Planning on a vacation is not as easy as it seems, especially when you know your budget is limited. If you have ever dreamed of driving along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific with the windows down or have always wanted to travel the historic Oregon Trail sitting in a car instead of your computer screen, congratulations; you are not alone.
The query on how to travel in the US on a budget remains constant. Provided, how extensive the stretches of the US are, and considering the fact that there are so many places to visit, it might actually be a bit hard to stay on budget if you don’t work out a plan. So, if you too are worried about the same, we are here to help.
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This article is solely meant to help you out with the cheapest ways to travel in the USA. It will guide you with every detail you need to know if you want to stay on budget while traveling through the US. Therefore, in order to discover these budget-friendly deals, go ahead and give this article a read.
Best Ways to Travel Cheap in The US
If you think that planning out the cheapest way to travel in the USA is the next to impossible task, you are wrong. If you are on a strict budget, follow the below listed ways to travel for cheap across the US:
1. Consider renting a car instead of driving on your own or go for a driveway
For traveling cheaply in the US, you can rent a car because that would cost you either the same or even less sometimes. Renting a car is much more fuel-efficient and it will also help you save money over the course of a long trip.
But if you don’t appreciate the idea of going for rental cars, you can try a driveway. For the driveways, they will give you a car and a designated route that is usually between two major cities and you can drive the car.
We rented a car during our Switzerland trip and truly renting a car was far cheaper than traveling with Swiss trains.
2. Try investing in a train pass
Investing in a train pass is undoubtedly one of the cheapest ways of transportation. These train passes usually come for a trip of 30 or 45 days. The prices vary but it starts from $449. If you don’t want to use public transport at each stop on your tour, train passes will do right by you.
3. Consider traveling by bus
If you are looking for the cheapest way to travel around the US, you might consider traveling by bus. If your trip around the US is primarily focused on city hopping and is around one region, traveling by bus might be the best option. It is a cheaper option and easier too.
4. Use obscure search methods if you are flying
Applying hacks to find budget airlines before booking your flight for traveling across the US is always a better option. Try using tools like Google Flights or Airfarewatchdog for getting cheaper flight results. You can even go for various other foreign sites that have turned up cheaper rates in comparison to big booking names. There are a variety of travel apps available in the market which allows you to even pre-book your flights at cheaper rates.
5. Try signing up for discounts
In order to make sure that your travel experience across the US is inexpensive, you can try signing up for discounts. We all know that America is not known to be the land of budget airlines. That is why you have to take advantage of the few that you can have. You can either try signing up through coupon emails. Otherwise, if you are going to take multiple flights during your trip, you can even join fare clubs that offer huge savings to their members.
6. Use a travel credit card
If you sign up for a travel credit card, you can enjoy a signup bonus in the form of airline miles. This will be enough to fund your cross-country expedition. These cards also come with added benefits such as welcome gifts, travel insurance, zero liabilities on lost cards, annual fee waiver, complimentary airport lounge access, and much more.
7. Consider dining downstairs
In order to be on a strict budget while traveling across the US, you have to save money on food. Dining downstairs is undoubtedly one of the best inclusions on the cheapest way to travel in the United States. If you feel like eating out, you can head down to the basement sections because entrees are much cheaper over there. If you have listed fancy eaters on your must-do list, try going to have lunch in the top-notch restaurants instead of dinner or go and sip a drink from the bar.
8. Buy your own groceries
If you think that you can’t make your own meals just because you have not rented a condo, then you are having a misconception. Try going to a hotel that comes with a mini-fridge and visit the nearby grocery store. You can easily make soup in the hotel room with coffee makers or even try making paninis with the iron provided. If possible, you can bring your own mini rice cooker(even you can find it in some hotel kitchen) to the trip, and voila! You have won the trip.
9. Get food to go
If you have chosen to eat in a place just because of its food and not because of enjoying the ambiance of the place, then go for ordering takeout to minimize the tipping. You can later enjoy your food in the midst of any free attractions that the US has to offer. Thereby, you can enjoy doubles at the same time. After all, who would not prefer having delicacies right in the middle of a pretty park or amidst nature in front of the waterfalls.
10. Take advantage of the great American gas station
One of the cheapest ways to travel in the USA is to take advantage of the American gas station. You can make your own milkshake with the help of the machines provided.
Gas stations have steadily evolved into cultural centerpieces of the destinations they continue to serve. You can make a list of on-the-road recipe ideas that you can make from things available at the gas station. Therefore, if you are in the US, wondering how to save money on food, this has to be one of the topmost solutions.
11. Get a Federal Recreation pass
You can enjoy free entrees to National Parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and more for yourself and three of your friends on just a budget of $80 with a Federal Recreation Pass. It is undoubtedly one of the best deals in the entire country. Most of these spots are already some of the bucket list destinations of everyone on vacation. You can even go camping once you are inside.
12. Go volunteering
There are several programs that allow you to volunteer in the outdoors in exchange for free lodging. Therefore, by being a volunteer you can easily save money on accommodation. You can do short-term species control in various forests and easily score a room in a rustic bunkhouse.
You can even join in one of the multiple forest services such as restoring an old water mill in the Ozarks in exchange for a tent space and three square meals a day. In this way, you can easily explore multiple corners in the US while saving money both on food and lodging.
13. Road trip through several free attractions cities in the US
If you want to visit California on a budget, you might try going on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip with your partner and enjoy the scenic view of the sea and the beautiful landscape on the way. The equation suited for perfect sightseeing in several cities is pretty much equal to attractions along with the ambiance.
You can pick a city that is rich in both, such as D.C, Washington, New Orleans, where the memorials, monuments, Natural History Museum, National Zoo, shopping districts, etc., are always open to exploring and are also free of charge.
The Arts District, French Quarter, and live music around every corner in New Orleans, and San Antonio make up for some of the most beautiful attractions in the US that are free of cost. There are plenty of budget-friendly places to travel in the US. You just need to do research well in advance before visiting any city, hence you can travel across the US at cheap.
14. Go for a bike tour
If you have already made up a list of the places to travel solo in the US, you can try going for a bike tour. Biking allows you to save on transportation and have an endless source of daytime entertainment which is a win-win situation. If you are conducive to exploring on wheels, try visiting Portland, Minneapolis, and Boulder.
There are various travel apps that make traveling much cheaper these days. These apps help you plan a day on the basis of free happenings and deals. Some of them let you buy tickets to concerts and check in with the help of your phone itself. You can enjoy some of the best deals and ideas in the city of your choice with the help of these apps.
The best time to travel in the US is during spring (late March to late May) or autumn(late September to late October). These are the shoulder seasons before and after summer, for which the temperature remains mild. But in order to enjoy the best deals, it is recommended to visit during the off-seasons which mean the months of December to February.
Since the temperatures fall in several parts of the country, the number of tourists falls. That is why it is better to visit during this season to get cheaper deals on lodging such as in hostels and hotels.
Before choosing a city to visit, you must check your options carefully. Prefer going to places which come with public transport and walking. If you can skip cities like LA, you will save money by avoiding expensive Uber and other taxi fares. Walking is undoubtedly one of the best ways to explore a city while saving a considerable amount. It will help you stumble on some of the best and most fantastic views that the place has to offer.
18. Try joining the Couchsurfing movement
Couchsurfing has turned out to be the ultimate hipster movement nowadays. It allows you to scan couches, beds, and air mattresses, available in your preferred destinations, often for free once you have completed your profile. It also allows you to surf local pals who engage in giving you free tours of their hometowns.
19. Get your own CityPASS
Getting a CityPASS comes with several benefits because it allows you to pay prices for all of the most popular attractions in a city in one go. These passes are available for several cities such as Chicago, New York City, Southern California, Atlanta, etc. These passes can save you at least 30-40% on the entry prices.
20. Travel smartly
In order to travel cheaply, you should avoid flying on weekends and holidays because the fare is usually high for the tourist rush. Try traveling with just carry-on luggage since that can save you almost 30$-40$ each time you fly. Also, plan your travel mainly around the major cities and prefer using buses, planes, and trains.
Hostel culture is not as popular in the US as it is in European and Asian countries. Therefore, you can avoid those seedy side-alley spots by hosteling at YMCA. Choosing to stay in the YMCA is considered to be a smart option if you are in New York.
Renting a room in someone’s apartment can save travelers up to 50% of their money in comparison to renting a room in a hotel. You will save on the base price of the room and also get additional access to a kitchen, washing machine, and bathroom. Also, seeing America through the eyes of the people who live there has to be the best possible option.
These systems are known for saving up to 600$ for a two-week trip. The wheeling and dealing is also pretty fun in these systems. All you need to do is provide the site with your location, dates, desired hotel star rating, and price that you can afford. If the bid gets accepted, then the site sends your information to the assigned hotel room. You would not know the name of the hotel that you are going to stay in before the booking is completed but you can enjoy huge discounts through these systems.
KOA runs around 500 privately-owned campgrounds in the U.S and Canada. Their app lets you find and book campgrounds right from your car. The campsites are not even that expensive. Yet you can save up to 10% if you use their value cards.
25. Save money on transportation
Here are a few ways how to travel cheap in America and save money:
- Try visiting fewer places
- Go for off-peak travel
- Ensure advance bookings
- Try car rentals from non-airport locations
- Go for public cycle hire programs
- Use travel passes and travel cards
If you were wondering about the cheapest way to travel in the USA, this article must have proved to be a boon for you. This article has successfully listed some of the most cost-effective methods to travel across famous destinations in the US. You can easily implement these methods if you are a budget travel buff or solo backpacker and want to visit the major cities in the US while being on a tight budget. So, what’s stopping you? Plan for your next vacation, apply these budget travel tips, and enjoy your trip without breaking your bank.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How to travel across the US for free?
A: You can easily travel across the US for free by driving across the country in someone else’s car. This is referred to as a driveway or an auto-delivery service. By the way, you might need to pay for things like gas and car delivery services, but the services offer a next-to-nothing alternative for renting.
2. What is the cheapest State to travel to in the United States?
A: In case you are looking for the cheapest state to visit in the United States, you must give New Orleans, Louisiana, and Boston, Massachusetts a try because they are known to be cheaper than the other places to visit in the US.
4. How much money do I need to travel across the US?
A: An average budget for traveling across the US is between $100 and $250 per day. However, the amount keeps varying based on your travel style, your locations and durations, and the places you visit or choose to visit.