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Flights are one of the most obvious ways to travel between cities in the United States, but that doesn’t mean that they’re the most affordable, comfortable, or even the most memorable. In fact, there are many other methods of transportation for making your way across the USA which you may find more appealing. American cities with the best public transportation.

Whether you’re not a fan of flights, or want to take in some of America’s world class scenery along your way, the following are alternative ways to get around when exploring the States. Best way to get across the USA.

Roadtrip

The US was made for iconic roadtrips. Whether you’re aiming for the Pacific Coast Highway, or from Florida to Washington DC, anyone with a car can go anywhere, and the nice thing about this mode of transportation is that the journey is the destination in itself – a road trip is an adventure!

No other mode of transportation allows for the convenience and freedom that your own car does. Self drives offer 100% flexibility. You don’t have to stick to timetables or schedules, and you can change your plans as you go along. Spontaneous detours make for the most memorable parts!

Train Travel

Flying between cities means you’ll see nothing of America. You’re at 35,000 feet. However riding the train means taking in America’s picturesque backdrop along the way. Best way to travel America on a budget. Travel America without flying.

Depending on your route, your window seat view may include towering mountain peaks, desert vistas, spiral tunnels, and unnervingly steep grades. With everything from bustling metropolises to rolling prairies and plains, and expansive national parks along many railway lines, this is the best way to maximize your sightseeing. Train travel in America. United States train travel.

Those considering train travel in the US have the choice between train vacations, or utilizing public transportation to get from point A to point B. Whether you’re catching the train from nashville to chicago or aiming for an iconic long distance train, with more than 1000 routes and journeys, there’s sure to be something to suit you. Can you get across USA by train?

Pro Tip: Some trains allow you to travel with your motorcycle or car. You sit in a typical passenger car, while your vehicle rides in an enclosed car carrier at the end of the train.

As with air travel, you should be prepared to deal with cancellations and delays. Consider booking a sleeper car if traveling overnight, and make sure these reservations are made well in advance (traveling with earplugs will ensure a good nights sleep). You should dress comfortably, and avoid close connections. Never leave your luggage unattended on the train or in the station. If traveling overnight, secure our luggage to the rack with a lock.

Buses

Bus travel throughout the US is a fabulous mode of transport. It’s eco-conscious, tech-friendly, and very inexpensive. Some serve drinks. Some sell tickets for as cheap as a dollar. The best part is that you’re accompanied by music, internet, movies, the occasional snack bar, and best of all, a very competent driver. What are buses like in the USA?

Regional buses will ferry you throughout each State, and fantastic networks operate long distance routes. Also, “buses take certain routes to cities that are difficult to get to by train. Not every type of landscape is ideal for railway tracks and not every small village has a train station, so choosing the bus can take you to local areas and unique countrysides. America long distance buses.

When making your booking, consider if the ticket is refundable, how long the layover is between connections, and if you need to print your ticket. It’s advisable to be at the bus station an hour in advance, and you should make sure you’re traveling with a valid ID.

Take a Bike Tour

If flying isn’t for you, perhaps a two-wheeled, man-powered road trip that involves riding, camping, and slowly following whatever path you decide to lay out before you is more your speed. Ride a bike across America.

A long-distance bike ride is a great option for exploring the States for those who aren’t restricted by time. Depending on your route, this could lasts anywhere from a few weeks to couple of months. And the great thing is that anyone can do it. Cheapest way to travel across America with no money.

Among other things, bike touring will restore your faith in humanity (you will meet many amazing people and be blown away by their kindness), and will force you to travel slowly, immersing you in regions, towns, and people that simply aren’t possible through other forms of travel.

Hitch-hiking

If you’re willing to forget what your mother told you about jumping in cars with strangers, hitch-hiking can be another way to make your way across the United States. Is it safe to hitchhike across America?

Hitchhiking is about trusting strangers in a world where we’re taught to fear the unknown. While it is essential to have your wits about you and to be assertive, hitchhiking doesn’t always have to be a dangerous game. It is the way to connect with communities from around the world, and to see places you would never see from the seat of a plane. Hitchhiking in the USA.

Keep in mind that hitchhiking on freeways is prohibited. Hitchhiking in rural areas and in Alaska and Hawaii is more common, though keep in mind that with sparse traffic it’s easy to get stranded. It’s very common to hitch a ride in and around national parks to get to and from trailheads. If you’re not keen on this idea, you can always check ride-share boards at hostels, park visitor centers and wilderness information stations.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

    46 Comments

  1. Cool article! My girlfriend and I did 8,000 miles around the US in our truck, it was an incredible experience. Next I’d like to take the train across Canada.

    • Thanks Jim! Wow that does sound like an incredible experience! Train across Canada is a great idea … we recently published a guest post about what it’s like to explore the Canadian Rockies by train if you’re interested :) http://www.mappingmegan.com/trans-canadian-adventure/

  2. Done 13000 miles on US road trips in the past two years. Going on another starting next week. Can’t wait. There’s just too much to see in North America.

    • Nice one Tom! Sounds epic!! Where are you headed this week? We’ve done a couple of 3 month roadtrips throughout the US and just absolutely loved it. Our most recent was the drive from San Diego to Alaska – you’re so right … so much to see!

  3. Great ideas here – a road trip appeals to me most.

    • Thanks Rhonda – yes, the roadtrip is my method of choice … nothing better than an iconic American roadtrip!

  4. I would love to go on a long road trip! We drive from Arizona to Oregon almost every Christmas and i think that is the farthest I have done. I want to plan a really big road trip some day. A few Summer ago we did fly to DC then took a train to Philly and NY. That was a pretty fun trip.

    • Sounds fantastic Tanya! I imagine the roads would get pretty snowy past Oregon around Christmas time, but if you have the chance in the summer, I can highly recommend continuing North towards Canada and up into Alaska. We did San Diego to Alaska last summer and it was one of the most memorable trips of my life … loved every second of it!

  5. For a road trip in a car it can be hard to find a better country to do it in than USA. But for long distance public transport (trains/coaches) it can be quite a bit of hassle (a lot more than, for example, travelling across europe)

    • Absolutely – I think America is one of the best countries in the world for a roadtrip such a huge country to work with and one which offers a lot of diversity.

      Europe as definitely managed to perfect long distance transport down to a fine art – it was such a smooth process traveling throughout Europe by train when we were there last. I think America has pretty good systems in place too though :)

  6. When I was in the US I flew and took the bus (Megabus is extremely cheap and I had awesome deals) but my dream is actually to do a road trip – classical Road 66 :) Never considered a train though….

    • We did parts of Route 66 and it was a really memorable trip! Had a blast! I hope you have the chance to organize a trip soon … you should look into one way car rentals if you’re looking for some smart ways to save. Often car rental companies will need to get a car back from one location to another, so they’ll offer travelers a free rental and give them a specific timeframe to get it back to location (A). Saves them money on having to transport the car and hire a driver :)

  7. I love roadtrips! Would love to do a roadtrip in the US someday, I alwo want to see the famouse route 66 someday! Thanks for sharing thism

    • Aren’t they the best!! We did parts of route 66 last year and loved it … public transport throughout the States is great, but a roadtrip gives you the flexibility to stop and take it at your own pace. And especially since there are so many road side attractions in the US, it’s better to travel with your own car :)

  8. I’ve done many road trips in the U.S. and love the towns and places you see that would otherwise be missed on a plane! I’ve actually driven through all 48 continental states and loved it! I wish the U.S. had better train options, though. They can take longer than a car and be quite expensive. I’d opt for bus instead.

    • Absolutely Jackie! And wow, you’ve really covered the States with your car! I think as time goes on options for trains will start to increase and will become more competitive and efficient. Buses are already there so are a pretty great option when you don’t have access to your own vehicle :)

  9. The US is such an easy place to travel around. Although the distance between places is quite vast, roads are really good. I’ve did a roadtrip with my family years ago and drove from California all the way to Canada. Since then, every time i go to the US, I have taken buses, trains, and gone on many roadtrips since.

    • I agree – the roads throughout the US are wonderful – granted, there’s a lot of road work construction all over the country at the moment, but we’ve realized this is a worldwide thing and you can’t really escape it. I saw a documentary recently which said that the rate at which we’re suing the roads can’t keep up with our ability to maintain them!

  10. Probably my favorite way of traveling is by train but recently, I’ve been really enjoying my road trips. I traveled through France, Belgium, Spain and the U.K. with my family by driving and I imagine it would be fantastic to drive through the U.S.A. There’s also a beauty traveling by train so we don’t have to worry about parking or traffic, just sit back and relax.

    • I really enjoy traveling by train too, though I do love my roadtrips! Love that some of the trains in the US will transport your car too, you can combine them both :D

  11. I use public transportation as often as possible, but my intercity travel is typically limited to airplanes and trains. Have you to ride on a Greyhound or Megabus.

    • Planes and trains are definitely a great option for the fastest route somewhere – have taken a lot of buses in my day too though where those haven’t been an option. I can sleep really well on buses for some reason :)

  12. I love taking different modes of transport, one of my favourite experiences has to be taking the Glacier Express in Switzerland. The large windows made it so enjoyable, no better way to catch their majestic mountains!

    • Wow, the Glacier Express in Switzerland sounds like it would be amazing Mar! I can imagine especially during winter, the views would be incredible!

  13. Great suggestions and I know you are a pro at traveling so I value those opinions. I am so excited to add train travel to my repertoire in 2017. My husband and I will take a train trip across Canada to celebrate our 25th Anniversary!! I want to sample the local buses here in Florida, too. They are around $33 and you get free WIFI and it goes all through the state as well as toward New Orleans or Atlanta.

    • You’ll have a fabulous time training it through Canada Melody – one of the best countries for your first trip … happy anniversary in advance!

      And I love that public transport is now including WiFi for passengers … massive bonus over flying :D

  14. I would most definitely opt for train travel. This would probably be the best paced and best spaced for me. I usually have trouble not being able to stretch my legs and I have a hard time finding a comfortable position in long bus rides. I’ve taken almost every mode of transportation possible and scenic train rides are what I still enjoy the most. Thanks for the tip, Meg! Been really looking to explore more of the USA soon!

    • Some great long distance train journeys available in the US Trisha, one of my favorites is the Alaskan Railway, so if you’re a fan of scenic train rides, that’s definitely one you should aim for :)

  15. Traveling by air may be faster, but roadtrips are a great way to see so many different landscapes and areas. Thanks for sharing!

    • Absolutely Mary – spontaneous detours make for the most memorable parts!

  16. My favorite way of traveling in the US is definitely by car, even though it takes more time. There is so much to see and do, I’d never want to skip all of that by planes. And yes, the detours are usually the most surprising, especially when you don’t expect it and try to be a bit more adventurous… I am hoping to head back to the USA next year for another roadtrip!

    • Absolutely – you hit more of the real country when you travel by car – able to take in small little regions and tows you would otherwise miss when flying. And there are so many quirky and cool roadside attractions dotted throughout the States that to fly and miss them would be a shame!

      Hope you have the chance to get back to the States soon :)

  17. Thanks for sharing this! My boyfriend and I are travelling to the USA later this year, neither of us can drive and we don’t want to take flights due to carbon emissions. Buses and trains will be out top choices I think, and like you said, we’ll get to see some great landscape…can’t wait!

    • Hi Helen, glad you found the post helpful :) Buses and trains do have their perks for sure – you’ll get to see some of the most amazing scenery along the way which you would have missed from the window seat of a plane :)

      Happy travels!

  18. Great post, Megan :) I love road trips. They offer a lot of freedom. I also love it when someone else drives! I came across a great resource for finding, comparing and booking bus and train travel. I’ve used it sevetal times and got great low fares. Highly recommend! Check it out: bit.ly/2zbA6TT

    • Thanks Amy! Yes, roadtrips are the best when it comes to freedom :) Thanks for the heads up on Wanderu – will check it out too!

  19. I’m doing it!

    • Awesome! Hope you’re having a fab trip!

    • I haven’t started, yet. I’m sure it will be much better with your tutorial! Lol. I should have said “soon”.

    • In that case have a great trip :D

    • I did 3 weeks or so from Oklahoma to Highway 1 a couple of years ago. Nothing but backroads. Awesome!

    • Sounds incredible! I love traveling the backroads – always unexpected surprises and attractions which don’t make the guidebooks waiting for you to stumble upon :)

  20. Exploring the States on a Bike is the best idea. Agree with the point that bike touring will restore your faith in humanity & you got a chance to explore in detail.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Berry, bike tours are the best!

  21. Roadtrip has always been one of my favorite way of traveling. A road trip is unmatchable when it comes to traveling.

    • My favorite too :D Happy travels!

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