Visiting Glacier National Park had been on our bucket list for years, but we could never find the ~2 weeks we thought we might need to do the epic road trip across the country to NW Montana. So we started looking at other options that would maintain the adventurous elements of our past trips out west to Colorado, but condensed into a week timeline. Enter the Montana Fly-N-Drive!
The trip was actually pretty simple to put together, and any of you guys could easily replicate it with 4 steps:
1) A General Plan: Our plan was to fly to Montana with carry-on luggage, rent a truck and camping equipment, and spend about a week exploring Glacier National Park (hiking, photography, relaxing, etc.). We purposely don’t overly plan these trips, beyond having a list of things we’d like to see/do (no preset daily itineraries).
2) Airfare: Becca and I flew from DC to Bozeman, MT for about $500/ea roundtrip. Bozeman is a cool smallish town in SW Montana about 5.5 hours south Glacier National Park and a couple of hours north of Yellowstone. The flights were super easy with a layover in Denver on the way out and Chicago coming back.
3) Truck Rental: One of the reasons we flew into Bozeman was because of the vehicle rental options (I wanted a truck!). We had the best rental experience ever with Ressler Toyota of Bozeman. For ~$500 we rented a 2016 CrewMax Tundra with the TRD Off Road Package and 5.7L V8 for the entire week. On top of that Ressler picked us up from the airport, and allowed us to just leave the truck at the airport (versus returning to the dealer) when we were headed back home. We’ll talk more about it later, but the Tundra was an awesome vehicle and a fantastic base-camp and exploration vehicle for us.
4) Camping Gear Rental: Since it is a little iffy to get an OzTent on an airplane, we needed to either buy more portable gear, or figure out how to rent some gear when we were out in Montana. We chose the latter, and researched different outfitters anywhere from Bozeman all the way up to Glacier. We ended up renting a “car camping kit”, which included a 4-person tent, sleeping bags/pads, as well as a kitchen kit from the Glacier Raft Co.. The rental equipment wasn’t nearly as nice as our gear back home, but got the job done. Total cost for the weekly rental ran us ~$450. Next time, we may choose to buy our own gear instead of renting. I figure we could grab the packable essentials for not much more than what we paid to rent (I’m mentally figuring $6-800).
That’s about it for the essentials! We had an awesome week – camped 4 nights in the National Park (using first-come, first-serve campsites), and spent the remaining 3 nights in hotels (one in Bozeman the first night, and then 2 towards the tail end of the week up in/around Glacier.
If you’re an East-Coaster looking for some western-adventure, and you’re tight on free time and funds (who isn’t!?) – definitely consider creating your own version of the Fly-N-Drive.