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What is the Cheapest Way to Travel Across the US?

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If you’re seeking a cheap method to travel across the United States, this article is perfect for you. We’ve compiled a list of the most cost-effective methods to cross from coast to coast so you can discover America without spending an arm and a leg.

In this article, you will discover the different methods of visiting the major cities in the US while on a tight budget. So, what do you have to lose? Get started on planning your next road trip right now. Here are the cheapest ways to travel across the US.

Cross Country Travel

US map with white and green pins

Traveling is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and explore new things. It can be scary, but it’s also really fun. One thing that people might not think about when they’re planning their trip is how cross-country travel will affect them physically.

There are many things to consider, so it is important to plan ahead of time. Take note of your options, from flights from budget airlines to utilizing public transportation.

Best Places to Visit in the United States

It’s important to consider your preferences when deciding which states to visit. Oregon and Washington will be good choices if you like nature, as they have plenty of national parks.

If you’re more interested in cities, Las Vegas or New York City might be better for you because there are lots of things to do there all year round. No matter what type of person someone is, everyone will find something interesting about traveling across the US.

The best way to determine which place suits one’s needs is to note one’s likes and dislikes while considering cross-country travel routes. This way, one can pick whichever destination feels most comfortable or enjoyable at that moment—whether it be an outdoor adventure close to nature or a trip to one of the many popular metropolises.

What’s more, aside from being highly cost-efficient, traveling across the US is also known for its convenience and flexibility, as it allows people to choose what they want to prioritize, be it spending quality time with loved ones, seeing what the world has to offer, or whatever.

There are also tons of free activities or organized tours available for travelers. Here are some of the best places to visit while on a budget:

  1. The Grand Canyon in Arizona
  2. The Rocky Mountains in Colorado
  3. The beaches of California
  4. The bright lights of New York City
  5. The history of Washington, D.C.
  6. The beautiful mountains of Oregon
  7. New Orleans, Louisiana
  8. The beautiful beaches and ocean in Hawaii

Itinerary and Budgeting

Cross-country road trips can be a great way to see America. Here is a suggested itinerary for a two-week trip.

  • Day 1: Drive from your home city to your first destination.
  • Day 2: Explore the city of your first destination.
  • Day 3: Drive to your next destination.
  • Day 4: Explore the city of your second destination.  
  • Day 5: Drive to your next destination. 
  • Day 6: Explore the city of your third destination.  
  • Day 7: Drive to your fourth destination and explore that city for the day. 
  • Days 8 and 9: Take some time to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature at one of the many national parks in the US.
  • Day 10: Drive from your fourth destination to your next city for the night.
  • Day 11-13: Take a visit to a major theme park or a big museum, depending on what you enjoy doing. Be sure that it’s somewhere within driving distance of your hotel.
  • Days 14-15: Learn by driving to your next destination.
  • Day 16: Take a day trip from your next destination to explore what’s nearby, or spend the day relaxing at the hotel.
  • Days 17-18: Get out and enjoy what nature has to offer you during this short stopover in what is likely a major national park.
  • Day 19: Drive from your last destination to the hotel you’ll stay in for the night.
  • Day 20: Spend what’s left of your trip exploring what this city offers before returning home.

Taking extended road trips on a budget requires planning and research, but it can also be a great way to see different parts of the US.

Save Money When Visiting the Major Cities

How you travel across a state or multiple states can also make a difference in your daily travel budget. Make it a top priority to learn the different budget tips or helpful tips that will allow you to enjoy big savings while exploring the big cities in the US.

Car rentals are likely more expensive, but if you plan on driving after dark, it might be worth paying extra for a rental with headlights. Riding a bus across the country will probably cost less than flying or renting a car, but you might lose flexibility from what you gain in money.

If you fly from state to state, that will largely depend on what airport is close to your destination and what airlines operate there. You can often find cheap flights online, especially if they’re booked last minute.

There are many ways to save money on what you spend on a cross-country road trip, but by being prepared and having a plan, you can make the most of your time out on tour.

See Related: Proven Ways to Save Money for Travel

What is the Cheapest Way to Travel Across the US?

Handcrafted cross stitch artwork featuring RV with Born to Roam quote

If you’re seeking a cheap method to travel across the United States, read on. We’ve compiled a list of the most cost-effective methods to cross from coast to coast so you can discover America without spending an arm and a leg.

Many people save money when they travel with a group instead of going alone. When you have a group, splitting the expenses and creating a cost-effective road trip is easy. If that doesn’t work for you, what about traveling on foot? Believe it or not, many people travel across the country this way.

There are various events for travelers who walk across the US, like the Trans Am Bike Race and the Great American Walk. If you love to be active or appreciate what America offers regarding natural beauty, this might be right up your alley.

In addition to walking across America, you could always ride your bike if you’re short on cash. It’s a great option because you can do it alone or in a group. Plus, there are plenty of events that you can join to stay motivated while biking across the U.S., such as Pedal Across America and The Great Bike Ride Across Kansas.

See Related: Things to Do in Wichita, Kansas

Getting on An Airplane

Interior of an empty Delta Airlines aircraft with rows of blue leather seats and overhead ambient lighting, awaiting departure from Fairbanks to Minneapolis
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Most people probably think of flying across the country when they hear “cross-country travel,” and it does have its benefits. However, there are a few things to consider when getting on an airplane for a cross-country trip.

First, you’ll want to ensure you’re well-rested and have had a decent meal before boarding. You’ll also want to make sure that your carry-on luggage is properly packed and doesn’t contain any prohibited items.

It’s also important to be familiar with the airport security screening process and know what items you can bring on the plane in your carry-on luggage.

Finally, once you’re on board, it’s important to follow the flight attendant’s instructions and remain seated during takeoff and landing. Use Google Flights or budget airlines to save big. Use Skyscanner to find cheap flights and save money on your travel.

See Related: Layover vs Stopover: What’s The Difference?

Renting a Car

If you plan on traveling across the country, it is advisable to rent a car. You can save money by driving your vehicle and avoiding the high gasoline costs.

You may also want to consider how long it will take for one of those long-distance flights if things go smoothly or if there are any problems en route, such as an accident or mechanical problem with the plane. Renting also gives you access to more places at once without worrying about space restrictions on airlines – pack light.

A note about safety: when renting a car, ensure they have enough car insurance coverage before taking off down some unknown country roads. Find cars to rent on Kayak and get the best deals.

See Related: Cheapest Places to Vist in the United States

Riding a Ferry

Taking a ferry is a great way to travel cross-country. Not only does it save time, but it also provides an amazing view of the passing landscape. Depending on what ferry you choose, some are more expensive than others. Generally, the less time it takes to cross a body of water, the higher the cost to use one.

Riding a Bus

Taking a bus for a cross-country trip can be a great way to see the country. You’ll have the opportunity to meet new people and see some amazing sights. However, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind before you embark on your journey.

First, be sure to budget appropriately. Buses can be affordable, but they certainly aren’t free. Ensure you have enough money to cover your costs.

Second, be prepared for long journeys. The average bus ride is about 8 hours, so pack plenty of snacks and drinks to keep you fed and hydrated. It’s also a good idea to bring something to read or watch to pass the time while on the bus.

Traveling via Train

Taking a train across the country is affordable and allows you to enjoy what’s happening outside your window or cabin. If you’re looking for something with traditional amenities, Amtrak provides free Wi-Fi and power outlets at each seat so you can catch up on what’s happening worldwide.

Amtrak also offers food service, making it easy to get what you need without leaving your seat. However, if you’d rather not have someone wait on you during your trip, there are usually snack bars throughout the train cars where you can buy what you need to keep yourself comfortable.

Cycling Your Way

If you’re looking for the cheapest way to travel cross-country, consider bicycling. Some highways and roads allow bicycles, and it is an amazing way to see what’s around you as you travel from one place to another.

However, before taking your bike on a cross-country trip, ensure you understand what’s expected of you and the rules. You’ll need to maintain your bike properly and ensure it has all the necessary equipment to get you through your journey safely.

You may also want to talk to someone who has already taken on such a challenge so that they can tell you what to expect.

Travel Tips to See More for Less

Woman sitting on car roof

Here are some tips for making the most of your cross-country trip: 

Get plenty of rest

Since traveling requires extra mental and physical effort, you’ll need all the energy you can muster. Ensure you stop often along the way so you don’t feel like you have to go nonstop or risk getting carsick or dehydrated. 

Eat healthy food

It’s important to eat healthy when you’re on the road. Pack nutritious snacks, such as granola bars or dried fruit, that will energize you without weighing down your travel bag.

You don’t want to feel so hungry that you have no choice but to stop for an unhealthy meal at a fast-food restaurant. It might be cheap, but saving money shouldn’t mean cutting back on what you eat. Instead, try to pick restaurants that serve healthy food, like Subway or Chipotle. 

Research your destination

Before you hit the open road, do some research on your destination. Find out what sights and attractions you don’t want to miss, and plan your route accordingly. You’ll also want to ensure you know the best times of year to visit each destination.

Prepare your budget

There are many ways to prepare your budget for this type of trip, but it’s important to start planning early to have enough time to save up. Managing your finances ahead of time will help you spend more wisely during your trip across different states.

Be Friendly

Try to be as friendly as possible to the people you meet along the road. Not only will they be happy to help you out, but you might even make a new friend from whom you can get advice on what to see and do in the area.

Book Early

If you’re planning on taking a cross-country trip, it’s important to book your reservations as early as possible. Doing so will give you the best hotel, rental car, and airfare deals. You’ll also have a better chance of getting the dates and flights you want.

In addition, booking early will give you more time to plan your trip. This means you can research destinations and attractions and create a travel itinerary that fits your schedule and budget.

Use sunscreen

You’ll be spending a lot of time outside, and even though you might not think it’s sunny where you’re going, it probably is. No one wants a sunburned nose.

When purchasing sunscreen, get the kind that has an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin. You should also bring a hat and sunglasses to avoid burning your eyes while driving.

Where can you get more information?

If you’re planning a cross-country road trip, be sure to check out the following resources for tips and advice:

The Federal Highway Administration

The Federal Highway Administration has information on choosing the best route, preparing your vehicle for a long trip, and staying safe.

The American Automobile Association (AAA)

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is a great source of information for both leisure and business travelers. It offers travel guides, maps, discounts on car rentals, and hotels.

Rand McNally

Rand McNally is a popular provider of maps and travel resources. Its products, such as TripMaker RVND GPS devices, can help you plan your entire trip.


How much money do you need to travel across the United States?

The simplest and most affordable option is by car. At the time of writing, you can rent a car or buy one used for as little as $5,000. One important thing to remember is that renting a vehicle has many extra costs, such as insurance and gas, for which you might not be prepared.

How can I travel across the US for free?

There are many free ways to travel across the US, but some of the most popular methods are hitchhiking and couchsurfing.

Hitchhiking is a great way to see the country while meeting new people, and Couchsurfing connects you with locals who can show you around their city or town. If you are daring enough, living out of your car is always possible.

What is the best transportation for cross-country travel?

Globally, the most popular form of transportation is by train. Trains are especially great for long distances because they are cheap and efficient.

And what’s more, no other vehicle gives you as much time to take in your surroundings or enjoy what’s happening around you. You can even book some train trips with sleeper berths for overnight passages.

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