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Trek America Q&A | Travel

October 20, 2019

Trek America Q&A | Travel

October 20, 2019

A couple of months ago I went on my first-ever Trek America trip. With absolutely no camping experience and a passion for America, I knew it was going to be an absolute whirlwind of a trip.

I had an INCREDIBLE time and as I have received lots of questions following the trip, I thought I would put them all into one handy blog post.

For my full tour diary, you can visit this post here.

Why Did You Choose Trek America?

I had wanted to do a Trek America tour since I worked abroad with BUNAC back in 2012, as they were offering a discount to those on the programme. Whilst I couldn’t do it at the time, I knew it was going to be my best opportunity at going back and exploring more of my favourite country. 

Was It Easy To Book?

Booking was incredibly easy and I cannot praise the sales team enough!

I booked online to begin with but due to personal circumstances, I had to change the date THREE times. The team were incredibly understanding and even allowed me to change the Trek I was on when I wanted to add my brother to the booking.

Once I finally had my booking in place, I received regular emails from the team at Trek America keeping me up to date. From booking my flights to arranging pre-tour accommodation, they definitely kept me well informed! 

I’d recommend booking your flights with Trek America too as not only will they find you the best deals, but they’ll also allow you to pay for them using a deposit with the rest of your booking.

What Is The Age Limit?

The age limit is 38 but if you’re looking for a similar experience and you’re over the age of 38, Trek America has a sister company called Grand American Adventures.

What Tour Did You Go On?

The Atlantic Dream Trek.

The Trek was 14 days travelling from New York (New Jersey) to Miami, but my brother and I stayed at the penultimate stop (Orlando) instead. We booked two days in New York before our Trek and regrettably, 6 in Orlando.

The tour visited Philadelphia, Washington, Shenandoah, Ocoee, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Destin and Orlando.

How Much Did It Cost?

Atlantic Dream Trek (with 25% discount): £1399

Return flights: £516

Pre-tour accommodation for 2 nights: £132

Post-tour (budget) accommodation for 6 nights: £150

Food kitty: Roughly £60

Spending money: Roughly £1000

Having picked a tour that visited a lot of US cities, the amount of money I spent was much higher than I was originally planning. If you pick a Trek that predominately visits small towns and national parks, chances are you’ll spend much less than I did. 

Our food kitty was $140, however, just under half was returned to us on our final day.

DON’T FORGET YOU NEED TO TIP YOUR GUIDE AT THE END OF YOUR TRIP. 

Do You Have Any Packing Tips?

I’m going to put together a full Trek America packing list but for now, my biggest tip is that you never need as much as you think you do. Pack light, you’ll be thanking yourself later.

I’d also recommend a rucksack over a suitcase as I often had trouble moving my case across the campsites.

How Many People Were On Your Trek? Where were they from?

My Trek was fully booked which meant there were 13 of us. Me and my brother, two friends, three friends, a couple and then 4 solo travellers. It was a great group of people and I couldn’t have wished for a nicer bunch for my first Trek America experience!

All of my fellow campers were actually from the UK, although our tour leader said it’s very rare that happens. ANYONE can book a Trek America trip so in most cases, you’ll find your tour is made up of a mix of nationalities.

What Happens If You Don’t Like Your Group?

Thankfully, I didn’t have to experience this but I know there are people that have/will.

Statistically speaking, the chance of you disliking everyone in your group is incredibly low, so make sure you’re sticking with the people you know you get on with easily. If you do prefer your own space, it actually doesn’t have to be as full-on as you may think. At the end of the day, you can make it what you like. 

How Did You Find The Camping?

I was really worried about camping before I went but I actually ended up really enjoying it, for the most part. To help you decide if a camping Trek is right for you, here are some pros and cons:

Pros

  • It meant that we had a lot more opportunity to bond as a group
  • I learnt new skills
  • We got to stay at some awesome campsites (Nashville KOA, I’m looking at you!)
  • It’s much cheaper than choosing to stay in hotels
  • Getting stuck in and cooking camp meals were incredibly fun

Cons

  • It required a little more energy and manpower than staying in a hotel
  • It was hard to live out of a suitcase
  • When it rained, things got a little wet (especially when I forgot to zip my tent up)
  • After a long drive, the last thing I wanted to do was set up a tent
  • There were a lot more bugs at campsites so more chance of being bitten

For my guide to camping whilst plus size, you can visit this site here.

What Were The Bathroom Situations Like At The Campsites?

A lot better than I was expecting! I think out of all the places we stayed there were only one lot of bathrooms that were slightly questionable, and even then they weren’t too bad.

They all had plenty of showers and facilities to plug in hair straighteners if needed. The really good campsites had air-conditioned toilets so every now and again I’d go and hide in them to get away from the heat.

Did You Have To Buy A Tent And Lug That All The Way To America?

Most of your camping equipment is supplied to you by your tour leader including a sleeping mat, tent, cooking equipment and a couple of other camping essentials.

You will need to take your own self-inflating mattress (recommended), sleeping bag, pillow and head torch.

When you arrive at a new campsite you have to use the same tent you were assigned on your first night, with an inspection on the last day of your trip. Unless you’ve committed a horrific crime in your tent, I’m pretty sure the inspection is absolutely nothing to worry about.

What Was The Longest Drive You Had To Do?

We had several long drive days but I think the longest was the drive from Destin to Orlando, totalling 8 hours including lunch and rest stops. The drive from Washington to Tennesee was also quite long.

Although I was dreading them, I actually really enjoyed the long drives. It gave us a chance to get to know each other and by the end of the trip, it was an opportunity to rest. Also, who can resist ALL of the American road trip snacks? I LIVED off big gulps. 

How Did You Charge Your Phone?

This was something I worried about before my Trek as technically, I still needed to be available to answer my emails (freelancer problems).

Luckily, my phone didn’t die the whole time I was there.

Although there were limited charging facilities at the campsites, there was plenty of space to charge things in the van. I prioritised charging my power bank and because of that, I always had a way to charge my phone if it was low on juice.

When it came to charging my camera battery, that was a little more difficult. Most of the time I used the plugs in the bathrooms whilst I was showering.

Do You Have Access To WiFi?

To be honest, I didn’t have to worry about WiFi as my mobile phone plan covers pretty much everywhere.

Those that did want to connect to WiFi, however, were able to connect at most campsites and in the van.

Where Was Your Favourite Place?

This is such a HARD question! I loved everywhere we visited for different reasons, but two places stand out to me more than the others. Nashville and New Orleans.

Nashville – I already knew I was going to like Nashville as I love country music, but the whole place took me by surprise. From the various murals dotted around the districts to line dancing and live country music I was in love.

With only one day to explore, I know I’m 100% going to have to go back for a much longer visit.

New Orleans – this was the place I was most looking forward to and it honestly did not disappoint. The drinks were cheap and strong and most of the bars had a signature cocktail for you to try. On top of that, the city has a fascinating history that I couldn’t even touch the surface of in just one day.

100% going to have to go back to live out all of my voodoo and witchy dreams.

I shared some of my other favourite moments here.

Where Did You Have The Best Meal And How Did Campsite Meals Work?

As I was on a camping trip most of my meals were done using the food kitty. This meant that at the start of the trip we all gave $10 a day to go towards the food. Throughout the trip we made regular stops at Walmart to cook meals out each campsite.

The food was split into three separate coolers and bins, breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’d eat breakfast each morning and if we were on the road, we’d pull up and have sandwiches and ALL the cheese strings for lunch.

Dinner was cooked on rotation, depending on whether or not you were group A, B or C. The other groups either washed the dishes or cleaned the van. The meals we cooked included burgers, fajitas, spaghetti, gnocchi and jacket potatoes. There were two vegans and a vegetarian in the group, who helped us cater to them with each meal. 

On the days where we weren’t cooking, we ate out in restaurants. This was mainly Philadelphia, Nashville, New Orleans and Orlando. My best meal was probably a Philly Cheesesteak with cheese wizz.

What Was The Most Disappointing Part?

The most disappointing thing about Trek America is probably not having enough time in each place, but obviously I knew that going in.

I think you have to be prepared to only have a teaser of each location, which has only increased the number of places I now want to visit and explore properly.

Did You Feel The Trip Was Restrictive On Where You Could Go And What You Could See?

Not at all! Whilst sometimes you only had a short amount of time in each location, our Trek Leader made sure we all got to go where we wanted, even if it meant she was driving us around and picking us up from different places all day. As I’ve only been on one Trek America trip it may be dependant on the Trek Leader, but if there was anywhere we couldn’t go we just ordered an Uber and went on our own. 

Would You Recommend It To A Solo Traveller?

100% yes yes yes! There were lots of solo travellers in our group as they saw it as a safe way to travel to the US alone. If you do a camping trip it’s really easy to make friends as you start bonding from the moment you set foot in the van.

I also loved that if you wanted space, all you had to do was say. Travelling as a group didn’t necessarily mean we always had to be together.

What Was It Like Being Plus Size On A Trek America Trip?

Again, this is something I am going to write a whole blog post on because I have a lot to say.

In summary – it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but there were definitely things I struggled with. From cycling in Washington DC to getting comfortable in my tent, it was a huge learning curve for me. I  wouldn’t change it for the world, though. 

Would You Go Again?

Oh. My. God. Yes. Yes. YES!

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I honestly don’t think a day has passed where I haven’t thought about my trip. From camping in the rain to the long drives in the van, I miss ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

If I can, I’m going to try and do as many as I can before I hit that 38-year-old age limit 😉

Which Trek Would You Do Next?

This is a difficult question as there are so many on my list! I think, however, the next one I’d like to do is the Westerner 2.

I honestly can’t believe that I got to experience such an incredible trip and answering all these questions has made me feel as though I want to relive it all immediately. Can I book my next one now, please? 

I'M KIRSTY LEANNE

My mission is simple. I want to help change the way travel looks, showing both brands and society that plus size people really do travel too. In a community where plus size travellers are made to feel unwelcome, I want to inspire and advise people like me on how they can make the most out of their own incredible travel experiences.Join me as I share my own personal experiences, my best tips and tricks and all of the challenges I face along the way. It won’t always be an easy ride, but it sure as hell will be a fun one.

Together, we can change the way that travel looks today

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