Home » United States » How To Road Trip Across The United States On A Budget

How To Road Trip Across The United States On A Budget

Going on a road trip across the United States is one of the best things you could do. It offers so much in terms of experience and allows you to explore many things you never knew existed. There is nothing better than getting inside a car with your friends and family and simply driving off from one coast to the other.

You’ll get to see so many things like beautiful scenery, hidden valleys, natural lakes and a part of the country not many people get to see normally in their day to day lives.

It is an adventure everybody should experience at least once in their lives.

For me ever since I was a kid, I had always wanted to go on a road trip. Something about driving on a open road and discovering new things had always fascinated me.

And after graduating from college, I was finally able to accomplish that goal. For about 3 months, me and my friends jumped into a car and drove many thousands of miles to travel to as many states as we possibly could.

Because of this, I always try to tell as many people as possible that they should try it as well.

But one of the most common questions always seems to pop into their minds. And that question is “How expensive is it going to be?”

Many people have this idea that doing a road trip anywhere is going to cost tons of money that they don’t want to spend.

Which brings me to this post.

In this post, I want to tell you all and show you all that going on a road trip across the United States doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, you can totally go on a road trip across the United States on a budget.

So if you are ready, lets get started!

How Much Does A Road Trip Across The United States Cost?

Road Trip Across United States

The cost of a road trip across the United States is highly dependent on how comfortable you want to be.

Some people might want to indulge on the finer things in life and will be willing to spend a lot of money to try those things. For others, spending the bare minimum is enough to satisfy their needs.

I fall into the latter category as after graduation, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend. So I tried to be as frugal as possible. I still managed to spend about $6,839.93 for the duration of the trip. Which in my opinion isn’t too bad for seeing the United States.

Here is a cost breakdown of the trip:

Major Costs

  • Gas – $738.60
  • Food – $1,547.85
  • Attractions – $300
  • Accommodations $4,253.48

Total Cost: $6,839.93

However the thing about this cost is that you could essentially make it so much more cheaper if you do certain things. As you can see from the list, accommodations took up the majority of the major costs. The reason for this is because while traveling around, me and my friends wanted to be more safe so we tend to stay at hotels quite a bit.

But for the rest of the costs, we tried to be as frugal as possible.

For example, the reason we were able to keep food costs so low was because we mainly ate at McDonalds. They have a cheap dollar menu which was able to satisfy us for the duration of the trip. I typically ordered a large drink which was $1 dollar and some other $1 dollar items to eat. We did this for each meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It wasn’t the healthiest but it did get us by. Also some of the hotels we stayed at provided free breakfast which was also able to help keep costs down.

Another reason the price is low is because during that time, gas prices were pretty low in general.

But at the end of the day, I think my road trip across the United States went pretty well. I didn’t spend too much and was able to save on a lot of things.

Which is why as you can see from this post, traveling across the United States doesn’t have to be expensive.

But if you are interested in keeping the costs down even more, then keep on reading.

Tips To Save Money During Your Road Trip

Road Trip Across United States

The good thing about doing a road trip across the United States is that there are many different ways for you to keep your cost down low.

Here are some tips to help you cut the cost down without ruining your experience during travels.

Save Money On Sightseeing

Horseshoe Bend

Often times when we are wanting to see a certain site, it can be quite expensive. However it doesn’t always have to be that way as there are a few ways in which you can save some money.

For instance:

Free Sites: In most cities, there are always some type of free event or sites for you to see. Museums are one of the most popular places which offer this type of thing. Just go up to any tourism center in the city or even browse the web and search for this type of information.

City Pass: Most major cities will have some type of card or pass which will allow you to see a number of large attractions for a really low price. Some might be free to access while some other attractions will be reduced at a large rate. And depending on the pass, you might even get some cool restaurant discounts so you’ll be able to eat cheap as well. Just make sure to google ahead of time or ask the local tourism office about it.

National Park Pass: Did you know you can actually purchase a National Park pass that’ll allow you to visit all the national parks in the United States. This can be great because most parks alone charge a hefty $20 dollars average just to visit them. This can add up quite a bit. Which is why if you buy a National Park Pass which costs around $80 dollars, it’ll save you so much more money.

Save Money On Food


Food is one of those costs that can be either really expensive or really cheap. Depending on how you want your travels to be, it is really dependent on each and every person.

If you want to be like me, then you can stick to fast food and pick the cheapest things they have to save money. Or if you want to have a more luxurious experience, then you can try all the different restaurants in the country. Just don’t order the most expensive things and try to limit your budget to around $5 to $10 dollars a meal. This way you’ll be able to save quite a bit of money.

Or if you want, you can simply cook your own foods too! Which is probably the cheapest way of doing things. After all you can find tons of grocery stores all over the country which will be able to replenish your supplies. You’ll just need a portable stove to cook your food.

Save Money On Accommodations


As you know, Accommodations are probably the biggest cost for your road trip. Which means if you can lower the cost of this, then your overall expenses will go down quite a bit.

Fortunately for you however is that there are lots of options for you to choose from.

AirBnB: One way to get some cheap accommodations is to use AirBnb. This is a service that lets you stay in other peoples homes for a low cost. Depending on which type of AirBnB you pick, the owner may or may not even be there. And there are millions of choices for you to choose from. You’ll have all the amenities of a house all to yourself and it is also a great way to meet new people. You can find prices as low as $20 dollars a night or higher depending on which area you are wanting to stay at.

Hotels: This is probably the most expensive option, but it can also be one of the cheapest. Mainly because there are many different hotels of all different price ranges for you to choose from. Pick the cheapest hotel you can find and it’ll help you shave off quite a bunch of money. Depending on what area you look for, you can find hotels starting as low as $40 to $50 dollars a night.

Hostels: Hostels are a type of place where you can either stay in a private dorm room or with a bunch of other travelers. Different hostels have different methods so it really depends on which hostel you decide to stay at. Now while hostels in the United States tend to be more on the expensive side, they are still usually a cheaper option to pick than staying at a hotel. It’ll also give you a chance to be around other travelers so you’ll be able to share tips, make friends, and simply have fun.

Couchsurf: Couchsurfing has been on the rise lately as it is a service that allows you to stay with other people for free. This is one of the best ways to help lower the cost of your trip down as you won’t spend a dime staying at that persons place. It is also a great thing to use as you’ll be able to meet locals and make friends while also learning all types of information about the place you are visiting. Plus there are many hosts all across the United States so you’ll have no problem at all finding a place to stay.

These are just some of the ways I would recommend for you to save on accommodation. If you want to save the most money, then I would definitely suggest using Couchsurfing as your number one choice. Or if you can’t find the right one, then AirBnB can also work as they are also pretty cheap.

Save Money By Bringing A Water Bottle

water bottle

Bringing a re-fillable water bottle is a great thing to have. The reason for this is because constantly buying water bottles can really add up. Sure they might be cheap, but if you end up buying hundreds or thousands, then that is a lot of money.

Which is why you should get yourself a re-fillable water bottle. This way you don’t have to always be buying yourself more water bottles and can just use the free water from many different locations. It’ll also cut down the plastic waste which is also a good thing.

How To Plan Your Road Trip


Here is how you are able to plan for your road trip.

  • Get People To Go With You
  • Plan Your Route
  • Plan How Much You Want To Spend
  • Plan Your Accommodation
  • Prepare Your Vehicle
  • Go On The Road Trip

Get People To Go With You

Road trips are always fun when you have people with you. Whether it is your friends or family, as long as you have people with you, you’ll have a blast.

Plus having somebody with you can have plenty of benefits. For instance, you’ll have somebody that can help problem solve things if you get stuck. You’ll also have somebody to talk to so the drive won’t be as boring as it would be. You’ll also have somebody to split the costs with so it’ll be less expensive for you.

So if you are planning on going on a road trip, always try to get people to go with you.

Plan Your Route

Now that you have gotten some people to join you on your trip, your next step is to plan out your route. After all, the United States is a huge country. Which is why you want to plan exactly what roads to take and how to get there. This way it can save a lot of time and makes sure you won’t get lost randomly during driving.

When me and my friends went on the road trip, we would plan every last detail about the route. We’ll plan which roads to take, what stores to stop at, what gas stations to stop at, as well as what hotels to stop at. This way we’ll know every last detail of what we are going to be getting ourselves into.

Sure going on a road trip without planning things out might work, but if you really want to save money and be on a budget, then planning the trip out is essential.

Plan How Much You Want To Spend

This is the most important aspect you’ll have to plan around when you are wanting to go on a budget.

Figure out how much you want to spend each day and plan around that number. For instance, how much you’re going to be spending on gas, food, accommodations, sightseeing and more. Figure out which days you’ll be spending more than others.

By planning how much you are going to spend during the trip, it’ll keep you in track to targeting that number.

Plan Your Accommodation

Now that you figured out how much you want to spend and stuff, it is time to figure out your accommodations. After all, this is probably going to be the bulk of your expenses.

Do you want an expensive place? Do you want a cheap place? Maybe camping?

Whatever the case might be, you’ll want to research before hand to find out which place you’ll want to drive to for accommodations.

And depending on what location you are wanting to stay at, you may have to reserve early on to make sure you actually do get that spot when you arrive.

Prepare Your Vehicle

Now the last part of planning a road trip is to simply prepare your vehicle. Make sure the vehicle is absolutely ready for a road trip. So go get your inspections, maintenance, and what ever else you’ll need to help make your car as good as possible.

Not only that, but you’ll also want to get things that will make your drive a whole lot easier.

For instance, I would recommend you to bring a cooler with some water. Since you’ll probably be driving around a desert in some point in time and there might not be any location for you to get water. You might also want to pack some maps since some locations won’t allow you to access your GPS. Also prepare some useful road trip apps like gasbuddy which can help you find the cheapest and nearest gas station.

Go On The Road Trip

Now that you have everything prepared, you are ready for your road trip.

Be safe, and have a fun time!


Just because the United States is big, doesn’t mean it’ll be expensive to see. The United States is actually one of the cheapest places in the world to go see especially during a road trip.

I highly suggest everybody try to go on a road trip across the United States at least once in their life. It is an experience like no other and you will absolutely love it.

So at the end of the day, it is totally possible to go on a road trip across the United States on a budget.

Also if you are interested in reading some of my other posts about traveling, you can do so by clicking these links:

Or you can check out all my blog posts by click this link.

Hope you have a safe and fun trip~

🛫Book Your Flights

Planning on booking your flight? Use Google Flights to find the cheapest and best deals available for your next flight. This is our favorite website to use in order to save a lot of money as well as finding the best deals available.

🛏️Save On Your Next Accommodation

If you’re looking for the best deals on hotels to stay at, one best site to use is Booking.com. We highly recommend them to any and all travelers as they are able to find deals all across the world.

If you’re looking for something other than hotels, like a hostel for example, then one of the best places to look for cheap hostels is Hostel World.

💵Get Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is one of the most important things you’ll need to get if you are ever traveling around to a new place. Do not forget it! One of the best travel insurance companies around that we recommend is World Nomads. They are simply fantastic, easy to work with, and amazingly helpful.