How to Travel Cheaply in America

Three Methods:Get StartedPlanning and ReservationsOn the Trip

The United States of America is an enormous country. Just the state of Texas alone is larger than the entire country of France. Therefore, traveling cheaply around Europe tends to be a lot easier than traveling cheaply around the USA. However, that's not to say there are no inexpensive ways to travel around America (or at least, less expensive). With a little bit of luck and a lot of research, you can easily plan a sightseeing trip through America without breaking the bank.

Method 1
Get Started

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    Make a budget. Decide what you're willing to spend on travel/food/etc. Try not to go over this amount arbitrarily once you've made up your mind.
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    Decide whether you have a destination in mind or not. While most travelers have a specific place they want to go or a specific sight they want to see, being flexible can save you a lot of money. For instance, many bus and airplane companies run deals on high-traffic routes (such as New York to Boston). Check and see whether the city nearest to you hosts any of these routes.
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    Make a list of all the cities and sights you hope to visit. Plan how much time you'll want to spend in each city, and allow time for travel in between cities if you're making a multi-stage trip. Remember to give yourself an extra day or so in each location if you can manage it, allowing you to relax and enjoy the trip instead of stressing about the next item on your list.
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    Look up how much money the attractions you want to see cost. Try to research whether they ever have free admission. Many museums, for instance, provide free entry one day per month. For expensive sights, look and see if the company provides deals online. Finally, look into whether you qualify for any help from organizations or groups you belong to, such as AAA or senior citizen discounts.

Method 2
Planning and Reservations

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    Map out your trip. Don't travel from Los Angeles to New York and then back to Oregon unless you find some incredible deals. Instead, try to hit each stop along the way to the next one.
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    Choose your transportation option wisely. Depending on how many stops you plan to make, how long your trip is, and where you're going, you may have better luck with one method of transportation than others.
    • Buses and trains are exciting and unique ways to see America and often cost less than planes and cars if you book far enough in advance. Not only do you save money, but you get to see the countryside roll peacefully by out the window. Also, you can leave your phone on, and many buses and trains now come with outlets at every seat.
    • Cars are nice because they allow freedom, both in and out of the cities. You don't have to worry about transportation schedules, and you'll easily reach each destination. However, you also might be stuck driving long distances, you could get lost, and you're responsible for all gas expenses. Also, if you plan on making a one-way trip, the car drop-off fee can be exorbitant.
    • Planes can quickly cover long distances, but are also often expensive and inflexible. It also means that upon arrival you may be paying additional transportation fees, since you'll probably have to rent a car or use public transportation around your destination city.
    • If you must fly, try to find out whether your nearest airport serves as an airline fortress hub or not. Fortress hubs are airports where a certain airline has a near-monopoly, allowing them to raise ticket prices out of that airport. Avoid flying out of these airports if you're hoping to save money. Additionally, pack light to avoid extra baggage fees.
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    Research options for lodging. You don't have to stay in a five-star hotel to have an amazing trip. There are tons of other, more budget-friendly options.
    • Think about couch surfing, where kind-hearted homeowners allow travelers to sleep on their guest beds or couches—often at no cost.
    • If sleeping on a couch sounds like the wrong type of adventure, look into hostels. Most major cities have at least one, and rates are much cheaper than hotels. However, you'll probably be sleeping on a cheap bed (or bunk bed) and sharing a room.
    • If your budget is a bit higher, you can always stay in a motel or hotel. Use budget travel sites to find cheap rates. Inexpensive hotels aren't always the best quality, so make sure to read reviews also before making a reservation!
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    Book early. Don't wait until the last minute to plan any aspect of your trip. While you can occasionally find a great deal by postponing your reservations, the risk isn't really worth it. You'll get cheaper prices by booking months in advance of your trip. Most hotels and transportation companies provide early bird discounts, sometimes to the extent of cutting your rate in half. Early, early, early is the motto of the budget adventurer.

Method 3
On the Trip

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    Stick to your initial budget. While splurging is okay once in a while (after all, no trip plan is perfect), remember that this is supposed to be cheap travel. Don't let yourself run up a huge bill that you can't afford.
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    Be careful where you eat. People who live in Manhattan rarely eat in Times Square, because there are much better restaurants in the city for far cheaper. Try using a crowd-sourcing website or mobile application to find inexpensive but delicious eateries at your destination. Take a chance on that small Mexican restaurant with great reviews. It might end up being your new favorite meal.
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    Live like a native. Don't act like a tourist, and you won't be treated like one. In addition to eating at places where people who live in the city would eat, thus avoiding overpriced tourist traps, this advice should be rule number one on your trip. While you may not notice all the money you're saving by not acting like a helpless tourist, you'd certainly notice the money you lost if you didn't follow this rule.
    • Unscrupulous businesses often raise prices on people they know are tourists.
    • Tourists are also easy marks for all sorts of shady “businesses,” such as the people who will show you to the correct train platform for a sizable “tip.”


  • Break your budget down by day to help keep track of it. For instance, let yourself have an “allowance” of thirty dollars a day. Plan activities and food around this allowance. Consider having one cheap day so that the next day you can splurge a little.

Article Info

Categories: United States | Reduce Travel Cost