The Economics of Epic Excursions
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary.
Posted by Ryan Neal
The Economics of Epic Excursions
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Photo: I stayed in a lot of hotels on the Roller Coaster Tour. :)"][/caption]

This article will surprise some people and others will think nothing of it. There's more to it than simply statistics about how much money I've spent on my excursions so I hope you'll read all 1,500+ words.

I got a lot of hate from the peanut gallery when it came to the financial pit Roller Coaster Tour would be. I think a lot of people who commented about that either over-estimated it or live below the poverty line. And, fair enough, if you're living below the poverty line the tour might as well have cost a million dollars.

I loosely budgeted $200/day ($6,000/month) for this excursion. Again, to a lot of people that sounds like a ridiculous sum of money. But how much does just living and staying put cost? A lot of people I know have monthly outlays of easily $5k/month. Mine is usually a lot less than that because when you're living minimally it's not extraordinarily expensive. Last year life cost me ~$3k/month. If I wanted to I could cut that down considerably, but I take a very loose approach to budgeting. The easiest way to put it is that I do what I want, but what I want is almost never very expensive.

I could have cut down the costs of the coaster tour considerably (especially in lodging and food costs), but my philosophy with the tour was similar to normal life.

I did what was:

a) comfortable

b) less stressful

I knew the tour would take an incredible toll on my body so I didn't want to focus on saving a few dollars here and there in exchange for stressing myself out even more.

There are too many good books to read, people to meet, and thoughts to think to waste time on $10/hour tasks.

What I'm getting at is clipping coupons and spending hours upon hours of time to save a few bucks is not my idea of living. I have absolutely no issues with spending more money to save time.

Before I get into the details of the coaster tour costs, for reference and comparison let's quickly go over a couple of past excursions:

Australia Excursion Costs

When I traveled through Australia/New Zealand for 100 days in 2009 it cost me almost exactly $10,000 ($100/day). This included all flights (I upgraded the long haul to Premium Economy) and other expenses (tours/side trips/etc).

This actually isn't extravagant considering Australia is not cheap and I covered a lot of ground.

Australia looked like this: Sydney > Melbourne > Great Ocean Road > Adelaide > Alice Springs > Cairns > Daintree Rainforest > Brisbane > Sydney. And then I darted through 18 cities around the north and south islands of New Zealand.

Slow travel = cheaper travel. This was very rushed travel, which means it was more expensive.

Build A Guitar In India Excursion Costs

I spent a little over 2 months in India in 2010. 3 weeks of that was at a guitar workshop in Goa learning how to hand build guitars using virtually no power tools.

Building the guitar itself cost 55,000 Rupees. That was about $1,200 at the time. Renting a room at a guesthouse next to the guitar workshop was $13/day and I rented the room for 21 days. There were far cheaper places to stay in India, but I wanted to stay next to the guitar workshop in a nice guesthouse. I spent about $300 on food during those 3 weeks. That's actually pretty difficult to do in India, but I eat a lot and ate out for almost every meal. My flight to India cost almost nothing ($60.20 in taxes) because I used free frequent flyer miles.

All told, that 3 week excursion cost less than $2,000.

Roller Coaster Tour Costs

I tracked every single penny I spent during the roller coaster tour (a link to my spreadsheet is below), because I knew I wanted to write this article. I did not include the 5 nights in Portland for World Domination Summit (June 2-7), since that was a separate business excursion and unrelated to the coaster tour.

To keep it simple I split up expenses into 5 categories:

  • Parks
  • Hotels
  • Gas
  • Food
  • Miscellaneous
#1: Hotels

Before I went on hiatus, I spent 43 nights on tour. Since I didn't couch surf and rarely stayed with friends (I don't know many people out west) my biggest cost was hotels. I spent $1,589.49 staying in hotels for an average lodging cost of $36.96 per night. (This average takes into account the nights I stayed for free with friends.) I only stayed in Motel 6 twice. For the most part I stayed in decent hotels (and sometimes even extraordinary hotels) by using Priceline. I routinely got great hotels for very cheap. In Denver, for example, I stayed for 2 nights at the Courtyard by Marriott in Downtown Denver for $51/night + taxes. The Expedia price for those same dates was $239/night + taxes.

The photo you see at the top of this post is my $1,589.49 bag of toiletries. :) I don't use regular soap (I use Dr Bronner's) and I haven't used shampoo in over 2 years, so I collected the toiletries from my hotels because I thought it would be funny. It's funny to me anyway!

#2: Gasoline

The next biggest cost was, as is probably expected, gasoline. I drove 9,949 miles for a grand total of $1,491.27 ($34.68/day) in petrol costs.

#3: Food

Coming in at $1,207.14 ($28.07/day) was food. I did my best to eat well, but it's quite difficult on the road. Especially when you're in the middle of nowhere and your options are Taco Bell or McDonald's. If I never eat Taco Bell again it will be too soon. BTW, if you're gonna go crappy fast food burritos then Taco John's > Taco Bell. But I'm sick of Taco John's as well. Whole Foods, veg*n restaurants, and Thai restaurants were my go-to as often as possible. (The black bean quinoa salad at Whole Foods is outstanding even if it does come it at a hefty $8.99 per pound.) My food costs include taking people out for meals. When I stayed with somebody I usually bought them at least one meal and often more.

#4: Miscellaneous

Coming in at #4 was Miscellaneous at $565.08. This included parking (very few parks have free parking), highway tolls, and other expenses like oil changes that don't fall under any of the other categories. I'm actually kind of surprised I spent this much on miscellaneous stuff, but when parking is $10-$20 per park it adds up pretty quickly.

#5: Coaster Parks

I have a feeling a lot of people who followed my journey thought the roller coaster parks were going to be a significant chunk of change, but the parks came in last at $358.10. I spent $165 on a Platinum Pass from Cedar Fair, which included access to all their parks + free parking. I also bought a $75 Six Flags pass that got me into all their parks, but did not include parking. Truthfully, I probably could have gotten into all of these parks for free. A few of the Cedar Fair parks gave me free tickets because I didn't realize they were Cedar Fair when I contacted them. Most parks didn't cost me a dime and some parks I either couldn't get ahold of, or they simply wouldn't give me a free ticket. This was rare, but it happened.

Total living expenses from May 21 - July 6? $5,271.03

Check the whole day-by-day break down spreadsheet right here.

Is An Epic Excursion Unfathomable To You?

I know I'm going to get a lot of e-mails about this with a lot of excuses.
  • "You spent $5k on this?! I could never do that."
  • "Uhm, I can't afford to do stuff like this."
  • You can surely imagine all of the lame excuses so I won't continue.
Listen, if you're reading this you have so much opportunity around you it's sick. Opportunity is everywhere. You can choose to get off your ass and embrace it or you can sit on your ass and complain. That choice will always be yours.

A few weeks ago Pearson and I were at Six Flags Fiesta Texas talking about this very thing. If your goal is to make enough money to do some fun stuff and you're not currently making that happen then you're probably not even trying. Turn off the TV, put down the greaseball burger, and get to work.

In the illustrious words of Trick Trick: "Let's work. You don't work you don't eat. I don't wanna hear it's hard in these streets."

Quit Bitchin' and Earn More Money

It all comes down to this. If all of these costs sound insane to you you probably have a scarcity mindset. Don't worry, it happens to all of us. If you want to make epic excursions happen in your life it's much more prudent to learn how to earn more money (<-- study that link) than to save $3/day by clipping coupons.

That said, none of this has to be extraordinarily expensive.

Statistical break downs of epic excursions:

If you've done any epic excursions recently or in the past I'd love to see a breakdown of your own costs and I'll add the link to this list. (Leave the link in the comments below.)

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