Heading to Yellowstone National Park and on a budget? No problem! We recently visited Yellowstone and had an amazing time, and our wallets left full & happy. Here are our 5 budget tips for Yellowstone:
1. Sleep Outside The Park
There are several lodges, cabins, and campgrounds located within Yellowstone National Park, BUT once again with location comes a cost. Sure you could stay at the lodges within the park but that has a price tag. Instead, you could stay just outside the park in West Yellowstone at The Brandin’ Iron Inn for much more reasonable rates. That is exactly what we did, centrally located and budget-friendly. Another bonus about staying in West Yellowstone is that you’re still very close to Old Faithful. For Old Faithful eruption predictions check their twitter – or dial 307-344-2751.
If you are camping, the campsites within the park are $$ per night and on a first come basis. There are campsites located outside the park at budget-friendly prices. We stayed at Crazy Creek campground on our way into the park by the North East entrance just outside of Cooke City one night for $8 a night.
2. Gas Up Outside The Park
Learn from our mistake…I would suggest having at least a half tank of gas when entering the park every day. If you do end up with your low fuel light glaring at you, no fear there are several gas stations located within Yellowstone National Park. However, with convenience comes a cost. Gas within the park was 30-40 cents more per gallon. So, if you do have to fill up, just squirt in a few gallons and plan on filling up outside the park. We stayed in West Yellowstone where gas was average prices, a lot lower than I actually expected. Try and fill up before you head into the park, save your money for tip #5.
3. Pack A Lunch
There are several restaurants located within Yellowstone, but none of which are within reach if you are on a budget. There are several picnic sites within Yellowstone, many of which you will be the only ones at. Pack a picnic lunch, or bring your grill (that’s what we did). A peaceful picnic spot beats a cafeteria full of tourists any day!
NOTE: If you are staying in West Yellowstone there are 2 grocery stores, that are both reasonably priced.
4. Budget For Daily Ice Cream At Visitor Centers
After hours of exploring Yellowstone, you deserve an ice cream break! With the money you’ve saved by using tips #1-4 you’ll have enough to indulge in an ice cream cone. We ended up having an ice cream break daily inside Yellowstone. At first, I thought there is no way the ice cream is going to budget-friendly, but with the number of tourists licking ice cream cones I thought maybe it is! I was shocked when I saw I could get a double scoop cone/dish for under $4, and this was a massive dish. Being on a budget, Adam and I share the double dish as it would have been over $7 for two single scoop dishes.
NOTE: I found the prices varied throughout the park, as did the flavors.
5. Buy Annual National Park Pass
If you are planning an #EpicUSroadtrip like us, you might want to invest in America The Beautiful Pass. It’s a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The pass is valid for one year and costs $80, you can purchase online here. Every time you enter a National Park just hand over your card and picture ID. Your card will get a hole punched on the month the card activated, as it’s valid one year. The pass will get the pass holder and occupants of a single, private vehicle into National Parks.
So far our pass has paid for itself just in the first month of our road trip. We have only visited 3 National Parks, but that would have cost us $80 without the pass. We visited Theodore National Park in North Dakota fee was $20 per car for a 7-day pass. Yellowstone National Park was $30 per car for a 7-day pass, and Grand Tetons National park was another $30 for a 7-day pass. We have several more National Parks on our #epicUSroadtrip route, we for sure will be getting the value out of the pass and saving a lot of money too.
Now that we have shown you that Yellowstone on a budget can be done, you have extra money in your wallet to start exploring your next vacation!