How Much Does it Cost to Drive Across the Country?

Aloha and hello! Today we’re talking all about how much it actually costs to drive across the country. Before we dive in, make sure you check out my video on this topic as well! Summer 2020 my husband and I embarked on a road trip from Georgia to Washington. We were on the road for 10 days with several stops and detours along the way, and I want to break down exactly how much this trip cost.

The four main categories we’ll be talking about are lodging, gas, food, and activities. I will preface by saying that we drove our own car (a Subaru Outback) which saved us a good bit on rental car expenses and also got pretty good gas mileage.
If you haven’t checked out the first part of this road trip series which talks all about big picture planning, check out the blog here and the video here!

Lodging, food, and gas are definitely necessities and should be the first things you budget for. Activities are where you’ll have some flexibility in how much you want to spend. Thankfully, there are typically a lot of free activities to do no matter where you are, but it can be fun to plan ahead and schedule some outings as well. Our overall strategy for this trip was to have fun and enjoy ourselves without going overboard on the spending, and I think we definitely accomplished that!

Lodging

We stayed in a variety of Airbnbs, hostels, hotels, and with friends and family. TIP: if you find yourself in a town where friends and family live, don’t be afraid to reach out and see if you might be able to stay with them! Of course you never want to impose or expect them to have a place for you, but it also never hurts to ask.
We did a lot of research comparing lodging options to make sure we were going to be in a clean, safe area for a reasonable price. We wanted a private room since we had a lot of personal belongings with us, but outside of that, we weren’t too concerned with how luxurious the room was!

Night 1: Airbnb in St. Louis, MO$91
Night 2: Airbnb in Sioux Falls, SD$89
Night 3-5: Grandparents’ house – FREE
Night 6-7: Hostel in Teton Village, WY$200
Night 8: Hotel in West Yellowstone, MT$117
Night 9: Airbnb in Spokane, WA$62

LODGING TOTAL: $559

Food

Our strategy for food was to buy groceries that would be okay in a cooler or not need refrigeration at all so that we could eat breakfast and lunch on the road and just splurge on dinner. Some of our favorite snacks were apples, peanut butter, Clif bars, beef jerky, tuna packs, trail mix, and sandwich supplies!
We bought groceries once in Georgia right before we left and then again in South Dakota about halfway through our trip. As far as eating out, we tried to enjoy local spots and we also treated ourselves to coffee almost every day which is, in my opinion, a road trip necessity.

Groceries: $100
Eating out: $400

FOOD TOTAL: $500

Gas

This one was a bit of a challenge to calculate because it will depend a lot on the kind of vehicle you have, current gas prices, and which state or area you’re currently in, but I did my best to provide an accurate estimate!

GAS TOTAL: $250

Activities

Most of the activities we ended up doing, such as hiking, checking out local parks, skateboarding, or walking through town, were totally free. We did, however, budget for some planned activities that were really special and created some great memories. Additionally, we do have a free annual national parks pass thanks to my husband being in the military, and we definitely took advantage of it!

Electric scooters: $10-$15
Hiking/national parks: FREE
Horseback riding: $130

ACTIVITIES TOTAL: $150

GRAND TOTAL: $1,459

Now, I won’t sugarcoat it: this is a lot of money. I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to take this trip, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. We did do a lot of planning and budgeting to make this trip happen, and I think we struck a good balance between enjoying ourselves and still being conscious of how much we were comfortable spending. I’ll also point out this total is for me and my husband over the course of 10 days, which works out to be $72.95 per person each day. I would say this is a pretty fair amount considering it includes lodging, food, gas, AND activities, and I don’t regret a penny that we spent.

Thanks so much for reading and don’t forget to follow the blog and subscribe on YouTube to stay tuned for my next installment in this road trip series!