Travel in America: An Overview of Getting Around for Vacation

Estimated read time: 6 minutes

Getting around in America for a vacation isn't exactly straightforward. Many of the major cities do not necessarily have the type of public transportation system that is available in other countries.

When it comes to getting to your destination, you've got to take into account what you're looking for in the journey. Do you just want to get it over with as quickly as possible? Are you just looking for the cheapest way to get there? Do you want to travel in the lap of luxury? Figure out exactly what experience you're looking for, then weigh the options.

You don't have to slow down the traveling when there are kids involved. It's all about good planning beforehand and following some guidelines.

How to Get Around

As with many things in life, you may not be able to find everything you're looking for in any particular mode of travel. It's all about give and take. Whether you're traveling by land, sea, or air, there are going to be some great benefits.

By plane

The first thought for traveling a long distance is hitting the skies. Planes can turn a 10 hour trip into a 2 hour trip. Even when you take into account time getting to the airport, going through security, and waiting at the terminal, it's still going to be an exponentially faster way to get where you're going.

Air travel can also be a cheaper way to travel, depending on the destination. Sometimes paying for gas, food, and possibly even hotel stops can make driving a way more expensive mode of travel. That's going to be limited to going further distances, though (think going across the country instead of just to a neighboring state).

The downsides for going by plane include having to deal with airport security, sometimes extremely expensive ticket prices, and being nickel-and-dimed by the airlines. By that I mean what's advertised as a $50 ticket likely won't end up being what you pay. Got bags to check? The price just went up. Want to choose where you sit (or make sure you're going to sit next to the person you're traveling with)? The price just went up. Those extra fees add up quickly, so keep an eye out.

By Train

Want to see the country in a way that many people these days never will, all for a price that's often lower than other travel options? The train could be just what you're looking for.

Traveling America by train can help you see sights that you wouldn't really have the opportunity to view by other travel methods, especially if you are traveling across the country. You will get a feel of all the different landscapes the nation holds.

With the availability of private cabins, trains can often be more comfortable and spacious for a traveler than airplanes or cars. Even the regular train seating can provide this level of space. More modern trains will also you to recline your seat into a fully horizontal position.

Trains are still guarded with security personnel, but not to the extent that you find in air travel. The security lines are usually not that long, and there's not an intensive screening of your baggage. Indeed, the security experience isn't anywhere near the TSA and flying.

The downside to train travel is the speed. It's going to take you quite a bit longer to get where you're going.

By Car

When you aren't traveling that far, driving a car can make a lot more sense, even when factoring in the cost of gas. For longer trips, make sure you consider hotel stops or food when comparing transportation costs, particularly as it comes to air travel.

Unless you are flying first class, car seats are much more comfortable than plane seats. You also have the option of making a stop and walking around to stretch your legs if you get to feeling cramped up in the car.

While car travel will most often be faster than going by train, it doesn't hold a candle to the speed plane travel can offer for longer journeys. You're also the one operating the vehicle if you're traveling by car, so you won't just be able to lounge during the ride.

By Boat

If you're not limited by time, a boat can be a great option for you to travel. You won't have to worry about changing buses, waiting at the airport, or being stuck in a car for hours.

In many cases a ship provides entertainment opportunities and solid dining choices as you coast across the waters and enjoy the scenes. Some cruise ships will also allow you to leave the boat and explore different destinations along the way.

Cost Effective Travel Options

Traveling can get expensive when you add up transportation, food, hotel, and other costs, but it can still be done on a budget when you use some alternatives to save you money.

One such alternative is couch surfing. This unconventional option can get you cheap or sometimes even free accommodations to sleep in a local's spare bedroom or couch. is a popular online network where people will open their couches for strangers to stay.

There are some safeguards, such as a verification process for hosts, to help alleviate safety concerns. Keep in mind that it doesn't mean it's foolproof.

You can also arrange a home exchange where you swap property with someone else at the same time. By doing that, you can eliminate the lodging expense altogether. There are also websites available for people who want to put their property up for grabs.

This is a mutual exchange, so that makes it more likely that your place will be taken care of. Still, you will want to check references and either meet or talk on the phone before opening your home.

If you have friends or another family you can travel with, a vacation rental could be a great choice. The cost of a vacation rental goes down as you add more people to your party.

Traveling in the peak season to a destination will mean you will be paying extra to make that trip. You can get a real great deal when you travel in the low tourist season. A lot of times, this may mean you will have to deal with less than ideal weather. It's still going to be much friendlier for your wallet.

Taking a day trip can also be a nice mini getaway. Look for local destinations that are an hour or two away where you can leave early in the morning and get back home in the evening. You might have a quaint little town, national park, or a historic site that's worth checking out.

Best Avenues for Family Travel

You don't have to slow down the traveling when there are kids involved. It's all about good planning beforehand and following some guidelines.

Traveling by car is ideal when your destination doesn't have an airport that's convenient, you will be traveling with a lot of luggage, or flying is too expensive. When it comes to costs, make sure you are accounting for gas, food, and other expenses during a road trip.

If you plan to travel by plane with your kids, book the flight that is the cheapest and works best for your trip. Don't try to schedule the flight around your kid's routine because it's all going to probably go out the door anyway. During their usual nap time, they will probably be wide awake and energized.

If you can afford it, you should also book a seat for your child even if they are younger than two. The plane seat is much safer than trying to hold them in your arms all through a flight. It gives them some space to themselves, and they can also entertain themselves.

Trains can also be a cost effective way to travel on certain routes. They are also very convenient with the wider aisles that allow you and your kids to get out and stretch your legs.

There's typically a cafeteria car where you can get a snack and eat comfortably. You are usually able to take as much luggage as you want – just remember you are responsible for carrying and storing it. If you are taking an overnight train, consider spending extra to get a sleeper car with beds to make it a little easier for the kids (and yourself) to actually get a little rest.