Why visit the middle of the United States?
We're probably a little biased, but the middle section of the States, or the Midwest as most people call it, is pretty awesome. It's home to beautiful landscapes, wide-open spaces, vibrant cities, friendly people, rich history, excellent food and drink, and so much more. Given its central location, it's also the perfect starting place for additional adventures around the country, which your friendly guide will be happy to help you plan at no additional cost.
Plus, a lot of people go to Miami, New York, and LA, but how many of your friends can say they've been to a college American football game, an Amish village, or a state fair? The Midwest is relatively undiscovered by international visitors to the United States, which makes your pictures and memories even more special.
So, you’re a startup company. Why should I trust you?
We have over 10 years of tour guiding, travel planning, business management, and customer service experience, including leading successful IT projects at some of America’s largest healthcare organizations. In addition, we have received sufficient funding to ensure the continuation of our company through at least the end of 2018, so there's no risk of any of our tours being canceled unexpectedly.
In addition, Brendan has visited more than 30 countries, giving him a unique perspective of how the United States fits into the world. He was formerly a campus tour guide for visitors to his university and worked with potential students from around the world. Most importantly, we at altSTATES believe in treating others the way we would want to be treated and are committed to making sure you have a great travel experience.
What’s so great about doing a group tour?
We get it: traditional group tours invoke images of gray-haired people packed on a bus that stops every few minutes for pictures of old churches. Our tours couldn’t be more different - they’re more similar to going on a road trip with your best friends than a coach tour.
You’ll be in a group of no more than 11 guests, meaning you can easily make great memories with interesting people. Each tour is led by Brendan, who also drives the comfortable van that you will travel around in throughout the tour. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll see things that the vast majority of tourists don’t see and have opportunities to meet and befriend locals in the places you visit.
Who are your tours designed for?
Our target customers are young and young-at-heart guests who are looking for interesting, one-of-a-kind American adventures. We take you to lots of places in a short amount of time, so we ask that you be ready to walk a lot, ask questions, and make lifelong memories. Our trips are perfect for solo travelers, groups of friends, and couples!
Note that each guest must be 21 years of age at the time of his or her tour due to the legal alcohol consumption age in the states we visit.
What does the price of my tour include?
Each tour has its own specific guidelines, but generally your payment will always include the following:
Double occupancy accommodations (that means sharing a room with whoever on the tour you choose; you’ll always have your own bed). We almost always stay at hotels or B&Bs that are in or near city centers, so you're well-positioned for dining, nightlife, and exploring. Any exceptions to this (rare) will be noted on the tour itinerary
Breakfast each day except the arrival day
Transportation between towns and attractions in our van
Attraction entrance fees
Unlimited usage of a shared wifi hotspot
Help with arranging your trip to the United States, including tips on visas, flight bookings, and advice if you’d like to extend your travels in the U.S. before or after the tour
Taxes, miscellaneous fees, and non-meal gratuities
Interesting historical and social commentary from your friendly guide :)
All additional aspects of the trip, including transportation to and from the starting and ending cities, as well as most meals, are not included. This is intentional to allow you to use your own discretion in choosing the right flight, meal, etc. for yourself!
Most of the time, things go as planned, but sometimes they don't. This is important: all guests are responsible for obtaining and sending us proof of health/medical insurance that will provide coverage in the United States. In addition, we strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance that will cover things like missed connections, delayed bags, and other unexpected circumstances. Policies are generally quite affordable; this site and this site provide good options. We're happy to help if you have additional questions on obtaining coverage or verifying that your existing policy will cover you while you're in the States.
How do I hold my spot on a tour?
It's easy: click the Book Now button on the tour page, which will take you to the booking portal. Each tour page lists a non-refundable deposit amount that you'll need to pay in order to hold your spot, which will be collected during the booking process. Shortly you pay your deposit, we will request that you read and sign our booking terms and conditions and waiver and release of liability. We'll then email you about a month before your tour with additional information and a balance payment reminder; the balance of the tour price is due 21 days before the first day of the tour.
We accept and encourage payment via all major credit cards. We also accept PayPal, but no cryptocurrencies...yet ;)
Do you offer any discounts?
Yes. You can claim one of the following discounts if you are eligible:
If you book more than one spot on a tour at one time (e.g. a couple or friends traveling together), you will receive 5% off. This discount can be claimed via the Rezdy booking portal, accessed by clicking the Book Now button on the tour page.
If you are a returning traveler with our company, you will receive 5% off. To redeem this discount, please contact us rather than reserving your tour through the Rezdy booking portal.
Various other discounts for students and other groups
Only one discount may be applied per tour. We reserve the right to modify or eliminate these discounts for future tours.
Can I pay extra to have a hotel room to myself throughout the tour instead of sharing?
Sure. Let us know if you’re interested and we will inform you of the surcharge.
What kind of accomodations will we stay in?
Generally, we stay in midrange or higher hotels or rented homes (via AirBnB), so you can expect clean, comfortable accommodations. If at any point during the tour you don't think we're meeting that standard, let your guide know.
Unless otherwise noted, accommodations are double occupancy, meaning that you will share a room with another guest of your choosing. You will always have your own bed (unless you'd prefer to share!). Also, almost all places we stay at offer free wifi.
Can I join a tour for a portion of the overall itinerary?
While we give priority to those booking entire tours, we'll try to accommodate requests for partial tours. Contact us to get a quote.
How is the price of each tour determined?
We go to extreme lengths to price our tours competitively. We are able to stay in nice accommodations and visit cool attractions at a lower price than you would be able to as an individual tourist because we visit lesser-known destinations, unlock discounts for bringing a group, book accommodations far in advance, and utilize our local expertise to find lesser-known options.
We promise to do everything possible to ensure that your experience is extremely positive and worth the price and beyond. If you don’t think we have kept that promise, please let us know.
Preparing for your trip
What's your cancellation policy?
If you cancel at least 21 days prior to the start of the tour, you'll receive a refund of the tour amount, minus the non-refundable deposit. After this point, the entire tour amount becomes non-refundable. If you have any questions about this policy, please let us know.
How can I stay connected while in the States?
The price of your trip includes unlimited access to a wifi hotspot that will be shared among the folks on your trip. In addition, most of our accommodations and many restaurants, bars, and attractions offer free wifi.
If you would like to purchase a SIM card to use while in the States, we can offer recommendations of which to pick and how to obtain it. Let us know if you’re interested.
Where do I show up at the start of my tour?
The starting city for your tour is listed on the tour page and itinerary. About a month before the tour, you'll receive a pre-trip email with a lot of important information, including the meeting place for the tour, your guide's contact information, a detailed itinerary with hotel information, and an extensive travel guide on how to make the most of your trip to the States. Of course, we're always here to help, so if you have additional questions after perusing this email, drop us a line.
What do I need to pack?
Packing recommendations will be included with your pre-tour instructions. If very specific attire is necessary, this will be noted in the trip itinerary.
Do I need a visa to visit the United States?
This website lists countries from which tourists may travel visa-free to the States. If your country is not on the list, feel free to reach out so we can recommend how to proceed.
How much should I budget during my trip?
Beyond the tour price, you're only obligated to pay for meals besides breakfast during the tour. Prices vary, but you can expect to spend an average of $7-14 for lunch, $12-20 for dinner, and $3-9 for an alcoholic drink in a bar. Of course, there's no shortage of restaurants in the States, so your group will have plenty of options at various price ranges to choose from. Given that almost all activities are included in the price of the tour, the amount you spend depends on how much you plan to eat, drink, and buy. Here are some general guidelines.
- Low: $30 per day - basic meals, little to no alcohol, few souvenirs
- Medium: $45 per day - standard meals, a fair amount of alcohol, some souvenirs
- High: $70 per day - extensive meals, lots of alcohol, lots of souvenirs and shopping!
Who is my roommate during the tour?
We don't do room assignments before the tour (except for the first night), so you're free to share a room with anyone on the tour and even change throughout the trip.
Should I tip my guide?
We price our tours to allow us to pay our guides a decent wage. Also, we think it's awkward to ask you to give us more money. So, our guides don't accept monetary tips, and you are not expected to provide him or her a tip or gratuity of any kind. However, a small souvenir from your home country or a follow on Instagram certainly won't be discouraged!
In your pre-tour email, you will receive a comprehensive guide to the basics of traveling to the United States, including details on our (objectively, kind of odd) tipping culture at restaurants and pubs.
Is it safe to travel to the United States?
Your safety is our top priority. As a whole, the U.S. is very safe and most of the areas we visit are even safer than the average U.S. city. Our attention to your wellbeing is why we require you to obtain health insurance that is valid in the U.S. prior to your trip (see "What does the price of my tour include?" above).
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding safety, please let us know.