FAQ – How Did Our Numbers Work for Our First U.S. Leg?

We’ve always intended to at some point do a U.S. leg (or two), because there are so many awesome things to see here in our very own country. But we always thought we’d need to wait for our income to be a little higher to be able to really do it. COVID-19 accelerated our plans for a U.S. leg.

We were actually able to do a 12-week leg UNDER our typical weekly travel budget. In 2019, we averaged spending $775 per week when on the road; our $10,000 Leg 6 budget was $833 per week, but we actually only spent $758 per week on average. 

Traveling in the U.S. had a lot of question marks for us about how well we’d be able to stick to the budget. Lodging, food, and drinks are all much more expensive here than most places we usually spend our time. But, in COVID times, we’re doing a lot less dining out, drinking out, and have little desire to do other fun things that might bring increased risks. As you’ll see below, our savings from not having flights and only dining out (or often, bringing take out in) once a week allowed us to be even more under budget than usual. Here are our Leg 6 numbers.

Where We Were

Countries visited: 0 (because we’re not visitors in the U.S.)

States visited: 12, 3 new in bold – Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Kansas (Idaho was also new for me and Oregon was new for Chad)

Cities visited (overnight): 16 (I use “cities” loosely here, since we mainly stuck to small towns)

Number of hotels: 13

Number of hotel nights: 19

Number of houses/apartments: 3

Number of Airbnb nights: 65 (2 overlapping nights for overnight getaways during long Airbnb stays)

Total beds slept in: 16

Total lodging budget: $5,330

Total lodging actual: $5,339

How We Got Around and What We Did

We didn’t really track miles driven, but based on our odometer estimate, it must have been close to 10,000. The transit costs were gas, tolls, and power steering fluid (which was leaking for a while).

Total transit budget: $800

Total transit actual: $793

Goal number of national parks visited: 10

Actual number of national parks visited: 9

Goal miles hiking: 250

Actual miles hiking: 257

Total food/entertainment budget: $3,870 ($322/week)

Total food/entertainment actual: $2,966 ($247/week)

We only spent $82 on entertainment (i.e. admissions and drinks out) the entire 12 weeks (this does not include our $80 annual national parks pass, which was our anniversary gift to each other so not on the budget). This $82 is a very COVID times number.


Total budget: $10,000 for 12 weeks ($833/week average)

Total actual: $9,098 for 12 weeks ($758/week average) (just under what we averaged on the road in 2019 in Colombia, Asia, and Europe!)

Number of weeks over budget: 4

Number of weeks under budget: 8

Least expensive week: Week 3, September 14-20 in Libby Montana, $585, the week of hazardous air quality due to west coast fires

Most expensive week: Week 6, October 5-11, included our trip to Yellowstone, $1060

The Best Parts

Best experiences (chronologically):

•       Bison and prairie dogs in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

•       Hiking and seeing a black bear in Glacier National Park

•       Seeing Tenet in an empty movie theater that we lived above

•       Jenny Lake hike in Grand Teton National Park

•       Elk and Mammoth Hot Spring at Yellowstone National Park

•       Quality time with Ryan and Katie

•       Hall of Mosses in Olympic National Park (and the falls and High Hill trail)

•       Garfield Peak hike at Crater Lake National Park

•       Sea anomalies on the Oregon Coast (especially Depoe Bay during King Tides)

•       Cozy puzzle times and counting electoral votes in our Oregon Airbnb

Best meals:

The Shed (Libby, MT), Cabinet Mountain Brewery (Libby, MT), Dungeness crab provided by our Airbnb host (Camano Island, WA), brunch and dinner made by our friend Katie (Seattle, WA), takeout crepes from Café C’est La Vie (Lincoln Beach, OR), takeout clam chowder and fried seafood from MO’s (Lincoln City, OR)

Thai’d for honorable mention: BT Thai Restaurant (Lakewood, WA), Thai Bay (Lincoln City, OR), Chen Vuong Thai (Burlington, CO) (note: all three times that we ordered Thai food, it was exceptional, so impossible to pick a favorite)

My official ranking of the nine national parks we visited (from favorite to least favorite):

1. Arches

2. Olympic

3. Glacier

4. Theodore Roosevelt

5. Grand Teton

6. Crater Lake

7. Canyonlands

8. Yellowstone

9. Mt. Rainier

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