Our family just wrapped up 9 wonderful days driving through the Southwest! We visited 10 parks across 3 states, and experienced some of the most stunning country we’d ever encountered.
We planned this trip on a budget, and I’m excited to share what we learned.
#1: Enjoy the low season
Visiting in the low season (we when in mid-November) not only meant we avoided the crowds, but also meant that accommodations were far less expensive. Due to weather, we chose not to camp (nights were in the single digits Fahrenheit), but motels and B&Bs were discounted as much as 75% compared to summer prices. We also braved the cold by testing out our latest First Peak layers, like our snuggly Seawool flannel! Check it out today.
#2: Fly through Vegas
We found that starting in Vegas allowed us to maximize our time in this region. Flights through Vegas are consistently inexpensive (thanks, casinos!), so it actually came out cheaper to fly there and rent a car, rather than renting a car in California and driving (we no longer own a car).
#3: Pack meals
There aren’t many dining options in national and state parks, and what does exist comes at a premium price. We significantly cut costs by doing a big grocery run at the start of the trip for all breakfast and lunch supplies, and then picked up dinner supplies as we went. The added benefit was the flexibility it afforded us with our toddler: if we were coming back from a hike right before nap time, we could easy make some sandwiches and hit the road, rather than needing to seek out food.
#4: Get an ‘America the Beautiful’ pass
These national park passes are a major cost-saver! For $80, we get unlimited access to all national parks for a year ($20for a year if you’re traveling with someone over 65), compared to paying $30-35 per park at face value. We’re already thinking of what other parks we want to visit in the next 12 months!
#5: Consider your state license plates
Many state parks offer discounted entry if you have in-state plates. As you plan, if you realize you’ll be seeing most of your state parks in Utah, for example, see if your rental provider can give you a car with Utah plates.