My girlfriend and I travelled in our van to 50 National Parks in 115 days over 23,925 miles and 42 American states.
- our over all spending on the trip was $7,100 each (this includes a helicopter on Grand Canyon, boat trips, scuba dives, restaurant bills etc)
- we spent less than $160 on accommodation because we stayed at BLM, truck stops and Walmarts 99% of the time.
- Our total cost on diesel was $4,000.
- Seeeveral people asked how I can afford to travel for this amount of time. For the past 4 years I typically work 3-5 months (what ever I can get, usually hospitality), save hard, travel till my money runs out, then repeat. I do like to remind people that where as I wouldn’t change my life style for anything..I do sacrifice long term stability and developing a career to do so. You choose your priorities.
I’m afraid the map you see if the closest we have! We marked all the National Parks , then hit them in the order that made most sense to do the south before it got too hot. We started and finished in Oceanside, CA and went anti-clockwise around the country. I posted each park we went to in order on Instagram (@sierrapb) and on The Campervan Bible.
- National Park: Glacier, Montana
- State: Colorado (Utah, Wyoming, Montana, California also)
- Hike: Mt Sauk, Washington
- Parks for hiking: Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Great Basin, Grand Tetons, Glacier
- Town: St Augustine, Florida
- Sunset: Saguaro NP, Everglades NP and Grand Canyon NP
- Sunrise: Canyonlands NP
- Animal experience: Black Bears Cubs in the Great Smoky Mountains
- Campsite: BLM outside Theodore Roosevelt NP, North Dakota
- Food: $0.99 pizza in New York
- Cocktail: ‘Red Oak’ - Yosemite Village
Ideally we would have done this trip in 5 months. But visas and prep to get a van left us 3 months and 3 weeks. It was fast, but still enough time for us to thoroughly enjoy the experience. We had to sacrifice doing as many full day hikes and much chill time as we’d like. Wouldn’t recommend this speed to anyone who isn’t sharing the driving between two.
- Free Roam App (not the most user friendly but it found us all our free BLM campsites)
- Divineontheroad.com - Sydney has an informative IG, podcast and website with good free camps.
- GasBuddy App - so we always knew where the next station was. Helped us find the cheapest place to fill up.
- National Park Service App - allows you to download park information so you can access it when you’re offline
*The Campervan Bible has now also released an interactive USA map which holds thousands of places to park up overnight!
Put bluntly, if you need a shower every day..this kind of travel isn’t for you . We showered with any friends we saw along the way, the odd paid campsites and then at truck stops like Loves and FlyingJs. Washing at friends when we could, laundromats and also at the truck stops.
- get a parks pass if you intent to visit 3 parks or more. It costs $80 per car load and it saved us $950.
- When visiting National Parks utilise the Visitor Centres. We started every park by going to the visitor centre and getting hike recommendations, sunset/sunrise points, must dos etc
- Get a national parks passport and ‘stamp’ your passport at each park as a fun momento
- Don’t over plan. You’ll learn some of the most valuable info from people on the road.
- Do research which parks require passes/tickets. They are not hard to plan with a few days notice. Parks that require a boat need planning further in advance (Dry Tortugas, Isle Royal, Channel Islands)
- If you have one large road trip in mind..consider buying a vehicle for it and then sell again. We only owned our van for 5 months and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than renting.
- Don’t over think…if the opportunity comes up to take the trip..take it! You can always go home again. You can’t get back time.
Safe travels y’all
To check out more of Sierra's travels head to her Instagram @Sierrapb