Driving across North America for the next year!
This post is our first installment of our incredible trip that will cover over 24 states and 6 provinces within the next year. In this article, we will be telling you how we planned our trip, organized relevant visas and paperwork, mapped out our route, bought an RV and our useful tips for starting a trip as big as this this.
To travel North America for as long as we are, you will need a special visa. As a UK citizen you can visit the US for up to 90 days at a time with a valid ESTA that you can obtain online. However, as we have planned to travel for 6 months, we needed a special visa called a B2 visa. This visa is valid for 6 months and the process is quite straight forward;
- Apply online as you would do similarly with an ESTA and complete and submit a DS – 160 form. To submit the form, you need to pay $160 to cover visa fees.
- Schedule a US tourist visa interview at the US embassy. Within this interview, you will be asked the nature of your trip, how you plan to fund your trip and your finger prints will be taken. Once we booked our interview date we logged back on the following day and moved our interview closer as people cancel regularly so you can find a more convenient time by continuing to check the appointment dates.
- Compile your B2 Visa document file. Once you confirm your appointment you will need to gather relevant information that the interviewer may need. You will need, your travel plans, proof of finances, appointment details and DS-160 form as well as passport sized photos.
- Attend the visa interview and once successful collect your passport from your chosen location.
Below is the link to apply for your DS-160 visa form:
Planning the Trip
Planning the trip was obviously the most fun part! We got to see the things we would be exploring and places we would be visiting. The three of us sat down and listed all the states that we wanted to see and concluded with a list of about 35 states. Visiting all 35 states we listed was obviously not possible in 6 months so we went through each state and researched what attractions were in each and cut the list down accordingly.
Next was mapping out and planning the route. We didn’t really have a timescale to follow, but we knew we wanted to be in Florida for spring break and the west coast for the summer so we prioritized the states accordingly.
Below is the first few weeks of our road trip, starting from Dallas.
In America you can pretty much park up on public land for free for two weeks and can call ahead to campsites or turn up on the day to book a parking spot. With this in mind we currently have not reserved any campsites, but we do recommend reserving campsites in major tourist attractions such as Yosemite national park and Yellowstone at least 2 months in advance. Another useful tip is Walmart stores typically allow you to park in their car park for a night or two, but we feel it is best to ask the store manager beforehand.
As you can see, our route and planning for the trip was relaxed. We want this trip to be easy going and for us to be able to come and go as we please. Although we have a brief timescale to keep, nothing is set in stone and we can live like nomads for the next year.
Buying a Motorhome (RV)
Buying our RV was the part we were most looking forward to leading up to this trip as well as the part we were dreading. We were excited to be buying an RV that was going to be the cornerstone of our trip and our home for the next year but with it came a lot of worries. Will we be able to find an RV in our budget? Will it break down? How will it be to drive a big, heavy vehicle?
We checked through various websites online which included both commercial and private dealers and decided to buy from a RV dealership for a number of reasons;
- The dealership would take care of registering the vehicle with the DVLA, organizing and ordering new number plates and transferring ownership of the vehicle to us.
- Peace of mind. Buying from a dealership would give us a great deal of peace of mind. We were able to visit various dealerships and get a feel for the people and how they operate. In addition to this, an RV dealership that has been running for a number of years would have built up a reputation among its customers compared to a private seller who might be hiding details about the condition of the vehicle.
- RV dealerships most of the time will buy back your RV or sell it in consignment. As we are travelling North America for a year at the end of the trip, we would want to sell our RV and so already having a willing customer or place to store the RV until we find a seller was a big bonus for us.
After we had decided on the RV we wanted (2005 Coachman Freelander) and talked the dealership down a little, the next stage was registering the RV to an address. Now, for us we have family who live in Texas and so with their permission we were able to register the RV to their home. If you do not have family living in the US and are wanting to purchase an RV then things might be a little more complicated, however, not impossible. You can either register the RV to the dealership you bought it from with their permission or potentially register the vehicle to a storage locker. We are not 100% certain on the criteria you may need to do this but we are aware that it has been done.
For those of you that are interested, the RV dealership we bought our motorhome from was https://www.i-35rvcenter.com/ and they were awesome in helping us find the right RV for us and dealing with our situation and relevant questions we had.
- Make a budget – Travelling for a year is awesome however you need to make sure you have enough funds to sustain you for the whole time. You don’t want to blow all your money in the first couple of months.
- Buying a motorhome is a lot cheaper than renting one. We initially enquired about renting a motorhome however we were quoted over $27,000 and there were restrictions on how many miles we could travel.
- Walmart’s allow you to park overnight.
- Book campsites in popular locations at least two months ahead of time. You might get lucky occasionally if you turn up to a campsite early in the morning but we wouldn’t recommend risking it and it is better to book ahead.
- Stick to a brief route. Although we said we don’t have a strict timescale to keep, it is best to have some sort of a route to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the places you want to see.
- Ensure you have travel insurance before visiting the United States. Medical costs in America are very high, so it is best to have travel insurance to be on the safe side.
- Take lots of photos.
Thank you for reading our first installment. If you enjoyed this post, please give us a follow or subscribe to our Youtube channel. If you are planning on doing a trip similar to ours, we will be releasing an eBook at the end of the year so you can get all our top tips and more information on our trip.