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Budget for North America

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1. Posted by ballso (Budding Member 3 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

My girlfriend and I are planning a trip starting in September 2012. A large chunk of the trip is going to be spent in the US. We are aware that North America is one of the most expensive places to travel around, but we would be grateful if anyone has any advice on roughly how much to budget each per day? We are not planning on spending much time partying, but we would like to have enough money in the budget for the occasional treat and some trips/excursions. Any advice would be much appreciated.


2. Posted by Cyberia (Travel Guru 1851 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

It depends on where you go. Obviously a room in Manhattan is a lot more expensive than a room in Orlando.

It also depends on how much travelling you are doing, and how you are travelling.

You can eat and drink cheaply in America if you shop around.

For two of you, I would think a minimum of $100 a day. You'll save some days and spend more others.

Book rooms online as many motels and hotels are expensive, even if not good. Try hostelbookers, hostelworld,, travellerspoint, etc.

Take credit cards in case you need extra money with unforeseen expenses.

America has dangerous areas, and sometimes better to watch TV at night than be out on the streets. Keep a reasonable sum like $100 in small bills handy (and hide the rest) and if unfortunate enough to get held up, hand it over. You do not argue with knives or guns.

Have you insurance? Even a small illness or injury in America can cost a fortune.

3. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3579 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

A budget is difficult to project w/o more info. Are you planning on flying into each city, use public transport, then renting a car for excursions outside of that city? Use a bus pass to get around most of the time? A Discovery Pass then might make sense. Renting a car for much of your travel? Buying a van and using that for transport and sleeping? Camping out? hostels? motels along the way? Tell us how many days you will be the US, how you want to get around, where you want to stay. That will help with an estimate on daily expenses.

4. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 2012 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Where are you from, and what kind of prices are you used to? If you're coming from AU or UK, then I would say that US prices would be about the same. Servers expect tips in this country - 18% seems to be the going rate, but plenty of self-serve/fast food places everywhere. Major cities and tourist attractions are often twice the price of small towns (especially rooms). September is a good time to travel here (October would be even cheaper). This is such a large country, and your questions are a little vague - if you could tell us exactly where you're going, what you expect to do, how you expect to get around, it would help considerably.

Personally, I can't afford to travel in my own country for extended periods - I find it considerably cheaper to go overseas.

5. Posted by Ella Torres (Budding Member 5 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

In this time it is very difficult to spend your money in budget. But everything is depend on your traveling like where you are going, your purchasing and all.

Post 6 was removed by a moderator
7. Posted by ballso (Budding Member 3 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Hi all,

Thanks for your replies. We are from the UK. This the first long-term trip that we have organised so we are grateful for any advice! We are going to be spending 8 weeks in the US. We are planning on visiting a mix of cities such as Boston, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans etc. and national parks such as the Grand Canyon (depending on seasonal opening times). We have a really long list of places we would like to visit but obviously we won't be able to fit it all into one trip so we haven't decided on a set itinerary.

We are thinking of getting a greyhound pass to travel smaller distances between cities, and flying the larger distances. In terms of accommodation we are looking at private rooms in hostels/ cheap motels.

Thanks again,

8. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3579 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Easy one first. The South Rim of Grand Canyon NP is open all year. The North Rim closes when the snow gets too deep. Usually mid Oct. Same with Yellowstone NP. The roads close according to snowfall.

You might crunch some numbers on renting cars for some portions of your adventure. Most of our Parks are geared for autos. You can fly into the nearest city and then take tours to the Parks. Get some numbers on visiting NYC, Boston, Washington using public transport. Then on renting a car for that segment. See what makes sense for you guys. Same with using a Discovery Pass. Check some airfares between say Washington and Chicago. Then New Orleans. Same getting farther west. Compare using the bus vs flying. Bus or fly into Las Vegas for Grand Canyon. Easy drive in a rental car, or bus, helicopter, plane tour. SF is an easy day drive in either a rental or bus from Vegas. Or fly if you get a quote you like.

Using hostels/motels you should be able to stay around $100/day for daily expenses. Hostels are available in most larger US cities. They will be roughly $40/day for 2, motels average about $50-60 across the country. Food is pretty cheap if you hit our fast food places or buy what you like in our grocery stores. Room/food should average $100 or less daily.

The big expense will be transport. This is where you will need to do some research. You already know bus price for 30 days times 2. Get some quotes for rental cars in cities it makes sense to use one. Also you need quotes for airfare between cities that you might want to fly. Good luck with your planning.

[ Edit: Edited on 18-Jul-2012, at 19:03 by vegasmike6 ]

9. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 2012 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Boston, Washington and San Francisco are some of our most expensive cities, and I doubt if you'll find any cheap rooms in Chicago either. Yes, there are a few hostels around, but they're usually in neighborhoods that both of us would rather not spend time in. I used to live in SF for many years, and can tell you that rooms can be very difficult to find there in September/October - this is summer (warmer weather) for SF and that means many fairs that attract thousands of visitors. The nicest hostel in SF is at Fort Mason on the Bay - avoid the hostels downtown and avoid the Tenderloin area (below Geary to Market St.)

[ Edit: Edited on 18-Jul-2012, at 19:55 by Daawgon ]

10. Posted by softseattravel (First Time Poster 1 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

The US does not have the extensive train and bus service found in some European cities; in the US we love the automobile.
You will find city to city train and bus service on the eastern seaboard and west to Chicago but in the southwest you need a rental car or a tour bus.
Note that it will be cold in October at the Grand Canyon and in the northern cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston.
For that reason I would visit Las Vegas first to get a rental car and visit the Grand Canyon early in your trip. Head then to San Francisco and then to Chicago via flights. You could train or bus from Chicago to Boston and train or bus to DC. In other words, do the high elevation and the northern regions first while it is still warm and then head south to New Orleans. In the northern cities you might find lodging in the suburbs and use the extensive commuter rail to reach the city center. Try Air B&B for lodging
In the Grand Canyon you could car camp although it will be cold at 6,800 feet elevation. (2072 meters) We car camped often in the southwest. A nice cozy tent and trunk full of groceries and you stretch the budget. I would think that 75-100 USD per day each would give you enough if you economize whenever possible. Make your own meals, lodge with a few air B&Bs, tent in the Southwest.