Don't miss out! Join the thousands of people who subscribe to our once-daily email or our free miles and points Facebook group with all the best travel news. Some links on this page may pay me a commission - as always, thanks for your support if you use them
Earlier I shared the introduction of our upcoming summer vacation trip: Big heads, trains and bears, oh my! We’ll be taking an Amtrak train from Ohio to Denver, and then driving through the Western United States to see Yellowstone National Park and Mt. Rushmore.
While I do plan on keeping a detailed expense log for our trip, I thought it would also be useful to do an introduction, where I share our planned points expenditures
Expense category: Transportation
- 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, transferred 1:1 to Amtrak to book 2 family bedrooms for a roundtrip through one zone (25,000 points per bedroom each way). See also Maximizing your route on the Amtrak Zone Map and My (free) $6500 family train vacation on Amtrak
- Using Autoslash, we were able to cut our rental car expenses down to $135.56, times 2. We’ll be using Barclay Arrival miles for those expenses, so after the 10% travel rebate, that will cost us 24,401 Arrival miles.
We’ll also have $100-200 in gas expenses as well.
Expense category: Hotels
Our family of 8 usually needs 2 rooms each night, though there are certain hotels that we can get by with only one, and I’ve been known to occasionally play a bit “loose” with hotel’s “suggested” occupancy limits. Because we’re moving around a bit, we are actually staying in a different hotel each night.
In the western United States, the prevalent hotel brands are IHG and Choice, with a sprinkling of the other brands around as well. We ended up using the following points:
- 30,000 Hilton points for 1 night at a Hilton Homewood Suites
- 10,000 Hyatt points for 1 night at a Category 1 Hyatt House
- 110,000 IHG points for 3 nights at 3 different Holiday Inn Express hotels. We tried to book a Candlewood Suites for 2 of the stays, but ran into somfe significant trouble where the Candlewood Suites / IHG website was only showing
- 76,000 Choice points for 4 nights at 4 different Choice Hotels (2 Econo Lodges, 1 Quality Inn and 1 Rodeway Inn) – Is it ever a good idea to book a Rodeway Inn?
We are also saving 2 nights lodging as they are included in the price of our Amtrak train booking.
I was not quite sure whether I should count the 75,000 Choice points that I used as 75,000, or whether I should count them as 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, since I transferred 25,000 Chase points (by way of Amtrak) to Choice Hotels at a 1:3 ratio.
Expense category: Entertainment
Our entertainment budget is generally pretty low – as we talked about when I shared the budget for our family of 8, we are not big on paying for tons of things. I know that we will spend ~$100 on entrance fees for Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore National Parks. We also have a bunch of things that we have picked out from RoadTrippers
I will update this once our trip is complete with any additional expenses that we have.
Expense category: Food
Food is another big expense for us. I plan on tracking our food expenses, but I do feel that we should account for our normal weekly food expenditures. Our family target is $1 / person / meal, which means that if we were at home for 11 days, we would spend (about) $250 on food. So if we spend $300 on food on the trip, it’s really like we only spend $50 MORE than we would have spent already.
Some of the things that we are doing to keep our travel food costs down is planning out our meals, bringing a cooler so that we can eat some of our meals as sandwiches in the park or other things along those lines. We are also going to eat at some restaurants, but we don’t want to have EVERY meal be at a restaurant (since that obviously drives up the cost significantly!)
We are also staying one night at the Hilton Homewood Suites, which is one of the hotels that offers free dinner during some weekdays.
I’ll share the final total expenses after we get back from the trip. Already, I’m aware of a few things that I know we’ll be spending money on (besides the obvious ones of gas and food). Things like tips for the Amtrak porters and other people, quarters for laundry while we’re gone, and the $50 fee to get into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks (times 2 since we’ll be in 2 cars!! 🙁 )