Destination U.S.A. – Day One Expenses

What does it really cost to travel across the country in a minivan with 4 children?  I know that there are many of you out there wondering this very thing.  Before I started this trip with my family, I did a lot of research and number crunching to get a rough idea of what it would cost us to make the journey.  

All our road trip receipts from 2013 looking a little faded.

I’ll be sharing with you the breakdown for each day of our travel following the post for that day.  Can you believe I still have all my receipts from seven years ago?  Even though some are just a little faded, with the right lighting I was able to decipher what they were.  I think I had an inkling that someday I would be sharing this story so I didn’t throw anything away.  At the end of the story, I’ll wrap it all up with the complete overall costs and some final thoughts.

Making Preparations for Our Journey

When preparing for a journey of this magnitude, there are a lot of things to consider.  Transportation, accommodations, fuel, food & beverage, points of interest, the route, tolls or no tolls, emergencies, and of course souvenirs.  All of this takes careful planning and preparation.  Most importantly, you need to have some kind of budget.  The last thing you need is to be 2000 miles from home and running out of money with a flat tire in the middle of the desert with no food or water.  That’s a BAD day.

June 13, 2013 Expenses (the night before we left)

Car Wash$ 21.00
Fuel 15.02
AAA 100.00
Walmart (groceries) 65.82
Walmart (misc) 217.21

Day one’s expenses included some additional items we needed for the wedding we were going to attend.  I will not be including those for obvious reasons.  There were some other miscellaneous items included in the totals like an air mattress (for hotels since there were 5 of us), SD cards for photo storage, clothes for the trip, and other miscellaneous things.

June 14, 2013 Expenses (Day One)

Accommodations$  74.93
Fuel 128.75
Food 113.50
Souvenirs 11.69
Road atlas 14.79
Combined total$762.71

Determining the Route

When planning our route, I opted to map it out with no tolls.  The main purpose of this was to save on money, especially in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  It tends to be a bit pricey in our neck of the woods.  The other reason is that I wanted to get a little further off the highways so that we could see things.  We found out that didn’t always happen even with choosing a non-toll option.  

We were trying to keep our trip west to about 4 days so that we would have more time in Idaho.  For that reason we kept our sightseeing to a minimum.  We selected 2 major points of interest, and saved most of our sightseeing for the trip home.  

Budgeting for Hotels and Fuel

When I priced hotels, I made a decision in the beginning that none would be over $100.  I tried to keep closer to $75 but that was not always easy to do.  When figuring fuel, I calculated approximately how many miles we would be traveling and multiplied that by an approximate average price of gas.  I can’t remember exactly what number I used but I’m guessing it was somewhere around $4 per gallon.  The price of gas was a bit high in 2013.

The numbers I shared are based around my family size and our own circumstances.  Everyone else will get different numbers based on your own personal preferences.  This just gives you a rough idea of what is possible.