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Channel Islands/Joshua Tree Expense Report

Channel IslandJoshua Tree Expense Report
Joshua Tree National Park

This past week I spent nine days road tripping and visiting national parks in Southern California. I like to travel on a budget, so I tried hard to keep costs low. My best friend, Crystal, went with me, and that helped keep costs down. This is my complete expense report from the trip. However, this report is only what I spent, not the two of us. We did split the fuel and lodging cost, but everything else if for one person.

We spent the week exploring Channel Islands and Joshua Tree National Parks, with a very short detour to see parts of Los Angeles.

The Itinerary

We left out from my home of Hot Springs, Arkansas, and drove to El Paso, Texas for our first day of driving. From there we drove to Point Mugu State Park in California and camped on the Pacific Ocean along the Pacific Coast Highway.

The next morning we woke up early and drove to Ventura, California, where we boarded a ferry by Island Packers, which took us to Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park. We spent one night in Channel Islands and then headed to Joshua Tree National Park, stopping by Hollywood Boulevard on the way.

Channel Islands National Park is shown
Channel Island National Park

We stayed at Blackrock Campground while exploring Joshua Tree for three days. In order to see more of the country, we headed home via I-40 and stayed the night in Tucumcari, New Mexico along the way.

Because I had someone to split lodging and fuel costs with me, we opted for hotel stays on the way to California and on the way home.

The total cost for me was $680.91, which is about on par for one of my nine-day national park trips.

A Joshua Tree is shown
Joshua Tree National Park


$465.85 ($232.93 each)
3,873 miles

Fuel is always a big expense when driving across the country. For this trip, we drove 3,873 miles in total. Gas prices ranged from $2.85 in Arkansas to $4.45 in California. I have a Honda HRV which gets great gas milage. In total, we spent $465.85 on fuel. But that was split between two people, so my cost of gas was about $232.93

A roadway is shown
Joshua Tree National Park


$358.88 ($179.44 each)

Lodging is another big expense. Would I have booked two hotel rooms if I was by myself? It’s hard to say. I like saving money, but it was cold along our route, and it was nice to have a warm bed to sleep in. Also, it was nice to have a shower. Those were the only two showers of our entire trip. We were pretty nasty.

For six nights of camping and two nights in a hotel, we spent a total of $358.88. Because we split that cost, it was $179.44 each.

A tent is shown
Channel Islands National Park



On this trip, we ate out only a few times. I spent about $55 on groceries for the trip. We only ate one freeze-dried meal. We also at In-N-Out and Del Taco while camping, because those are places we don’t have in Arkansas. We ate out at a nice restaurant once.

In total, I spent $144.54 for me to eat the entire nine-day trip.

Tours/Entrance Fee


My America The Beautiful Pass had expired and I don’t have any trips planned soon, so I just went ahead and purchased a week-long entry to Joshua Tree National Park. Their fee is $30 per vehicle, per week. We also booked a guided tour of Keys Ranch, which was $10 each.

A park ranger leads a tour at Keys Ranch
Keys Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park



Even though Channel Islands’ camping fee was the cheapest campsite of the entire trip, it was the most expensive night. This is because we had to purchase the ferry trip to the island. Island Packers is the exclusive transport to Channel Islands National Park. To camp on the island, it cost $84 for a round-trip ticket. They were great, and we got to see lots of dolphins along the way.



I did set a pre-trip budget for this one, so I can’t say if I came in under or over budget. But $680.91 isn’t too shabby for a nine-day adventure. This trip did have a few extras that I don’t normally purchase, like the ferry ride and two hotel rooms. But having someone to spit fuel and lodging costs helped keep it low.

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See where my money went in my complete expense report from a road trip from Arkansas to Channel Islands and Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

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