It was a glorious autumn weather forecast for Wednesday and Thursday in Moab,  Utah.  Sunny and mid 70’s, but how could we afford it?  The money game had recently been a bit tricky.  Yet we’ve been working nonstop…  and the red rocks and arches of Moab were calling us from 250 miles away.  The situation called for an obvious solution… Road Trip on a Budget.

Hwy 128 to Moab - Road trip on a budget

We have discovered that one night and two full days on a jam-packed adventure can seem like a week.  We come back completely refreshed and ready to tackle our work projects again, so why should we blow more cash than we need to?

Our total budget for two full days was $200.  


Gas was only $3.33 per gallon, which made it feel close to free 😉  To estimate your gas costs, go to to calculate the total trip costs based on current gas costs and your vehicle type and year.

The drive itself is a huge part of the fun and is relatively low cost . Stopping for coffee in small towns like Helper, Utah has led to discoveries like ‘Happiness Within’ that keep us coming back every time. Happiness Within - Road trip on a budget

Onward to the destination…

Area Attractions

Moab, Utah is most famous for the national and state parks that have entrance fees.   A one-week pass for Arches National Park is $10.  That is a smokin’ hot deal if you are visiting the same park for a whole week.  But if you want to bounce around between the parks, the entrance fees can add up.   The area also has many trails and attractions without fees.

We took an alternate route to Moab that took us to the Fisher Towers trail….no charge.   It was late in the day, so we were only able to hike to the halfway point, but even that two hours was incredible… and free.

A worthwhile free attraction is the movie museum located in the Red Cliffs Lodge.  You will learn about the history of Hollywood movies filmed in the area from the John Wayne classics to more current films like ‘The Lone Ranger‘ with Johnny Depp.  Remember ‘Thelma & Louise‘ and the final cliff scene?  Yes, that too.

John Wayne - road trip on a budget

We paid $12 for the two of us to enter a 5000 square foot home that was carved into a huge rock using dynamite.  Once we got past the ‘tourist trap’ cheese factor of the  Hole N’ the Rock’s exterior and entered the home, it was quite amazing and very much worth it.


We had packed a mini-cooler with a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches, a  huge bag of Costco trail mix and a case of bottled water.  We took advantage of the McDonald’s dollar menu more than once.   We treated ourselves after day one of the big adventure and spent $26 on dinner.

Hotels vs. Camping revealed the cheapest hotel available on a moment’s notice to be the Super 8 for this popular tourist town.  The hotel room was extra small but clean and had a refrigerator for storing our food.  Breakfast was complimentary, so it was great to be able to grab some yogurts and fruit for the road.  Our total bill including tax was $91.  It would have been more expensive had we not been there midweek as weekend rates are even higher.

Camping is the ultimate money saver if you have the gear.  For example, Arches National Park has a campground with sites that have water, tables, grills and flushable toilet access for $10 a night.   There are many choices in Moab for all levels of camping, including primitive backcountry camping.   We could have saved $81 had we gone this route. It really is time to buy a tent 🙂

Road Trip on a Budget – Summary

How did we do?

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So, the Hole N’ the Rock tourist attraction (which was unexpected) plus $1 in whatever, took us slightly over the allowed budget of $200 with a final tally of $213.  We were close!  Oh, so close!  Hey, another budget blogger might have fudged victory, so cut us some slack 🙂

If you’ve never tried to do a road trip on a budget, give it a try.  Set your limit and try not to go over.   Make it short and sweet, but full of low-cost fun.  You might be surprised at how refreshed you can feel after just two full days on the road.  It’s amazing!

Fun Reference that has nothing to do with budgets 🙂  These opening scenes from Austin Power’s  Goldmember were shot at the Fisher Towers and on Highway 128 which runs along the Colorado River.   We were there!!