Driving Cross Country

Most people think of the destination when they contemplate traveling. What about how you got there? I want to tackle the quintessential American journey, the Cross Country Road Trip. I am looking forward to seeing Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and oddly enough the architecture in the South with the plantation mansions and ornate iron railings on the homes in the towns and cities. Maybe that is because of a friend at Bel Air Stairs & Railings who has gotten me to appreciate fine metal work. Oops, sidetrack. Back to the main story.

Most Americans want to accomplish a cross country journey in their lifetime but time, money, or opportunity always seems to get in the way. Some people just go for it in a semi-spontaneous way. I am not one of those people. I am going to walk you through the considerations I am making in preparation for the journey from East to West. I started with major expenses, gas, food and lodging. To calculate them I have to figure out the route, which leads to other questions,

  1. When am I driving?
  2. Where am I starting and ending?
  3. What are the main attractions I want to see?

I don’t know when I’m traveling so I came up with a winter route and a route for any other time of the year. I also can’t fit all of the landmarks I want to visit in one trip. I call it the Northern Route and the Southern Route.

Gas Budget

The southern route is 3,783 miles so now I can calculate the gas costs. I have a Prius that gets 55 miles per gallon, but I am going to assume 45 miles per gallon. So 3,783 miles / 45 miles per gallon = 84 gallons. I want to over budget so I don’t spend more than I expect, so I am estimating $4 per gallon. $4 per gallon * 84 gallons is $338 for gas.

Lodging Budget

Now that my gas budget is taken care of, time to move on to lodging costs. Food and lodging depends on how many days you want to take to get cross-country. I am budgeting for 10 days. I don’t want to pay for 10 hotels or hostels so my sister and I are going to camp for most of the trip. Which has it’s own costs.

Camping costs:

  1. Tent (try to borrow or rent one)
  2. Firewood $30
  3. Water jug $30
  4. Coolers $100
  5. Ice $40
  6. Sleeping bag (if you don’t have one)
  7. Butane stove (really nice for quick cooking)

Hotel costs:

I’m budgeting 4 nights at a hotel with an average $150 a night which is $600 total.

So far we are up to $338 for gas and $600 for hotels and $200 for camping which totals to $1138.

Food Budget

Now for the most expensive part of the trip, food for 10 days. Which means 10 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners, drinks and snacks. I am taking my sister with me so my food budget will be doubled. We are going to make as much as possible ahead of time and put them in Ziploc bags and freeze them.


  1. Pancakes
  2. Omelets
  3. Breakfast burritos (2 days)
  4. Hard boiled eggs
  5. Muffins

We are cooking or bringing every breakfast. Breakfast is $40 for 10 days for ingredients etc.


  1. Bananas
  2. Peanut Butter
  3. Turkey
  4. Cheese
  5. Tortilla Shells

Lunch we are going to try eating sandwiches half the time and eat out the other days. So for sandwiches I’m assuming $20 for 5 days and the lunches out would be $20 per day.


  1. Burgers, Lettuce & Tomato
  2. Rice & Beans in Red Bell Peppers

For dinner we are planning on eating out because we are going to be tired. Dinner is $30 per night for 10 nights.


  1. Apples
  2. Grapes
  3. Raw Veggies
  4. Marshmallows
  5. Graham Crackers
  6. Luna/Cliff bars


Breakfast = $40

Lunch = $120

Dinner = $300

To build in a buffer for snacks and miscellaneous food expenses we are budgeting $550 per person.

We have covered food, gas, lodging and the route. What’s left? Specific attractions you want to see in each place and possible costs associated with them.  For now I am going to assume that will cost $20 per day so add $200 per person.

Total Budget for my cross country trip is: $2,638. There are two items that I personally have to add on getting my sister to and from the cross country trip. Lets add $700. So for me it comes to $3,338.