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Free or Inexpensive Trip Planning
Information and Links for the United States


Here you will find lots of free and inexpensive resources to review and possibly order prior to travelling around Canada and the U.S., as well as travel tips. These will be a super help for planning your trip and for choosing places to dine and to stay while travelling.

Major official U.S. tourism links are included in the mostly free section below, while links for tourism organizations in Canada have their own page.


Inexpensive information for everyone

You will need a top notch guidebook and atlas that can be carried along on your trip. You'll use these to help plan your trip in advance and to pick restaurants and some accommodation while travelling (Accommodation in the most popular areas like Banff and the Grand Canyon should be booked ahead of time in peak season). 

Let's Go USA Canada is an excellent, comprehensive, and up-to-date budget guide for a wide-ranging trip throughout North America. Very highly recommended if you are planning an extensive trip in Canada and the United States that will include many areas.

Note, however, that this is a truly budget guide with an emphasis on hostels, campgrounds, and clean but basic motels and hotels. You may wish to pay for more comfort.

Companion regional guides to Let's Go USA Canada such as Let's Go California, Let's Go Alaska, Pacific Northwest, and Western Canada, Let's Go New York City, and Let's Go Washington, DC are very helpful, too, if you will be spending lots of time in one city or region.

Three outstanding guides for U.S. travel are

For Canadian travel, Dr. Voyageur loves the excellent Lonely Planet Canada.

Two really helpful budget acommodation guides are Hostels Canada and Hostels USA. These aren't the usual lists of hostels with directions. These rate the hostels and let you know exactly what is in store for you in terms of friendliness, noise, safety, convenience to places to visit, etc. Very highly recommended.

An excellent introduction to hostelling can be found at www.hostelhandbook.com

And, if good food is as important to you as it is to Dr. Voyageur, read about the easy-to-carry and very inexpensive Zagat Survey restaurant guides, which cover cities across North America. The guides are more up-to-date than any other dining series.

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Mostly free information for all travellers

Here are the major U.S. tourist offices and other helpful links. Cities and attractions are listed with their states. As mentioned, Canadian tourist offices, etc. are found in the Canada links section.

The "Mostly Free Information for Auto Travellers" section has links to free motel information.

Unfortunately, clean and safe budget motel accommodations in Canada and the United States are almost always found away from the town centres where bus and rail stations are usually located. Cheap hotels near stations are often unclean or even dangerous in the U.S.

As a result, coach and train travellers may wish to stick with hostel and campus housing or pay for more expensive hotels. The campus housing guide linked here remains out of print, so please access it at a library.

Saving on air fares

Alabama

Alaska

Alaska's Marine Highway — Take a state owned ferry to Alaska through the Inside Passage "on the cheap."

Arizona

Flagstaff

Grand Canyon Railway

Navi-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff ceased operations during October, 2001, but was replaced by Open Road Tours (Gray Line Flagstaff), which offers sightseeing tours to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Monument Valley, and other attractions. Use the Flagstaff link on the home page.

Tucson

Arkansas

Eureka Springs

Hot Springs (famous spa and President Clinton boyhood home)

California (really helpful site!)

See Dr. Voyageur's Enjoying Los Angeles lesson for many more L.A. and Orange County area links plus travel tips.

California State Park System

Anaheim - Orange County

Berkeley

Buena Park - Orange County

Disneyland

Knott's Berry Farm Theme Park

Lake Tahoe (California and Nevada)

Legoland California

Los Angeles

Six Flags Magic Mountain ("Wally World")

Marin County (Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods, etc.)

Monterey Peninsula

Palm Springs

San Diego

San Francisco

Santa Barbara

Santa Cruz

Santa Monica (See also Dr. Voyageur's having fun in Los Angeles)

Canadian travel links

Colorado

Denver

Denver Gray Line Tours - Exciting Summer day tour to Rocky Mountain National Park

Durango

Connecticut

Delaware

Washington, District of Columbia

Washingtonian Magazine - Restaurant reviews, etc.

Florida

Florida scenic tour

Daytona Beach

Disney World

Kissimmee (Disney World)

Miami - Miami Beach

Orlando

Georgia

Greyhound

Hawaii

Kauai

Maui

Health tips while travelling in Canada and the U.S.

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Amana Colonies

Kansas

Lawrence (This pleasant university town provides a good place to break journey on cross country trips)

Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park. Contact 1-800-967-CAVE (2283) for tour bookings. See National Park Service listing below for campground reservations.

Louisiana

New Orleans

Gray Line Tours of New Orleans

Maine

Maps of the U.S. - University of Texas Library (Many maps are very slow to download)

Maryland

Massachusetts

Boston

Michigan

Minnesota

Minneapolis

Mississippi

Missouri

Kansas City

St. Louis

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

Lake Tahoe (California and Nevada)

Las Vegas

Reno

New Hampshire

New Jersey

Atlantic City

New Mexico

Santa Fe

Taos

National Park Service (U.S.) (See Canadian links for various park listings in Canada)

National Park Service (U.S.) campground reservations 1 800 365-2267, outside of Canada or the U.S. 1 301-722-1257, or its Internet site. Yosemite National Park reservations 1-800-436-7275. Good luck!

New York State

New York City Visitors Bureau

Dr. Voyageur's Walking Tours of New York City

Dr. Voyageur's New York City links and hints

Gray Line Tours New York City

Playbill On-line - the New York City theatre scene

Village Voice NYC Budget Restaurant Guide

North Carolina

Asheville

North Dakota

Ohio

Cleveland

Rock & Roll Museum, Cleveland

Oklahoma

Oregon

Portland

Gray Line of Portland, 1 503 285-9845 (Excellent local tours; friendly staff)

Pennsylvania

Longwood Gardens

Pennsylvania Route 6 Tourist Association (scenic drive through western Pennsylvania)

Rhode Island

Safety tips while travelling

Sierra Club - American and Canadian conservation group with day hikes open to nonmembers

South Carolina

South Dakota

Swimming Holes - List of scenic natural swimming spots mostly in the eastern U.S.

Tennessee

Texas

Austin (One of Dr. Voyageur's favourite places)

Fort Worth - "Don't take whoa for an answer"

San Antonio

Travelocity Saves You on Flights, Hotels, Car Rentals, Cruises and More - Excellent low air fare search engine

Utah

Vermont

Vermont State Parks

Virginia

Charlottesville

Washington, D.C. - See District of Columbia

Washington State

Seattle

Weather reports (U.S.)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

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Inexpensive or free information for auto travellers

The National Geographic America's Scenic Highways makes a great trip planning guide that is compact to carry along with detailed descriptions, maps, and photos of the most beautiful roads in the U.S. This inexpensive guide features the quality we expect from the National Geographic Society. Use this in conjunction with a detailed road atlas.

American or Canadian automobile association membership gives excellent maps, guides, emergency roadside service and towing, and--sometimes best of all--referrals to honest repair shops. Just one service incident may pay for your membership. Membership in many offshore motor clubs may bring the perks of being in the AAA and CAA clubs while travelling in North America.

Private and other auto clubs exist, but the American Automobile Association and Canadian Automobile Association provincial and state clubs are the best. Joining one AAA or CAA club gives access to all. The AAA site asks for your postal code. Enter 90210 if you do not have a U.S. one to explore the site.

Some motel links to use include

Best Western - Most locations are not really budget anymore, but still worth considering when you want to get away from the "cookie cutter" chain mode.

Many Best Western properties are managed by on-site owners who often infuse some personality and regional characteristics into their motels. On-site owner managers also help prevent on-going problems.

Comfort Inn - A member of the Choice motel group that includes Quality Inns. Usually recommended. More expensive than Motel 6, but a bit more upscale. These tend to look better inside than outside.

Country Inns & Suites - Very good moderate cost chain.

Days Inns - Wildly fluctuating quality and prices. No really poor quality properties, however, and the best are quite good. Its guide can take months to arrive, so use the Internet site for information.

Excel Inns of America - 1 800 356-8013. Small good quality economy chain. Upper Midwest plus Austin, Dallas and Denton, Texas.

Extended Stay America - Excellent weekly rates starting at $169 for its Crossland economy studios, $249 for the regular Extended StayAmerica chain, and $299 for its more deluxe StudioPlus chain with larger rooms. All units have fully equipped kitchens that help you save money, free local calls, computer data ports, and many other features. Highly recommended if you will be staying awhile in an area and want to prepare meals.

Fairfield Inn - Marriott's Fairfield Inn chain ranks as the quality leader of budget hotels. Worth, in Dr. V's opinion, the extra cost. Very highly recommended, although some of its properties have become too expensive to be called budget motels.

KOA Campgrounds - Often excellent chain of privately owned campgrounds. Most feature swimming pools, lots of activities for adults and kids, and "Kamping Kabins", some with air conditioning. Dr. Voyageur likes KOA, but the tent spaces tend to be much too close together.

Motel 6 - Lowest cost of the nation-wide budget hotel chains.

Much remodelling was done during last several years (often very much needed), and prices raised to compensate, but still the least expensive truly national chain.

Many Motel 6's have recently opened. When reading the descriptions online, the locations with interior hallways are nearly always the newer ones.

Usually firm, comfortable, yet a little too small beds. Home Box Office and ESPN sports on cable television at most locations. Very small outdoor swimming pools at most locations. Studio 6 units have full kitchens.

Motel 6 properties on the edges of large cities and in university towns may have security problems and unruly patrons. Use care.

Red Roof Inns - Very nice budget chain. Another quality leader.

Super 8 - More expensive but still budget choice. Consistent good quality.

Travelodge - Often not recommended. Quality varies too much.

In all cases, ask for discounts. Many motels give discounts to AAA and CAA members. Some wiill give a "corporate" discount to anyone (We've all worked someplace, eh?). Some like Motel 6 give discounts just to certain groups like members of the American Association of Retired Persons. But, always say while sounding disappointed, "That is more than I wish to pay. Have you a better rate?" You have to ask.

Also, seriously consider
Hotwire.com for greater savings. You choose quality, amenities, price, and neighbourhood, but not a specific hotel or motor inn prior to paying. The prices can be incredible, especially for higher quality places.

Auto travellers should also think about camping, especially in western Canada and the U.S. during the summer (Areas east of the Rockies in both countries may be too hot and humid and rainy, except for coastal Atlantic Canada and New England and the Appalachian mountains. Going north into central Ontario and Quebec brings no relief--Extreme heat is replaced by bugs, including the dreaded black fly.).

The American Automobile Association and the Canadian Automobile Association clubs give free camping guides to members.

Bed and breakfast accommodation has become quite popular in Canada and the U.S., although prices can be high. One source of information is Goin2Travel.com.

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Information for Amtrak and Via Rail Canada travellers

Be sure to read Dr. Voyageur's Amtrak and Via Rail Canada lesson for more information about train travel in North America, including the most scenic routes. A good rail trip planning guidebook to purchase or to borrow at a library is "All Aboard! The Complete North American Train Travel Guide."

Amtrak - Order its system wide timetable, which includes all but the Boston to New York City to Washington, D.C. trains, its Northeast timetable for the routes not in the system wide one, and its informative travel planner, which includes descriptions of services, routes, and great photos.

Amtrak's site has excellent fare information, including Internet-only fares. On the site, international visitors may order a brochure describing 15 or 30 day rail passes.

Via Rail Canada - Ask for its system timetable. Its site includes very helpful discount travel information.

B.C. Rail - This very scenic (but money losing) service from North Vancouver to Prince George, British Columbia, has been discontinued. You can reach Prince George (and Prince Rupert) from Vancouver using Via Rail Canada via Jasper National Park.

Grand Canyon Railway

Railserve.com and trainnet.org/ - Information for rail fans like Dr. Voyageur.

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Information for Greyhound passengers in Canada & the U.S.

Be sure to read Dr. Voyageur's Greyhound and how to travel lessons for helpful Canada and U.S. coach travel tips.

Greyhound Canada - Download its timetables. Read about its discount passes.

Greyhound USA -  Helpful site, but be sure to see Dr. Voyageur's Greyhound lesson for schedule tips, as planning a trip with just the information given on Greyhound USA's site is difficult and perhaps misleading. In addition, the how to travel lesson discusses the pros and cons of coach and rail travel.

On the Greyhound USA site, check out Greyhound's discounted fare information, including $59 single journey to anywhere in the winter or $69 in the summer (both subject to change) and other great deals that have to be booked in advance. Check out, too, very low fares from points on or near the Mexico - U.S. border that do not have to be booked ahead of time.

Brewster Transportation - Operates what many believe to be the most beautiful coach route in the Western Hemisphere between Jasper National Park and Lake Louise and Banff National Park. See the Greyhound lesson for how to incorporate Brewster and other lines into a Greyhound Canada pass trip without extra charge. In addition, the Greyhound lesson has information about other scenic bus routes.

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