When planning a major road trip you need to have two pieces of information:
- An idea of where you want to go.
- Approximate time you have available for the total trip.
This trip that we’re taking in May will be our longest road trip (6 weeks) ever attempted, but we have taken quite a few two-week road trips which take about the same amount of planning. I actually had longer to plan those trips than I do for this one.
If you missed Part One of this series you can find it right here. This part probably won’t make much sense without it.
In this example (Roadtrip 2020), our main goal is to visit Alaska. We only have two states left that we haven’t visited. Alaska & Hawaii. This year it is Alaska.
These are the facts:
- We’re going from SC to AK
- We have six weeks
- We’re driving
- We want to go through as many National Parks as possible while on the road.
As I said in Part One, we have 6 weeks so we’ll spend two on the trip up, two in AK, and two on the way back home. So I picked the furthest point, which in this case is Fairbanks, Alaska and I made a point. Then I create a circle with those two points (home & Fairbanks). The one on the right side is the way up & the one on the left the way home.
From that circle, I will check anything on that right side. I will then answer the following questions:
- Where in this half circle do we want to go?
- What National Parks are in that half-circle?
- What are the main routes that run through that half-circle?
In the first half of the circle we have:
- Mt. Rushmore
- Banff, Canada
On the second half we have:
- Glacier Bay
- Mt. Rainier
- Crater Lake
- Bryce Canyon
- Rocky Mountain
That’s 13 National Parks in 6 weeks.
I also know that we want at least two days at each of these with the exception of Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake & Redwood. That leaves 10 parks at 2 days each for a total of 20 days.
That means I have 22 other days that I need to make arrangements for BUT I need to take care of the National Park’s first for any reservations because they’re going to be more popular. On average it’s about $20 a vehicle to enter any NP. That comes to $200 approximately. Here I know I can save $120 because an annual National Park pass is $80.
Another expense we’ve had to add in are our passports. We’ve never visited outside of the good old U.S. of A until now and when crossing over into Canada you have to at least have the cards which we have applied for. $65 x’s 2 $130 plus the cost of pics.
We’re looking at traveling about 5,000 miles. Right now gas is pretty low, but in summer I like to round up so I’m using $3.50 a gallon. Our car gets 33 miles per gallon. I figure gas will run us about $600.
Next, we have food expenses. This is harder because you don’t always know when you’ll cook or when you’ll need to eat out. We plan on packing some of the basics and then replenishing when low. Things that are easy to cook and easy to clean up. This is the second biggest expense and I’m counting groceries and restaurants together. We’re easy to please and I think we can do it for about $1200 which leaves us a little wiggle room for when we run into that perfect steak.
Right now we’re looking at:
For a grand total of $2010. Now to add those pesky lodging expenses which will be our biggest expense.
We will be camping a lot, but there will no doubt that there will be nights where we just want a hot shower and a comfy bed (although our camping is pretty damn comfortable but anyway). There will be days. The way I average this is:
I take half the days we’ll be out and then add two more. Twenty-three hotel stays and 21 camping. And once again this is difficult because of how many places we’re traveling to. Places like Fairbanks & Anchorage in Alaska, but also places like Seattle, San Francisco & Denver. Cities that I’m looking forward to exploring just as much as those National Parks.
Hotels are never consistent and by booking early you can save tons of money. I also use sites like Trivago, but mostly Booking.com. Someone once told me that if you just walk into a hotel without a reservation you are likely to pay as much as 85% more than if you booked in advance. That’s a lot of savings.
Speaking of hotel stays do you know how to check your room for cleanliness & safety? After years and years of experience, I have created my own system and I even created the Hotel Safety Checklist and you can get it for your very own!!!
Part three coming soon!