How I Travel on the Cheap – Expense Report

How I travel on the cheap – my expense report from an eight-day trip to Wyoming and Colorado.Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. You can see and explore many areas in the United States for fairly low cost. Camping and cooking your own food is a great way to travel on the cheap. I just got back from exploring Wyoming and Colorado. Here is my expense report of how I spent my money and how I had a full eight-day vacation for only $450.

I would like to explain that for the first three days of my trip, I attended a retreat, and my lodging and food was paid for. However, I could have had free lodging through dispersed camping (camping in the national forest without a campground or facilities.) I could have also brought my own food from home, which would have cost the same if I had stayed at home. This is what I did the rest of the week for meals when I did not eat out.

Itinerary

My trip began with a half of a day’s drive to Wellington, Kan., where I camped at a KOA for the night. I then drove to west of Cheyenne, Wyo., where I attended my retreat. From there I drove to Lakeview Campground, near Leadville, Colo. And then I drove to the trailhead for Mount Bierstadt, near Georgetown, Colo., and slept in my car at the trailhead. On the way home, I camped at a KOA in Goodland, Kan., and then drove the rest of the way home.

Fuel

total cost $175

My biggest expense was gas. Because I live in Arkansas, I spent a lot of time on the road. From both my arrival point in Wyoming and my departure point in Colorado, I had about a 15-hour and 1,000-mile drive to get there and to get home. Not to mention the driving around I did while I was there.

I drive a Honda HRV, which is a cross between a car and an SUV. It gets really good gas mileage and also has seats that fold down in the back ,so I can sleep in it. But more on that later.

Gas prices were definitely higher out west. In Arkansas gas prices average around $2.50 a gallon and in the mountain towns of Colorado it averaged about $3 a gallon.

Camping (or lodging)

total cost $110

Because my drive was slightly more than I wanted to do in a day, I split it up into two days of driving. Instead of booking hotels along the way, I stayed at KOA campgrounds. My stay on the way north (in Wellington) was a little more than $25, and on the way home (in Goodland) it was $28. I did check hotel prices to compare and in the towns where I stayed hotels averaged around $80-$100 a night. So a $20-$30 campground fee was way cheaper.

But what if you’re too tired to set up your tent? I didn’t get to Goodland until about 11 p.m., and I had been up since 4 a.m. And I hiked a 14er that morning. I was beat! I seriously considered busting my budget and getting a hotel. But then I decided it was actually easier and less effort to set up my tent than to walk into a hotel, book a room, walk back out to my car, find what I needed, and then haul it up to a my room. I had my tent set up in less than five minutes.

The nights I stayed in Colorado, I camped at the Lakeview Campground in the Twin Lakes area. (A very nice campground! I recommend it.) And I slept in my car at the trailhead to Mount Beirstadt.

How I travel on the cheap – my expense report from an eight-day trip to Wyoming and Colorado.
Hiking on Mount Elbert, the highest mountain in the Rockies. Hiking is a great, fun, free activity.

Camping two nights at the Lakeview Campground cost me $56. There was ample dispersed camping in that area, but I wanted to be sure I had a spot since I was coming from Arkansas. I was also glad I was in a campground with other campers since I was camping alone. And I liked that I had potable water.

Dispersed camping is not allowed near the trailhead for Mount Beirstadt, however my seats fold down in the back of my car, and I was able to sleep at the trailhead without camping – for free.

Also being able to sleep in the back of my car allows me to camp comfortably in bad weather.

Toll Roads

total cost $15

I had to drive through Oklahoma, which has has toll roads. In total going and coming, I spent $15 paying the tolls.

Snacks and food on the road

total cost $43

So confession – I love to snack and drink caffeine while road tripping. Starbucks is my weakness, but it is a little more pricey, especially while trying to save money. I debated bringing sandwich meat to save on lunches and dinners on the road. In the end I decided I didn’t have a good enough cooler to keep it fresh, and it would end up costing me more.

While figuring my projected cost, I budged about $65 for food and snacks on the road, so I was glad to come in under budget.

Dinner with friends

total cost $79

I did go out to eat with friends a few times while visiting Wyoming and Colorado. And each of those times adds up. But visiting with friends was well worth the cost.

And after eating fast food and freeze-dried meals all week, it was nice to have a good meal.

Tickets to attractions

total cost $27

While in Colorado I drove to the top of Mount Evans, a 14,000-foot mountain. I had to pay the Forest Service $15, but it was worth it and the money goes to funding the National Forest.

I also toured the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville, Colo. My entry fee was $12, and I really enjoyed the museum.

Travel on the Cheap

I could have saved much more money, but I chose comfort and convenience over price. I could have cut many of my expense with the exception of gas and toll roads. However, in looking ahead before the trip I hoped to not spend more than $500, and I came in $50 under budget.

For more tips on traveling cheap, click here.

It is also important to note that throughout the year, I bought freeze-dried or dehydrated meals and Cliff Bars. They have a long shelf life and save me money on food cost when I do travel on the cheap.

How I travel on the cheap – my expense report from an eight-day trip to Wyoming and Colorado.

2 comments

  1. Awesome, I leave a week for today for Grand Tetons hiking and yellowstone. One tip on saving with park fees, if you visit them a lot(like we do), look for park passes. I love to support our parks, however individual passes can add up, I have found that buying a yearly pass saves money. Example, I live in Hawaii and have gone to a number of national parks this year, I am also going to Wyoming in a week where there are 2 different parks, fees for each park. It costs $25-$35 per park for entry fees. I purchased the year pass for $80. This gets me into any national park for a year, if I had not purchased this I would have had about $150 in fees for all the parks I visited this year. So as a tip to your readers look for passes, it doesn’t just have to be national parks, some states offer year passes as well. Happy Hiking to you and thanks for another great article!

  2. Please tell your Mom and Dad I am enjoying your blog. They were advertising it with great charm and energy today at the trail opening on Electric Island.

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