America on a budget

I travelled America after working on a summer camp: and being a student, this was done on what you could call ‘little money’, but this blog post is aimed for anyone looking to travel America on the best value for money.

First of all, before you travel, make sure you aware of the budget you have, and how much you are going to need for the necessities i.e. Transport, accommodation and of course, food and drink. Work out where you want to go, the duration and, of course, how much you are going to spend, for both your needs and wants. I’ll admit it from the start, myself and my friends clearly got ourselves carried away with our travel plans, booked it all, and then had a moment of realisation when we discovered we’d be on a very tight budget. Thankfully, our families supported us on the journey, and I can speak on behalf of myself that I couldn’t thank my family enough for their support! But, we did learn our lesson, yes we enjoyed every minute of our travelling and it was worth every penny, but the best tip is to prepare!

Where did we go?
So, after spending 9 weeks living and working in Ohio, we started our travels and visited 8 different places within our 3 weeks travel time. Our trip was all city based, so we visited a lot of the major cities in the USA.

  • Cleveland, Ohio (we spent a few days with a very good camp friend before heading off on our adventure)
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • San Francisco, California
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Washington D.C
  • New York City

I will be writing a seperate blog post on my after camp travel, so I won’t go into detail about duration of stays, what I got up to etc – just stay tuned for that!
Anyway, this trip cost between £1000-£1500 for all accommodation, transport and Disney tickets (we saved up for this), so the rest of the money we needed was for food, transfers and any spending money we needed. If you’re going to camp, the pocket money you earn will help massively towards the costs of food and transfers etc. I made sure I kept my $600 pocket money and split it across the three weeks for food and drink whilst travelling.

How did we do it?
Our first dilemma was, do we create and book our own travel itinerary, or do we book onto a Camp America Trek (these I’ll touch upon towards the end of the blog). We decided on our own, purely so we could tailor make it to fit ourselves based on destination choices, duration of stays and what exactly we wanted to see and do.

Once we decided on where we wanted to go, it was time to research. Here’s my top tips!

Accommodation – Expedia/Booking.com
To book all our accommodation, we used the search engines Expedia and Booking.com. Why? Because we was able to search within our budget, compare locations, facilities, prices, etc, and when it come to booking we could secure the room without making a payment; ‘Book now, pay later’. This allowed us to secure the room at a set price, then we could split the cost and pay in dollars upon arrival at the accommodation. Just bare in mind, when you use search engines like this, you will be required to put bank details down to secure the booking, and some organisations will hold a pre-authorisation amount on your account.  Also, become a member of these websites because you’ll get exclusive member deals! Another thing to consider when booking is that many providers across the USA ask for a refundable deposit on the room upon arrival; although it should state on the hotel/booking information, just make sure you have that extra money available to cover this deposit, and if possible, pay it in cash, that way you can have it back instantly when departing…it can take a few days to be put back into your bank account. Whilst you can’t 100% all reviews, it’s always worth to check what reviews are made regarding the accommodations you research, the more positive reviews there are, the more you can trust it.

Transport – Airlines (South West airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines) Bus (Megabus)
Now, you may think it costs loads to travel from state to state, but think again, and don’t go booking with the first airline you see. From my experience this Summer, the best airlines to look into are South West Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines. The benefit of booking flights is that you can research and book them early in advance, the earlier you book the cheaper the flight! In regards to the Megabus, they only start releasing the dates and prices a few months in advance, but again, the earlier you book, the cheaper the price of your ticket, so if your date isn’t available when you first start looking, keep checking back – you could end up getting fares for only $1.50…amazing! A tip for travelling via the Megabus is look at night travel or early morning, the fares are often cheaper! Just make sure, when you are booking your travel, you look at the baggage allowances for each service, because different airlines can differ, along with the restrictions being different for the bus.

Food-
Despite how nice it is to eat out in restaurants, lets face reality, if you’re travelling on a budget, this is rarely going to happen – make it the occassional treat and it’ll be nicer! When selecting your accommodation, try and find one that offers Free Breakfast, breakfast across the USA is often buffet continental, so fill yourself up on cereal, toast, waffles/pancakes, and grab some fruit to take with you on the day and you should be sorted for a couple of hours. If your accommodation doesn’t come with breakfast, and you’re travelling as a group, pop to the local convenience store and buy a box of cereal to share amongst you – it’ll save you money! The perfect place for snacks in the day, or a meal if you don’t eat much is 7/11. 7/11 is one of the best things to exist, and it’s SO cheap for some pizza, hot dogs, burgers, and of course, the famous slush puppies – you have to treat yourself to one of those! Other ‘gas stations’ such as Speedway and Sonic are perfect for this kind of food/drink, but they are harder to find compared to 7/11. When it comes down to a proper meal for the day, I’d suggest places like Denny’s, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Wendy’s, and even getting a dominoes takeaway to your hotel – me and my friends did this a lot because it worked out so cheap amongst us all!

Attractions-
There are so many things to see and do for free across the states! Obviously, theres going to be attractions that you want to do that cost money, and if you got it, go for it, it may be your only chance, but definitely visit free attractions – even if you’re not strapped for cash! I’ll go into more detail about the attractions on my next travel specific blog, but research before you go and plan a mixture of paid/free attractions, and hey, sightseeing is free, and theres plenty to see in every state!!

Or, forgot the responsibility of research, planning and booking your travels yourself and book onto a Camp America trek!
Camp America treks are the perfect way to see America hassle-free as part of a group of 13! If you’re a Camp America applicant, you get 15% off the original cost, and you can confirm your place on the trek of your choice with a deposit of just £150 right now! Treks are available to research on (https://www.campamericatreks.com) and you can find the trek for you based on destinations, price and duration – you aren’t short of choice! I’d love to do a CA trek, they are the perfect opportunity to go ‘off the beaten track’ and visit sights such as Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and more, all whilst being driven and guided by your very own American tour guide!
The biggest tip is to research! Theres loads to see and do across the USA, and if you plan and research accordingly, you can do it on excellent value for money and come back with a million memories. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity and experience I was giving travelling across the US at such a young age and if you can do it, definitely make the most out of it – you won’t regret it!

-Always exploring,

A

 

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