Looking to get out of town, but not looking to spend a fortune on your getaway? The good news is that traveling doesn’t have to be expensive if you do it right. There are plenty of ways to make your cross-country trip stay on budget. Whether you’re looking for a quick weekend trip or a three-month escape, here is the cheapest way to travel cross country and save money on transportation, lodging, and even food.
Cheap Last-Minute Flights
Flying is the fastest way to get around and with the multitude of travel websites out there, you can look for last-minute airline deals or sign up to have these deals sent to your inbox.
Not sure where you’re going? That’s even better! Sometimes, flash deals may pop up for surprise destinations. You might find yourself in New York City one day or in Anchorage, Alaska the next. Have a weekend go-bag packed and be ready for wherever the flight gods want to take you.
Bus and Bike
Buses are cheap and a great way to get from one city to another. Plus, the experience on a bus is like no other. Don’t be shy — start a conversation with your seatmate; you never know who you’re traveling with.
Once you get to your destination, you can either rent a bike, use a pay-per-use public bike, or even bring your own. It’s a great way to see the city and the country at a slower pace. Make sure to pack light so you’re not weighed down by bulky suitcases.
Drive and Camp
Looking to do an inexpensive road trip? Instead of spending money on hotels, turn your car into your bedroom! If you love camping, this is an ideal trip that lets you get out and explore the country. Plus, unlike the other modes of transportation, this one is 100% pet friendly.
There are plenty of campsite apps and websites that you can use to plan your stop for the night. TheDyrt.com offers these suggestions for the best campsite apps.
- The Dyrt (Free) — 500,000+ campsites, reviews & tips at National, State, Private
- Recreation.gov (Free) — National Parks only
- Reserve America (Free) — State Parks only
- Tentrr (Free) — Glamping, platform tents
- Hipcamp (Free) — Glamping, private land
- REI Co-op National Parks Guide (Free) — National Parks only, no reservations
- AllStays ($9.99) — Rest Stops, RV Parks & Some Campgrounds
- Campendium (Free) — RV, Tent campgrounds
- Boondocking (Free) — Submitted locations for boondockers
Travel by Train
Did you know that you can buy a USA rail pass through Amtrak? This allows you to visit over 500 cities without ever having to touch a steering wheel. There are 15-day, 30-day, and 45-day passes for those who want to sit back in a spacious cabin and watch the scenery fly by. One advantage of the rail pass is that you’ll get to move through unexpected cities if you’re traveling to somewhere with no direct route. This is what travelers call “good surprises.”
Lodging and Food
It might be tempting and more convenient to go through fast food drive-thrus for every single meal, but pretty soon, you’ll start to see the side effects — weight gain, uncomfortable stomach, and a vanishing budget.
Head to local grocery stores to make and pack your food for travel days. (Check out Savetastic’s tips for eating healthy on a budget.)
Use websites such as couchsurfing.com or Airbnb to book free or cheap places to stay that also come equipped with a kitchen. This is a good chance to get to know the locals and get some good tips on where to visit and what to see.