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  1. Default Cost for family roadtrip! Midwest to West Coast to Canada and home!

    First I want to say thank you to anyone that reads or replies.

    My husband and I are wanting to take the kids on a month long family vacation but I have anxiety on making sure we saved enough money. SO I am looking for ideas of what some would spend on a similar vacation, etc. This will be a combination of hotel, camping, etc. The goal is to make it out to see my husbands brother, his wife and their kids in Oregon and than up to Canada to meet his parents (I have never met them previously). We have talked about cutting Canada out to save money but it is important to us to see them as well. We have 4 kids (3 are from my previous marriage and 1 with my current husband---which my husband and baby flew out to Canada so his parents have met their grandson). Kids are 17, 15, 14, and will be 1 at the time of travel.


    Des Moines, Iowa to Mt Rushmore and camping 2 nights. Haven't booked campsite
    Mt. Rushomore to Yellowstone and camping 3 nights. Booked and approximately $100
    Yellowstone to Mountain Home, Idaho hotel 1 night. Booked and approximately $100
    Mountain Home, Idaho to John Day Oregon Tee Pee rental 1 night. Booked and about $75
    John Day, Oregon to Salem, Oregon hotel 1 night. Booked and about $100
    Salem, Oregon to Rockaway Beach, Oregon hotel 3 nights. Booked and about $350

    Round Trip for the above is about 4100 miles (that is IF we don't do any off the beaten path driving which is not probable). And would be done in about 15-17 days.

    This is as far as I booked out as I started to get nervous on costs to make sure that we had enough money to enjoy the trip as well. We talked about on days we are camping to eat cheaper and from the cooler/grill and on hotel days to possibly eat out one meal (the hotels I have booked so far have included a kitchenette). Nobody wants to eat sandwiches and hot dogs for a whole trip.

    Potentially we would like to do this as well:

    Rockaway Beach, Oregon to Hope, British Columbia 1 night hotel. (approximately $100)
    Hope, British Columbia to Fort Frazier, British Columbia 4-5 nights (would stay at his parents so no hotel/camping costs)
    Fort Frazier, British Columbia to Prince George, British Columbia 1 night (approximately $100)
    Prince George, British Columbia to somewhere between Jasper and Banff Alberta(hotel or camping haven't decided so say $100)
    Banff, Alberta to Billings, Montana (hotel approximately $100)
    And we were just going to wing it from there and stop whenever and find a hotel probably 3-4 nights in hotels (approximately $400)

    With the above additions the round trip mileage is about 5,200 again without any additional off the beaten path driving. This would be about 24-27 days.

    If I realistically say accommodations are average $100/day (Some are cheaper when we camp but some are more expensive) It would be 1700 or 2700 if we added Canada (although we would stay at his parents for 4 of those days and save 400 so it would be 2300) Fuel Cost round trip would be 1200-1600.

    How much for food allowance and entertainment realistically can I expect to bring? We plan on staying in the national park at yellowstone and not leaving so all entertainment will be directly in the park. We are frugal-ish people and enjoy nature. And also my husband is a self contracted employee so he gets no vacation pay so we had to save a full month of bill money to go on the trip. Also appreciate any "Must See's or Must Do's" around these areas!

    Hopefully you can understand my craziness. Thank you again!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Do you already have passports? You need them to go to/from Canada these days.

    Gasoline allowance -- add about 25% of your estimated mileage for sightseeing. Then figure that into your total fuel cost.

    Food -- boy, that's a mouthful. (No pun intended.) Everyone eats differently. Lunches are usually a lot cheaper to eat out than dinners. My husband and I also travel with an electric frying pan and some utensils. You can make a lot of different types of foods, for the same price as you would eat them at home, in an electric fry-pan and a few utensils. Let's see, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, tuna or hamburger casserole, grilled round steak, grilled chicken (even fried chicken, if you're brave), and so much more. Another thing we like to do is to go to a grocery store and pick up either fried or roast chicken, salads, soups, or something from their take-out counter, because it's a lot cheaper than going out to eat.

    Mt Rushmore will set you back about $11 for parking. Yellowstone is $25 per car load (it may be going up to $30 this year) for a week.

    As far as budget lodging is concerned: stop at the state welcome centers or travel center/truck stops and pick up a motel coupon book. Some will have suites available, which could be handy in your situation. Carry your own pack-n-play so you won't have to worry about bedding the toddler down every night.

    Since I raised kids going on road trips, I totally understand your "craziness" and "did I budget enough" issues. I went through that almost every time we set out!


  3. Default

    Thank you Donna!

    Yes, we do all have passports! Well besides baby but he is a dual citizen of the US and Canada as his Dad is as well.

    That is a great idea of travelling with an electric fry-pan! I know we were going to bring a large put and skillet for camping but I think I am going to through in the electric fry-pan as well.

    I do plan on, oh it is so hard to say, but grocery shop while on vacation! My husband and I discussed that buying and cooking is the cheaper option and we would have to do that if home so it would not be unexpected large expense. I am sure 80% of the trip we will live off grocery store food and the other 20% for enjoying a new restaurant or food. Otherwise we have preplanned the trip to stay with hotels that offer a kitchenette to help stray away from eating out!

    Those prices are very reasonable for Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone. I haven't looked at their prices although I have already booked and paid for our camping spot in Yellowstone. And those are what we are the must see/must do on our trip. When we get to Oregon my husband has family that we will be visiting but we rented a hotel suite on the beach so the kids can admire the beach. My husband has many stories of grilling on the beach so the kids are excited to do that as well.

    So I think it is save to say if I average our weekly grocery cost at home and add 40-50% I should be good in my budget. Of course we always have the dreaded just in case credit card that we are not planning on using but have that option if needed.

    We have done vacations before but never one that lasted a month so it makes me a bit crazy as I am the planner and my husband is not. He is the type that would just get up and go and not worry about the costs.

    Thank you again!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Most of your usual "at home" grocery chains may be related to grocery stores in the west. Take your favorite grocery store cards, if you have them, and always ask the clerk in the new store, "what major grocery chain owns this store?" If it's owned by Safeway Inc, Kroger, or similar, you'll be able to use a card for a store near you that is related. Nice to be able to get those "card holders only" sales!

    Another "pro" to going grocery shopping on the road, is the chance to talk to locals. Chances are, you'll be in a line with people in the area, who can recommend their favorite "hole in the wall restaurant", place to see that is off the beaten track, or just tell you about the area in general. So don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with a likely-looking person in line. I did that in Gettysburg this past summer, in the Giant store, and got some insight about the real estate that the store was on. History!

    BTW, my husband is the same way - I plan, I budget, and my husband just goes the way I point him. He will give me input about where he wants to go, and is usually pretty open if I make a suggestion based on what I know of his interests.


  5. Default

    That is a great idea talking to the locals! I prefer the whole in the wall restaurants over the chain ones anyway. They will be a wealth of information for activities and places to eat!

    My husband does the same thing----will offer a little input of where to go or what to see but leaves EVERYTHING up to me. Husband lived in that part of Oregon so he has that area of the trip covered on keeping everyone busy and having fun. I am not worried about lack of things to do----both Mount Rushmore and area and Yellowstone will be plenty for us to take in for the days we are there.

    I figured 2500 accommodations for hotel and camping (will be less as 3 days camping at yellowstone is 100 and his parents is free) but it gives wiggle room.

    1500 in gas. Mapquest estimated the route costing 1000 so I added 50% to that.

    Eating at home for a week is 200-250 for our family so I will say 1700 in food beings we will be cooking most of it ourselves and providing all snacks and drinks from grocery stores.

    I am not sure about entertainment costs as we are doing the national parks, etc which are reasonable, possibly doing a zoo in Idaho (we are a member of a zoo by us and get discounts of either 50% or 100% admission to participating zoos----I checked and Idaho's zoo would be free for us to go to). Oregon we will be seeing his family and spending time on the beach and also going to see Multnomah Falls and a few other places my hubby picked out.

    Otherwise some of our stops/nights in hotels are just to rest in between stops. We don't want to go go go! SO I think that we are on for a go for it.

    Thank you so much for the help!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default NP annual pass

    If you are visiting 4 or more major National parks it is wise to purchase the annual pass for $80. It includes entry to all parks for a year from the date of purchase for vehicle and occupants but will not cover things like parking charges at Rushmore where entry is free. After 4 parks you have your investment back and as many has you like left to visit, time and time again if you wish. You can purchase on line or from the first park you visit.

  7. Default

    Will the hotels you pick allow more than 4 people per room? Some are very firm about it.

  8. Default

    Thank you Dave that is a GREAT idea! We will definitely do that! We are planning on parks and I am sure over the course of a year we will use it again!

  9. Default

    Travelingman, thank you for the question. Yes we are allowed more than 4 people as the rooms we rented are more of a suite like room with a bedroom separate along with living quarters and kitchen, etc. The ones we booked so far accommodate 6! But that is a good point to bring up as I wouldn't want to be surprised with check in. The good thing is with prepaying I did get a discount on the hotels I booked so far!

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