We are Phil and Kelsey Schaub, together with our 2 cats (Pedro and Paxton) we travel the US as travelling Physical Therapists.
By the time this year is finished, we will have been travelling for 18 months and have driven almost 20,000 miles around the country.
Because of all that travelling, we have developed some great tips when it comes to living cheaply while on the road.
Here are 12 easy ways we save money when travelling the beautiful United States.
- How to Save Money on Gas During a Road Trip
- 10 BEST US Road Trips to Make in an RV
- What is Rideshare?
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#1 Use Websites to Find Free Camping
Believe it or not, there are tons of places to camp for free in the USA.
Some of the campgrounds that are free belong to the Bureau of Land Management which can mean no amenities. This also gives you a great opportunity to become one with nature. Also the fact that you are camping somewhere free and beautiful is definitely a plus!
#2 Join a Camping Organisation that Gives Deals/Discounts
Programs like Harvest Hosts, Passport America, Good Sam Club and Thousand Trails are awesome, cheap programs where you pay a monthly or yearly price and then get access to a whole heap of campgrounds. This is a great way to save money when travelling the US, as a little bit of effort here can really pay off.
All of these programs offer something different. For instance, Passport America is more of a conventional campground program, while Harvest Hosts is a group of businesses like farms, wineries, etc. that you can stay at.
Use any of the above organisations to save on camping fees. Or sign up and also use it as an opportunity to see new things you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered.
SNEAKY BUDGET TRAVEL BONUS TIP
Easy Rent Cars are a great online vehicle hire site that can help save you a ton of money when you travel the US.
Because car rental rates change constantly (just like airline and hotel prices) the guys at Easyrentcars have come up with the perfect beat-the-system tool.
Their unique Price Drop Protector offers registered members of Easyrentcars.com the exclusive ability to lock in savings if the total price of your car rental drops after you book!
That means even if the price of your rental goes down after booking, you still only EVER pay the lower, later price!
#3 Enjoy the Great Park System
If you can’t stay somewhere free or don’t want to shell out for a subscription plan, you might want to consider staying at a national, state or local park.
To save money at national parks, we always buy an annual pass for $80. You can then avoid having to pay entrance fees.
State and local parks are even cheaper than national ones and can be just as beautiful and secluded, so we definitely recommend checking them out too.
#4 Sign Up for Hotel Rewards
If you aren’t the outdoorsy type, consider signing up to a hotel rewards program as a top way of saving money when travelling the US.
We prefer Hotels.com since they have such a wide range of hotels throughout the country … perfect when the weather isn’t suitable for camping!
Other people we know also swear by the idea of belonging to one hotel chain and getting deals through their member rewards program.
Word of Warning: Do not overspend on a hotel just to collect the free nights. In the end you will be either losing money or just coming out even.
#5 Skip the Hotel and Stay in Someone’s House
Rather than hotels, we often use both Airbnb and VRBO to get our hands on some awesome vacation deals that see us staying in someone’s home.
These places can sometimes be a lot cheaper than holiday apartments and can be located in some great spots.
A kind of sneaky way to save money when travelling the US, but we’ve also stayed with family and friends in a ton of different places across the US. People have always been willing to host us for a couple of nights, especially if they haven’t seen us in a while!
Handy Tip: Just make sure you show your appreciation to those people that host you and keep in touch beyond the cursory “So, we are thinking about coming to town, can we stay with you?” text!
#6 Buy Food from Farmers Markets
It might be an obvious one, but when it comes to eating, it is typically much more cost effective and healthy to buy and cook your own food when travelling the US.
This doesn’t stop you from enjoying the food culture of wherever you are however, as we always try and visit farmers markets and buy the local produce there to cook with.
Finding and utilising farmers markets is a great way to save money when travelling the US.
You get to enjoy the local culture, support local economies and you get to eat healthier too!
#7 Utilise the Dollar Menu
If cooking isn’t your thing, or like us, you fancy a night away from the kitchen occasionally, then we recommend going somewhere and buying the cheap stuff!
Dollar menus at fast food restaurants qualify here, but don’t limit yourself to fast food when you are to trying to save money when travelling the US.
You can equally go to a local restaurant and stick to just appetizers, or find the cheapest thing on the menu to save a little bit of money while still enjoying yourself.
#8 Borrow Some Wifi!
We don’t have cable or internet so we use our phones for day to day internet when travelling.
Using a cell phone for all of your internet access however, can make for an expensive monthly bill in the US. So, if we know we’ll need to be on the internet for an extended period of time we generally go to a coffee shop!
The most obvious pick here is Starbucks, which we generally frequent in order to bum their wifi for a few hours while drinking coffee!
It’s cheap (usually less than $5 USD if you stick to the simple beverages) and it gets you out of the house and exploring the world just a little bit too.
Just make sure you don’t overstay your welcome!
#9 Travel in an RV
Renting or buying an RV is such a great way to save money when travelling the US.
With somewhere to stay free each night and transport you only have to pay fuel for, it’s easy to spend several weeks, months or even years seeing the US in this way.
Learn More: Living in an RV full time: The Ultimate Guide
#10 Stay Hydrated with Water
Road trips often require sipping on some type of beverage.
Usually, we pack some water bottles, so we don’t end up overspending on unhealthy drinks at gas stations.
This helps us stay hydrated and healthy.
We also reuse the bottles by always filing them up at gas stations or fast food restaurants since most have water fountains.
#11 Sightsee On Your Own
If you end up in a US city you haven’t been before, then take our advice and don’t pay for the tour.
Find a local – perhaps someone working in a shop or café – and ask them what to do. Tell them you only have one day in the city, and ask what is a must see?
We’ve found that this method will usually result in hours of entertainment for free. Plus, you’ll likely get to see a ton of stuff other tourists wouldn’t.
A lot of US cities also have a visitor centre, which sometimes have pamphlets for sightseeing and walking tours that are self-guided. This is definitely a top way to save money when travelling the US.
#12 Research on the Net Beforehand … But Don’t Forget to Ask People Too!
Phil likes to research everything online – check out yelp reviews, restaurant reviews, trip advisor, etc.
Kelsey likes asking people what they think, especially when Phil has gotten us lost for the last 30 minutes and we have no idea where we are!
There isn’t a right or wrong way to research and explore the US, but make sure you don’t only use one technique. This could lead you to miss out just because you aren’t open to new experiences. By having more options, you can find better deals.
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Thanks for reading all our tips about the easy ways we save money when travelling the United States!
Hopefully you can use them on your next trip here – whether it is across the country on a long road trip or just a couple days on a weekend getaway!
Phil and Kelsey Schaub recently purchased an 18’ travel trailer and will be living out of it come December 2016.
Follow them via their blog Minimalist Living Maximum Results at as they try to be eco-friendly, vegan, travelling nomads!