The cheapest way to travel across the country

05 July - Ep. 3
05 July - Ep. 3

"Traveling across the country" can mean different things to different people. To some, it's simply getting from point A to point B as quickly and painlessly as possible. For others, it's an opportunity to see America.

Whether your objective is a streamlined coast to coast journey on the least expensive path, or you're looking for a flexible and scenic route over a longer period of time, we've mapped out the best transportation options that provide the most affordable course for you.

EXPLORE MORE: 'The Runner' is tracking groups of people as they race to cross the U.S.

We've compared the costs of taking a bus, train, plane or car as you cross America, and ranked the cheapest modes based on average fuel and ticket prices.

So, what's the most economical way to travel these days?


Although this can vary depending on how far in advance you book and what day or week you fly, you may be surprised to know that flying is often both the cheapest and quickest option. If you book far enough in advance, you can snag a one-way ticket from San Francisco to New York for around $150. However, depending on seasonality, flights can skyrocket to the thousands, so keep this in mind.

Of course, you don't get the views or experience of hitting the road in a bus, car or train, but if both cost and time is your priority, consider taking a plane.


Taking a bus is generally the next cheapest mode of transportation. Bus carriers like Greyhound stop through major cities, so there are tons of options as you plan your trip. The average length of your journey will be about 3 days, so while it's not as time-efficient as a flight, it's competitive from a price standpoint. The average one-way ticket on a Greyhound bus from San Francisco to New York is about $200.

You do have to factor in food and drink expenses, but if it's too late to book an affordable flight, or you want to catch some sights on your trip, this may be a great option for you.


Amtrak has an awesome deal where you can buy a USA rail pass that gives you the flexibility to choose your route over a 15, 30, or 45-day period. There are over 500 destinations to choose from, plus, you don't have to worry about traffic! However, a train is a little pricier than a bus. A 15-day trek is $459, 30 days is $689 and 45 days is $899.

Like taking the bus, you do have to factor in food and drink costs. While this may not be the cheapest route, this a great opportunity to be on the road and take in the great outdoors.


If you want to go all out on your cross-country journey and you have a good chunk of time to spend exploring, road tripping coast to coast is a fantastic option -- although the costs do add up. According to AAA, the national average of fuel per gallon is $2.62 in July 2016. Using the AAA road trip calculator, we found it would cost approximately $300 to drive straight from San Francisco to New York in a direct route, so considering a longer, non-direct route, food, drink and lodging, this may be one of the most expensive options. However, we have a guide to saving money on a budget-friendly road trip that includes tips like traveling with friends and discounted hotel options that can cut your costs in half.

While this may not be as economical as taking a Greyhound, the cost of going on the American road trip of your dreams? Priceless.

Check out these classic U.S. routes below:

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