Travel USA on a budget

16 Ways to Travel USA On A Budget

I am not saying, I hate money, I do not love traveling in luxury. The more I stress about money, the more anxious I get. 

Food, parking, groceries, clothes, hotels, and transportation have a price tag. How to and from where to start?  

I am from India. I always travel on a budget.

Still, the Rupees are much cheaper compared to dollars.

See, traveling to the USA on a budget is not completely a utopian thought. It is hard if you do not have smart ideas. 

usa dollars, how to travel in the USA on a budget
how to travel in the USA on a budget?

You need certain dollars to start with, on the way you can limit your budget but cannot completely travel for free.

To be successful in traveling on a budget, you have to stop taking crap about money and make peace with it. I cannot have a house full of stress about money.

So, this travel blog on Travel USA on a budget offers a comparative study of all the affordable options you might choose while traveling keeping safety in mind.

Read: 9 Best Weekend Getaways In Florida For Couples

How to Travel in the USA on a Budget?

My Travel Stories Are Based On Trust, Being Generous, Asking For Help, Setting A Standard, And Being An Amazing Guest.

I have only discussed the cheapest way to travel in the USA offering you only the budget options and their ranges. 

These options are a great way to save money as you go. Also, I believe that if you are on a budget then flexibility is a must factor on your own itinerary. 

Let’s look at each of the affordable options to travel to the USA on a budget.

Read: 17 Best Pet-Friendly North Carolina Beaches

Girl in USA -travel cheap in the usa
Girl in USA -travel cheap

Couchsurfing vs Hostels vs Budget Motels vs Camping

Choose: Couchsurfing

What is the cheapest form of accommodation? Accommodation is the biggest fixed cost in travel. 

Hence, if you want to make it free or the cheapest adding the benefit of spending time with people of similar thoughts or locals, then Couchsurfing is your option. 


Couchsurfing is a community of people all over the world who welcomes travelers to stay at their place at the cost of exchange of ideas, meet-ups, and knowing the culture. 

Here you stay with locals, get insider tips, cook with them, help them in their work (if they ask), and hang out with them, in a word – you spend local time with them.

You can open the app and send out a “request for a host”, from a particular area. You host someone at your place. It’s a community of like-minded people. 

Remember, you do not use them for a free place to stay a mile away, rather be genuine and show that you care for the community. Feel it! 

So, be interesting and be personal while requesting. Here is an example, you can follow:

Couchsurfing message example, Travel USA on a budget
Couchsurfing – Travel USA on a budget

Dorm rooms of hostels

The other way to travel to the USA on a budget is dorm rooms or hostels. However, this will cost you around $33 – $35 per day on 

If you’re traveling alone and want to make new friends on the way, go to hostels. If you ask me, hostel rooms in America are overpriced compared to that in Asia. 

Websites like,, and Expedia are trustworthy websites. 

When I was in LA, I stayed at Samesun Venice Beach, the people were so welcoming.

In San Francisco, I stayed a week in The Green Tortoise. However, the properties are very clean with welcoming people but a little expensive.

Read: Places To Visit In South Carolina In Winter


Now, another way to travel to the USA on a budget is through motels or roadside hotels. This is a very common sight on the way. I’m sure you’ve heard of Motel 6 or Super 8. 

In the cities of the USA, the motels are $80 whereas, in the rural side, it starts from $48 per night with super basic amenities like a tiny closet, TV, bathroom, desk, and a bed.

There is nothing gorgeous about this place but it’s relative quite a wonderful place to rest and have good quality sleep. 

Also, if you sign up through and, you can get loyalty programs. From you can get a free room after 10 bookings. 

How awesome is that? Also, if you book through Mr. Rebates or Rakuten by using their links on, you’re bound to get 2-4% cashback with loyalty deals. 


On, how to save on accommodation completely that have to be – camping. Buy all your camping gear from Amazon for $ 100 to use multiple times throughout your traveling life.

Remember, you cannot camp wherever you want. Ask the local’s permission as well as know if the land is under the forest department or BLM. 

Also, a good way to travel cheaply in the USA is camping at the campsite, which will cost around $15- $30 per night. This is economical!

They’ve all the facilities like 24*7 running water facility, bathrooms, electricity, and comfortable bed. You can book from the website Campspace

Camping - Travel USA on a budget
Camping – Travel USA on a budget

Read: Best Places For Christmas In North Carolina

Cook own meals vs Cheap Restaurants vs Accommodation with Kitchen

Choose: cook your own meals

How to travel in the USA on a budget? In the USA there is an app called “Too Good To Go” where they tie up with restaurants and bakeries to sell extra food.  Open your mobile.

This is a way to prevent food waste! 

Cook own meal

Shop cheap groceries from Walmart and cook your own food. Buy cocking essentials, these are very handy and comfortable to carry.

Camping stoves, pots, dishes, cutlery, and cleaning materials are designed in such a way that you can easily put them inside your backpack without taking up a lot of space.  

You need to buy the raw materials and cook them for yourself. Here you can carry a box where you can store the extra cooked food for the latter half of the day.

In this way, you’re not only saving dollars but also eating fresh healthy food. You can make coffee, tea, rice, vegetable curry, pasta, soup, and so more. 

Cheap Restaurants

Luckily, America has diverse options in terms of food. You can dine at a fancy rooftop restaurant at $200 whereas having a fully satisfying meal at only $15 – $20. 

Seafood, BBQ, organic smoothies, and fast food at the end of the street will cost only $10 – $15. A sandwich costs $7 while a combo meal like chowmin is around $10-$12.

Mid-range casual restaurant food costs are around $20-$30. Moreover, you need to spend three-course meals with drinks for around $60 per day. 

The cheapest way to travel in the United States is dining downstairs where you get a pizza at $12 while the Chinese combo main meal is under $20. 

Therefore, for finding cheap restaurants, you’ve to talk to locals, hosts of Couchsurfing, or the owner of the hostels for better suggestions. 

No one can give you the best tips other than these people. Remember, the cheapest way to travel in the United States ideas can only be shared by locals. 

Cheap restaurant, travel cheap in the usa
Cheap restaurant

Accommodation with Kitchen

Accommodation with a kitchen is quite similar to cooking your own meal but with the host’s utensils. You’ve to do the grocery shopping!

Here, you do not have to carry any cooking utensils because the hostel has a kitchen. You have to bring rice, chicken, or Maggie to cook and eat.

Accommodations like Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and hostels offer these facilities. Therefore, buying raw materials from the supermarket and cooking food is super fun!

Also, I’ve seen people doing the same and organizing picnics in Local Parks to share their cuisine. Normally, I shop from Aldi and Grocery Outlets.

Accommodation with a kitchen - travel USA on a Budget
Accommodation with a kitchen – travel the USA on a Budget

Free walking tours vs Tourism card vs National Parks pass vs Events

Choose: free walking tour

Nothing beats a free walking tour. Listening to authentic tales, discovering hidden tales from the locals, and strolling through the narrow alleys is a splendid feeling!

Free Walking tour

The best part about walking tours is you do not have to compete with anyone for the window seat or underground bunker bed, you walk at your own pace, enjoying!

Also, you not only taste the touristy places but understand the lay of the land and understand how incredible the place can be. I always start my trip with such a type!

Just imagine, you’re entering into the world of adventure making small talk with fellow travelers at the beginning then turning into the most memorable all-night conversations.

Before sign-in in for this type of walking tour program, always check with the local tourism in advance. Use Google to find out about the “(city name) greeter program”.

When I was in San Francisco, I enrolled myself in “Free walking tours in San Francisco”. You can also check out walking tours in Miami, Los Angeles, and more.

City tourism card

Did you know, city tourism cards offer you discounted fees and access to various attractions at half-price or free? 

Also, a city tourism card amp up your savings! For example, my friend with her New York Pass got access to NYC’s few VIP entertainment, shopping, and dining stores.

She got 25% off on comedy club tickets, and 10%off on Broadway shows! Now tell me! Isn’t that hitting the jackpot?

Now coming to the cost, it completely depends on the city. A $75-$100 USD card offers free access to museums, public transportation, and a few attractions.

Remember, the main objective of the card is the more you see the more you save. Hence, make sure you plan your day ahead to save more and see more!

City tourism card - Travel USA on a budget
City tourism card – Travel USA on a budget

Picture courtesy: welovecitycards

National Parks pass

You can explore some remarkable ecosystems of the USA like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and more for free!

However, it is almost free, but by only buying the pass for $80, you get to access 63 national parks of the USA administered by the National Park Service.

Just imagine, during your trip, you visited six National Parks where each charges $10 and you can save so much! They are a great way to travel to the USA on a budget.

It’s time to enjoy the noises of the jungle and not the expenses. 

You can get the pass from the park itself, simply buy from the first park and then you can carry it to other places. 


Remember, a city is like a beer glass in a fancy restaurant, it might be half full but never empty. The city roads are always in use –some events are always running.

But, how to know which event is useful for you? I use Couchsurfing to meet and stay with locals in a new city.  

You should have the knowledge that the Couchsurfing community organizes meet-ups and events where you can definitely take part. 

Also, Google is your best friend in an unknown city. Search for such meaningful events or inquire from hotel staff or museums for free events. You will find tons!

To travel cheaply in the USA and discover the city in your own way, these are the budget travel hacks to do sightseeing.  

Tour Events, travel usa in budget
Tour Events

Hitchhike vs Public transport vs Rideshare

choose: USA buses

Getting from point A to B in the USA on a budget is not always easy. I am sorry, I wish I could tell you that the USA has good National Rail infrastructure like Europe and Asia.

Hence, cars and buses are the only options left for the cheapest way to travel in the United States. 


Hitchhike is a way to meet people – lots of people across the globe and enrich your traveling story to the next level. 

So, do you know how to spend hours with an unknown person inside their car? Moreover, hitchhiking ensures a fun time and a good story for your travel book. 

I cannot ignore the fact that your face, destination, signboard, clothes, and every other thing are judged within the flash of a second by the driver’s eye before giving you the lift. 

Personally, I have not tried to hitchhike, I only heard from my friend who Traveled to Many countries in the USA by hitchhiking. He also told me to believe instincts other than anything else. 

Public transport

How to travel cheaply in the USA? Did you think about the bus and train pass? However, rather than the train I would suggest you take the bus as a cheap option. 

From Megabus, you can buy your bus tickets for just $5 – $8. Not only that, Flixbus and Greyhound also had cheaper options. City hopping becomes so easy!

Remember, to book your tickets always in advance to pay extra for the same ride. I only paid $65 to reach Columbia, South Carolina to Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Also, for overnight rides, you have to pay a minimum of $50 – $100. It’s a lot more affordable compared to any other mode of transport. 

Public transport - travel USA on a budget
Public transport – travel USA on a budget


Yes, sharing a ride is one of the cheapest ways to travel in the USA, cutting costs, and making new friends and new memories. 

During my trip to San Francisco, I booked a car to visit Napa Valley. I offered a ride to two people I met in the hostels. Later, a friend’s friend joined me along the way. 

You know what; she stayed with me for the whole San Francisco trip. Not only a great soul accompanied me but I was able to cut costs in every restaurant I visited.

So, I am telling you that sharing rides and believing your instinct can make your trip more fun and enjoyable. It also lowers the gas fee. 

Travel Credit Card vs Cash exchange

choose: travel credit card

Travel Credit Card

The travel credit card has a reward point facility with which you can earn a lot of discounts and very relaxed money withdrawal facilities. 

Mostly, these travel smart cards offer Reward Points (RP) and cashback which you can use for making payments and making international trips more convenient. 

Niyo global card is a great option, however, it comes with limitations on daily usage. 

The major drawback of online transactions in the USA is – your hometown mobile number might not work and you will be denied OTP for making transactions. 

How will you make payments? Again, if you want to make international transactions from your cards a lot of charges will be deducted.

Therefore, travel credit cards with added benefits like health insurance, airport lounges, and complimentary food at the airport, booking tickets, fees, and more.

Travel Credit Card, traveling cheaply in the USA
Travel Credit Card – traveling cheaply in the USA

                                             Cash exchange

If you plan to travel to the USA on a budget then currency exchange is another way to make a transaction. However, I would not recommend this.

The currency exchange rate sometimes deducts fees that can be very high. Also, you have to carry a lot of dollars in your pocket which means there is a high risk of pickpocketing too.

Hence, cash exchange is required and important for the first two days, and after that start using your credit card. 

From your home country exchange the money from the bank or at the destination airport or outside in the market you can exchange it.


And that sums up my blog on Travel USA on a budget! Hopefully, the tips and suggestions will be useful to plan your next visit to the USA.

And, for budget travel, remember to pack a good pair of shoes, because walking can save a lot of dollars and keep your digestive system thumbs up! I wish you luck on your coming travel experience and budget.

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