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I have been in the USA for around five years and have traveled a lot in the meantime. I always thought about budget travel options and traveled in a group to minimize expenses while getting the most out of the tours. I have already been to many states, national parks, cities, and state parks in the USA.
Throughout my years of traversing the diverse landscapes and vibrant cities of the United States, I’ve always looked for affordable travel without compromising on the richness of the experience. Therefore, this post gives you my insights on how to travel cheaply in the USA.
Flexible Travel Dates and Days
Flexible travel dates and days can significantly impact the affordability of your travel experience. Airfare, hotel rates, and other travel expenses can often be substantial based on the day, time, and season you choose to travel.
By being adaptable with your travel dates, you can take advantage of lower-priced tickets during off-peak seasons or midweek flights, which are more budget-friendly than weekends or holidays.
Airlines and hotels often adjust their pricing dynamically. They offer lower rates during specific periods or for last-minute bookings. The freedom to modify your travel dates allows you to closely monitor these fluctuations and grab discounted deals or special offers. My personal favorite idea is to check the Google flight first. You can also check Expedia Flights for price options and comparisons.
A Group of Four is the Best
Traveling in a group of four presents various advantages when aiming for budget-friendly options. One significant benefit is observed in car rentals. Splitting the cost of a rental car among four individuals significantly reduces the cost for each person.
Renting a larger vehicle (sedan or SUV) ensures comfortable travel with ample space for passengers and luggage. Sharing the expenses for fuel and tolls among four travelers also reduces individual costs. It allows for a more affordable journey, especially when exploring destinations that might be challenging to access via public transportation.
When booking accommodations, a group of four can take advantage of rooms with two queen beds. From my experience, a room with two queen beds typically costs between $60 and $120 (based on Expedia, Vrbo.com, Trip.com, Booking.com, or hotel.com). Splitting the cost among four travelers makes it an economical choice, as the price per person is considerably lower than booking separate rooms.
Use one particular third-party App
I always recommend using one particular platform (website or app) to book hotels, cars, or flights. They empower travelers to uncover attractive deals on flights, accommodations, and activities, and eventually, you become a VIP member after continuous purchases.
On these platforms, you can also effortlessly compare prices, find exclusive discounts, and access insider tips to optimize your travel budget. Whether it’s the comprehensive search features of popular platforms like Vrbo.com, Trip.com, Booking.com, or hotel.com, the expansive options on Expedia, or the unique accommodations on Airbnb, utilizing these third-party apps and websites can be a game-changer for those seeking budget-friendly travel without compromising on experiences. If you are looking for packages, you can explore Expedia’s best packages.
Selecting Budget-friendly Hotel
When selecting a budget-friendly hotel, prioritize your preferences and seek accommodations that offer the best value for your money. Look for hotels that offer deals or discounts, especially during off-peak seasons or through loyalty programs.
Consider amenities that matter most to you; sometimes, a no-frills stay at a well-reviewed hotel might be the perfect cost-effective choice for your travel needs. We often select motels like Holiday Inn, La Quinta Inn, Motel 6, etc. You will find more motel options on Expedia hotels.
Choosing Sub-urban areas
Opting for accommodations in suburban areas, slightly away from bustling city centers or tourist hotspots, often provides more affordable options. Suburban neighborhoods frequently offer lower-priced hotels or guesthouses without compromising on comfort. Plus, you might discover local cafes, markets, and a more authentic cultural experience while saving a significant amount on accommodation costs.
Airbnb or Hotel?
The eternal dilemma of choosing between an Airbnb or a hotel can be resolved by considering your travel style and needs. Airbnb offers unique, often budget-friendly stays, from cozy rooms to entire apartments, allowing travelers to live like locals. On the other hand, hotels provide convenience and standardized services. Consider factors like group size, desired amenities, and location to determine which option aligns best with your budget and preferences.
For me, if you have a large group and want to cook sometimes and stay longer at the same place, AirBnB is the best option. If you are on the move between two cities or destinations and just want to spend the night, a hotel is the best option.
Couchsurfing can be an excellent choice for the adventurous and socially inclined traveler seeking authentic experiences on a shoestring budget. This platform connects travelers with locals willing to offer a free place to stay, fostering cultural exchange and meaningful connections. While it’s essential to prioritize safety and respect, Couchsurfing can be an enriching option for those seeking budget-friendly stays and memorable interactions.
Find Friends at Target Locations
Expanding your social network before traveling can lead to unexpected cost-saving opportunities. Utilize social media platforms or travel forums to connect with locals or friends of friends residing in your target locations. They may offer invaluable advice, insider tips, or even a spare couch or guest room, making your stay more economical and culturally enriching.
SUV, sedan, or minivan?
Choosing between an SUV, sedan, or minivan largely depends on your travel needs and group size. While an SUV might offer more space and versatility for off-road adventures or larger groups, it often comes with higher fuel costs.
On the other hand, a sedan provides better fuel efficiency for solo travelers or smaller groups exploring urban areas. A minivan strikes a balance, offering adequate space for family or friends while keeping fuel expenses relatively moderate.
Factor in your itinerary, luggage requirements, and the terrain you’ll be navigating to make an informed choice that suits your budget and comfort needs. I typically prefer an SUV like a Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue, etc. for a four-person group.
Utilize Public Transportation
Public transportation can be a cost-effective and efficient way to get around to many destinations. From buses and trains to trams and subways, utilizing local public transit saves money and immerses you in the local culture. Research the transportation options available at your destination and consider purchasing multi-day passes or travel cards for added savings. Embracing public transportation can enhance your travel experience by allowing you to interact with locals, discover hidden gems, and reduce expenses on taxis or rental cars.
Cities like New York or the ones in Europe have good public transportation. Public transport might be the best option for a smaller group or solo travel. You can consider bus services like Flixbus.
Select low-budget Airlines
When it comes to air travel, opting for low-budget airlines can significantly cut down on flight costs without sacrificing safety. Low-cost carriers offer competitive prices for domestic and international flights, making travel more affordable.
While amenities might be limited compared to traditional airlines, they provide a no-frills, budget-friendly option for travelers willing to forego extras in exchange for substantial savings. Keep an eye out for special deals and early bookings, and consider being flexible with travel dates to capitalize on the best fares offered by low-budget airlines.
In the US, we typically prefer Spirit or Frontier for cheap flights. I acknowledge that these guys sometimes get delayed. However, except for that and shorter leg space, these are still good for budget travel. You can check Expedia Flights for price options and comparisons.
National Park and State Park Fees
Buy the $80 Annual Pass for National Parks
Investing in the $80 Annual Pass for National Parks is a strategic move for explorers planning to visit multiple parks multiple times within a year. This pass grants access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites across the United States, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and more.
You can gain unlimited entry for an entire year with a single purchase. It is a cost-effective choice for frequent travelers or those embarking on extended road trips. You can always purchase one at the entrance of a national park.
Annual Pass for State Parks?
While there isn’t a universal annual pass covering all state parks nationwide like the National Park Annual Pass, many states offer annual passes or park system memberships. These state-specific passes often provide unlimited access to individual state parks within that state, offering a more budget-friendly option for those exploring primarily within one region.
Consider purchasing an annual pass for state parks if you frequently visit parks within a particular state. These passes grant entry and contribute to supporting the maintenance and preservation of state park systems. In Texas, the annual pass for state parks is $70.
Cheaper Options for Food
Exploring local markets and grocery stores offers a window into the culinary culture of your destination while also providing budget-friendly options. Pick fresh produce, snacks, and local specialties to create affordable meals or picnics. You can taste the flavors of street food and food trucks while savoring authentic dishes at lower prices than restaurants.
Wander through bustling food markets, engage with street vendors, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. Packing your own snacks, such as granola bars, fruits, and sandwiches, allows for on-the-go sustenance, while carrying a picnic kit lets you dine affordably in scenic spots. Opting for local markets, street food, and homemade snacks can help you relish diverse cuisines without straining your budget.
Traveling cheaply in the USA is easy. I’ve been here for five years, traveling a lot. I go in a group to save money, and we share costs. It’s simple, and it helps us see a lot without spending too much.
When you travel with others, it’s fun and cheaper. We split expenses and get more from our tours. Remember, you don’t need much money to explore and enjoy America.
I recommend Expedia, one of the best travel booking sites, for hotel, car, and flight bookings.
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