Trip Budget; Southwest USA Road Trip

Trip Budget; Southwest USA Road Trip

The southeast corner of #Utah looks about like it did 3,000 years ago: vast, wild and sunbaked, with deep canyons and towering buttes variegating the #desert plane. The landscape is stunning and waiting to be explored if you are feeling #active. Here are my budget tips and top #hotels.


I love reading about people’s travel budgets. As well as being useful for trip planning it’s an interesting window into people’s lives and travels – and who can resist being a bit nosy! I’d never published my own until now, but after readers asked about the cost of my US road trip I thought I’d share what I spent. As I travel part-time, my budget is a bit more than it would be for a long-term traveller. My travel style is definitely not luxury, but I’m happy to pay more for a nice place to stay, interesting activities or a great meal. 

My travel style is definitely not luxury, but I’m happy to pay more for a nice place to stay, interesting activities or a great meal

So this is how my costs broke down for a two-week trip around the southwest (prices as at April 2013).

Accommodation

The cheapest way to find accommodation if you’re doing a road trip is to just pitch up and find a budget motel. But I wanted to find individual, locally owned places that were a bit different, so did lots of research and booked all our rooms in advance. 

I wanted to find individual, locally owned places that were a bit different

We ended up with a mixture of hotels, motels and cabins as well as a couple of studios and apartments so we could self-cater some of the time.

Our cute cabins near Bryce Canyon
Our cute cabins near Bryce Canyon

Prices varied depending on the type and location – in some places like Moab we struggled to find affordable accommodation, and I spotted gorgeous O Bar O Cabins online which were a bit over budget but luckily they had a discount low season rate. A lot of places had extras thrown in, like Wi-Fi, a $1 guest laundry, a free glass of wine or free international phone calls.

2 nights Tropic – Bryce Country Cabins 

from  $137.21

Hotel Bryce Country Cabins

 320 North Main, Tropic, UT, United States
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Monument Valley Tour

Zion National Park Horseback Tour

3 nights Kanab – Quail Park Lodge 

from  $84

Hotel Quail Park Lodge

 125 N 300 W, Kanab, UT, United States
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Monument Valley Tour

Zion National Park Horseback Tour

3 nights Moab – VRBO rental 

2 nights Durango – O Bar O Cabins 

1 night Taos – AirBnB rental 

1 night Santa Fe – Old Santa Fe Inn 

from  $104.31

Hotel Old Santa Fe Inn

 320 Galisteo St, Santa Fe, NM, United States
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Monument Valley Tour

Rafting Adventure in Colorado

2 nights Sedona – Sky Ranch Lodge 

from  $133

Hotel Sky Ranch Lodge

 1105 Airport Rd., Sedona, AZ, United States

Transport

We hired a car for 15 days with Dollar, which was pre-booked in the UK about a month in advance. The car hire cost $655 and they also charged us $65 to fill the tank with gas. We drove about 2500 miles in total and filled the car up five times en route, costing a total of $254 (that’s with us trying to get the tank down as empty as possible before we dropped it off).

On the road at the Utah-Arizona Border
On the road at the Utah-Arizona Border

Food and Drink

Breakfast was included with our accommodation for six nights and the rest of the time we made our own. We also made our own picnic lunches most days, buying groceries from supermarkets and delis.

For dinner we cooked our own food for five nights when we were staying in self-catering places. We ate out on six nights and one lunchtime, plus had a meal at Phoenix Airport before flying home. We also got takeaways on two nights and got a free meal the day we volunteered at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Overall we spent $654 on food – with $224 on groceries, $404 on eating out and $26 on takeaways.

Most of the time we were out in the middle of the countryside so bought our own beer and wine or drank with meals out, so those costs are included above. We did go wine tasting in Sedona, visit a brewery in Moab and stocked up in a liquor store in Durango though, coming in at a total of $98.

Trying some of the local beer and wine
Trying some of the local beer and wine

Activities

The southwest’s main attractions are outdoors, so our biggest activity cost was $80 for the America the Beautiful pass. This covers entry to all the National Parks and some state parks, so the only places we had to pay additional entry costs were Monument Valley ($5 each) and Dead Horse State Park ($10).

We also did a tour around the Hole n’ the Rock house near Moab for $6 each and visited a few free places – Kanab’s Little Hollywood Museum, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Horseshoe Bend.

Dramatic Landscapes in Monument Valley
Dramatic Landscapes in Monument Valley

Other 

We had a couple of extra costs that don’t fall into any of the other categories. We did laundry in Moab ($6), bought a cool bag for groceries ($5) and a couple of souvenirs – a calendar ($13) and t-shirt ($12).

THE FREE SHUTTLE AROUND ZION NATIONAL PARK
THE FREE SHUTTLE AROUND ZION NATIONAL PARK

The Grand Total

So the overall cost for a two-week trip was $3322 or $1661/£1072 per person. This works out as $119 or £76 per person per day. We were aiming to spend about £1000 each so didn’t go too far over budget.

Lower budget? You could save money by staying in budget motels (it might be worth joining AAA too if you’re from the US as you get a discount), making your own food or eating in cheaper places.

Higher budget? If your travel style is more at the luxury end of the spectrum, there are some amazing hotels and resorts, some right in the National Parks, as well as some great restaurants and spas.

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