Tips to Travel around the USA on a Budget
08 May, 2022
5 mins read
Tips and Advice
Budget travellers aren't always "cheap" in the classic sense; they're just skilled at getting the best deals. Here are some tips to travel around the USA on a budget that every budget traveller should know about seeing the world without compromising quality.
Yes, you read that right! pack a good pair of walking shoes because walking is the most cost-effective and enjoyable method to see a new place. Another way to save money is to learn how to use the public transportation system in your destination. Consider paying a little more for a centrally located hotel, as they can be less expensive than a less priced room further away, which requires cab rides or train tickets.
Don’t overpay someone to chauffeur you around town, when a little self-powered mobility would enrich both your experience and your wallet.
2. Cheaper Airports
Keep in mind that many American airports don't necessarily have the best connections to the city centre, so you'll need to consider the expense of going there. If you don't have an early flight, avoid booking flights before 9 a.m. because you'll need to get to the airport, and public transportation can be inconvenient.
Alternative airports serve many major cities in the United States and overseas, and are frequently home to low-cost airlines. Consider flying to an outlying airport if your final destination is outside of a major city. You may be able to get closer to your destination this way.
3. Flying Alternatives
You can also minimize flying between close cities as you tend to lose a lot of time on travel days. When you factor in arriving to the airport 2-3 hours early and travelling to/from the airport, Amtrak and buses are sometimes faster.
If you're going along the East Coast, Amtrak is one of the greatest ways to travel around the USA on a budget. If you book Amtrak tickets ahead of time, you can get cheaper tickets. The thing about Amtrak is that it's generally more comfortable than long-distance buses, so you're actually paying for the luxury.
It's worth noting that Amtrak stations are typically located in the city centres of many cities, saving you money on airport transfers.
Buses are one of the cheapest ways to travel around the USA on a budget. Bus travel in the United States isn’t glamorous, but it will get you 70% of the way from point A to point B.
4. Travel on Weekdays
Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday is less expensive than any other day of the week (unless that Tuesday or Wednesday happens to fall on or near a major travel holiday like Thanksgiving or Memorial Day). Are you planning a week-long getaway? Make it a habit to travel from Wednesday to Tuesday rather than Monday to Sunday, and you'll have a lot more money to spend at your destination.
5. Travel Off-peak
Travel during the off-season of your destination to save the most money on your holiday. If summer is the most popular time to visit, go in the winter to save money on everything from flights and accommodation to meals and car rentals. Of course, there's a reason why tourists stay away from off-season, and it has a lot to do with the weather. If cost is a consideration, split the difference and travel during the shoulder season (usually a few weeks in the spring and fall), when everything is still open, the weather is changing, and the crowds are notably thinner.
6. Benchmark Prices
As a budget traveller, one of the most important things you can do is recognise a good offer when you find one. That's why it's important to benchmark prices (for hotels, flights, and bundled airfare-hotel holiday packages).
You'll need patience and persistence if you do it yourself; you'll want to track prices over time to get a feel of how much your trip should cost and catch a chance to save when a flight or other big-ticket item goes on sale. Subscribe to a fare-alert service for flights to your destination for a less hands-on approach. You'll be instantly notified when the price decreases.
7. Look for Refunds
Non-refundable flights are entirely refundable within 24 hours of booking, contrary to popular beliefs. Consider this your opportunity to experience buyer's remorse. You've booked your flight and are happy with the price, but don't stop looking. The next day, you might be able to get a better offer. Use the entirety of your 24-hour booking window.
For car rentals and hotels, the chance for a refund is significantly greater. Did you know that most rental cars are totally refundable until the day you drive them off the lot? If you need a rental car for your trip, book ahead of time for peace of mind, but keep shopping. You might be able to get a better rate closer to the day of your trip.
As for hotels, you can also use Tingo for guaranteed refunds whenever the price drops. Even if the price doesn't change, Tingo will continue to look for larger rooms with greater views or facilities at the same price as the accommodation you've booked, and the site will notify you via email if anything suitable becomes available; nothing better than that!
8. Rent a Vacation Home or Apartment
According to some studies, booking a holiday home or apartment instead of a comparable hotel can save you anywhere from 30% to 40%. That's simply the initial cost. You'll save even more money if you eat some of your meals (maybe breakfasts and dinners) at your rental. Shopping in local grocery stores, cheese shops, and bakeries allows you to get a taste of the local culture. Laundry facilities are common in rental homes, which will allow you to pack lighter. Also, try negotiating with the owner or manager of a property: Price, duration of stay, arrival and departure dates are all subject to negotiation. And those discussions can result in significant cost reductions.
9. Pack a Lunch
Meals are a sneaky way to blow your budget. They can rapidly mount up, especially if you eat out regularly throughout your trip, and they can put a damper on even the most carefully prepared budgets. The solution is straightforward: Pack a lunch with you or a breakfast, or you could do both. If you're staying in a rental house or a hotel room with a kitchen, this is extremely simple. By saving money by packing your own meals and snacks, you'll have more room in your budget to indulge on something that you'll remember long after your chicken sandwich is forgotten.
10. Pack Light
If you can fit everything you'll need in a carry-on bag, go for it. If you can't, reconsider what you believe you'll need for your vacation. Checked-bag costs, which can quickly mount up on even the most basic routes, are avoided by expert budget travellers. If you're flying anyplace in the United States on United, Delta, American, or other big carriers, a single checked bag will cost you $50 round-trip.
11. Do Your Research
Knowing where to eat, where to shop, what to visit, or where to stay in certain neighbourhoods, which days you might be able to get inexpensive park or museum admission, and how to navigate your destination are all essential abilities for a seasoned budget traveller. It may not be glamourous, but one of the most important things you can do as a budget traveller is to properly research your destination before you arrive. Use online resources like the TripAdvisor community forums to learn everything you can about saving money at your destination.
That’s it! If you want to travel around the USA on a budget, just simply follow these tips and have the time of your life!