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    USAHolidays to the USA

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    USAHolidays to the USA
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    USAHolidays to the USA

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

From the endless skies over Arizona to the neck-craning skyscrapers of New York – big is most certainly beautiful in the US of A.

The sheer variety of holiday options in the US is staggering. There’s natural beauty aplenty and in so many forms, from beaches, to mountains and everything in between.

There are culturally exhilarating cities, mouth-watering (if somewhat waist-expanding) cuisine and a finger-tapping music scene that will have you up and clicking those cowboy boots together in no time.

The American holiday dream is the stuff of legends – road trippers hit the fabled Route 66 or cruise down the Pacific Highway, Rock ‘n’ Rollers heed the call of Graceland and what happens in Vegas – all together now – stays in Vegas.


Culture and history

We've all heard the saying that ‘everything is bigger in America’ and this certainly rings true when it comes to food – be prepared to loosen your belt for some very large servings of steak, BBQ and burgers, not to mention those ‘bottomless’ cups of coffee and soda. The serving of alcohol tends to be a little bit more conservative though, with the legal drinking age being 21. When it comes to culture, the American way of life must be the most well known on the planet. As well as their prolific film and television industry they also do a brisk business in music, food and cultural icons. In fact, even if you’ve never visited the country it will probably feel strangely familiar – especially so to any film buffs or box-set-addicts out there.

The history of the States is known for being relatively brief, especially compared to Europe, but there is actually evidence of human activity in the USA dating back as early as 10,000 BC. From this time on many complex indigenous communities developed right across the continent and by the 15th century there were around 300 languages being spoken by several million people. When the Europeans sailed into the Western Hemisphere in the 1400s they ‘discovered’ not only the ‘New Word’, but also proved that the earth was round. Following hot on Columbus’ heels, several Spanish explorers made the journey, this time heading further south to Mexico and beyond, while the French sailed northward to Canada and the British and Dutch investigated the east coast of America.

Along with a misplaced sense of entitlement, the Europeans brought with them disease, to which the native Americans had no immunity. By the 17th century around three quarters of their population had been wiped out leaving communities in turmoil. They also brought religion in the form of strict Christianity and Catholicism to which they attempted to convert the local inhabitants. In 1607 the British founded Jamestown, their first permanent settlement in America. Here they established a tobacco export business sustained by the labour of African slaves – the first on the mainland. There followed nearly two centuries of capitalism driven by the large-scale production of commodities enabled by slave labour.

By the 1700s the colonists were beginning to question the rule of the British crown over their vast lands and the first hints of revolution began to stir. On July 4th 1776 the Declaration of Independence, penned mainly by Thomas Jefferson, was signed. However, it took nearly two more decades, along with much wrangling, compromising and redrafting of the constitution to finally arrive at a consensus – a united America.

In the years that followed, an ideological split deepened between the north and south. The southern states produced vast amounts of wealth and were pro-slavery, whereas the northern states were either abolitionist or favoured limiting slavery. This split led to the civil war in 1861. It was to last four bloody years, but by 1865 the war was over and slavery was abolished (but not, unfortunately, racism).

Over the next 50 years the population surged, with over 20 million new arrivals from Europe and Asia. They came to fuel the industrial revolution and the march of capitalism, and they got to work building railroads, staffing factories and farms, sweat shops, steel plants and oil refineries. It was a busy time, which proved extremely profitable for the few, while many lived in poverty. After some unrest measures were brought in to limit the harsher effects of capitalism – introducing the 40-hour working week and raising pay. There followed a new optimism in the US and a more affluent middle class began to emerge.

Then in 1929 the house of cards came tumbling down with the onset of the Great Depression. Come 1939 when World War II broke out in Europe, the US, which had reluctantly joined the First World War, committed fully to this one. Prosperity, if not peace, followed the war and today the USA is a richly diverse land.

Things to do

Saga’s group tours of the USA are as varied as the country itself – from soaking up the history of New England to basking in the Florida sunshine in Key West. Nature lovers can explore the great outdoors, taking in Arizona’s Grand Canyon, bear spotting in Yellowstone Park or cruising the glaciers of Alaska. Hit the road and take Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles or hop on a train in San Francisco and tour the Pacific coast. Music fans can find their rhythm in the evocatively named southern belles – Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans – while city slickers can flash the cash is Las Vegas and foodies can eat their fill in the restaurants and diners of New York.

New England

Bucolic New England borders Canada and is made up of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Just like its namesake it is a green and pleasant land with the cool Appellation Mountains, swathes of forested hills and a long and rugged Atlantic coastline. Feast on lobster in Maine, enjoy the cultural charms of Boston or work up an appetite walking in the Berkshires before stacking up those pancakes and dowsing them in maple syrup – delicious.

New York State

New York State stretches all the way up to the Canadian border and is of course home to the ‘Big Apple’ itself – New York City. From art to fashion to food, when it comes to creativity New York is a trailblazer. Take in contemporary art at MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, shop till cocktail hour drops in the glitzy boutiques of Manhattan or check out edgy Brooklyn for an eyeful of scenester cool. When its time to take a break head to the oasis of Central Park for a bagel, or take a boat tour of New York Harbour to see the Statue of Liberty.  

The West Coast

The West Coast consists of the Pacific Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington and runs from the northern border with Canada to Mexico in the south. California is of course the sun-drenched home of Hollywood, as well as bohemian San Francisco, laid-back San Diego and Yosemite National Park. Whether you’re sipping margaritas on the surf beaches of SoCal or touring the vineyards of Napa Valley, California is a sun seekers paradise.

South-west USA

Including California, but adding in Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico, South-Western USA isn’t really a clearly defined region, but broadly speaking this is wild west country. With great swathes of dry, land-locked plains, this is the place where gun-slinging cowboys swung saloon doors and gold prospectors tried their luck. Today the neon of Las Vegas lights up the desert night and visitors come to marvel at the drama of the region’s natural beauty in Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sedona and Zion National Park.

The South

The southern states include, but are not limited to, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, all of which circle the Gulf of Mexico. The birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll and home of the Blues means music is in the water here, or should we say the whiskey? Whether you’re living it up at the New Orleans Mardi Gras, tucking into barbecue ribs or on a pilgrimage to Graceland, that famous Southern hospitality will have you charmed from the get-go.

Flight time

Flights from London to the USA take between 7 and 11 hours depending on where exactly you fly. London to New York takes around 8 hours while flying to Los Angeles takes a little over 11 hours. 


Dollar - The dollar is the official currency.

Passports and visas

You’ll need a current passport valid for the duration of your stay, which you should carry with you in the States of Arizona, Utah, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

US airports are highly security conscious. So it’s standard practice that on arrival at passport control, you will be digitally photographed and you will have your index finger scanned.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.


We say... They say...

aeroplane - airplane

anticlockwise - counter clockwise

aubergine - eggplant

swede - rutabaga

courgette - zucchini

bank holiday - legal holiday

biscuit - cookie

crisps - chips

ground floor - first floor

lift - elevator

paracetamol - acetaminophen

postcode - zip code

tights - pantyhose

trolley - shopping cart

white coffee - coffee with cream

bill - check

jam - jelly

trousers - pants


The USA is divided into six time zones ranging from GMT-5 (April-October: GMT-4) to GMT-10. Most states adopt Daylight Saving Time (DST) from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, putting clocks forward one hour.

Regions not observing DST include most of Indiana, all of Arizona and Hawaii.


The mains voltage in the USA is 120 volts AC, 60 Hz. Standard American flat-pin plugs are used, and British appliances will require an adaptor.


English,Spanish; Castilian -

After English, Spanish is by far the most widely spoken language, especially so in the south where there are often road signs in Spanish. When it comes to US English, you’ll notice that dialect and accents vary considerably from one state to the next.


Tipping is a way of life in the USA, and service workers use it to boost their often-low wages. The norm is generally around 18-20%, so a little higher than in the UK. However, customer service in the USA is usually so charming that you’ll have no issues paying it. If you pay with a credit card, a space is left on the slip for you to insert the amount you wish to add.

If you request wheelchair assistance at airports, you will need to tip the porters at least $5.


The climate is mostly temperate in the United States, with tropical weather in Hawaii and Florida, Arctic temperatures in Alaska, semi-arid conditions in parts of the great plains, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest. New York sees cold winters and hot, sticky summers, while Los Angeles is balmy year round. The US has the same seasons as the UK, so pack accordingly - but don’t worry too much as the shopping in the US is great!


You might want to consider being vaccinated against rabies, as it’s sometimes present in wildlife here. If you are bitten, make sure you seek medical advice without delay.

Flying insects, such as mosquitoes, thrive in many parts of the States; you may find it helpful to wear long-sleeved shirts, full-length trousers and use mosquito repellent.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

America is the fourth most populated country in the world, with around 319 million residing there.

With a surface area of 9,826,675 square kilometres, America is the third largest country in the world. The UK would fit inside the US approximately 40 times.


The smoking ban in the US varies from state to state, though most have a complete ban in public areas. Smoking is restricted or prohibited in all public buildings and on public transport and the police can enforce on-the-spot fines.

There will usually be a notice where smoking is allowed, and some restaurants will have a smoking section.

Places in the USA