Monday, October 10, 2011

Yellowstone on a Dime

My family and I went to Yellowstone for the weekend and had so much fun exploring the park! We even hit Grand Teaton National Park and Jackson Hole on the way home. We bought a National Parks Annual Pass ($80) over Spring Break so we didn't have to pay entrance fees at all. A 7 day entrance pass to Yellowstone is $25. This trip was our 9th and 10th National Park this year, so we definitely got our money's worth.

We stayed in West Yellowstone, MT and were given a heads up about how expensive things are there, so we planned accordingly. Here's what we did:

  • 2 Night stay at the Best Western Weston Inn $69 a night. ($155 total for both nights) October 1 is the start of "off season" so we were able to score some really cheap hotel rates.
  • Breakfast was provided at the hotel. Waffles, bagles, toast, muffins, cereal, oatmeal packets, juice, milk, coffee and pastries. FREE (included with the hotel cost)
  • Lunches were sandwiches picnics in the park. We brought up all the open packages in our pantry. Granola bars, Fruit snacks, chips, microwave popcorn, marshmallows, bread, hotdog buns, oreos, little debbie brownies (these are a vacation treat for my boys...and me. ;)...etc. We also brought up a cooler with a gallon of milk, lunch meat, sliced cheese, apples, bananas, condiment packages, bottles of water and ice packs. FREE because I already had everything.
  • Dinner the first night was Nachos. Before we left I browned some hamburger, seasoned it with taco seasoning and put it in a gallon zip-loc bag. I also grated some cheddar cheese and placed it in a quart size bag. I packed a 3/4 empty bottle of salsa and our 1/2 empty bag of Costco tortilla chips and paper plates. We put chips on our plate, then a little meat, cheese and salsa and ate dinner in the hotel room. Once again....FREE.

  • Dinner the second night was BBQ chicken sandwiches. We used the extra bread we didn't need for sandwiches and 3 buns I brought from home. I packed 1 container of Loyds BBQ Chicken that I had in the freezer. I actually packed it frozen so it was like one more ice pack in the cooler. We heated the meat in the microwave, put it on our bread or bun and ate it with chips. cost: FREE
  • We did eat out twice. On the way up we stopped at Wendy's where we paid $8 to feed all 5 of us. I used 2 FREE Dave single coupons and we bought the boys value menu burgers. The second time we ate out was in Evanston, WY on the way home. I "splurged" and bought an Arby's regular roast beef and my son got a jr. roast beef. Then I drove across the street and got the other 3 people in our family each a value menu item for $1. So Dinner cost us $7 total. We didn't buy any fries or drinks because we still had chips, apples and water bottles. Total cost for eating out: $15.

A trick about using water bottles and saving money on buying soda for trips is to use mix in flavor packets. You can get them for $1 for 8-10 packets per box at any dollar store. They are sugar free and they taste really good. My kids think it's a treat to mix in their fruit punch mix into their water bottle. :)
Gas was our most expensive cost. We left with a full tank and topped off in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. We used my phones Gas Buddy App (FREE) to find the cheapest gas station. I highly recommend this app! :)

And of course we did the FREE Jr. Ranger program!
We did Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park in the same trip.
TOTAL COST: $310.00. ($140 of that was gas)
for a 3 day Road Trip to Yellowstone.
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