For many, travel seems like an unattainable luxury, left for only those who have the extra income to afford it. But that’s simply not true. Traveling can work for almost any budget. In some cases, it can even be free! The United States is a particularly budget-friendly travel destination. It’s a veritable playground of places to see and explore, without having to spend hundreds on food and entertainment. If you’re planning on traveling in the U.S. this year, keep reading to find out how to whittle down your expenses and stick to a minimal budget.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – The Cheapest Ways to Get Around
America is huge – it would take you half a day just to drive across the state of Texas without stopping! How do you prefer to explore the country? Do you take shortcuts, or are you more the type to stop and smell the roses? Whatever your ideal travel plans are, there are ways to save money:
- Use a credit card with an airline miles rewards program. This is one of the easiest ways to get dirt-cheap (or free!) flights. Use the card for everything you would normally put on credit, even little purchases. You’ll usually get bonus points just for signing up. Plus, if you combine this with a cash back or meals/entertainment rewards card, you’ll have most of your vacation covered!
- Travel during the off-season. Peak season travel rates can be outrageously expensive depending on the location. The good news is that there are plenty of destinations in the U.S. that are just as enjoyable in the low season as they are during the busy time of year. For example, New England may be one of the most popular locales in the summer, but it’s also quite charming in the early spring and late fall. The best part is that you won’t have to wade through massive crowds or sit in beachgoing traffic.
- Forget about hotels; check out peer-to-peer house rentals on sites like Airbnb. Most of the time, the rates are much cheaper than staying in a hotel, and the houses are a lot nicer. What’s more, you won’t have to worry about noisy hotel guests – you’ll have the place all to yourself!
- Want to travel to beautiful locations and stay for free? Yes, you read that correctly. Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a network that spans the globe and connects organic farms with travelers who are willing to offer some work. There are more than 2,100 WWOOF-registered farms across the country, in just about every state. You’ll be given free room and board for just a few hours of work. You can register to WWOOF for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months. There’s no better way to travel then fully immersing yourself in the local culture and getting your hands dirty (literally).
- Why not consolidate your transportation and accommodation expenses into one – rent an RV! One of the best things about America is that it’s a vast country of open roads and changing landscape. It’s arguably the best road trip country in the world. If you rent an RV, you won’t have to worry about booking hotels, sitting around in airports, and following strict itineraries. Just hop in the RV and go! RVshare is a peer-to-peer RV rental network (like Airbnb for RVs), where you’ll find nearby RV owners and work with them directly. Their rates are often cheaper than commercial RV rental services, and you can find some pretty unique RVs you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
Quick Tips to Save You Even More Dough
Now you know how to get from A to B without spending all your savings, let’s look at some ways to save money in between destinations:
- Cook your own food whenever possible. One of the best parts about traveling is trying different foods, but the costs can quickly add up if you eat out a lot. When cooking for yourself, buy from local farmer’s markets and farm stands – you’ll be able to sample the local foods without having to pay restaurant prices!
- If you’re using a hotel as your home base while you explore, you’ll likely be tempted to rent a car. Don’t. It’s too expensive. Use public transportation, like buses or trains. If you’ll be in the area for a while, you might want to look into getting a rail pass for a few weeks.
- Better yet, use your legs to get around! If you’re in a small city or town, rent a bicycle for the week, or walk everywhere! It’s a twofer – You’ll save money and get some exercise.
- Don’t always do what the tourists are doing. They call them “tourists traps” for a reason. Many popular tourist locations are overcrowded, overpriced, and not that great. Take Times Square for example. It may seem like a good idea to visit, but did you know that just about everything for sale is marked up more than anywhere else in the city? Save your money and go to Brooklyn instead. It’s a cooler place to visit, anyway.
- If you end up renting an RV from a site like RVshare or elsewhere, you’ll need to be careful with campground fees and gas costs. You can skip the campground fees by camping in remote places without water and electricity (AKA boondocking). To save on gas, plan your routes ahead of time and use the GasBuddy app to find the cheapest gas in the area.
Your Budget-Friendly Vacation Awaits
See? Traveling isn’t just for people with tons of money in their savings account. It’s an experience that everyone can, and should, have in their lives. Traveling on a budget flexes your creative problem-solving muscles. It also exposes you to real, local people and cultures, instead of spending all your time in ritzy hotels and tourist spots. Use these money-saving tips to start planning your trip now. Your body, mind, and bank account will thank you! Are you a seasoned budget traveler with some tips for us? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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