trek. Our trek leader was pretty good and arranged shows for the under 21's and most bars and clubs were happy to let them in with a special stamp on their hands stating they were under 21. I assume this was so the bar tenders knew not to serve them alcohol.
Trying to fit two weeks of travelling on the West Coast into a review is a little tricky so I've just covered what stuck out in my mind and what would probably concern you when booking a trek. Trek America is not a holiday, its an adventure and one that will stay with you a long, long time after. Even now, looking back on the photos - I can't quite believe how much we crammed in and what value for money it all was!
Review also on Ciao
Trek America is such an amazing way to see America, Canada and South America. There are so many treks to choose from!
I've done 2 Treks so far and am thinking about my 3rd :)
Before I did my 1st, I was SOOOOO worried about travelling on my own - what would it be like? would I get on with anybody else on the trek? would I get to see/do everything that I wanted? would I be safe....?
Needless to say I was getting extremely nervous the night before I left for San Francisco. With my bags & passport packed, I left for the airport, thinking well, I'm only going for a week, should be ok...
After a slightly dodgy start (the hotel wasn't brilliant) I got up early and made my way downstairs to meet the other people on my trek. When I got into the lobby, there were lots of single girls (and a couple of guys) also looking incredibly nervous. And then in walked Jerry. He put everyone at ease, sorted us out onto our vans, and then the trip began.
We covered just about everything you possibly can in California - as well as Vegas & the Grand Canyon! We were staying in youth hostels (as apposed to camping - didnt fancy that on my 1st trek!) and had THE BEST time!!!
Ok, so Canyon Dave (the van) wasn't the most comfortable thing I've ever sat in - some of the journeys were loooong - but with gorgeous sunshine, a fantastic soundtrack and great company with 13 other people who have the same outlook on life as me, you kinda forget how much your bum went to sleep! And at the end of the day, you want to get to the next location, and a trek party bus is better than making your way from one dodgy train station to the next.
For me, as a single female traveller, I always felt so safe. You're looked after by the guides, but not to the point where its uncomfortable/awkward. There's plenty of choice of the extra activities you can do - and there will always be someone else who will happily join you on a helicopter trip over the grand canyon!
I whole heartedly recommend Trek Amercia - a reputable company, who provide a value-for-money trip. There really is something for everyone.
3 years on and I'm still in touch with most of my trek mates - even those on the other bus!
Back in 2006 after completing a summer for Camp America, and having a month to travel before coming home, my parents booked me to travel with Trek America. Knowing the company were a reputable firm my parents were happy I would have definate plans, as not to return home in a complete mess.
Aged 18, on my own, and really quite nervous, I boarded a plane from Pittsburgh to LA to start my big adventure. I was to be joining a group of people and setting off on the Northern Trail, the aim - to get from LA to New York City in a camper van, camping out along the way, in just 21 days.
After a sleepless night in the hotel in LA, I woke up bright and early and made my way down to the lobby where our groups rendezvous point was. There I met my tour leader Gary and the other 11 people that I would be spending a lot of time with over the coming weeks. Our group was made up of 8 camp america/ccusa staff and 2 couples. We had the usual introductions, name, age, where from etc and then got down to the serious stuff. The food kitty and the itinerary.
The food kitty was $10 a day and every few days we would stop off at the local Walmart/K-Mart to get our supplies. We were split up into 3 groups of 4 and each group took it in turns each night to cook for the rest of the group and Gary. Each trip to the supermarkets each group would go off like members of the MI5 to pick their ingredients for the pending meals. Only on the night would we discover what the others were making.
You were also paired with someone else and that is the person you would be sharing your tent with for the remaining trip. The tents are really quite big, and can quite easily fit all your belongings within. Everyone is responsible for the putting up, taking down and safety of the tent assigned to you, and with it being your home for those days, it definately gives you an incentive to look after it. Although the putting up and taking down of a tent may sound like a daunting experience, especially when your using metal pegs the size of your leg, by the end of the trip your able to do it in your sleep. Having had camp as an experience just beforehand and getting used to sharing your cabin with lots of people helped it almost became second nature to be roomed with a stranger.
The first night back home, in my own real bed, all alone was one of the strangest feelings I've had.
The itinerary on the other had was much more exciting, although we already knew the places we would be visiting, the route and the camp sites we would be stopping at along the way was all new to us. Without the aid of a SATNAV each member of the group took it in turns sitting up front navigating Gary to our destination. As I'm shockingly travel sick I was more often than not Garys right hand man! That also gave the guys in the back plenty of time to read, eat, sleep or as much as you can do in the back of a camper van.
The Northern Trail Itinerary was as follows:
Days: 1-2 Los Angeles, Pacific Coast & Monterey
Days: 3-4 San Francisco
Days: 5-6 Yosemite National Park
Days: 7-8 Lake Tahoe & Idaho/Nevada
Days: 9-10 Jackson
Days: 11-12 Yellowstone National Park
Days: 13 Cody
Days: 14 Sioux Indian Lands
Days: 15-16 Badlands National Park & South Dakota
Days: 17-18 Chicago
Days: 19 Ohio
Days: 20 Niagara Falls
Days: 21 New York Area
There are both advantages and disadvantages to organised trips such as Trek America. On the upside, you see a hell of a lot in only a few days/weeks, you get to see places that you would never normally think to go, see things you would never normally get to see. On my route we happened to stop by a town with the World's Largest Pharmacy, crazy little places like this don't exist in your guides and its only with the expert tour guides you get to see quirky little places like this, it's also far easier to sit back and relax knowing everything down to what your going to eat and where your going to sleep is completely under control.
On the downside, the trips are fairly regimented in the routes they travel, once a trip is set, its set and any detours the group may take are down to a vote. On my trip we had the option of either calling at a real life Ghost Town that had been abandoned in the 1800's or finding our campsite and chilling out by the saltwater pool, now to me this is any easy one....Ghost Town wins everytime, but the vote was cast the other way and we never got to see said Ghost Town. I found it very hard to hold my tongue that day.
Another disadvantage is that living in other peoples pockets can be quite irritating, throw in the fact that your all strangers makes for an interesting day when someone is in a bad mood!
But I must say the places we saw and the views we witnessed, more than made up for these bad days!! My favourite place we visited on the trip was San Francisco. Everything about this place is just amazing. From Alcatraz to Pier 39. White water rafting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming was another experience I will never forget. Coming to the end of the trip and knowing that its more than likely you would never see these people that you have shared a lifetime of memories with is an odd feeling, and I'm not embarassed to say that after all the ups and downs of the trip, I was slightly teary when it came to an end.
Although a little pricey, and not something I will be doing in the near future, I can whole-heartedly say that I wouldn't hesitate in recommending this to any friend, family member or stranger.
On choosing where to go and what to see, there are 6 inital choices:
5. Costa Rica
Once you have that sorted, you are then able to choose which parts of the various countries/places you wish to see.
The trips range from 3 days right the way through to 64 for the trailblazer. With over 80 different tours available your sure to find one that suits your wants and needs. Whether it be a trip to see Elvis's hometown or whale watching in Alaska, there's something there for everyone!
~What It Costs~
The Trek fee:
Ranging from $249 for a 3 day trip around New York and Niagra Falls to $3299 for the trailblazer, their ultimate trek, seeing 33 different states in 64 days!
$10 a day
If by chance your trek happens to stay at a hotel along the way, your also required to pay that fee on top of your trek fee, at $40 per night for most hotels, it sure ain't cheap!
From an alligator swap tour at $40 to surf lessons at $35 the optional extras vary on the trip you take. Your sleeping bag is also a mus, as your not provided one and as some of the places you may stay can be rather chilly, I can't stress how important this item is!!
Yes this is expensive, yes its more than your likely to pay if you do it on your own, but what I can't stress enough is how enjoyable this experience is, the knowledge of the tour guides is priceless and if you do choose to do one of Trek America's trips, you will not be disappointed.
The services of the exceptional tour guides, all transportation costs, all camping fees and equipment (minus the sleeping bag), many highlights subject to whichever trek you are undertaking.
Most months in the year
~Facts obtained from www.trekamerica.co.uk~
TrekAmerica do small adventure group travel trips within North America, Canada & Mexico.
The trips take in a mix of cities and national parks, and vary from 7 days in length to a mammoth 64 days. They do traditional treks where you will be mainly camping, and Budget Lodging Tours (BLT's) where as the name suggests you will be staying in budget accomodation such as motels & lodges. I went as a solo traveller, which most people do - there's no single supplement.
The Trek I have done is Westerner 2. The itinerary is as follows:
The trek starts at a gateway hotel in Los Angeles, close to LAX Airport. Everyone who has booked with meet up with the trek leader early in the morning, and they go through your insurance details and explain a bit more about the cooking/cleaning rota.
As for the majority of the trip we were camping, the responsibility for cooking is down to the people on the trek. Each person contributes $10 a day toward the food kitty, and every few days you stop at Walmart to buy food. This $10 a day covers your 3 meals a day, but not your drinks - even so this is very very cheap, and people work together to make sure any food intolerances are catered for. We had a vegetarian on our trip and it was pretty easy to work around, we made meals such as spaghetti bolognese, and cooked a seperate portion of the bolognese sauce using a meat substitute. People take it in turns to cook in groups of 3, and a seperate group of 3 to clean up afterwards. This may sound hard work on your holiday, but it isn't that bad - you get to know the people on your trek and bond.
Whilst on trek, the leader does all the driving - there are some long driving days between destinations but they are lots of fun! You can hook up your ipod to the minibus stereo, chat to the fellow travellers or just catch up on some sleep! As everyone is there for the same reason its easy to get along with people, and the treks are flexible so if you all decide you want to go somewhere different then you can do - you're not forced to stick to the exact itinerary, and the trek leader often offers suggestions on things to do in the cities. Whilst in San Francisco we walked the Golden Gate bridge, and visited Alcatraz.
Whilst the camping seems to put some people off, its worth noting that the campsites in the US are nothing like they are over here in the UK - they all had hot showers, some had laundry facilities, internet access and even swimming pools.
From start to finish trek is well organised, its very easy to book and their agents are very helpful. They can organise your flights for you at reasonable prices, and without the need to pay for the whole cost of the flight upfront. Each trek offers some inclusive activities, these differ from trek to trek but the Westerner 2 trip included tickets to Universal Studios in LA. Optional activities are offered but its down to the individual whether they do these, and there's no pressure from the trek leader.
I saw some amazing places during my trek, and would not hesitate to recommend them - in fact I am booked to go with them again in 2010 doing the Atlantic Dream trip.
For the past three months I sunk into obscurity on this site having embarked on my own little American adventure - and what an adventure! For two and a half months, I worked in Ohio and became acquainted with all the quirks of American culture. I developed an unhealthy love of Lucky Charms cereal and Reese's Cups; an ardent Republican taught me how to shoot a hand gun (scary!); I taught several kids how to ride horses Western-style and I made a few of the best friends of my life. How could I possibly top this experience?
None of my friends were able to travel with me post-camp and so I was pretty much on my own and desperate to visit a number of locations to the east of the States. My work agency, Camp Leaders, had advertised a company called Trek America. It is a touring company that offers treks in the USA, Canada and various South American countries such as Mexico. It has an age limit of 18 to 38 years of age (although they offer a pricier, premium trekking experience for all ages with their sister company 'Footloose). My trek was called the 'Atlantic Dream' which began in the New York area and covered Washington D.C, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, New Orleans, Panama City Beach and finally, Miami. This was to last for 2 weeks but there are other treks available of varying lengths from 7 days to a massive 64 days.
*~PRE-TREK BOOKING EXPERIENCE~*
I'd love to say that the booking experience was completely fuss-free. I mean, it was until it came to booking a pre-trek hotel. The trek departure location is generally at a hotel and the company offers to book a room for you for the night before, taking away the hassle of having to travel to the hotel in the early hours of the morning. Call it stupidity but I thought that I was booking it for around a $100 for that night alone - I was not aware that it was in fact over the region of £100 for a single room as no shared rooms were available. This leaves me to propose that Trek America change their hotel departures to somewhere more affordable - it is a budget trek after all! (Next time I would book a cheaper hotel nearby).
*~THE DREAM MACHINE SETS OFF~*
Nice and early on Sunday morning, numerous trek groups met up in the hotel lobby. We were met by a friendly, if slightly eccentric looking guy in his late 20s (a little square of blue facial hair to go with his nice pair of mutton chops). Once we got to our van, he introduced us to an additional trek member who'd gotten a little tied up from before - Seamus the pirate monkey, stretched out on the front grate of the van. It was clear we were in for an interesting fortnight.
Eighteen people signed up for the Atlantic Dream trek and so we had been split into two groups, leaving a comfortable number of 10 in each. This was pretty cool as it meant more space in the van and in the trailer. We got to know each other pretty quick. There were two Australians, two Scots (including me) and four English people (Not a very diverse group I'll admit but at least we spoke the same language). I gradually found that there is one downside to this set up. You are pretty much stuck with the same people, often whom you've never met before, for a whole 2 weeks. Now these girls and the one guy (yes a distinct lack of male company) were essentially lovely people. I just came away from the trek with the feeling there was not really anyone I truly bonded with. Anyhow, most of us were recovering camp counsellors up for an amazing time. And despite my own personal reservations, our trek leader seemed to love us and over time, considered us one of his best groups of the summer. He was pretty much one of the gang - He seemed pretty caring and even though he acted like one of us he still held on to his leadership responsibilities (mostly ^_^)
He was very informative throughout the whole trek and had everything well-planned. After leaving our New Jersey hotel, we headed for our beautiful camp ground and spent a rather 'conservative' day in Washington D.C. Our day in Washington provided a perfect example of the flexibility of the trek. Just because the trek leader has something on an itinerary, doesn't mean you have to do it. You can opt out of an activity and he definitely gave us the opportunity to question his plans but we pretty much loved what he had set out for us. In Washington, we all split up to go see different parts of the city - whether we wished to go to a certain Smithsonian museum or few or to just go shopping. Later on we were given the option to go to a baseball game (which two girls from the other group actually opted out of). We were given the chance to have the real American experience and getting steadily drunker with overpriced venue food watching the worst team in the country was actually better than I expected.
After Washington, we spent a night in Virginia before heading to Tennessee to climb Chimney Tops, party of the Smoky Mountains range. This was a rather exhausting climb followed by a nerve-wracking ascent to the top where a fall could potentially be severely injurious or fatal. However, the view was definitely worth it when we got up there.
After Chimney Tops it was a quick descent into debauchery as we travelled further south. After our sojourn in the Bible belt, the party part, of what our tour leader described as the 'party' trek, had essentially begun. The great thing about our trek was that we came across other trek groups on our travels and there were at least 3 other groups staying at the same campsites as us up until New Orleans. At our new campsite our trek leaders had quite wonderfully arranged for us a belated 4th July party for every group and they went all out on it. We had fireworks, got a giant keg of beer and generally had a riotous time (Thankfully, we were pretty much the only campers there). Nursing a hangover, it probably wasn't the best thing that we were white-water rafting the next day. However, the water was rather refreshing and it was, quite simply, great fun.
We then hit New Orleans which definitely exceeded my expectations. So much happened there that there is possibly too much to write about. However, we stayed in a beautiful apartment-style hotel with the comfiest beds and pretty furnishings for a cheap $90 for two nights. Despite the hurricane, New Orleans is probably my favourite city in the US - The French Quarter looks amazing and our nights out in Bourbon Street were legendary. We sampled some Creole cuisine; we tried a yummy 'Hurricane' (the rather ironically titled cocktail drink invented long before Katrina) and wandered about in a few of the tacky Voodoo shops. This was a city not to be missed!
After New Orleans we had some close encounters with some gators on a swamp tour and then headed down to sunny Florida. Ok, so it was not so sunny considering it was Hurricane season but the weather held up when we reached Panama City Beach. This was our first beach stop and it was largely spent relaxing and hanging out by the beach at night. It was also the place where we took revenge upon the other Atlantic Dream group for stealing our beloved Seamus (Revenge = Their van, their trailer, cling-film and some rather 'dirty' materials). However, the best experience of the beach was definitely jet-skiing, with dolphin encounters. Amazing!
After Panama Beach, we headed for Orlando. When we reached our campsite we were pretty upset as there was a loud, heavy storm going on and at least two of the girls had already contemplated paying for a hotel room. However, our trek leader surprised us with quaint little holiday cottages. The joy of this discovery was overwhelming. The next day we spent in the Magic Kingdom of Disneyworld. Even though it was still a bit wet most of us regressed and became 10 year olds for the day and had such a brilliant time.
However, I'm really glad that we didn't spend another day in Orlando, even if part of me really wanted to. Our trek leader had tweaked the standard trek itinerary and had made our final camp stop Key West in the Florida Keys. I'm so glad that he made that change. Key West, the home of Ernest Hemingway, is a paradise and provided us with the perfect finale to our trip. Our trek leader cooked us a delicious seafood and steak BBQ on the beach on our last night and waking up on a camp spot looking out on to the waterfront was an experience not to be missed.
*~FOOD, ACCOMMODATION & UTILITIES~*
On top of the general brilliance of my trek experience, I thought that the other aspects of the trek were well above average.
Accommodation was pretty good. The tents were spacious and clean and we were given good instruction in how to put them up. As I have already mentioned, the hotel was very comfortable and the holiday cottage was only $1.50 extra for 2 nights. I should also note that camping mats and all other camping equipment but sleeping bags are provided for you. Accommodation is pretty much the big disclaimer about this trip - Don't go if you hate camping and can't deal with the outdoors.
The van was well-cleaned and in a good condition with outlets for charging phones, cameras, etc and we had facility for playing I-pods.
Meals cost a mere $10 a day which we gave to the trek leader up front on the first couple of days creating a large food kitty which was not only used for food but for other little bits and bobs like bin bags, a Frisbee ...(the 'dirty' materials we stuck to their van, etc, etc) You also are entitled to a share of this back if there's any cash left over at the end. Not much remained but I'm sure I got about $30 back which was pretty cool.
People were designated specific roles when it came to cooking, cleaning and loading the van and it mostly operated on a rotation system. This was no problem at all. I was chosen to be one of the cooks for three of the nights there and I was glad to say that all the food our designated cooks came up with was pretty tasty.
I will admit that this trek is not cheap. I paid approximately £1000 for my two week trek and pre-trek hotel night and that was with my camp leaders 10% discount. On top of this, there was the cost of the food kitty and additional activities such as the jet-skiing and white-water rafting - and there are a lot of these additional activities (and the temptation to do them all is pretty great). In addition to this, you are in America and that means that tipping is in order. Your trek leader isn't paid very much and if he/she was good you are expected to tip him/her at the end. This was between the region of $3 and $5 a day depending on how generous you wished to be. You then need to add on your own personal expenses for meals in cities, snacks at service stops and gifts, etc. Overall, it's a pretty pricey holiday.
*~TREK OF A LIFETIME~*
Whether I was just lucky to be blessed with a fantastic trek leader I'm not sure but I had the time of my life visiting the East Coast. I would actually propose that they extend this trek for a couple of days to include another day in Orlando AND a couple of days in Key West. The Florida Keys were beautiful but part of me would have loved to have seen Universal Studios.
All in all, deciding to book a Trek America trip was the icing on the cake of a very rich and worthwhile experience and is perfect for the solo traveller or indeed, any travelling group. It may be somewhat pricey but (apart from the pre-trek hotel night) I have not regretted spending any of my hard-earned pennies on it. It was a valuable experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
I have booked a trek with trek america starting in August but so far I have been very disappointed with the companys customer service. They overcharged me by 100 pound due to me paying in dollars rather than pounds, as I was automatically taken to the american site because I used a computer in America. They are now refusing to give the difference back and came across as very rude on the phone. I hope I enjoy the trek (especially as its now cost me 100 pound extra) but at the moment I definetly would not book with them again.
I chose to use Trek America when I travelled on my own in the States. Partly it was because this was my first time travelling on my own and also because it really reassured my parents that it was an organised tour.
**What is Trek America?**
Trek America runs trips all across the United States, Canada, Mexico and parts of South America. These vary from 7 days up to as long as 6 weeks in some instances. The majority of the trips are camping based although most will have some nights in budget hotels or hostels (these are normally in cities). However, there are some treks which are all lodging based and therefore no camping required. The trips are for 18-38 year olds but that does not mean that they are big drunken affairs with everyone drinking themselves stupid all night and sleeping all day. Definitely not! Obviously, there are opportunities to go out, but the majority of people seem to also want to visit and see the places on the tour and make the most of their time away.
Trek America is designed for people travelling on their own. There are no supplements to pay if you're a solo traveller. Having said that, some people come with friends/siblings/partners etc so you're guaranteed to have a mix.
** How does it work?**
Each trek is run by a trek leader and this person acts as your guide/helper/friend throughout your trek. I was very lucky and had a great leader who made a huge effort to make sure that everyone had a good time. Trek leaders do not receive a great deal of payment and often have no base as such, so the minibus in which you travel becomes like home to them. Tip them well at the end (if you think they deserve it).
Treks have a maximum of 13 people plus the leader which means that everyone really does get to know everyone else. The tours are led in english but the groups can be international. My group for example consisted of 6 Brits, 5 South Koreans, 1 Austrian, and 1 Dutch. This mix of cultures makes for great meals when it's dinner time.
Talking about dinner - everyone contributes a set amount to the food kitty at the beginning of the trek. This is then used to buy food at supermarkets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Therefore, you can eat 3 meals a day for about £6 (a bargain to me). Everyone takes it in turns to cook and clean, and this all is much more fun than it sounds. In cities, there is the chance to dine out which is paid for separately. We used all the left over food kitty money at the end of our trek to treat ourselves to a slap up meal in a very nice seafood restaurant in Malibu.
I already mentioned that camping plays a big part in trek. Tents sleep two, and they are provided along with sleeping mats. All you need to do is bring along a warm sleeping bag. The tents are easy to put up and take down and by the end of your trek, you'll have it down to a fine art. The tents we had were quite old so hopefully Trek America will be buying new tents, but that said, they did serve their purpose and were big enough to fit two people and all their belongings. City lodging is normally in budget hotels which have to be paid for separately when you get there, but Trek will tell you if you'll have this as part of the trek you select.
As for getting around, everyone travels in a minibus with their belongings stowed away in the trailer. Some days involve lots of driving and hours spent in the minibus but this isn't as bad as you think. Games, music, reading, sleeping, watching the world pass you by - are all things that help pass the time. And just think, it's not you that's driving. There are regular toilet/refuelling stops so you get a chance to stretch your legs and stock up on some drinks and peanut butter cups!
** I'm not sure I want to be shepherded about on my holiday?**
Trek America is an organised tour in name, but in reality it's much more. Yes, you do have to be at certain places at certain times, but there is also the opportunity to tell your trek leader what you want to see. If a lot of people in the group want to visit the local zoo for example, she'll try and make that happen, and probably even get you a group discount at the same time.
There is flexibility within the trek and no one has to do everything. I remember my entire group going off for an afternoon's hiking in the sun whereas I chose to sit on the lake shore and relax. As long as your trek leader knows and you stick to any time constraints, you can make the trek your own.
There will be additional acitivites on offer and these will need to be paid for separately so make sure you have some extra money with you. Again, there is no obligation to do these. Most people do a few.
**Where did I go?**
I went on the 21 day Northern Trail trek which started in New York and finished in Los Angeles. I had an absolutely fantastic time and am in fact meeting up with a fellow trekker this weekend. My personal highlights would be San Francisco, Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole.
I saw and experienced so many more things than I would ever have done had I planned the trip on my own, and got to do it with a likeminded group of people.
Yes, it's a tour and yes, many people look down on those who use them, but I would recommend Trek America because of all the local knowledge that the guide has and the things that you just wouldn't know or think to do unless you knew the places well.
**Things to note**
You don't often get time in the start and end cities to see them so plan accordingly as you wouldn't want to start in such a great city as New York and not see the place.
You will need extra money for the food kitty, activities, dining out etc.
You will be camping (unless it's a lodging tour) so if you don't like the outdoors, maybe Trek America isn't for you. You will also be cooking so don't expect fancy 3 course meals every night.
However, I'm keen to stress that even though it's an organised tour, there is flexibility built into it. But ultimately the more you make of the trek, the better a time you'll have.
I'll keep this one short and concise. I travelled with Trek America in 2000 after working on the Camp America programme and had the best summer of my life to date. Trek America tours various regions of America for periods of 7-64 days. The reasons Trek America worked for me are as follows: - The Group. The groups consist of 12 people. In my case they were 12 people my age that had just finished working on camp like me. The cheap price tends to attract young back packers and the amount of travelling means that friendships are established very fast. -The group leader. Mine was excellent. Shaggy was his name. Others weren't so good. Trek America's standards are very high though but ultimately this is potluck. -Length and Type of tour. Mine was the 2-week 'Best of East' tour. This was affordable, interesting, varied and the right length (long enough to get to know the group well but not so long as for the continuous camping to allow you to get over tired). - BUT! Be prepared for hidden costs (food kitty, hotels etc) The group leaders do their best to reduce these though by pooling food money and buying cheap food and letting all twelve of you sleep in one hotel room to keep the cost down etc. Make sure you take enough money to do some of the optional extras (white water rafting etc) so you can make the most of your environments. Some quick highlights: -Niagara Falls -Blues in Chicago -Sun rise in the Appalacians -Jumping off a waterfall (caused bruised windpipe) -White water rafting on the Oconee River -Visiting twin towers one year to the day before they fell. -Meeting a nice little Finnish girl for the two weeks.
The people you are travelling with have chosen exactly the same adventure from a huge list of options and are there for pretty much the same reasons as you.
This means that you WILL get on very well with them. Most of my people were camp counsellors too - so were very much up for everything, being that they were so exhausted after 2 months trapped with American kids!
The staff are outstanding.
The trek leaders have chosen a very tiring job which gives them the perks of meeting new people al of the time and travelling around America for a whole summer - they too, are there because they want to be and love travelling.
It was much more than I could ever have hoped for.
The trek that I chose to go on was named 'The Atlantic Dream'. This took us, in 14 days, to New York, Washington DC, Tennessee, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Panama City Beach, Orlando, Key Largo and Miami. I payed five hundred pounds-ish for it including my discount as a Camp America participant.
Beware of the extra costs though, such as the $70 food kitty each and the optional activities such as snorkelling, rafting and jet-skiing.
The group is only 14 people strong, including the leader and you all fit into a well equiped van with all of your baggage and food strapped to the top under a tarp.
Most nights you will sleep in a tent with another person, but some nights will be spent in cabins or hotels too. Hotels will cost you an additional $35 each but they are beautiful.
Our group comprised entirely of British people, an unusual occurrance - which put me off when I was first told this, I had expected a more international affair.
We met at a hotel in New York City and left for the Staten Island Ferry at 9am, within 1/2 hour we were slagging each other off and falling asleep on each others shoulders! Our little family had formed.
From New York we drove for hours to Was hington Dc and stayed in a lovely camp ground with a heated swimming pool and internet access, that night we drove around the illuminated monuments in Washington DC and spent the following day in the blistering heat getting lost and visiting the FBI building. We didn't want to stay another day - so we left! That's what trek's like, impulsive and flexible.
Tenessee is a beautiful state and we spent three days there visiting Graceland, line dancing, tubing and white water rafting! lots of fun.
New Orleans was our halfway point, and a monumental one at that (see op to discover the bad things we did!) much drunkenness, combined with Gay Decadence Mardi Gras weekend! We stayed in a beautiful suite with four poster beds, T.V and a kitchen - luxury!
Especially having spent three hours sweatily canoeing ourelves around on a swamp during an amazing ecological tour on the outskirts of the city - we badly needed the hot showers and cleaning facilities!
Ooh!, got to try moonshine - the ecological guy Mr Denny buys it by putting a jar in a log in the swamp with $30 and comes back the next day to find it full! The stuff is nasty and evaporates as you drink it, making your throat feel raw for two whole days, and your head feel light straight away!
On to Panama city beach to soak up some rays.
Beach stuff isn't my thing so I wandered around the quiet and boring resort for a day and caught up on some reading, swimming and sleep for a day. Next morning we went jet-skiing and I swam with some dolphins which passed by us!
A long drive of about 9 hours took us to Orlando where we came upon our candy pink coloured accommodation in the form of very well equipped 'Wendy Huts' at a camping cround. Each fitted 6 people and we made sure that the boys were reminded at every possible opportunity that they were Barbie Girls too!
Universal Studios was not a particu larly thrilling experience, very tacky and quite sad really. It was fun, but you certainly don't need a whole day there, as the rides run out quickly - bring your own food!
Let's drive to Key Largo!...a beautiful camp ground on the beach, serving key lime pie!
Within an hour of being there we had seen a huge ray in the water and a manatee had drifted by - they hadn't seen one there for years, I felt very special!
We watched the most beautiful sunI had ever seen go down and I spent the night curled up in a hammock further down the beach, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, but I didn't care!
The next day we went snorkelling at John Pennecamp coral reef and saw lots of lovely things, including a not so lovely barracuda which swam straight for me and I thought that I was going to die!
That was our last day together and we arrived in Miami late in the day to retire to our rooms in various hotels.
We ate in a beautiful restaurant down near the beach and sang karaoke with an old italian papa on the electric keyboard. After our meal we walked back to our hotel along the beach in the dark, it was a strange atmosphere and everyone was a bit sad.
Being the first to leave was very hard for me, nobody was up for a party so people began to drift back to their rooms. It suddenly hit me that I might never see there lovely people again. Trek was over.
I left at 4 in the morning the next day to fly to Atlanta, and then to New York. I spent the night alone in an airport hotel, my first night alone for 3 months, I was so sad and sat and cried.
The following day I mad it to the airport and was delighted to see another girl from trek there, we spent 7 hours hanging about before our planes had to leave.
I take off was delayed by four and a half hours and everyone was very irritated by the time we left. Landing in Edinburgh I walked past the electrical shop in the Airport
. Everyone was crowded around the T.Vs with their hands covering their mouths and some were crying. I was told that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Centre twin towers, followed by another. Some people were convinced that it was some kind of a joke, others were hysterical because they had family in Manhattan.
I don't know what to think of my summer now. It has changed me and I feel priveliged to have enjoyed America in its relative innocence before all of these terrible things happened.
Check out the website www.trekamerica.com and also try www.americanadventures.com, run by the same company, same leaders and same tours.