TREK AMERICA FAQ

Wednesday, 10 February 2016
So now that I have finally reached the end of my Southern Sun trek america posts I thought I would do a FAQ. I will try and cover as much as possible about the trek and hopefully help you decide if this is something you would like to do in the future. If I haven't answered anything here feel free to ask away in the comments.

Travelling solo.
One thing most people can be nervous about is travelling solo, people always see me as this shy girl who might struggle to do things like this. However, the people who make comments like that are the ones who seem to not have the 'balls' to actually do something like this. Yes it is nerve-wrecking, stepping out of your comfort zone if it is the first time you ever done anything like this but I would say go solo! My reasons for this is for example if I had gone with a friend I might not have been as open bonding or talking to the rest of the group and clued myself to that friend for comfort. Everyone else is in the same boat of not knowing anyone (most of the time.) 

Money.
How much?
This will very between the tour you are doing, the first thing I did was calculate how much all the extra activities would cost even if I planned on doing them or not, after that I then added up the food kitty money which is ten dollars per day, the southern sun tour was 21 days, so $210 went straight in the kitty. The thing post people forget is that the at the end of the tour you tip your tour guide, a recommended $5 to $10 per day, a tip anywhere between $105 to $210. All of this for the southern sun tour came to around $2200 (£1500 approx.) Everyone will be different on how much they want to spend and the optional activities they want to do but I recommend doing it this way in case you change your mind on what you want to do and plus if you don't want to do something it is spending money. Once I worked out the cost, I decided I wanted to take £500 for spending money so $712.
Did you spend it all?
I mentioned the food kitty above, at the end of the tour whatever money is left in the food kitty is given back to you, in our case we all got back $40 which all of us were quite pleased about since we also used our food kitty to pay for hostels and lodging in some areas. By the end of the tour I came home with around $500, again this goes on peoples personal spending habits but for me I didn't spend as much on souvenirs, this money was also left over from optional activities.
Credit/Debit card or cash?
One thing I was worried about was carrying money on me, as well as running out of money. I got a credit card with money on in case of emergencies which thankfully I did not need. I decided to take $500 in cash with me and purchased a FAIRFX card a currency card that you pay money onto and converts it into dollars. If you do come home with money you can use the card to pay for items as normal or go to a cash machine to withdraw the leftover money.

Phones and WIFI.
So I was the idiot who thought they would get a travel phone, the phone was rubbish, wouldn't let me make phone calls and the internet took forever to load but I was so worried I would not be able to get in touch with people at home if I needed to. Turns out I was fine with just my iphone. The van has wifi, along with two charging points. The wifi has a limit to how much can be used per month, once it reaches that limit it cuts off so only 3/4 people should use it at the same time. Our wifi actually ended up breaking so we went the whole tour without it, the whole thing had to be replaced but this was a rare incident and it wasn't too bad being in the van without it. All campsites and hotels have plug sockets so you can charge your phone there, I usually did mine in the morning whilst getting ready. Out of all the campsites and hotels we stopped at I think around 3-4 didn't have wifi. 

Extra activities.
This was something that bugged me a little on the tour, after looking at the optional activities that were listed on the website for this particular tour only a few of these actually got mentioned by our tour guide. I'm not sure if the tour guys chooses the optional activities we can do or what. For example there is the option do to white water rafting, for those who do not want to do it have the chance to go hiking according to the website, whereas our guide told us if we didn't want to go white water rafting there was nothing else for us to do. Another example is that in Memphis our campground was next to Graceland, on the website there are numerous optional activities to do here, yet none of these can actually be done since it involves a drive into Memphis so you're stuck with Graceland, again I don't know if this to do with which tour guide you get. Ours wanted to look around Graceland himself. There was an optional activity to do a cooking class in New Orleans something someone was interested in doing but it was never mentioned. At the start of the trek we were given a list of optional activities available which again makes me things that the tour guide might pick and choose certain ones. 

Camp life.
What were the camps like?
All of the camps we went to were nice, each one of them was unique and different in their own way. We had ones just on a patch of grass, ones in the middle of a forest, up mountains it was fun arriving at each site and not knowing what to expect. The only thing that was a problem sometimes was the walk from where we had pitched out tents to the showers/toilets, there was nothing fun about needing the toilet in the middle of the night and having to walk five minutes to it in the freezing cold.
What are the facilities like?
My expectations of the facilities was not high, I was expecting dirty showers and toilets but they were the complete opposite. Everywhere was clean, all of the showers were hot, no problems at all. A few of the camps had place to wash your clothes, some even had kitchen facilities. 
Tents?
We had to stay in the same tent throughout because our guide wanted us to see if we could pick up on any problems with the tents or not. No one in our group did by the end of the tour. They are spacious, fitting two people as well as large suitcases. They were easy to put up and get down. The only thing I could fault was that when it rained there was some rain water that managed to seep through the tent.
Chores?
Yes you have chores! The group gets split up in to teams, we had two groups of four and one group of three. One group cooks, one group cleans the dishes and the other group cleans and loads the trailer, this changes daily so everyone has an equal share of  each job. Although when it came to loading the trailer everyone pretty much helped each other it was tricky at times getting everything to fit. 

The van. 
Was it comfy?
I wouldn't say the van was uncomfortable but it was sometimes hard to find a position to rest your head for example. Most of us took blankets and pillows into the van if we wanted to go to sleep etc. As for room this depends on your group size, we had 13 people including the guide in a van that fits 14 people so we always had extra room in the back, if there was 14 people it would have been slightly cramped.
How long are the drives?
Being someone who gets travel sick I was dreading the drives. The longest ones are between 7-10 hours but in all honestly they were never that bad and I didn't get travel sick once. Strange since a 30 minute bus drive into town can make me feel incredibly nauseous. 
Did you get bored?
Surprisingly no, most people tend to catch up on sleep but I stayed awake through most of the drives and never got bored. I loved looking out the window at the scenery etc. Music can be played, if you have an iPad you can watch films etc. 

What to pack. 
Sleeping bags?
When I was looking into this some people said wait until you are there to buy a sleeping bag, you'll save room in your suitcase etc. I took one with me and so did everyone else but one person. One of the first things we did was shop for pillows and this girl went to find a sleeping bag and couldn't find any, saying that though there were a few extra spares in the trailer so she used one of them. Afterwards most people left their sleeping bags to be donated to trek for future use to save space in their bags. If you do plan on taking one, check the season and the weather conditions you'll be staying. I took mine home with me since I had borrowed it of someone I would have left it otherwise. 
Clothes?
This really depends when you go but I would say the essentials are a rain jacket, a warm jumper, basic tops, shorts, comfy shoes and a few going out a clothes and for girls at least one pair of heels if you're going Vegas! I took clothes I wouldn't mind wearing over and over. If you forget something everything can be bought over there, a few of us picked up clothes from Walmart every time we went. 

Creepy crawlies.
I'm mentioning this because with camping you expect this, I don't mind bugs etc. but I can imagine a few people might. I can't say we really encountered loads of creepy crawlies, the only time we saw spiders but lots of them was at the campground where we went white water rafting. 

Safety.
Not once on this trek did I ever feel unsafe, not camping even when I slept in a tent by myself, got lost in the dark in Santa Fe trying to find the way back to the campsite, not when we went out at night etc. I felt at ease and secure. But I would say if you do go out at night make sure no one ever goes home alone, I know that is easier said then done when people have been drinking. 

I hope this helps, please leave comments below with any questions and I'll add them to the post. I honestly cannot recommend trekamerica enough. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and left me yearning for more. I've already booked my second trek for this year and plan on making it a yearly thing. 



14 comments:

  1. I have been so jealous of these posts and would love to go. Added to the ideas list for this year.

    Lizzie Dripping

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    1. If you can I would just go for it! There are so many tours to choose from as well =)

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  2. These posts have been really interesting! A huge part of me would love to do it, but its the social side of it that would bother me. It still seems like the best way to do and see so many things though. Two of my friends couch surfed their way across america for six weeks, and sent me postcards from each state they visited! Which part of America are you going to next?

    www.thewerefox.co.uk
    x

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    1. Glad you have enjoyed reading them, I would say go for it but always explore the options available and ones you feel most happy/comfortable with. I actually tried to get postcards from every state but only managed one... I'm going to San Francisco then joining the Trek America Hawaiian tour =)

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  3. Looks like you have had a fantastic experience! I wish you more of those in the future!

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  4. I love America, I try to visit every year. Always wanted to travel and see it all and this post has made me want to even more. Looks like you had a ball!

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  5. What a great post! Thank you for sharing!

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  6. Travel really is the most wonderful way of experiencing life. It’s really brave of you to sign up to these tours on your own and the next step will be to travel on your own, without the guides. As long as you follow well-travelled routes you will be fine and it will challenge you even more. Have fun, explore, grow.

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  7. I am so glad you had a good time in the USA! <3

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  8. What an amazing experience! All credit to you for biting the bullet and living the adventure!

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  9. This FAQ is so good! I'd love to travel alone but am such a chicken!

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  10. It is a courageous idea to travel alone, but is very satisfying, because at the end of the trip, everything was exactly like you’ve always wanted to be! All destinations are at your fingertip! Good for you!

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  11. I already traveled with them in the Grand Canyon and at Yosemite National Park :) Was a great expereience as I was a solo traveler !

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