Dreams Don’t Cost as Much as You Think: How to See America on $3,000/Month

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Most of us dream of traveling the world. It’s a normal fantasy to imagine yourself open and free, seeing all of Earth’s beauties.

Before Alyssa and I started traveling, I remember sitting in my office looking at travelers’ profiles on Instagram. I wanted to see the world, but I knew it would be forever before that dream would come to fruition. You have to work your whole life in order to make the kind of money you need for travel, right?

I was wrong.

This past month Alyssa and I spent exactly $3,097.55 on 31 days of travel.

Every night we slept in our tempurpedic bed, woke up with coffee, and witnessed some of America’s most beautiful sights. We haven’t been exactly “roughing it”.

These are a few of the things we did during the month of July:

  • Spent a week in Portland Oregon
  • Toured Portland Art Museum
  • Hiked to the top of the second tallest waterfall in the US
  • Rode in a hot air balloon
  • Explored downtown Seattle and Pike Place Market (it was awesome!)
  • Snow sledded on Mount Ranier on July 4th
  • Went to a concert in Missoula, Montana
  • 3 days Glacier National Park (This was our favorite park yet)
  • 2 days in Yellowstone National Park
  • Saw a bear, moose, buffalo, and wolf
  • 4 days Teton National Park
  • Hung out in Idaho Falls
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Here are a few pictures from our month of July:

see America multnomah falls
Multnomah falls
Swimming in a lake next to the Tetons
Swimming in a lake next to the Tetons
Yellowstone Lake.. we stop a lot and eat lunch at scenic points
Yellowstone Lake.. we stop a lot and eat lunch at scenic points
State Park outside of Yellowstone on Lake
State Park outside of Yellowstone on Henry Lake
Hot air balloon in Portland
Hot air balloon in Portland
State Park in Montana on Flathead Lake.. state parks are the bomb
State Park in Montana on Flathead Lake.. state parks are the bomb
Inspiration Point in Tetons
Inspiration Point in Tetons
Tetons
Tetons
Snow Sledding on July 4th on Mount Ranier
Snow Sledding on July 4th on Mount Ranier
IMG_6501
Franklin in Downtown Seattle
[stag_intro]Our trip during July covered 5 states, 6 national parks, 31 days of travel, and 2,870.3 miles on the road.[/stag_intro]

Would you pay $3,000 in order to see all of that? I would do it again in a heart beat.

In comparison to the typical American Vacation:

Last year for Christmas we took a vacation to New York City. It was an incredible week, but for the entire week we spent $3k and only experienced one city. And $3k for a week long vacation in NYC at Christmas time was a bargain! We bought our tickets months ahead of time and reserved our hotel room through Groupon. The average week long vacation for two people can easily run you $5,000.

Now we’re able to see America, all of America, and our dollar is being stretched four times what we spent during one week on vacation. I’ve been wanting to put together some of what we’ve learned on saving money during our travels, so this is my first post. If you’re currently traveling, please let me know what ways I could be more helpful and offer your own money saving tips below. If you’re thinking about doing some traveling, this will be a great introduction while planning your trip.

[stag_intro]Saving Money on: Food while traveling[/stag_intro]

Total spent on food during month of July: $423.18

Eating out: $21.00

Groceries: $402.18

The first area we really cut back on is eating out, this is one of the largest expenses for most people while traveling. During the month of July we spent only $21.00 on eating out. Every meal we cooked inside of our RV. Our meals were great meals too. Something like this:

Breakfast:

  • Eggs, sausage, and toast.
  • Eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and tortillas for breakfast tacos
  • Smoothies
  • Gluten free homemade pancakes

Lunch:

  • Sandwiches
  • Typically it’s left over from dinner the night before
  • I also sometimes splurge and eat the $1 Totinos Pizzas (old college habits die hard).

Dinner:

  • Chicken, broccoli, and baked potato
  • Salmon, asparagus, and carrots
  • Burgers, french fries
  • Spaghetti

Most meals you can cook in a home you can cook in an RV. The point is, we don’t skimp on eating well and we spend very little for our meals. The total we spent on groceries for the month was $402.18.

Takeaways: 

  1. Don’t eat out. If your goal is to save money, cook your meals in your RV.
  2. Prep meals before going out to explore new places
  3. Keep snacks handy

My wife, Alyssa wrote a blog post on the best snack ever for RV’ers. Read it here.

[stag_intro]Saving Money on: Lodging[/stag_intro]

Total spent on lodging for month of July: 594.65

Average nightly spend: $19.18

We spent several nights in state parks where the average price is around $20/night or less. State parks offer more privacy than RV parks and it feels more like camping. We find it’s easier to talk and meet people in a park-like atmosphere. The downside is there is no guarantee of showers, electricity, or other amenities offered by an RV park. When we need to wash our laundry, empty our holding tank, and get some work done on Wifi we go to RV parks. When we’re tired of the city, we escape to state parks.

When we stay in RV parks we always use Good Sam or Passport America. It’s a little more difficult to find a Passport America than it is Good Sam. However, Passport America offers a staggering 50% discount at each campground. I would highly recommend picking up a membership, you can sign up here.

Our monthly goal is to also stay five nights per month with friends or family along the trip. This saves us around $150/month.

[stag_intro]Saving money on: Fitness and Entertainment[/stag_intro]

Gym membership total for two people: 43.40

Buying a membership to Planet Fitness was one of the smartest investments we made before leaving Austin. At $20/month/person it’s dirt cheap to hold onto. Plus, Planet Fitness has more than 800 locations across the United States.

Why is all of this important?

Well, one luxury you miss out on while traveling in an RV is that of a great shower. If for no other reason, our membership to “P-Fit” allows us to have an awesome shower. We also can get a decent work out in on a semi-regular basis, and they have free access to massage chairs and this heavenly device called a Hydro-Bed.

Our gym membership gives us a little taste of home and comfort no matter where we are on the road. I would highly recommend picking up a membership to a large national gym if you’re traveling for a long time.

State and National Parks (entertainment): Purchased National park pass for $80 in May and has since paid for itself (saved $100 this month)

We love to explore national and state parks. We bought a national park pass during our first week on the road and it’s since paid for itself two times over. Seeing national parks, in my opinion, is a better way to travel than simply going from city to city. Once you pay your way into the park you can do a lot of activities for free. Hiking, swimming, and sight seeing are some of our favorite parts of traveling.

[stag_intro]Saving money on: Gas [/stag_intro]

Total spent on fuel during month of July: $1,148.12

This is by far going to be your largest expense while traveling, hands down. There isn’t much way around spending a lot of money on gas. However, there are some things you can do.

  • Download an app like Gasbuddy that tells you where cheap gas is near your location
  • Get a membership card to a place like Kroger or Randalls and receive discounts on your gas
  • Fill up primarily at grocery stores (so much cheaper)
  • When exiting the highway, drive a mile down the road instead of filling up at the pump nearing highway and save ten cents per gallon

These are a few of the areas where we save the most money while traveling. I hope they were helpful and you can work them into your travel life whether you’re another full time RV’er or someone dreaming of future travel!