Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Southwest Road Trip Budget: Utah's Mighty 5

 Wanderlust Wednesday-Week 30
 This is the third year in a row that we've flown out west to spend a week road-tripping. And this trip was my favorite one yet. We have been dreaming of driving through Utah and hiking the Mighty 5 {utah's 5 national parks} for years, but we weren't sure if we could swing it. Once we knew we could fit everything we wanted into our one-week itinerary, the budget became our next priority. 
Going on a southwest road trip is something that every American should do at some point, but there can be many unknowns when it comes to cost. I felt so frustrated with trying to find info so I feel compelled to share our exact budget to show how doable a Mighty Five Road Trip can be.
Length of Trip: 8 days & 7 nights 
Travel Date: May/June 2016
Number of People: 2
Be sure to read our itinerary before continuing onto the budget. 

This is my least favorite part of the budget, because it's normally the most expensive and the least amount of fun rolled into one. And with being East Coasters, a Southwest road trip required flying out west and renting a car before we could even get started.  
With visiting the Mighty 5, most people start and end their trip in Salt Lake City OR Las Vegas. You can fly into SLC or Vegas, then create a loop as you drive through the national parks. We realized that we could shave a day off driving AND save a few hundred dollars on flights by flying in and out of different airports. So we flew into Vegas and out via Salt Lake City. This literally cut our flight costs in half, from $1500 down to $724! 
But saving on flights created a bad situation with renting a car. Rental car companies slap you with hefty fees if you pick up and drop off the car in different states. We solved this problem by getting a little creative and taking a shuttle from Vegas Nevada to St. George Utah. This meant that we were able to rent/return our car in the same state even though we flew in/out via different states. And this saved about $1k. 

We always like to stay in memorable places that will enhance our travel experience. In this case, what's better than sleeping at the base of the mountain you climbed or camping in a tipi when you're on a southwest adventure? 
Thanks to a little travel hacking, our bottom line for accommodations landed us at $30/night. 

Undoubtedly, the best part about the Southwest experience is being outdoors, but even being outside cost money. With visiting all 5 of Utah's national parks, the entrance fees totaled to $120. Thankfully, we have an America the Beautiful pass, which allows unlimited entry to any of the national parks for a year. I'm not including the pass in our bottom-line because we're using it for various trips this year. But it's something to consider in a Southwest road trip budget. 
Our big splurge for this trip was a 3 hour mule ride, which was the best way to spend our short time in Bryce Canyon National Park. Worth every penny. 

If you've read any of our past travel budgets, then you know this category is always a weakness of ours and we way overspend. Not this time. In the weeks leading up to our trip, we started prepping non-perishables to pack in our luggage, along with our camping stove. Once we arrived in Utah, we hit the grocery store and bought a cooler to fill with fresh food for the week. This turned out to be ideal as the national parks rarely offer food services and we needed to make ourselves lunch daily. We did eat out for breakfast and dinner most days, but food in the Southwest is fairly inexpensive. 
We spent $98 on groceries and $352 on eating out. Our food for the week was $450 or $28/person each day

A few little things that didn't fit into any other category includes; wood for campfires, coin operated showers at the campgrounds, plus we did laundry twice. We also picked up quite a few souvenirs. Totaling it all up, this was $111. 

There's a big difference between our initial costs and what we actually paid out of pocket. I think our original budget was great because we found cost friendly options like camping and cooking meals. But travel hacking made this trip so much more doable! With using travel credit cards {details here and here}, we shaved $1500 off our bottom-line. Running the numbers, we only paid for 46% of the trip costs out of pocket. Perfect proof that a Southwest Road Trip can be manageable on any budget. 


  1. What an amazing trip for such a great price!! You were able to do and see so many awesome things and it looks like you enjoyed it so much. Great job on the planning!!

    1. We were so happy to see and do everything we did in a week, definitely couldn't have picked between any of them. The budget fell into place which is great since we could not have afforded to drop $3k on a single week long trip. We like filling our year up with multiple trips too much to spend it all in one place