We love the National Parks, I hope that’s already clear. But there are a lot of reasons we love them – one of those reasons is that they are affordable vacations. This is a cost breakdown on one particular trip. It is a little dated, in that we only had one child with us on this one – Little Man was almost two and we hadn’t adopted yet. He eats a lot more now. We also drive a more spacious but less fuel-efficient vehicle with the larger family. (On the flip side, the price of gas was a fair bit higher then than now, per google.)
The exercise of keeping careful track of the costs of these trips is the first step towards having the kids handle the budget for a similar trip in the future. If we’re not doing it, it will be hard to show them! And we want them to take this work on in the future so that they learn some important life skills about planning and managing a budget, as well as choosing the options you want when money doesn’t grow on trees.
Methodology notes: Food that we bring from our own kitchen is not included in the cost. Why? Because we would have eaten that food at home anyway – this is intended to measure costs above what we would have spent if we sat on our butts at home. As for auto maintenance, this is a guesstimate based on costs such as oil changes and other routine maintenance. It does not include depreciation based on the mileage.
Cost breakdown on Carlsbad + Guadalupe Mountains National Park trip.
Food: $27.87 (Mostly McDonalds, we could have done better, but slides are important to Little Man)
Park Entrance Fees: $20 – Cave Tour; $10 – Guadalupe Mountains Entrance
Camping Fees: $24 – for one night at Pine Springs and two at Dog Canyon. We slept in the back country at Carlsbad Caverns.
Auto Maintenance: ~$15 (891 miles – including family visit. This is only 195 miles more than just doing the family visit)
Misc: $12 – Audio Tour rental for caves
Climax of a long game of poke the bubble.Total Cost for 5 days, 4 nights and two parks (plus detour for family visit) = $228.22. That’s pretty cost effective a vacation in my book!