USA Road Trip Costs

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What's the most expensive part of USA road trip
USA road trip. From snow in NYC to sunshine in Florida.

We’ve been moving around a lot over the last 3 weeks of our USA road trip. We’ve driven from NYC to Canada to Florida in a hire car. Petrol, car hire, road tolls, food, what’s the most expensive part of a USA road trip?

Even travelling the way we do, as cheaply as possible, one part of our USA road trip is proving far more costly than any other.

Accommodation in the Most Expensive Part of a USA Road Trip.

We’re finding that family accommodation is very good value in the USA, but it still costs the most.

Budget accommodation USA road trip. Most expensive part USA road trip
This hotel in Darien was $48/night including taxes. It was lovely and the breakfast was great.

Accommodation for 4 in the USA is, roughly,

Under half of the price we paid in the UK ( but the breakfasts are nowhere near as good!)

Half the price we pay in Australia.

About the same as prices in Malaysia.

At least double what we normally pay in most of Asia.

See our Cheap Family Accommodation series for more information on room costs around the world.

Most nights we are paying under $50, sometimes $40 for a 4 bed room including tax, wifi, breakfast and parking. Watch out, advertised prices very rarely include tax and “resort fees”.

What has really surprised us is that accommodation is costing us far more than petrol even with the huge distances we’ve been covering. Petrol at $3.20/gallon is a pretty good deal. ( Petrol in Australia is roughly $1.55/litre, double the price). Car hire was $599 for 1 month, fees, taxes and collision waver took it to $899.  That’s $30/day for a small 4 wheel drive, a Toyota Rav 4. Food can cost you as much or as little as you like.

Obviously, the sky is the limit with accommodation, you could pay a fortune if that’s your desire, but we like to keep the prices down on rooms as much as possible, it’s not what our trip is about. I can give you some great tips on finding cheap accommodation in the USA, but I’ll save it for another day, we’ve got a busy day planned here in Orlando.

We’re having a LOT of fun. I never expected to enjoy travelling around the USA so much, my heart is usually in Asia. Most of all, I’m loving sharing it with my family. We are so blessed to have this time together while the children are still small enough to cuddle and giggle with. Just do it, pack up your family and take them away, you won’t get this time back!

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

34 thoughts on “USA Road Trip Costs”

  1. Hi Alyson,
    I am Abdul from Malaysia nd is planning our first trip to USA (West coast) in November next year. There will be 5 adults and a 2 yrs old children. What is your suggestion on the cheapest accommodation? Is it better to book on line from Malaysia or while on the road road trip? I guess in our case the need to book 2 rooms if its a motel. Airbnb is also an option if its cheaper.

    • Most US hotel rooms seem to have 2 double beds. It’s a bit of an odd set up. AirBnb is rarely cheaper. You’ll often see the same hotels on Booking dor com, Agoda etc and Airbnb at 3 different prices, so it’s good to compare but you quickly go crazy comparing everything and what should be a 5 minute job turns into a 5 hour job. To save your sanity I’d get it all booked before you leave home. Just have a look at prices on several sites to give you an idea. Cheapest for us were motel chains – but they’re very basic – chains like Days Inn and Super 8. But also register for rewards with, for instance Wyndham.

  2. You guys are a total inspiration! I have now literally just booked flights from Glasgow to Boston and then Tampa to Glasgow a month later. Any hotel tips for Boston? Struggling to find anything at a reasonable cost.
    Happy trails!

  3. Hello! Thank you for the good advises ๐Ÿ™‚ Could you tell me which rent-a-car company have you used? I can’t find a car for less than $2500/month…

  4. Hi! I just read your blog about your US road trip.
    My husband and I are tossing between doing our own road trip through the US (we’re from brisbane) or doing a tour. Our issue is we’re wondering what would be better value or safer? We want to have a white Christmas in 2015 so it’ll be winter time when we would be driving.

    In your opinion; is it safe for two Australians to drive during winter in america and is it better value or just do a tour that would take you across the US? How long approximately would it take to drive across America?

    Any information is appreciated!

    Thank you

    • Hi Chelsea, I know nothing of tours in the US, sorry. But I’d say yes, perfectly safe and lots of fun. What aspects of safety were you concerned about? I’ve never driven accross either, only up and down the coasts. We took a month, roughly, to do the East coast. The distances in the US are a smaller than what we’re used to in Australia and finding accommodation is really easy.

      • Thank you for your reply! I think we are convinced that we will do a road trip! The safety concerns I’m more worried about are the icy roads and snow storms etc. I’ve never had any experience close to that so I wouldn’t know what to do or what really happens, all I know is of what I see on TV or movies (probably a bad representation). I’m also worried about getting confused while driving since we drive on the opposite side of the road. Did you experience any of these problems whilst you were there?

        • No Chelsea, we were driving in snow, even up in Canada. They’re so good at managing it, years of practice, just use common sense. My husband drove this time, my license had expired, last time, when it was just me and the kids, I drove. We both found it fine, it actually feels very natural to drive on the other side of the road, we both found that. I did stuff up a few times when I was just starting out in the morning, momentary lapse of memory, just double check yourself and once you’re off you’ll be fine. But I think in the southern states, when they have unexpected snow and they’re not used to dealing with it, they have problems. There was a big disaster last year when snow closed roads and trapped motorists. And no kangaroos to look out for ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. I so agree that a road trip is the way to do it and yes, prices in Europe are more expensive, except in my beloved Berlin of course!
    We found that the rooms were larger than British ones of course, but food prices were ridiculous!
    I have an only child who’s 12 and he’s maturing alarmingly fast so we always have outdoor family hols. together and one that he shares with me alone as mother-son bonding.

    This year we’re going to be swimming and hiking in Poland. It’ll be lovely.

  6. To trim the accommodation budget some, try:

    – Priceline, if you can plan where your stops will be. I have paid as little as $16 for a room in Kissimmee and $25 for 5 nights in Ft. Lauderdale. Actually, I have never paid over $49.
    – (and their mobile app) for excellent unpublished discounts. This is my go-to resource for lodging during US road trips.

    • We use Priceline almost every night Charles, unfortunately the bidding only works for rooms for 2 people and you have no guarantee of what facilities are available. We are 4 and free wifi is non negotiable, so we can’t bid, but Priceline beats the walk in prices every time. Sometimes they are the same as the chain’s own website. We quite often arrive and book on Priceline from the motel’s car park, sometimes after going in and asking the price. We have no shame! is new to me, we’ll look, thanks! Groupon has been useless, they need a postal address. Our prices are after tax. Tax and other charges often take a $29 room to $50.

  7. We’re planning one of these tentatively this year. I can’t wait but wondering how the costs will add up. We want to take our own car, even though the mileage will be a lot.

  8. If you’re coming to Tampa, I’d love to hear your story. My wife and I are pulling up stakes in August and will be following in your footsteps with our 3 girls (13, 11, and 7).

  9. That rings big bells – I drove down the west coast, a few years ago, and managed with cheap motels till I got to Big Sur – and then the prices sky-rocketed! I know it’s beautiful, but the prices were unreasonably high.

    But I’m amazed you couldn’t find cheaper accommodation in the UK – unless you spent most of your time in London? Or Bath?

  10. Hubby has been wanting us to do a US road trip with the kids for years… I was never so keen. You definitely make it sound doable AND fun – happy that you are leading the way ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Great post Alyson, I been following along, and I think you’re doing really well finding decent but budget accommodation options, yes more costly than Asia, but much cheaper than the UK and even Australia so perhaps it all evens out around the globe? Glad to hear you are having so much fun, and your posts are always so informative, thank you.

  12. Wow you got a great price on the car. On average americans always have cheaper car hire then Australians. And we got discounted fuel yesterday for $1.56 (4 cent voucher), fuel here is so exe, but still cheaper then Europe I guess. Looking at taking the kids down South, cheapest option is a AirBnb place for $240 per night!

    • OMGosh Erin! Which down south are you meaning, West coast ? We got a room at Brisbane airport for $80, that’s the best we ever did in Australia, we usually used the tent or just drove through the nite if we were on our way down to Brissy.

  13. We so loved our US road trip. I can’t wait to do another one one day. I just found it such a great activity to do as a family and just so easy having our own wheels for a change especially with our young kids.

  14. So glad u r having so much fun. Sounds like a great adventure. Hate it that its so costly to travel the US for we loved our road trip too but it was so costly. Cuddle time yes, irreplaceable. Loving you, gabi

  15. A-
    Sounds like you’re doing really well on lodging in the US. How much are you finding rooms for in Orlando?

  16. Have you looked into air bnb? I usually find that I can find a place to stay for just as much or less, but with more space. Also love getting to know locals this way too vs hotel rooms. Best if you are staying a few nights in the same place.
    Also many hostels in the US are very family friendly, with private rooms. There are even some couchsurfing places that invite families…


    • Hi Nicole, I’d love to use AirBnb but in my experience they are more expensive than a cheap hotel every single time, in every country we’ve been to. Have you really seen accommodation for 4 people on there for under $50? If so please do tell! I’ve stopped looking now, it’s been a waste of time for us. We’ve actually got $100 of credit to use through them and we Still haven’t used them. We don’t couch surf, we’ve hosted couch surfers in the past, that’s cool, but we’d rather have our own space and not feel obligated to anybody.


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