How to Save Money While Traveling Across the U.S.

If you plan ahead, you can save on accommodation, food, transportation and activities.

travel across USA

Many people I know dream of traveling across the U.S. but at the moment it is out of their reach. Some have managed to pull it off, and are now hoping to do it again. This time round they are better prepared, cause they know how to save cash every step of the way. And they helped me come up with this list — how to save money on travelling across the U.S.

1. Save on accommodation

If you’re not thinking ahead, you could easily spend a small fortune on accomodation. Instead of staying at a fancy hotel, you can opt for something different and save a ton.

With Airbnb you don’t get just the accommodation, but potentially the entire experience. You have someone to offer you local tips on what to do and what to avoid. And, if you’re tight on budget, you don’t have to book an entire apartment — just a private room. It’s much more affordable, yet you still get to use the kitchen when you need it.

Even more affordable option is couchsurfing. It’s basically free but you will have to book it months ahead. Also, couchsurfing tends to be more popular in big cities, so you may not have this option in all places you want to visit — namely rural areas.

Finally, there’s camping if you’re into that sort of thing. There are many sites where you can camp for free — aka “wild camping” — like on Bureau of Land Management land and in National Forests. If you need some basic infrastructure though, you will have to pay for using campsites, which cost as little as $5. For what it matters, camping could be the perfect way to visit National Parks.

2. Save on food

Even though food is not expensive in the U.S. that doesn’t mean you can’t save even more by doing some groundwork.

Cook your own meals
Instead of constantly eating out, you could prepare your own sandwiches and other meals. This is not only more affordable, but tends to be healthier, as well. Sure you can break the bank by visiting local restaurants — we have nothing against that — but Wallet Weekly is not about that. We want to save you money. So buy your own groceries and cook for yourself while traveling.

Look for cheap restaurants
Ok, you can’t cook all the time; use Google to find cheap restaurants cause there are many such places across the U.S. These would include diners, fast food and chain restaurants, as well as other local joints that could get you through the day. Make sure to take note of daily and weekly deals many restaurants are offering to get an even better bang for the buck.

3. Save on transportation

The United States is big, and obviously, transportation will be a major expense for you to deal with. Here are some things to know to keep this cost under control.

Decide whether to drive your own or rent a car
You’ll have to do a little math here to determine whether it’s better to drive your own car or rent it out. Perhaps you want to get back with a plane? In that case, renting a car could be a better option. Or perhaps your starting point is also your end point. Also, do you have to repair your car before the ride? There could be some costs associated with driving your own car, whereas rented cars tend to be “ready to go.”

Budget for gas
Whether you decide to drive your own or rent a car, you will have to budget for gas. By all means make all gas purchases with a credit card that rewards them; this way, you will get a small kick back on every dollar spent. A good gas rewards card will get you 3% back, so use it.

4. Go for free and affordable activities

It is said that the best things in life are free. Enjoying nature and experiencing local festivities doesn’t have to cost a fortune, so use that to your advantage. Specifically…

Find free things to do in…
Open Google and type “free things to do in” and add the place you’re about to visit. Not all places will have things you like, but some will give you pleasurable experiences without spending a single dime. Like free museum and gallery visits, festivals and so on.

Get a National Parks pass
Chances are your travel across the U.S. will include a visit to a National Park or two. If those you plan to visit charge entrance fees totaling more than $80, then you should buy a National Parks pass in advance to save. For what it matters, this pass will also get you entrance to every single park, national forest, and Bureau of Land Management site for an entire year. (Related: 4 Tips to Help You Save on National Park Visits)

Consider a city pass
Similarly, if your travel is going to include some city – get a local city pass; it tends to include discounts to most popular attractions, restaurants and you may even score the free use of the public transportation system. You will have to do the math whether the city pass is worth for you which depends on how many days you plan to stay in the city.

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