Cheap Hotels and Affordable Travel on the Great American Road Trip

Crossing America on four wheels is the stuff of bucketlists the world over. But just because the mileage is clocking up, the accommodation rates don’t have to. In any region within the U.S., there are plenty of ways to save, from camping to couch-surfing to simply planning ahead. And it’s not all chain motels on the road either; cheap rates and quirky accommodation fortunately seem to go hand in hand with a road trip across the States.

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© Nicholas A. Tonelli

Tracing your route and stopovers carefully is the key to booking budget rates. You can save big by booking ahead on sites like, and if you work out a route populated by a certain hotel group, it’s worth checking out whether you can score free nights or loyalty points by sticking with the same brand.

While America as a whole is not known for its hostels, there are affordable accommodations to be found through discount travel sites, even for overnights in big cities. Elsewhere, check out online house and room-exchange sites for reasonable rates, which might even come with a couple of friendly locals happy to show you the best — and cheapest — places to visit. The couch-surfing craze actually began in the US, so it’s worth looking into if grabbing even a couple of nights free accommodation appeals to you.

You can take your accommodation with you and plan your route based on campsite locations. This pitch-tent method of road tripping also allows you to save money on food, as many of your meals will be shopped for at grocery stores. Make sure to reserve camp spaces in popular spots like Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks well in advance.

There is no shortage of unusual, character-driven hotels to be encountered on a road tour around the U.S. For those with more mainstream tastes, there’s always the ubiquitous highway collection of chain motels and restaurants. The point is, the country is vast and there are choices for just about every brand of traveller.

A road trip is easily one of the best ways to get a sense of the natural diversity and unique history of the USA. Crossing 8 or 9 states may sound like too much of a stretch for a tight budget, but with a little planning and some flexibility, cheap stays and quirky bargains can be found from sea to shining sea. There are also plenty of mini-trip alternatives and scenic routes to consider, and with more car- and ride-sharing initiatives nowadays, you don’t even need your own transport to get out on the road and see America for yourself — on a smart budget.

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