It may be a few years delayed, but here’s my North America itinerary. In three months I travelled in a circle from Vancouver and back again. Use this itinerary as a guide or a starting point for your own solo travel journey in Canada and/or the USA.
I know, I know, this trip was somehow FOUR YEARS AGO. I don’t know where the time has gone either. But after some reader feedback, I thought it’s never too late to collate this trip and make a North America itinerary, similar to my UK and Europe itinerary. Looking at the map below, I’m still in awe of the massive circle I did across Canada and the USA. I also can’t believe how much I remember. Thank you, fantastic long term memory. I hope you can use this breakdown as a guide to help you plan your own epic North America trip.
CANADIAN ROCKIES (FOUR NIGHTS)
I boarded a VIA Rail train in Vancouver for the 19-hour overnight journey to Jasper. It was a long haul, but the best option for getting to Jasper. It’s a cute but expensive place, so I only stayed overnight before getting the bus south to the more popular Banff for three nights. This part of Canada is too beautiful and I am so glad I visited. Don’t miss seeing Lake Louise either.
CALGARY (TWO NIGHTS)
Next I got the Greyhound from Banff to Calgary, but my one day in Calgary was memorable in the worst way. The temperature dropped over 20 degrees in under 24 hours and it snowed A LOT. I tried to be a tourist but basically gave up. So I’m not the best person to ask about adding Calgary to your North America itinerary.
WHERE I STAYED: Wicked Hostels
RELATED POST: My non-love letter to Calgary.
CHICAGO (THREE NIGHTS)
I flew from Calgary to Chicago with Westjet and got a shuttle to my hostel, located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighbourhood. It was easy for me to get a local bus into the city both days I was there, as well as a bus directly to the Greyhound depot for my overnight bus to Toronto. This was when I learned that I’m not built for overnight bus trips. But back to Chicago. Top tips: do a free tour, photograph the Bean from all angles, walk around Navy Pier and devour pizza from Giordano’s.
WHERE I STAYED: Chicago Getaway Hostel
RELATED POST: My guide to all things Chicago
TORONTO (THREE NIGHTS)
To be honest, I didn’t love Toronto. There wasn’t anything special about it in my opinion and I felt like it was a wannabe NYC (I’m a harsh critic). But what I did love was hopping on the bus again and heading to Niagara Falls for the day.
WHERE I STAYED: HI Toronto (good location).
OTTAWA (ONE NIGHT)
Another day, another bus. This time it was off to Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. A lot of people told me Ottawa was boring but don’t listen to them. In the end I wish I had more than a day in Ottawa, but I had to meet up with friends in my next destination.
WHERE I STAYED: HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, which was creepier than I expected. Don’t miss their free tour, but plan that for when you’re leaving 😉
RELATED POST: Five things to do with one day in Ottawa.
MONTREAL AND QUEBEC CITY (FIVE NIGHTS)
So I got the bus to Montreal, where I met up with Australian friends from Vancouver. For a little under two weeks, I wasn’t a solo traveller. We spent five nights in Quebec, checking out the sights in Montreal, Quebec City and surrounds. We stayed in Airbnbs, which worked out very cost effective. I think I preferred Quebec City slightly over Montreal, but both cities are worth adding to your North America itinerary. They’re beautiful and, hello, French food.
NEW YORK CITY (SEVEN NIGHTS)
From Quebec City, we drove to New York and stopped overnight to camp in Vermont. I’m beyond glad my friends were able to drive, so I could just enjoy the experience of having dinner in New Hampshire, sleeping in Vermont and then having lunch the next day in Connecticut, before arriving at our Airbnb in Brooklyn. I am also glad I got to spend a week exploring New York City. We did so much, like went to Derek Jeter’s second last Yankees game, had drinks at Brooklyn Brewery before seeing the Hilltop Hoods perform next door at Brooklyn Bowl, got the ferry to Staten Island, and did a free nighttime walking tour around Manhattan. It was the BEST. If New York City isn’t on your North America itinerary, IT HAS TO BE.
Remember you can use this code for a discount on your first Airbnb stay
BOSTON (THREE NIGHTS)
Okay, so I decided to backtrack and visit Boston for three nights. I’m glad I went to Boston, but for your North America itinerary, I’d obviously recommend doing Boston before heading south to NYC. Boston’s architecture doesn’t get mentioned enough, but it’s a beautifully historic city. I highly recommend downloading a Freedom Trail app and doing this Cambridge and Harvard Tour.
WHERE I STAYED: I was out of luck with Boston hostels, so turned to Couchsurfing for the first time. My host was great and I had a lot of fun in Boston because of her. I recommend Couchsurfing as a great way to meet people when travelling solo.
WASHINGTON DC (THREE NIGHTS)
Then it was onto my second (and last) overnight bus trip. I was pleasantly surprised by DC. There’s so many amazing free attractions, but my personal favourites were the American History Museum and Smithsonian Zoo (one word: pandas). Another recurring theme of this trip was the amount of free tours I did. No shame, they’re fantastic! In DC, I did the National Mall Tour and learned so much about the city and American history.
WHERE I STAYED: I stayed in a 10-bed female dorm at HI Washington DC, but it was very spacious. The hostel is also in a great central location.
RELATED POST: A guide to my budget-friendly DC weekend.
WILMINGTON (TWO NIGHTS) VIA RALEIGH (ONE NIGHT)
So I really wanted to visit Wilmington a.k.a the home of One Tree Hill. But to get there, I had to stop in Raleigh overnight. I turned to Couchsurfing again and had an interesting experience, but managed to get the bus to Wilmington early the next morning. Through this blog, I was fortunately able to receive complimentary passes to various tours and attractions in Wilmington. Everyone I met in the small town was friendly and hospitable: from the tourism board staff to the hotel manager to the bus driver. I’d highly recommend adding a quick stop in Wilmington to your North America itinerary.
WHERE I STAYED: Country Inn & Suites by Radisson (I did get a slight discount, but I loved living it up for a couple of nights).
RELATED POST: Why I loved Wilmington.
CHARLESTON (TWO NIGHTS)
Next stop was charming Charleston. Once again I had to turn to Couchsurfing because as it turned out, there weren’t a lot of hostel options in the South. I had one full day to explore Charleston and loved what I saw. It’s easy to see why it’s known as one of the best cities in the States. I did a free tour, had lunch and sweet tea with my Couchsurfing host, and then spent the afternoon wandering. She also took me to Folly Beach the next morning before I headed off.
WHERE I STAYED: Couchsurfing
RELATED POST: 24 hours in Charleston
SAVANNAH (THREE NIGHTS)
I continued onto Savannah, which was just as charming as Charleston. Southern towns sure are pretty (and hot, even in autumn). I didn’t do a lot with my time in Savannah, but I did do a walking tour and took a lot of house photos.
WHERE I STAYED: La Quinta Inn. A cheap but clean hotel located out of the city centre, which is an easy public bus ride away. This hotel next door has much better reviews, but is a little bit more expensive.
ST AUGUSTINE (THREE NIGHTS)
So, my time in St Augustine was tainted by the fact Greyhound left my suitcase in Jacksonville. You can read more about this experience here (which my parents still mention), but for my first two nights in St Augustine I was stuck in the same dress and felt gross. Hence I really only had one full day in the Floridian town, but for a small place it has a lot of attractions. Highly recommend adding it to your North America itinerary for something different.
WHERE I STAYED: Casa Yallaha Hostel, which has sadly closed. It looks like Pirate Haus Inn is the best alternative budget option.
ATLANTA (THREE NIGHTS)
I headed north again after St Augustine to Atlanta. Another location used in many TV shows and movies, I didn’t know what to expect from Atlanta. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite American city, and it didn’t have a lot of cheap accommodation options, but it does have some interesting attractions. I particularly enjoyed the World of Coca Cola, the Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site and my morning spent on an Atlanta Movie Tour.
RELATED POST: My weekend guide to Atlanta
NASHVILLE (THREE NIGHTS)
Another bus ride later, I headed to Music City. Firstly, the tourism board in Nashville left the coolest goodie bag at my hostel. In exchange for my blog post, I received complimentary passes to the biggest Nashville attractions, like the Country Music and Musicians Hall of Fames. I also got to do a Home of the Stars Tour, which is obviously right up my starstruck alley. I loved the musical vibe in Nashville. Like it’s completely normal to have your lunch with a side of live music.
WHERE I STAYED: Music City Hostel
RELATED POST: Two days in Nashville
NEW ORLEANS (THREE NIGHTS) VIA MONTGOMERY (ONE NIGHT)
To get from Nashville to New Orleans, I stopped overnight in Montgomery and Couchsurfed for the last time. My host was once again really nice. She took me to her kickball game that night and we went out for drinks afterwards. I also had a great time in New Orleans. What a fun city. I recommend visiting Mardi Gras World and doing a Jazz Cruise along the Mississippi. So cool.
WHERE I STAYED: AAE Bourbon, which is also now closed. But after my visit, I heard rave reviews about India House.
AUSTIN (THREE NIGHTS)
Let’s be honest: I sucked at visiting Austin. I didn’t do enough research and seemed to miss all of the city’s good areas. However, I did eat barbecue and Tex Mex, so it wasn’t all bad. I ended up spending my second day on a day trip to San Antonio, because clearly I wanted to spend every day on some kind of bus. San Antonio is the perfect place for a day trip. I loved learning more at The Alamo and buying souvenirs at the Historic Market Square. Moral of the story: add Austin to your North America itinerary, but search Pinterest beforehand 😉
WHERE I STAYED: HI Austin. Great hostel, but it is located a bus ride out of the city centre.
LAS VEGAS (THREE NIGHTS)
From Austin, I flew to Las Vegas on a bargain Allegiant Air flight. I really enjoyed visiting Vegas, even if I was alone. I did a day trip to the Grand Canyon, ate all the things at the Stratosphere buffet and did a night bus tour. Don’t be scared to add Vegas to your North America itinerary if you’re a fellow solo traveller. I guarantee you can still have fun (and buy all the things) without someone by your side.
WHERE I STAYED: Hostel Cat
SAN DIEGO (THREE NIGHTS)
San Diego was a surprise addition to my North America itinerary, but for me it felt like a quintessential Californian town. In Ocean Beach especially, there was a distinct Aussie vibe. I recommend visiting the Old Town, Little Italy and Balboa Park when in San Diego. I also did an afternoon tour over the border to Tijuana, which was a very cool and unforgettable experience. San Diego was also where I met Grace from Scotland. We became fast friends and ended up staying in the same hostels and hanging out in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.
WHERE I STAYED: Ocean Beach Hostel
RELATED POST: San Diego via Instagram photos
SAN FRANCISCO (FOUR NIGHTS) VIA LA (ONE NIGHT)
Because I became anti-overnight bus trips, I decided to stay overnight in LA (at Banana Bungalow) before spending an entire day on the bus to San Francisco. My friend Kate flew down from Vancouver for a weekend of fun in SF. We walked along the waterfront, went clubbing, rode bikes over the Golden Gate Bridge, and celebrated Grace’s birthday in Haight-Ashbury. San Fran may be obviously more expensive than other cities in the States, but there’s so much to do. It’s perfect for solo travellers, so add it to that North America itinerary now.
PORTLAND (THREE NIGHTS)
A hella long train ride later, Grace and I arrived in Portland. If money isn’t an option, I highly recommend flying between some of these West Coast destinations. But I’m all about the adventure, you know? If you’re new around here, let me tell you one thing — I love Portland. I’ve written extensively about my love for Portland (see the below blog posts), but it has to be on your North America itinerary. It’s got breweries, food trucks, hipster hoods, natural attractions and the friendliest locals.
WHERE I STAYED: HI Portland Northwest. Between visits one and two it had a very snazzy renovation. Highly recommend.
SEATTLE (THREE NIGHTS)
The final stop. My second visit to Seattle, I checked out Fremont and Bainbridge Island this time. This visit and these areas convinced me that Seattle is indeed a cool city. It also does very good sunsets.
WHERE I STAYED: Green Tortoise Hostel is seriously one of the best hostels in the States. Yeah, I said it.
RELATED POST: My budget guide to Seattle.
Then I headed across the border to bid farewell to Vancouver 👋
What a monstrosity of a post! If you made it to the end, congrats. Here’s my reward: a map of my route 😂 And one quick note before I sign off and let you get stuck into planning your own North America itinerary and trip. You’ll notice I spent three nights in most places, but after spending four nights in a lot of places in Europe, I would recommend the slower pace if you have time. Happy planning! If you’d also like any additional information about this trip, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or to email me.