#TerryTreksUSA was a dream come true. I’ve wanted to spend time in my own country driving to as many national parks as I could for a long time. But I knew this wouldn’t come cheap. The US is one of the most expensive countries in the world, and things like lodging and food add up fast. Another problem is the lack of public transportation. Buying gas all the time was a constant drain on my finances. And there was the big expense was the vehicle itself. I had sold my car years ago because I had moved to Boston, where there is public transportation. For a two month road trip buying a car starts to make economic sense. But I was planning to leave the country after this, so I decided to rent. I got a pretty good deal, but it was still a big expense.

I religiously recorded every expense into an app on my phone, and assigned each one a category. Below are the results for each month, and the totals:

CategorySeptemberOctoberTOTALCost Per Day
Dining Out$436$476$912$16
Gas$397$403$800$14
Sleeping$364$419$783$14
Groceries$221$299$520$9
Gear$880$88$2
Sites$174$124$298$5
Transportation$110$39$149$3
Grand Canyon Rafting$19450$1945$35
Car$500$500$1000$18
TOTAL$4235$2260$6495$116

The numbers above include the big rafting expense, which results in a total cost for two months of $6495, or $116 per day. Taking out the rafting trip, the total is $4550, or $81 per day.

The single hugest expense was the Grand Canyon Rafting trip. This was something I’ve wanted to do for long time, so I’m glad I did it. I minimized the cost by only doing the upper portion of the river, but it was still very expensive. Partially offsetting this expense was the fact that these six days on the Colorado were all inclusive. We camped under the stars for free, and three delicious meals a day were provided. Included in the cost is a tip. The guides work hard, so deserve a 10-20% tip, which is substantial for such an expensive tour.

I kept costs down by camping as much as possible. Sometimes this was free, but usually $20-$30 in the parks. I stayed in the cheapest motels possible every week or so, but “cheap” in the US is $50, which adds up fast. I also tried cooking a lot, and eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. This got old fast, and I often succumbed to restaurant meals for dinner. These cost upwards of $20 for dinner. I came to love diners, where I could get a delicious breakfast for about $10.

Besides the expensive Grand Canyon rafting, I never went on organized tours. These are extremely expensive in the USA, upwards of $100 per day. I did everything on my own. In a few cases, such as Arches National Park, the NPS provides tours at very low cost. I love the NPS!

I only drink socially, and traveling alone in the US is an isolating, solitary experience. I had no expenses due to parting and drinking.

I didn’t buy any souvenirs for myself, which saved a lot of money. My photos are the best souvenirs.

The transportation category was for costs not associated with my rental car. In a few instances I had to take shuttles to trailheads.

Was it worth it? This trip was so expensive it put a major dent in my travel fund. I quit my day job to do this, so every dollar I spend is one less dollar I can use for travel. Not doing the rafting would have saved a lot, and made the trip more affordable, but it was one of my major goals. One of the reasons I cut this trip form three months to two is that it’s just too expensive in the US without an income. However, there’s some amazing things to see in the Western US. True wonders of the world that aren’t found anywhere else, such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Arches, and so much more. I’m glad I was able to see a small portion of the beauty in the US, and I hope I’ll be able to see more at some point in the future.

Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

3 comments

  1. by car there is so much that can be seen and done from the car .also you will be able to take longer at one place slhuod you decide to do that .Also, in the long run it will be cheaper more efficient public transportationReferences :

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