This Is How To Make A Roadtrip Across USA And Save Money

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Have you always wanted to travel across the United States like in the road trip movies?
We have made a road trip across the states and bring you this unique map of prices and possibilities for you.
If you have a wanderlust in the bones, you actually do not need to save for years for such an adventure.
All you need to do is to read our guide This Is How To Make A Roadtrip Across USA And Save Money and get inspired to get up and go!

Road Trip Overview

Our starting point was in Miami, Florida.
Our finish point was Los Angeles, California, however, we have made a stop in a San Francisco as well.
In total, we have managed to make two road trips as visible on the map below – one began in New York, continued to Niagara Falls and through the Durham in North Carolina, we have crossed East Coast all the way down to the Florida.

The second road trip was from the East Coast to West Coast with the starting point in Miami, Florida, and finish point in Los Angeles, California, with the stop in a San Francisco as well. This post is dedicated to our road trip from East to the West.

Together we drove across 8 states:
1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Louisiana
4. Texas
5. New Mexico
6. Arizona
7. Nevada
8. California

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We are welcoming sunrise at Death Valley National Park, California. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.

What to prepare for a Roadtrip across the USA

Hire or buy a car

Depending on a length of your trip, consider hiring or buying a car.
If you are going to rent a car, rent well in advance or look for good deals.
We have booked our car through the KAYAK and we got really great last minute deal!
Even the lady at the front desk asked us if we know someone in their company that we got such a deal.

You don’t need to know anyone – you just have to be patient and look for the good deals and hire last minutes. The cheap deals usually are available when companies need to transfer their cars from point A to point B quickly and we simply got luck.
If you want to know more about how to get the best car hire deals, we will write a detailed post about it very soon. Subscribe to our newsletter to get notified here.

If you want to take your time and make your trip longer for several weeks or months, then hiring a car is very expensive and you might consider buying a car. Whether you will buy a sleeping van or just the small older car, this investment is way cheaper than hiring one. If you won’t undersell it, your investment will partially come back when you sell it further.

There is also a possibility to hire a sleeping vans like Escape Campervans or proper big caravan or “RV” as they call it in the US.

Manage Accommodation

Traveling in the south of the states means you will have favorable weather conditions on the road. You can use this warm weather for nice tent camping in relaxing campgrounds or state parks.
We hired a small car and bought a cheap tent (at Walmart for $40). In a lot of states are very good camping conditions.
There is a lot of good holiday parks or campsites and some campsites are even for free. During this trip, we enjoyed camping in a tent in several places.
Most of the time, however, we stayed at the decent motels on the road, we simply like our comfort. To sleep in a motel or hotel every night can be very costly, but we have found out how to bypass these high prices.
We always look for hotels and motels on the HOTELS.COM because we get every 11th night for free and they usually have the best deals under the sun. Just sign up for free with their loyalty program and you will get awesome prices with the gift of every 11th booking for free.

If you combine tent camping with motels, the costs of your trip can be lowered significantly.

On the website Free Campsites, you can find free campsite spots all over the United States. Some of them, however, require booking or at least a call that you’d like to stay there.

The average price of a motel was: $80.
The average price of camping in a tent in a holiday park or campground was: $25 pp.

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View of Grand Canyon National Park. You can choose to stay in motels, hotels or there is a variety of amazing campgrounds close to this natural wonder. Photo by © Radoslav Cajkovic

Gas:

The trip took about 2 weeks and we made approximately 3200 miles (5149 kilometers).
Average full tank cost approximately $40 depending on the location (except California which has highest prices in the states).
The approximate number of total full tanks during this road trip was: 10.
To check out the prices of gas visit useful website GasBuddy to see a detailed map of the cheap and expensive gas areas.
The more people are traveling in one vehicle, the more you can split fuel expenses and save. We took a friend with us for a part of this road trip and except the fun and companionship, this helped us to lower our fuel costs a bit.

Road Trip Map

This map shows the whole route of our road trip and also includes our earlier route from New York to Durham, Niagara Falls and then driving all the way down to the Florida. This way is not included in this road trip tutorial and we will write about it in our next post.

The trip described in this post begins in Miami, Florida and ends in L.A., California. In most of the places on the map, we have stayed overnight. Wow, I still can’t believe we made such a distance on our own!

There are 2 possible ways you can take in Texas depending on your time frame and interests – you can either take the upper way to drive through Dallas, or you can drive the bottom way to San Antonio and El Paso.

 

Prepare For The Load Of Adventure

We bring you the gallery of all adventures and attractions we have experienced during this road trip. Almost every state we have visited has its own major attraction site or national park. Be prepared to plan your trip thoroughly so you will be able to enjoy all these adventures at their best.

Florida

This tropical paradise is covered with the most beautiful beaches from a top to the bottom. If you are interested what are the best holiday spots in Florida, you can read our post: 10 Of The Best Beaches In Florida.
Except for beautiful beaches, you can also prepare for the encounter with alligators, dolphins, turtles, iguanas and other exotic wildlife.
Except all of this, Florida is also a place for the ultimate family fun. In Orlando, you can visit famous Walt Disney World or Universal Studio Theme Parks which are world famous attractions for the most unforgettable memories. The cheaper option of Orlando´s entertainment with a comparable load of fun is in nearby Tampa. If you get CityPASS, you can enjoy 5 major attractions including famous Busch Gardens for a phenomenal price and save more than 50% on a ticket price.

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Clearwater Beach, Florida. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.
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View of the Bahia Honda State Park, Florida. Photo by © Radoslav Cajkovic.

Alabama

We did not have enough time to stop by in Alabama, but next time we will drive through, I definitely want to see few things there. Alabama is full of buildings and museums which point out to the important historical events of the USA. One of the most famous ones is First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, which was the capital in the times of Confederate States of America. In Huntsville, you can visit U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Many people like to spend their beach time in a popular Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores. There is allegedly very well kept campground and the nice beach is a tranquil and relaxing oasis.

Lousiana

New Orleans is undoubtedly the hot spot of Louisiana. This largest city is famous for its Spanish and French Creole architecture, multicultural vibe, jazz, and blues music and recognized cuisine. This consists of a high-quality seafood such as oysters or crawfish and a traditional dish such as Gumbo and Jambalaya.
We have visited New Orleans for one night only and expected that we will see the streets full of street artists and musicians.
However, instead of this, we saw the streets full of sex workers, strip bars and drunk (drugged) men looking for a “companionship”. The city itself appeared to us very dirty and quite dangerous for a night wandering.
We have been disappointed little bit but with all respect as I mentioned before, we’ve visited just for one night and haven’t seen much. Maybe next time we will have enough time to explore this place more and find more positive things on it.

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New Orleans, downtown. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.

Texas

Texas was amazing. It is the country full of opposites. Some of the places are like forgotten by God. Some towns which have been flourishing in the past are now deserted. Areas surrounded just by the prairies will leave you with mixed “at the end of the world” feelings…
When you connect on the Route 66, be sure to make a stop at the famous The Big Texan Steak Ranch.
We have been desperately looking for just our morning coffee and stopped by this place totally accidentally. But once we stepped in we’ve been blown away.
Let alone the fact they are a totally cool restaurant with the “best steaks of America”. They also have pretty cool interior full of funny surprises. You can also join the competition of a steak eating if you dare. If you will eat the whole huge steak, you’ll get it for free. Good luck!

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Abandoned Texan town. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.
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Having fun inside of a famous The Big Texan Steak Ranch. © Radoslav Cajkovic.

New Mexico

The name of this state respectively belongs to it. It is strongly influenced by the Mexico to which it belonged until the Mexican-American war. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, later discovered by Spanish colonists, this has brought influence to the New Mexico´s culture as well. The perfect example is the capital Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is a magical historic city lying among the mountains with the very special architecture. The city is a mecca for artists and museums and it is the oldest US capital. It is the place of the colorful, artistic experience and is definitely very different from the typical American cities. We highly recommend you to visit this sweet artsy capital.

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Santa Fe’s historic adobe architecture called Pueblo Style. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.
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Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe. Photo © Radoslav Cajkovic

Arizona

Arizona will take your breath from the beginning to the end. As soon as we crossed the border with New Mexico, we knew we are in Arizona. Surrounded by canyons, deserts, and mountains, we instantly got that true feeling of wild west movies with the music of Ennio Morricone in the background. We were actually playing Ennio Morricone all the time to enhance the atmosphere of this place.
Undoubtedly the most famous attraction is a Grand Canyon National Park which amuses its visitors with the golden canyons – the greatest one in the world.
When visiting Grand Canyon, we especially recommend to find the best view for you and stay there for sunset. It will be one of the most remarkable sunsets of your life!

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Romantic sunset at Grand Canyon. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.
Beauties of Arizona. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.

Nevada

Driving through Nevada was similar like driving through the Arizona. Beautiful views of the desert covered only with cactuses and desert flowers.
The highlight of Nevada is the gambling capital Las Vegas which I do not even need to describe because everyone knows it very well.

California

The best for last! California Dreamin’ is true. We have fallen in love with the Death Valley National Park – full of Earth´s miracles. The most touching experience there was visiting a Zabriskie Point which we knew from the beatnik movie of the same name. It is the hottest, driest and lowest national park in the states and is truly remarkable. The high dry mountains and the orange canyons combined with the extreme heat and vast sand dune areas or huge areas of a dry and cracked land.
We camped there in a tent for one night. The night was calm and quite warm (in April), we woke up before the sunrise to be able to capture the land to come alive under the first sunbeams of the day. It was the authentically adventurous experience.

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After watching a movie Zabriskie Point, we couldn’t wait to see it in real. Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, California. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.

From Death Valley, we headed to the San Francisco. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit Yosemite National Park so we left it for the next time. If you have enough time make sure you visit this another special and famous national park in California.

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View of San Francisco. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.

From San Francisco, we’ve been driving to the last stop of our big road trip across the USA – Los Angeles. We have been very surprised by the nature in California. It was surprisingly green, some places on the road even reminded us New Zealand, specifically surroundings of Auckland city.
L.A. fulfilled all our expectations, it was exactly like we knew it from the movies, including the heavy traffic which was driving us mad.
Anyhow, we followed all places which are important for us like Mulholland Drive from the David Lynch movie and of course the typical tourist attractions like the Walk of Fame, Hollywood sign, Santa Monica Beach etc. The pleasant climate together with the vibe of this city of angels will draw you in.
This place definitely deserves to be the finishing point of our big road trip across the US.

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Santa Monica Beach, L.A. Picture by © Radoslav Cajkovic.

Final Words

Final words belong to my dear husband Radoslav – my soul mate and wanderlust partner in crime. Thank you for taking me for this unforgettable adventure of my life. Thank you for fulfilling my dreams. I hope we will continue to fulfill each other’s dreams forever. I love you!

Please let us know if you have any questions. Have you already been on the road trip across the USA? Have you visited any of these places?

© Independent Couple
All pictures in this post were taken by Radoslav Cajkovic www.radocation.com and are subject to copyright.

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