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by Jane Cole, Contributor

Whether it’s for a business meeting or an extended stay with the family, traveling to the U.S. can be a little daunting for first timers. However, all of your fears can be for nothing if you prepare thoroughly for the hurdles ahead.

Ignore the stories about the U.S. immigration being an impenetrable fortress of stony-faced robot-like officers – for the most part the airport staff are extremely welcoming to new visitors. The main hurdles you’ll face when traveling to the U.S. is in the preparation before you enter the country to make sure you don’t blow your budget before you leave the UK.

The following are some of the most fundamental tips you should consider when preparing for you first U.S. journey.

1) Check the fine print on your tickets

Although this isn’t so much a worry with reputable, larger airlines, you should still always check the fine print on your tickets. Many people fall foul of being charged extras on their flight tickets yearly. The usual “extras” include infant charges, booking fees, EU taxes, seat confirmation and excess baggage charges on top of the initial ticket price.

2) Pack light

We are going to focus on the last point of tip #1: baggage. Always make sure you’re aware of the baggage limit for your upcoming flight. Airlines made $3.3 billion from excess baggage charges in 2012, so beware. If you exceed the limits stated by the airlines, the prices can be costly. We always advise carry-on luggage whenever possible.

3) Pre-book accommodation

If you are traveling to New York or other major US cities, make sure you pre-book your accommodation. This made sound a little trivial but people do travel without booking beforehand. If you don’t, you face the distinct possibility of significantly higher prices, hotels in inconvenient suburban locations, and additional travel costs to get you to alternative hotels.

4) Use airport parking facilities

Using independent parking services located in the vicinity of the airport can be troublesome and extremely costly. For one, many of these facilities lack security and aren’t patrolled 24-hours a day. Also, the places usually inflate their prices compared to the airport parking offerings that will be available to flyers from your respective airport. If you pre-book with airport parking facilities you’re likely to get reduced rates as well as a secure environment for your car when you are out of the country. Parking4Less indicates that London’s Heathrow Airport has three main parking options: long, short and business stay parking options. These options are flexible and come at affordable rates as opposed to independent parking options.

5) Make last minute offers on upgrades

There are tricks to upgrading your flight package. Not all of the options in News.com’s recent article on upgrading to business class are viable but some are worth considering such as booking late night flights. These usually aren’t as busy as daytime flights and you can easily upgrade for a fraction of the price. The airlines will typically send you a reminder that you have 24-hours to upgrade if you’re interested.

Always put the lowest offer in possible, and then the majority of time, if it’s not a full flight, you have a great chance of securing an upgrade for a nominal fee.

Hopefully, the 5 tips above have provided you with some useful suggestions for steps to take to prepare before flying to the U.S. If you do however have any additional tips you’d like to share with our readers, please feel free to add them in the comments section below.

5 Tips for People Traveling to the U.S. from the UK

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