How to Visit the USA on a Budget
Travelling to America for the first time can be daunting. There is a lot of information to read, strict immigration rules to abide by, a long-haul flight to take and the task of navigating a huge country with a completely different culture than you are probably used to.
The United States is also quite expensive at the moment due to the strong dollar meaning foreign currency doesn't go as far as it used to.
But with so many amazing places, sights and things to do, it would be boring to visit and not do some of the highlights so spending money is inevitable.
There are though lots of things you can do to keep your costs down including preparing well in advance of your departure.
Check out our top recommendations for how to plan a dream trip to the USA on the cheap.
1. Check Entry Requirements & Apply for an ETSA
It is wise to check up on what you need to do before visiting the United States well in advance to ensure you are eligble for a tourist visa and also you have a valid passport.
Britons and other worldwide nationalities need to apply for an entry permit. This ESTA visa allows citizens of the 38 eligible Visa Waiver Program countries to enter the US legally and be accepted entry on arrival.
You can make your ESTA application online and get it approved in hours. It only costs $14 so won't hurt your bank balance too much.
2. How Long Do You Want to Stay
For most vacations, 1 to 4 weeks is enough time to see a lot of the main highlights of the country. You can compact a big USA trip into a short trip if planned with accuracy. The longer you stay the more money you are likely to spend so try to keep your trip short as possible.
3. Cheapest Month to Visit
If you have a flexible schedule then typically, the cheapest month to book flights to the USA are January, February, October and November. Summer and Christmas are the most expensive times of the year to visit so avoid these if you want to avoid paying a premium in flights and accommodation.
4. Work Out a Budget
How much money you have will really define your trip. If you work our a rough figure of how much you have available you should be able to budget for time, accommodation and sightseeing. If you give yourself a daily budget you will be able to have a set price each day in mind and try to keep to it.
5. Choose Where to Go
There are literally hundreds of amazing places to visit in the United States and you need to decide what it is you want out of your trip, how much time you have available and also what budget you have available.
Each region of the States has its own culture, sights and activities. There are many states to consider, and world famous cities located all over the country.
Popular US cities to visit include:
- Miami, Florida
- New York
- Los Angeles, California
- New Orleans, Louisiana
New York really is a city you must visit once in your life and this city should be on your travel itinerary. Interested in history? We recommend Washington DC. Keen to party? Head to New Orleans. Interested in seeing beautiful beaches? Consider Florida or California.
If you are looking to travel on a budget you might want to consider spending minimal time in expensive cities like LA, Miami and New York. These are expensive all year round but even more pricey during tourist popular times like summer, New Years and Christmas. Prices increase around these times of the year. Consider alternative places to avoid seeing your money going fast.
Alternative cheaper cities to consider include:
- Portland, Oregon
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Austin, Texas
There is an extensive transport network in the USA and you can choose between flying, trains, tours, renting your own transport or travelling by bus. If you want to visit multiple destinations you might want to consider the Megabus which offer a very cheap service although distances are long. There are lots of low cost budget airlines offering routes throughout the States and prices vary depending on the month.
7. Choose Accommodation Carefully
Finding somewhere to stay is likely to be your biggest cost. There are lots of options when it comes to accommodation including:
- Vacation Homes
- Spare Rooms
You will also want to determine accommodation by considering who you are going with. Travelling solo? Hostels are social and cheaper than hotels. Going with friends? Hostels / hotels offer great value when you share the cost.
For families, you will want private accommodation so that you feel more relaxed so it is best to shop around for the best deals. Private accommodation like AirBnB has lots of benefits too including cooking facilities meaning saving money on eating out.
If you have any friends or family stateside it is worth reaching out to see if you can manage to get a free place to stay. The more you save on accommodation the more money you will have for fun activities and sightseeing.
When visiting a destinations in the USA it is also always cheaper to stay outside of the main tourist hotspots. If you are visiting NYC, for example, you might find it more affordable to stay outside of Manhattan. The other boroughs or even going further out and staying somewhere like Woodstock is a great area allowing you to save big on hotel fees. Woodstock is still within driving distance to the Big Apple. To enjoy a home away from home, you can find plenty of incredible Woodstock vacation rentals to suit all needs.
8. Book Flights in Advance
Flights to America can be expensive but there are lots of ways to save money including:
- Using a flight comparison website like Skyscanner where you can compare flights with all the major airlines
- Try to be flexible when it comes to flight dates and times, week days are generally cheaper than weekends
- Go with a budget airline, companies like Norweigan Air are now offering cheap routes from Europe to destinations like Miami, Chicago and New York
9. Find Cheap / Low Cost Things to Do
Use websites like TripAdvisor to check reviews and recommended things to do in destinations throughout the USA. You don't want to arrive somewhere and not make the most of the experience! There are lots of travel sites, social media, and travel blogs where you can discover highlights and amazing cheap places to see. Use Instagram, for instance, when seeking places to eat and popular local points of interest.
The USA really is amazing and it is possible to visit cheaply. Follow our tips and go enjoy the best trip of your life!