real world travel expenses for long term road trips

Budgeting and Real Monthly Expenses for a Major Road Trip

Some articles on Desk to Dirtbag (and just what is a dirtbag, anyway?) contain affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Thank you for reading!


expense-report-iconI think you’ll agree with me when I say:

Long-term travel can be a pretty expensive undertaking that isn’t accessible and affordable to the average person.

But is that really the case?

It turns out that traveling full-time probably isn’t quite as expensive as you 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.

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

How Much Does it Really Cost to Travel?

In an effort to provide better transparency to my readers and those who may be considering long-term travel, or more specifically a major road trip of the American West, I decided to document all of our 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 Utah, passed a few nights in Las Vegas.

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.

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.

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.

* Wish you could travel more and more affordably? Click here to grab my free course and resources that will show you exactly how I've been able to travel for more than four years.


Summary of 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.

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

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, 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.

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 also traveling at a slower pace.

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

I’m going to try and keep better track of my expenses in the future in order to help you judge your own budgeting needs.

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!

If you found this post helpful or insightful in any way, please don’t forget to LIKE IT and SHARE IT on your social networks.

Real World Travel Expenses for a Long-Term Road Trip

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 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
$2,259.16

PER PERSON
$1,129.58

PER DAY
$37.65

The following two tabs change content below.
Budgeting and Real Monthly Expenses for a Major Road Trip

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 living in his pickup truck to road trip across the American West. Since then he backpacked through 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 -- support the adventures by visiting the D2D Shop. Follow the adventures on social media or read more about me.

Comments 6

  1. 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

    1. Post
      Author

      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! 😀

  2. 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!

    1. Post
      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!

  3. 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.

    1. Post
      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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *