How to Reduce Expenses during US Road Trip
A country spanning over nine time zones and huge geographical and cultural diversity. Any road trip across the United States is a mind-blowing experience. Road trips are comparatively cheaper and have more travel vibes than catching a direct flight from New York to San Francisco or taking a train. With good road network across all parts of the country, embarking and reducing expenses during US road trip isn’t that overwhelming.
But road trips still cost money and take effort when it comes to things like renting a car, getting insurance, finding camping sites etc. Traveling on the cheap is not that difficult as you might think; a little bit of planning usually saves me lots of money, especially in the United States, a country that can easily break the bank. Here I have put together a list of tips that I have used to reduce expenses during my US road trip.
1. Getting Around The United States
A car is an ideal option for a road trip in the United States. Renting a car allows you to see as much of the country as possible if you do not have one for the trip. Make sure to get the insurance for the vehicle. It might take some time to carry out a research about the gas stations, parking rules and navigation to ensure an easy journey. You can consider signing up for an AAA or Good Sam’s Club membership for better security on the road.
If you are planning a long-term road trip (especially with family), a van could be your best bet. You can transform the van into a living space by adding a bed and a mini kitchen. This way can save you tons of money since you don’t have to pay for accommodation or campsites.
2. GPS and Maps
Download the popular navigation apps on your smartphone to use the GPS and interactive online maps. This will save you from the necessity of searching for paper maps. If possible, save the routes offline on Google Maps or Maps.me so that you can reduce mobile data usage and reduce expenses during US road trip.
3. Trip Necessities
Make sure you do your math before you hit the road. Buy the food, equipment, and other necessities in bulk so you do not have to shop frequently during the trip. Bulk buying can also give you discounts and save up some money.
Campsites are a popular option adopted by travelers and backpackers as quite convenient and budget accommodation in the United States. Most campsites are clean, while some equipped with showers, restrooms, free Wi-Fi and barbecue grills. Take advantage of staying at free campsites. Yes, such campsites do exist in the United States. I sigh when I remember myself spending money on paid campsites, instead of sticking to those offering free accommodation. You can always find information on them online. Google Maps also shows the campsites in each State. You can also try camping at people’s backyards for a few dollars.
A bit more expensive than staying at campsites. Motels are designed for road road-trippers and are omnipresent in the United States. Ask Google about the nearest motel in the region you are traveling to and book rooms in advance for lesser charges.
With so many hostel associations all across the globe today, they are not omnipresent in the US. Hostels are much cheaper than hotels and are livelier as a community. Most hostels have dorms, which are less expensive than private or double and shared rooms. Hostels also organize frequent events and activities that engage most of its guests.
Couchsurfing is an alternative accommodation option for many travelers these days. Along with the homely comfort it offers, it will also help you meet new people and build new relationships. The Couchsurfing website enables you to meet and book stays at the homes of local people at affordable costs.
Airbnb is an online service that lets you book stays at other people’s homes and apartment. They are much cozier and comfortable while keeping your wallet full. It takes up very little time to find accommodation options for 30 to 40 USD per night. Apart from short stays, you can also use Airbnb to get vacation rentals, hostel beds, and hotel rooms.
All forms of travel call for good food. You can reduce food expenses during US road trip by sticking to cheaper retail chains such as Wallmart and Dollar Tree. Cook food in your campsite whenever you can. Try making some Cowhorn biscuits or breakfast potatoes in your campsite next time! This will not only give you fresh food but also a good camping experience with your friends.
Have you ever noticed the seemingly endless amount of food exit road signs during US road trip? Fast food is tempting but in fact put a weight on your finances and have hundreds of excess calories. Instead, buy food from farmers markets and fairs on the way to reduce costs and keep your trip spending under control. While branded fast food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Chik-fil-a mostly offer unhealthy meals, they also serve salads on the menu that is a healthier alternative.
10. City Tourism Cards
These passes allow visiting most attractions in the city for 50 or 60 USD. Museums, galleries and heritage centers can be accessed with these cards. Some CityPass cards, like one in San Francisco, can also get you free public transportation. Get CityPass card at any included attraction once you arrive or from tourist information centers. It is also possible to book them online. It is obvious that not always (and not everywhere) CityPass will get you the best value for money. However, since you are going to explore cities in detail, visit bulk of attractions with family, City Pass is something you should consider.
11. National Parks
National parks are brilliant spots to camp. Aesthetically and economically convenient, national parks would be a good addition to any US road trip. You can get an annual pass for 80 USD per vehicle if you are planning to visit more than four national parks. With these passes, you can visit most of the national parks in the United States.
12. Get There At the Right Time
Prices for all things including gas and accommodation shoots up considerably during the vacation season. Plan your road trip for the off-season. Off-season US road trips are evidently much cheaper due to the poor demand. Undertaking a trip for off-season will also be more enjoyable since there are fewer crowds everywhere.
A budget road trip in the United States is not a very tricky thing if you put in a bit of effort. Carry out your research before the road trip, plan the itinerary and then hit the road. By cutting down on unnecessary expenses like souvenirs, fast (and unhealthy) food, and expensive hotels, you can keep your trip under the budget. Make sure to try these tips the next time you embark on your adventure on wheels and hear your wallet saying “Thank You”!