Another month is in the books as we continue to travel around the country full time on our Gap Year Adventure. We started this month in Southern Utah near some amazing national parks before making our way across Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri to finish out the month of May in St. Louis.
Amazingly, this month is the least expensive on our trip yet! Part of this achievement is thanks to paying $0 out of pocket for the 21 nights we spent in hotels during the month, while our generous friends and family hosted us for the remaining 10 nights.
In addition to the huge drop-off in the Lodging expenses this month, we also kept everything else in check to make for the cheapest month by a significant margin. The previous winner for least expensive month was over $3,500 and we were able to blow that our of the water despite paying our 6-month auto insurance premium and upgrading one of our watches!
Let’s break down all the exciting details below:
Lodging – $0!!!
As I teased in the intro, we managed to avoid spending any money out of pocket on places to sleep. This is primarily thanks to our side hobby of aggressively chasing credit card signup bonuses that has earned us oodles of hotel points to use on this trip.
We do our best to stretch the value of those points as far as they can go and so far they have done a great job of subsidizing this road trip.
Lodging Breakdown by Nights:
- Hotel nights booked with points – 17
- See below for breakdown
- Hotel nights booked with free night certificates –4
- See below for breakdown
- Nights spent with Friends and Family – 10
This is the first month we found good use for some of our free night certificates. The good value came from staying in more expensive locations that also weren’t an efficient use of points. The two locations we split our free nights across were Moab, Utah and Denver, Colorado where the cash price of single nights exceeded $200!
Points Spent by Brand:
- Hyatt – 5 Nights – 24,000 points + 2 free night certificates
- IHG – 16 Nights – 122,500 points + 2 free night certificates
The Hyatt nights we spent points on were 8k/night which was great considering the cash price was nearly $300/night! For IHG, we managed some solid value with the average night costing just shy of 9,000 points.
Points Earned per Brand (excluding credit card spend/bonuses):
- IHG – 16,250 earned
- 12,250 from 10% points rebate via the IHG credit card
- 3,500 from welcome bonuses
- 500 from “Making a Green Choice”
- Hyatt – 2,500 earned (Q1 2018 promotion)
This month was a significant outflow of points, but it’s amazing how much they have been able to save us on lodging over the first 4 months of this trip. We are still adding to our stash via new credit card bonuses, the most recent being the IHG Premier card that is worth over 85,000 points once we finish the minimum spend.
In addition to those incoming points that will top us back up to over 100k IHG points, we also still have ~350k Hilton points and ~80k Chase UR that we can transfer to Hyatt at any time. Overall, we still have a lot of potential to save money on hotels as we continue traveling across the country!
Related Post: 6 Perks of Living In Hotels
Transportation – $744.79
We ended up driving fewer miles this month due to spending a lot of time in Colorado (which was amazing!), but it wasn’t too much of an outlier.
- Gasoline – $259.13
- Auto Insurance – $447.10 (6-month premium)
- Parking – $23.75
- Uber – $7.81
- Car Wash – $7
Our auto insurance premium was the largest chunk of our Transportation spending for the month while everything else was standard expenses for this trip.
- Miles Traveled – 2,254
- Gallons of Gas Purchased – 89
- Average Miles per Gallon – 25.35
- Average Price per Gallon – $2.91
These miles put us over 10,000 for the trip since we left Seattle in February! Our miles per gallon have stayed pretty consistent month over month, so no surprises there.
Food and Restaurants – $935.95
Similar to previous months, our biggest expense on this road trip has been food. While we try to make the most of free breakfast at the hotels, the majority of our meals are eaten at various restaurants and fast food chains.
- Eating Out – $723.14
- Groceries – $212.81
Breaking the total cost down ends up right around the $5 mark per person per meal which seems reasonable.
Entertainment – $104.50
May marks the lowest we’ve spent on Entertainment by a pretty good margin, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t stay busy!
- Attractions – $59
- Pike’s Peak
- Kansas City Royals Game
- Bars and Alcohol – $25.60
- MoviePass – $19.90
- We only saw 3 movies this month, but there are several coming out in June we’re excited about!
Aside from the attractions we spent money on, there was a lot to see that didn’t cost us a dime! For starters, we visited 3 different national parks during the month with our annual parks pass:
- Rocky Mountain
We also visited the “haunted” hotel that inspired The Shining, walked around one of Vail’s ski towns, climbed the famous Manitou Incline, went on numerous hikes in Colorado, and more!
This trip has allowed us to visit and experience an amazing number of things already that would have been nearly impossible if we didn’t choose to take this year off from work.
A little chilly and wet in Colorado Springs today, but we made it to the top of the Incline! Over 2,000 feet of elevation gain in under a mile up an old cable car line, then we jogged the longer way down the Barr Trail 🌲🛤🌲⛰🏃♂️🏃♀️#theincline #sendoxygen #allthesteps #coloradosprings #gapyear #moneymetagame
Be sure to follow our instagram page to see some of the many highlights of our trip so far.
Everything Else – $399.03
- Cell Phone Plan – $74
- Storage Unit in Seattle – $46
- Shopping – $211.67
- Household Goods – $35.61
- Mail Forwarding – $3.87
- Gifts – $7.23
- Health and Fitness – $16.65
- Laundry – $4
Our biggest expense in this category was upgrading Becky’s Fitbit from a Charge 2 to a Versa. The old one was showing it’s wear and was missing a few key features that are beneficial to her regular workout routine. It looks like the Charge 2 still has some value used, so we might be able to recoup some of the cost by selling it later on.
We also ordered a couple new phone charging cables to replace a dead one, but the rest of the expenses here are typical costs for the trip.
Side note: Amazon Locker is amazing for ordering stuff while on the road without having to worry about trying to send it ahead of time to an address we might be staying at.
Reflecting on the First 4 Months
At the end of the 4th month in our gap year adventure, we’ve spent a total of $14,832.11.
- Pre-Trip Expenses – $1,552.62
- Month 1 Spending – $3,743.55
- Month 2 Spending – $3,555.27
- Month 3 Spending – $3,796.40
- Month 4 Spending – $2,184.27
This month certainly looks like an outlier when compared to the past few, but I don’t think we’ll regress to the mean very quickly. A huge help this month was the lack of a lodging expense, but it’s looking like June will be minimal as well. On the other hand, we’ve already managed to surpass May’s entertainment expenses in the first few days of June.
If I had to make a prediction, I think we’ll end up closer to the $3k mark for June and possibly the next couple months as well. However, considering we only tend to plan out a week or two in advance, anything is possible at this point!
Averaging out the last 4 months (~$3,320), then extrapolating that across the rest of the year long trip ends up with the full year costing just under $40,000. Amazingly, this is much cheaper than a typical year in Seattle for us!
This trip has been absolutely amazing so far and we don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon! Stay tuned for more stats and stories from our adventure.
P.S. While Becky and I were in Colorado, we were interviewed on the Bigger Pockets Money podcast! Be sure to check it out in video form on YouTube or on your favorite podcast app for details on how we were able to make this Gap Year a reality:
- YouTube link (video): https://youtu.be/mVCXM7mlu08
- Audio and Show Notes link: https://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/biggerpockets-money-podcast-23-a-mini-retirement-road-trip-in-your-20s-with-becky-and-noah/