America, the land of the free… or cheap?

In the UK one of the standard topics of conversation among travellers is how much money they saved holidaying in the USA. Well, judging by our recent trip, these days are over.

I well remember my first trips in recent years to America and marvelling at how you far the money would go. Accommodation, dining and even the stuff in the shops was so cheap compared with Europe. America was the land of bargain touring.

Having just spent three weeks touring in California it seems like these days are well and truly gone.

Certainly, there are still bargains to be had. $1.99 for a burger meal in a fast-food joint may qualify in some peoples’ books as a reason to fly the Atlantic, but quick burgers apart we found the story to be very different compared to our previous visit some three years ago.

Take accommodation, for example. We chose mid-range hotels/motels everywhere we went. Nothing fancy. Our average bill for our room worked out at around $100 per night, that’s just a little on the right side of £70.

Liberty and Manhatten
Welcome to the USA, just don’t expect it to be cheap any more

The story is equally telling on the dining and food front. We were fairly middle of the road in the choice of diners and restaurants.

Inevitably we found ourselves at the mercy of franchised diners a lot of the time, but on other occasios we would search out a local pizza or grill and on a couple of occasions a restaurant that offered an experience a little above the ordinary.

Over the entire holiday our dining bill for two averaged out at a more than £35 per day. That despite the fact that eating out more than twice a day is impossible in the USA (due to the mountain of food you get offered) once a day is more common. Before you ask that did not include anything more than a beer or, on only a few occasions, an averagely-priced bottle of wine.

You needn’t pay much more than than for your daily dining in the UK or Europe, so the differential between the opposite sides of the Atlantic seems to have gone.

Finally, with such a plethora of malls and handy out of town retail parks, it is hard not to be sucked into the American past-time of shopping.

Experience here, again, suggests that prices are much more equitable between the UK and USA and that is even when taking into account that VAT is that much more than US sales tax.

The bottom line? The various regions of the USA are still among our favourite destinations. Just don’t expect accommodation, food and shopping to be the bargain they once were.

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