How I spent three days in Utah/Las Vegas in less than $400

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A breathtaking view of Zion along The Narrows trail!

In early July, I spent a three days and four nights in Utah with the purpose of exploring Zion. My friend Ann (who pitched the idea of going to Yosemite last year) suggested this particular trip a few months ago. It sounded too good to resist, so I signed up.

While solo traveling has its perks, we were hoping to get more people to commit to this brief adventure, as traveling in groups can significantly cut costs.

The main reasons this trip was relatively inexpensive are:

  1. I flew out of Los Angeles
  2. Most expenses were split three ways
  3. Someone (not me) shouldered the cost of the car and stove
  4. We spent three nights with a friend/friend of a friend at minimal to no cost
  5. One girl owned a tent, so we didn’t have to buy/rent one
  6. One person paid for the camping permit

Here’s a rough breakdown of how much was spent on what:

Roundtrip Flight – $140
Food (for camping) – $30
Gas (from Salt Lake City–>Zion–>Las Vegas–>Salt Lake City) – $40
Misc (transportation to and from the airport, discretionary food expenses, etc.) – $140
Zion entrance fee – $25

TOTAL = $375

IF we all split the cost of the car AND had to rent a stove and tent for the two nights we planned on camping, the breakdown would be the same as above, plus:

Car – $150 for three days = $50*
Stove – $10 per day (2) = $20*
Tent – $20 per day (2) = $40*

TOTAL = $485

*These additional costs have been overestimated. This total also assumes I cover the entire cost of the stove and tent, and one day of the car rental.

IF we didn’t know anyone in the area, the estimated cost of accommodation would be around $25/night (we would have stayed in a hostel), so that would have tacked an additional $50, putting the cost at:


Still not bad for four days, though, right?

Another option would have been to drive to Zion. We didn’t do this because we aren’t all based in the same area, but an alternative expenses breakdown would look like this: (this scenario is based on the assumption that three people are involved and coming from Los Angeles, and did not get sidetracked into visiting friends in a neighboring state like we did. Numbers listed per item are full cost. The final cost per person is listed below the total.)

Car rental (Los Angeles–>Utah = about 6.5 hours each way and is about 430 miles) – $300*
Food (for camping) – $200*
Gas (assuming an estimated 25mpg at $4.09/gallon and allowance for extra miles driven) – $200*
Misc (transportation to and from the airport, discretionary food expenses, etc.) – $300
Zion entrance fee – $25
Campsite permit ($16 per night for 4 nights) – $64
Stove – $10 per day (2) = $20*
Tent – $20 per day (2) = $40*

TOTAL = $1,149

total per person = $383

*Expense is overestimated. The total cost per person would likely be less than $350, and even less than $300 if a car is more fuel-efficient, is cheaper per day, and if less than 300 extra miles are driven. (Also, keeping miscellaneous expenses to a minimum is useful.) However, I’ve found it immensely useful to overshoot on expenditures when budgeting.

Our stay in Zion was brief and budgeted, but it was well spent. We were still able to do some exploring and even attended an informative presentation about light pollution hosted at the park.

In the morning following our only night there, we took the free shuttle in Zion up to the trailhead of The Narrows so we could hike through at least some of it before leaving.

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We decided to cut our outdoor adventure short when we checked in with an old friend who happened to live in Las Vegas. The expenses listed above in my breakdown include what we spent on gas through Utah and Nevada, some food and other items while we were in Vegas.

2 thoughts on “How I spent three days in Utah/Las Vegas in less than $400

  1. Your pictures are amazing! What did you use? I’m glad you got your trip to Zion after all 🙂 2.5 years in Utah and it’s still on our bucket list!

    You went to Vegas?! It better have been when I wasn’t here!

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