• Megan Kate

Trek America | Travel Review

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Booking group travel or a big leap-of-faith kind of trip can be a little unnerving. Whether it be to study abroad, volunteer somewhere or just purely for pleasure, there's so many different companies and providers who all claim to be the best, making it even harder to navigate. Can you trust the reviews on their website? Are the FAQs too factual when you just want to know if the experience is wonderful enough to be worth spending hundreds of pounds on? When I was booking my American road-trip I decided to include a tour with TrekAmerica, and a full length, honest review wouldn't have gone amiss when I was doing my initial research.

This is the first post in a little series I've got lined up where you can find full, honest reviews on a mixture of leap-of-faith style opportunities. With these in depth reviews I (along with several other guest contributors) hope to cover everything from value for money to how the experience makes you feel.

Grab a brew, these are going to be a read and a half, but we've broken everything down into sections so you can fast forward to a specific query if that suits you better.

Anyway now that that's all covered, let's begin:

The Details

What was it you did? Trek America, or if we're being specific it was the Western Wonder Tour from Los Angeles.

When was it? April 30th- May 6th 2018.

Where was it? West coast USA, road-tripping from LA to San Francisco. In between we visited Hollywood, Arizona Desert, Grand Canyon, Seligman Route 66, Las Vegas and Yosemite.

How long was it for? 6 nights, 7 days.

How far in advance did you book it? About 9 months before departure. Be aware that prices do tend to drop if not sold out closer to the time, I just booked early in order to force myself to save haha. Plus, obviously if you wait and then your ideal dates sell out you'll be gutted.

How much did it cost? £809, the tour available now is a little cheaper but doesn't seem to include the Vegas party bus?

Camping in River Island State Park on our first night

What does that price actually include? -6 night's accommodation (1 x camping in an Arizona state park, 1 x camping in Grand Canyon National Park, 2 x Golden Nugget Hotel in Las Vegas, 2 x camping in Yosemite National Park)

-All camping and cooking equipment except sleeping bag

-Pick up near LAX

-Drop off at San Francisco airport or accommodation

-All transport between places

-Las Vegas party bus tour (not sure if still available?)

-Amazing Trek Leader (They drive, recommend amazing hike routes in the parks, look after you, start epic camp fires, and basically become your new best friend and all-round leader)

-Entrance into all camp grounds and parks

-Guided tour of the sequoia meadows in Yosemite

Could you have done it cheaper yourself? If you drive then probably SLIGHTLY cheaper, if you're still camping. If you want to stay in hotels/ hostels or don't drive then you'd really struggle. Probably worth paying just for the ease of it all.

Did you need much spending money on top of this? I'd say around $300 for the whole week, $400 if you want to see a Vegas show.

So when you're doing a camping tour you all put in $10 per day (so $70 each in this case) for your 'camping kitty'. This basically covers all of your breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the whole trip except for your free day in Vegas where you can just find whatever you want. Other than that the only food you actually pay for is snacks for the journeys, and there was a cool retro burger joint on Route 66 that you could go to if you wanted. The kitty is mostly buffet breakfast, packed lunches, cooked meals you all agree on for dinner and then we had takeaway pizza twice.

You can't really spend much money in the parks other than souvenirs and snacks, so maybe $30 a day max? You have a full free day in Las Vegas too. I'd budget maybe $100 if you want to see some sights. The Stratosphere Observation Deck costs $20, the Neon Boneyard costs $30 (make sure you pre book), food is about $30 plus tip, tacky souvenirs are only a few dollars here and there, and we changed $10 into coins for the casino slot machines. If you want to go to a Vegas Show, put aside an extra $70-$100 for that. You could also just walk around the strip and hang by the pool, you'll spend very little money that way but I'd say its worth going out and exploring! It's Vegas!

Tip your leader too, we all gave about $30-$50 I think? Depended on how much we had left.

Las Vegas Party Bus

Did you go by yourself or with others? I went by myself! :)

Did you need a visa? How much was it? How did you get it? If you're visiting the US for less than 90 days, and you come from a country on their Visa Waiver Programme then you need an ESTA visa. This costs $14 and you apply online before you go. You don't actually receive a physical visa, they just know you have it when they scan your passport at the airport when passing through arrivals customs. I printed the confirmation screen and took it with me, just in case, but had no issues! Also, lots of travel companies will offer to help with the application and charge you an extra fee. The application is really easy so just do it yourself through the official customs website here.

How much luggage did you take? A 40L backpack, it's the maximum size of handheld luggage allowance so you pay no baggage fees woo! I was travelling for another 3 weeks after this trek though, so you may not even need a bag this big. I use the Osprey Fairview 40 and I LOVE it. Great investment if you're going to do a lot of backpacking trips.

Do you have any must take item recommendations? -Flipflops (some of the camp showers are outside)

-Thermal socks (We woke up covered in snow at the Grand Canyon, it is FREEZING at night because you're so high up)

-Binbag (just to shove your dirty/ wet clothes in, so much easier to keep them separate)

-A microfibre towel (they roll up really small and dry way quicker than a normal towel) They're really cheap, I have this one.

-Hayfever tablets and some vitamin C capsules (lots of us suffered from allergies in the parks even if we didn't at home, and a couple of people started with a cold towards the end, vitamin C kept us alive)

-Pack of cards or notebooks (something to keep you entertained on the bus, although our bus could play films too)

Grand Canyon in the snow/ Golden Gate Bridge

Were the company helpful in answering questions and helping you to organise bookings/ arrangements? They were great! They answered emails quickly, they have a great phone service too. They offer to book your flights and pre/post tour accommodation if you need any help with it, and our leader dropped us off at all of our individual hotels/ hostels/ airport terminals after the trek had finished too.

Still have more questions? Ask in the comments section or see a full list of TrekAmerica official FAQ's here.

The Experience

Did it involve working/ volunteering/ education or was it purely for pleasure? All pleasure!

Sum it up in one sentence? "Best week of my life."

Did it live up to your expectations? Is there anything you wish you'd known before you booked it? Way beyond my expectations! I usually book everything myself for as cheap as possible, so I thought it was going to be obvious that the actual things they'd provided were clearly less expensive than what they'd charged but that wasn't the case. You got SUCH value for money, it was the best experience you could ask for.

Tell us the good/best bits? -The people. The best bit by far. Bryson our leader was fab, and everyone in the group will be friends for life. 2 of the tour actually got together in Vegas, and a few of us are flying to Poland in May for their wedding! How crazy is that!

-On our first night we played some games and had a few beers, and by midnight we all ran back to our tents to get changed into swimming costumes and went running into the freezing cold Colorado River together which was amazing.

-Our tour leader made us all close our eyes at the Grand Canyon's car park, got us all in a line holding onto each other and then lead us to the view point. When we were eventually allowed to look we couldn't believe it. The 'big reveal' way of doing it made it so much more special, a few people even cried! I'll never forget it.

-The Vegas party bus was amazing! There was a stripper pole and a dance floor on the bus itself, we bought loads of booze to have in coolers on there, we visited so many cool sights including the Vegas sign and the Bellagio Fountains, and then went to a chapel and all proposed to each other. They even dropped us off at a club after!

-How overexciting our first Walmart trip was! Yes they really are that huge!

-Watching the sunrise over the Arizona Desert on our first morning. Myself and Leigh, another fab girl on the trip, set our alarms really early and got in the river ready to float there and watch the sun come up over the mountains at the camp sight.

-Seeing deer when it snowed at The Grand Canyon. Seeing the park in the snow was incredible, and when we walked back to the van there were loads of deer walking around, it was like being inside a Christmas card, it was amazing.

-Yosemite's everything! We hiked up to Yosemite Falls, around Mirror Lake and through the sequoia trees. The whole place was mesmerizing and possibly THE highlight of the trip.

-The feeling of being so independent and free. I was so proud of myself for taking the risk, I felt indestructible. Sharing all these crazy experiences with new people was the best feeling.

Grand Canyon

Tell us the negatives? Sounds cliche but there really weren't any! Literally the ONLY thing that went wrong on the whole trip was that it was too cloudy to see the sun set over the Grand Canyon, but you can't help mother nature so does that even count haha? We ended up eating pizza, drinking beer and toasting marshmallows around a camp fire instead which was just as magical.

The Review

Was it worth the money? 100%! The best risk I've ever taken!

Are you glad you tried it at least once? yes, yes and yes!

Would you do it again? I'd book another one tomorrow if I could. I've got my eye on a couple of the Canada ones for next year mwahaha.

Would you recommend it to your family/ close friends? Yes! I never stop going on about it, even nearly 2 years later! It actually makes me sad that not everybody will do it at least once.

Any final thoughts? Just that I was worried that I wouldn't make friends easily with the people on my group, too. I questioned if the price was really worth it, too. I nearly didn't book it at all! If you're nervous about any element of it, I can guarantee I was the same. I nearly over-thought myself out of doing it, but I took the risk and I promise you IT IS WORTH IT! DO IT!

This post is long enough now so I'll leave it here, but I've popped a few more photos of the whole experience below if anyone needs some extra reassurance. Meg x

**All opinions in this post are based on a PERSONAL experience with this specific tour group, and cannot guarantee that you will have the same feelings. Any negatives are written with the aim of being as honest as possible and again are purely personal opinion based on a specific experience. No offense or slander is intended**