How Much Does Cross Country Road Trip Cost
There’s no American exploration that is more romantic than a cross-country road trip. Driving on the highway for days leads to an intimate discovery of the country. You could stop to see breathtaking landscapes and communicate with people whenever you wish.
Aside from giving you greater freedom, the cost of a cross-country trip is also a money-saver as it is less expensive than flying. You’d especially get a good bargain if you’re coming from a place far from a major airport. Of course, only if you plan well before setting out.
To help you plan, here’s a guide to how much does a cross country road trip cost.
There is no exact cost of a cross-country trip. However, note that you should factor in these things in calculating your budget:
- How far would you go?
- What is your route?
- How many are you?
- What type of accommodation are you comfortable with?
- How much do you want to see while on the road?
The farther you want to go, the more gallons of fuel you need for your car. As for the route, some routes are expensive than others depending on how complicated it is, cost of living in the area, and unexpected road repairs or closures that would force you to turn around and drive elsewhere.
Furthermore, the cost of food, accommodation, and fees to enjoy attractions and tourist activities would be higher the larger your group is.
To give you a rough idea on how much is the cost of a cross-country trip, here’s a breakdown of the prices of fuel, accommodations, meals, and attractions you would see along the way.
How much does a cross country road trip cost? As this kind of travel is mostly about driving, you’ll need a lot of fuel to keep your car running for days.
The exact price of gas would depend on the type of vehicle you’re using and the distance you wish to cover. For instance, Investopedia calculates that a journey from New York to Los Angeles, equivalent to 2,800 miles, would cost $178.40 on gasoline if you’re driving a Toyota Camry (which averages 35 miles per gallon on the highway).
The computation would look like this:
2,800 miles/35 miles per gallon = 80 gallons
80 x $2.23 per gallon of regular-grade gasoline = $178.40
The price of fuel per gallon was based on 2016 rates. To calculate how much would a road trip from NYC to LA or other routes cost, check current prices and the miles per gallon your vehicle could cover, then follow the above computation.
The cost of accommodation for a cross country road trip depends on your preferences. You would normally spend more if you want to stay in a hotel. To avoid any hassle, book well in advance of your travel date. A day before you set out, call the provider to confirm your booking.
If you want your road trip to be as spontaneous as possible, there are a lot of cheap accommodations you could find along the way. Depending on your route, you could stay in motels and hostels, go camping, or spend the night in a house you booked through Airbnb or Couchsurfing.
The average costs for the said accommodation types are as follows:
- Camping: Free or $10-40
- Motels: $40-70 (one of the most popular motel budget networks is Motel 6)
- Hostels: $15-30 per night
- Airbnb: As low as $20-40
- Couchsurfing: Free
Food and Drinks
Your meals could blow your budget if you have no plan of how you would eat while on the road. If you and your companions nibble into something every mile, you would later run short of things to chew on. To avoid overspending on food, plan a daily budget.
Consider these prices from USA Today in computing your food budget:
- Breakfast: $10
- Fancy breakfast: $20
- Hot dog and soda from gas station: $5
- Dinner out: $10-50
- Coffee: $2
Also, bear in mind that you don’t have to eat out every time during the trip. To save on the daily costs, stock up on fruits, vegetables, meat, and other foods that you could store in a cooler and cook in campsites, on the roadside, or wherever you are.
If you have a plan, the possibilities of cost-cutting on meals without depriving yourself is infinite. For instance, a couple who had spent two weeks on the road only allowed $21 a day for food thanks to careful planning. The price was low but they even managed to splurge on desserts!
The price of enjoying the sights and attractions as you go along with the road trip depends on your chosen route. For instance, driving from New York to Los Angeles would lead you to popular tourist destinations including the Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, to name a few.
For an idea of how much an attraction would cost you, here’s a list:
- “Maid of the Mist” cruise on the Niagara Falls: $18.25
- Entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park: $15
- Entrance to the Yosemite National Park: $25-30.
If you’re interested in seeing as many national parks as possible while on your road trip, it would be cost-effective to purchase a National Parks Pass that costs $80. You could also buy a City Tourism Card ($30-40) that would allow you to have free access to museums, discounted entrance fees to attractions, and discounts at restaurants.
Based on the above prices, how much does a cross country road trip cost? Here’s a sample computation for a New York-Los Angeles route for two:
Camping: $20 per night or $160 for 8 nights
Hostel: $15 per night or $90 for 6 nights
Couchsurfing: Free for 1 night
Food: $30 or $480 for 16 days
National Parks Pass: $80
City Tourism Card: $40
Subtotal: $1,030 x 2
Note that the above cost is only an estimate. The price could go lower (or higher) depending on your road trip itinerary.
Some of the additional expenses that would also affect the road trip cost include:
- Car/RV rental (if you don’t own a vehicle)
- Change of routes (if the road you’re taking is closed)
- Vehicle repair (if your car breaks down during the trip)
- Shopping (if you’re an impulsive buyer, you might buy more, hence the higher expenses)
- Emergency expenses (medical aid, fully-booked hotels, etc.)
To make sure you would not be short on budget, add another $1,000 to the total cost (if you could). Otherwise, plan your cross country road trip’s budget down to the decimal point. That way, you would get the most out the travel without worrying about the expenses.
Have a safe journey!