Best Travel Hacks for Exploring the United States

Given the size and diversity, both Americans and international tourists can find traveling through the U.S. time- and cost-effective somewhat challenging. To make things easier, we’ve created a list of travel hacks for exploring the U.S., including budgeting, transportation tips, and accommodation tips.  

According to Statista, the U.S. is the third largest country in the world. Not surprisingly, it is a country that offers a diverse range of sceneries and experiences, from internationally known urban jungles to remote locations where no human dares to live. 

Given the size and diversity, both Americans and international tourists can find traveling through the U.S. time- and cost-effective somewhat challenging. To make things easier, we’ve created a list of travel hacks for exploring the U.S., including budgeting, transportation tips, and accommodation tips.  

Make the most of your budget with city passes and discount cards

While not as expensive as Switzerland or Norway, the U.S. is not a particularly cheap destination. Visiting popular cities across the United States can be especially pricey, especially when you’re trying to fit in a handful of museums, attractions, and tours. One method for surviving the wallet-draining encounter is by looking into city passes and discount cards that offer significant savings. 

These often come with perks like “skip-the-line” privileges, and they’re not just cost-effective options but also essential time-savers. With a little bit of research before your trip, you might be able to find deals that cover most of what you want to see or do; this way, you’ll have more money left over to enjoy other parts of the city.

For instance, there’s New York CityPASS if your itinerary includes some Big Apple exploration. This pass helps you save up to 40% on admission fees at six well-known attractions including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to saving money though, it also prevents you from having to wait in line so long that you lose valuable hours simply standing around instead of seeing things.

Consider ditching expensive hotels

A major portion of any travel budget goes toward accommodation expenses, but it doesn’t have to be that way unless luxury matters to you. Several alternatives out there will save you money while giving you a pleasant experience. For instance, Airbnb and VRBO short-term rentals along with local hostels all offer various types of accommodations ranging from shared rooms all the way up to full homes, and oftentimes for a fraction of what traditional hotels charge per night.

For example, you can book yourself into cabins near several national parks via Airbnb if you plan on visiting soon. On top of being budget-friendly, you’ll likely have access to insider tips from your hosts about their favorite places around town. They might know where the best taco truck can be found or which hiking trails are better for seeing wildlife.

If you’re going to stay with a private host, make sure you choose one that has enough reviews to help you make an informed decision. In addition, consider using specialized search services to find additional information about the person who will be your host. On Nuwber, for example, you can use a name, phone, or email address to find valuable information about an individual, including their addresses, police records, and social media profiles, to name a few.

Use rideshare apps and public transportation

While it’s true that distances between U.S. cities can be vast, it’s also true that this could be a good thing for your travel funds. Unfortunately, public infrastructure in the U.S. is not the best when compared to other high-income countries. That being said, some American cities will have various subway lines, buses, and trams that make for a much cheaper way to get around than renting a car or hailing a cab. 

Additionally, rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft provide convenient and affordable options when you need them most, especially during trips with several people or while in areas where public transit isn’t common. Before you start moving around town too much though, you should look up the city’s transportation options, download any necessary apps, and purchase any cards ahead of time so that you don’t scramble at the last minute wasting time and money.

For example, let’s say you plan to visit San Francisco. You can try its cable cars and see the city’s sights without having to worry about finding a parking space. When it gets late at night you might want to use an app that calls a shared ride, as it will be cheaper than taking a cab on your own.

Pack efficiently and expect the unexpected when it comes to the weather

If you’re going to explore large chunks of the country, you need to prepare for a little bit of everything when it comes to weather. The U.S. has beaches, deserts, dense forests, snowy mountains, and all the seasons in between. This means that you really need to pack smart. For example, you’ll want easily removable layers for cooler climates or evenings, waterproof items just in case there’s some bad weather along your journey, and versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down depending on your activity or destination.

For example, if you’re planning a trip that includes the desert and then head toward the coast—say from Arizona to Seattle—then you will need a mix of breathable clothes for the hot days as well as warmer layers for cooler nights and climates later on. By adding a good waterproof jacket, comfortable walking shoes, and day-to-night outfit into your luggage you can avoid extra expenses by going straight from place to place without having to stop and buy new clothes, etc.

Avoid the crowds & save some money

Whether it’s flights, accommodations, or attraction tickets, planning your trip around off-peak periods typically guarantees lower prices. In addition, some of you may find the overall experience of the destination without all the tourists taking up every single space to be more authentic and relaxing.

For example, you could have a trip to Orlando’s amusement parks during the fall. The weather is still nice, giving you more than enough time and space to enjoy everything the theme park has to offer. Not only that but hotels are usually priced lower during this season. So, not only is it less busy, you may save some money too.

Bottom line: Just because the U.S. is big doesn’t mean you need to break the bank

Traveling across a large country will typically be more challenging, as you will either spend days in a car, train, or bus or have to buy multiple plane tickets. That being said, it’s possible to travel throughout the country without spending a one-year budget provided you engage in careful planning and know when to travel, where, and in what conditions.

Last but not least, if you live in the U.S., don’t unnecessarily ambition yourself to see all the attractions you can think of in a single journey. If more convenient in terms of costs and time, you may well split a single trip into multiple smaller ones that are to be taken within an established time frame. This way you may end up investing less and spend your time more effectively at each destination.