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English for Travelers | A Trip to the United States

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 @ 12:11 PM
posted by Jo

Are you planning to take a vacation to the United States sometime soon? Perhaps you would like to visit a big city like New York City or Los Angeles or maybe you want to see the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. There are so many places to visit in the U.S., but before you go, take some time to brush up on vocabulary and American English expressions that you can use at hotels, at airports, while taking public transportation or while driving in the U.S. Check out the vocabulary and expressions below to get started.

At a Hotel: 

Bell hop or bell boy: This is the person who carries your bags for you when you arrive at a hotel and responds to any requests for service that you might have as a guest.

The bell boy put our suitcases on the cart as we got out of the taxi and entered the hotel.

To check in: This is done at the beginning of a hotel stay. When you have already made a reservation for a hotel room, you must check in to get the keys to your room.

What is the earliest time we can check in at your hotel?

To check out: This is done at the end of your stay at the hotel. When you check out, you pay your hotel bill and leave your keys.

Don’t forget to turn in your key when you check out.

Room service: Many hotels will deliver meals directly to your room, usually at a high price.

I don’t feel like going out for dinner. Let’s stay in and order room service.

Wake up call: This is an alarm that is sent through the phone by the hotel to wake you up for an appointment or a flight. You can usually request a wake up call at the front desk.

I don’t want to miss my flight tomorrow so I’m going to ask for a wake up call at 5am. 

Maid: This is the person who comes in and cleans your room when you leave.

John left a tip for the maid when he checked out of his hotel.

To book a room: To reserve a hotel room in advance

If you visit New York City in the summer, you should book a room in advance because it’s a busy time of year in the Big Apple.


At the Airport: 

Shuttle bus: This is a small bus that will take you from one terminal to another terminal.

We got off the plane and jumped on a shuttle bus to get to other terminal for our connecting flight.

To take off: Your plane takes off when it leaves the ground to begin the journey.

What time does your plane take off tomorrow?

To touch down: Your plane touches down when it first arrives at the destination. This is the moment your plane hits the runway.

When we touched down in L.A., I turned on my cell phone to get my messages.

To have a layover: When you stop in an airport and change planes to get to your final destination, you have a layover. This can also be called a stopover.

Mary has had a long day. She had a layover in New York on her way home to Boston.

To see someone off:  When you see someone off, you accompany them to say goodbye as they begin their journey.

Dan’s mom saw him off this morning at the airport.

Red-eye: A flight that leaves late at night and arrives the following morning is called a red-eye.

The cheapest and most convenient flights across the United States are usually red-eyes.

Elbow room: The space in the airplane between your elbows and your neighbor’s elbows is called elbow room.

There is only one airline that offers enough elbow room.

To set off: When you set off you begin a journey.

When did you set off on your journey around the world?

Baggage claim: This is the place where you pick up your checked baggage after you get off the flight. It can also be called the luggage carousel.

After everyone got off the flight they went down to the baggage claim to get their luggage.


On Public Transportation 

There are many different names for underground train travel in the United States. Here are a few of them:

  • The subway (New York City)
  • The T (Boston):
  • BART (San Francisco)
  • The Metro (DC)

To hop on the subway:  To hop on a train or subway means to quickly get on the train.

Instead of hailing a cab, you should hop on the subway to get to 42nd street.

Fare: The fare is the amount of money that you have to pay to get a ticket for the subway or bus.

The fare for one ride on the T in Boston is $2.50. 

Turnstile: A turnstile is a gate that is often found at the entrance to the subway. It allows one person to pass at a time.

You can’t get through the turnstile without swiping your card.

Local train: A local train is a train that makes all stops on the line.

To get from Union Square to 28th street on the R train, you should take a local subway. 

Express train: An express train only stops at specific stations. These are usually busy stations.

The downtown express train will get you from 86th street to 59th street in a few minutes.

Uptown train/Downtown train: These names indicate the direction that a specific subway is headed in New York City.

Where can I get an uptown N train?

Inbound train/Outbound train: These names indicate the direction that a specific T is headed in Boston.

To get from Harvard Square to Boston Common, you need to take an inbound Red Line T.

To swipe your card: When you swipe your card, you run your card through the card machine at the turnstile in order to enter the subway.

Many tourists have trouble swiping their fare card in the New York City subway.

To hail a cab: To hail a cab is to get the attention of a cab driver in order to get a ride.

It’s almost impossible to hail a cab when it rains.

A cabbie: A cabbie is a person who drives a cab.

Cabbies in New York don’t like to make trips to Brooklyn because they think it’s a waste of time.


On the Road: 

Neck of the woods: This is a region, an area, or a neighborhood.

I will call you when I get to your neck of the woods. 

To be a backseat driver:  A backseat driver is a passenger who is critical toward the person who is driving about the way they are driving or the directions they are using.

I don’t want to invite Sam on our road trip because he is such a backseat driver. 

To make a pit stop: When you stop briefly for food, drinks or to use the bathroom, you make a pit stop.

Can we make a pit stop at the next exit? I want to grab a snack.

To hit the road: You hit the road when you begin a journey.

Come on, let’s hit the road. It’s already 10am and we need to be there by 2pm.

To take a road trip: A journey by car for a few hours, a month, or even a year can be called a road trip.

We took a month-long road trip around the United States when we were in college.

To fill it up:  To fill the entire gas tank with gas is to fill it up.

A: How much gas do you need?

B: Just fill it up, please!

To hit the open road: To begin a journey by car is to hit the open road.

After a weekend of classes, he was happy to leave and hit the open road.


General Travel Vocab and Expressions: 

To get away: To escape your daily life and take a vacation is to get away.

I have been working too hard this summer. I really need to get away.

To be homesick: If you miss your home while you are traveling, you are homesick.

The kid was homesick after two weeks at camp.

Souvenir: A souvenir is an item that you purchase while traveling to take home to remember the trip.

I bought a scarf as a souvenir when I went to France.

To have itchy feet: When you have a hard time staying in one place and you have the desire to travel and see new places, you have itchy feet.

My friend Joe can’t stay in one place. He is always moving around. He has itchy feet.

Off the beaten path: A place that is not commonly traveled, out of the way, away from other travelers can be described as off the beaten path.

I don’t like to visit the usual tourist attractions. I prefer to go to places that are off the beaten path.

To travel light: To travel light is to travel without a lot of luggage.

If you go hiking this summer, remember to travel light.


This article was contributed by Lindsay McMahon.  Lindsay is the founder of English and Culture. Her company offers English language training and cross-cultural training to international professionals in Boston and New York City. For free monthly English lessons and advice on life in the U.S please click here.

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