Back on the Road!
When we got back from our European adventure at the end of August, we had only a few days before we’d planned to leave for a cross country road trip. Ideally we would have taken more time between the two– but, like always it seems, we were in a bit of a time crunch. We had a few places to be that were time sensitive, and then the rest of the road trip was scheduled based on those dates. The main destination of the road trip was Las Vegas for TravCon (The Traveler’s Conference) which was September 8-11th. We also had to be back in Virginia for a wedding on September 22nd, with a subsequent presentation on travel therapy at Whitney’s PT school Alma Mater on September 23rd in the same area.
Leaving on September 1st, that gave us about 22 days total to make it from Virginia to Las Vegas and back to Virginia to fit in as much fun and adventure as possible. Through a combination of suggestions from friends, places we wanted to meet up with people, and a desire to not have excessively long days of driving, we strategically chose our stops along the way. Even though in practical terms this was a “business trip,” complete with lots of networking with other travelers at the conference, meeting with students interested in travel therapy in the future and current travelers along the way, and presenting to a PT program on travel physical therapy, we certainly carved out time to explore the country and have fun too! This was both my and Whitney’s first long road trip, so we were very excited for the adventure!
Here was our itinerary:
- Roanoke, VA (starting point): September 1st
- Louisville, KY: September 1st-2nd
- St. Louis, MO: September 2nd-3rd
- Kansas City, KS: September 3rd-4th
- Colorado Springs, CO: September 4th-6th
- Moab, Utah: September 6th-7th
- Orderville, Utah (Zion NP): September 7th-8th
- Las Vegas, NV: September 8th-12th
- Williams, AZ (Grand Canyon NP): September 12th-13th
- Flagstaff, AZ: September 13th-14th
- Santa Fe, NM: September 14th-15th
- Amarillo, TX: September 15th-16th
- Oklahoma City, OK: September 16th-17th
- Little Rock, AR: September 17th-18th
- Memphis, TN: September 18th-19th
- Roanoke, VA (quick stop back at home): September 19th-21st
- Norfolk, VA: September 21st-23rd
- Roanoke, VA (ending point): September 23rd
In total, this amounted to just under 6,000 miles in about 3 weeks!
Stay tuned for Whitney’s next article where she will detail what we did throughout the road trip, and include some of the awesome pictures we took! Til then, I’m going to focus on discussing the expense breakdown of the trip!
I fully expected to spend a decent amount of money on this road trip. Between the cost of AirBnBs most nights, getting gas almost constantly, and eating out almost every meal– I had decided that being lenient on my budget was a good idea. I really had no idea what the cost would be, but I estimated about $1,500 for the 3 weeks.
Here’s what my expenses actually ended up looking like for this trip (keeping in mind these are just my expenses, with many of the costs split between Whitney and me):
- We were fortunate enough to be able to stay with friends in several spots along the trip, which saved us some money. We also redeemed some of our Hyatt points for a really nice Hyatt hotel near Arches National Park in Moab, UT. In Vegas, we stayed two nights at Bally’s hotel where the conference was located and two nights at the Park MGM right down the road where I had earned a couple of free nights. We did still have to pay taxes and fees on those free nights, but it was significantly cheaper than staying the other two nights at Bally’s.
- We made sure to try the local specialties at each place we visited along our route (including lots of BBQ in the Midwest, southern home cooking in the Southeast, and Mexican specialties when we were in the Southwest). I did my best to keep costs in check despite eating out for every meal, but it was difficult. Luckily in Vegas, most of our meals and drinks were either included in the price of the ticket to the conference or paid for by various travel companies that hosted constant events in the evenings.
- There was no way around spending a significant amount of money on gas with the number of miles that we drove. Whitney’s car is relatively fuel efficient though, so it could have been a lot worse. We did our best to avoid tolls and parking fees when possible, but in some cases it was inevitable.
- This included the cost of the conference ticket, national park annual pass fee, entrance costs to attractions along the way, a cover charge to a bar we checked out in Memphis, and a tour of the Budweiser Brewery in St. Louis. With all things considered, I expected to spend a lot more than that in this category. The conference ticket is surprisingly cheap for the amount of value provided for CEUs, food, drinks, and events, which helped a lot!
Total Spent on the Road Trip: $1,246 (~$54/day)*
*Keep in mind that these expenses are just for my half of the trip and do not include Whitney’s half or what she spent along the way!
We really had a wonderful time on this trip across the country. After all of our time spent traveling internationally over the past couple of years, it was awesome to be able to appreciate all of the beauty that there is inside the United States. At the national parks and the drive along our route, we saw many sights that certainly rivaled if not surpassed everything that we’ve seen in Europe and Asia. We also really enjoyed the freedom of driving and being able to stop when and where we wanted, which is impossible when traveling on a bus or train in other countries. We can’t wait to do several more similar road trips in the future to see other parts of the US.
I’m continually surprised at how cheap it actually can be to travel, whether it be domestically or internationally, with a little planning and thought about keeping costs reasonable. Each trip we’ve taken, I’ve actually overestimated my expenses even when I think that I’m being conservative in my estimates in most cases. It makes me realize that a truly nomadic lifestyle could easily be feasible financially, especially when purposefully traveling to cheaper areas, although I don’t think that’s something we’d enjoy doing long term.
The more we travel, the more we realize how much there is to see and how little we’ve actually seen so far. We can’t wait to take many more long domestic and international trips, and we were glad to have realized a fondness for road trips on this adventure!
Have you ever taken a long road trip? If so how was your experience?