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Route 66 on a budget – how we kept costs down

Route 66 on a budget – how we kept costs down

Route 66 on a budget - how we ket costs down on this US road trip of a lifetimeCan you do Route 66 on a Budget?

Route 66 on a Budget?  Can it be done?

As always we travel on a pretty tight budget.  Our Route 66 trip wasn’t the most budget of all our trips that we’ve taken and in fact I should go through my statements and find out a total cost (I’ll be shocked I’m sure!), but we still kept a tight hold of our purse strings and I thought I’d share our tips for this.

Route 66 Hotels and Motels

Accommodation is plentiful and as always in the USA rooms can normally fit four people in 2 double beds.  Now this isn’t perfect when travelling with teens, but for short term trips it’s ok with some pillows to divide the bed!  It’s much better than needing two rooms and keeps costs down per head.

One of the nice things about travelling Route 66 is the fact that you don’t always have to be in faceless chain hotels and there are a lot of independently owned ‘Mom and Pop’ motels to be found.  Now some aren’t as great as others so I’d advise to either check out rooms before you take them or read online for travel reviews.


We went for a mix of both chains and ‘mom and pop’ motels.  The disadvantage of the chains is that they might be on the outskirts of the town as it was when we stayed in Gallup which means it’s a bit trickier to go for a wander.  We stayed in a Motel 6 in Williams AZ though and it was very central.


The iconic motels aren’t always very cheap.  For example in Tucumcari, NM which is well known for the Blue Swallow Motel we decided to stay just across the road at Motel Safari where it had a great vibe, lovely neon lights too and was much cheaper.  We still got the benefit of being able to see the Blue Swallow Motel all lit up as well.

blue swallow motel in Tucumcari AZ
Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari AZ


Some things just have to be done and we stayed in the Wigwam Motel at Holbrook, AZ.  It was actually probably the cheapest night we had on the road even though it’s an icon, but inside you could see why – it was a bit shabby inside.  Had to be done though!

wigwam motel on route 66
Wigwam Motel in Holbrook AZ


We always looked ahead to where we thought we’d stay and booked online.  You could just turn up and see if you can get better rates, but we like to have everything sorted in advance so always took that route.  I like to use HotelsCombined as it scans all the big booking sites and so got us the best rates.



If you like to have an ‘offline’ guide for use in the car about where to eat and stay on Route 66 I highly recommend a guide like this one.  (UK link)



When breakfast is provided – eat it!  If we were in a chain hotel then we’d often have breakfast included and we always made sure to eat it.  We’d also make sure to take a bit of fruit to eat as a snack and we’d then be ok until lunch time.

Another tip we have is to have some plastic bowls and spoons with you and then you can buy some cereal and milk – great for when breakfast isn’t provided or just for a snack later in the day.


We visited supermarkets for lunch mostly and to stock up on snacks.  Often we’d buy large sandwiches that would fill up at least 3 of us!  Having snacks for the road is important to keep costs down and avoid that slump when all you want is a treat to keep you going – we tried to have fruit and crisps (chips) in the car as well as drinks.

girl eating a sandwich

Giant Sandwiches!


We did support local businesses and had ice creams every so often (it was so hot – we had to!).  We found that the US was really inexpensive in this respect.

milkshakes at the seligman snow cap cafe
Milkshakes from The Snow Cap in Seligman AZ


We often ate out on Route 66 just because it was more convenient for us as we never had food preparing facilities in our accommodation.  Again, we found that eating out was still not that expensive, even for our main meal in the evening and so was not a huge expense.  As we don’t really eat out often it was quite a change for us!

We looked for small locally owned restaurants and always had positive experiences there.

Tacos in New mexico
Taco Tuesday in New Mexico!


Route 66 Attractions

To keep costs down, have a think before going about which Route 66 attractions you’d like to do and see.  Most places have websites now so check prices before getting there.  There’s nothing worse than arriving and finding out it was more than you budgeted!


A lot of the attraction of Route 66 is quirkiness.  From giant roadside animals, to the oversize cross, so much is just there to be experienced and looked at.  The people also make the road an amazing place – we enjoyed having a chat with  Angel who we had seen on the extras of the ‘Cars’ dvd and knew had been influential in getting route 66 back in the hearts and minds of travellers again.

meeting barber angel delgadillo in seligman
Chatting with the local celebrity Angel Delgadillo in Seligman


Some of the towns were just lovely to walk around and explore which is nice and free- we particularly liked Tucumcari which had lots of murals on the walls and Williams was really nice and had a lovely feel to it too.  Seligman is definitely not one to be missed with loads of old cars and nice souvenir shops to look around.


Some attractions are a little off Route 66 so bear that in mind with your costings (fuel) and also timings.

Meteor Crater is a little off Route 66


We took advantage of nature lots and did lots of the state parks which are generally good value days out.  If you’re doing a lot of state parks then a pass is generally recommended – we didn’t really need to do this as it wasn’t cost effective for our small portion of Route 66.

The Painted Desert is on Route 66




Overall Route 66 can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be!  I hope you find these tips useful if you’re taking a road trip in the near future.



Interested in Route 66?  Check out my other posts:

Finding the Mother Road and our journey on Route 66 begins!

Arizona Route 66 Attractions

Exploring Route 66 in Texas

New Mexico on Route 66

Visiting the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

Route 66 to Grand Canyon


How to benefit from UK airline loyalty schemes and score the holiday of a lifetime!

How to benefit from UK airline loyalty schemes and score the holiday of a lifetime!

Anse Vata Bay, Noumea, New Caledonia {Explore}
Eustaquio Santimano via Compfight

I think everyone has probably heard of airmiles. You save them up and spend them on flights to pretty cool places, or hot places as I’d prefer given we’re in the midst of winter! Although I’d heard of the term and the concept I have to admit I hadn’t really given much thought to actually saving them or even if that was what was available in the UK.

Before we set off on our first adventure I came across a credit card offer that promised 20,000 Avios (our equivalent of Airmiles) if you spent a certain amount.  I figured this would be a great start to getting the miles and went ahead and started off on my saving journey.  When the points came through and I was excited to have a flight paid for, I started looking into possible holidays.  You can imagine my dismay when I started plugging in destinations such as New York and the price for a flight there was almost the same as booking it without points.  You see, we have incredibly high airport taxes here and they still need paid even if you ‘pay’ with points.  I started to wonder why on earth anyone would bother saving them!

The points sat languishing in my account until we came back from our adventure and I looked into it again.  I had a decent sum, I needed to make sure they at least weren’t wasted!  Eventually I came across a really helpful blog called Head For Points that was a huge resource and was extremely helpful in getting my head around the scheme, the different ways I could save and some decent hacks to enable me to get a flight that wasn’t a huge price!

The key points I learned were:

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Europe in a campervan – our pre trip costs

Europe in a campervan – our pre trip costs

europe in a camper vanWhen we decided that we’d travel around Europe in a campervan for our big trip, we felt it would be quite a budget way of doing it.

Of course, travel budgets are bandied about quite a lot and I’ve said before that we intend this trip to be at the very budget end of the scale.  We’ll try to detail our costs as the trip progresses so anyone else wanting to try to do this kind of trip has some idea of how we did it (edit – we weren’t very good at this, sorry!).  It must be said though that how we do it will probably not be ideal for everyone!

Europe in a campervan

So this post will detail our pre trip costs as when you are in a campervan that is a big part of the budget!  Some costs have been guesstimates as to be honest I’ve been a bit rubbish at keeping track of it all.

Again, what we’re travelling in won’t suit everyone, so if you’d like a spanking new campervan take our figures with a pinch of salt!  But if you’re happy with an older van and are looking to buy in the UK read on…

Campervan £4000

europe in a campervan - our pre trip costsCampervans can be expensive depending on what you want and you can spend way more than what we did.  We really wanted at least a 5 berth camper so both kids could have their own space and we found a 25 year old van that looks kind of tired inside, but which James assures me isn’t too bad mechanically.

Gloria is the name of our van and she was amazing!  She was an old Fiat Dethleffs Globetrotter.  If you want to see more about her and have a nosy inside click here.


Campervan Insurance – £450

we went with Adrian Flux and it includes breakdown assistance.  Not great cover for longer trips as only covers 2 months at a time in europe (although I guess I could increase it for a further premium) but was fine for our needs as we want to explore the UK more too.  Having the breakdown cover was great for peace of mind!


Campervan repairs, MOT, Tax, additions, extras – £640

Solar panels, fabric for curtains, bits and bobs that you *need* for a camper trip all comes here.

MOT was £120 (phew!), car tax for the year was £220.  We probably spent another £300 on extras for the van.


Travel Insurance – £100

I bought multi trip cover for the periods we’re out of the UK (make sure the policy covers your trip length, ours covers up to 90 days out of the country.  You might find that as EU citizens you don’t need it (make sure you have the EHIC though), but we felt like it was important for us.

World Nomads has often been quoted as a good travel insurance for longer term trips so if you’re not an EU citizen it might be worth getting a quote from them.


Clothes and shoes –  £200

I guess we’d buy this stuff anyway, but we spent more on shoes than we would normally I think, so I’ll add that which is about £200


Campervan Guide Books and planning materials, site subscriptions. – £170

We have invested in some books with sites we can park up in while we’re in Europe.  There are many Aires and motorhome parking areas, but knowing where they are is another thing and these books will hopefully save some diesel while we drive round looking for them!  They include the grid references of the stops so really useful   We got a couple, we have the French Aire book and the european CamperStop book.  We also recently have bought the France Passion book which for £25 gives us access to farms in France where we can stay overnight for free – another idea that we’re excited to try out.


There is also a good site we signed up to called WildCamping which has a database of UK sites that are possible to wild camp in.  The UK is not like the rest of mainland europe where campervans and motorhomes are encouraged, so I think this will be a good resource for us.  There’s also a good forum with lots of helpful members too 🙂  £10


Guidebooks (I picked up second hand Lonely Planet guides for a couple of quid each) and maps too – £15

Memberships to housesitting and workaway sites – £60

Overall spent – £170

Tech – £90

We bought a new sat nav for £90 but other than that, the tech is stuff we have already and we’ve not bought anything else specifically for this trip.

Days out memberships – £170

We renewed our English Heritage and National Trust memberships which cost £170.   I think we’ll get our moneys worth here though.


TOTAL – £5820

Not as bad as I was expecting!!  But certainly interesting when you think that you could spend that money on flights to a cheap part of the world to live for a bit.  That may be another adventure for another time though 😉


If you’d like to see more about our family gap year (ok 5 month trip!) travelling around Europe in a campervan then click here for all of the posts.


Pin for later!

europe in a camper van


What’s your travel budget?

What’s your travel budget?

I’ve hinted before that we’ll be on a *very* budget trip this year but I haven’t quite said much about it all.  There’s a couple of reasons for that, firstly I didn’t know if we’d be able to save enough (we may still be short – we’ll see!) and also, I don’t know if it’s completely unrealistic.

There are a lots of posts around the internet which spout numbers and ideas for how much it costs to travel and what everyone’s travel budget is.  It’s all relative though and what would be a perfect amount to live on for one person would be far too much for another and a crazy amount for someone else!  So please bear in mind that my numbers may be laughable, they may be completely unrealistic and they may also be for a style of travel that would not suit everyone.  We’re prepared to go for an extremely budget style because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be going.  Gotta be worth a try huh?

Pre trip costs. 

I’m compiling a post that will detail our costs that we’ve had so far, but I think it will be fair to say that including the camper, insuarance, repairs and bits and bobs we’ve needed we’re looking at around £6 – 7000  we’ve spent so far (maybe I’ll get a shock when I actually tot it up!).  Once I know the costs completely, the van needs an MOT which may throw up some problems we need to fix to make the van legal, I’ll post about it.

Monthly travel budget.

This is where I have no idea and I’m guessing completely.  We’re budgeting £1000 (just over $1500) per month.  This sounded ok until you work out that it equates to around £33 ($50 ish) a day.  Yikes!  We have our roof over our heads already so this is for camping/parking costs, fuel, food and things to do.  We’re aiming to travel slowly and not go far between stops, we want to shop and eat local, be out and about in nature.  Free stuff.  We’re not big on eating out anyway, so that wouldn’t likely be a daily thing even if we could budget it in.  While we’re in the UK we’ll utilise free days out, and our National Trust and English Heritage membership, but in France and the rest of europe we might find it’s not as cheap.  Museum entries add up!

I am hopefully going to keep records of what we spend, and also going to get the kids to help out with the budget and the planning of our days too so they are involved with it all.  I’ll also try and post some updates as to how we’re doing.  If anything, we’ll see if it’s too crazy a budget or not.  What a public service huh?

So there we are.  I’m a little nervous posting this, as I just have a feeling we’ll spend way more, and I don’t want people to laugh at me!  But we’re determined to try and try we will.  I’m always interested in how much these dreams and adventures cost people, so it feels only fair I should share our costs too.

Saving in our sealed pot – an update

Saving in our sealed pot – an update

Way back in April (which feels ages ago now!) we started saving up in our ‘sealed pot’ other wise known as a campervan money box called Fillmore and you may remember it was to be for an experience like sea kayaking in Cornwall.  Something that we’d love to splurge on but when faced with a mornings activities that would set us back over £100 we thought we’d decide we can’t even begin to contemplate.  We wanted experiences, not things, but at the same time some experiences come at a price and we know this trip will be a budget trip, no matter how I dream otherwise!

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