Since the United States is such a large country, the climate and temperature change drastically from coast to coast. The north has defined seasons. Winter can bring heavy snowfall and more severe temperature. Spring can start as late as May, but the summers are gorgeous and temperatures climb into the 80s°F (30s°C). Coastal areas tend to be cooler.
The south has less defined seasons. Summers get incredibly hot and humid. Winters tend to be dry and warm, while autumn and spring make for pleasant travel weather. In the desert areas, like Las Vegas, temperatures can soar as high as 104°F (40°C) on some days.
Ultimately, the best time to travel to the United States depends on where you’re headed and what kind of activities you’d like to do.
The United States is a massive country and “safety” changes a lot depending on where you go and what you do. Generally, the US safe place to travel around — even if you’re traveling solo.
Violent attacks tend to be confined to certain areas (especially where drug and gang violence are a problem). You may encounter petty crime, like theft, especially around popular tourist landmarks and in larger cities, especially on the west coast where theft is a much more common problem. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, especially while taking crowded public transportation.
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.
Stay at roadside hotels – There are a plethora of cheap roadside hotels such as Motel 6 and Super 8 to the rescue. Rooms start around $60 USD a night (plus tax). They’re great when you’re traveling with someone and can split the cost.
Find free museums and events – Inquire at tourism offices, use Google, or ask hotel or hostel staff for information about free events and museums. Many museums offer free or discounted admission times throughout the week.
Get free water or free refills – If you order a drink, most restaurants allow free refills while you eat your meal or refills at a low cost. If you ask, tap water is usually provided for free.
Bring a water bottle – In most of the U.S. the tap water is safe to drink, so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
Save on gas – If you’re on a road trip, use the app GasBuddy to find cheap gas near you. Also, sign up for gas station loyalty programs as they can save you money on fill ups.
Rent cheap RVs – RVShare is like Airbnb but for RVs. You find an RV near you, send a request to book it, and then you can rent it for your trip. It’s super affordable and is a great way to connect with other RVers!
America has 63 national parks as well as countless state and local parks. These parks highlight the best of the American wilderness. Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, the Smokey Mountains, Rocky Mountain Park, the Badlands — the list goes on. Make sure you visit as many national parks as you can to get a sense of the grand and diverse landscape that is the United States. You can use this government map to find a park near you! If you plan to visit multiple parks, get the America the Beautiful Park Pass, which costs just $80 USD and gets you free entry to all the national parks for a year.
One of my favorite cities in the world, Chicago is full of amazing architecture, great parks, good food, and a fun nightlife. It’s a tamer version of New York — but prettier! Don’t miss trying deep-dish pizza (it was invented here, along with stuffed-crust pizza) and seeing the iconic “Bean” sculpture in Millennium Park. They also host one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the country.
This French-influenced city has incredible seafood and Cajun cuisine and even better live music. A visit to New Orleans is a must for any jazz or blues fan. Live music is available seven nights a week (my favorite venue is the Spotted Cat) and there are also tons of amazing walking tours that highlight the city’s unique culture and history (including ghost and voodoo tours). If you plan on celebrating Mardi Gras in NOLA, book early. Accommodations fill up fast!
Closer to Asia than the United States, Hawaii is America’s slice of South Pacific paradise. White sands beaches, clear blue water, tropical jungle, and great surf — Hawaii has it all! Don’t miss the the otherworldly landscapes of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the somber memorial at Pearl Harbor, and the hikes at Diamond Head and the Lanikai Pillbox Trail near Honolulu.
The birthplace of the revolution (and my hometown), no one leaves Boston disappointed. It’s a big city, but its lack of high-rises, as well as its cobblestone streets and brick buildings, give the city a small-town feel. The Freedom Trail, which covers all the main historic stops, is a must. Be sure to lounge in the Boston Common and catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park too (the city is big on sports).