Calculating the travel budget for a West Coast USA trip is quite difficult since it depends largely on how much you can spend on accommodation and meals: you can take a cheap trip to the West Coast, or on the other hand, you can spend more than expected in your Western US tour.
On this post, we will help you estimating how much cost your West Coast itinerary, no matter if you travel to Western US 20 days, 15 days or 10 days as we did.
WEST COAST USA TRIP COST BREAKDOWN
HOW MUCH DO THE FLIGHTS TO WEST COAST AMERICA COST?
One of the most important expenses to consider is the flights cost to the West Coast. There are three main airports to fly to on the West Coast. These are Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
This three cities are quite far from each other, so before buying flights to the West Coast I recommend you plan your itinerary. For this, we have written this guide to planning the best travel itinerary to the West Coast, according to your preferences.
If you don’t have too much time, I recommend you not to take a round-trip flight, since on a one-way tour you will have the opportunity to discover many more interesting places.
In our case, we took a flight from New York to Las Vegas and a return flight from San Francisco to New York.
New York – Las Vegas flight cost = € 245 per person
San Francisco – New York flight cost = € 220 per person
Obviously, the price of the flights will depend entirely on the place where you start, but from my experience I recommend you book with approximately three months in advance, since it is usually when statistically flights are cheaper.
HOW MUCH DOES RENTING A CAR IN West Coast America COST?
The next expense we have to consider in our west coast US travel budget is the price of the rental car.
Public transport communications are not exactly the strength of the United States, especially in the West Coast. Public transport is almost nonexistent, so the best way to travel to the West Coast is by renting a car.
We rent a car for 10 days. The car rental price was € 380. In addition, the drop off-fee for returning the car in a different airport from the origin was € 45. Of course, we hired a full coverage insurance with a price of € 200 for 10 days. However, even if the travel budget for your US West Coast trip increases, do not skimp on the car insurance.
Total cost for transportation = € 725 (rental car for 10 days)
ADVICE FOR SAVING MONEY WITH CAR RENTAL
I take this opportunity to recommend that you NEVER HIRE THE INSURANCE THROUGH A RENTAL CAR SEARCHER. Book it directly with the company to which you rent the car once you are in your destination.
It is true that car rental searchers offer considerably better prices than the own rental car companies. However, the insurance provided by the search engines is not the same and in case of an accident, you will have more problems claiming the funds to this “third insurance company” hired by the generic rental car searchers.
In short: hire the car in the search engine to get the cheapest car and get the insurance directly at the counter when you go to pick up the rental car.
HOW MUCH DOES GASOLINE COST ON THE WEST COAST US?
Although it is true that the gas is more expensive in the West Coast than in the rest of the United States, if we compare with countries that are not oil producers (as Spain for example) the price of the gasoline is quite cheap. This will help to have a lower US west coast budget than if we compare it with other countries.
On our 10-day West Coast trip, we drove more than 2.400 miles and spent just $ 173 on gasoline (€ 150).
Total cost for gasoline = € 150 (4,000 km)
HOW MUCH DOES THE US VISA COST?
If you are from Spain or one of these countries, you do not need a visa to visit the United States, but a travel authorization called “ESTA”.
The price of the ESTA is $ 17, but be careful as there are many unofficial websites shown in the first results on Google search charging more than three times its price.
The only official website where you can process your ESTA is this one.
Total cost for the ESTA = € 15 / person
HOW MUCH DOES THE TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR THE UNITED STATES COST?
Living in the USA, I know how important it is to have a good travel insurance in the United States. The healthcare cost in this country is huge and if unfortunately you have to be hospitalized and you do not have insurance, the bill may be over $ 10,000.
Although I always recommend hiring a good travel insurance wherever you go, for the US it is recommended to have an insurance with an extraordinary coverage (never consider taking anything that covers below $ 30,000).
The best insurance we found for the United States, thanks to its great coverage at a very affordable price is MONDO, since it has a medical coverage of $ 100,000.
The price of the travel insurance for West Coast America was € 22.77. However, you can get it cheaper as we have a discount for our readers.
Total cost for travel insurance = 0.95 x 22.77 = € 22 / person
ACCOMMODATION COST FOR WEST COAST AMERICA – HOTELS AND CAMPGROUNDS
Depending on your preferences, accommodation on the West Coast will make your trip quite cheap or very expensive.
Keep in mind that the price of a room in a motel on the West Coast for two people will be around € 150. If it is a hotel, approximately € 250.
However, camping is very cheap and the West Coast is the paradise of those camping lovers. You can pitch your tent overlooking amazing natural parks, and only for about € 20.
Sometimes camping is free, since in the United States there are several free campsites, even if you travel in caravan. If you want to find a free campsite, we suggest you give aa look at this website.
We only camped during our trip: some paid camping inside national parks, and others free. In total we spent $ 75.
Total cost for accommodation = € 32 / person
Here you will find the best accommodations for the West Coast.
- HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel: Hostel in the heart of San Francisco that has both shared and private rooms at a very low price. Free WIFI. Includes breakfast and a kitchen for those who want to cook.
- Buena Vista Motor Inn: Hotel with complimentary parking in the middle of Lombard street. Wi-Fi and breakfast included. Totally safe area to walk at night. Just a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf.
- Venetian: Venice-themed casino resort with gondoliers included.
- Circus Circus: Casino hotel with circus theme, with its own indoor amusement park that runs throughout the year.
- Stratosphere: Casino hotel that includes vertigo attractions at 350 meters high.
- Bellagio: Inspired by Italy, it is one of the most luxurious resort and casinos in Las Vegas.
- New York – New York: Resort casino inspired by the big city where we can find a miniature statue of liberty.
- Paris Las Vegas: Perfect casino hotel for honeymoon or couple trips with miniature Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.
- Excalibur: You will find yourself in the Middle Ages in this casino resort within its castles.
- Planet Hollywood: Modern hotel and casino where you will feel the essence of the West Coast.
- Hollywood Travelodge: Located very close to the walk of fame. Includes breakfast, Wi-Fi and free parking.
- Samesun Venice Beach: The best option if you want to enjoy the Venice boardwalk and its beach. They have bicycle rental service.
- Cal Mar Hotel Suites: If you prefer to be close to Santa Monica beach this option is very well priced.
If we visit the South Rim, the most touristic edge of the Grand Canyon, it is quite important to stay in the Grand Canyon Village, since two of the main attractions of this jewel of Western US is their sunrise and sunset. So, the closer we are to the edge, the easier it will be for us.
We camped in the Grand Canyon, at the Mather Campground on the South Rim.
If you prefer to stay at a hotel, all accommodations at Grand Canyon Village are run by the company Xanterra, and you can make reservations on whose website.
As we commented, if you visit Havasu Falls, it is compulsory to spend at least one night in one of its campsites, since you cannot make excursions exclusively for one day. Book both the tour and the camping permit from the official website of the Havasupai Indian Reservation.
- Hotel Santa Barbara: One of the best hotels in Santa Barbara with a great location in the city center and very close to the beach. Includes Wi-Fi, breakfast and free parking.
- The Eagle Inn: On the beach of Santa Barbara and in a beautiful historic building. The price is a bit higher but it includes a jacuzzi in the room.
If you want to enjoy dawn with the best views of the valley, I recommend that you camp in the Monument Valley. The campground is called The View Campground and the only way to reserve it is by calling +1 435-727-5802.
This campsite belongs to The View Hotel, a hotel run by the Navajo Indians with equally amazing views.
- Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell: This hotel is located in the center of Page. As it is highly valued, you will have to book it well in advance, since rooms tend to run out being such a small and tourist place at the same time.
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson: Without a doubt the best hotel in Page, both the price and the charm of its rooms. It is not in the center but is closer to Horseshoe Bend.
If camping is not your thing and you prefer to stay in one of the best hotels in the West, then I recommend the Best Western Ruby’s Inn, a historic hotel at the gates of the national park that also has a camping area.
- Staypineapple at Hotel Z: One of the best hotels in downtown San Diego. Modern design and quite affordable. It offers free bicycles to its customers.
- HI-San Diego Point Loma Hostel: Hostel with shared rooms, very good price and located next to the beach. Ideal if you visit San Diego with the intention of meeting other travelers.
The best place to stay in Joshua Tree is in one of its campsites. There are 4 campsites throughout the national park that can be reserved, and another 4 first-come, first-served campground. All the information regarding the Joshua Tree campgrounds can be found on the National Parks Service website.
- Stovepipe Wells Village: We found this historic purest WWestern-styleaccommodation in the middle of the desert in Death Valley that has been operating since 1926. Enjoy your pool and cold drinks during the hottest hours of the day. In addition, it also has a camping area for the more adventurous.
- The Inn at Death Valley: This Oasis in the middle of the desert is the most luxurious resort you’ll find here. Refresh between your palm garden and its spring water pool and relax in your spa area.
- The Ranch at Death Valley: Run by the same company as The Inn at Death Valley, it is the familiar and informal complement of the previous one. If you want to relax in a unique environment but without too many pretensions, this accommodation is for you.
There are no motels inside Mojave National Preserve. The only way to stay is camping. There are two family campsites, Hole-in-the-Wall Campground and Mid Hills Campground. Both are first-come, first-served campgrounds.
There is also the possibility of doing backcountry camping. If you want more information, check the US National Parks Service website.
There are no campsites or hotels within Arches National Park. The best thing to do is to stay somewhere close to the entrance:
- Red Cliffs Lodge: All rooms have views of the Colorado River. In addition, you have access to a private living room with a fridge and microwave. This accommodation is the best you’ll find if you visit Arches National Park from the west. Do not miss its western cinema museum.
- Under Canvas Moab: This accommodation is located east of Arches National Park and offers already pitched tents, some with private bathrooms. If you are not a fan of the camps, but you would like to try, this is your place. In addition to the bed linen, the hotel will lend you towels and a flashlight. A very comfortable way to learn a little about the American camper culture.
If you go to Yosemite National Park and not camp, you are missing more than half of the essence of the park. And it is at this park where the most popular camp in the country with the most camping culture in the world is located – Camp 4. Here, the hippie movement was born in the 60s and spread throughout the United States.
Getting to this camp is not easy, and we are preparing an article where we will reveal our infallible trick to secure a spot.
- Montecito Sequoia Lodge: This rustic mountain accommodation offers a place to relax, surrounded by lakes, forests and rugged peaks. It has a restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet.
- Bearpaw High Sierra Camp: This established camp has 6 canvas tents with wooden floors. The views of the surroundings are amazing. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the accommodation.
- Wuksachi Lodge: It is the emblematic hotel of Sequoia, an amazing mountain hut made of stone and cedar located in the heart of the park, surrounded by a powerful sequoia forest and towering peaks of the sierra.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO EAT IN THE WEST COAST?
This point, like the accommodation, can make your trip to West Coast USA quite cheap or very expensive. It is important to consider this in order to prepare the budget for your West Coast America trip.
If you want to eat in good restaurants, the price will be 15 – 20 $ for breakfast, 20 – 30 $ for lunch or dinner per person.
However, there are two ways to spend very little on food. One is eating fast food as it is the cheapest option in the United States and for $ 5 you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner, or the option that I recommend, cooking your own food.
If you are going to camp, I suggest you take a jetboil like the one we recommend in this post to pack an adventure backpack. Buy groceries when you arrive on the West Coast USA and cook during your trip.
We made a food purchase upon our arrival in Las Vegas, spending $ 185. Also, one day we enjoyed a breakfast buffet at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel for $ 24 per person.
Total expenses in diets = € 100 / person
TOURS AND ACTIVITIES
In addition to the flights and the car rental, where we spent the most during our trip to the West Coast was in tours and different activities. What you spend on activities along the West Coast will depend entirely on your itinerary.
In our case, the first expense we made was to buy the annual America the Beautiful pass, so we could get free access to all the national parks and some state parks. The price was $ 85. Once you have planned your West Coast itinerary, check if it is cheaper to get independent tickets or the annual pass. Here is a list of all the recreation areas which visit is included with the pass. Of course, it helped us to have a lower budget for West Coast US.
Other expenses during our trip were, for example, the Antelope Canyon tours. First, we made the Upper Antelope Canyon. Dani paid for the photo tour $ 130 and I took the standard one for $ 74. Then we made the Lower Antelope Canyon together at a price of $ 27 per person.
Finally, we also considered to fly over the Grand Canyon by plane, with a price of $ 150 per person. This tour made the US West Coast trip a bit more expensive, but it was worth it.
Total activities expenses = € 270 / person