How much money do I need for a 16-day US roadtrip?

Now that I’ve informed you all over the past few months about everything we’ve done on our US roadtrip, it’s probably also time to discuss the price tag that came along with this holiday.

Same as with Cuba, I had a budget in mind before departure. This time, I was looking at around 2500 euros I wanted to spend for this two and a half week trip. My dad and I are very much budget travelers, so this is a pretty tight budget for two people roadtripping the US.

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Flight

Once again, the flight tickets were the decision-making factor on whether or not we were actually leaving or not. When in December the prices dropped to €466,18 per person, we just didn’t have any excuses anymore, so we booked.

Initially we were going to fly from Brussels Airport via Atlanta International Airport to San Francisco. But due to the terrorist attacks of March 22, our flights changed and we ended up flying KLM from Brussels to Amsterdam, and then from Amsterdam to San Francisco. In the end a much better option as Atlanta is apparently a huge airport and two hours to transfer there would have been tight. Now we were already transfering only one hour into our journey, which meant a little less stressing for delays.

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Rental Car

About three months before departure, we started looking for a rental car to drive our many miles through the USA. Usually we rent the smaller car, but considering we were going to drive a lot – read: over 6000 km – and we were going to drive on unpaved roads in many national parks, we decided to opt for a high-clearance car; a lovely Toyota Rav4.

I always book my rental cars through Auto Europe. On this website you can see many car rental companies at once, see which are cheapest and which have the best ratings. They also mostly offer full insurance while others often exclude tires and the underside of the car. Always pay attention to what coverage you get for what price. The cheapest car might not always be the best option.

When our flights changed, we were also able to rebook our rental car as well. And it even ended up a little bit cheaper to pick it up earlier and drop it back off later than initially planned. This isn’t usually the case, so we were pretty lucky. You are allowed to make changes to your booking, but then you actually rebook it at the prices that are offered at the time of rebooking.

For sixteen days – full insurance – we payed 456,4 euros. Upon arrival we added assistance as well, which was an extra 81,22 euro. This leaves 290,38 euros per person. This is of course one of the costs you can save a lot on if you’re more than two people travelling.

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Gas

One can’t drive all those kilometers without having to fill up the tank quite often. We almost had to fill up every day, but luckily gas prices are – compared to Belgium – pretty cheap in America.

We ended up paying about 330 euros for gas, and we also filled up in Beverly Hills and Death Valley where prices are a lot higher than average. So if you can, try to avoid filling up in that area and you’ll be off a bit cheaper.

Hotels

And now comes the biggest cost of all; our nightly stay. I was surprised at how much hotels and motels costs in America. In the south of Europe one can easily find great accommodation for less than 50 euros for two people, but there it ended up a bit more expensive. But since all our hotels were really great, I can’t find it in myself to complain about it.

I booked most of our hotels via booking.com. I have never had any bad experiences with them, so they are my prefered way of finding a hotel. For our stay in the Grand Canyon and Yosemite Bug Lodge, we booked via their own website as those weren’t available on booking.com or had already sold out. We also booked one hotel via hotels.com; The Ranch at Furnace Creek.

  • Lombard Plaza Motel (San Francisco): $161,5
  • Monterey Surf Inn (Monterey): $77
  • Ocean Park Hotel (Los Angeles): $101,5
  • Travelodge Kingman (Kingman): $62
  • Bright Angel Lodge (Grand Canyon): €102.05
  • Best Western at Lake Powell (Page): $126
  • Four Corners Inn (Monticello): $85
  • Red Stone Inn (Moab): $136,5
  • Torrey Days Inn (Torrey): $77,5
  • Bruce Pioneer Lodge (Tropic): $95,5
  • Quality Inn at Zion Park (Springdale): $158
  • Stratosphere Hotel & Casino (Las Vegas): $66
  • The Ranch at Furnace Creek (Furnace Creek): €140.21
  • Sierre Lodge (Mammoth Lakes): $113
  • Yosemite Bug Lodge (Mariposa): $72.15
  • Travelodge San Francisco Airport (San Francisco): $76

Total: €1486,28 = €743.14 per person.

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Entrances and activities

Now we’ve got the flight, the car, the gas and the hotels, but of course you often have to open your wallet if you want to see something in the area you’re visiting.

Thanks to the ‘America The Beautiful Pass’ we were able to save a lot of money. Entrances to the national parks can get quite expensive if you buy a single entrance ticket every time. The ‘America The Beautiful Pass’ offers year-round access to all American National Parks. A perfect solution for roadtrippers. Even when you’re only visiting three national parks, this pass is cheaper than single tickets.

Once again, the entrances to the nature parks are often cheaper when you’re four people instead of two as the price is per car.

Total: $340 per person (=302,00 euro at the time we were travelling)

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Food

Food is one of those things that can either leave you ruined or can help you save some money. We payed attention to where we got food and of course ended up getting fastfood a couple of times as well. We were in America after all.

We also went to the supermarket to get fruits and snacks and usually made our own lunches. This also helps to save some money.

My total bill of food and drinks expenses ended up being 327.48 euros.

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Miscellaneous

  • ESTA (Visa for America): €12,49
  • Parking fee: €5
  • Souvenirs: €27

Total: €44,49

Summary

This has become quite a hefty post, so here is a little summary to make it easier on you. These prices are all per person.

  • Flight: €466,18
  • Rental Car: €290,38
  • Gas: €165
  • Hotels: €743.14
  • Entrances: €302
  • Food: €327.48
  • Miscellaneous: €44.49

TOTAL: €2338,67

As you can see, I managed to stay well within my budget, even with the helicopter flight included. But even if this trip would have cost me a lot more, I would have had any regrets. It truly was the trip of a lifetime.

This was also the last post on my American adventure for now. I’ve covered all I can think of for now, but maybe later something else with come to mind. Or if any of you have any requests, just let me know. I could talk about this trip forever and I would never get bored.

If you have any questions on any of this, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to help you out.

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