The lure of America for travellers is easy to understand. Whether you’re interested in seeing this immense country by road, rail or flights between the major cities, there is a rich array of different sights waiting.
If you’re on a strict budget, then travelling in America is definitely possible but some careful planning and knowledge is needed.
Once you’ve decided on the type of trip you’d like to take, and the priorities for your visit, then – mundane though it may seem when you’re thinking of the fabulous experiences and sights awaiting you – try to work out a precise budget for your stay and tenaciously stick to it.
If you’ve recently passed your driving test, then the lure of driving along arrow-straight US highways may be strong – and seem like just reward for your efforts. If it’s a road trip you want spend lots of time looking for the most cost effective way of hiring vehicles and which bits of your journey are a ‘must’ to complete behind the wheel.
When considering cities you’ll visit, research into what’s available at low prices or even free. In some cases, festivals and music might cost nothing. For example, in the Florida Keys there are coupons and discounts available for museums, accommodation, fishing trips and more. Similarly, most cities offer tourism cards that offer large discounts across a range of attractions.
Likewise, if you’re likely to visit two or three national parks, then buying a ‘blanket pass’ to all of them would be worthwhile – one pass covers the pass holder and three other people in the same vehicle.
Hunt out and use these offers, you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t.
Type of trip
‘Do it yourself’ – if you’re comfortable using the web to research travel sites and book online for various components of the trip such as flights, accommodation and car hire then you can put together a bespoke trip.
Even things like car hire are becoming a little like flights in that the better deals can often be secured by booking well ahead. The disadvantage of booking a trip like this is that, as a whole, it won’t be protected by the ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) or ABTA (Association of British Tavel Agents) schemes.
Packages – these do usually offer the safeguards of ATOL and ABTA protection and are becoming more popular again due to offering the convenience of organised trips at more competitive prices. There’s also more flexibility being built in such as variable itineraries in some cases.
Tailor made – these can actually work out less expensive than doing it yourself and have the advantage of the expert touch in putting together an itinerary.
Whether you’re travelling by air just to get to and from the States, or are also visiting areas by air using internal flights, you need to work out the cheapest times to fly. Avoid busy school holiday and business times if possible.
Consider hiring a motorhome if there’s a group of you. While being more expensive than a car, it’ll save on accommodation costs and food too. With ‘eating in’ facilities you’ll have far less need to use restaurants or other catering options.
When checking car hire rates, remember insurance costs and especially excess cover. Look for car hire companies that provide it – or take it out in advance.
Within financial reach
The States might be one of the best countries to explore on earth, but it needn’t cost the earth to do so. Plan well ahead and look out for the best deals on travel and accommodation to free up the funds for a fantastic adventure.