It’s not an easy task to figure out how much spending money to take to the USA. The United States keeps you on your toes with every American state (and sometimes even individual cities within states) imposing its own tax rates and rules.
Those rates and rules will affect everything you buy, from your Statue of Liberty souvenirs to tickets to a baseball game. In Montana, for instance, there’s no sales tax. But in Louisiana, it’s 10%.
All of that means there’s no standard budget you can apply to every state. On top of that, how much you spend will depend upon the length of time you’re away and how you prefer to travel.
So the first steps to calculating your spending money budget is to figure out:
- How long you’re staying for
- How you plan to travel
- Where you want to go
How Much Spending Money Do I Need Per Day?
As a rough guide, budget between US$100 and US$250 per day for travel in the USA.
On average, you should get by comfortably on the following daily budgets for spending money:
- Low budget: US$50-80 per person
- Mid-range budget: US$100-150 per person
- Luxury budget: US$250 or more per person
Just remember, these costs don’t include those things you pay for before you leave home, such as flights, insurance and Visa waiver fee.
Sign up to the S Money Rate Tracker to keep track of the exchange rate in the days leading up to your departure.
Spending Money for Longer Trips to the USA
How Much Spending Money for One Week in America?
According to Budget Your Trip, the average cost of a one-week trip to the United States for one person is US$1567.
Considering your daily budget, a one-week trip to the US should cost:
- Low budget: US$550-1000 per person
- Mid-range budget: US$1500 per person
- Luxury budget: US$4500 or more per person
How Much Spending Money for 2 Weeks in America?
The average person spends roughly US$3000 for a fortnight-long trip to the US. Consider budgeting:
- Low budget: US$1000-1500 per person
- Mid-range budget: US$3000 per person
- Luxury budget: US$10,000 or more per person
How Much Spending Money for a Month in America?
Treating yourself to a month in the States? It’s set to be a trip of a lifetime but only if you put aside enough money for your budget:
- Low budget: US$2500 per person
- Mid-range budget: US$7000 per person
- Luxury budget: US$20,000 or more per person
A family might expect to spend around US$20,000 for a family holiday away for a month.
Costs to Travel in America
As we’ve said, it all depends. Will you be crisscrossing the country or taking a deep dive in just one destination? Will you be living it up in luxury hotels or roughing it with motel stays and fast food meals?
Will you stick to cheaper off-the-beaten-path destinations or explore some of the most expensive cities in the country (like San Francisco and New York)?
Whatever you choose, you’re likely to find the costs of food, activities, and even transport mostly cheaper in the US than in Australia.
The Costs of Accommodation in the USA
Do you want to live it up like Queen Beyonce or are you in for a classic backpacker experience and sharing a dorm with several fellow travellers?
Whatever option you choose, your accommodation is likely to take the largest chunk out of your budget.
The US has accommodation to meet every budget, from B&Bs to roadside motels and even campsites.
On average, you’re looking at the following costs for two people in a private room:
As a rough estimate, you could be looking at:
- Budget: US$40-80 per night
- Mid-range: US$100-200 per night
- Luxury: US$300 or more per night
The Costs of Food in the USA
America is known for its food, from the scintillating Cajun and Creole cuisines of New Orleans to the homely soul food dishes of Harlem, and from the appetising steak dishes of Texas to New York hot dogs and Floridean Key Lime Pie.
In general, eating out in the US costs roughly the same as in Australia, except the portions are often larger and the menu prices LOOK smaller. Don’t be fooled: tax and tips are usually added on after the fact. Tips should be between 15% and 20% of your total bill.
On average, dining out costs about US$17 per person while total daily food costs come to an average of US$42.
You can expect to pay the following per person, per meal (excluding tax and tipping):
- Budget meal at a fast food joint or food truck: US$5-10
- Mid-range meal at a decent restaurant: US$15-25
- A high-end meal at a luxury venue: US$50+
Thankfully, it’s easy to save money on food in the US by following some of these tips:
- Split a meal. Portions are typically huge so you should still be satiated even when sharing one dish.
- Get takeaway. If you have a fridge in your motel or a kitchen at your Airbnb, request a box for your leftovers and save them for another meal.
- Cook your own food. Accommodation options from Airbnbs to hostels often have kitchens you can use to prepare your meals.
The Costs of Transport in the USA
In a country as large as the US, it’s hard to avoid travelling, whether that’s on public transport, in ubers and taxis, or even with vehicle hire.
As with almost everything else, the average costs for transport vary from one state to the next.
Take taxi rides. In New York City or Los Angeles, you can expect to pay the average median fare of about US$22. In Detroit, on the other hand, a typical fare is only about US$12. TaxiFareFinder gives you the average fares for taxi journeys in various locations.
One of the most popular ways to travel the US is to take a road trip. Once again, the prices will vary dramatically depending on a range of factors, like the type of car you hire, peak times, and even how old you are.
You’ll pay a significantly higher amount if you’re under 25 because of the high insurance premiums the car companies automatically add to under-25s.
On average, expect to pay the following for week-long car hire:
- Budget car hire for two people and luggage: US$200
- Mid-range car hire for four people and luggage: US$250-300
- Luxury car hire for a convertible or large SUV: US$350-500
Want to save some cash? Here are a few handy tips to help you keep the costs down for car hire in the US:
- Rent a car from a less-frequented town like Orlando rather than from NYC or LA.
- Make the most of weekly rates or long-term rental discounts.
- Hire your car from an inner-city branch rather than from the airport.
- Hire a car outside peak periods; check if there are any major events happening in the city you’re visiting before you go.
- Avoid extra fees for additional insurance - these are often covered by your credit card insurance or travel insurance (but make sure you check beforehand!)
- Pick up and drop off your rental car from the same location to avoid one-way rental fees.
While petrol is relatively cheap in the US compared to Australia, prices still vary from one station to the next and between states.
Avoid interstate exit petrol stations and download the Gas Buddy app to find the cheapest petrol rates near you.
The Costs of Activities in the USA
If you’ve saved up to travel all that way, you don’t want to skimp on the best part - the attractions.
It’s a good idea when costing out your budget to make a list of all the American attractions you’d like to visit and their costs. For example:
- Empire State Building: From US$42 for an adult
- Alcatraz Tours: From US$39.90 for an adult
- Universal Studios: US$109-129 for general admission
- Disney World Theme Park (Orlando): US$109 per day
- The Statue of Liberty: From US$19.24 per adult
With a bit of clever planning and some flexibility, you can actually save a hefty amount of cash with these money-saving tips for US attractions:
- Try booking online with a site like Viator for early-bird discounts.
- Buy a CityPASS, which often includes skip-the-line and public transport fares as well.
- If you’re heading to multiple national parks, buy a National Parks Annual Pass for US$80 and get entry to over 2,000 American parks for up to 4 people for a year.
- Find out the ‘free entry’ days for big-ticket attractions like the Museum of Modern Art (free on Friday nights).
What is the best way to take money to the US?
You have plenty of choices when it comes to taking your travel money with you over to the US. These options include:
- Using a debit card to withdraw money from ATMs and use on purchases
- Taking a credit card for big purchases
- Exchanging US dollars at home through an online provider
- Buy a prepaid travel money card
- In most places, credit and debit cards are widely accepted but it’s still a good idea to have cash on you to pay for smaller purchases from street food stands, cafes, and other small businesses.
Cash is also going to prove particularly important when it comes to tipping.
Learn more: The 6 Best Ways to Take Money to the USA
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