Road trip daily cost

I’ve been asked repeatedly how much I spent on my 2020 once in a lifetime US Western road trip. So let’s dive in!

Now I must note that I’m very low maintenance and actually do find a thrill in just making due with whatever supplies are stocked in the van. The new me……going with the flow, not stressing over the little things and making anything work.

Check it out:

  • 34 days
  • $3779.15 = $111 per day
  • Transportation 61% = $67.55 per day (obviously this is most of the expense as I got a bigger mini van to be able to sleep in at $1342, $400 car drop fee at a different end location in Vegas, $102 flight to Denver & $452 gas)
  • Accommodations 18% = $19.74 per day (I car camped every other night typically & my dad did split the cost for the 1st 10 days)
  • Food 9% = $10.49 per day (not a foodie so I loaded up at Walmart with snacks/drinks & with so much hiking I was mostly just interested in rehydrating & the NPs had refillable water spouts)
  • Entertainment 7.5% = $8.29 per day (the NP annual pass was a game changer at $80 total so this was mostly the state park fees) – the pass also worked at all national monuments which I added a bunch of last minute
  • Miscellaneous 4.5% = $5.08 per day (mostly souvenirs which were minimal since I’m limited on baggage space & also included a tire fix lol)

A few notes to consider:

I really wanted to rent an RV but it was very cost prohibitive (especially solo) when you factored in the rental at minimum $100 per nt, gas would have easily doubled, additional 50 cents per mile due whenever exceeding 150 miles per day, plus higher camp site dues. Also RVing is extremely popular in our current state (with international travel almost nonexistent), so vehicle availability is also a factor. Most parks were still very busy & in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t have to fight for bigger parking spots.

Splitting the cost for the hotels or RV can be a huge win with trip companions. I didn’t know how much time I would spend in each park so I compared 2 apps for best last minute (same day) pricing – Hotel Tonight & Both limited contact for onsite checkin, as everything was paid upon confirmation.

I’m still a novice but it was absolutely fascinating to research that you can camp for FREE on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands out west. Yes it is a thing. You will find campers piled into every side, dirt road. Do your research & your accommodations cost could be significantly lower if you semi-rough it occasionally.

I also thoroughly enjoyed camping at state parks, as most where inexpensive $10-20 per night & most had showers. I lucked out on a few being first come first serve & last minute cancellations but I would recommend reserving online prior. Almost every campsite now has an online component.

I was pleasantly surprised that my crazy idea to buy a cheap twin air mattress was actually VERY comfortable (that is until it sprung a leak & duct tape didn’t even work). Add in earplugs, an eye mask, flashlight, travel pillow, fleece blanket, bear spray/mace & a good kindle book…..zzzzzzzz.

Feel free to ask me anything. I did use the app called trip wallet, as it helped me break down all my expenses. I would love to share my learnings, as I too had help with from fellow travelers along the way. What are you waiting for? 🧳 🗺 🚙

Published by elliottcm

Love adventure travel, work hard & play hard, happy in both extremes - relaxing on a remote beach or rappelling down cliffs, take joy in simple things, love being on & near the water, visited 55 countries & 47 states so far in this crazy beautiful life! Goals by my 50th birthday - 50 states. 75 countries. 50 national parks. Be in Antarctica on my big day.

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