Was the $500 Hall Pass for a month of Graduate Hotel Rooms really a good deal?

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Ummm…yes. Yes, it was still an insanely good deal for a month’s worth of hotel rooms at a 4-star hotel. I don’t think that answer necessarily surprised anyone, did it? We all kind of knew that the lodgings would be an outrageous deal for the month. But, I think you are all a bit more curious about how much it really cost us given that we basically drove across the country and back to make it to 15 out of the 30 Graduate Hotel properties open in the United States.

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How much did we really spend?

Total for the entire trip was $5886.88.

You may happen to remember in January when we went on a cross-country road trip where we stopped in Texas and New Orleans before we drove to Florida and spent 10 days at Walt Disney World (link below).

I love this comparison because you can see that we only spent $568.65 more on this month-long trip! Obviously, there are a lot of factors differ between a Disney trip and this one. And this one would have cost tons more if we had to pay full-price for our lodgings. But, it’s a fun comparison to me nonetheless!

Here is how it breaks down (scroll to see full chart on mobile):

Lodging Gas/Fuel (approx. 7,000 miles)Meals/Drinks outGroceries (includes snacks on the road)Transportation (Metro, Cabs, Scooters)Activities OutSouvenirsOil changes
Total cost $5886.88

You may look at the lodging tab and realizing it does not say “$500, the end”. That is because the lodging tab includes the $500 we paid for the Graduate Hotels Hall Pass, but also any hotel fees like pet fees, parking and tax. With each stay, we still had to pay the room tax, and any applicable sales tax. We also had to pay $25 a night for Elvis to stay with us. (So, if we didn’t have a dog we could have saved $725). And almost every hotel had an additional parking fee. We only scored free street parking in two places. In some cases it was cheaper to pay for street parking than to pay for hotel parking/valet. For instance, in New York, we parked at a garage 0.75 miles away for $24 a day instead of paying the $60 a night for valet parking at the hotel.

For gas, there is really no way to decide that you are going to spend more or less money on it. You just have to pay the price it is when you need it. Our one tip for gas, though, is to never go below half a tank when making a long drive. Technically, this does not mean you are spending less money, but it does make it feel like you are spending less money every time you fill up. It is cheating your brain, I know. But, I feel better when I see a total on the screen that is closer to $20 than $40. And also, this tip has the added benefit of meaning that you never feel stressed about running out of gas. If there isn’t a station in the next 60 miles, you won’t have to freak out.

In this chart, I separated what we spent on meals out and what we spent on groceries. If you combine them, you can see that at $2,231.39, this is the largest portion of the expenses and where we failed the most 😂. I joke. But, I only say that because I never intended to spend so much on food out. We were really good about just eating sandwiches and snacks from the cooler on the road, but I really expected to do more meals in the room. Being on the road as much as we were, it is no surprise that we relied on takeout and restaurants more than planned.

As you can see, we didn’t spend a lot on activities or extra transportation since we already had a car. We really tried to do free things, or make our outings and activities meal or drink experiences. The $80 spent on activities was $14 for admission to the Edgar Allen Poe Museum (Richmond, Virginia) and $66 for the American Museum of Natural History (New York City). The bulk of the $132.36 spent on transportation is from Metro Cards and one cab ride in New York. We also rented a few Bird scooters to get around once, but we didn’t even use all the credits we paid for!

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What would it have cost at full-price?

If we would have paid full-price for these hotels stays… well, we personally would not have been on this trip! But, in all seriousness, it would have cost about $4426 instead of $500 for the rooms alone. Add fees and parking and that lodging tab would read $6100! That would have brought the grand total of the trip to $9805! And, as much fun as we had, we both agree that we would not pay almost $10k to drive around the country like mad people.

Would we do it again?

Yes and no. Yes, we would *adds to cart* that Hall Pass as soon as we could get our little phalanges pried off of the steering wheel. No, we would not drive across the country and visit 15 properties. We had fun during our self-imposed “nomad boot camp,” but it was fast-paced and whirlwind. If we did this again, we would pick maybe 4-6 locations to focus on.

A screenshot of our July activity from Google telling us how far we drove in the month of July

At the end of July, Google sent Alex this snapshot of our activity for the month (left). You can see how we started in Southern California on July 1 and ended up back in Northern California on July 31. It is kind of unbelievable. We also walked 55 miles! That one mile on a bicycle must have been when we rented those Bird scooters!

You can see a full list of all the Graduate Hotel locations we visited on this blog post.

Also, how did my doodle from the last post hold up to the real route Google just showed us? Pretty good, I’d say

This was my rendering of what our route would look like for the month of July.
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