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Sample USA Winter Itinerary
For International Students & Visitors

Using mostly trains and buses (no driving)—Fly into Orlando, New York City or Miami and out of San Francisco — or vice versa.

Looking out from the entrance to Los Angeles Union Station served by Amtrak. In the distance is the downtown LA skyline, with LA City Hall close to the terminal. Trees on the right mark the spot where Los Angeles was founded.

Most roundtrip airfares on traditional airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa allow you to fly into one city in Canada and out of another city in Canada or to one city in the U.S. and out another in the U.S. often for the same total price or little difference.

Moreover newer airlines such as Norwegian Air tend to sell one-way (single) tickets only. That gives you considerable freedom. Note though that if you arrive in either country with just a one-way ticket immigration officers may develop a keen interest in your finances and motivations.

Because so many international visitors prefer not to drive in either country especially in winter, I have made this an airline, coach, ferry, and rail only sample itinerary.

As you plan your trip include breaks—times when you are not rushing somewhere. In my opinion not only will you enjoy your trip more you will have more opportunities to catch up if you miss a train connection, etc.

Looking out of a Via Rail Canada dome car near Jasper National Park in Alberta. The images does not show the scenery but does show passengers looking out.

When possible book trains for extra comfort. The image above shows a non-reserved "dome" car on Via Rail Canada's "Canadian" between Toronto and Vancouver. Via has windows that let you look up toward the Rocky Mountain peaks near Jasper National Park.

Amtrak offers high-level or lower-level seating in every car on most of its western long-distance routes plus its "Capitol Limited" between Chicago and Washington, DC. The image shows its sightseer lounge car that everyone can relax in. Again, windows let you look up at the scenery. This photo was taken on Amtrak's "Coast Starlight" at San Luis Obispo California

Amtrak offers high-level or lower-level seating in every car on most of its western long-distance routes plus its "Capitol Limited" between Chicago and Washington, DC. The image shows its sightseer lounge car that everyone can relax in. Again, windows let you look up at the scenery.

  • Fly into New York City and then to Orlando (JetBlue, Southwest, etc. offer low one-way (single ares between NYC and Orlando) or fly into Orlando directly to start trip. You could also fly into Miami and stay in Miami Beach.

  • Fly to Tucson Arizona--a nice warm place to relax and sample a Southwestern vibe. If too expensive fly into Phoenix. Frequent shuttles take you from its main airport to Tucson (or Greyhound).

  • Greyhound to Flagstaff, Arizona, the gateway to the Grand Canyon. There are a variety of hostels and less expensive hotels and hotels in Flagstaff especially in winter.

  • Day trip to Grand Canyon or preferably stay at least one night there to witness canyon at sunrise and or sunset or both.

    Please do not worry about snow covering the colourful features of the canyon. It tends to stick to the duller flat areas.

    The following offers service throughout the year. Other options are available depending on when you visit. >

    Arizona Shuttle Flagstaff to Grand Canyon

    Grand Canyon National Park provides free shuttles to various viewing points.

    You could delay a Grand Canyon visit until Las Vegas, but those tours go to the western canyon, which is not as colourful.

  • Greyhound to Las Vegas.

    Stay somewhere in the southern Las Vegas Strip area. That means south of Sahara Boulevard until the airport area.

    Try to time your visit for mid-week stay (at least nights between Sunday and Thursday.) Unless a large convention has come to town 3- and even 4-star hotels go for as little as $25 plus fees.

    Checking using Booking.com would be appreciated.

  • BoltBus, Magabus, or Greyhound to Los Angeles. The former two are often the least expensive and have stops both downtown and on the Strip.

    In Los Angeles, I suggest basing your stay in Santa Monica for beach time and relaxation or Hollywood to be more in the centre of the action. If staying more than a few days, do both. The Los Angeles are can have good beach weather at times all winter.

  • Optional but well worth it if you have time - Amtrak to San Diego - it runs partially along a very scenic coast.

    Although often cooler than the Tucson area San Diego's temperatures can be quite warm in winter.

    Younger travellers will love the Ocean Beach neighbourhood. Hostels are available. In addition to its downtown terminal, Amtrak stops in the Gaslight neighbourhood, which is quite lively.

  • Amtrak to San Francisco. Breaking journey here would give you a chance to stay in another area in Los Angeles.

    Book Amtrak's Coast Starlight train as your connection in Los Angeles.

    This all high-level train offers considerable comfort and excellent scenery. Book seats on the upper level of coach car at no extra charge.

    At Los Angeles Union Station, request seats on the left side prior to boarding.

    The Starlight takes you to Oakland, where Amtrak provides a bus connection across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco.

    From San Francisco tours are available to the Monterey coastline, Muir Woods National Monument (redwoods), Napa Valley, etc.

    Amtrak offers a rail and bus itinerary to Yosemite National Park that can be done in as little as one day. The park provides free transportation to various areas. You also have a choice of one-day guided tours to the park from San Francisco.


    Enjoy!


To learn more about visiting the U.S. and Canada >

Best places to begin trip to Canada & USA
When and Where travel CDA USA

California's Super Bargain Rail Itinerary
Amtrak & Via Rail Canada pros & cons
Amtrak, Via Rail - scenic routes
Amtrak & Via Rail Canada booking tips

Bus travel - pros & cons
Greyhound - scenic routes
Day hikes with the Sierra Club

 

 

 

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