This summer was different to all other summers I’ve experienced so far. We did 9000 kilometres, we spent so many hours driving, exploring, and it was the biggest adventure of my life. America has so much to offer, but that can be the problem. Why? Well, there will be many decisions you will have to take. Like what national parks you shouldn’t miss out? What you should visit? Where to sleep? What accommodation is the best? What route you should take?
So many questions we haven’t had answers to, til we did it. Now, after three weeks on the road, I have at least some answers and I’m gonna share it with you guys. To make sure you can experience as much of USA as possible, during your vacations.
Obviously, it’s hard to choose which parks you shouldn’t miss out, that’s why I decided to give you more necessary information first. Like where to sleep, what you will need, how you can plan the route and so much more. Just keep on reading!
National park card
You will need an ‘America the beautiful’ card to be able to enter the parks. That usually costs 80 dollars to buy. You can get it for half of the price if you buy it online from people who already visited the parks, because its valid for one year. So, a lot of people are selling it after their adventure. We will sell it too, since we won’t need it in the next year. Plus, we want to help you save some dollars. Just click here and you can be saving money from the very beginning of your journey. Even though you may think it’s too much to buy this card, you cannot enter any national park without it. Trust me, you will probably visit more than 3 national parks, which already makes it worth it, since single ticket for car is 25 dollars.
Accommodation close to national parks, such as hotels or cabins can be really expensive. Prices are around 200 a night, which is seriously insane. That’s why you should always look for AirBnbs or a hotel which might be half hour, even an hour from the specific park. It would save you a tonne of money. Also, you can obviously camp in the parks, they provide showers and restrooms too, so that’s a really cool option.
If you don’t mind sleeping in the car, that can be option for one or two nights as well, since there are a lot of places you can park near the national parks. I personally wouldn’t sleep in the car in the park because of the animals. We slept once near Yosemite national park, close to a gas station at a free parking spot. But it also depends on the car you rent for the road. Because you will need to get enough rest to be able to explore stuff with enthusiasm. Oh, and obviously if you choose sleeping in the car, don’t worry about shower. You can always have one either in the park or even gas station since a few of them provide this kind of service.
Obviously, it depends on how much money you want to spend on food. But, understand that there are not too many restaurants in the national parks. You should always make sure you have water in the car and also some snacks. You can find useful tips for good restaurants with cheap food here. Or for more expensive, but really tasty food you can check out my favourite restaurants in this article.
Gas is much cheaper on the east coast, but since a lot of the national parks are on the west coast, you will probably be travelling there. When you are planning your route, you shouldn’t forget to add petrol expenses to the budget. Depending on how many kilometres you will do, you will probably need at least around 250-300 dollars on gas. Obviously, the type of the car matters too. Just make sure you always have enough petrol in the car whilst entering the national park since there isn’t many gas stations in the parks and they would be more expensive. The price for one gallon is usually around 3,79 to 4,35 dollars depending where on the west coast you are. In the east coast it is usually less than 3 dollars.
How to plan the route
For us, google maps was a huge help. Open your computer on google maps and if you know at least two or three stops where you want to go, it will plan the fastest route for you. You just need to push the button which says ‘add’ to add more lines for more places. For example, we knew we want to visit Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. We also knew we want to see Grand Canyon and Yosemite national park. Then we added all of these to google maps and it created the best route possible. Then we checked the route in more detail, and we saw which other national parks are close by and that’s how we created our plan.
In the end we saw Las Vegas, Hoover dam, Grand Canyon, Horseshoe, Yosemite National park, Sequoia national park, Los Angeles, Big Sur and San Francisco. More about that in the next article, so stay tuned!
If you have any questions don’t be afraid to hit me with them in the comments or in the email, I’m happy to help.