The idea of a road trip across America is an enticing one. Images of cruising along freeways and taking some of the famous roads such as Route 66 act as a wonderful incentive when at the ‘learning to drive’ stage and mastering three point turns and revising for the theory test – the skills honed here could unlock your dream adventure. For more experienced drivers too it can be one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences – a way to ‘see it all’ with family and friends.
The good news, whatever your experience, is that it needn’t cost the earth to live out your dream. It’s possible to do an American road trip on a budget and have a great time.
The key is to shop around and choose carefully. Midweek is better than weekend for lower fares, and it’s likely to be more economical to fly into and out of East Coast cities such as Boston or New York rather than West Coast cities such as San Francisco.
Use a flight comparison website rather than the airline’s own, and be open minded about your flight options; for example, an Icelandic airline might offer a great deal even if it means a flight via Reykjavik. If you can’t avoid summer school holidays, at least wait until later in August for fares to drop.
You shouldn’t be restricted to using the same East Coast airport to fly in and out of America – mix and match for the best possible deals.
You may find it less expensive to book the flight and drive as a package rather than doing it separately. Check your options.
Research – while you may wish to keep things flexible, you should start with a basic itinerary and a basic shape to your trip.
Research will definitely save you money, so get as much advance information about the places you’ll be visiting and benefit from first hand travel tips.
For example, if you’re planning to visit National Parks, then buy a pass – you’ll save significantly on the costs of admittance to them individually even if you’re only thinking of visiting a couple.
Driving – while fuel is cheaper in America than in the UK, don’t be tempted to overdo your speed. You’ll want to stay on the right side of the law and, importantly for a driving-heavy holiday, fuel is a major cost that you’d do well to keep down. Driving economically will also give you longer to drink in the stunning scenery as you go.
Accommodation – generally, it pays to book ahead when planning your itinerary. In some cases, you may be forced to settle for expensive accommodation if you don’t pre-book. The same applies if you’re thinking of camping. You may stand more chance of finding somewhere at short notice, but do book ahead to stop prices draining too much from your budget.
Over budget – the last thing you need is to worry about funds running low. Whatever budget you set (and set it realistically) many seasoned travellers recommend you add to it with a reserve – perhaps another 20% minimum. Your dream could turn into a nightmare if you’re left empty-handed with time left on your journey.
Food and drink – prior research as recommended above can pay dividends, but be aware a lot of motels and hotels in America tend to be priced as ‘room only’. Some have eating facilities but keep your eyes open for budget dining opportunities nearby.
There are many blogs from people who have done American road trips, so search online and read a few. You’ll pick up some useful advice on what to look out for and, just as importantly, what to avoid.