To get right down to it, we spent around $7,300 for 55 days of travel time around the U.S.A. The bad news is I don’t have a detailed account of how we spent it. I DID! But the documents saved to my phone that listed every single penny we spent, drowned in the Colorado River about a week before we got home. SAVE YOUR DOCUMENTS, FOLKS. Everything that follows are estimates; however, they are very well guessed estimates because during the entirety of the trip, I was writing down everything we spent money on and keeping track. Read on for information about how we spent our money during our travels.
For the trip, I wrote down everything we spent for a few reasons:
Rough breakdown of what we spent our money on:
Accommodation= ~$400 (we only paid for a few of our nights)
Eating Out/ Drinking out= ~$500
Deep dish pizza in Chicago, NYC style pizza, food truck and craft beer in Portland, a ‘we were tired from hiking’ meal in Zion, buffet dinners in Las Vegas, Krusty Burger in Universal Studios, Wine at the Finger Lakes and Napa Valley, whiskey on the Nashville strip, and some occasional fast food along the way. Eating out is expensive, so we tried to limit this to only special occasions or places/food we really wanted to try in specific cities.
Groceries= ~$1,700 (mostly Wal-Mart shopping which included mostly beer, wine, eggs, bread, milk, Mac and cheese, lunch meat sandwiches, and Ramen noodles)
$80 America the Beautiful pass (to get into all of the National Parks)
$250 Universal Studios
Two of the main activities we spent money on were our pass and Universal Studios. We opted out of many expensive activities such as city zoos and museums. They are quite pricey and I don’t regret not going (we did, however, go to Chicago’s zoo, which is FREE!:)). This is how we kept this price tag low. We only went to Universal Studios because we had been so frugal for the first 30 days. With our America the Beautiful pass, we got into all the National Parks for $80 total. Note: we calculated whether we would save money on this pass during our travels and we did. We went to 12 National Parks. Make sure to take a minute to see whether this is actually worth it or not because if you’re only going to 3-5, it might be cheaper to pay individually at each park.
This includes parking, subways, public transportation, dumping fees, Planet Fitness membership, souvenirs, laundry, etc.
As you can see the majority of our money went to gas. We had about $3,300 to spend for 55 days which breaks down to $30 pp per day for food, accommodation, and activities. We chose to cut out accommodation costs (you can read how we did this here). As I said above, we didn’t do too many activities that cost us a lot, so mostly each day was about feeding ourselves affordably enough. Towards the middle of the trip, we both felt that we had a better hold of things and how much it would cost us each day.
A few things some travelers (foreign or not) may forget to consider for their long-term trip around U.S.A.:
-Car or RV insurance
-WIFI. Most public places have free WIFI in U.S.A.; however, finding an outlet is sometimes challenging)
-Gas price range. Rural states will have much cheaper gas and as a general rule of thumb, the bigger the city= the more expensive gas is. The cheapest gas we found was over a dollar per gallon different than the most expensive gas we found. Gas prices go up and down all the time in the U.S.A. and driving 20 miles out of the city may save you quite a bit. So, if you can make it out of the city before getting gas, I suggest you do just that.
-Parking costs. Big cities will have high parking costs, but there are apps that can help you find the cheapest options.
-Road fees. If you are traveling by car or RV, you may hit a turnpike or road that charges you to drive on it. These costs can get pretty high if you’re on that road for a lot of miles. If you’re using Google maps, there is an option to avoid road fees. We almost always choose this option; however, make sure to do your math. Sometimes, the distance you put on your car to ‘go the long way’ and avoid fees will actually cost you just as much as the fee would have and you just put more miles on your vehicle.
I have a few recommendations to anyone trying to figure out how to budget for 2 months of travel in the U.S.A. First, ask yourself the important questions: Are you coming for luxury or backpacking? Are you a foodie, a partier, a photographer, the athletic type? Will you ever be able to afford to be any of those things, let alone all of them, while traveling long term?
Sometimes these are the hard questions. Yes, of course I would’ve rather flew to every destination in my private jet and have a week in each city buying $100 bottles of wine in Napa Valley. Instead, we bought one bottle of $20 wine in Napa Valley and then went and bought a $6 bottle of Barefoot and drank it by Lake Hennessey (we probably slept on the side of the road in our RV). Is this something you can see yourself doing? We had to limit ourselves on a lot of things we would’ve done differently had we have more money, but was that a problem for us? Definitely not. We found a way, because if we wouldn’t have done it how we had, we would still be saving for that dream ‘make-believe’ trip over a year and a half later. After asking these hard questions, decide what you can and can’t live without and really ask yourself if this will ever be possible. If it’s not, that’s okay! Go on a trip that’s going to make you happy and maybe experiment with the idea of not having something you think you may need. For instance, maybe you think you can’t go on a trip without all the accommodations a hotel offers. An option you could try would be to rent a nice RV, reserve a spot at an RV resort in a local city you want to see, and try it out for a weekend. Most RV resorts offer showers/restrooms, WIFI, local city access, pools, etc. If you like how this goes, maybe next you could try glamping;). For now, just be honest with yourself and don’t try to push yourself into things your uncomfortable with to save money. You may save the money, but you’ll end up ruining the vacation. The whole reason I write this blog is to show people how we afford our travels, but this doesn’t mean you should follow suite if everything I’m saying sounds awful to you!
Another recommendation for people looking to budget a long term trip is start with simple lists. Your first list is where you’ll want to go, and then you’ll just keep building from this: how long will this take me, how much time will be spent at each destination, how I will get there, etc. Once you have your list of places to see, you can start to look at costs of each destination, how much hotels are, how much the activities are going to cost me, how much will it cost me to get from point A to point B, etc. Once you start seeing some price tags, you might pass on some cities altogether. Also, you might decide that driving may be cheaper or ‘motels aren’t that bad.’ Some of your last questions will be whether it’s feasible or not, how long would it take to save that amount, and can I cut down on anything to make this simpler and more affordable. There’s a lot of advice online and a lot of people who have done things differently from how you would. There’s the extremely affordably (me) and the others, who literally created the $250 per person per day statistic, and then everyone in between. My top recommendation is to take little bits of advice from lots of bloggers around the world. Use the advice you like and discard the advice that didn’t apply to your travel preferences. Most importantly, start budgeting now so that you can get out there and travel the world sooner, rather than later! Thanks for reading and good luck to you as you budget your travels.