How Much Does it Cost to Travel America?

Our trip to the USA was one of my favourite travel experiences to date. During our three-month stay we took an epic autumn road trip through New England, visited mighty Niagara Falls and hit up the bright lights of New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC.  We ate plenty of delicious food, stayed in some amazing places and took on all kinds of activities, from boat trips and ghost walks to historical tours and museum visits. So, how much did it cost us to travel for three months in America?

kayaking on Crystal Lake, New Hampshire

How much does it Cost to Travel America?

Are you thinking about visiting the USA? Take a look at our America costs below to help you budget and save for your trip.  You can also check out how much we’ve spent in each country we’ve travelled through on our travel costs page. *Update: you can read our complete 2016 New England Fall Foliage Guide here. This includes tips on where on when to see the best foliage, what to eat, which festivals to visit, how much our fall trip to New England cost and our favourite destinations in New England.*

Food Costs in America

Initially, we planned to save money on food in the USA by cooking meals in our Airbnb accommodation, as we did in Australia and New Zealand. We realised pretty quickly though that eating out or getting takeaway in the USA is often cheaper than buying all the groceries to cook with, so we didn’t cook as often as planned.

Homemade apple pie in Vermont

One thing we did make at home was this apple pie

We found food portions in America were large so we could share meals to save money, we also spent less by looking for restaurant deals on Groupon and visiting cheap food markets like Faneuil Hall in Boston where you could get a bread bowl of clam chowder for about £6. We fell in love with Wholefoods Market, where we picked up low-cost healthy meals to take-away for dinner, like salads or macaroni cheese for around £5.

Our favourite meal to eat out was breakfast/brunch. We loved searching out local diners and cafes where we could buy huge, cheap meals of eggs, homefries, bowls of granola and stacks of pancakes. I lost count of how many blueberry pancakes we ate during our stay in America. These meals tended to cost around £6 per person and kept us full for most of the day.

Blueberry pancakes at the Blueberry Muffin, Plymouth, MA

These huge blueberry pancakes cost only £4

Dinner was a more expensive meal to eat out, but we managed this by sharing large portions or ordering side plates instead; occasionally we splurged, especially on seafood dinners in Maine. We barely drink alcohol anymore so we saved money there but  we did spend £90 on cups of tea while travelling in America!

Expense Total Per Person Per Day Per Month
Food £2,067 £1,033.50 £23.76 £712.80

USA Activity and Entertainment Prices

Although we did everything we wanted to – and more – while we were in America, our activity costs were much less than expected. In fact, based on per day costs, they were nearly eight times cheaper than our activity costs in New Zealand and more than two and a half times cheaper than Australia. Our most expensive activities were taking a Stephen King tour of Bangor in Maine, checking out the view of New York City from the Top of the Rock, whale watching in Gloucester and going to a Red Socks baseball game at Fenway Park.

Catching a Red Sox Game at Fenway Park

One of the reasons we spent so little is that many activities in America were free, including excellent historical walking tours led by park rangers in Boston along the Freedom and Black Heritage trails. We also took free tours of the State Houses in Boston and Providence and the Capitol Building in DC as well as student-led tours of Harvard and Yale University.  We happened to visit Salem on a day when there was free entry to the Friendship Boat and Customs House and we made full use of all the free Smithsonian museums in DC. Generous Airbnb hosts also allowed us to use bikes to cycle in Cape Cod and a kayak in New Hampshire; we also did a fair bit of free hiking in New England.

View of Downtown Manhattan from the Top of the Rock

View of Downtown Manhattan from the Top of the Rock

We managed to save money by booking discount tickets for attractions through Groupon, including our whale watching trip, visit to the Mark Twain House, Boston Tea Party museum and National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the 9/11 Tribute Center in New York City. Even when we did pay full price for activities they usually weren’t too expensive and cost on average £20 for two people.

Activity Cost Per Person
Statue Cruises Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, NYC £24 £12
Boston Red Sox Tickets and Program, Boston £33.30 £16.65
Whale Watching Boat Trip, Gloucester £36.64 £18.32
Mount Washington Autoroad, Mt Washington £24 £12
Mark Twain House, Hartford £13.32 £6.66
WaterFire Boat Ride, Providence £26.64 £13.32
Cinema (x 3) £24 £12
Hornblower Boat Ride, Niagara Falls £22.52 £11.26
Jamaica State Park, Vermont £5.32 £2.66
Billings Farm and Museum, Vermont £18.66 £9.33
Lake Champlain Cruise, Burlington £23 £11.50
Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour, Vermont £5.32 £2.66
Fright at the Fort, Fort Knox £13.32 £6.66
Stephen King Tour, Bangor £60 £30
Acadia National Park (7-day pass), Mt Desert Island £16.66 £8.33
Wicked Walking Tour, Portland £28.64 £14.32
Salem Museum, Salem £4 £2
Casco Bay Mailboat Run Boat Trip, Portland £21.32 £10.66
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, Boston £16.66 £8.33
National Constitution Center, Philadelphia £10.66 £5.33
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia £18.32 £9.16
9/11 Memorial Museum, NYC £32 £16
Museum of the City of New York, NYC £6.66 £3.33
Top of the Rock, NYC £42.64 £21.32
9/11 Tribute Center, NYC £10.66 £5.33
Total £538.26 £269.13

Transport Costs in America

For this USA costs post we’re focusing solely on money spent during our time in America, so we haven’t included the cost of our flights to and from the country. Obviously flight prices vary depending on where you are in the world; we flew return from London to New York for £893 for two people through Norwegian Air.

Our hire car - Blueberry

Our hire car – Blueberry

We love the freedom of travelling by car and our two-month road trip through New England was the best I’ve ever taken. Despite covering so much ground our transport costs for the USA were very reasonable; nearly £10 cheaper per day than transport costs in Australia and £4 cheaper than New Zealand.  We got a great online deal for our eight-week car hire in New England, which cost us just £854 and US gas (petrol) price are so cheap, between £0.35 and £0.44 per litre, that we spent just £238 in fuel over two months.

Waiting for the train in New York

Waiting for the train in New York

During the last month of our trip we travelled without a car in Philadelphia, DC and New York City. To save money we booked incredibly cheap tickets in advance through Megabus and Goto Bus, although we found public transport within cities pretty expensive, totalling £163.

Expense Cost Per Person Per Day
Car
Car Hire (58 days) £854.14 £427.07 £14.73
Fuel £238.30 £119.15 £4.11
Tolls £57.06 £28.53 £0.98
Parking £41.50 £20.75 £0.72
Car Total £1,191 £595.50 £20.54
Buses (city to city)
New York to Boston £20 £10
Boston to Philadelphia £9 £4.50
Philadelphia to Washington DC £8.66 £4.33
Washington DC to New York £28 £14
Buses Total £65.66 £32.83  
Public Transport (within cities)
New York (10 days) £53.30 £26.65 £5.33
Boston (10 days) £60 £30 £6
Philadelphia (5 days) £28.20 £14.10 £5.64
Washington DC (4 days) £22 £11 £5.50
Public Transport Total (29 days) £163.50 £81.75 £5.64
Martha’s Vineyard
Return ferry from Wood’s Hole £22.66 £11.33
One-day bus ticket £10.66 £5.33
Martha’s Vineyard Total £33.32 £16.66  
Bus in Newport £2.66 £1.33
Total (87 days) £1,456.14 £728.07 £16.74

USA Accommodation Prices

Accommodation in America certainly isn’t cheap and it turned out to be our biggest expense, accounting for nearly 40 percent of our total budget. As I discussed in this post, we used Airbnb to find cheap accommodation in America, renting mostly guest rooms in family homes which averaged £35 per night for two people. This was actually quite a saving, when you consider that guesthouses in New England usually charge between $100 and $200 per night.

Creepy Cabin in the Woods, Belfast, Maine

The quality of our Airbnb accommodation was incredibly good on the whole and we stayed with some lovely hosts. Our cheapest stay was in a wood cabin in Maine, which cost just £27.80 per day, while our most expensive was a self-contained apartment in Boothbay Harbor which cost £51 per day. We did end up losing £30 in cancellation fees for changing several bookings, but we also got £27 Airbnb credit when a host cancelled our booking at the last minute.

Our accommodation costs below are based on 87 days, although 10 of those were spent with Andrew’s relatives in New York City who generously let us stay for free. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can get £20 free credit to spend on the site if you sign up using this link.

Expense Total Per Person Per Day Per Month
Accommodation £2,693 £1,346.50 £30.95 £928.50

Miscellaneous Costs

As usual, we had some miscellaneous travel costs for America, including toiletries and laundry expenses (these were lower than normal as we had laundry facilities in most places we stayed). As the weather cooled down I had to buy some warm boots and a coat and we also spent money on gifts for family.

Expense Cost Per Person
Toiletries £14.30 £7.15
Clothing £122.60 £61.30
Gifts £86.30 £43.15
Donations £11.30 £5.65
Laundry £4.20 £2.10
Total £238.70 £119.35

Our Total USA Costs

We thought America was great value for money; food, transport and activity costs were very reasonably priced and although accommodation can be expensive, we avoided high prices by using Airbnb. The table below shows the final amount we spent in the USA over 87 days, which came to a total of £6,993.10 for two people, or £80.38 per day. We’ve excluded the £893 price of our flights to and from the USA from these costs, but if you add them on, our per day total comes out at £90.64 and our total costs rise to £7,886.10.

A few of our USA Highlights

Expense Cost Per Person Per Day Per Month
Food £2,067 £1,033.50 £23.76 £712.80
Accommodation £2,693 £1,346.50 £30.95 £928.50
Activities £538.26 £269.13 £6.19 £185.70
Transport £1,456.14 £728.07 £16.74 £502.20
Miscellaneous £238.70 £119.35 £2.75 £82.50
Total £6,993.10 £3,496.55 £80.38 £2,411.70

Comparison of travel costs per day and per month

Overall, the USA worked out to be the cheapest western country we’ve travelled in and living costs there are certainly less expensive than the UK. This table shows the cost of travelling in the USA compared with more expensive western countries, New Zealand and Australia and the next cheapest countries we’ve been to, Malaysia and Taiwan.

WaterFire in Providence

The WaterFire Festival in Providence, RI

Country Australia New Zealand USA Malaysia Taiwan
Expense Cost Per Day/Month
Food £16.47/£494 £16/£480 £23.76/£713 £10.09/£302.70 £13.41/£402.30
Accommodation £33.43/£1,003 £29/£870 £30.95/£928.50 £15.66/£470 £14.04/£421.20
Activities £16.47/£494 £48/£1,440 £6.19/£185.70 £7.64/£229 £0.89/£26.70
Transport £32/£960 £28/£840 £16.73/£502 £21.34/£640.20 £6.98/£209.40
Miscellaneous £0.75/£22.50 £1.50/£45 £2.75/£82.50 £2.25/£67.50 £1.02/£30.60
Total £99.39/£2,982 £122.50/£3,675 £80.38/£2,412 £56.98/£1,709 £36.32/£1,090

 

how much does it cost to travel America?

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7 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost to Travel America?

  1. ‘Lovely post guys!
    I’d agree with you! We’ve only been to America once (West Coast) but we also thought America was great value for money as far as transport and accommodation costs are concerned, as the rooms and spaces are huge. In fact, we spent less in 3 weeks in America then we spent 2 weeks in Italy. OK it was Tuscany but still! Food on the other hand was quite awful! The portions were too large, there was too much sugar in stuff and the fruit and veg was ridiculously expensive. After the second day, we stocked up with 100% fruit juice, water and proper bread lol!
    Having said that our trip to America was amazing and we really had a terrific time as the people are warm, friendly and chirpy!
    Victoria@ The British Berliner recently posted..15 incredible reasons why you should visit Bath in 2016: Heigh Ho!My Profile

    • Thanks Victoria 🙂 Yes, Italy can be so expensive! We’re looking forward to planning our next trip to the USA, this time on the west coast.

  2. Great post, you did very well on your costs considering that the USA is, like you said, a developed Western Country. I think you did particularly well with accommodation and using Airbnb was a winner. The food portions are large and so sharing is a good idea. This post is a must read to anyone contemplating a similar trip. I also liked the comparison table at the end. I will be sharing this post with some friends who are off on a road trip to the USA in May.
    Gilda Baxter recently posted..Iceland – Adding Up the Cost of Our Road TripMy Profile

    • Thanks Gilda, I hope the post is helpful for people planning US trips. We wish we were going back soon!

  3. Hi guys, this has been an excellent read and quite comforting, we’re planning a 3 month tour from New York (we have a wedding to attend I’m Connecticut in August) to LA. And at least we know it’s doable on our budget of £6500 excluding flights. Which car hire company did you use?
    Again thanks for an excellent insight.

    • No worries Sue, glad you found it useful. We used Skyscanner which took us to a Hertz car hire deal. Have a great trip!

  4. Pingback: 5 Reasons why we’re Returning to Asia - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure

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