Thursday, September 8, 2016

By the Numbers

Well, folks, here is the long awaited recap of our Trek North to Alaska!

Number of Days on Trek:  137
(50 in Alaska, 47 in Canada, 40 in various lower 48 states along route).  We started from Quartzsite, AZ and ended in Livingston, TX.

Number of Stopovers:  47
(12 in Alaska, 20 in Canada, and 15 in various Lower 48 states along route)

Number of Days in Campgrounds with Hookups:  107

Number of Days Boondocking (No Hookups, whether in Provincial Parks, Wal-mart, Roadside Pullouts):  30

Miles Traveled:  12,471
(8,261 in U.S.A., 4,210 in Canada)

Gallons of Fuel Used:  1,699
(1,029 in U.S.A., 670 in Canada)

Average Miles/Gallon:  7.34
(8.03 in U.S.A., 6.29 in Canada)


And, if I can have a drum roll, the total expenses for this Trek:  $17,762.25!  This would probably be about $1K higher if it were not for the favorable exchange rate with Canada. 

Now, here’s the breakdown by expense category.  For this, I am rounding off my figures—I hate decimals!

Camping Costs:
Campgrounds with Hookups:  $3,867 (Average/night:  $36)

Boondocking:  $444 (Average/night:  $15)

Total Camping Costs:  $4,311
(Average/night:  $31).

This includes the money we lost at Denali for a one-day early departure to accommodate our traveling companions and the weekly cost for the second site we were encouraged by the reservation representative to pay for to ensure there was a place for Big Boomer (see post of 6/25/16).  It also includes losing one night's reservation fee at Laird Hot Springs due to the blizzard (see post of 5/30/16).

Camping represents 24% of our total expenses.  Wow, that’s a big chunk of my cheese wheel (I use this instead of a pie chart)!

Diesel Fuel Costs:
U.S.A.:  $2,477
(Average cost/gallon:  $2.41)

Canada:  $2,078
(Average cost/gallon when converted from liters:  $3.10)

Total Diesel Fuel Costs:  $4,555
(Average cost/gallon:  $2.68)

This represents 26% of our total expenses.  We felt Big Boomer performed nicely for us, and we were grateful that overall fuel prices were lower in 2016 than in 2015.

Food Costs:
Actual food purchases:  $2,759

Dining out:  $1,029

Total food costs:  $3,788
(Average/day:  $28)

This figure would have been much higher if we needed to do more purchases within Canada and Alaska.  As our friends who work-camped in Alaska can attest, prices on everything are astronomical.   But Mom was diligent in stocking up on goods, including meat in our freezer, before leaving the Lower 48.  Furthermore, we did not dine out with much frequency.  We were selective on where to spend our money.  In many of the places we visited, their idea of restaurants consisted of food trucks.  With Mom trying to watch her weight (and she didn’t want to watch it grow!), she preferred to cook dinners for us all.  When my family did dine out, the bill usually ran $100+, but we were delighted with the majority of our dining experiences.  Food represents 21% of total expenses.

Entertainment Costs:   $3,250

This includes all tours, entrance fees, flightseeing, tips for guides, U.S.A. and Canada National Parks Passes, and all Dad’s fishing expenses, including charters, licenses (AK/Yukon/British Columbia) and fishing tackle he purchased.  It excludes dining out.  Entertainment represents 18% of my cheese wheel.

Miscellaneous Costs:  $1,878

This includes gasoline for our motorcycles and payments to our traveling companions for half of the gas used when we joined them in their car for touring. It also includes propane, wood, tolls, parking, the few souvenirs we bought, vehicle repairs/maintenance (windshield chip repair/new blades for wipers, etc.).  And a big chunk of it ($465) was associated with shipping of firearms to and from Alaska, a cost most other folks will not incur.  These miscellaneous costs are 11% of our total expenses.



We did not have a detailed budget established for the trip.   However, Mom, our family’s financial advisor, put a figure of $15,000 in her head.  So, we spent a little more than intended, but she is not complaining.  After all, it was her “bucket list” trip to Lake Clark National Park to visit the “Alone in the Wilderness” cabin that accounted for nearly $1K of the overage! 

Besides, if we did not take this trip, we still would have living expenses.  I would need my cheese products to eat, Big Boomer’s belly would need to be filled with fuel, “home” would need to be parked somewhere, and we would still spend money having fun!  With this is mind, we took our analysis further, comparing the costs of this trip to our normal monthly budget for these line items over a 137-day period.

Budget for camping fees, fuel, food, entertainment, miscellaneous:  $10,606

Total of these fees for Alaskan Trip: $17,762

So we are over budget by only $7,156!  Don’t you just love creative accounting! 

Well, my head is spinning from all these numbers, so I’ll sign off now.  Talk to you soon!


  1. That was really great and much appreciated. I have been wondering what the comparison is between our incremental costs and your incremental costs. Thanks very much for sharing it

  2. Thanks for sharing, we will be doing our analysis shortly.

  3. Curious about the meat in the freezer. We often freeze cooked meat for easy meals later. I thought this would be a problem taking into Canada. No problems?

    1. No issues crossing border with meat. You are allowed up to 42 lbs. Per person or 21 kg. Depending on the border guard they can be picky on fresh fruit and vegetables.
      You can call Canadian Border Services to get the latest up on what is banned.

  4. Many thanks! Glad to have found your blog (from your Facebook post)