United States Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Whether you’re planning your first trip to the U.S. or looking for new experiences in this vast and diverse country, you’ve come to the right place. We’re about to cover everything you need to know to make your journey memorable and hassle-free.

The U.S. is a very large country with a lot to offer: 63 stunning national parks (and that’s not to mention all of the other national lands and state parks), jaw-dropping landscapes, and diversity in culture, cuisine, and music that varies from region to region. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, bustling cities to serene landscapes, there’s something for everyone to discover.

In this United States travel guide, we’ll unpack all of the essential information you need to plan your trip – including things to see and do, typical costs, budgeting tips, accommodation options, transportation advice, and much more. We’ll also provide insights on when to visit, how to stay safe, and where to find the best resources for booking your trip.

So, whether you’re traveling from outside the U.S. or within, spending a couple of weeks in a couple of cities, or spending several months road tripping across the country, get ready for an unforgettable United States adventure.

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Things to See and Do in the United States

The U.S. is a land of endless possibilities when it comes to sightseeing and activities. And if you’re a fan of road trips, the U.S. is one of the best destinations for it – from the coasts to the mountains and everything in between – the differences geographically and culturally are quite diverse. Here are some of the must-see attractions and experiences to include in your itinerary:

Take a Road Trip

Hit the open road and embark on an epic road trip across the United States. From the Pacific Coast Highway in California to the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, there are countless scenic routes to explore, each offering breathtaking views and memorable experiences. We personally can’t recommend this option enough. It truly is one of the best ways to see the U.S.

Explore the National Parks

From the towering cliffs of Yosemite to the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone, the United States is home to an incredible array of national parks. Each park offers unique landscapes and outdoor adventures, including hiking, wildlife viewing, and stargazing.

Visit Iconic Landmarks

No trip to the United States would be complete without seeing iconic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Grand Canyon. These iconic sites are not only symbols of American culture but also offer stunning photo and video opportunities.

Experience Vibrant Cities

Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and energy of America’s cities. Explore the bustling streets of New York City, discover the music scene in Nashville, or indulge in world-class cuisine in Los Angeles. Each city has its own unique charm and attractions to explore.

Discover Historical Sites

Delve into America’s rich history by visiting historical sites such as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Freedom Trail in Boston, or the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery. These sites offer insights into key moments in American history and the struggle for freedom and equality.

Enjoy Outdoor Adventures

Whether you’re into skiing in the Rockies, surfing in California, or kayaking in the Everglades, the United States offers a wide range of outdoor activities for adventure enthusiasts. Explore the diverse landscapes and natural wonders that make America an outdoor playground.

Experience Cultural Festivals

Experience the diversity of American culture by attending festivals and events across the country. From Mardi Gras in New Orleans (or Mobile, Alabama, where the original Mardi Gras took place!), to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, there’s always something happening in the United States to celebrate art, music, food, and more.

Tour Museums and Galleries

Immerse yourself in art, history, and culture by visiting museums and galleries across the United States. Explore the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., admire contemporary art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, or learn about space exploration at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Enjoy Theme Parks

 For thrill-seekers and families alike, the United States is home to some of the world’s most famous theme parks. Visit Disneyland in California for a magical experience or explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida for an unforgettable adventure.

Attend Sporting Events 

Experience the excitement of American sports by attending a live game or event. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, football, or soccer, sports fans will find plenty of opportunities to cheer on their favorite teams and immerse themselves in the lively atmosphere of American stadiums. If you’re visiting the U.S. for the first time, catch a New York Yankees baseball game or Los Angeles Lakers basketball game for an authentic American sports experience.

Top 5 Must-Do Things in the U.S.

©2024 Stephen & Andie

Visit Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is so big that it’s in three states – Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. How big? To be exact, it’s over 2.2 million acres, or 3,472 square miles! Its official address is in Wyoming, home to 96% of the park. A small 3% section is in Montana, to the north and northwest, and an even smaller 1% section is to the west in Idaho. Of the 18 U.S. national parks we’ve visited thus far, Yellowstone is by far our favorite. The amount of diversity in both the landscapes and wildlife is literally awesome. It seems you’re entering a completely different world at nearly every turn. Over half of the world’s geysers and hydrothermal features are in Yellowstone, thanks to the continent’s largest super volcano – Yellowstone Caldera. Don’t worry, it’s dormant. Old Faithful is a must-see, mostly because of its predictably consistent schedule. But be sure to see as many of the other geysers as possible – if not all – as some are far more impressive in size and power, if you can catch them when they erupt. If you’re looking to get stuck in a “bison jam,” you’ve certainly come to the right place. Take a drive to Lamar or Hayden Valley and you’re practically guaranteed this experience. Looking to see a bunch of elk just hanging out around town like they own the place? Head to Mammoth Hot Springs in the northern range during autumn, when it’s “rut” or mating season. How about spotting some moose? Check out Yellowstone Lake, Willow Park, or Fishing Bridge. If you can budget five days at Yellowstone, do it, as you’ll easily make good use of that time exploring. We only had three days there, and while we covered and experienced quite a lot, we would have loved to have at least one more day. Lastly, do be respectful of all wildlife and natural features of the park (as you should at any park), and heed all warnings posted and/or recommended by rangers. Your life can literally depend on it.

Take a Bite of the Big Apple: New York City

New York City is one of the greatest cities in the world. They don’t call it “the city that never sleeps” for nothing. You can find anything and everything here, just about anytime you want it. Every culture and language from all over the world fills this melting pot, and with that comes the food. Any kind of food you want, you’ll find. Museums, art galleries, legendary Broadway theater productions, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, – the list goes on. Many people consider New York City the center of the universe, and it’s easy to see why. It truly is unique.  

The Grand Canyon: One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World

“Epic” is a massive understatement when it comes to the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. It is utterly mind boggling. To gaze out in wonder from one of the viewpoints along the rim is incredible enough. But if you can, budget extra time to do one of the hikes down to the Colorado River to really appreciate its beauty up close. Needless to say, you should be sure to have more water with you on your hike than you think you’ll need. Furthermore, do your research in advance on the various hikes to be sure you’re up to the task – especially the “Rim to River Hike,” which is extreme and not advised by the National Park Service. All warnings aside, the Grand Canyon is a must-see, even if only from atop the rim. It truly is a wonder.

Experience Desert Wonders in the Southwest

Not many desert landscapes can compare to those of the Southwestern U.S. when it comes to diversity. From dramatically shaped sandstone cliffs in Arches and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah, to Sedona, Arizona’s dazzling red rocks. The massive sand dunes of White Sands National Park in New Mexico will transport you to another world. Get in a good workout by climbing them, then try your hand at a toboggan ride back down! But the deserts aren’t all about dry, crackly dirt and sand – there’s fascinating and unique vegetation to be found, too. Take the towering Saguaro cactus, for example. An iconic symbol of “the west,” Saguaro will actually only grow in the Sonoran Desert, which is limited to Southern Arizona. Equally as cool and unique are the Joshua Trees of the Mojave Desert. Like something out of a cartoon, no two are alike. With their crazy branches reaching out haphazardly in various directions, they are truly fantastic.

Drive the Pacific Coast Highway: Designated as “An All-American Road”

The Pacific Coast is considered one of the most scenic landscapes for many reasons: its dramatic rugged coastline, stunning vistas and sunsets, sandy beaches, coastal forests, and rolling hills, natural wonders, iconic landmarks, cultural and historical sites, and naturally – abundant wildlife. The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is part of California State Route 1, which is one of the longest historic state highways in the U.S. Spanning 656 miles from Dana Point in Orange County all the way north past San Francisco, and ending in Leggett, in Mendocino County. The entirety of Route 1 is around a 12-hour drive without stops. However, it is best experienced by taking several days to complete the journey, so you can make as many stops as you like to take it all in. And believe us, you’re going to want to.

More Things to See and Do in the U.S. 

Take a Road Trip (and Download These Helpful Apps First) 

Go Boondocking and Sleep Under the Stars

Visit the Crossroads in the Birthplace of the Blues – Clarksdale, Mississippi

Hike to the Hollywood Sign for the Best View of Los Angeles

Cruise to Alaska from Seattle

Learn About Chicago’s History on an Architecture River Boat Tour

Explore Northern Michigan

Discover Other National Lands as Alternatives to National Parks

Traveling With Your Dog? Try National Forests Instead of National Parks

See Cherry Blossoms in These U.S. Cities

Visit These U.S Cities During the Spring

Beat the Summer Heat in These U.S. Cities

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

For information on specific U.S. cities, check out these posts:

Los Angeles, CA

Washington, D.C.

Las Vegas, NV

Chattanooga, TN

Asheville, NC

Charleston, SC

Seattle, WA

Santa Fe, NM

Moab, UT

Top 10 Things to Eat in the United States

The culinary landscape of the United States is about as vast as the country itself. But when “classic American” food comes to mind, there’s a much shorter list of comfort foods and regional specialties that anyone visiting for the first time has heard of and is likely curious to try. While we here at Travel Matters are vegetarian, we realize many of our readers might not be. And since sampling local food is such a huge part of travel, we’d like to offer an unbiased “menu” of suggestions. From coast to coast, these are our top 10 iconic and must-try dishes that represent the diverse flavors of American cuisine.

New York Pizza

No trip to New York City would be complete without indulging in a slice of New York-style pizza. Characterized by its thin crust, foldable slices, and classic toppings like pepperoni and cheese, New York pizza is a beloved staple of the city’s food scene. Hot tip: New York City is also famous for its bagels. Don’t miss the opportunity to try one while you’re there!

Southern Fried Chicken

Crispy, golden-brown fried chicken is a Southern comfort food classic. Marinated in buttermilk, coated in seasoned flour, and deep-fried to perfection, Southern fried chicken is juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, offering a mouthwatering combination of flavors and textures. Hot tip: Your best bet is to try this dish in a local mom & pop shop in the South – not KFC.

Barbeque Ribs 

Barbecue ribs are a quintessential American dish, featuring tender, slow-cooked pork ribs slathered in smoky barbecue sauce. Whether dry-rubbed or saucy, these finger-licking ribs are a favorite at barbecue joints and backyard cookouts across the United States. Hot tip: If you see “burnt ends” on a menu, do yourself a favot and try those as well. These are typically beef brisket – but just the burnt bits that have been chopped off and served on their own.

New England Clam Chowder

Creamy and comforting, New England clam chowder is a classic seafood soup hailing from the northeastern United States. Made with tender clams, potatoes, onions, celery, and cream, this hearty chowder is a warm and satisfying dish, especially on a chilly day.

Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

Chicago has a fantastic and diverse food scene, but is arguably most famous for its deep-dish pizza, which features a thick crust, generous layers of cheese, tomato sauce, and toppings, all baked in a deep pan. This hearty and indulgent pizza is a favorite among pizza lovers for its deep layers of flavor and satisfyingly thick crust.

Philly Cheesesteak

A Philadelphia favorite, the Philly cheesesteak is a mouthwatering sandwich made with thinly sliced steak, melted cheese (typically provolone or Cheez Whiz), and sautéed onions, all served on a soft hoagie roll. This iconic sandwich is a must-try for meat and cheese lovers.

Louisiana Gumbo

Gumbo is a flavorful Creole dish originating from Louisiana, known for its rich and complex flavors. This hearty stew typically includes a combination of ingredients such as chicken, sausage, shrimp, okra, and spices, served over rice for a soul-warming meal.

Tex-Mex Tacos

Texas-style Tex-Mex tacos are a flavorful fusion of Mexican and American cuisines, featuring soft corn tortillas filled with grilled meats, fresh salsa, guacamole, and other delicious toppings. Whether it’s carne asada, al pastor, or fish tacos, Tex-Mex tacos are a must-try for taco enthusiasts.

California Fish Tacos

California-style fish tacos offer a fresh and flavorful twist on traditional tacos, featuring crispy battered fish, shredded cabbage, salsa, avocado, and a squeeze of lime, all wrapped in a warm tortilla. These light and tasty tacos capture the essence of California’s coastal cuisine.

Key Lime Pie

Originating from Florida’s Key West, Key lime pie is a tangy and refreshing dessert made with a graham cracker crust and a creamy filling made from key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks. Topped with whipped cream or meringue, this iconic pie is a delightful ending to any meal.

These top 10 dishes represent just a small taste of the foods the U.S. has to offer your palate. Be sure to ask a local for recommendations and explore local specialties and regional flavors as you visit different areas of the country.

©2024 Stephen & Andie

Typical Costs

Before embarking on your trip to the United States, it’s essential to understand the typical costs you may encounter. Naturally, expenses can vary depending on factors such as your travel style, destination, and duration of stay. But consider this broad-stroke view of it: the North is more expensive than the South, and the coastal states are more expensive than the inland states. And larger cities like New York and Los Angeles are considerably more expensive than cities like Minneapolis or Boise, for example. 

Here are some typical costs associated with traveling in the United States:


Hostels haven’t yet fully caught on in the states, but they do exist – primarily in major cities, and even then the options are limited. But on average, budget travelers can expect to pay around $40-$50 per night for dorm-style hostel rooms and $100-$125 for private rooms.

Budget motels are around $60-$70 per night and have basic amenities. Mid-range hotels will cost around $100-$200 per night, and luxury hotels and resorts can cost upwards of $200 per night or more.

If you like camping, it will generally cost $10-20 for a tent spot, and that’s with no electricity. 

Rental properties like Airbnb and Vrbo are very abundant in the states. However, Airbnb in particular doesn’t seem as inexpensive as it was a few years back, once you add in all of the various fees. That said, expect to pay no less than $100-$125 per night for a pivate home or apartment, and renting a private room will be approximately $50-75. Don’t be surprised if those prices are double in major cities.


Transportation costs in the United States can also vary depending on your mode of transportation and the distance traveled. Rental cars are a popular option for exploring the country, with daily rental rates starting at around $50 to $100 per day. Alternatively, domestic flights between major cities can range from $100 to $500 or more depending on the route and time of booking. Public transportation options such as buses and trains are available in major cities and can cost around $2 to $5 per trip.


Putting a price tag on food and dining in the United States is difficult, since what might cost $5 in Arkansas wile probably cost $15 in a major city. Keeping that in mind, the U.S. offers a wide range of options to suit every budget. If you’re being conservative and are planning to cook most of your own meals, you can expect to spend approximately $60 to $75 per week/per person for groceries. As for dining out, in most places you can find some grab-and-go or fast food options for less than $10 per person, while something from a food truck might cost $10 to $15. A meal at a casual restaurant can cost around $15 to $20 per person, while a three course meal at a mid-range restaurant with range from $25 to $50 per person. Stepping up to a bit of a nicer restaurant, it can cost upwards of $60 per person or more. And when it comes to proper fine dining, there’s really no limit to how much you can spend – if you’re willing to let you immagination and budget run wild. It’s also worth noting that tipping is customary in the United States, with a typical tip starting at 20% of the total bill. Some restaurants already include a gratuity on your bill, usually 18%, and you can add more to that if you like – which we recommend, as anything less than 20% these days is considered “cheap.”

Attractions and Activities

Similarly, the cost of attractions and activities in the United States is going to vary depending on the type of experience you’re looking to have and where. Generally, admission to popular attractions such as landmarks, museums, and theme parks typically ranges from $10 to $50 per person. Guided tours and outdoor activities such as kayaking and skiing can range from $50 to $200 or more per person. Most national parks have an entrance fee of $25-30 per vehicle. Hot tip: If you’re planning to visit at least three national parks while in the U.S., you need to read Why You Should Buy an America the Beautiful Annual Parks Pass.

Miscellaneous Expenses

It’s wise to also budget extra for miscellaneous costs, like souvenirs, shopping, entertainment, and unforseen expenses.

Suggested Budget

When planning your budget for a trip to the United States, once again, individual budgets will vary depending on your travel style, preferences, where in the states you’ll be visiting, and the length of your stay. But considering the cost scenarios above, let’s break down some suggested budgets:

Budget Travel

If you’re traveling backpacker-style, for around $100 per day you’ll be able to stay in a shared room at a hostel and cook your own meals, get around with public trasportation, and do free or inexpensive activities like hiking, exploring cities – either freestyle or by taking self-guided walking audio tours, or relax at a park or beach. If you’re down for camping or couch surfing, you can probably do all of this for around $75 to $85. This budget doesn’t include any alcohol, but if you like to have a drink, add $10 to $20.

Mid-Range Travel

For around $225 per day you can grab yourself a motel or reasonably priced hotel (if you shop wisely, ie: use the Hotel Tonight app!), or private Airbnb, dine out, have a few drinks, use rideshares or taxis instead of public transportation, and do more paid activities like visiting museums, state parks, or taking a food tour.

Luxury Travel

If you’ve got $375 to $400 to spend per day you can rent a car, stay in a hotel, eat out just about anywhere, order drinks, and do more paid activities (or do more expensive ones). As mentioned earlier, there’s really no limit to “luxury,” if you’ve got the budget to match.

Money-Saving Tips

Traveling in the United States doesn’t have to break the bank. With careful planning and smart strategies, you can make the most of your trip while staying within your budget. Here are some money-saving tips to help you stretch your dollars further:

Book Accommodation in Advance

Take advantage of early booking discounts by reserving your accommodation well in advance. Many hotels and rental properties offer discounted rates for booking early, especially during off-peak seasons. Hot tip: Download the Hotel Tonight app to find last minute discounted rates on unfilled rooms. 

Consider Alternative Accommodation

Explore alternative accommodation options such as vacation rentals, hostels, or home-sharing platforms like Airbnb. These options can often be more affordable than traditional hotels, especially for budget-conscious travelers.

Use Public Transportation

Save on transportation costs by using public transportation options such as buses, trains, and subways in major cities. Many cities offer multi-day passes or discounted fares for tourists, so be sure to research transportation options in advance.

Opt for Free Attractions

Take advantage of free or low-cost attractions and activities in the United States. Many museums, parks, and cultural sites offer free admission on certain days of the week or have suggested donation policies.

Pack Snacks and Water

Save on dining expenses by packing snacks and refillable water bottles for your day trips and outings. This will help you avoid expensive convenience store purchases and stay hydrated throughout the day.

Dine Like a Local 

Explore local markets, food trucks, and neighborhood eateries to experience authentic cuisine at affordable prices. Avoid dining in touristy areas where prices tend to be higher, and opt for local favorites recommended by residents.

Take Advantage of Discounts and Coupons

Look for discounts, coupons, and promotional offers for attractions, dining, and activities. Many websites, apps, and tourist brochures offer exclusive deals and savings for travelers.

Join Loyalty Programs

Sign up for loyalty programs and membership rewards offered by airlines, hotels, and rental car companies. These programs often offer exclusive discounts, upgrades, and rewards points that can be redeemed for future travel.

Use City Tourism Cards

If you plan on seeing a lot of attractions, you should definitely consider a city tourism card because it can save you a lot of money. These cards allow you to see multiple attractions, bundled at one low price. And they often include free public transportation, too. 

Travel During Shoulder Season

Consider traveling during off-peak seasons – a.k.a., shoulder season – to take advantage of lower prices on accommodations, flights, and attractions. Off-peak travel periods typically coincide with shoulder seasons or weekdays when demand is lower. And shoulder seasons can vary, depending where in the U.S. you’re visiting. Check out this quick read: Shoulder Season is the Best Time to Travel for more.

Budget and Prioritize

Create a travel budget and prioritize your spending based on your interests and preferences. Allocate more funds to activities and experiences that are most important to you, and be mindful of your spending throughout your trip.

Where to Stay

Choosing the right accommodation is an essential aspect of planning your trip to the United States. Whether you’re seeking luxury, affordability, or a unique local experience, the United States offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs. Here’s a breakdown of some popular accommodation choices:


From luxury resorts to budget-friendly chains, hotels offer comfort and convenience. Major cities and tourist destinations in the United States are home to a wide selection of hotels, ranging from boutique properties to international chains. Amenities vary by hotel but may include on-site dining, fitness centers, swimming pools, and concierge services.


Less expensive than hotels and with only basic amenities, there are plenty of roadside motels along highways throughout the U.S., like Motel 6 and Super 8, for example. Rooms usually start at around $60 per night, and usually include free WiFi, TV, air conditioning, and complimentary breakfast. Som also have a pool. Carefully check reviews online before booking if possible, as not all motels are created equally.


Relative to the size of the country, hostels are few and far between in the Unioted States. You’ll find them in some of the more major cities, but your options will be limited. However, hostels are ideal for budget-conscious travelers and backpackers, offering affordable accommodation options with shared facilities such as dormitory-style rooms, communal kitchens, and social areas. Some hostels have both shared and private room options, and some even have female-only room options, too. Hostels are a great way to meet other travelers and immerse yourself in the local backpacking culture. 

Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals, including apartments, condos, and vacation homes, provide a home-away-from-home experience for travelers looking for more space and privacy. Websites and platforms like Airbnb and VRBO offer a wide range of vacation rental options in popular destinations across the United States. Vacation rentals are ideal for families, groups, or travelers seeking a more immersive local experience.

Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs) 

For a cozy and intimate lodging experience, consider staying at a bed and breakfast. B&Bs are typically family-owned properties that offer comfortable accommodations, home-cooked breakfasts, and personalized service. Many B&Bs are located in charming historic homes or scenic countryside settings, providing a peaceful retreat for travelers.

Luxury Resorts and Spas

For travelers seeking a pampering retreat, luxury resorts and spas offer unparalleled comfort, amenities, and service. From beachfront resorts in Hawaii to mountain retreats in Colorado, luxury resorts in the United States provide a luxurious escape with features such as upscale accommodations, gourmet dining, spa facilities, and recreational activities.

Camping and RV Parks

Outdoor enthusiasts can immerse themselves in nature by camping or RVing at one of the many campgrounds and RV parks located throughout the United States. National parks, state parks, and private campgrounds offer a range of camping options, from tent sites to RV hookups, allowing travelers to enjoy the great outdoors while staying within budget. And if you’re looking for a free spot to park and sleep overnight in your RV, Campervan, or car, the U.S. has many options. Read this: A Guide to Free Overnight Parking.

How to Get Around

©2024 Stephen & Andie

Since the United States is so large, getting around varies greatly depending on where you are and where you’re trying to get to. Here’s an overview of options to help you navigate the states.

Campervan or RV Rental

Call us biased (since we’re currently living full-time in our Sprinter campervan, which we D.I.Y. re-built ourselves!), but this is by far our personal favorite way to see the states. If you don’t already own a campervan or RV, renting one may not necessarily be inexpensive, per se. But if you consider that you’ll be living in it, it might actually save you money compared to renting a car and sleeping in hotels. Not to mention that most RVs will have a fridge and stove at the very least, so buying groceries and cooking some meals will also save you money. Prices vary depending on the vehicle type, size, and amenities, but we’re finding Class-C motorhomes from Indie Campers for as little as $58 per night. This one in particular sleeps 4 adults and 2 children, and has a full kitchen and bathroom. Cruise America is another very popular RV rental company. We see quite a lot of these on the road all over the U.S., and we’re seeing even larger-sized Class-C motorhomes that sleep up to 6 for $99 per night. In both cases, our searches were based on only two days’ notice and pick up location in Los Angeles. The more ahead of time you book, the better the rates and options at your disposal. This truly is a wonderful way to explore the country.

City Transportation

Most cities have public transportation in the form of buses and a metro system. One-way trips average around $2 to $3, but there are often packaged options for visitors. Some cities have 7-day unlimited passes which may cover both the subway and buses for $30 to $40 or so. You’re not likely to find subways outside of the major cities, but buses are everywhere.


Unlike in other countries, taxis are not a very cost-effective way to get around. They are metered and fares start at around $3, just to get started, and add another $2 to $3 per mile on top of that. As you can imagine, this adds up quickly and can be an expensive way to get around. 


Ridesharing (Uber and Lyft) has become the most common way to get around in the United States, at least in the major cities. Even though rates have risen since its inception, it’s still a lot cheaper than taking a taxi. And if you don’t want to take public transportation, this is your best way to get around a city.


Flying is the fastest way to cover long distances. It’s best if you book in advance, and traveling during shoulder seasons also helps with finding cheaper fares. Do shop around on several websites, including the airlines’ sites themselves, to get a good sense of what’s available. There are often deals for under $100 one-way between places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles, or Seattle and Austin, for example. If you’re flying completely from one side of the country to the other however, fares will be higher. And of course, if you book last-minute the fares will be their highest. Some budget-friendly airlines are Southwest, Jet Blue, Spirit, and Frontier. Do be careful of the latter two, as they are known for advertising much lower fares, but adding on fees for every single thing – carry-ons, checked bags, etc.


One of the cheapest options for getting around the country is to take a bus. If you book far enough in advance you can sometimes find fares as low as $1 – yes, one dollar. BusBud is a great resource for finding routes and prices. Here are a few examples of routes and fares: Chicago to Detroit starting at $30, New York to Washington, D.C. starting at $25, and Austin to New Orleans for around $60. The most popular bus companies are:





Train travel is a wonderful way to see the United States – in theory. Unlike many other countries, this not the most accessible form of travel. It’s not inexpensive, and it’s not quick. Amtrak is the rail provider in the U.S., and they have routes all o ver the country. A cross-country USA Rail Pass for around $499, which gives you 10 segments of travel of the course of 30 days. A valid student I.D. will save you 15%.

Average ticket prices look like this: a multi-day trip from New York to Los Angeles is around $250. A 20-hour ride from Chicago to New Orleans is around $110, and shorter, two to three-hour rides 

Car Rental

One of the best ways to see the United States is by road tripping. Rental car prices have gone up in the past few years, but can still be relatively affordable, especially if booking for multiple days. Discover Cars is a great resource for finding the best deals. To give an example, we just did a search for a one-week rental on short notice – just two days from now – to be picked up near LAX, and the result is $206.23 for an intermediate size car (Toyota Corolla or similar). But for a one day rental the cost is $75.29 for an even smaller economy size (Mitsubishi Mirage or similar). We found no results for a same-day rental search, which further stresses the point that the more in advance you can book, the better.

When to Visit

When to visit the United States ultimately comes down to where in the U.S. you’re headed to and what activities you’d like to do there. With the United States being as large as it is, climates vary drastically from coast to coast. Seasons are more defined in the north: More extreme cold and snowfall in the winters, pleasant and comfortable in fall and spring, and gorgeous and idyllic in the summer. The south however is seasonally less defined. Summers are very hot and humid, fall and spring are comfortable, and winters are basically dry and relatively warm. 

How to Stay Safe

Exercising caution and common sense goes a long way in staying safe. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid displaying valuables in public, and use reputable transportation services. In case of emergency, dial 911 for assistance. Once again, the United States is such a large country that how to stay safe varies quite a lot depending where you are. In general, it’s safe to travel about the U.S. Yes, gun violence and mass shootings get a lot of media coverage – as they should, as it is a real, disturbing problem in this country. However, the likelihood of you being a victim of such a thing is low. 

Use a VPN

If you’re already familiar with VPNs, then you know you should use one when you travel. If the concept is new to you, here’s a quick summary: VPNs are services that help protect your devices and personal data from hackers when you’re using public networks. So if you use your phone or other devices in airports, coffee shops, gyms, or other public spaces, signing up for a VPN will give you some peace of mind. BONUS: Our Surfshark link gets you an extension on your new membership! 

Stay Alert in Tourist Areas

As is the case in many countries, pickpocketing or theft in general is more of a problem in popular tourist areas and bigger cities. Be sure to keep an eye on your belongings on public transportation and in crowds.

Read Up on the Latest Scams Before Visiting

Scams targeting tourists are not unique to the United States. Unfortunately, they can change frequently just like any trend, so it’s a good idea to do some web research for the current year that you’re traveling, as well as the location(s) in the U.S. you’ll be spending time – because you may find different scams that are unique to different regions, cities, etc.

Don’t Leave Personal Belongings in Your Car

Use common sense and you’ll be o.k. This isn’t a problem everywhere of course, but if you wouldn’t want it stolen, don’t leave it in the car.

Bring Water and Wear Sunscreen When Hiking

This is pretty self explanatory, but also check the weather in advance and dress accordingly. Layers, no matter the temperature, are always a good idea.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Good, comprehensive travel insurance will protect you from theft, illness, injuries, cancellations, or basically, anything that goes wrong. There are many options out there, and which one is best for you will ultimately be up to you. This Forbes article might be helpful: Best Travel Insurance Companies 2024.

Best Resources for Booking Your Trip


SkyScanner is where you should start your search for flights. It’s possibly the best of all the flight search engines, mainly because they search smaller websites and budget airlines that many other search sites miss.


This is an amazing way to not only save a ton of money on flights, but also to let the deal dictate your destination – if you’re flexible and the adventurous type. Created by travel experts Kara & Nate, who have arguably the most subscribers of any travel vloggers on YouTube, here’s how FareDrop works: 1. Select your “home airports” that you’d be interested in flying from. 2. Choose your preferred travel regions so you only get notified about deals in regions you’re interested in traveling to. 3. Sit back and watch in awe at the unbelievable flight deals that you can book using your favorite booking site or app.

The Daily Drop

If you’re into the travel miles and points game, this is the ticket for you (see what we did there?). Also created by Kara & Nate following the success of FareDrop, the Daily Drop is an email newsletter “that teaches you how to earn and redeem miles and points, find cheap fares, and keeps you up to date on the best loyalty programs, and more.”


Roadtrippers is a handy tool for planning road trips and exploring hidden gems across the United States. Use their website or mobile app to discover scenic routes, attractions, and quirky landmarks along your journey. Use our promo code BTR5QTP for $5 off a new membership!

Harvest Hosts

If you’re cruising around the states in an RV, this is a fantastic way to find unique places to stay overnight while patronizing a local business at the same time! Harvest Hosts is a network of wineries, breweries & distilleries, farms, attractions, private properties, and golf courses that invites RV-ers to stay overnight. Harvest Hosts, together with Boondockers Welcome, currently has 5163+ incredible Hosts located in all of the lower 48 United States, Canada, Alaska, and Baja California. Always a place to rest your head and have an adventure! Use our promo code HHFRIENDS for 15% off a new membership!

Related Resources Covering the United States

For additional information, inspiration, and tips on traveling to the United States, check out these reputable travel blogs and websites:

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet is a trusted source for travel information worldwide, offering comprehensive travel guides, articles, and tips on exploring the United States. Visit their website for destination guides, travel inspiration, and practical advice for planning your trip.
Lonely Planet USA

Travel + Leisure

Travel + Leisure is a popular travel magazine and website, offering travel inspiration, destination guides, and insider tips for travelers. Explore their website for articles, photos, and recommendations on the best places to visit and things to do in the United States.
Travel + Leisure USA

Nomadic Matt 

Nomadic Matt is a popular travel blog run by Matt Kepnes, offering budget travel tips, destination guides, and firsthand experiences from around the world, including the United States. Explore his blog for money-saving tips, itinerary suggestions, and travel hacks for exploring the world on a budget – we know we sure do!

Reddit – r/travel 

Reddit’s travel community is a valuable resource for connecting with fellow travelers, sharing experiences, and seeking advice on traveling to the United States. Join the r/travel subreddit to ask questions, share insights, and engage with a community of passionate travelers.

Tips for Visiting the United States

It’s essential to be prepared and informed to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip to the United States. Above all else, use common sense and trust your gut instincts, Here are some practical tips to help you make the most of your visit:

Obtain Necessary Travel Documents 

Make sure you have a valid passport and any required visas or travel authorizations before traveling to the United States. Check the entry requirements for your country of citizenship and apply for any necessary documents well in advance of your trip.

Respect Local Customs and Etiquette

Familiarize yourself with American customs and etiquette to show respect for the local culture. For example, tipping is customary in the United States, so be prepared to tip service workers such as waitstaff, taxi and rideshare drivers, and tour guides.

Stay Connected

Purchase a SIM card or consider an international roaming plan for your mobile phone to stay connected during your trip. Many cities and towns in the United States offer free public Wi-Fi in parks, cafes, and public spaces. And be sure to have a VPN for protection when using public Wi-Fi.

Use Cash and Credit Cards

While credit cards are widely accepted in the United States, it’s a good idea to carry some cash for smaller purchases and transactions. Be sure to notify your bank of your travel plans to avoid any issues with using your credit or debit cards abroad.

Explore Local Cuisine

The United States offers a diverse culinary landscape with regional specialties and international cuisines. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample local dishes and specialties, whether it’s New York-style pizza, Southern barbecue, or California sushi.

Be Mindful of Portions

American portion sizes at restaurants and eateries are often larger than those in other countries. Consider sharing meals or asking for a takeout container to save leftovers for later.

Embrace the Outdoors

Take advantage of the United States’ vast natural beauty by exploring national parks, hiking trails, and scenic landscapes. Pack appropriate clothing and gear for outdoor activities and follow safety guidelines when exploring wilderness areas.

Plan Ahead for Major Attractions

Popular attractions and landmarks in the United States can attract large crowds, especially during peak tourist seasons. Consider purchasing tickets in advance, arriving early, or visiting during off-peak hours to avoid long lines and wait times. 

Plan for Heavy Traffic in Major Cities

Los Angeles comes to mind. World famous for its heavy traffic, the distance to your destination often doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of time it will take you to get there – and it’s not exclusive to rush hour, either. Always check GPS first to get a sense of how traffic might affect your schedule and then plan accordingly.

Shop Tax-Free

Many states in the United States offer tax-free shopping on certain items, such as clothing, footwear, and school supplies, during designated tax-free weekends. Check local regulations and take advantage of potential savings when shopping.


Exploring the United States is an exciting journey filled with diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and rich cultural experiences. From iconic landmarks to mouthwatering cuisine, there’s plenty for every traveler to enjoy. And whether you’re dreaming of a cross-country road trip, a relaxing beach vacation, or an urban adventure, the possibilities for an unforgettable experiences are endless.

As you embark on your journey, remember to stay informed, be respectful of local customs, and embrace the spirit of adventure. So pack your bags and get ready to create lifelong memories in the land of opportunity. From the bustling city streets to the serenity of nature, the United States welcomes you with open arms and endless adventures.

We’re On a Mission to See All 50 States (+ D.C. and Puerto Rico)

©2024 Stephen & Andie

We’ve set out to see all 50 states – plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico – by the end of 2024. And we’re doing most of the rest of it in our Sprinter camper van, “Ace” #vanlife! Head to the Mission to See All 50 States page of our blog, where you can follow along. Just click any active (blue) state on the interactive map to see which vlogs feature each state we’ve visited so far. And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and click the bell so you’re notified when we post new videos and new states.

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