ESTA Travel Blogs

14 Nov

Black Friday in the USA


Few such highly-anticipated events have such a dark, ominous name as Black Friday. Black Friday is the name informally given to the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, (this being the fourth Thursday in November). Black Friday has been regarded as the beginning of the US’s Christmas shopping season since 1952, but the term ‘Black Friday’ only become widely recognized and used in the early 2000s.


Thanks to the Visa Waiver Program, citizens of member countries can apply for ESTA online, and visit the USA just in time to cash in on the planet’s biggest day of shopping.


Black Friday offers incredible deals to shoppers across the country and, despite the post-Thanksgiving fatigue, most families wake up early on the day to get the bulk of their Christmas shopping done. In fact, many major shopping malls will open especially early this day, sometimes as early as overnight hours. Although Black Friday is not an official holiday, California and some other states have begun observing ‘The Day After Thanksgiving’ as a bank holiday for state government employees, sometimes replacing another federal holiday, such as Columbus Day. Many employees and schools across the country have both Thanksgiving and the following Friday off, which ties with the weekend, making it a four-day weekend and the perfect opportunity to go shopping.


Many urban myths regarding the etymology of the term ‘Black Friday’ have sprouted. But the earliest historical evidence of the phrase Black Friday tied to the day after Thanksgiving in a shopping context is found in Philadelphia. The term was used in 1961 to describe the heavy and disruptive traffic, both pedestrian and vehicle, that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving when families went out en masse to get their shopping done. Some twenty years later the term became more popular and a more colorful explanation for it arose: the day represented the time of the year that stores began to turn a profit, their numbers going from being ‘in the red’ to being ‘in the black’.


Black Friday is very exciting but please also be mindful of the fact that you’re not the only one out there trying to get a great deal. In order to make the most of your shopping free, we offer the following four tips to ensure your experience goes as smoothly as possible:


  1. Be prepared. It’s a great idea to have in mind (or even better, written down) a list of what you’re looking to buy. Plan ahead as items can sell out really quickly. You don’t want to spend the day looking for your products in different stores. If you’re looking for a specific kind of product, do your research on some of the different models and how much they cost beforehand. This means that if the exact model of the product you wanted is unavailable, you’ll still have a plan B with backup options to choose from.

  2. The early worm catches the deal! If you were planning on partaking in your Black Friday shopping late in the evening of 23 November, you will probably come home upset and empty handed. Stores, in general, start posting their discounts at midnight. If you want to be a real trooper, you can have a cup of coffee (or ten) and gear up for some late night shopping. But at the very least, set your alarm clock for as early as your body can handle to ensure you get what you want.

  3. If it sounds too good to be true…. It probably is. Black Friday is a cesspool for unethical retailers to push bad products on the premise of a discounted price. We urge you to research whatever product you’re buying before making payments. A quick Google search will probably clarify any doubts you have over a product. Another great way to avoid being taken for a ride is to purchase from trusted retailers, and do not pay in cash but with your debit/credit card or PayPal. If things go south, you will be able to claim your money if your exciting new toaster explodes within a week.

  4. A penny saved is a penny earned. We know how hard it is, but you made a list and you should try to stick to it! Not going grocery shopping hungry is a great idea and the parallel applies here. Of course, Black Friday is great day to go shopping but there’s no need to purchase a bunch of items that will end up collecting dust. You may of course run into something not on the list that is something you at once need and is set at a fantastic price; in this case, we won’t stop you! But as a whole, you’re better off sticking to the plan as closely as possible.


Although almost every developer country has now adopted, to one degree or another, the celebration of Black Friday, there is arguably no better place to shop in the world than in the US. This time of the year is generally not high season so if you get a chance to take some time off work or school, look online for flight and accommodation deals for you and your family. If you happen to be in the country this time of the year, it is absolutely worth facing the masses of hungry shoppers to get the best Christmas gift deals for your family and loved ones. If you buy any electronics, be mindful that the socket will be different and you’ll need an adapter, and a few devices may actually use different wattage. Items that are not dual wattage prepared can still be used in Europe but you will need to buy an expensive wattage converter and that great deal you bagged will suddenly not seem such a bargain.


Speaking of things to plan ahead for, you should ensure that your travel documents are in order, not just your passport but your visa or ESTA if you’re from an ESTA qualified country. And since you’re already a bargain hunter, we suggest you go for the ESTA if you qualify for the visa waiver.


The U.S. Government’s advice, if you want to avoid any unnecessary hassle, is to submit your ESTA authorization request at least three days (72 hours) before your travels to the US. However, the easiest and safest way to ensure a smooth entry is to submit your request as soon as you’ve purchased your plane tickets, that way you won’t forget to do so and you will have time to make any further arrangements if your ESTA is declined. While applying for an ESTA visa waiver is not a requirement, as travelers have other choices if they want to enter the US, the alternatives are significantly longer and more complex processes, and you will have to go to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The ESTA application is done purely online from the comfort of your home, within minutes.

Be mindful of the fact that your ESTA authorization will be valid for up to two years. However, if you are issued a new passport before your ESTA expires, or if you change your name or your citizenship, you will need to reapply before coming back into the US. ESTA is not bound to your identity but to your passport.

Please remember that the amount of time you visit the US is limited to 90 days at a time, even if the duration is for two years. The amount of time you stay during each trip may not be extended. You can of course travel for longer slots to the US, for studies, business, or what have you but in this case you will need to apply for the corresponding visa.

If for any reason you do exceed the 90-day trip limit of your ESTA, be aware that you will likely be refused entry the next time you travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Be sure to stick within this limit to avoid any issues, and if you think you may want to extend your travels or will be required to stay longer, you must apply for a visa before you visit the country, as the ESTA cannot be replaced with a visa once you are already in the USA.