Travel Tips

Travel the US on a budget

When you’re a student or a young professional, you’re working hard and eventually want to take a break. So what do you do? Sit at home and binge watch TV show here at TheCreditTraveler we want you to travel, explore and experience things outside your comfort zone, and learn in the process about different cultures as well as sights.

Naturally, you want to travel as close to home as possible and what’s closer than the continent you live in – North America! More specifically one of the largest countries in the world – The United States of America.

Where do I start ?

With your budget and time of course! You want to allocate a certain number of days and money towards that getaway trip you’ve been dreaming of. Once you have both settled, you want to pick a location.

Inherently, some places in US are cheaper than the others and there is nothing you can do about it – right? Well partially. Even though California is relatively more expensive than somewhere like Texas, there are still many things that you can do in the same time frame and similar budget just as long as you plan accordingly.

Plan ahead

This bit is important. You can’t always fly to places as that can be expensive. But if your dream destination is far away, turn towards Google flights to track prices. Select your TO and FROM locations as well as dates and put a tracker on prices. You can also see historical data and see when prices soar and when they’re cheap. Ideally you want to travel on cheaper days.

Getting to places

Buses/trains/ride sharing are other avenues of cheap travel. We would recommend searching out for Facebook groups and apps that promote ride-sharing in certain parts of the country. For buses and trains, there are many websites such as

  • GoTicket
  • Greyhound
  • Priceline (mobile app offers great deals)

That can help you find cheap travel options. Do a comprehensive search before you decide to book as prices can fluctuate and coupled with coupon codes/flash sales – be cheaper occasionally.

Staying at destination

Your stay can be as interesting and budget friendly as you want it to be. You can be an adventurist and prefer to camp out in the wilderness (there do exist dedicated campsites, but who knows). Alternatively you can check out Couch Surfing – which allows you to stay at a home/house for free. If you’re willing to spend a bit more money and are traveling in a group, motels as well as Airbnb’s are always a good option.

I’d you’re lucky to snag a killer deal on a hotel and you value it in your budget, then by all means go for it.

A tip for Airbnb: If you’ve accumulated a lot of cash back bonus in your discover card, you can purchase coupons from their store that given you a 10% off $100 coupon. ($90 for a $100 value coupon). Signing up with our link will save you an additional $55 towards your next Airbnb booking.

Additionally, AMEX also have good cash back deals on their rewards page.

Parks and camping

If you’re someone who likes camping frequently and have a group of like-minded 3-5 people, invest in a tent (~$30-$100) from Walmart. Ozark trail generally tend to offer great tents and other camping equipment at good prices. Additionally, you can buy a $80 pass that grants you access to visiting various parks across the country in that list.


This is a scary bit for a lot of people as they always mess this up. Our advice? Stick to grocery stores to buy fruits and snacks such that you stay full and avoid expensive bills at restaurants. Additionally, carry coupons from places like Subway or Domino’s (or whatever you like and find coupons for) to get good deals on eating out.


Many public places have water fountains so keep refiling water instead of buying bottles. Carry a personal bottle so that you can refill as much as you need until the next water station.

Transportation in city

If you’re traveling to cities you know have good public transportation, use them. Sometimes the best way to see a city is to use buses and to get to far away places the metro/tube/train. You could buy a day pass if you’ll make enough trips to break even and above, else carry enough change to pay for tickets.

Car Rentals

Good for short trips when traveling in a group equal to the number of seats in the car as you can maximize the cost value. Read here for more info. Remember, parking will cost you money. Park at public meters and not private lots. There is no shame in driving out if you accidentally entered a $20 parking lot. Most public meters are free Mon-Wed and then charge around $1.75/hr (check the meter to see the exact details and do not follow our quote blindly).


Traveling on a budget should also traveling light. It is rule of thumb we follow even for long trips but our advice in terms of packing is: carry only what you need. Invest in travel bags that meet all your needs such as storage spaces for phones/charge/cables/clothes/sleeping bags, etc… . Amazon and Walmart are good places to turn to as if you don’t like the bag, you can always return them.

More ways to maximize your travel experience

1. Amex offers amazing cash back deals on various hotels and travel related expenses which are worth checking out before you make bookings.

2. Discover also offers vouchers that you can purchase using your cash back bonus.

3. Chase Ultimate Rewards offers you a chance to use your points to book flights/hotels/rentals and premium cards also offer travel insurance as well as trip delay coverages.

4. Groupon offers great deals on tour packages and you can see here how to save money on those.

Example of what our last trip was like:

Recently a group of 11 of us (mostly students) decided to go around New Mexico on a road trip for Thanksgiving. We spent a total of $240 per person over 6 days.

Travel: We booked a 15 passenger van from Enterprise using an employee discount code as the drivers were employees at our University. The booking made was for Leisure and hence we purchased Full coverage on the van as well as road side assistance – to avoid any inconveniences along the way.

Fuel expenses were maximized using Chase Pay at eligible gas stations for a 5X on spend as well as the Discover IT Chrome for 4% cash back.

Stay: We used Couch surfing to find free accommodation for all nights but one to stay. Understandably it did get a bit crowded but we all carried sleeping bags and our hosts were amazing hosts. The one night that we did stay at a motel cost us nothing as it was booked using Chase Ultimate Reward points.

Food: We ate at subways using coupons we got in the mail or ordering foot-longs to split between people. Additionally we packed fruits, milk, cereal as well as snacks purchased from the local Walmart – again maximized with a 5X back using Chase pay (through Walmart pay). One night, our host made us an amazing dinner and one night we at Biryani (Indian rice dish) on our way.

Not to say we starved ourselves, but rather ate well trying out local food at affordable prices and thus cutting down costs (also we were in a large group).

Tickets: Here we could have saved more using Groupon but we just ended up paying full price at the counters.

We did not camp as it was cold in New Mexico. Plus, since stay was taken care of via Couch Surfing, the cost we incurred were the costs of buying gifts for our hosts.

Have fun and be safe

This is our final bit of advice. Enjoy every bit of your trip as all your planning and efforts are now paying off. Follow the rules and regulations of the places you visit so that it is enjoyable for you and other visitors.

Also carry a good camera or a phone with one so that you can capture all those amazing memories.

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