[drop_cap]How much does it cost to visit all 59 natural National Parks? This is a first question people have. After all, it’s not every day someone tells you they’re going to all the parks in one long journey, interviewing artists and creating art along the way. Although this may sound like a vacation for the rich, we’re not rich. [/drop_cap]
We’ll share more on how we can afford this, but today we decided to answer the question straight away by breaking down the anticipated costs.
*Prices are estimates from our independent research and vary depending on your situation.
Keep in mind, this information is based on these conditions:
- 12 months (although we are going for 18+ months)
- 2 adults sharing costs, already have car & gear
- Does not include emergency / back-up funds, which we highly recommend for flat tires, lost teeth, and other surprises
- The average annual cost to live in the United States per person is $20,194
Get the fun illustrated guide here, or read details below:
[quote name=”With potential to be $27,662 or less, see below”]$36,742[/quote]
NATIONAL PARK ANNUAL PASS
- $80 per year
- 1 pass covers 1 vehicle and all of its passengers
- (The Annual Pass does not cover Expanded Amenity fees such as camping, boat launching, parking, special tours, special permits or ferries.)
GAS (based on Subaru Outback)
- $2,142 in gas
- Our route = ~20,000 miles
- We divided that with the average MPG for the Outback:
- 28 miles per gallon = 714.28 x $3 (average and worse case scenario for gas, gives us $2,142 in gas)
FOOD + BASICS
- $500 per month / $6,000 per year
- Buy in bulk once per week
- We eat a basic diet of healthy foods, high in vegetables, eggs and staples like rice, beans, potatoes, and nuts. Our quest diet is mostly vegan-leaning except for eggs, fish and some meat.
- No speciality items like alcohol
- Minimal eating out
- Eating healthy while camping recipes and ideas:
- Includes basic daily expenses like feminine products, soap, and laundromat fund of $30 per month.
- $450 per month / $5,400 per year
This has been a fun one to research. There are many options, some creative, some free, some expensive. We decided to include most of what we’ve discovered so far.
Camping Options & Fees
- Camping on a budget http://blog.rvshare.com/dirt-cheap-camping-vacation-tight-budget/
- National Forest camping = free
- Make sure to follow specific rules and guidelines, each National Forest varies, see link above.
- National Parks camping = average of $15 x 30 for a month = $450
- National Park camping fees generally range between $10 and $20 depending on the park and the particular campground you choose
- Consider this is less than paying rent of $1000 average
- But… no showers or ovens 😉
- State Park camping = average of $20 per night.
- Many state parks have amenities like showers, flushing toilets and electricity
- REALLY COOL camping resource: Hipcamp
- The Airbnb of camping
- Super user experience, easy to find campgrounds / private landowners renting campsite
- Search by your specific needs
- Peer reviewed campsites
- Free camping: https://freecampsites.net/usa/
- Free: Sleep in your car. Outbacks are spacious and comfy. Squeeze in between your gear.
- Some rest areas allow overnight parking, or you get away with it.
- Truck stops
- Walmart Parking lots
- Majority permit overnight parking, but 20% don’t. Avoid these Walmarts: http://www.walmartlocator.com/no-park-walmarts/
- Free: Couchsurfing. Okay, it’s not camping, but craving a bed or mattress is bound to happen. We haven’t used couchsurfing yet, but it has pretty good reviews.
- $400 per month / $4,800 per year
- Varies on your situation, this cost is based on HealthCare.gov quotes.
- Two 30’s (married) adults in fairly good health
- Average insurance plans
- Includes dental + vision
- $120 per month / $1,440 per year
- Varies depending on your state and specific situation
- Average National car insurance per year is $900
CELL PHONES + INTERNET
- $140 per month / $1,680 per year
Although the idea is to be in the parks and connect to the land, we are working and require an internet connection. Luckily we have a partner who handles the logistics of our business. This estimate is based on an average user with basic data. Our plan is a little more expensive, see below.
- $200 monthly
- 2 iPhones + mobile hotspot on shared plan
- When hotspot fails:
- Public libraries
- Coffee shops (worst case scenario, not wanting to pay for coffee)
- Park lodges
- Some parks offer internet for a small fee ($5 – $10 per 24 hrs)
- For example: Yosemite lodge http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/internet.htm)
HAWAII & SAMOA
*Still have a lot of research to do on these, below is what we discovered so far
- 2 National Parks in Hawaii, 1 in Samoa (which is further away that Hawaii in the Pacific)
- Includes four round-trip flights between islands
- Camping is way more expensive and requires a special permit
- Lodging + meals per day per couple = $350 average
- We plan on travel hacking our way to a cheaper price
There are 8 National Parks in Alaska, and for weather reasons it is better to visit during the summertime. It may take up to 25 days to do this part and this is probably the most expensive part of the quest. The calculation is based on quotes given by tourism agencies in Alaska, considering the following facts:
- Alaska is over twice the size of Texas (663,268 square miles)
- Only 3 parks have access by car
- 4 of them have to be accessed by bush plane
- For Glacier Bay National Park you can take a boat cruise from Seattle.
- This is a reference link to a couple who visited all 59 parks and listed the days of the tour:
- Travel hacking our way to a cheaper price
- Roundtrip flight from Miami + lodging
- Again, travel hacking our way to a cheaper price
$36,742 / 12 months
Ways to Save
That number can look daunting, but there are ways to save and reduce the price by $10,000+.
- Obviously if you’re going solo you could cut out a plane ticket here and an insurance plan there.
- Consider camping 100% free by utilizing National Forests, freecampsites.net, sleeping in your car and couchsurfing. That alone would shave $5,400 off your budget.
- How simple can you go? Maybe you don’t need a cell phone.
- Travel hacking
Throughout this journey, we’ll share more posts on living a nomadic lifestyle and offer additional resources to become a pro at travel hacking and living cheaply. We’re not pros yet, but we’ll share what we learn along the way.
- Emergency + Savings
- Not to get all preachy, but keep your emergency fund and savings alive as much as humanly possibly. There will be those fun unexpected adventures, some not so fun, but hopefully they’ll pass and become material to laugh about in the future.
- That said, emergency and saving funds are important wherever you are, quest or no.
Let us know your thoughts, would you add or change anything?