So I thought I’d take a moment and list some of the things we did to try and stick to a reasonable budget when we were in the USA. Hopefully someone will find it useful.
- Transport: Most US cities require a car to get around. Taking taxis/cabs can get expensive fast even if you use Uber. For the Colorado leg of our trip we saved a lot of money by hiring a car through Turo. Turo is like airbnb, but for cars. People rent out their spare car through the site. They get to make some extra money and you get to hire a car at a cheaper rate than the big rental car companies. This was the first time we have used Turo, but it won’t be the last. Not affiliated, just happy customers.
- Accommodation: Avoid hotels where possible. The most expensive leg of our trip was in Atlanta where we stayed in a hotel. We much prefer to use airbnb or a similar site to rent accommodation. Here you rent a house or apartment directly from the owner. There are also options to rent single rooms in an occupied house (homestay) like we did in Hawaii. There are a number of advantages: the daily rate is often cheaper than a hotel and you get a whole house with a kitchen, and laundry facilities. This means that you are able to cook and wash for yourself. Not having buy three meals a day cuts down on daily expenses. Also by staying in a house you get a real sense of the culture and the place and get to do every day things (like shovel snow and shop in a grocery store) that you wouldn’t get to do in a hotel where everything is dedicated to tourists. Also being off the tourist track a bit more helps to uncover hidden gems of places that the locals know about but that may not be obvious to you if you stay in the tourist district.
- Food: Where possible we tried to self-cater as much as possible. It was cheaper to buy a box of oatmeal and some fresh fruit for breakfast each day than to eat in a restaurant. Also much healthier. Sandwiches for lunch and then eat out for dinner, or cook a quick meal if you feel like staying in. If you are from Australia or Europe then you will find that American serving sizes are much larger than you are used to and sharing a meal is a viable option, further reducing costs. The most extreme example of this was at a food court in Denver where we ordered a child’s meal for Gorgeous Girl and there was so much food on the plate that the three of us shared it and did not feel the need to buy any more food.
- If you are planning on visiting National Parks more than once look into getting a yearly pass. For us it was cheaper to buy a year pass to use for the two weeks we were in Colorado than to pay for single entry each time we visited. The yearly pass paid for itself after the second visit.
Those were the main areas where we were able to put some sanity into the budget. Remember if you are travelling always take out travel insurance.
What about you? Any money saving travel tips to share?