Author Topic: Budgeting for food and gas while traveling  (Read 2239 times)

FiguringItOut

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Budgeting for food and gas while traveling
« on: July 31, 2015, 10:15:03 AM »
How do you budget for food while traveling? 

I am taking my two teens on a 4 day road trip.  Hotels are booked.  Few planned activities like museum and such are counted.  Few optional activities are accounted for.  I can estimate what my road tolls will be (a lot, we have expensive roads around here).

What's left are gas and food. The trip is going to be approx 700 miles over 4 days / 3 nights.  So I'm estimating about $100 for gas (approx 28 mpg @ $4/gallon - mileage is slightly underestimated and cost of gas is slightly overestimated, so $100 should be way more than enough).  Is this right?

But what about food?  The hotels we are staying at do not have breakfasts and for two out of three nights there will be no fridge in the room.  I can bring some dry type of snacks, but can't bring milk for cereal for example.  For lunch and dinner, not really sure what food options we will have.  I try to avoid places like McD, IHOP and Applebees, but not really sure what local places will be available and how much they will cost.  We will be hiking one day so will need to pack something to bring with us on a hike.  What can I bring from home that will keep for two days and then keep in the backpack during a half day hike?

So how do you estimate food expense when you don't know what eating out options will be available?






mandy_2002

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Re: Budgeting for food and gas while traveling
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2015, 10:36:13 AM »
For my non-breakfast hotel rooms, I enjoy bringing English muffins, bagels, and/or bread, with peanut butter (jar or packages) and jelly (in packages, so no refrigeration is needed).  You could also pack a toaster if you need these sort of things toasted to enjoy and the hotels don't have them.  The peanut butter and jelly can be used for sandwiches for the hike.  I also enjoy the portability of apples, bananas, peaches, etc. for this type of trip. 

For snacks, your favorite granola, cookies, chips, or crackers packed into small snack sized zipper bags are handy, or if you feel like splurging, the 100 calorie pack section of stores have sweet and savory options. 

Unless you're going to a fancy place, steakhouse, or Hawaii, a decent meal can typically be had for $10/person, and can many times be split (stick to water as a drink). 

I'm a solo traveler, but for myself, I typically budget $30/day unless I'll be in Hawaii or a Disney park for some reason ($5 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, and $15 for dinner). 

Your gas estimate seems reasonable.  I always like round numbers in my estimates.

choppingwood

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Re: Budgeting for food and gas while traveling
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2015, 10:39:40 AM »
If you take a cooler and replace the ice each day, you can take most foods that you would keep in a fridge. Failing that, breakfasts at the hotel can include muffins and fruit. A loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter go a long way.

For restaurant meals, I think you need to decide how many meals you want to eat out, and the price range, and set a per diem. It will depend on where you are travelling. Big cities cost a lost, smaller places cost less. It will be similar to the relative cost of hotels.

FiguringItOut

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Re: Budgeting for food and gas while traveling
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2015, 09:35:50 AM »
So, I'm back from the trip.

Originally on paper, somehow the budget for this thing came to around $1,400.  I have since changed my spreadsheet and now don't even remember how that was worked out.

The post fact reality is a total of $800 for 4 day trip for 3 people (me and two teens).
Of this hotels were $365.  I overpaid $50 for the last night.  Did it to get extra free night stay certificate.  Not sure if this was worth it for the future, but it's done so no going back. Food was $230.  This included groceries I got before the trip for the cooler.  Ended up throwing out about half of that. Oh well.  We had free breakfasts at hotels, and had couple lunches and dinners out.  Gas and tolls were $100.  And remaining $200 were for parking at couple different state parks, museum entrance fees, make your own glass ornament for kids, and couple other small things.  All in all not bad, considering it came to about half of the original budget due to change of some activities and overstimating food and eating out expenses.

I also got us two new board games, but I am not including that into the cost of the trip.  We like board games and would have gotten them anyway, will continue using them for a long time, and they went into the household expense category.

mom22boys

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Re: Budgeting for food and gas while traveling
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2015, 10:11:34 AM »
It's nice to see another post on this, since I just got back from a 5 day/4 night with my two boys.  I wanted to compare prices and see how we did.  :-)  Here's my breakdown for our trip, for which I originally budgeted $500.

KOA cabin - $297.74 (4 nights)
Fuel - 51.54 (about 500 miles)
Entertainment - $117.33 (state park pass good for the whole year, rocking climbing wall for the day it poured rain, lighthouse and boat tour)
Food - $124.40 (for breakfast and lunch we brought food like cereal and sandwiches, ate out for supper each night plus some DQ treats.....it is VACATION after all)
Other - $91.98 (bought sweatshirts for the boys after they got soaked by a wave from the lake, we were too far from the cabin and I obviously did NOT plan ahead and bring extras. High cost due to tourist prices on the sweatshirts.  But, I technically could include this in my clothing budget)

I was over my budget, but I know the next time I could cut this down even more (NO sweatshirts, bring more food from home).

FiguringItOut

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Re: Budgeting for food and gas while traveling
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2015, 11:09:33 AM »
It's nice to see another post on this, since I just got back from a 5 day/4 night with my two boys.  I wanted to compare prices and see how we did.  :-)  Here's my breakdown for our trip, for which I originally budgeted $500.

KOA cabin - $297.74 (4 nights)
Fuel - 51.54 (about 500 miles)
Entertainment - $117.33 (state park pass good for the whole year, rocking climbing wall for the day it poured rain, lighthouse and boat tour)
Food - $124.40 (for breakfast and lunch we brought food like cereal and sandwiches, ate out for supper each night plus some DQ treats.....it is VACATION after all)
Other - $91.98 (bought sweatshirts for the boys after they got soaked by a wave from the lake, we were too far from the cabin and I obviously did NOT plan ahead and bring extras. High cost due to tourist prices on the sweatshirts.  But, I technically could include this in my clothing budget)

I was over my budget, but I know the next time I could cut this down even more (NO sweatshirts, bring more food from home).

mom22boys, you did good.  Better than I did at any rate. It does seem that food is the main difference though.  Where did you go if you don't mind answering?  We were near Finger Lakes in Upstate NY.  Visited Corning Museum of Glass, Cornell University and Watkins Glen State Park.  The park has an amazing Gorge Trail that we did. 

I have problems cutting down food costs.  My girls are basically going between me with my cooler full of snacks and such to their dad who does IHOPs and the like for lunches and dinners every day.  So when they travel with me, it's hard to rein them in.  It's work in progress for sure.  The last day lunch on our way home was almost $60 at Applebees.  And we got sidetracked by 2 hours because of it.  So by the time we were leaving the place it would've been the time we were to be arriving home.  And of course we got stuck in NYC traffic at 5pm.  I was not happy to say the least. 

Other than food though, I was happy with my extra/misc costs.  All activities were planned for were exactly what was expected.  I did forget to mention that I got them both Cornell University sweatshirts as well, but those were part of the clothing budget and was planned anyway so I didn't include them.  I did have to pay $10 to park at Cornell when we visited and took a tour and I didn't expect that, but there was no way around it.  You need permit to park and permit is $10.

With hotels, I need to be more careful with bookings next time as well.  Like I said, I did overpay for the last night. 

Nothing I can do about gas and tolls; 750 mile trip and tolls are what they are. 

 

mom22boys

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Re: Budgeting for food and gas while traveling
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2015, 11:35:32 AM »
Thanks Figuring!  I know I could have spent less, but I was pretty happy over all with what I spent. I didn't think you did bad either, especially with the hotel.  Even with paying the extra $50, I still think you did great.

We went to Duluth, MN which is right on Lake Superior.  We spent almost 2 days down by the lake just walking, biking, picking rocks, and me relaxing as I listened to the waves crash on the beach. We spent two more days exploring Jay Cooke and Gooseberry Falls state parks. We also did a lot of hiking. We were hiking with another family for a bit, and both the other mom and I said how we felt cheated by our parents. We both grew up in MN and never had been to these awesome state parks. It made me realize how much slow travel I want to do after FIRE.   

We did have 1 day of pouring rain, which impacted my budget because I had to pay for some unexpected inside excursions.  And of course those darn sweatshirts!  I could have kicked myself for not bringing an extra on along in the car.  Oh well!  I didn't want the boys to freeze.

I hear ya on the food too!  My boys are just beginning to get into the rhythm that 'mom rarely goes out to eat.' But I'm the same boat.....their dad will take them out a lot when they are with him. I definitely could have been cheaper with the food, and just grilled hotdogs back at the cabin.  Maybe next time.

Next year I'm thinking of either taking the boys to Montana or South Dakota. We need to have our official family meeting soon and decide. :-) I'm also kinda considering buying a cheap light-weight camper, like maybe a pop-up. We used to do this when I was married, but it's just different (and harder) now that I'm single again. But....heck, if I can FIRE, why can't I handle getting a cheap camper and make good memories with my boys?