How to travel on a Budget across the US

Whether you are a student on a gap year or a well-seasoned traveller, and with the weakening pound against the dollar, travelling on a budget in the USA is a priority at the top of everyone’s list.

Getting started

Firstly, travelling directly across the USA is a task not to be underestimated. Due to the country’s vast size, a lot of empty, flat land equates to a laborious stretch of driving; instead, the popular choice is to travel along either the west or east coast of America. On a budget, and coming west from Europe, it certainly makes more sense to visit the east coast, for a much shorter flight and a much cheaper air fare. Look out for sales and temporary discounts, such as a return to New York City with American Airlines for a thrifty £300, or on Virgin Atlantic to Boston for a similar price.


In the larger cities, it is important to do your research to avoid getting ripped off for sub-standard accommodation – see for customer and industry reviews. For reasonable, middle-ground accommodation in NYC, try the ‘East Village Bed and Coffee’ with cosy rooms and helpful staff, or the arty ‘Gershwin Hotel’ for a positively-reviewed alternative. Popular motel chain Days Inn boasts accommodation in and around New York, and, along with the great selection at, who have many locations across the rest of the USA. If travelling nationwide, stick to one hotel chain if possible, and rewards points can soon be accumulated to save money.


Illuminated coast of Miami at night

In Miami, accommodation is much cheaper – although, the location is a factor to bear in mind as Florida’s stretches of flat land require a car – for those under 21 it is near-impossible to hire cars abroad. Here it is more necessary to splash out on finding things to do – for thrill-seekers, buying group tickets covering a range of theme parks for a few days – such as Universal or Disney – can often be surprisingly cheaper than single tickets for just a day. Florida holds the Kennedy Space Center, and there are many places to sight alligators –try to book before you arrive. Further north, and further inland, is Washington DC, where The White House and The Lincoln Memorial are must-see attractions, along with some famous galleries and museums.

Entertainment in NYCLady of New York - the Statue of Liberty

With notoriously pricey accommodation leaving little remaining cash, entertainment in NYC can be easily done on the cheap. Central Park often has free festivals, fairs and ethnic parades; there is always something going on, especially in peak months and around the festive season. For theatre buffs looking for a cheaper Broadway experience, buy tickets on the day of the show from last minute ticket stands – we managed to nab two tickets for Wicked for less than half the original price. If venturing outside of the city, New York state is also home to a part of Niagara Falls, shared with Canada; 2/3-day bus trips are useful for those without, or too young to hire, a rental car.

All along the east coast there are a wealth of attractions and famous sights to see – Times Square in NYC, Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Seaworld in Florida, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum, to name a few! With those old enough to hire cars, cheap petrol (around half UK prices per gallon) makes USA road trips an exciting and ever-increasing financial possibility.


What say you?