Travel Around the World to North America: United States

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The first stop on our journey around the world, we will start where I live, as we Travel Around the World to North America. This is the first post in our Around the World in 7 days series, to see other stops we’ll go, click on that link to follow along!

Travel Around the world in 7 days to North America

I’ve traveled all over the United States, and have written about my travels to these spots: Alaska, New York City in a day, the Grand Canyon, Orlando’s Walt Disney World, Memphis Tennessee, Vermont in the Fall, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Baltimore, The Biltmore House in Asheville North Carolina, and my hometown, Austin Texas. However, I really wanted this region to be covered by someone who lives outside of North America, traveling here.

I asked my friend Aline, who lives in Brazil, to share about traveling tips, for the United States, and I gave her some specific questions to cover, which she outlined in bold above her answers.  So I’m going to let her take it away!

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OR2015-4We love to travel. Our last trip was to Orlando with a day in Miami, and it was our first international trip with the baby, who did a-ma-zing.

We’ve also been just the two of us, NY, Chicago, Denver and Atlanta.

I`m talking about these trips to the USA as a non native. Even though part of my childhood was spent in the US (good times…) we now live in Brazil and that`s the perspective we`re coming from.

Here are some of our observations…

-What cuisine is unique to the area, to make sure to try?

In Chicago the deep dish pizza gets a lot of talk but we didn’t try it because we couldn’t find any small enough for just the two of us. In the Disney World context we think that the Turkey Leg is unique. We didn`t see it in Denver, NY, Chicago or even in other parks or menus in Orlando. That being said, we didn`t brave it either… I have a cousin who tried it and loved it. In a more national context, some foods we absolutely love and do not find at.all. in Brazil are Mac&Cheese (we can`t find cheddar cheese here… only cheddar flavored cream cheese) and Potato Skins (I especially love the Hard Rock version, but we only have white potatoes here, aka, potatoes that have very, very thin skin) so we sort of binge when we travel to US. Speaking of brand name restaurants we like Olive Garden, Hard Rock, Wendy`s for a quick sandwich, and we`re split on Starbucks x Dunkin Donuts. Starbucks wins in the everything with cheese bagel category, but the donuts are better at DD. I don`t drink coffee, but the hubbie says it`s better at DD. In NY… Magnolia Bakery, it´s perfection!!!

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-What cuisine to avoid?

If you don`t like spicy food avoid anything with spicy in the name because it will be hot!!! Speaking of brand name restaurants, we think Applebees has average food and is too dark and McDonalds is really bad.

OR2015-1-2-What immunizations are needed, if any?

None. We have more mandatory immunizations in Brazil due to the tropical climate.

-Is tipping customary?

We found that it’s customary to tip in the US, less in Orlando than in other places we went before, probably because of the places we went to, we ate at the hotel and fast food more than at restaurants.

In Brazil sometimes there is tipping in restaurants, but as a rule a 10% tip is included in the bill and it`s not customary to add to that.

OR2015-3-What unique souvenirs to bring back?

We are always searching for cool mugs that represent something about the place or the feeling of the trip. As photographers are favourite souvenirs are the pictures we take, and we put some up on the wall and make an album when we get home. We don`t take pictures all day long, but we come back with a good dose of great pictures, more than shopping for stuff to clutter the house. Other than the mugs, of course. An exception would be Fishs Eddy in NY… If I could, I would have taken one of most items home. The store was pure creative eye candy!!!

-Code of conduct/respect/gestures helpful to know about?

This is answered by the husband…
“Even though I am a Brazilian I don`t feel like we are polite people. The first time we went to the USA together on vacation I was walking around a supermarket and a few minutes later Aline came up to me and said: you don`t realize you do this, and it`s ok, but here people don`t just walk in front of each other without saying excuse me.

She was right! I realised that people say “sorry” and “excuse me” much more than we do here. And the salespeople in stores don`t pounce on you and follow you around the store forcing you to look at things you don`t want (like they do here). They greet you nicely (also not customary here) and let you browse, and a while later offer assistance if you want.

OR2015-3-2-Climate–when are best months to travel (for price, too)

Well, the low priced seasons for us to go to US are Spring and Fall. It is a bit complicated for us to go to some places in the winter because not having snow here we don’t have appropriate clothes for that…

We went to Orlando this March and even with a blizzard happening in the North of the country we didn’t find the place very cold. So Florida is definitely a good place to go year round. I have been there in the summer and it is so hot it`s cruel… but it`s better than a freezing white Central Park. We would avoid January and February due to restrictions in pools and some rides in the parks.

Regarding Disney we really really avoid Summer and any holiday when it would be full of Brazilian teenage groups. Having been part of one when I was a teenager and having witnessed them after teenage years we avoid them like the plague.

We went to Denver in the Spring, and it was very nice, and Chicago and NY we did right before Christmas a few years back, it was COLD (not like this last winter, though). I’d say that the greatest impediment for the winter months for us is clothing. We travel every 3 years or so and it´s not worth having bulky winter clothing, and also since we like to do a lot of sightseeing, snow can become a bother.

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-Safety tips

We always carry our passports on us and split our money between us. The US is much safer than Brazil and we are always surprised that things are not stollen from strollers, backpacks, etc. Nonetheless, we carry passports and money on us, in a safe place (money pouch or concealed pocket), we always watch our kid (either with a harness in more crowded areas or locking eyes on him in empty areas) and if going out at night we ask the hotel staff if there are any safety recommendations. Someone tried to rob us in Paris, 1 block from the Louvre Museum, so that goes to show that being somewhere supposedly safe doesn’t mean you can relax your basic precautions (nope, he didn’t manage to snatch the phone from the hubbie).

OR2015-1-Hot spots to make sure to go

Orlando:
Parks… Epcot Center has been disappointing, but the other Disney, Universal and Sea world parks are awesome. Orlando Science Museum: it’s a good place for kids. You can spend hours there with them.

For kids between 2 and 12 we would recommend Legoland for being a smaller and less crowded park (when comparing to the Magic Kingdom). They can do a lot of cool stuff but you can still enjoy the day to do something else because the park closes at 5 p.m. We had a good week day at Sea World too… very empty park, which was great to set the kid free a bit to walk without the harness.

NY:
It´s hard to go wrong in a city with so many wonderful things… Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty, 5th Avenue, Times Square… 3 not so popular touristic places we loved were Bryant Park, High Line Park and the Sony Museum (we loved it, but it´s for kids, take your kids!!!)

Chicago:
Also, the classics are great… Millenium Mile, Cloud Gate, Museum of Science and Industry (especially with kids).

-Where to avoid

We avoid touristic shopping places like Florida Mall and Intl Drive Premium Outlets. They are full, loud and exhausting.

OR2015-2-If traveling with children, tips for that?

Lots! 😉
– If flying, try to travel during nap time or at night… our kid slept through all the flights and it was heavenly. It is not easy to entertain a toddler in a plane.
– Have snacks handy at all times.
– Do not put yourself above bribing your kid with a toy so you can get grown-up stuff done. Our kid a few new toy cars. We had 2 full days of shopping, plus a few errands that were not kid friendly. He would get a new toy car and would play happily while we did our thing. We bought a pack of cheap cars at target for a dollar, plus a few hot wheels and the kid was happy, we were happy.
– Buy a harness if you have a toddler! We didn`t use it all the time, but it was a life saver in the crowded places (Magic Kingdom plus some errands). He had some freedom to be on his own, but we were sure he was right there. For the first couple of hours he complained, but he got the hang of it and it was really easy after that.
– Let them nap!!!! Travel exhausts the little kids… or anyone for that matter, but our 18mo was constantly stimulated. He usually takes one nap a day, about 1.5h to 2h, during the trip he took that nap plus one or two catnaps in the car every day… and slept all night! Let them sleep!!!
– Relax your expectations… they will be interested in what they will be interested in, which can be what you find most boring. Let them have fun, let them enjoy at their pace.

We hope you enjoyed the post!
Happy travels!

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Thank you so much, Aline! I found it very fascinating to hear a tourists perspective to my country!

Now, since we just covered a handful of states in the United States, and I mentioned the spots I’ve traveled to at the top of this post, see all our travels here, Here are some travel tips to a few other spots:

 Canada:

More U.S.

Where in North America have you gone, or where do you want to go?

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Comments

  1. Thank you for letting us participate! 🙂

  2. That is very interesting!! Thanks!

  3. Fabulous read, even as a U.S. citizen who has traveled the US quite a bit. It was great to get an outside perspective though. Can’t wait for the next post in the series!

  4. This is great! Kristen you also did a post about Nashville, that I believe you forgot to mention above. I know because I just read it few days ago for some tips.
    http://www.kristendukephotography.com/visiting-nashville-tennessee/ 🙂

  5. I loved reading Aline’s perspective on travel in the United States! And thanks for linking to my post on things to do in Niagara Falls with kids – much appreciated!

  6. Hello Kristen, Actually you write about journey around the US is just like a travel book writer. i was lost when I read your post about “Travel around the United States of America”. Because, when I see your images that you did fun with your husband and children, honestly speaking I lost my self that I did one year ago with my husband and children. It was also North America. Every year we make a plan to hide from our professional life but this year it might not be possible for my job.
    Your boy see the fishes on aquarium is really contain a awesome memory for you and also when he will grow elder he will like this picture too much. Moreover your writing style about your journey and describe it perfectly is really awesome. And I don’t have any word to said that what kind of great job you done in your article. Just pray to god that that the blessing god will be always with you and your family.

  7. Whenever, my family and I travel we really love to eat. Yes, you are right Chcago’s deep dish pizza is simply the best. I really love it. I also love collecting mugs as souvenirs just like you do. Thank you for sharing your blog I really had fun reading it.