When it comes to working out a Route 66 Budget, many different things can affect the total cost. Are you flying in from overseas? How long will you be spending on the Route? Will you need a rental car? How much do you plan on eating? Etc etc! In this post, I give you a rough idea of how much our Route 66 trip cost, from the fuel cost to attraction fees and hotels!
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Prices correct at the time of writing.
🕐Duration: 14-16 days
🗺Distance: 2864 miles
📅Month of travel: July/Aug
Route 66 Budget
*Note* We were travelling as a group of 4 and for the most part were able to split the majority of things 4 ways, such as the car rental, accommodation and fuel. This can help keep costs down!
If you live within the US, the first two points may not be relevant to you. If you plan on using your own car or creating a round trip road trip, you may not require flights or a rental car.
This could vary widely. Depending on where you are from, the easiest way is to fly into Chicago, Illinois (most probably O’Hare ‘ORD’) and then have the return leg of the flight leaving from Los Angeles (‘LAX’). If you are a domestic traveller, flight prices are going to be a little cheaper, however overseas visitors will need to budget a little extra. I always use Google Flights to find out the cheapest or best flight options.
Once I’ve found flights that work for me, I then book direct with the airline. For me I like having the direct booking, rather than through a third party, as it’s often easier to deal with when it comes to changes, additional requirements such as choosing seats etc.
As a quick example, at the time of writing this post, for flights in October 2021:
International Flights: (United) London to Chicago – Los Angeles to London = £570/$790
Domestic Flights: (American Airlines) Miami to Chicago – Los Angeles to Miami = £210/$290
I love renting cars when I travel. It gives me slight anxiety that something crazy and out of my control may happen which means it might get damaged, but for the most part the cars are newer and usually mechanically reliable for long distances!
We used RentalCars.com which is a broker. They search all the rental companies to find the best deals. For our trip we ended up using National, picking up the car at O’Hare Airport and returning it to LAX Airport. The airports have a huge range of companies usually within the same ‘rental centre’ section of the airport. There’s a wide choice of cars and you can pick them up and return them 24hrs a day.
The rental car is likely to be one of the most expensive parts of the trip. Again there are different things that will affect the cost. Duration of rental, size, extras.
-We had our car for 14 days, our whole trip was 16 days. We choose not to pick it up until after we had finished sightseeing in Chicago. For this part we used public transport.
-Travelling as 4 adults, we also wanted a fairly large car, with enough space for 4 suitcases and the rest of our luggage. We needed a midsized or standard SUV.
-As international visitors, we paid extra for GPS system. For the most part we used the EZ66 guide book but it was handy for our side trips and if we went slightly off track.
-It’s much nicer if you can split the driving with an additional driver, switching every couple of hours keeps you more alert. Some rentals include the additional driver, some have an extra surcharge. At the time of our trip, we also had to pay a ‘young driver’ surcharge too. If you are under 25yrs old, you’ll need to pay this.
One Way Drop Off Fee
-There’s not really any option which avoids the one-way drop off fee. When you are taking a car from one depot and returning it to another one 2000 miles away, it may encounter a fee.
-Make sure the rental has unlimited mileage. Depending on your rental agreement you may be able to return it empty or you may have to return it with a full tank. I usually go for the additional insurance too which means if anything was to happen to the car, I pay zero, but it can be quite expensive (around $35 per day). Some travel insurances may include car insurance, so if you look at your policies small print, you may not need the additional insurance.
Taking all these points into account in 2021, a 14 day rental with all these things (apart from a young driver charge) is approximately £1700/$2300. Having a smaller car, such as an economy or compact size, will knock off around $300-$400, but you will have less space for luggage.
For the 2000 mile journey, plus side trips to Las Vegas (200 miles) and the Grand Canyon (120 miles), we spent $392.21 on fuel. Sometimes fuel stations are few and far between, so we tried not to let the tank drop below half way. It also gave us the opportunity to take a toilet break, stretch our legs or top up with cold drinks. Different states also have different fuel prices. For example, fuel in Oklahoma is cheaper than fuel in California.
Many hotels in the US can sleep up to 4 adults, so if you don’t mind sharing rooms or beds, it’s a great way to keep costs down. Here’s a list of the places that I stayed on Route 66 and their approximate costs. Depending on the length of your Route 66 itinerary, this will change how much you’ll need to budget for accommodation. Without including the side trips to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, we had 11 nights on Route 66.
If you can find a hotel that includes a free breakfast too, that can also potentially save you money too! Also, being a road trip, the hotels we chose had parking.
I wrote a guide to the start of Route 66 in Chicago and things to do in Chicago, there are THOUSANDS of places to stay with a range of budgets. We stayed at an airport hotel which had free car parking for our Route 66 trip. However I have since stayed at several different Chicago hotels around the city. The Central Loop Hotel is a great hotel on Adams St, just a couple of blocks from the Route 66 start sign.
(*Note* I am using July/August prices in my approximate totals for hotels that I personally stayed at along Route 66. This is peak travel season and weekends often are higher than weekday stays. Costs WILL vary, so check for current rates.)
Chicago, IL = 2 nights
Comfort Suites O’Hare Airport in Schiller Park (approx total for 2 nights $360 inc. breakfast)
Motel 6 O’Hare in Elk Grove Village (approx total for 2 nights $102 inc. breakfast)
Chicago Loop Hotel in Downtown Chicago (approx total for 2 nights $290 – no parking)
Route 66 Hotels
St Louis, MO = 1 night: Hampton Inn St Louis at the Arch (approx $245 inc. breakfast)
Carthage, MO = 1 night: Days Inn by Wyndham (approx $85 inc. breakfast)
Clinton, OK = 1 night: Super 8 by Wyndham (approx $68 inc. breakfast)
Amarillo, TX = 1 night: The Big Texan Motel (approx $71)
Albuquerque, NM = 1 night: Sandia Peak Inn (approx $80 inc. breakfast)
Holbrook, AZ = 1 night: Wigwam Motel (approx $86)
(2 nights at the Grand Canyon, 2 nights in Las Vegas)
Barstow, CA = 1 night: Route 66 Motel (approx $60)
Los Angeles, CA = 2 nights: Gateway Hotel Santa Monica (approx $453)
The approximate Route 66 accommodation total for the 11 nights spent on the Route was $1508. Remember that travelling as a group of 4 and sharing the same room (2 double beds) meant that we only paid $377 on accommodation each.
For the continuity of the post which is based on 14 days on the Route, I will add $80×2 onto the cost, which is a rough average for a hotel in some of the smaller cities. This brings the accommodation total to $1668.
Other Popular Route 66 Hotels
Wagon Wheel Motel Cuba MO (from $70), Munger Moss Motel Lebanon MO ($40-$65), Rail Haven Springfield MO (approx $102), Blue Swallow Motel Tucumcari NM (approx $110), El Rancho Hotel Gallup NM (approx $94)
Attractions & Misc Costs
A great thing about Route 66, is that many of the attractions/features are free to visit, things like: The Blue Whale, Bottle Tree Ranch, the Oatman Highway, Cadillac Ranch* and many more! However, many things do have a gift shop which you may be tempted to spend a small fortune! We finished our trip with t-shirts, flags, model wigwams, pin badges, metal signs, key rings, the list goes on…! We did visit some paid attractions, so here is an example of some of the things you may want to budget for!
CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) 1 Day Ventra Ticket – Chicago IL = $10
Skydeck at the Willis Tower – Chicago IL = $28 (12yrs+)
Route 66 Drive-In Theatre – Carthage MO = $8 (13yrs+)
Route 66 Museum – Clinton OK = $7
*Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo TX = $4 spray paint from somewhere like Walmart!
Route 66 Auto Museum – Santa Rosa NM = $5
Sandia Peak Tramway – Albuquerque NM = $25 return
Sky City – Acoma NM = $25+tax
Meteor Crater – Meteor City AZ = $22
Total admission fees budget for 1 adult = approximately $130
(I have since been up the Gateway Arch in St Louis MO, this costs: $16)
I always find it hard when it comes to food budgets as everyone is different! As a rule of thumb, we roughly said $35 per person per day for food. As you can see above several of the hotels we stayed at included some sort of free breakfast. If you’re not fussy what you eat, you won’t go hungry. Most hotels at a minimum will have a continental breakfast with things like: pastries, breads, muffins, coffee, juice, cereal, fruit etc. Many will have a hot option too, such as waffles or eggs and sausage.
With a free breakfast, this leaves a rough dinner food budget of around $20 and then $15 for lunch time snacks, drinks etc. If you like eating steak, that will cost more, if you buy alcohol, that will cost more, if you want to stop for 2 hot meals, that will be more. We ate at Dicks Last Resort in Chicago and Bubba Gumps in LA, themed restaurants often cost a little more too.
You can save money by stopping at a food shop, such as Walmart, to stock up on snacks, lunch items, bottles of water etc. You could even buy breakfast items on the days when a hotel breakfast isn’t included.
A Cozy Basket (4 corn dogs and large fries) at the Cozy Dog Drive In in Springfield IL = $10.90
A hamburger with fries at Pops in Arcadia OK = $7.29 + $1.99 with a fountain soda = $2.19
An 8oz sirloin steak with two sides and a roll and butter at The Big Texan in Amarillo TX = $18 (without drink).
In the US, you are expected to tip around 15-20% on top of the bill.
As a rough guide, a food budget of $35 per person x 14 days = $490
For a 14 day trip along Route 66, the approximate total of dividable costs (car rental, fuel, accommodation) = $4360
Divided between 2 people = $2180, divided between 4 people = $1090.
On top of this total are then the individual costs, such as food $490 and attraction admissions $130, plus spending money. And then any flight requirements, whether that’s domestic or international.
(Coming from the UK as a family of 4, with an additional 2 nights at the Grand Canyon, 2 nights in Las Vegas, plus extra fees we spent on attractions in Vegas (SkyJump etc), the total of our 16 day Route 66 trip was approximately £2500/$3400 each.)
These costs are just to give you an approximate total of what you may need as a budget for Route 66. As mentioned throughout the post, time of year, amount of people travelling, your travel style etc, will all affect the final total of the trip. Information in this post is just to be used as a guide!
You can find the rest of my Route 66 guides and tips by clicking the blue button below!
Route 66 TRIP PLANNING TOOLS
✈️Search for flights with Google Flights
🚗Look for car rental with RentalCars.com
📚Read this: Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers
Any questions? Let me know!