The less money you spend on one trip, the more trips you can take. When I travel I try to spend as little money as possible so I can go more and go further. On my recent trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, I spent a total of $575. On this trip my brother, Jacob, accompanied me. So my two biggest expenses, fuel and camping fees, were split between two people. That freed up more money for other expenses, like fewer turkey sandwiches and more local flavor.
My brother met me at my house in Hot Springs and we left from there. We then drove to Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota for our first night. On Sunday morning we left bright and early for Medora, North Dakota.
Medora is a cute town that is adjacent to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We camped at Sully Creek State Park because at the time of planning they allowed reservations as opposed to the national park. Sully Creek is about five minutes from Medora and the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
We stayed in the Medora area, exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park and surrounding areas for about four days, and then left for the Black Hills in South Dakota and Wyoming. We explored the Black Hills for two days, camping at Wind Cave National Park for one night. Then on our last night, we went about three hours down the road and camped at the KOA in Mitchell, South Dakota. The next day we drove back to Hot Springs.
$195 ($390 total)
So I budgeted $345 for fuel. But we ended up spending a total of $391. We came in over budget for two reasons – we drove about 300 more miles than I estimated. And we also spent an average of $31 per fill-up. I estimated $30 per fill-up.
In total from my house in Hot Springs to North and South Dakota, we drove 3,720 miles, counting a little bit of Wyoming and Montana. But this a budget report for just my expenses, so the total gas cost is $195.
$99.50 ($199 total)
As always camping and fuel costs are the biggest part of my budget. We camped the entire time. We stayed at two state parks, one national park, and one KOA.
On our way to North Dakota, we camped at the Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota, which has showers and flush toilets. But our site did not have hookups. While in North Dakota we stayed at Sully Creek State Park, which has showers but no flush toilets. Our site did not have hookups, but others did. The campsite was around $18 per night, but there was also a $7 day-use fee for each day.
We also stayed at Wind Cave National Park, which did not have hookups or showers but did have flush toilets. And the Mitchell, South Dakota KOA was very nice and offered the typical KOA package.
Normally, I spend as little as possible eating out. I like to buy groceries and eat freeze-dried meals. Last year, I went to California for 10 days and only ate out three times. That allowed me to only spend about $75 on food for the week. But I knew my brother would not want to be as dirtbag as me. So we ate out a lot more. Now, we still bought groceries and made sandwiches, but we still spent more money on gourmet meals.
In total, I spend $204 on food. However enjoying an elk burger and bison burger was pretty nice.
When living out of your vehicle for a week, you still have items you want to keep cool, like Diet Cokes and hummus. I had to buy ice three times, costing me $10.50. Jacob kept his groceries in his cooler and I kept my groceries in mine. His ice cost is not counted here.
$22 ($44 total)
On this trip, we took a tour at Wind Cave National Park and paid an entrance fee to drive The Needles Highway in the Black Hills. Our cave tour tickets were $12 apiece and we paid $20 to drive The Needles Highway.
Both Jacob and I have America the Beautiful passes, so those saved us on the $30 entrance fee to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
I wasn’t going to spend money on souvenirs, but my brother talked me into buying a hat and stickers. You can never have enough hats and stickers. And I bought some socks because I thought they were cute.
North Dakota Expense Report
Jacob spent more than I did on souvenirs and things like morning coffees. There’s no right or wrong budget. I simply prefer to stick to a tight budget, so I can explore more.