30 WAYS TO SAVE MONEY WHILE TRAVELING THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The USA is an incredible country with so many attractions, cities, landscapes, national parks, boutique cafes, eccentric towns and the list goes on. Ever since I was a kid, I was envious of the lives of American teen movie characters with their fancy cars, houses with pools, hot weather and cheerleader lifestyle (I was an impressionable child). When Calum and I first started dated, we found ourselves doing a brief 2 week tour around America after summer camp. We fell in love and knew we would be back. Whilst working at a secondary school, we saved our butts off to afford a summer holiday touring the country again, learning some valuable ways to save money whilst travelling America. So here they are, we hope they can help you save money on your next trip!

times-square-02
Times Square - New York City, NY
1

Use budget chains

Across America, you will find the same budget chain hotels in most cities and towns. Econolodge, Super 8, Motel 6, Days Inn – We have stayed in at least one hotel of each of these chains and have never had an issue in the slightest. The rooms are basic and can be small depending on your location but they are perfect for saving money and getting a good nights sleep. Average rooms after tax cost around $60 but can obviously cost more if you are in a city like New York or Los Angeles.

2

Get a Wyndham Rewards Card

If you decide to stick with chains for the majority of your trip, then look into getting yourself a Wyndham Rewards Card. These reward cards include a load of different companies across America. Every time you stay at a hotel included in the scheme, you gain points and can use these points for free stays in other locations. You can also exchange the points for gift cards for restaurants and stores.

3

Head to Walmart

When road tripping or renting a car, take advantage of the transportation and head to a Walmart. Whilst in Orlando, we rented a condo with a small cooking area and saved a lot of money by heading to Walmart to stock up on food, snacks and drinks rather than eat out all day, every day. Plus, it meant we could take a drink or two to the theme parks and didn’t have to pay the hefty price of a bottle of cola in the parks.

4

CouchSurfing

You can save money worldwide by using the CouchSurfing website to find a sofa or spare room to stay in for free! This is a really popular concept in The States, with many listings available throughout the year. You can read about the different hosts, living situations, location and reviews on the website.

5

Use Airbnb

You save a small fortune in some areas of America, by renting apartments, rooms and even houses from Airbnb. Some locations don’t offer good deals but shop around early to bag yourself a comfortable living space. Plus, if you rent an apartment it means you can save a load of money by cooking for yourself rather than eating out once in a while.

airbnbusa
6

Eat the local cuisine

If you are in Texas, head to a BBQ joint, if you’re in Chicago; grab yourself a Deep Dish Pizza. Eating the staple food of that city is not only a must anyway but more often than not, the food tastes amazing and can be relatively inexpensive because of the competitive restaurants have in the area.

7

Hotel points

It isn’t just budget chains that offer reward or point cards. More luxurious hotels offer point systems and often work with credit card companies – when you get a credit card, often it will come with lots of points already that you can use on hotels and flights but you can also gain more points every time you use the card. Use this for big travel bookings like flights and car rental but just make sure you pay it off asap to avoid interest.

8

Yelp!

Similar to TripAdvisor, Yelp is a restaurant based review website that shares the menu and prices online. Use Yelp! to find the cheap eats in your chosen destination or research online to see if your favourite blogger has written about the cheap eats in the area.

9

National Park Pass

If you are intending to visit a few National Parks, and I am not just referring to the Canyons and Yosemite but any national monument or historic place of interest, then get yourself a National Park Pass. These cost $80 a year and give you entrance to so many attractions across America including the Statue of Liberty, Alcatraz and the Washington Monument.

10

Rent a car

Getting around America can be difficult without a car. You can fly (see the next point) but to really experience the States, I recommend renting a car that you can drop off at a different location and driving your route. Use rentalcars.com to get the best quote and book a rental car in advance to save money – just make sure you get the insurance with the car!

chicago_usa
Cloud Gate - Chicago, IL
11

Fly on a budget

If you choose to fly, compare prices on Skyscanner, Kayak and Momondo and book your flights in advance. Flights around America are often full so don’t expect to get last minute cheap flights. Budget airlines to use include Southwest Airlines, Virgin America, JetBlue and Frontier Airlines.

12

Plan your parking

If you do decide to rent a car, check your hotels parking charges. Parking at hotels in busy cities can be expensive but researching around for parking availability nearby. Head to parkopedia.com to find the best value parking spots near your hotel or attraction.

13

Avoid hostels

Hostels in America can be far too overpriced. It is likely to be cheaper for you to go with Airbnb or a budget hotel and only go for a hostel when you want to meet other travellers.

14

Groupon

Before heading of to America, I signed up to the American Groupon site and was able to get some great deals on Las Vegas Show tickets and half price hotel offers. They even send you discount vouchers for food and stores that we then printed off at the hotel to make the most out the deals.

15

Toiletries galore

Don’t worry about stocking up on shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser etc until you get to the US. Toiletries are inexpensive, meaning you can fit more clothes in your luggage and purchase your bits and bobs on arrival.

los_angeles_usa
Hollywood Sign - Los Angeles, CA
16

Order appetizers before anything else

So on our first trip to America, we ordered two starters and two main meals at the same time – I believe we were at a Hooters. The starters came and were delicious but we had no room for the mains!! We ended up bagging it up to take home and have as a midnight snack after an evening walk. On our second trip, we stuck to ordering one or two starters first, enjoyed them thoroughly then often carried on drinking but didn’t order anymore food because we were just too full! Our restaurant bills were a lot lower than our first trip and so was the weighing scales when we returned home!

17

Hop-on, Hop-off buses

If you’re short on time in a city, jump on a sightseeing bus. Book a ticket in advance from a reputable company like Big Bus tours to avoid getting charged extra by commission driven advertisers hoovering around the streets. These are much cheaper than taxis and give you a chance to see the landmarks and buildings of a busy city without the tired legs, meaning you have lots of energy to explore when you do hop off.

18

Get Camping

America is full of beautiful national parks that often have inexpensive campsites nearby. Pitch up a tent and stay in nature for around $20 a night.

19

ESTA

Many passport holders from outside of North America, have to apply to travel to the USA using the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). Use the official site: http://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/ – the fee should be $14. There are a handful of websites that have set up a similar looking website and system to scam visitors and/or offer assistance in applying for a service fee and then charging $35 and upwards. Head straight to the website and fill out the questions, it isn’t difficult and whilst working at Gatwick Airport in London, I met families who forgot about it and were filling it in 2 hours before their flight.

20

Minimal visits to WholeFoods

Eating healthy on the road is always a good idea to keep your energy up and mind fresh and ready for a day of exploring. It can be tempting to buy a load of snacks at Whole Foods but your wallet will regret it. Healthy meals can be found in all cities across America at a cheaper price than Whole Foods.

las-vegas-cosmopolitan-03
Las Vegas Strip - Las Vegas, NV
21

Free Museums

Most museums in America offer a free or discounted admission day throughout the month. Check online or ask the staff at your hotel for free museums in the area or discounted day events.

22

Regional buses

When moving around a region of the United States, take a regional bus with Mega Bus or Bolt Bus. Fares are as low as $1!

23

Avoid Pizza Chains

Pizza across America is generally pretty darn good. However, chains like Papa Johns, Pizza Hut and Dominos still massively overcharge. We found it a lot cheaper and often tastier, to buy pizza from a local business instead of the big chains.

24

Check the website

Nowadays, most restaurants and bars have a website. Check their daily offers and happy hours to take advantage of and save some money.

25

Stay out of Starbucks

Yes, Starbucks are on every street corner but do you need to take a visit everyday? During our first trip to NYC, I found myself going into a Starbucks every morning to get a coffee – I don’t even like coffee! Feeling Cosmopolitan and all that jazz isn’t a great excuse to spend a fortune in an overpriced coffee shop. I do love Starbucks (particularly theirs millionaire cakes and frappuccinos) but keep the trips minimal!

los_angeles_usa3
Smoke Shop - Los Angeles, CA
26

Blablacar

At time of writing, BlaBlaCar is still relatively new and is starting to get more clients in America. It is basically a ride share website that allows you to search for your chosen route and see if others are driving that day. You will pay a small fee for the ride but this can save you a lot in travel expenses.

27

City Passes

Companies like cityPASS and GoCityCard make paying for attractions a lot cheaper! If you are in a city with lots of attractions that are costly, then get yourself a card before your trip and save. When you get a card online, you are likely to get a discount too, meaning it is even cheaper to see the attractions you are travelling for. On both trips to NYC, we have bought a cityPASS and not only did it save us money but it also showed us other attractions we could see and do whilst we were there.

28

Convenience stores

Pick up some snacks from convenience stores like 7/11 to keep you going on long drives and keep you out of fast food restaurants dotted along highways.

29

TransferCar

TransferCar lists car rentals that need to be returned to the rental company. For example, if you want to drive from LA to Las Vegas, you could “rent” a car from this site for as little as $5! That includes gas and insurance. You then have a certain amount of days to get it to the rental company in Las Vegas, but often you are given longer than necessary; meaning you can travel to nearby towns and cities en route. I will be checking this site out on our next trip!

30

Eat a big lunch

When in bigger cities, get yourself a big lunch for a set price (costing around $20 in cities like LA and NYC). Then have smaller or cheaper meals for dinner. We often tried those fancier or sit-down restaurants for a late lunch then grabbed a few slices of pizza for dinner.

CityPASS is a great option for those looking to explore the attractions and sights of a new city at discount prices.

Book theme park tickets with CityPASS.

Romantic Budget Hotels Click The Image Below to Pin
30-ways-to-save-money-while-traveling-the-usa-pin-this
Romantic Budget Hotels Click The Image Above to Pin
Showing 16 comments
  • Ticker Eats The World
    Reply

    Some really interesting points especially like the one about avoiding hostels and going to Airbnb instead. Nice extensive list that covers all aspects.

  • Nadine Rohner
    Reply

    I love the USA. Ten years ago I did my road trip with a friend and I wished I had your great saving tips back then 🙂

  • Reply

    I do not like coffee too. When I was in downtown Miami, I went to Starbucks. At some point, I stopped because it was getting costly. I do not get why products at Whole Foods are expensive but well, I avoided that place. I just went to other stores like CVS and Walgreens. The toiletries there have a lot of variety so I chose the cheapest ones.

  • neha
    Reply

    Although I have never been here, to visit here from the east means you will try to save every penny as possible. So, your tips would be really helpful when I make a trip to US

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Reply

    Great points. As Americans, we can take some these things for granted. It was so interesting reading your travel tips for the USA. We totally agree about Groupon. Before any domestic trips we always check for deals. Groupon also sells deals to events like sports and concerts and festivals. Even if you don’t buy a deal, It can also be a source of info about upcoming events.

  • Reply

    Interesting perspective to read as an American. Never thought about it. Other stuff I I hadn’t heard of like the car rental and ride share. Great post!

  • Allison
    Reply

    I have been to the USA many times and can relate to many of these. A few years ago when the AUD was good I didn’t need to watch my pennies and everything seemed so cheap in the US. Now that we are only getting 75c it’s a different story. Yes to Walmart every day of the week. My kids loved it and we had to drag them out when they were younger. I’ve also used Groupon many times to bag a bargain. We often share meals when we dine out as well. Not so much to save money but more so because the serving sizes are huge!

  • Lauren West
    Reply

    When I head back to the states I’m definitely going on an epic road trip, and this has been such a help! AirBnB and Couchsurfing are some great ways to save money for sure. And I use Yelp obsessively at home!

  • FS
    Reply

    I have always wanted to go tot USA once in my life. Some really interesting points which I didn’t know about. Thanks for sharing

  • Carla Abanes
    Reply

    Thanks for the parking tip! I now have a reminder on my phone to install the parkopedia when I get there. I hope they have the IOS app. I am planning to go on a roadtrip from LA to Nevada to the grand canyons. My friend told me to go this May or June. Excited!

    • Katie
      Reply

      They do have an IOS app 🙂 Have a great trip!

  • Vidya Kavitkar
    Reply

    Interesting & useful post! USA is my dream destination. We are planning a family vacation in January 2017. I will follow these tips . Thanks for sharing

  • Me-An Clemente
    Reply

    Touring the USA is truly expensive for me since everything is too far from each other. I also noticed that staying in hotels can be affordable with the rewards card. And we usually go for hop on and hop off buses. It’s my first time hearing the BlaBla cars.

  • Stacey
    Reply

    Thank you Katie. I shared your post on my blog and I know my readers will enjoy it as much as I did.

  • Melanie
    Reply

    These are all great tips! Free museum (thanks DC) and avoiding Starbucks (thanks hotel coffee) are some of my favorites! Thanks!!

pingbacks / trackbacks

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search