Financial Lessons Learned from Our Road Trip to Alaska
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner
In the summer of 2009, my husband and I took the ultimate road trip, driving from Oklahoma to Alaska. The odometer in our 1994 Blazer read 227,748 miles at the start of the trip. We completed the journey in 28 days, covering 9266 miles. This included a stop in Yellowstone and a trip to see my family in New Mexico on the way back. We had two extra days set aside in case the car broke down – but we didn’t need them.
Here are some financial lessons we learned:
You cannot overplan.
We had our trip completely planned out, using The Milepost as our guide. While most of our hotel reservations could be made online, there were a few hotels in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory that we had to call directly. Restaurants were few and far between, so we had to pack our lunch before leaving for the day’s drive. We even had two dinners on the road, but we found some great campgrounds.
Gas stations were even scarcer. Missing the lone gas station was not an option. We had extra gas and another spare tire tied to the roof. My husband had his tools with him (he never takes a road trip without them) along with his rifle.
Make sure you understand how much the trip will cost.
Our one month road trip cost us $5,206.54. Almost $2,000 of that was for hotels, where they can run over $100 a night in Canada. In fact, we were shunned by many of the RV’ers we ran into on the Alaska Highway because we were “hotellers.”
- Gas can be quite pricey especially when there is only one gas station to choose from.
- We had some expenses that are easy to overlook: tolls, passes through national parks, foreign exchange fees, and a temporary Canadian gun license.
When I get back from any vacation, I always make a detailed list of how much we spent. That way we are not surprised when the credit card bills start rolling in.
Shop at Walmart
We got a great tip from another American couple who were on their way back home – go to Walmart for your souvenirs. Sure enough, the Walmart in Anchorage had the same souvenirs that the shops were selling, for a much lower price. No sales tax in Alaska – sweet!
- On a trip to Hawaii 16 years ago, we bought our souvenirs at K-Mart.
- In Canada, we found a chain of stores called The Real Canadian Superstore. We couldn’t help feeling this was a jab at Super Walmart. The stores were green instead of blue.
I am writing this column on my 21st wedding anniversary. My husband and I have taken some incredible road trips together – the truck driver and the financial gypsy. Life is a journey, and we are enjoying the ride.