Jump from nature to city and back again in the vast United States of America. As you savor crispy barbecued ribs in Texas, it’s hard to fathom that you can see the Northern Lights from this same country. In one trip, you can go from the snowy peaks of the Sierras to the scorching desert of Death Valley.
Look beyond politics and you’ll find there is a bit more to the US than you think. Each state is unique in culture and landscape, so you’ll find no lack of diversity. Indulge your love of music in Chicago’s jazz scene or savor the silence of Saguaro National Park in Arizona. Experience the unimaginable excess of glitz and glamour in Las Vegas, or enjoy the refreshingly laid-back theme of Portland, Oregon. The US is a land of discovery, and for the adventurous traveler, this makes things fun!
Read on for our United States budget travel guide!
Region: North America
Capital: Washington D.C.
Population: 330 000 000
United States Highlights
Discover curious wildlife and incredible scenery within Yosemite National Park.
From festivals to alligators to a historic French Quarter, New Orleans has something for everyone.
Paddle a kayak through the protected waters of the San Juan Islands and see all sorts of wildlife, possibly even an orca!
Gaze over an endless expanse of towering sandstone cliffs at Grand Canyon National Park.
Costs of travel are high in the United States, but there are ways to travel cheap. Couchsurfing is huge and Americans are increasingly interested in other cultures, so you’ll find no lack of hosts. Airbnb and Workaway also offer plenty of options. Check online to find the best prices on hostels in your area. Street food is a thing in big cities, but in smaller towns your best bet is to buy groceries and prepare your own food. Taking charter buses and trains are cheap alternatives to domestic flights and taxis, although sometimes it’s easiest to simply rent a car. Don’t forget Craigslist Rideshare and hitchiking! If you’re a student, bring proof because you may get discounts on transport and entrance fees. Camping is a great option in designated areas. Regardless, save up a little extra for this trip!
The United States is a large country, so think about where you want to travel before you choose your airport. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta (ATL) International Airport is a likely hub, but any New York area airport is favored for trans-Atlantic flights. Los Angeles (LAX) is the major hub for westerners. If you’re interested in the American south, try Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), and if northern US piques your fancy, O’Hare International (ORD) is a good starting point. From these airports you can easily take domestic flights to almost anywhere, or travel overland. In some areas, flying into Canada and then crossing might prove cheaper. In all US airports, TSA slows everything down, so arrive early for you flight!
The United States is a safe country to visit. The likelihood of being privy to a terrorist attack or mass shooting is very low, despite cracking the world top 10 for gun violence. People are actually much friendlier than politics would have you believe. Despite strong religious undercurrents, you can dress and act freely as long as you’re within the law and be fine. Social codes are generally lax. Still, take basic safety measures. Don’t leave your valuables or bike unattended, lock your hotel door, hide your passport and keep your money on you. Pick-pocketing isn’t a big thing away from large tourist sites, but opportunists may take advantage of your misplaced belongings. In the wilderness pay attention to local guidelines and always be careful of fire. Stay away from sketchy areas at night, and remember pot isn’t legal everywhere (yet) so beware when going from one state to another.
When to go
When to go depends on where in the US you’re going. Avoid the desert area in the southwest (yes, including Vegas) between mid-May to September to prevent heat exhaustion. Likewise, avoid the frigid winters of Alaska and northeast US if you want to sightsee with ease. The pacific northwest is gorgeous any time of year, although somewhat rainy from fall through April. Tropical areas in the southeast and Hawaii are happily visited year-round, but their high season is wintertime. There are several countries we recommend visiting more than once because of their size and variety, and this is one. So, you don’t have to limit yourself to one season!
Why we love the United States
It is so incredibly diverse! It’s a land of endless possibilities (both good and bad). If you’re a nature lover, you can explore everything from the epic night sky in Montana’s wilderness to the labyrinth of Carlsbad Caverns to the majestic Cascade Mountain Range. For city folks, check out Miami’s world-famous nightlife, New York’s Time Square, and the birthplace of rock n’ roll in Memphis. Soak up the hospitality of southerners over the best fried chicken you’ll ever taste. If you’re into beaches, the US is bordered by both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, and all beaches in Oregon are public. The US is a great mix of natural and urban wonders, and you’ll never be at a loss of things to do!