Updated in 2021: If you're planning a Vermont road trip, this budget friendly guide will help your money go further.
I’m in trip planning mode once more. It's time to plan a Vermont road trip.
It’s a tiny trip – a weekend in Northern Vermont (more or less) in late September (more or less) to see the fall colours. And the budget is even tinier! $200 for the two of us (and potentially Chester the dog as well!) for a Friday early evening, all day Saturday, till mid afternoon Sunday excursion. So two days, two nights – and at least $50 of the budget will go towards gas. It’s a good thing we have a hybrid car and even better that gas is cheaper in the US!
On such a tiny budget, every decision matters.
Even though the budget is teensy, I want a great, high quality, amazing trip – even with a bit of luxe. I want to try local cheddar, maple syrup, and microbrews. I want to visit the most incredible driving routes to see the fall colours in all their glory – and stopping at as many pie stands as possible. I don’t want to be eating hot dogs on stale buns and visiting local cement museums just because they are free.
(okay, if there were cement museums, I'd probably visit them because that just sounds cool....)
On such a tiny budget, every decision matters. While I would love -LOVE! – to stay at a charming New England Inn with deluxe hot breakfasts, the cost is so far from our budget, it’s not even possible. Some B&B’s cost up to $300 a night during the fall colours season. So our first big decision is accommodations.
The obvious answer is to camp at a state park – clean, scenic, with free amenities such as nature trails and ranger presentations. The best possible way to appreciate the beautiful nature we’ve come so far to enjoy! And we have all the camping gear you could desire including new tent and lantern. This would cost about $18 a night (plus tax, of course). (2021 Update: The cost is now more like $33 a night.) The downside is the very cool fall temperatures, which can reach near freezing overnight. It’s not fun to be shivering at night when it gets dark around 7pm, sitting around cold and bored.
We could also upgrade to a “shabin” (aka a Vermont camping cabin) in a limited number of state parks. These shack/cabins cost $46 a night, and are simple structures with only bunk beds/futons. And that’s it. Cooking is still outside. Bathrooms are down the road at the outhouse. But you don’t have to pack a tent or mattress pad. You have virtually no set up time and more room in the car. The cabin obviously shelters you from the rain and wind and, while there are no heaters, we estimate you would be about 10 degrees warmer than with a tent.
So, since we are prepared to “rough it” at a state park, should we go all the way, be super cheap, and spend about $43 for two nights with tax? Or should we take a step up for a bit more peace of mind and comfort, but spend about $110 with tax for two nights. It’s not a huge financial difference, but in terms of percentage of budget, it’s a big deal.
The next big question – do we invite friends to join us for camping and save even more on the camping costs, as well as the benefits of gas sharing? (The shabins are not really sized or set up for sharing). We would be giving up a nice weekend for the two of us and it would likely mean that Chester couldn’t come. We might even have to put him in doggy day care. Sometimes you can spend more money than intended when traveling with friends, as you feel more spontaneous on spending and perhaps don’t want to appear cheap. On the other side, we would have so much fun socializing around the campsite at night with some company and we could all enjoy free entertainment with board games, etc…
Stay tuned as I look to put all the writing to the test and enjoy an amazing weekend on a microscopic budget.
This is just the first post of many about our Vermont road trip! Learn more about our adventures through these posts:
Vermont Trip Planning: Stage One
The $200 Challenge: Evaluating the Vermont Trip
Lessons Learned in Vermont: Small Steps to Save Big Bucks
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