Yosemite needs to be on everyone’s bucket list! If the expense is holding you back, I hope the tips I share here will help you get to Yosemite to experience and enjoy on an affordable budget.
When you’re in Yosemite, you get this overwhelming feeling that it’s unreal or make-believe! Like you can’t believe your eyes, even though you’ve seen pictures of it all your life! Being there and seeing it with your own eyes is almost surreal and definitely a spiritual experience.
No matter how many times I’ve been there, no matter what time of year, I still get that feeling! “It’s like Walt Disney made it!” I say that every time I’m there and then a friend said it to me upon returning from Yosemite last year! (Not to be sacrilegious by any means.)
The amazing thing is that you can see and do all the most famous iconic sites in one day! If time is a constraint! Or if you’re just passing through! Or to save money on lodging! A day trip is definitely the most affordable way to do Yosemite!
My son lives in Yosemite and we had to rescue him due to a flood evacuation in January. A friend who’d never been there rode along, and even with the ten-hour-round-trip drive and the time it took to pack up all his gear and have lunch, we were still able to show our first-timer most of the major sites! One day is definitely do-able. But more time is better of course!
Personal Fun Fact: When you go, if you see climbers on the faces of the rock walls, even after dark with lights, one of them is quite possibly my son! When he’s not working, he’s climbing, day and night!
There are some really nice accommodations in Yosemite and a quick google search will reveal them but they are pricey!
You can stay outside the park much less expensively but keep in mind travel time in and out of the valley especially during the height of tourist season.
A Great Deal 26 Miles Out
One wonderful place 26 miles from the valley is the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort with dorms/hostels, cabins, guest houses, studios and more! With rates starting at $25 per person, per night. The resort offers massage, yoga, spa, café, and even weddings! 4 stars on TripAdvisor! For more info and reservations, go here.
But If you are looking for the most affordable accommodations inside the park; tent camping, wilderness camping, and RV camping are the least expensive followed by Housekeeping Camp. Links below.
With its quirky name, Housekeeping Camp is a campground consisting of three-sided concrete structures with a canvas roof and front, already set up for you complete with beds! There’s a full-sized bed and set of bunk beds in each one and room for extra cots or air mattresses if you bring them – or those new air-sofa-beds that don’t require a pump! Link below. With our family of 6+ we brought extra beds. You need to provide your own linens or sleeping bags and pillows – or rent them there. The structures are on raised foundations, not dirt. Each has its own campfire ring with grill-grate for cooking, with fairly private covered patio with picnic table and counter-tops for meal preparation. Bring your own camp-stove or use the provided campfire ring to cook meals! Enjoy your campfire at night! Don’t forget s’mores! There’s a store for s’mores ingredients, charcoal and firewood. Bring your own chairs to sit around the campfire! Note: Your cooler/ice chest must fit inside the bear box.
Curry Village/Half Dome Village
Curry Village aka Half Dome Village, is a little pricier than Housekeeping Camp, but still less expensive than other Yosemite lodging accommodations. Curry Village/Half Dome Village has tent-cabins on raised foundations with beds provided. But no cooking or campfires allowed, no private covered patios. But you are walking distance of several places to eat at the pavilion, including the Pizza Deck, which is the most affordable way to feed a family in Yosemite other than preparing your own meals! And my son works there! They also have a Coffee Corner which also serves oatmeal for breakfast and ice cream all day and the ice cream is really good! There are other options for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the pavilion as well. And all over the valley.
If all the tables are taken but there’s room at one, ask to join them! McSorley’s style! We did this at the Pizza Deck and got to eat with honeymooners from the U.K. We all had the most wonderful evening together! It even led to drinks after dinner! And quite the lesson in UK law enforcement as they were both cops! Off Topic Fun Fact we learned from them: U.K. cops are unarmed. It’s true.
Bear boxes are provided and a small cooler will fit inside them so you can bring your own cold foods, snacks and drinks. You could easily bring cold breakfast and sandwich makings. We used to bring our own and have breakfast and lunch picnics. There are picnic areas all over the valley. You can also eat in your Curry Village tent-cabin altho there’s no tables or chairs and all food must be stored in the bear box, don’t leave anything at all in your car or in the tent-cabin. Not even empty wrappers or containers! You will be fined!
Note for the Disabled: They have special accommodations available including a limited number of cabins with their own private bathrooms. The trails all over the park are pretty easily accessible, paved pathways to the iconic falls. Plus the FREE Nat’l Parks Pass. Link below.
Most Yosemite accommodations require reservations. But there are some first-come-first-serve tent/wilderness campgrounds.
Free Delicious Spring Water
The water is really good and FREE out of the tap – but then there’s Fern Spring which is very easily accessible delicious spring water! Bring your sport bottles or canteens and fill’em up! I’ve watched my son lean over and lap it up like a wild animal! If catching your own water in the wild is a bit too adventurous for you, use any tap! It’s seriously delicious wholesome water. Don’t buy water or soft drinks! You know that will save you a bundle! Remember to refill for your trip home!
And there’s also these Free Entry Dates remaining this year:
August 25 (National Park Service’s birthday)
September 30 (National Public Lands Day)
November 11-12 (Veterans Day weekend)
A few key tips to making the most of your Yosemite experience:
- Go during the week, not the weekend: traffic resembles that of Hollywood and New York City on the weekend. Not even joking.
- Use the FREE shuttle bus. It takes you to all the iconic sites and its hop-on-hop-off, so you can stay at each point of interest at your leisure as another shuttle will come along soon. You don’t have to hassle with finding parking spaces! Or If you prefer, there’s also an open air tour tram for a fee.
- Use bear boxes, don’t leave wrappers, empty food and beverage containers anywhere, not even your vehicle. Use trash cans at every stop.
- The restrooms at Bridal Veil Falls are to be avoided at all costs. You’re welcome.
- Other than that Yosemite is incredibly amazing. All times of the year! Late spring/early summer for the Falls! Snow skiing/boarding and other winter sports in the winter! My son also works at the ski & board park, formerly known as Badger Pass! Incredible beauty all times of the year!
- Obtain a Nat’l Parks Pass in advance for free entry into the park. Go here.
- Free Lifetime Nat’l Parks Pass for the Chronically Ill and Disabled, go here.
Yosemite on a Budget Review Quick List:
- Day Trip
- Tent/Wilderness Camping
- RV Camping
- Housekeeping Camp
- Curry Village/Half Dome Village
- Stay outside the park, i.e. The Bug
- Pizza Deck
- Fern Spring FREE delicious drinking water
- Prepare your own food: cold food allowed everywhere
- Free Shuttle
- Nat’l Parks Pass
- Free Entry Dates
Add Yosemite to your bucket list! Don’t put it off! Because Nature Deficit Disorder is a Thing, read about it here.
I’ve included a few links below for happy campers! Mad Libs in the car and around the campfire are great fun for the whole family! We’ve played them a lot! I’ve laughed until I cried!
Enjoy ~ and say hi to my kid!
Photo and Consultant Credit: Justin Olsen
‘My Travel Blog’ is a subsidiary of ‘Family Heath and Wellness.’ The views expressed in My Travel Blog are most definitely those of Family Health and Wellness. Travel, it’s good for your health ♥️