USA Costs & Summary

Our trip to the US was a mix of big cities, beautiful nature and relaxing in snowy Montana.

While we were always looking forward to Christmas in America, I wasn’t sure how it would be like to travel around – would it feel a bit homely and boring after everywhere we’d been?

Not at all. Firstly after struggling with language in East Asia, it was amazing to have everyone understand us again (minus a few accent problems!). Secondly and most importantly, America has stunning natural beauty. I never appreciated quite how vast it is and how many different cultures, climates and landscapes this one country contains.

Add to that the fun packed cities and incredibly friendly people, and it’s easy to see why we enjoyed America and why without a doubt we will be back.

Our Route

Los Angeles – 4 nights
San Francisco – 4 nights
Sacramento, CA – 1 night
Bakersfield, CA – 1 night
Flagstaff, AZ – 2 nights
Las Vegas – 3 nights
Laurel, MT – 14 nights


All we needed to do was apply in advance for the ESTA Visa Waiver program, for which we were accepted. However it wasn’t as simple as we thought.


All costs for 2 people over 29 nights

Accommodation – £443.15
Eating Out – £316.21
Transport – £370.38
Attractions – £165.73
Shopping – £147.53
Groceries – £98.25
Petrol – £75.74
Alcohol – £37.73
Coffee/Drinks/Snacks – £24.62
Misc – £17.49
Laundry – £5.13

Total – £1,701.96
Per Day – £56.73

Average Costs

Basic hotel/motel room – $50
Diner/budget restaurant meal – $8-12
Chipotle Burrito Bowl – $7ish
Fast Food Meal – $5
Beer at a bar – $4
Large 25oz beer from a liquor store – $2-3
Bottle of water from a shop – $1
Single public transport ride in LA – $1.50
Gallon of petrol – $2.20 – $3
Car rental for 1 week – $200 inc a tank of fuel

Unsurprisingly, America isn’t the easiest country to travel on a budget in. However you do get more for your money than the UK or Western Europe, and if you’re careful it isn’t too bad. Obviously big cities are more expensive than smaller towns, San Francisco especially was stupidly expensive.

Some things of course are a bargain – car rental is very affordable and petrol is famously cheap. Fast food is also cheap though obviously this isn’t great for anyones health.

We were very lucky that we spent 2 weeks with Katy’s dad, so our costs were extremely low for that period. The fact our average expenditure even with this was £56 per day says a lot.

Food & Drink

It’s America, you can get anything. Simple as that. One surprise to us though was quite how popular Mexican food is. I knew it was obviously popular down south but wherever you go there are Mexican (sorry, Tex-Mex) restaurants everywhere you look.

Our main problem was resisting the temptation to eat junk food too much. It may be cheap, and it may taste good but it’s a bad idea to save money this way. Sometimes we spent a lot more on better food and really appreciated it. Even so, after Japan when we felt super healthy, when we left America we didn’t feel the greatest – though excessive Christmas binging (which would have happened anywhere) was to blame for a lot of this!

I was surprised how affordable drinking at bars was, even with the annoying tipping for every drink it still was cheaper than England – not that we went out drinking an awful lot.


Unsurprisingly you really need a car in America to get around, outside of the big cities anyway. LA had cheap but irregular public transport while it was more expensive in San Francisco but a lot more efficient.

The MegaBus was a good option between LA and San Fran but other than that (and an internal flight) all our travel was by car.


Free WiFi was common enough and usually pretty decent at hotels – which is the minimum you’d expect really. One thing I almost didn’t do was buy a SIM card since WiFi was so common – I’m so glad I did though as it saved us so many times during our road trip as we used my phone for a SatNav.

The featured photo in this post uses the image DTC Flags by dktrpepr licenced under CC BY 2.0

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