Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

Lexa Pennington's picture

The U.S. is a popular tourist destination, with data from Statista showing that the travel and tourism market is expected to generate a revenue of US$198.70bn in 2024. This popularity is, at least in part, due to the country’s diverse range of scenery and experiences. But with so many things to see and do, how can you ensure you’re going to experience the country without much hassle? And how do you do so on a budget? 

Here are a few tips for smooth travel in the U.S. that should come in handy, regardless of whether you live in the U.S. or you’re visiting from abroad.

Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

1. Pack Smart
To prevent unwanted luggage expenses on extra gear, it’s wise to pack versatile clothing items that can be used for different weather conditions. As you might know, the U.S. has a variety of climatic and weather patterns, which is no surprise given its size and geographical diversity. 

By packing clothes that can be used in all conditions, you avoid the need to add extra ones in your bag and can save some space for other things. Some examples include carrying light layers, a waterproof jacket, and sturdy walking shoes that can take you from city touring to outdoor excursions with ease.

Roll up your trousers for warmer days or put on leggings underneath them when it gets colder during the evenings. You may combine these with short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts and a versatile jacket to ensure you’re ready for variances in temperature. Buying yourself a good pair of waterproof boots will keep your feet dry as well as comfortable, whether hiking up hillsides or just moving around rainy city streets.

Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

2. Don’t Overpay for Transportation
Most American cities are not known for their excellent public transportation. That being said, they do offer some public transportation networks and there are several rideshare services that you can use. To get cheap transport costs while at the same time escaping parking difficulties plus unfamiliar routes, consider using buses and subways, as well as services like Uber or Lyft. It’s worth mentioning that many public modes offer discounted fares for aged people, students, and frequent travelers.

Before going on vacation, download a local transit app for the city you’re visiting to become familiar with its schedules and ticketing options. By doing so, you’ll be able to plan your day around stop points and move within cities efficiently without driving stress and cost.

Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

3. Use Regional Passes and Attraction Bundles
Like in other parts of the world, city passes or attraction bundles offer discounted admission fees to a number of attractions, museums, and tours. These tickets may also include additional benefits such as skipping lines so that you get more time to visit sites and spend less money on buying individual tickets for each place. 

Planning and purchasing these cards ahead will provide you with good deals; you can enjoy the best things in each city without spending too much money.

For instance, you might buy a city pass for your trip to Los Angeles that involves tourist sites such as Universal Studios Hollywood, Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This pass will save you money in terms of admission charges and also give you a chance to avoid long queues, allowing you to explore each attraction more before moving on to another one.

Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

4. Use Alternative Accommodation Options
The most popular tourist destinations in the U.S. tend to be expensive, with accommodation being no exception. To save money, you may want to avoid traditional hotels and opt for alternatives such as vacation rentals through the Airbnb and VRBO platforms or budget-friendly hostels. These options often provide cheaper rates than hotels do, and may even have unique amenities. You'll also be able to discover the neighborhood (including, perhaps, a coffeeshop you can call your own), and what it's like to live like a local there.

Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

Did you know you can book a cozy cabin near Yosemite National Park through Airbnb for a fraction of the cost of nearby hotels? Or, if you’re traveling to a city, you can share a room in a hostel (or pay slightly more for a private room, if available), which can be the preferred option for those who want to socialize with new people while saving money on accommodation costs.

If you’re going to stay with a private host like AirBnB or VRBO, it’s best practice to select one that has enough reviews. You may also want to consider using specialized search services to find additional information about the host. On Nuwber, for instance, you can use a name, email, or phone to find useful information about an individual, including their addresses, police records, and social media profiles, to name a few.

Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

5. Travel During Off-Peak Seasons
Generally speaking, fare rates are lower on flights, hotels, and other tourist attractions during the off-season. Moreover, traveling to popular places during off-peak seasons (also called shoulder seasons, for spring and fall) helps you get to see the attractions and iconic landmarks without being surrounded by large groups of people, which also means fewer lines and overall more ease of managing time.  

In most parts of the country, crowds are likely to be smaller in winter, early spring, and late autumn. As long as the weather is not terrible, traveling during these periods can help you save both money and time.

Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

6. Consider Booking Accommodation With Kitchen Facilities
If you like dining at restaurants while traveling, this isn’t really a good option for you. If, however, you don’t care about dining out, you could save a lot of money by prioritizing booking accommodations with kitchen facilities so that you can prepare your own meals.

When choosing where to stay on vacation or business trips, consider places with kitchens such as apartments, rentals, or hotels meant for staycations. This means that instead of only depending on food purchased from restaurants, you can cook some of the time yourself. If you have time to shop at grocery stores and cook, it will reduce your expenditure on food while still obtaining delicious and healthy options. Furthermore, having a kitchen lets you follow dietary choices or restrictions more easily and creates a casual atmosphere for meals, whether it involves a relaxed breakfast in bed or packing lunch for sightseeing.

You can rent an apartment equipped with a kitchen where you can, and make your dishes using ingredients from local groceries. Better yet, some vacation homes come with barbecues.

Shopping at local markets and grocery stores is definitely a great way to learn about the food of a place! Ask the staff for ideas, most popular foods, and even recipes. Buy your souvenirs at the market and grocery store! Almost everyone loves to try different hot sauces—it’s the perfect gift to bring back (including for yourself!).

Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

7. Join Free or Low-Cost Activities
Many places in the U.S., especially cities that are popular with tourists, offer activities that are either free or very cheap.  By using these budget-friendly options on your itinerary, you may be able to make your travel experience interesting without overspending.

Pick a local park or beach, and spend the day there. Bonus savings are on the deck if you hit the grocery store in the morning for portable lunch and dinner options.

For example, you could join a free walking tour where you only pay a tip to the guide at the end of the tour. This type of tour is offered in many cities that get a lot of visitors, with New York and Los Angeles being obvious examples. In addition, you can join exhibitions and festivals that do not require you to pay an entry fee.

Seven Tips for Smooth Budget Travel in America

Bottom Line: You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Explore the U.S.

Exploring a country like the U.S. comes with certain challenges, such as getting from one part of the country to another without spending hundreds of dollars on plane tickets or traveling by train or car for days. That being said, planning a trip month in advance and following the tips above should help you save money.

Regardless of where you choose to go and when, it’s probably best not to overdo it in terms of saving. Smooth travel throughout a large country is all about not falling into tourist traps and booking wisely while still being able to enjoy as much as you can, given your time and budget.