A little bit country, a little bit tech, Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. It’s got a wonderful music scene (duh), a growing cocktail bar scene, and some down-home Southern restaurants. There’s not a lot of “touristy stuff” to do here, but what makes this city one of my favorites are the music, the food, the wildly friendly people, and the positive energy the city seems to exude. When you’re here, plan to spend a few hours at the Tennessee State Museum. It goes into detail about the state’s history (and it’s more exciting than you might think!).
San Diego’s weather is almost always perfect, leading to a permanently happy population that’s friendly and outgoing and that loves the outdoors. From hiking, days at the beach, or running, people here love to get out and enjoy the sun. The downtown Gaslamp area — as well as the famous Pacific Beach — is full of trendy restaurants, bustling bars, and some seriously life-changing taco stalls. I love San Diego. It’s an underrated city!
California is home to some of the best wine in the world, and a visit to the Sonoma or Napa Valley shouldn’t be missed. While Sonoma is cheaper than Napa, these are destinations meant for splashing out. Take a tour, book a cozy vineyard Airbnb, and enjoy a relaxing few days learning about the region’s wines. Tastings usually cost between $15-20 USD.
Location & Information: 10 miles east of Las Cruces, there are several trails for mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian use, with beautiful views of the Organ Mountains and Southern Mesilla Valley.
From the glossy lakes of Minnesota, to the endless mountains in the Pacific Northwest, the United States of America has it all. We are so thankful to call the “Land of the Free” our home. And though we might be biased, we believe it’s a country that deserves to be explored by foreigners and nationals alike.
Most people travel to the US for a short vacation and end up hitting one or two cities, but there is so much more to be discovered here! Each state is unique and has something special to offer, from the national parks to the streets of New Orleans, our country boasts a diversity of geography, culture, food and experiences that travelers would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
One of the best ways to see this massive country (and our personal favorite method of travel!) is to take a road trip. Come along with us as we share our USA travel tips, road trip advice, and vanlife stories.
USA at a glance: Each region of the US has its own culture that can feel as different as if you’d hopped on a flight to the other side of the world.
There’s the Pacific Northwest with its mountains and driftwood-strewn beaches, California is a vibe all its own with a geographical diversity to rival entire countries.
Note: Unlike in other countries, it is customary for your server at a restaurant to take your credit card away from the table while they charge for your bill.
Tipping in the USA: The US has a big tipping culture and 20% is the customary tip for good service at a restaurant, bar or place of service. However, 15% is adequate. Always look at your receipt to see if service is included your bill or not.
Public Transportation: Public transportation in the US varies from city to city, however most cities in the US will offer some form of metro system or buses.
Taxis: Taxis in major US cities are metered with rates from about $2-$3 per mile. This is an expensive way to get around so we’d recommend ride sharing instead.
Ride sharing: Popular ride sharing apps like Lyft and Uber are safe and effective ways to get around within a city. A lot of cities also offer some form of bike share or electric scooter rental program as well.
Tip: Download both Lyft and Uber and pull up your route to compare prices before committing to a ride. Oftentimes pricing will be very similar, but sometimes you’ll get drastically different rates on different apps.
Bus: Taking the bus is one of the cheapest ways to get around the country, especially if you’re going between states. Check the routes and rates on these popular bus companies:
Flying: Though it is the quickest way to get around, unlike in other parts of the world, flying within the US can be extremely pricey. Use fare comparison tools like Kayak or Skyscanner to compare flight prices and find the best rates.
Tip: When flying on popular budget airlines like Spirit or Frontier, you’ll want to make sure you read the fare rules closely as there are usually lots of hidden fees and the price of the ticket only includes the bare minimum. More reliable airlines include Southwest, Jetblue, and the big 3: Delta, United, and American.
Train: Amtrak is the train company that runs throughout the US, however it is not the quickest, nor the most affordable way to travel across the country. They are however updating their routes so you may find a route that works for your travel.
After all, it’s a massive country without much tourist infrastructure or good cross-country transportation. Hostels haven’t quite caught on, trains don’t go a lot of places, and we don’t offer working holiday visas to attract young working backpackers.
Though the water level of the lake, as well as the flora and fauna around it, is sadly depleted due to the California drought, Lake Tahoe is nonetheless impressive and beautiful. Ringed by tiny mountain communities, this is a terrific place for hiking and boating in the summer and skiing in the winter. For fun in the sun, be sure to spend some time lounging at Kings Beach. For hikes, check out the Rubicon Trail (16 miles/25.7 kilometers) or the Cascade Falls Trail (1.4 miles/2.2 kilometers).
A lot has been written about how stunning Montana is, but words cannot do this state justice. It’s the most crazy-beautiful state I’ve ever been to, filled with wondrous mountains and hills as far as the eye can see. Most travelers never even pass through the state — which is a huge mistake. It’s a nature-lover’s paradise and there is a huge craft beer scene here too, with tons of local breweries all around the state. If I had to pick a favorite state, it would be Montana.
I spent a lot of summers on the Cape since it’s where New Englanders escape for the summer. You’ll find plenty of small beach towns along the coast (Provincetown and Hyannis being the most famous but I also love Chatham, Falmouth, Wellfleet, and Brewster). If you’re looking for seafood, beaches, boardwalks, and that perfect family vacation, visit the Cape!
Tucked away in western South Dakota, this town was famous during the Old West days (noteworthy enough to be the focus of the eponymous HBO series). Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, and many other infamous gunslingers all spent time here. Sort of kitschy and re-created, it’s nonetheless a very cool place where you can experience a taste of the old frontier days. It’s also conveniently located near the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore and worth visiting for a day.
I really loved this city, which features some of the world’s best BBQ and a lively downtown core. There’s a detailed and enlightening jazz museum here, as well as the eye-opening Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (that’s the actual name). This is yet another super underrated and under-visited destination.
Portland is incredible. Here you’ll find an impressive food truck scene, cool bespoke bars and cocktail lounges, a craft beer scene that’s religion to residents, relaxing parks (including a peaceful Japanese garden), a vibrant art scene, and hiking in the nearby mountains. Portland is just an awesome city, especially in the summer when the weather is perfect and there are festivals and events galore.
Take a free tour – Taking a free walking tour is the best way to get introduced to a new place, and most major cities in the U.S. have free walking tours. You get to see the main sights and ask all your questions to a local guide. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
Take the bus – The cheapest way to get around the U.S. is by bus. Bus fares cost as little as $1 USD, though 2-3-hour journeys are generally under $20 USD. Between cities, the best companies are Megabus, Greyhound, and FlixBus.
Redeem hotel points – Be sure to sign up for hotel credit cards before you go and use those points when you travel. This is especially helpful in big cities. Be aware that most hotels charge parking fees if you have a car.
Get a U.S. Park Pass – This national park pass lets you into all the national parks for free so you don’t have to keep paying admission. The annual fee is $80 USD and it pays for itself after four parks.
Cook – The United States has some of the cheapest groceries in the developed world, while eating out here can add up quickly once you factor in a tip and tax (which varies by state). Grocery shopping can cost less than $60 USD per week and is way cheaper and healthier than eating out every day. Cook and save!
Stay with a local – Couchsurfing lets you stay with a local for free, cutting your accommodation costs drastically. You’ll get to spend time with a local who can share their tips and advice while sharing your own travel stories and culture. You can also use the app to meet people for activities (coffee, museum visits, etc.) if you don’t feel comfortable staying with a stranger.
Camp – Most campsites start around $10-20 USD per night for a tent — much cheaper than a hostel. You can use nps.gov to find campsites run by the National Park Service. You can also camp for free in National Forests or Bureau Land Management (BLM) lands (search for “dispersed camping” options). Just be sure to respect the environment and follow Leave No Trace principles when camping.
Use city tourism cards – City tourism cards allow you to see a large number of attractions (and often include free public transportation) for one low price, usually $75–100 USD. If you plan on seeing a lot, these can save you a ton.
Share your ride – If you have a car, taking on riders can be a way to lower your costs. On my first trip across the U.S., I offered rides to people I met in hostels. On another trip, I had friends and readers join me along the way. You can post ads on Craigslist and at hostels to find riders. This not only makes the trip more enjoyable but lowers your gas costs too. If you don’t have a car, you can use look for rides in the same places.