Calculating a travel budget for your West Coast USA trip can be quite difficult as prices vary a lot – it largely depends on your accommodation and food allowance: 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.
In this post, we will help you estimate how much your West Coast USA itinerary will cost, whether if you travel for 10 (as we did), 15, or 20 days.
WEST COAST USA TRIP COST BREAKDOWN
HOW MUCH DO FLIGHTS TO THE US WEST COAST COST?
One of the most important expenses to consider is flight cost to get to the West Coast. The three main airports to fly in and out of the West Coast are Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas.
These three cities are quite far from each other, so I recommend planning your itinerary per preferences before buying your flights. For this, we have written this guide for planning the best West Coast travel itinerary.
If you don’t have too much time, I recommend buying a one-way flight into one city and out another, as this will give you more opportunities to discover interesting places.
In our case, we took an inbound flight from New York to Las Vegas and an outbound 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, flight cost will depend on your starting location. In terms of when to buy your flight, I recommend booking approximately three months in advance. Statistically (and from experience), it is usually the cheapest timeframe to buy flights.
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 a rental car.
Public transportation is not exactly the strength of the United States, especially in the West Coast. Generally, it is almost nonexistent, so the best way to travel to the West Coast is by renting a car.
Our rental for 10 days was €380. In addition, we were charged a €45 drop-off fee for returning it at a different airport. And, of course, we bought full coverage insurance for the 10 days for €200. Don’t skimp on car insurance even if that means an increase to your US West Coast travel budget.
Total cost for transportation = €725 (rental car for 10 days)
If you want to save money Rent an RV and you will have accommodation and transportation all in one.
ADVICE FOR SAVING MONEY on CAR RENTAL
Let me use this opportunity to recommend that you NEVER BUY INSURANCE THROUGH THE RENTAL CAR BOOKING WEBSITE. Instead, do so directly with the car rental company at the time of pick up.
Rental car booking sites generally offer considerably better prices than the rental companies themselves, however, the third party insurance brokered through them is not the same and are generally more problematic with claims in case of an accident.
In short: rent the car through the rental booking sites to get the cheapest rental price, and get insurance directly at the counter at the time of pick up.
HOW MUCH DOES GASOLINE COST ON THE WEST COAST of US?
While gasoline is more expensive on the west coast than the rest of the US, it is still considerably cheaper than non-oil producing countries.
On our 10-day West Coast trip, we drove more than 2,400 miles (4,000 km) and spent just $173 (€150) on gasoline.
Total cost for gasoline = €150 (4,000 km)
HOW MUCH DOES THE US VISA COST?
If you are from one of the countries on this list, you do not need a visa to visit the United States, only an electronic travel authorization called “ESTA”.
The price is $17, but be careful as many unofficial websites that show up at the top of your Google search results are charging more than three times its price.
This is the only official website to obtain your ESTA.
Total cost for the ESTA = € 15 / person
It is more important than most other places to have travel insurance for the United States. Although I always recommend purchasing the travel insurance wherever you go, the healthcare cost in this country is very high. In the unfortunate event of having to be hospitalized, your bill can easily exceed $10,000 without insurance. It is recommended to have an insurance policy with extraordinary coverage (never consider anything that covers below $300,000).
You can get the best quality-price insurance with World Nomads.
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 can be quite cheap or very expensive.
The price of a motel room for two people will be around €150, and approximately €250 if it is a hotel.
Alternatively, camping is very cheap and the West Coast is a paradise for the outdoor lovers. For about €20, you can pitch your tent overlooking amazing sites. In addition, there are free campsites around the US, even if you travel in a caravan!
Have a look at this website to find what’s around.
We only camped throughout our trip, some paid campsites inside the 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?
Like accommodation, your choice of sustenance can make your trip cheap or very expensive. It is important to consider this for your West Coast America trip budget.
If you want to eat at nice restaurants, it will be $15 – 20 for breakfast and $20 – 30 for lunch/dinner per person.
Nonetheless, there are two ways to spend much less on food. One is fast food, as it is the cheapest option in the United States. You can easily get breakfast, lunch, and dinner for about $5 each.
The other option that I recommend, would be cooking your own food.
If you are going to camp, I suggest taking a Jetboil like the one we recommended in this post to include with your adventure backpack.
We made a $185 grocery run upon our arrival in Las Vegas and cooked throughout our trip. One of the mornings, we splurged and enjoyed a breakfast buffet at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel for $24 per person.
Total expenses in sustenance = €100 / person
TOURS AND ACTIVITIES
In addition to flights and rental car, tours and activities were the next top expenses of our trip to the West Coast. What you spend on activities along the West Coast will depend entirely on your itinerary.
In our case, the first major expense was buying the America the Beautiful annual pass, so we could get access to all national parks and some state parks for one flat $85 fee. 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 is included in the pass. This saved us a significant amount of money on entry fees.
Other major expenses include optional tours, such as the ones we took at the Antelope Canyon and Grand Canyon.
We took a tour of both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Dani paid $130 for a photo tour and I paid $74 for the standard one at the Upper Antelope Canyon. The Lower Antelope Canyon cost us $27 each.
Our aerial tour over the Grand Canyon was $150 per person. This definitely made our US West Coast trip a bit more expensive, but it was worth it.
Total activities expenses = €270 / person