real world travel expenses for long term road trips

Real-Life Month Long Road Trip Expenses

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expense-report-iconLong-term travel is perceived to be a pretty expensive undertaking that isn’t accessible and affordable to the average person. While road trips are a cheaper way to travel, many still think it is too expensive. So I wanted to share my real-life month long road trip expenses with all of you.

“Expensive or cheap is relative, so that will help you decide if it is doable.

From my perspective, traveling full-time probably isn’t quite as expensive as most people think it is. In fact, it is probably considerably cheaper than the life you are currently living.

You’ve got rent, insurance, stacks of bills, eating out because you don’t have time to cook, and so much more.

Real-Life Month Long Road Trip Expenses travel, north-america, expense-reports, budget-and-finance

In today’s post, I’m going to show you *exactly* how much it cost us to travel over the course of a full month, right down to the penny.

Month Long Road Trip Expenses

In an effort to provide better transparency to my readers and those who may be considering long-term travel, or more specifically a major West Coast USA Road Trip, I decided to document all of our road trip expenses for the month of June.

In June, we continued our long term overlanding road trip of the American Southwest, at the beginning of the month we were in Bryce Canyon National Park, where we cruised around on Utah national park road trip, before going on to spend a few nights in Las Vegas.

Pro Tip: Las Vegas is a great place to base yourself for great drives, check out my guide to the best road trips from Las Vegas.

Real life road trip expenses from our month traveling

After that we continued into California along the Sierras, Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and down into Los Angeles to explore Hollywood, venturing over to the incredible Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea, before heading into Baja California in Mexico at the end of the month.

These aren’t exactly cheap places to travel (especially California) so it should give you a perspective of what it costs on the higher end of road trip expenses and planning.

We covered 2,873.4 miles during the month, which for my typical style of travel is quite a rapid pace.

We were working within the deadline of Andrea’s visa to the United States and there was a lot I wanted to show her in this part of the country.

Our manner of travel is mostly cheap, but we did spend a few nights in hotels, started eating out more (even if it was just cheap junk food), and tried to enjoy ourselves in both Las Vegas and Los Angeles (our two big city trips of the month), by going out at night or even taking a tour of the celebrity homes in Los Angeles (we saw Jay Leno drive by!).

So I think this expense report provides pretty good insight for a couple looking to pack in a lot while also embracing some big city visits, lots of camping (even casino camping), and the occasional splurges.

I should also note that these costs include some one time expenditures related to Mexico in order to cross the border, so you could subtract $200 straight off the bat for those expenses.

Check out my comprehensive guide to road trip planning, as well!

Summary of Road Trip Expenses

Between the two of us, we spent $2,259.17, or $1,129.58 per person, for an average daily expenditure of $37.56 per day per person during our month long road trip.

Of that total amount, we spent $614.94 for gasoline alone to cover those 2,873 miles or about 27% of our total expenditure on gas. My 1991 Toyota 4×4 Pickup gets 17 MPG and the average price of gas was $3.66 per gallon at this time (California is always particularly expensive).

These numbers line up well with the numbers I’ve proposed one should budget (in my experience) in order to embark on a long-term trip of roughly $1,200 per month.

We could have certainly traveled cheaper by traveling at a slower pace, but we were on the go pretty frequently and not spending more than a few days in any given place, which meant that I was filling up an average of every other day and covered an average of 95 miles per day.

Real-Life Month Long Road Trip Expenses travel, north-america, expense-reports, budget-and-finance

You can read more about my traveling expenses and budgeting for my previous year-long climbing road trip when I was traveling solo and paying for everything myself, but while traveling at a slower pace.

Interestingly, it also lines up well with my cost of living while overseas in Medellin, Colombia where the cost of living was much cheaper while boasting a much higher standard of living.

Beyond the gasoline, we spent $1,645 on other expenses ranging from food to lodging. Again, we were able to cut costs dramatically by choosing free camping opportunities 95% of the time, rather than paying for cheap accommodation which will cost you at least $50-60 per night.

If you are paying for a hotel every night, even of the cheapest variety, you can expect your budget to swell by at least $1,500 to $1,800 per couple. Staying in hotels will practically double your road trip expenses, so always go for camping.

If you do pay for camping, you can expect to spend around $20 per night or $600 per month per couple. 

I hope this record of my road trip expenses proved helpful to you as you judge your own budgeting needs and how much it costs to road trip.

I use the Android App Splitwise to track my expenses, and FuelBuddy to track the gas fill-ups. Do you have recommendations for better ways to track your day-to-day expenses? Let me know!

Read More: Best Road Trip Apps

If you found this post about road trip expenses helpful, please don’t take a second to share it on Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter. Thanks!

Would you like to get out there and travel more? Check out my best-selling book Big Travel, Small Budget available in paperback and for Amazon Kindle.

Detailed One-Month Expenses

  • 1/6/2015 Lunch June 1 28 USD
  • 1/6/2015 Food Stuff 6.77 USD
  • 2/6/2015 Beer 10.31 USD
  • 3/6/2015 Gasoline 45.75 USD
  • 3/6/2015 Lunch In Restaurant 16 USD
  • 3/6/2015 Propane 6.44 USD
  • 4/6/2015 Grocery 3.5 USD
  • 5/6/2015 Ice Cream 6 USD
  • 5/6/2015 Hot Dogs 4.02 USD
  • 5/6/2015 Food and Tarp from Walmart 19.09 USD
  • 5/6/2015 Two Iced Coffees Starbucks 5.69 USD
  • 5/6/2015 Dennys Lunch 17 USD
  • 5/6/2015 Headlight Truck 11.69 USD
  • 5/6/2015 Gasoline Vegas 46.49 USD
  • 6/6/2015 Casino Drinks 3 USD
  • 6/6/2015 Chipotle Dinner 7.51 USD
  • 6/6/2015 Super 8 Hotel Vegas Friday Night 83.99 USD
  • 6/6/2015 Hershey Store Brownie 5.41 USD
  • 6/6/2015 Pizza for Lunch 18.76 USD
  • 6/6/2015 Chips Snacks 3.29 USD
  • 7/6/2015 Beer 2.69 USD
  • 7/6/2015 White Castle Burgers 9.72 USD
  • 7/6/2015 Shots 6 USD
  • 7/6/2015 Headlight Install At Goodyear 13 USD
  • 7/6/2015 Breakfast/lunch At Palace Station 28.04 USD
  • 7/6/2015 Hot Dog 4.69 USD
  • 7/6/2015 Starbucks Tea 2.69 USD
  • 7/6/2015 Cocktails Fremont 23 USD
  • 8/6/2015 Parking Fremont 10 USD
  • 8/6/2015 Breakfast Phat Franks 20 USD
  • 9/6/2015 Whiskey Drink 12 USD
  • 9/6/2015 Pizza 3.69 USD
  • 9/6/2015 Drink 12 USD
  • 9/6/2015 Gambling 4 USD
  • 9/6/2015 Hotel D 44 USD
  • 9/6/2015 Laundry 5 USD
  • 10/6/2015 Walmart 29.29 USD
  • 10/6/2015 Carls Jr 13.14 USD
  • 10/6/2015 Gasoline 40.84 USD
  • 10/6/2015 Subway Sandwich 10.01 USD
  • 10/6/2015 Gallon Water 1.69 USD
  • 10/6/2015 Gasoline 26.41 USD
  • 11/6/2015 Popsicles In Death Valley 5.98 USD
  • 11/6/2015 Beers In Death Valley 5.38 USD
  • 13/6/2015 Carls Jr 12.18 USD
  • 13/6/2015 Bear Can Rental Sierras 5 USD
  • 13/6/2015 Iced Coffee And Drinks Lone Pine 4.8 USD
  • 13/6/2015 Gasoline Death Valley 24 USD
  • 13/6/2015 Gasoline Lone Pine 52.66 USD
  • 14/6/2015 Groceries 8.84 USD
  • 14/6/2015 Carls Jr 10.89 USD
  • 15/6/2015 Groceries 64.02 USD
  • 15/6/2015 Iced Coffees 7 USD
  • 16/6/2015 Camping Mammoth Lakes 23 USD
  • 17/6/2015 Coffee And Empanada 8.5 USD
  • 17/6/2015 Subway 7.1 USD
  • 17/6/2015 Gasoline 57.06 USD
  • 17/6/2015 Whoa Nellie Deli 28 USD
  • 17/6/2015 Motor Oil 6.44 USD
  • 18/6/2015 Coffees In Yosemite Valley 5.59 USD
  • 18/6/2015 Pizza In Yosemite 19.28 USD
  • 19/6/2015 Gasoline 40.11 USD
  • 20/6/2015 El Pollo Loco 5.6 USD
  • 20/6/2015 Econo Lodge 50.85 USD
  • 20/6/2015 Rubios Mexican Lunch 16.21 USD
  • 20/6/2015 Movie Tickets to Jurassic World 26 USD
  • 20/6/2015 Personal Pizza 4.5 USD
  • 20/6/2015 Casino Beers 11 USD
  • 21/6/2015 Oil Change 38.99 USD
  • 21/6/2015 Casino Breakfast 6.63 USD
  • 21/6/2015 Groceries 31.75 USD
  • 21/6/2015 Gasoline 49.1 USD
  • 23/6/2015 Gasoline 33.74 USD
  • 23/6/2015 Snacks In Sequoia 4.5 USD
  • 23/6/2015 Starbucks 2.6 USD
  • 24/6/2015 Walmart Food And Things 48.07 USD
  • 24/6/2015 Gas 56.65 USD
  • 24/6/2015 Jack In The Box 13.27 USD
  • 25/6/2015 Parking In Hollywood 3.75 USD
  • 25/6/2015 Hollywood Tour of the Stars Homes 50 USD
  • 25/6/2015 Bottle Water 3 USD
  • 25/6/2015 Baja Fresh 13.75 USD
  • 25/6/2015 Parking Santa Monica 12 USD
  • 25/6/2015 Iced Mochas 12.59 USD
  • 25/6/2015 Costco Gifts for House 21.21 USD
  • 26/6/2015 Pizza Hut Express 18.5 USD
  • 26/6/2015 Dennys Breakfast 22.45 USD
  • 26/6/2015 Gasoline Costco 46.37 USD
  • 26/6/2015 Home Depot Stuff 32.2 USD
  • 27/6/2015 Taco Bell 9.6 USD
  • 27/6/2015 Walmart 12.8 USD
  • 27/6/2015 Pizza At Morongo 8.6 USD
  • 27/6/2015 Breakfast At Morongo 30.6 USD
  • 27/6/2015 Dinner 12.42 USD
  • 28/6/2015 Gasoline 25.67 USD
  • 28/6/2015 Walmart 40 USD
  • 28/6/2015 Lunch At Fantasy Springs 15 USD
  • 28/6/2015 Coffee At Agua Caliente 5.8 USD
  • 29/6/2015 Gas 43.57 USD
  • 29/6/2015 Gasoline 26.51 USD
  • 29/6/2015 Mexican Tourist Visa 46 USD
  • 26/6/2015 Mexican Auto Insurance 169.14 USD
  • 29/6/2015 Peaje 31 MXN
  • 29/6/2015 711 43.5 MXN
  • 29/6/2015 Peaje 31 MXN
  • 29/6/2015 Lunch 270 MXN
  • 30/6/2015 Peaje 31 MXN
  • 29/6/2015 Camping Night One 70 MXN
  • 30/6/2015 Camping Shower Propina 30 MXN
  • 30/6/2015 Telcel Sim 149 MXN
  • 30/6/2015 Walmart Lunch 44.6 MXN
  • 30/6/2015 Phone Plan Telcel 250 MXN
  • 30/6/2015 Camping Rv Park 290 MXN

TOTAL ROAD TRIP EXPENSES
$2,259.16

PER PERSON
$1,129.58

PER DAY EXPENSES
$37.65

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Ryan

Author, Writer, and Head Honcho at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, perpetual wanderer, and self-proclaimed dirtbag (but that might not mean what you think). Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out truck camping to road trip across the American West. Since then he set out traveling to Colombia, drove across all of Central America, and also wrote a best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget. He just finished driving his old truck across all of South America. Follow the adventures on social media or read more about me.

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Comments 8

  1. Avatar

    To make more useful request recalculating as a 1 person trip. Gas, motel, vehicle repairs and some other items are the same for 1 person or two.

    Such figures could be more useful for those of us wanting or needing to make a more event filled, quicker trip vs the less expensive slower moving, more home cooking, long term roadliving we normally do.

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    Hi Ryan,
    This is a very helpful post for any traveler, plus those analytical types — like my husband Conrad — and a very necessary thing to do while traveling. If you don’t know where the money goes, you can’t tweak it in order to plan for the best travel scenario.

    House sitting, staying in an Airbnb or apartment are necessary for me not only to save money but also to learn about local foods by cooking with new ingredients.

    I hope you enjoy your upcoming Baja house sit!

    Regards,
    Josie

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      Hey Josie, thanks so much for chiming in with your perspective about long-term travel. I couldn’t agree more about the value of Airbnb and housesitting to the long term nomad. Indeed, I used to run an Airbnb rental while living overseas which is yet another way one can drastically reduce their expenses while living in a new place.

      The Baja house sit has been going most excellent! 😀

  3. Avatar

    This is great! My husband and I are taking our second big roadtrip from Oregon to Florida in November. Our first trip in March from Florida to Oregon we spent $2,899.06…so pretty close to you! I am curious to see if we are able to cut some costs on the next round!

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      Author

      That’s awesome to hear about the big road trip coming up. You guys probably covered much more distance than we did and had higher gasoline prices, I imagine? The free camping 90% of the time is another way to save a few hundred dollars, if you weren’t doing that before. But otherwise seems like your costs were also inline with ours. Good to know!

  4. Avatar

    Spot on. The costs here are in-line with what my wife & I spent on a similar road trip. Just like Ryan: in a truck, low budget, occasional luxury. But with less fast-food, that crud will kill you.

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      Author

      Thanks for chiming in and confirming the average costs, Tim. Glad to hear that it’s in line with what others have experienced. And yeah, agreed on the fast food! Not good, I don’t normally eat it, oddly enough, but it’s those long days where we are pushing the mileage that we succumb due to not wanting to cook. That’s one of the reasons I recommend slower travel as well, in my budgeting for a climbing road trip post.

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