Planning Your Frugal Family Road Trip

If you think a family vacation over spring break is going to bust through your savings account, I'm here to prove you wrong. One of life's pleasures is to see how cool a trip I can plan without breaking the bank. In a few weeks we're going to jump in the car and head to Utah and I'm excited to share with you how we're doing the entire trip for less than $800.
Step One: 
Decide on a cool destination where nature can be your entrance-fee free playground. Plan your route by searching with something like "outdoor adventures with kids in _____". I know Utah is full of rocks and canyons and dunes and we enjoyed exploring there two years ago, so it seemed like a really good idea to return to favorite places and add in some new stops. Plug in some major cities along your route to see if the trip is realistic -- can you physically drive the distance in the length of time you have? We push hard on the first two and last two days, driving 8-10 hrs each day to get there and back, but try to keep the driving under four hours a day the rest of the time. Gas is cheaper in Idaho and Utah [average $2.29/gal], so I estimate we'll spend about $250 putting fuel in the tank.
Step Two: 
To keep your trip cheap, you have to be okay with sleeping in a tent or rustic cabin. I love sleeping outside, but I also love morning and evening showers, so I usually choose a state park or other campground with great bathroom facilities. Favorites include Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Sand Hollow State Park, and Valley of Fire State Park. Bonus points if you get to set up your tent right next to the lake or the rocks.

Southern Utah is generally warmer than 40 degrees F at night in April, so with a decent sleeping bag, we'll be warm enough. For the two nights in Idaho on our way down and back, I found reasonably priced heated cabins. You can stay in a rustic cabin at Lake Walcott State Park for $35 in the off season [walk-up or call to reserve] and at Three Island Crossing State Park for $55 [reserve online with booking fee]. Campsites in Utah and Nevada average $28/night so our total lodging expense for eight nights away will be $279.
Step Three:
Choose two or three activities to splurge on and then keep the rest of your entertainment free. In my opinion, slot canyons and sand dunes are more exciting than Disneyland! Our list includes Willis Creek, Zebra, Peekaboo, Waterholes, Fire Wave, Pastel Canyon, Kanarra Creek, and the Coral Pink Dunes. We'll be camping beside Lake Powell one night and I'd really like to rent a stand-up paddleboard overnight [$50]. And I'd like to take the kids on tour of the Glen Canyon dam while we're in Page, AZ [$10].

We'll spend one day in Las Vegas, but we won't empty our pockets there either! We plan to hit the Container Park [lunch at Pinches Tacos!], the Bellagio fountain, the Venetian and M&M World, the Mirage volcano, the Lake of Dreams show at the Wynn, and the chocolate fountain at the Jean Phillip Pattiserie. I estimate $75 for entertainment for this trip, thanks to Mother Nature!
Step Four: 
We buy most of our food [yogurt, fruit, bread, cheese, salsa, chips] at grocery stores along the way, refilling the cooler with ice each morning. I search for epic restaurants before we go, limiting us to one hot meal per day max. On this trip, I've got plans for six can't-miss meals -- SPITZ in Salt Lake City, Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen in Kanab [two meals here], Pinches Tacos in Las Vegas, BLAZE Pizza in Lehi, and good old Baja Fresh in Boise. We would be eating using our food budget at home too, so with the special meals, I estimate $120 extra for food.

If you are an expert on all things St George/Las Vegas/Kanab/Page/Escalante, please let me know!
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Can't wait for this trip!!!!!!!!!