10 Cheapest Ways to Travel in the US
New York, Miami, San Francisco, and Las Vegas are among the top ten most visited cities in the United States, but visiting them can also come at a high price.
So, how can you hit all the hottest vacation spots and still have money to spare? Surprisingly, many people overlook the cheapest ways to travel and think they simply can’t afford a vacation. The good news is that traveling on a budget is much easier than you think; you just have to know where to look.
Check out this guide to learn ten budget travel tips that will leave you plenty of money in the bank!
1. Buy a Federal Recreation Pass
You’ll definitely want to stop and check out national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges along your journey, so consider investing in a federal recreation pass.
For just $80, you’ll get access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites that charge standard entrance fees for one year. You’ll be able to visit places like Grand Canyon National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Yosemite National Park.
You’ll also be able to camp in many of these parks once you’re there, so you end up saving money on accommodations too.
2. Invest in a Train Pass
A train pass is one of those travel deals you don’t want to pass up. So, make sure to check out the USA Rail Pass that Amtrak offers.
A rail pass is essentially a ticket that allows you to tour the US at one fixed, discounted price. For $499, you’ll get ten segments or rides, and you’ll get to choose from over 500 destinations.
Once you purchase your pass, you’ll have 120 days to use it. Once you take your first ride, you’ll have 30 days before your pass expires.
You’ll also see different parts of the country you might never go visit otherwise. For instance, you can make stops in places like Fargo, ND, and check out what the largest city in North Dakota is all about.
You’ll also save a fortune on transportation, so don’t pass this up.
3. Travel During the Off Season
It’s no secret that off-season travel has its disadvantages, especially when it comes to weather. However, you get the huge advantage of affordable travel, which makes traveling off-season a smart solution.
The off-season is typically from December to March, but this can vary depending on the state you choose.
Not only will you be able to find much lower rates on flights and hotels, but you’ll also be able to book at the last minute, which gives you much more flexibility during your travels.
Traveling off-season also means fewer tourists to deal with. You’ll avoid crowds, long lines, and sold-out events. Not to mention, you’ll be able to take your time more, enjoy the scenery, and snap some truly breathtaking photos.
4. Go Volunteering While You Travel
Volunteering is the perfect way to travel with less money, meet new people along the way, and see the United States like never before.
Many volunteer programs allow you to do volunteer work in exchange for lodging and meals, so you’ll save money as you make your way across the country.
Be sure to take a look at opportunities like Passport In Time and see what projects they have available during the year.
You’ll also want to do your research and look through US volunteer sites like Worldpackers. There you’ll see different projects you can choose from in almost every state, like gardening, farming, animal care, or general maintenance work.
You’ll also find many opportunities to work at wildlife centers, horse rescue ranches, or caring for wolves.
The best part is that volunteer projects can last as little as two weeks or as long as three months, so you’ll be able to travel long-term if you choose to.
5. Purchase a CityPASS
Purchasing a CityPASS is a solid budget travel idea that you don’t want to miss out on. The CityPASS allows you to visit popular attractions in major cities like New York, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, and Tampa Bay.
You can preplan your trip by choosing which cities and places you want to see the most. For example, buying a CityPASS for New York will save you 40% on five different attractions.
You’ll be able to check out places like the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
This way, you can choose 1 or 2 major cities to visit along your way and still save money in the long run.
6. Consider Traveling by Bus
If you’re looking to do a lot of city hopping, whether it’s to Saint Paul, MN, Chicago, IL, or Seattle, WA, taking a bus is a budget-friendly option you should strongly consider.
There are a lot of hidden benefits when you go with options like Greyhound. First, you’ll get access to free Wi-Fi and your own power outlet on every bus, so you’ll be able to keep your devices charged and ready to go.
If you’re a student or have served in the military, you’ll be able to take advantage of a 10% discount on your travels. Greyhound also partners with different hotels across the US, so you’ll be able to enjoy discounts on hotel stays across the country.
In addition, if you book in advance, you’ll be able to save 30% on bus fares and take advantage of ongoing spring and summer discounts to popular destinations around the US.
Finally, don’t forget to check out the online bus-booking platform Busbud. You can search for cheap bus tickets to almost any destination in the US.
7. Learn How to Book Air Travel for Less
If you prefer to fly, don’t book the first airline tickets you come across. Instead, learn the hacks for finding budget flights and huge discounts.
First, you’ll need to get familiar with sights like Airefarewatchdog, WayAway, and Google Flights. You’ll be able to search through the best rates on airline tickets and compare deals from all major airlines in the US and around the world.
If you sign up for the WayAway Plus membership plan for 5$ a month, you’ll earn 5% cash back on airline tickets, and 10% cashbook on all your hotel stays.
Also, don’t forget to check out budget airlines like Spirit Airlines. Airlines like this offer deeply discounted fares, sometimes as low as $20 one way. You’ll also be able to join various discount clubs for even more savings.
Even if you’ve never flown a budget airline, don’t be afraid to give it a try. Just be sure to check online reviews and do your research, so you can find one you’re comfortable with.
8. Travel to Cities With Free Attractions
Take advantage of free attractions across the US by planning your road trip to several cities like Washington, D.C., and Philadephia, PA.
In D.C., you can tour the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and the National Museum of African American History and Culture for free. You can even visit the Smithsonian Museums, which is made up of 17 museums, a variety of galleries, and a zoo, and it won’t cost you a thing.
Before you leave the area, you can stop in Philadelphia for free tours of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Next, you can take a free self-guided tour of the United States Mint to learn the history and process of making coins.
There are many other cities with free attractions to choose from, like Albuquerque, New Mexico, and St. Louis, MO, so do your research in advance to make your trip as budget-friendly as possible.
9. Spend Your Nights at a KOA Campground
KOA campgrounds have a lot of hidden benefits, and you won’t have any trouble finding one during your travels. In the US, there are over 500 locations you can stay at as you make your way across the country.
You can bring your tent and stay or try different lodging options like cabins, luxury glamping tents, airstreams, treehouses, and more.
Better yet, you can enroll in KOA rewards and receive 10% off your daily rate, rewards points for discounts off future stays, and a free night of camping during special rewards weekends.
You can even download the KOA camping app when you’re on the road. You can search for campgrounds, reserve your campsites, and easily keep track of your rewards information.
10. Decrease Your Food Costs
You’ll need to think outside the box to decrease your food costs when you want to travel cheaply.
First, if you need to buy food at a restaurant, try ordering takeout instead, so you don’t have to tip as much.
You’ll also want to make an effort to buy your own groceries. Try looking for inexpensive food options like soups, ramen noodles, hot dogs, rice, or sandwiches. This way, you can take advantage of that mini-fridge in your discounted hotel room or roast your hot dogs over a campfire for dinner.
Finally, don’t forget that the gas stations along the way can offer many hidden food bargains. You’ll come across coffee machines, milkshake machines, sandwich and hot dog stations, and even meals you can heat up for later.
Cheapest Ways to Travel Across the US
Now that you know the ten cheapest ways to travel across the United States, you’ll be able to focus your research and plan your next trip with ease.
Remember, don’t stop here. Keep your mind open to other options like Couchsurfing, using public transportation, or finding a travel credit card that offers a variety of travel rewards. You’ll be on your way before you know it.
If you’re still looking for locations to add to your travel list, check out the Tourist Hive for travel guides that will give you more travel inspiration!