Monday, March 16, 2015

My $200 A Day Travel Budget-And Heading to Seattle!!

Trip advisor Seattle photo
I apologize folks, apparently I posted this one too quickly, while under the influence of good drugs (don't ask), Hopefully tweaks have made this a big more readable!!!

This is the time of year that many of us start planning longer vacations and road trips. When it comes to travel, some of us are "goers", some moderate planners and some require a pretty full itinerary. It depends on your comfort level. I fall somewhere in between. I have become a bit more of a planner, but not by much. I still plan a general route, and unless it is high season or an expensive town, rarely make reservations ahead of time. I've been known to get off route 70 in Kansas to see the largest prairie dog in the world.

This trip, my first of the season will be an exception, due to my sister's working schedule and the need for my sister in law in Seattle to request time off. While this is a road trip, its also a chance to see my brother, sister in law and five and three year old niece and nephew-yes, you read that right.

In order to accommodate everyone, we will be taking a leisurely drive to Seattle together, spending about five days in the northwest, and then she will fly home (the joys of accommodating and meshing vacations within an organization) while I will choose my leisurely ride home.  Even with this schedule, I want to make the drive each way an adventure.

This is where people can pipe in, should they wish.  I would love to hear advise about what to do in Seattle, whether route 90 or 80 is more interesting, and especially what I should do alone in Portland.  My home route is up to me and my immediate thought is to drive down and then cut across to Colorado, but that part is still in the works. Our schedule for Seattle is still in the works, after all!!

Meanwhile of course, the budget portion of my planning. I cannot compare my road trips to RV trips. On the surface, RV trips are probably less expensive, although I am unsure at what point one decides the RV has "payed for itself" versus hotel bills, once you take in cost and maintenance. I'd be interested in hearing from RVers on this one.  As many readers know, I choose car vs RV by choice, for a variety of reasons-one of which, quite simply, is that I like to drive.

For those who are wondering about the money thing when it comes to car road tripping-I budget for 200 dollars per day on a road trip-and then aim to use as little of that as possible.  On this trip, there will be two of us, making our individual costs close to $100.  When I travel alone, my cost is somewhere  a little less than the $200-probably because I am more willing to experiment with sleeping arrangements. On the road this budget may be lower, in the city it may be more. But even though I expect to use less than that (on my gulf trip for example), I budget that amount considering the extra to be "travel emergency funds" if you will.

Looking at that Seattle trip as an example, the trip there will take two and a half days each way, with four to five days in Seattle, or ten days total (approximately). Since I don't know what I'm doing on the return, I am going with the three day return, knowing well and good that may change. For now, my working figures are based on leaving Denver on April 6, arriving in Seattle on the evening of the eighth, and leaving Seattle on the morning of the thirteenth. Figuring a straight return, we are looking at four or five days in the city, and three on each end driving. Considering the unique circumstances, I'm rounding that to ten days for my purposes.

First, as always, I went to this site. Using this calculator shows that my Nissan Murano will use $175 dollars of premium gas on the trip one way. I will not use premium in my car, but work with that amount as a guideline.  That's $350 round trip or $35 a day for ten days for gas. I'm not figuring in driving in Seattle as I have a relative there and I expect that this cost is generous since I use regular gas. This price does not include the cost of towing (part of my insurance), nor of car maintenance prior to the trip.

While there is not a whole bunch I can do about the cost of gas, there is a great deal I can do about sleeping costs, while still being in comfort. It helps to think outside the traditional box.  Hostels are not what they once were-on my train trip to San Francisco in the fall, I can share a four bed dorm for thirty dollars, or a private suite for $150-in the same hostel.  With Air B and B, Vacation Rental by Owner, Bed and Breakfasts and more, there are lots of options out there. I have tried most all of them, and most all have worked for us.

In general, finding a nice hotel or motel on the road (or in Billings or Boise or even Salt Lake City) for $100 or less for two people is not difficult). On this trip, we will have four nights on the road for a total of four hundred dollars budgeted. We'll also budget four night in Seattle, a not inexpensive city. We've found a two person private room in a hostel for $316 (before tax) for four nights, as well as a condo for five hundred dollars for four nights- a range of from 80 dollars a night, to 125 a night (without taxes and fees).  I average the sleeping budget out for 100 per night overall (and remember that I can cook in a condo and have to buy three meals in a hostel).  I'll do some research and finalize those plans in the next week for a final total. Fellow bloggers can tell me if I am totally out of line on this one.

Assuming 135 of that 200 to be spent on this trip on gas and sleeping, that leaves 65 for two people for food ten days, or $650-aiming to have some left over for fun. Food is something I am extremely flexible about-as long as I am able to eat in a couple really good gourmet restaurants along the way.  I budget $30 per day per person (or $60) for city dining, and perhaps $30 total for two per day on the road trip portion unless we see a really quirky unique restaurant. 

This lovely picnic pack from REI is my best friend (mine is blue and was bought awhile back). Having something like this allows me to enjoy the picnic experience, be non wasteful and to carry healthy food (sandwiches, grapes, cheese, crackers and more).  It's easy to replenish with fruit and crackers and cheese (or whatever your lunch and snack choices are) on the road. And since almost every motel has a fridge in room, nothing goes bad.

The second way I save on food is to make sure that breakfast is included. Motel and hotel breakfasts may not always be the most original, but I can always get fruit or juice, bagels or muffins, cereal, and usually eggs or sausage-to eat at the hotel or on the road (I don't drink coffee, so that's an obvious one). By eating breakfast in a hotel and buy doing the picnic thing on the road, that food money is freed up for dinners, and food truck type food in the city. *** On the road, about half of my evening meals are eaten out and half in the room. I need to stretch my legs. If I've walked the dogs (not with me on this trip) or taken advantage of the pool for half an hour, I'm more likely to be ready to finish the picnic basket in the room.

For this ten day trip, we will budget for $60 for five days, and $30 for five days, making that an average of $45 per day for food. That, plus $35 per day for gas and $100 for sleeping, makes my total $175 per day (depending on how accurate my math is) allowing for wiggle room. .

You'll note that this budget does not officially include "fun stuff" or sightseeing fees.  That's for two reasons.  The first is that I prefer to spend most of my time (even in cities), walking around and enjoying the ambiance. Many parks, cathedrals, zoos, waterfronts, art shows and more are free.

The second is that this is one area where the non planner occasionally need to plan in advance. In this case I will have a built in tour guide, and will also want to plan for a boat and bus tour most likely. On a longer, mainly leisurely road trip, like my gulf coast adventure, many more things are free or low cost (historical sites, gardens, boardwalks, festivals, historic homes and scenic down towns).    While I will at some point wax more poetically on this, my personal solution is to go to the city website, and sign up for Groupon or Living Social for the places I want to visit well in advance. Today I got something about a whale watching trip in Seattle for seventy percent off.

So there you have it, my $200 (more or less) daily road tripping budget. Costs depend on where I am going, whether I am alone or it is a shared trip, how flexible I am, and what kind of deals and steals I come up with.  But it's my starting point-and it works for me! 

The new blog is coming along!! I hope to have a good five or six articles published and then I will link to that as we slowly migrate everything over. I am so excited!!  And since I cannot decide what to do with this fabric (quilt, purses, wallets, I leave you with these pictures to end my post)



  1. Your budget sounds about right for your trip. Hope you enjoy it.

    Looking forward to seeing the new blog.

    God bless.

  2. Some very smart and careful planning. You're inspiring me for my next trip (maybe next month to So. Carolina, if I can swing it money-wise and time-wise.)

  3. Well I have to admit that I was completely confused by the budget portion of your post. I don't understand how you arrived at $200 total for the road trip of 10 days, and then you gave a figure of $45 per day, and at another place you wrote $100 per day, so I am completely stumped. But you know what you meant, so it will undoubtedly work out! On my many road trips I can't go for less than $125 per day, which covers food, gas, pet boarding, and lodging. Even when I camp, there are costs for the campsite and food. Pet boarding has become a much larger expense than it used to be. I am lucky to have a boarding kennel which is much less expensive than others in the area, and the woman who runs it loves animals as much as I do. There are always unexpected stops and delays and expenses, so it's always good to have a cushion of cash. Your trip through the mountains to Seattle should be beautiful. I hope you have a great time!

  4. Hi there, my budget is 200 PER DAY for this trip-I think it says that in the blog post? The 100 per day was hotels! Let me see if I made a mistake somewhere. 100 per day for hotels, 45 per day for gas and the rest for food and fun

  5. I really like your blog. I am retiring this time next year. We have alot of the same interests, quilting, cooking, traveling, reading. I will be on a fixed income of a pension, but with a positive attitude like you have, I am planning on making it great!

  6. The trip sounds very nice. Most hostels have a shared kitchen for their guests to use and some provide breakfast as part of the cost.

  7. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!. The Hub


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