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Been trying to figure out how to travel cheap in the United States? I’ve always wanted to travel the world. And while I’ve been to a few different countries, it’s on my list to see all the states in North America and territories before I really get going outside of the “area” again. So, did this whole travel cheap in the US thing.
Traveling everywhere can get expensive and REALLY fast too. I personally learned this really quick (crying, laughing, dying inside face).
So far, I’ve done 6 major cross country road trips in the United States in my life.
After spending upwards of thousands of dollars on my first trip, I decided to learn to do it cheap. By trying different accommodations, transportation, and entertainment tips, I’ve been able to figure out a few different ideas and things that work for me so that I can travel cheap in the US and teach you guys how to do it too!
Let’s get to it! Because time is precious and we want to start traveling!
Let’s start with Accommodations:
Where will you stay when you are doing this whole travel cheap thing?
For as much as I love hiking and being outdoors, I’ve never been the hugest fan of camping. I just… wasn’t made for it. But GEEEEZZZZ it’s cheap. Once you have a tent, you don’t have to buy one again. Like come on, does it get any better than that? So… this means that I make do with what I got, and honestly: it works out very well.
This tent here is one of my favorites. It had everything I needed and it was perfect for me and one other person but fits up to 4 people. I literally…. can’t beat the price for a quality tent. I have no complaints, it last a long time as long as you clean it and maintain it.
When camping, you have to consider all of the following things:
Where can you camp and do you have to have a permit to camp there?
How much does the permit cost if you do need it?
Where can you park your car and is it safe there over night?
Where will I shower? Or am I okay with using baby wipes to wipe up as “my shower?”
Camping is a little more of a sacrifice in certain areas, but it’s one of the best ways to do it. It’s cheaper, but there’s a lot to consider and a little more to pack than you would think. Always carry cash because some places only take cash if you want to camp in an actual camping lot.
You really want to do your research before you go to any place too. Make sure it’s legal to camp there. Or even out on the beach sometimes you have to pay some cash to get in. So be aware.
This is by far one of my top favorites. I’ve paid as low as $15 to stay in a private room with AIRBNB and be comfortable. This means: a bed to sleep in, a shower, and space of your own.
Well depending on what you get anyway. You can rent anything from an RV to sleep in to an entire apartment to a bedroom. And the best part? You can split the price with the people you travel with.
If you’re traveling alone (which is great), and private bedroom is so cheap, and the prices are amazing.
Hostels are a good deal because you can pay like $6 a day to stay in a place and that’s literally… nothing. So it’s really good for your money.
Hostels have a few restrictions though. So you HAVE to do your research. There’s age restrictions on some, stay length restrictions, and there’s other people there with you. So… there’s not a lot of privacy, but they usually offer cheaper food, and the cheap stay is well worth it.
4.) Cheaper Hotels and Deals
Hotel credit cards are A HUGE PERK. This is the way to do it. You accumulate points, and eventually, if you travel enough: you get to stay for free on points! We do this A LOT.
If your credit is good, and you think you can manage to pay it off every time you use it or however, I recommend getting a hotel credit card for a hotel you truly enjoy and think you’ll stay at often when you travel! This way, when you accumulate points, your stay is free.
This is awesome because you can meet people, and stay on their couch or an extra bedroom if they have it! It’s very convenient, and it works great for travelers because you’re staying with locals who know the area well. Oh… and it’s free.
6.) Van Living
Rent a van, rent a van, rent a van… There’s a huge movement of van living people right now and Ithink it’s AMAZING!
All you have to do, find a good deal on a van to rent, put the seats down in the back, set up a small living space, and viola!
Now… it’s not that simple obviously, you have to consider: where are you going to park overnight? Shower? Use the bathroom? Brush your teeth? Eat food? So it has its downsides obviously, but it’s fun, and cheaper than staying in a hotel!
Transportation and Doing it the Cheap Way?
PACK LIGHTLY! Like…. I’m a true believer in bringing everything you want and need, but ya’ll. I’m telling you. PACK. LIGHTLY. You don’t have to pay baggage fees this way. You don’t have to worry about lugging around everything. Just take NECESSARY ESSENTIALS, and try buying travel size reusable bottles- this way you don’t spend money on buying new things, you just use what you have. Try just a backpack. This will save you so much time, space, energy, and money too.
Here’s the Swiss backpack I use for my travels:
This backpack IS AMAZING. It has lasted my for YEARS and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s still in pretty much the same condition as when I bought it even AFTER spilling a bottle of soap in it. I easily fit my macbook ( for blogging purposes and school work, I need it with me). I’ve been able to board flights at no extra cost, fit a week worth of clothes and toiletries with my makeup bag and snacks included. I can rave on and on about this backpack. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend one.
This. Is. Heaven. I love TURO, and it’s worked in my benefit!
This is an app where you can rent a car from an actual person. You can rent cars for even as low as $15 a day!
There ARE fees like anything else, but it’s very cheap, and I think it works better than going through a renter service! That’s for sure.
If you want to fly, you have to be flexible. That’s the biggest thing with traveling for cheap. You have to be flexible.
Flying with these three airlines is AWESOME! BUT, it sucks. (HAHA). The seats are uncomfortable, and the cheapest flights tend to be overnight flights. Which is no biggie right?
I travelled with Spirit SO.MANY.TIMES. And I payed $120 for a plane ticket across the country that would’ve cost me $600 through any of the other airlines.
So go to these companies websites, see what’s available, and pick and choose where you want to go based on prices! Because you can plan a trip around a plane ticket.
Secret: If you do those “willing to give up your seat for overbooked planes” volunteer options, you can get free plane tickets out of it.
With ride sharing you can catch a ride with other people that are headed in the same direction as you! There’s an app and site for this, and you can basically carpool and it saves you money!
I like ride sharing because like couch surfing, you meet people you would have never met before. I think that’s AWESOME!
4.) Your own vehicle
Do you have a fuel efficient vehicle? What else do you need? I mean, it’s all right there.
All you have to pay for is gas, and yeah: miles on your car add up but that’s what cars are made for!
5.) AGAIN: Van Living
Do I even have to re-explain this!?
Food/Fuel For The Body.
1.) Pack groceries
On most of our road trips, we like to pack a cooler and throughout the trip all we have to do is get new ice. Usually available from some of the hotels we choose to stay at for free.
We pack peanut butter, jelly, bread, snacks, cheese, drinks, ham, pre-boiled eggs and things that we enjoy to keep up fueled for the trip!
This has been the cheapest way for us to travel when it comes to food. On our last road trip we only spent $40 on groceries for a 4 day cross country trip! And the food lasted the entire time! Just be smart about what you pick and choose.
2.) Dollar Menu on a Budget
Dollar menu to the rescue!!!!!!! You can choose to have a budget of what you spend on food everyday, and stick to fast food dollar menu, no more than a certain amount per a meal everyday.
You have to be strict with yourself and stick with your budget and stay true to that dollar menu!
3.) Set a Budget
Set a daily budget for how much you have saved up for the trip that is for food specifically! But I mean, for FOOD SPECIFICALLY.
You’re not allowed to surpass this budget, and you have to plan all your meals around it.
Remember, you need water and whatever else to survive throughout the day too.
What To Do On Your Trip?
“The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” GK Chesterton
1.) Sight Seeing
It doesn’t cost anything to see something. This is one of my favorite things to do, you can discover new places, cool things, find historic areas to learn more about, and learn about anything you explore through! Sight seeing is 100% free and if you give it a chance you’ll be surprised at what you might enjoy seeing.
Get a yearly pass for the National Parks. You can get into ALL of them with just one yearly pass. So worth it. This is one of my favorite things to do.
Hiking, if you do your research before, is free! If you go to a national park, you obviously have to pay an entrance fee if you don’t have a pass, but it’s WORTH IT! You can spend an entire day at a national park and have plenty to see and do.
This is a hike we did on our road trip to Palm Desert. Completely FREE hike! Like come on!
3.) Get to know Locals
Locals are your best friends. They can teach you where to go, what to do, and how to do it for free.
This is where couch surfing, AIRBNB and all that stuff helps! Locals know a lot of information and they can share with you the secrets that tourists don’t know.
4.) AIRBNB Experiences
AIRBNB offers experiences for really good prices when you just don’t know what to do.
Anything from Yoga at the top of a mountain, dancing, picture shoots, horseback riding, to tours of an area with lunch included. You just have to do your research and see what it is you like doing!
5.) Lots of Pictures
Make it a picture trip. A picture trip is one of my favorites to do. Pictures are fun, and while not everyone enjoys taking pictures or being in them, it’s something that will help you hold your memories! Because it’s free to take pictures, you can find cool things to take pictures of, and combine your experiences with sight seeing and anything else that’s free and worthy!
I’d been trying to figure out how to travel cheap in the US for a long time, and after my first failed attempt, I’m glad I gave it another chance and tried different things.
Traveling is fun, refreshing, and the best thing. It changes you in a way! And being able to do it on the cheap is… wellllll priceless 😉 . Have fun, and we look forward to hearing about your next adventures!