Traveling around the U.S. can sometimes be tricky because one city can be very populated while another could be easy to navigate. I’ve compiled some pointers to keep in mind while traveling to some major cities in the U.S. which I hope will be useful when you plan the trip of your dreams!
New York City – Subway
The concrete jungle, as it’s famously known, has a ton of places to visit and restaurants to eat at. The problem, however, is that these places are scattered all the way from Uptown, Midtown to Downtown NYC along the east and west, and you can easily get stuck in traffic. Thankfully, NYC has an excellent subway system that takes you to almost all the places you want to go to, with a short walk of five to ten minutes to and from the subway station.
A few things to keep in mind about traveling in NYC:
- If you have multiple flight options, try flying in and out of the LaGuardia Airport (LGA) as it’s less busy and doesn’t usually have heavy traffic on the route as compared to the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Newark Liberty International (EWR) Airport.
- If you’re certainly going to take the subway every day, check out the Unlimited Ride MetroCard. It’s for $33 and valid for 7 days. It’s cheaper than taking multiple one-way tickets ($2.75) and you don’t have to worry about refilling your MetroCard each time.
- Although it’s usually safe, be aware of your surroundings while traveling alone by subway.
- Lyft is cheaper than Uber by a considerable amount here.
- My experience with Uber/Lyft hasn’t been the greatest in NYC. The yellow taxis know their way around better.
- Honestly, walk it out to most places if you’re up for it. Nothing is more enjoyable than soaking the city in while walking and exploring!
San Francisco – BART
A hilly city surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and home to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (SFO) has a little bit of everything. Unlike New York City, you can drive around or take an Uber instead of their public transit system called Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). However, for long distances, BART is an excellent choice as it connects the city with Berkeley, Fremont, Oakland, and more cities in the East Bay.
Here are some things you should be aware of before visiting San Francisco:
- If you choose to rent a car and drive around the city, don’t leave your important belongings in the car as car theft is a rising concern in the city.
- Be careful while driving as San Francisco is quite hilly and the inclinations and declinations are steep.
- Uber and Lyft are a bit on the expensive side here.
- The BART trains don’t stop at all convenient stations in the city but they’re a good option if you want to visit other cities in the Bay. You can calculate the fare on their website and even check out their System Map to look at all available stations and lines.
- MUNI is another good option that connects several points within the city.
- Carpooling services are a big thing in this city. Waze offers a good ridesharing option.
Seattle – SDOT
A major city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is known for its natural beauty and the numerous coffee shops that it offers. Getting in and around Seattle is quite easy and similar to San Francisco. I would recommend staying in the city so it’s easier to roam in and around Seattle.
A major festival that occurs in April in Seattle every year is the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. People fly from all over the country to visit the beautiful tulip fields this month, so you’ll see more crowd than usual.
Here are some tips for navigating through Seattle:
- If you’re a Microsoft or Amazon employee, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has dedicated check-in counters for you to avoid long lines.
- Seattle offers multiple transit options like bus, rail and water taxis depending on whether you’re planning to travel on land or sea.
- The transit connectivity is good, and the frequency of trains is also favorable. I took the local metro to most places that were far from my hotel for as little as $5-$6 for a roundtrip.
- If you choose to rent a car, remember that Seattle is a bit hilly in some places.
Are you planning to visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival?
- Skagit Valley is located about an hour and a half from Seattle and driving there is your best option.
- Plan to be at the fields before 9am to avoid long lines.
- If you want to avoid driving, there are numerous guided tours such as Shutter Tours for $99 per person that take you to the major tulip fields along with a separate VIP entrance to the fields, avoiding long traffic lines, and providing water bottles, small umbrellas, and snacks.
- Seattle’s weather is usually cold, very windy and rainy so ensure that you are prepared.
- The tulip fields are muddy, and it is advised to wear rainy boots with a good grip to avoid the mud splashing on your feet and dress. The boots will get quite muddy so you might have to discard them.
- I’m sure you would want to buy some tulips after your tour but buying them from the tulip field shops would be quite expensive as compared to some other options!
- My suggestion would be to buy them from the Pike Place Market, specifically from a stall that’s right below the “Public Market” sign. It’s the cheapest ($1 per stem) as compared to some other stalls in the Market and the Tulip Gardens ($2 per stem).
Chicago – CTA
Famously known as the windy city and popular for its deep-dish pizza, Chicago sits by Lake Michigan. The city is busy in terms of road traffic but also has a good transit system in terms of trains and buses with various lines going to major attractions in the city.
A few things you should know before heading out to Chicago:
- The Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is one of the busiest airports in the country. Even though it has great connectivity, check if you have good flights to the Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) which is better to travel to. It’s advisable to reach ORD at least 2 hours in advance to be on the safe side.
- Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is widely spread out to visit major tourist spots and you can check live alerts and calculate fares on their website.
- Chicago has a high crime rate, so you always need to be alert.
- Uber and Lyft are not too expensive either but sharing a ride will surely be cheap enough for you, if you plan to take multiple rides to visit your planned locations.
- Although the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue is known for shopping, you can also find some decent brands on South State Street.
- If you are visiting during peak season, try going to the major attractions like the Willis Tower on weekdays to avoid the maximum crowd.
- The city also offers seasonal architectural boat rides on the Chicago River and cruises from the Navy Pier.
Los Angeles – L.A. Metro
The most populous city in California, Los Angeles (L.A.) is known as the country’s television and film industry capital. If you’ve already been to L.A., you know the amount of traffic it has. It’s difficult to get from one place to another by road.
Here’s how you can easily travel around L.A. without wasting too much time:
- The LAX airport is always crowded and there’s usually quite a bit of traffic going both ways. Try to get there early enough for your flight.
- The L.A. Metro Bus and Metro Rail have routes all around L.A. along with Long Beach and three airport routes.
- During most of the peak hours, you will reach your destination earlier if you take the Metro Rail rather than a Lyft/Uber.
- There could be some people on the train who experience homelessness and might try talking to you. Be careful and try avoiding such interactions especially if you’re traveling alone.
- Avoid traveling by public transit in the night.
- Check for public transport outages, especially over the weekend.
- If there are multiple security checkpoints at the airport, check or ask for the one with a less wait-time.
- For longer layovers, check if you have lounge access.
I hope these tips and tricks help you when you’re planning your next trip to these cities. Safe travels and remember to have fun!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashleen is a science editor and travel blogger who loves pretending to be a local and getting outdoors whenever possible. When she’s not working on a post, Ashleen is an avid reader, a museum-lover, and a self-proclaimed foodie. Currently based in Boston, she is taking every chance she’s given to get outside her comfort zone and out of the city for a bit! Check
her out at https://www.abitbrighter.com/ or on Instagram at a.bit.brighter!