Although the most popular gap-year destinations for young people are in far-flung locales such as Thailand, Costa Rica, and South Africa, the USA is the real rising star. Despite not featuring very prominently as a gap year destination a decade ago, it has been rising through the ranks to the point where it is now the third most popular country in the world to go to.
If you’re one of the thousands of students considering a gap year in the USA, one of the first things to take into account is that, unlike many other gap year destinations, it is not a cheap place to live. Living costs vary from state-to-state, but several parts of the US are among the most expensive places to live in the world, with New York, California, and Washington State topping many global rankings.
However, this doesn’t mean you need to be a lottery winner to enjoy an American gap year. With the right amount of know-how and budgeting savvy, anyone can enjoy the US experience to the max. Here’s how to make your money go further on your American gap year.
1. Know Where to Stay
As mentioned above, not all places in the US are equally expensive. While tourist and business hotspots like New York or San Francisco have some of the highest rents in the world, equally exciting cities such as Phoenix, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, and Baltimore are substantially cheaper places to live. If you must spend an extended time in one of the more expensive locales, do your research to see which neighborhoods are more suited to your budget.
2. Travel Frugally
While driving around somewhere like California (where gas prices long ago surpassed $4 a gallon) can be ruinously expensive. But getting across the country can be cheap if you know how to do it. While the US is not big on public transport, you’ll find that inter-city and cross-country carriers like Greyhound Buses and Amtrak Trains are surprisingly affordable, although the quality of your journey may not be what you expect.
3. Shop Around for Your Entertainment
As a rule, you will save big money in the US if you do a little bit of research before spending money on entertainment. You’re in the land of modern entertainment, so remember that no matter what you want to do, whether it’s playing online games or going to the movies, you’ll be able to find a dozen ways to do it for vastly different prices. Take online casino games such as poker and roulette, which are hugely popular in the US. Providers know that customers have lots of things to consider when it comes to bonuses, prices, and play options, which is why there are so many great online deals if you just know where to look.
4. Eat Local
One might wonder what constitutes as ‘eating local’ in a country as diverse and in love with food as the US. Local food in Florida is a very different beast to local food in neighboring Lousiana, but that’s what makes eating your way around the US one of life’s truly great experiences. If you want to save money on food, learn what the local dishes are. If you’re in Chicago, deep dish pizza will be the cheapest dinner because there is so much competition between restaurants. In New York, a pizza slice is still a dollar. A Philly cheesesteak will never break the bank, and dim sum in San Francisco will always cost peanuts.
If you’re worried about the cost of your gap year in the United States, follow these tips to reduce your outgoings substantially. And don’t forget to plan ahead!