Traveling long distances in the USA can be affordable even without car rental; consider using the services of low-cost air and bus carriers. They operate throughout the USA, and the quality of service they provide, somewhat paradoxically, sometimes exceeds that of more expensive competitors. Conversely, train tickets are often pricey and can cost more than airfare.
Southwest Airlines: Cheap Flights Across the USA
Southwest Airlines is the largest low-cost airline globally, and they probably offer the most affordable domestic airfare in the USA. They fly to 121 destinations in the USA, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.
For instance, a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to San Francisco can be purchased for as low as $49. The ticket price includes two checked bags with a total weight of 23 kg. This is a significant advantage, as competitors Delta Air Lines and United Airlines charge $30 for the first checked bag.
I recommend booking your tickets with Southwest as far in advance as possible. The last-minute ticket mentioned in the previous paragraph costs $185. Snacks on board include a complimentary drink and a small snack (like honeyed peanuts). On-board internet is $8.00 per device per day.
Southwest Airlines flies to New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Nashville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver, among others.
Greyhound: Cheap Bus Tickets Across the USA
Greyhound is a traditional bus carrier that operates throughout the USA. It also travels to Canada and Mexico. It offers free Wi-Fi on its buses, seat plugs, and very affordable tickets.
Book your tickets through Greyhound.com ideally two months in advance. My experience: one day I purchased a return ticket from Los Angeles to Tijuana for $3.00, and the next day the same ticket cost $50.
The Greyhound ticket price includes one large suitcase with sides up to 157 cm and one carry-on bag. You can purchase a reservation for a seat on the bus, the price varies depending on the route. The longer the journey time, the more likely you are to be advised to pay extra for a reservation. The best seats are taken first, with the five-seater at the back of the bus being the most comfortable.
The cheapest tickets for shorter routes start at $9.99, and you can go from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for $25. A flat fee of $3.99 is added to each booking.
Megabus: Cheap Buses on the East Coast
Megabus is a direct competitor to Greyhound, symbolized by blue double-decker buses with power outlets, free internet, and restrooms. A friend of mine traveled inexpensively across the USA a while ago thanks to Megabus, sleeping on overnight buses and eating Nutella and bananas.
You can purchase tickets via Megabus.com; there’s no need to print them. Simply show them your reservation number. Ticket prices increase as the departure date approaches, so try searching for “Megabus promo code 2023” when booking. You can save a few extra dollars that way. There are two pieces of luggage included in the ticket price, one carry-on and one larger with a maximum total of three sides of 158 cm.
My experience with Megabus has been positive; I’ve ridden with them from New York to Washington and back. The ticket was affordable, the night bus was half empty, and I felt safe. Megabus travels to New York, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Miami, New York, Toronto, and Washington, among other cities.
On routes with travel times under 3-4 hours where low-cost airlines don’t operate, this is a good option. Megabus fares start at approximately $16.00 on the shortest routes. A booking fee of $3.99 is added to each order.
Flixbus: Bus Routes Across the USA, Canada, and Mexico
Flixbus’s green buses traverse the country, concentrating more on major cities compared to earlier carriers. Services onboard the buses include free Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and toilets. The ticket price comprises one large suitcase stored in the luggage compartment and one smaller carry-on bag.
Flixbus ticket prices escalate as the departure time nears, so booking early is advisable. For instance, for a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, you’ll pay $25. In line with previous carriers, Flixbus adds a fee to each booking $3.99. Reserving a seat costs an extra $4.99.
Amtrak: Train Travel in the USA is Relatively Expensive
American trains face challenges due to the vast distances between cities and competition with cars, buses, and planes. The USA railroad covers only 21,375 mi of track in total. Train travel can be worthwhile on some shorter routes.
The primary rail carrier is Amtrak, with the most frequented route connecting Washington D. C. and Boston. Intriguingly, each route has its unique nickname. The aforementioned corridor from Boston to the capital is termed the Acela Express, the Texas Eagle operates between Chicago and Los Angeles, and the Coast Starlight connects Seattle and Los Angeles.
Train fares in the USA are high and are comparable to airfares. For example, a one-way ticket from New York to Washington is least expensive at $20.00, from Chicago to Los Angeles at $146.
Book your Amtrak train tickets online as far ahead as possible. Last-minute tickets can be pricey, or trains can sell out suddenly.
Traveling by Car in the USA
The main advantage of a car is flexibility. When traveling from point A to B with one or two people, a bus or plane is usually more beneficial; however, for several days of travel, a car is practically essential.
💬 What are your experiences with traveling in the USA? You can post reviews for Southwest Airlines, Megabus, Greyhound, Flixbus, or Amtrak in the discussion.