“I want to discover the United States!” I said as a child. “It’s the land of the free,” I said as a teenager. “I must get a Green Card if I want to make it in America,” I said after college. And then, at some point, I started saying: “I’d like to visit California someday.”
Towards the end of last year, my husband and I finally took our first trip to America – we flew in from Israel and back via London – and visited many states, including New York, Washington DC, Virginia and California. We saw almost nothing except for hotels and airports, but that’s quite alright with me because it was enough to get a taste of that world.
Traveling to a new country is always an interesting experience. You see things differently as you’re exposed to different ways of life and experience different cultures. There’s no better way to learn than by experiencing things first-hand. Here are things I learned from flying to the USA:
1. You don’t need much to be happy
2. No, you can’t have my phone number
3. You should never wear black socks with brown shoes
4. Everything’s bigger in America; you can see the skyscrapers while you drive through the United States!
5. Everyone is selling something
6. “I’ll take a medium” is not a thing you say when buying beer
7. Do not ask people if they ‘like’ your post on Facebook – that’s weird
8. The world’s biggest mall has 5,000 stores – and you can eat at Hooters in it!
TSA Precheck is worth it
TSA Precheck is something you can sign up for online, and it allows you to move through security with ease. They don’t pat you down or check your belongings as much. It’s a bit more expensive than normal TSA, though, but if you’re going on vacation or even if you live abroad, it’s worth the extra expense! Although, I recommend getting Global Entry when you do this because it gives access to customs and immigration lines!
Buy your ticket as soon as possible
The earlier you buy your ticket, the cheaper it will be. If you book your flight too late, you might find that all of the cheap tickets are gone, and now there are only super expensive ones left. This happened to me! Make sure to book a couple of weeks in advance so that way you have lots of options available to you without having to pay an arm and a leg for it!
The ticket agent will be rude to you
No matter how polite you are, the ticket agent will always be rude to you. And I don’t think they are doing it on purpose, and it’s just a part of their job description.
Order two seats
If you’re travelling with a friend or just feeling paranoid about being squeezed between two obese ladies, then order two seats at once. On most flights I have taken, this hasn’t increased the price of my ticket by much if any at all.
There is no such thing as “preferred seating.”
Sure, some airlines offer preferred seating for an extra fee (usually about $10), but most of the time, it is a total rip-off and does not guarantee anything at all!
When checking in online before your flight, you can choose your seat and pay for it at the same time. You can also check in from their mobile app. However, if you do not check-in online, you will be assigned a random seat at check-in and pay $10 for that seat.
You will also have priority boarding if you are an AARP member or travel with a child under two years of age (and no other bags). Everyone with a checked bag or priority boarding will be in the first boarding group. Everyone who does not have priority boarding and does not have a bag will be on the second boarding group.
The security people at JFK were not impressed when I tried to sneak a water bottle through the scanner, but when they saw that it was just water, they let me go on my way. They actually shouted “Next!” really loudly at me, and the woman next in line smiled at me sympathetically, like I was a naughty child being told off by a teacher, and she was my best friend in class who knew that I was going to buy her candy later today.
Not all Americans love guns
In fact, some of them don’t even know how to shoot. This is not just a stereotype. When I was in New York, my host father told me that he never owned a gun because his parents were afraid he would kill himself with it. In addition, guns are banned in almost all schools and universities in New York State and New Jersey.