Trip budget: Southwest USA road trip
I love reading about people’s travel budgets. As well as being useful for trip planning it’s an interesting window into people’s lives and travels – and who can resist being a bit nosy! I’d never published my own until now, but after readers asked about the cost of my US road trip I thought I’d share what I spent. As I travel part-time, my budget is a bit more than it would be for a long-term traveller. My travel style is definitely not luxury, but I’m happy to pay more for a nice place to stay, interesting activities or a great meal. So this is how my costs broke down for a two-week trip around the southwest (prices as at April 2013).
The cheapest way to find accommodation if you’re doing a road trip is to just pitch up and find a budget motel. But I wanted to find individual, locally owned places that were a bit different, so did lots of research and booked all our rooms in advance. We ended up with a mixture of hotels, motels and cabins as well as a couple of studios and apartments so we could self-cater some of the time.
Prices varied depending on the type and location – in some places like Moab we struggled to find affordable accommodation, and I spotted gorgeous O Bar O Cabins online which were a bit over budget but luckily they had a discount low season rate. A lot of places had extras thrown in, like wifi, a $1 guest laundry, a free glass of wine or free international phone calls. Our accommodation costs worked out as:
- 2 nights Tropic – Bryce Country Cabins $206 ($51.50 per person per night)
- 3 nights Kanab – Quail Park Lodge $302 ($50.33 pppn)
- 3 nights Moab – VRBO rental $351 ($58.50 pppn)
- 2 nights Durango – O Bar O Cabins $232 ($58 pppn)
- 1 night Taos – AirBnB rental $71 ($35.50 pppn)
- 1 night Santa Fe – Old Santa Fe Inn $117 ($58.50 pppn)
- 2 nights Sedona – Sky Ranch Lodge $168 ($42 pppn)
Total accommodation cost: $1448 ($724/£467 per person) – an average of $103 a night for a room for two.
We hired a car for 15 days with Dollar, which was pre-booked in the UK about a month in advance. The car hire cost $655 and they also charged us $65 to fill the tank with gas.
We drove about 2500 miles in total and filled the car up five times en route, costing a total of $254 (that’s with us trying to get the tank down as empty as possible before we dropped it off).
Total transport cost: $974 ($487/£314 per person) – an average of $35 a day each.
Food and drink
Breakfast was included with our accommodation for six nights and the rest of the time we made our own. We also made our own picnic lunches most days, buying groceries from supermarkets and delis.
For dinner we cooked our own food for five nights when we were staying in self-catering places. We ate out on six nights and one lunchtime, plus had a meal at Phoenix Airport before flying home. We also got takeaways on two nights and got a free meal the day we volunteered at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
Overall we spent $654 on food – with $224 on groceries, $404 on eating out and $26 on takeaways.
Most of the time we were out in the middle of the countryside so bought our own beer and wine or drank with meals out, so those costs are included above. We did go wine tasting in Sedona, visit a brewery in Moab and stocked up in a liquor store in Durango though, coming in at a total of $98.
Total food and drink cost: $752 ($376/£243 per person) – an average of $27 a day each.
The southwest’s main attractions are outdoors, so our biggest activity cost was $80 for the America the Beautiful pass. This covers entry to all the National Parks and some state parks, so the only places we had to pay additional entry costs were Monument Valley ($5 each) and Dead Horse State Park ($10).
Total activities cost: $112 ($56/£36 per person) – an average of $4 a day each.
We had a couple of extra costs that don’t fall into any of the other categories. We did laundry in Moab ($6), bought a cool bag for groceries ($5) and a couple of souvenirs – a calendar ($13) and t-shirt ($12).
Total other cost: $36 ($18/£12 per person) – an average of just over a dollar a day each.
The grand total
So the overall cost for a two-week trip was $3322 or $1661/£1072 per person. This works out as $119 or £76 per person per day. We were aiming to spend about £1000 each so didn’t go too far over budget.
If you wanted to spend less, you could save money by staying in budget motels (it might be worth joining AAA too if you’re from the US as you get a discount), making your own food and eating in cheaper places. Or if your travel style is more at the luxury end of the spectrum, there are some amazing hotels and resorts you can stay at, some right in the National Parks, as well as some great restaurants and spas.
What do you think of my trip budget? Are you a budget, mid-range or luxury traveller?