By: Cara Parenti, Career Advancement Program Assistant

You’re probably not reading this on the beach, while catching some rays and sippin’ on another strawberry smoothie. More likely, you’re in your bedroom deciding whether or not you should splurge on that pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and a side of garlic bread for an 11PM dinner. How about you save that money you were going to spend on pizza and start planning your travels? Traveling doesn’t have to break the bank. The trick is to know how to make the most of your travel budget. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get around the U.S. without spending your whole life’s savings:

  1. Travel by Bus

    The beautiful Chicago skyline! Licensed under Creative Commons.

    The beautiful Chicago skyline! Licensed under Creative Commons.

Knowing exactly how much you’re paying for a plane ticket is always difficult, as you never know if the airline is going to charge you $25 for an extra bag or $5 for a bag of peanuts. If you choose to spend the extra few dollars on a flight, as finding buses/trains with your exact route can be difficult, make sure that you travel light. In the U.S., you get an 18kg carry on allowance and any weight above that will be subject to extra charges.

Traveling by bus is a cost-effective alternative to air travel but it limits flexibility, so being flexible is essential when traveling on a budget. Megabus and Greyhound are the nation’s leading bus services that offer city-to-city travel for as low as $1, as well as free WiFi, so you can Instagram that picture of the Chicago skyline as you drive by.

  1. Use Public Transportation

Most large U.S. cities have some form of public transportation; whether its buses, trains, subways or horse and buggy, it is almost always going to be cheaper than taking a taxi cab. When buying your tickets, make sure to purchase a package instead of buying them day-to-day. This will usually save you a few bucks, and will stop you from missing your ride to buy that next ticket.

If the city you are traveling to does not have a public transportation system, and you’re unwilling to walk 5 miles from your hotel to see that famous landmark, then a taxi cab is the best option for you. If you decide to take a taxi, make sure to research cab companies in the area for legitimacy and pricing information. If your hotel is located a few miles out of city limits, you might be subject to extra charges.

  1. Rent an Apartment

You’ve booked your bus ticket and you’re all set to travel to your next destination, you even bought that new outfit to strut around the west coast in! But wait, you just remembered that you have nowhere to stay once you arrive.

Finding accommodations in an unfamiliar city can be extremely time consuming and difficult and staying in a hotel isn’t your only option. Another option is renting out a room in a hostel. Hostels are the less-fancy version of hotels and are usually much cheaper in price. Your hostel room might be shared with others and won’t have that complimentary shampoo and conditioner, but it’s going to save you big bucks that you can spend on good food and experiences around the city.

Another option is apartment rentals. Airbnb and VRBO are the nation’s most popular apartment rental services and provide you with relatively cheap accommodations in the home of a local. As your renter is a local, they are a great resource for any questions you have about the city. Just remember to always book through a reputable website that verifies rentals and avoid potential scams on public or anonymous listing sites.

  1. Find Cheap Eats

    The delicious West Coast  In-N-Out Burger! Licensed under Creative Commons.

    The delicious West Coast In-N-Out Burger! Licensed under Creative Commons.

Remember that pizza you were going to order? Well now’s the time to enjoy it!  Eating fast food and doing your own grocery shopping are two ways to save big on eating expenses. But a huge part of traveling is being able to experience the different cuisines all over the country. Everyone wants to try that Philadelphia cheese steak, that Chicago deep-dish pizza and an In-N-Out burger from the west coast. If you’re going to spend your dollars on meals, make sure to spend it on famous regional foods.  Additionally, restaurants tend to have more deals and discounts at lunch-time, so splurging on that 5-course meal for lunch will save you big bucks.

  1. Research

When planning your travels, it is important to research your destination. Most likely, you’re not the only one who has attempted to travel to New York City with a $400 budget, and those who have done it successfully might’ve shared their tips and tricks.

Here are two services for help finding cheap eats, and tourism and travel discounts: Groupon & Living Social. Remember to take the time to plan out your travel budget ahead of time so you can make the most of your experience once you arrive at your destination. Once you’ve traveled around the U.S., make sure to share your stories with CCI Greenheart!