Travel

How To Make The Most Of Your J1

America’s got so much to offer, and so many incredible places to see. One of the best parts of your J1 will definitely be the travelling you do at the end.

Myself and my friends lived and worked in Chicago for the Summer, and loved every minute of it. We all had good jobs and were making a decent amount of money. I worked as a waitress, and for anyone looking for work, being a server in a restaurant or bar is where the money is. I worked in a bar/restaurant, and was making a lot of money, so was therefore able to save a lot for my travels, while still being able to go out in Chicago.

America is not cheap, don’t be fooled. We wanted to travel for a month, and I had around $1,500 saved for it. Myself and the 6 girls planned our first couple of stops two weeks before we left Chicago, and I think that’s plenty of time.

1st Stop:

We left Chicago at the start of August, and our first stop was Vegas. We decided to stay 5 nights in Vegas, but if you’re going to stay that long make sure you’ve been taking your vitamin C every morning, because you need some stamina for it.

Vegas is amazing, you will honestly never see anywhere else like it. It’s like you enter a world of sequins, bright lights, alcohol and random food. The Excalibur hotel is where a lot of Irish people stay. It’s still a flashy, luxurious Vegas hotel, but has some great deals.

Our best day was definitely at Wet Republic pool party at the MGM hotel, with Calvin Harris playing. You need to buy tickets in advance to that, and although it is a well known fact that girls get in free everywhere in Vegas, this event everyone pays, girls do pay less though. We bought our tickets two weeks before and get them on early bird special for $50.

The best thing to do is to try find one of the club reps on the strip, and get their phone number, because then every night you can text them before you head out and they’ll put you on the guest lists for the big nightclubs; Omnia nightclub in Caesars Palace is a definite must!

You need to get a Vodka slushie and just walk up the strip. Unlike other American cities, it’s totally legal to drink on the street. A take a stroll up to the Bellagio fountains, they’re spectacular.

You need to take a trip to Old Vegas. It’s got some great smaller nightclubs and bars, and doing the zipline down Fremont street is brilliant.

2nd Stop:

From Vegas, we rented a seven seater car and drove to Yosemite national park. The great thing about America is you can rent a car and you don’t need to drop it back to the same place, as the companies are so big they have drop off points all over the country.

The drive was roughly 8 hours, but we broke it up and stayed in a hotel in a local town on the way.

Yosemite National Park is in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s an amazing change to go from the city feel of Chicago, to the madness of Vegas, to the peace and beauty of Yosemite. There are so many places to stay in Yosemite, and you can go for the popular option of camping, as there are a lot of campsites, but we chose to go for the log cabin option.

We stayed in a log cabin near a little town called Oakhurst near Bass Lake, and it worked out at $15 a night each. We had our own pool and a whole house to ourselves, complete with a full kitchen, two bathrooms, and a barbeque. We were delighted to say the least.

We visited Yosemite falls and they are guaranteed to take your breath away. There are so many waterfalls and trek routes to go to, but this one was a short drive from where we were staying.

You will need a full day at the falls, and it can’t be seen from the bottom but if you climb up the rocks up the waterfall, there is a little magical pool under the waterfall you can swim in. Warning: it’s baltic.

Stop 3:

After spending 5 nights in relaxing Yosemite, we made the move back to city life, and drove to San Francisco.

We only stayed 3 nights in San Fran, because we were keen to stay in the cheaper places longer, and San Fran is expensive to say the least.

We were all really looking forward to doing the Alcatraz tour, but you have to book your tickets months in advance for that, so if you’re looking to do plan your trip to San Fran early!

A must when in San Fran is renting bikes and cycling to the Golden Gate bridge. They are so cheap and it’s a great way to see the city. But make sure you have a good long stretch before, they aren’t lying when they say there’s nothing like the hills in san fran. The burn in the calves is real after.

The cycle to the bridge is gorgeous, and being able to cycle across it too is amazing! The only thing I would say is try pick a day when it’s not too cloudy!

If you have the money, stay longer in San Fran. It has so much to offer, and we only scratched the surface with 3 nights.

Stop 4:

After a short enough stop in San Fran, we decided to do the ocean drive down the west coast, on the Pacific Coast Highway. For this leg of our travels, we decided as we went where we wanted to stop, because a lot of the stops along the way are similar.

We stopped off at Santa Barbara and Malibu, and they were both perfect little beach spots. The ocean and the waves were like nothing I’d ever seen. If you’re into surfing these would be the places to surf!

Stop 5:

We chose LA as our drop off point for our car, so we had to go to LAX for that. Then next on our agenda was San Diego.

We got a train down, and it was only 2 hours long and cost less than $20. We didn’t get a return ticket because we didn’t know how long we were going to be staying, but it was a brilliant train service.

We stayed in the fashion district in San Diego in a small hotel paying $25 a night, because we wanted to be close enough to both Pacific and Ocean beaches.

The nightlife in San Diego great, and very different to any of the other places we’d been too. The only thing you need to be mindful of is that all of the bars and clubs close at 2am. Barley Mash is a serious spot!

Our trip to San Diego was cut short, as we came across some free tickets to the weigh-in of the McGregor v Mayweather fight in Vegas so that was hard to pass up!

Unexpected Stop 6:

We decided to then rent another car and head back to Vegas! At this point a couple of the girls had gone home earlier, so we were able to rent a regular five seater car.

Back to Vegas for the Irish invasion we went!

This time around we stayed in the Flamingo Hotel, and as a hotel is excellent! It’s in a great spot on the strip, and has everything you need in it, and the rooms are basic enough but affordable.

Our last visit to Vegas seemed tame in comparison to this time. I had never seen anything like this, the atmosphere was electric around Vegas with all of the Irish there for the big fight.

It was a once in a lifetime experience. Everywhere was charging mad money to watch the fight, so we ended up paying $100 each to watch it in some random bar – didn’t matter what gender you were this time!

It was 3 days of carnage, and we loved every minute.

Final Stop:

Still alive but we’re barely breathing.

Four broken souls drove their way back to LA to drop back our car, and do some tourist bits before we had to fly back to the Emerald isle.

We went up to the Griffith Observatory, and walked up near the Hollywood sign, which are both spectacular. The views from both are unreal, and with a handy shuttle bus for 50 cent that brings you up to both from a train station, it won’t take you all day to visit them!

We got the underground which is extremely user friendly to Santa Monica, and spent the day at the beach there. That was one of the best days of my trip. The waves are incredible, and visiting Venice beach and Santa Monica pier, there are so many different types of people there, it’s an experience in itself walking up and down them.

We all decided to fly home from LAX because we knew we would be on the west coast for the last leg of our travels, and because it’s such a big airport it’s one of the cheaper ones to fly home from.

Everyone should experience travelling their way around the US of A, it’s got so much to offer and we only scratched the surface!

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