Budget: how much does a 1-month USA road trip cost?
My one-month road trip along the west coast of the United States was one of the most beautiful, fun and memorable things I’ve ever done. But yikes – also one of the most expensive ones. The USA is amongst the most expensive countries in the world to travel through, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing it… as it is positively gorgeous.
I had been looking forward to this road trip I’d be taking together with Mr. for a long time. After lots of planning we decided we needed about a month to see everything we wanted to see, plus another week to spend with family in Southern California. And then we started calculating. I’ll save you the time and effort: below I’ll share with you what the exact costs are for a road trip in the US. If you are curious about our road trip adventures along the West Coast, you can check out my other article here!
Return ticket: €620 each
For weeks I checked all flights to Las Vegas, our starting point. My goal? A ticket below €600. I didn’t find one, but oh well… those 20 euros extra? I flew with United via Houston, where I had to change flights. Eventually we missed our connection because of a huge delay in our first flight. The good news? I got over €200 back because of it.
4 week car rental: €650 with Avis
I’m not a complicated person when it comes to car rental: we chose the cheapest car. As long as it had airconditioning we were happy. All in all Avis took great care of us. When it turned out or car was broken (which was not our fault) we immediately got a new one. When returning the car we didn’t have to clean anything (except taking out the rubbish) and just had to make sure it had a full tank. We saved some money by bringing our own navigation system.
TomTom map USA: €40
Renting sat nav is expensive, so just bring your own! Buy a map on the website, upload it to your system and you’re good to go.
What?! For driving through all of the US for a month? Yes, really! Fuel is ridiculously cheap in the US.
In San Francisco there’s the BART: a half overground, half underground metro/tram combination which we used for two days to get from our middle of nowhere spot to the centre of San Francisco. It was great to see a bit of the real lives of the locals. Where they live, work, and what their lives look like.
Hotels & Airbnb: €1828
We stayed with our family for a week, which means we had about 21 nights that we had to pay for. Hotels in the US are very cheap in general, and the hotel rooms are enormous. Pro tip: you usually pay the same price for two separate kingsize beds as for just one. Me and Mr. slept like kings in the US! You can find great hotels at booking.com. (Or do you want a €30 discount on your first Airbnb stay? Then apply through my personal link!)
Breakfast (yes, really!)
Food & drinks
A lot of meat and not a lot of veggies: €1225,65
The first three weeks we went out for dinner three times a day almost every day. From a McChicken for breakfast (true story) to a gigantic sundae, and from a monster burrito to a few too many pizzas… I had a blast. During our last week we usually ate with our family about two to three times a day, which is great for saving money. We also did some grocery shopping for lunch or snacks a few times.
I just went through my list with expenditures for attractions and wow… what a magical trip we had! From kayaking at Lake Tahoe to horse riding in Yosemite and from whale watching in San Diego to a day at the theme park in Universal Studios in Los Angeles. It was really special. A tip for whale watching: there’s a lot of websites in the US that regularly offer discounts for whale watching. In total we spent 30 euros for a boat trip with whale watching… for two people!
Presents + sunscreen: €35
Parking fines: €102
Magazines at the airport: €6
Well… what’s to say. Travel always comes with some extra expenses, like sunscreen, presents for family members you’re visiting, magazines for on the road and of course… an Esta. It’s a visa waiver and you have to have one in order to enter the country. Parking is quite cheap in the US because it’s such a car friendly country. Only in Los Angeles we had to pay a bit more to park our car.
Oh, and… in Los Angeles we scored two parking tickets. In two hours time!!! So please mind the traffic- and parking rules, because I’d rather have spent those 100 euros on a luxurious dinner.
Total each: €2989
All in all not bad, if you ask me, if you keep in mind we traveled for a month through one of the more expensive countries in the world. For three weeks we stayed in hotels, went out for food three times a day and did all the activities that were on our wish list. What a great and wonderful trip we had. You have to save up, but I can’t recommend this trip enough to every one. Definitely a once in a lifetime trip. (Also, don’t forget to check out the 7 things you should know about driving in the US!)
Is this more or less than you had in mind?