Money matters: How much will your USA road trip cost?

Money matters: How much will your USA road trip cost?

On the hotlist of every traveller: a USA road trip with your own van! Driving through national parks, eating a homemade burger in front of the van and experience the endless freedom on the road! How much money should you save for a USA road trip? What are examples of prices in the USA? Vincent hit the road last summer with his girlfriend. Take a look at his expenses and costs!

This article is part of the Money Matters series in which we ask travelers to keep their expenses for Bunch of Backpackers. Real travelers, real expenses. 

COSTS 30-DAY USA ROAD TRIP*: 2850 EURO (3886 USD)
DAILY TRAVEL EXPENSES*: 95 EURO (129 USD)

*These daily travel expenses are per 1 person per day. Excluding international flights.
Including all tours, souvenirs, lodging, food, drinks, entrance fees, domestic flights, tips etc.

USA. Photo by Vincent.
USA. Photo by Vincent.

EXAMPLES OF PRICES IN THE USA:

Rental of van for 28 days including insurance: 2280 euro (3100 USD) (obviously depends on type etc.) 
Gas for about 4000 miles: 650 euro (886 USD)
Private tour Vermillion Cliffs National Monument: 184 euro (250 USD) for one person
Skydive Canyonland and Arches: 170 euro (230 USD) for one person
National Park Pass: 80 euro (110 USD) for one person

A bed in a 6-p dorm (in San Francisco): 19 euro (25 USD)
One night in a double room in a simple guesthouse: 33 euro (45 USD)
A short 10-minute taxi ride: 11 euro (15 USD)
A bottle of water (0,5L) at the store: 0,7 euro (1 USD)
A local beer at a bar/restaurants: 2,6 euro (3,5 USD)
A glass of coca cola in a restaurant: 1,4 euro (2 USD)
Lunch at a local restaurant: 8 euro (11 USD)
Dinner at a cheap local restaurant: 8,8 euro (12 USD)
Dinner at an average priced restaurant: 14,6 euro (20 USD)

Vermillion cliffs (the wave) in Arizona. Photo by Vincent.
Vermillion cliffs (the wave) in Arizona. A must see!! Photo by Vincent.

SOME DETAILS ON THIS TRIP:

About the backpacker(s): Vincent and his girlfriend, both in their late twenties.
Destination and travel period: Southwest USA in July 2013 for 30 days.
Visited places: California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona (find their full travel itinerary here)
Type of trip: Independently
Accommodation: better qualified campings
Transportation: rental of a van (with a bed in the back)
Food: sometimes cooking at the camping, sometimes local places
Exchange rate at the time of travel: 1,00 USD = 0,73 euro

5 BUDGET TIPS FOR THE USA!

1. If you rent a van, you are allowed to sleep on the side of the roads (excluding highways/National parks). Also, the cheaper campings cost about 10 USD for a spot, but you won’t have wifi/electricity/hot showers). Check out the van rental website!

2. Buying food in the store and cooking yourself will be a bit cheaper, but not as cheap as in Asia.

3. Remember: the bigger the car, the more fuel you are likely to need. Also, save gas while driving. Turn of the AC etc.

4. Don’t take on too many kilometers per day. The golden road trip rule is a maximum of 300k per day.

5. Avoid parking in big cities.

Check out the complete ‘Money matters’ series!

Check out the ultimate southwest USA road trip itinerary of Vincent! 

Meet 'travel mastermind' Manouk: a 29-year-old sassy girl from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. With BoB she inspires you to explore the world, meet the unexpected and follow your dreams. Happy travels!

8 COMMENTS

  1. I’m from the US, and I basically live out of a car in the west when I am stateside, so this looks familiar. My additional advice: find the cheap mexican places with four dollar burritos! Basically the only way I can afford to eat out these days and totally the best bargain. Also, that rental is pretty expensive–you could maybe buy a used van for that price and resell it? You could definitely buy a used car and a tent for that, although I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Then you could travel around the states for longer than 30 days! It is a pretty big country ;)

  2. I found out as well that it’s very difficult to travel the USA for under $100/day; your figure of $95 is very close to it. We managed with around $100/day, but only by not eating out much (certainly not dinner, which seems to be the most expensive meal of the day) and restricting tours and activities to the most interesting.

  3. Hey Juergen! Yes, it seems rather expensive to do a USA road trip. I”m sure it can be done cheaper, but I reckon many people will travel ‘this style’ and will hit the 90-100 USD mark a day!

  4. An interesting fact as well is when coming from a Euro country, the exchange rate matters a lot when it comes to cost. Unfortunately, at this date, the exchange rate is not that good for the Euro compared to a while ago :)
    Thanks for the list, it gives a nice idea on how much a trip like this can cost!!

  5. We will be doing a roadtrip From SF to Denver over 18 days. We had a budget of 5000 euro just for food gas and lodging. And I was worried we might not make it. But after reading this I feel pretty confident we’ll be fine. We also recommend that all the people from Belgium Look at flights from Amsterdam or Germany because we saved about 500 euro in relation to Brussels. Also the couchsurfing.org site is a good option where you can find tons of people that offer cheap or free sleep arrangements to tourist to trade stories or just meet some cool people. Also if you take the time to talk to local people you’ll get tips on where you can sleep cheap or where you can get cheap good food.

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