When people think of taking trips away from home, money tends to be the first obstacle that stops them from moving forward. But believe it or not, you’d be surprised at how much you can see in America for very little, as long as you plan your trip well and stay disciplined. Regardless of whether you’re a college student planning a school break vacation with friends, someone planning an adventure for the entire family, or a solo traveler looking for a new crusade, the possibilities are endless when you know how to budget travel wisely. So if you’re wondering how to travel cheap in the USA, here are 11 tips to help you plan the most affordable adventure of your dreams.
How to Travel Cheap in the USA: 11 Travel Tips for Planning on a Tight Budget
1. Choosing your travel destinations wisely will help you set the tone for how your trip is going to go. A simple google search will tell you why a big city is worth exploring and give you an idea of how much you would need to spend. To give you somewhere to start, check out the 10 cheapest American cities to visit:
San Antonio, Texas
San Diego, California
Kansas City, Missouri
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
2. Determining how much you can afford to spend daily while traveling is incredibly important, since you’ll have to consider accommodations, transport, sightseeing, and food. Luckily for you, we help break these decisions down so that you can see what all your options are. Those who have successfully traveled on a budget have spent anywhere between $40-$200 a day, so you just have to decide what works for you.
3. One of the first things to consider when strategizing in traveling as cheaply as possible is transport: how you’re getting to and from your destinations. If you decide that you don’t want to embark on a 15-hour road trip from Dallas, Texas, to Chicago, Illinois, explore other options besides flying on a plane. Consider taking the Greyhound, the largest national bus transportation, serving 3,700 destinations across North America, or taking the Amtrak, a service with over 30 train routes and 500 North American destinations.
How to Road Trip for $12 a Day in the USA
4. If you need to find transportation after arriving at a new area, rental cars and gas can get expensive. Use public transport or ride-share services instead to get you around the city. You’ll save so much more money with a daily bus pass compared to a rental car’s daily price. For bus and train schedules, check out GoTicket, an online platform that helps you find and compare over 90,000 bus and train routes across the US.
5. While searching for a place to settle down, you’ll find that hotel rooms can be really expensive if you plan to stay multiple nights. Even if you want to find alternatives to low-cost roadside hotels, such as Motel 6 and Super 8, you should check out hosting sites, such as Couchsurfing or Airbnb. Both are platforms that connect you with people in the area who can host you during your trip for decent rates. And although hostels are more prominent in Europe, there are some in the US for your choosing, which you also can find on Hostelworld.
6. If you’re shooting for a more nature-friendly trip, then that means you can really save on cheap accommodations. Camping is pretty ideal since you’ll probably only spend $10-$30 a night on campsites. There are also free campgrounds all over the country, which you can find on the Bureau of Land Management, KOA, and Home Camper.
7. If you want to take an RV, you don’t have to worry about investing in one if you’re not interested in maintaining your own for the long haul. Check out RVshare, where you can rent RVs all over the country for your trip, and road-tripping in one can be really cheap when you stay at RV parks. You can search for RV parks on KOA and Campendium, where rates vary based on how long you plan to stay there. They will most likely be cheaper than a night at a hotel.
8. Another way you can get the best bang for your buck while traveling is by visiting national parks. If you’re trying to hit multiple, even within a year’s time frame, an $80 annual national parks pass is your best bet, considering each visit to a park costs about $15-$20. So whether you’re hiking through Yellowstone, checking out the Grand Canyon, or making your way through Utah’s Big 5, you’ll get to experience an amazing trip that’s also budget-friendly by choosing to explore America’s most beautiful natural wonders.
9. If you want to splurge by exploring some of the major cities in the US, such as Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, New York City, or San Francisco, check out the free attractions in the area that are probably on most people’s bucket lists anyways. Free live music might also be around every corner, especially if you’re walking around Nashville, Tennessee, or Austin, Texas.
Top 10 Most Affordable US Vacation Cities
10. If you can spend some money, get a city tourism card. Its prices range from around $30-$40, and it also normally comes with free public transportation. The card usually provides free access to museums, reduced entry fees to other famous city attractions, and local restaurant discounts.
11. Food can play a big part in your expenses if you aren’t careful. Try to cook your own meals instead of going out to eat. It’ll be much cheaper to shop at grocery stores or even the local farmer’s market for ingredients to cook with, instead of charging up a credit card to eat out. Bring your own water canteen to refill while you’re on the road so that you can stay hydrated at essentially no cost. If you need to dine in at a restaurant, look for happy hours where you’ll find reasonable prices on menu items that are normally full-priced during other times of the day.
Do you have any tips for traveling on a tight budget? Share your advice on how to travel cheaply in the USA with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!