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  1. Default Trip of Destiny '09

    Hello forum,

    My friends and I are nearing the end of our junior year in highschool, and with college and actual REAL responsibilities approaching... we want to rough it on a road trip, but learn life lessons along the way...

    Our Initial plan was the Route 66 way to LA (we live in Southwest Michigan)

    that got trampled real quick--- then we planned another route thru canada and back down thru the east coast---

    Now we have a final plan; and it will most likely stay this route :

    MI>PHILLY>NYC>DC>MYRTLE BEACH>FLORIDA>MI

    We are thinking about Camping a few nights, but cheap motels will work also--were not real picky about lodging... and we have places to stay in Myrtle Beach and when we get to florida...

    Since our parents have always taken care of costs for vacation, i was just wondering if any of you new what a realistic cost for 3-5 friends to accomplish this type of trip.. well probably be driving a small SUV, so gas might be expensive.. we were thinking 2-3 weeks but if we can get the funds... longer would be better than shorter....


    Thanks
    Mike

    To Elaborate--- weve decided on the Toll road 80 > NYC then 95 Thru Philly and DC and continuing on 95 to myrtle beach, and once again to fort lauderdale... waiting on tips and pointers

    Mike
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-04-2008 at 07:31 PM. Reason: Same road trip (so merged)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Enjoy your rite of passage!

    A first roadtrip can be thrilling.

    It's pretty tough for us to give you an estimate of your travel costs. Too many variables. How you intend to eat, what activities you intend to do, the gas consumption of the vehicle you're driving, and lodging will all factor into it. This post will give you some tips on how to go about figuring out your expenses and creating your budget. And this post will give you some tips about how to keep food costs down.

    Here's some other tips that might help you sort through what you want to do and how best to do it. That article also contains some good information to work through with your parents in case they're having trepidation about your plans. And be sure to follow the link to the Roadtrip Compatablity Quiz in that article. It will also help make sure you are all in agreement about things and how to handle issues that might occur while on the road.

    Two or three weeks is definitely long enough to do this trip in. The issue will be your budget. Work through the steps to get an idea of what you think you'll need. Feel free to come back here with your budget so we can advise you if it's realistic or not.

    Camping is a great way to keep costs down. It will always be cheaper than motels.

    Well, let us know how we can help you further. Happy planning!

  3. Default

    I put your destinations into my computer. Obviously, this is very rough because I don't know your details. I didn't put in your specific roads; I just let the computer pick the fastest way from city to city.

    The route you're proposing is about 3847 miles.
    You'll be in the car 61 hours, 52 minutes.
    If we assume your car gets 15 MPG in the city/20 on the highway (obviously a guess, but it's based upon my old Ford Explorer), and if you pay $3.00/gallon for gas (none of us can predict whether that'll be realistic or not in a year, but it's going to be higher in the big cities), you will spend about $578 in gas -- adjust up or down, depending upon your mileage expectations, but also add in a little more for around-town driving and getting-lost miles.

    So it can be done in two weeks, but you'll be in the car an awful lot of the time. If you travel for two weeks, you'll be in the car an average of 4.4 hours per day.

    You say three to five people; try for four. Four is considerably less expensive than five because you fit into a standard hotel room and you fit comfortably into a standard car. Once you add that fifth person, you're piling on extra expenses.

    You can stay in cheap hotels for about $50-60/night (plus taxes; it varies from state to state, but figure 15% -- hotel taxes are higher than other things). In the big cities, you'll pay more, considerably more, and camping won't be an option in New York and Philadelphia; expect to pay at least $150/night in New York and $100/night in Philadelphia -- and that's going to be for the quality of hotel of which your parents probably wouldn't approve. In between the big cities (and in Florida), you'll do fine with decent, cheap, clean hotels. You have to be awfully careful in Myrtle too, and I'm not talking about just hotels with bugs -- the cheap areas of Myrtle are downright dangerous.

    Still, cheap hotels area better deal than camping -- if your goal is to keep moving down the road each day to see new things. Camping'll usually cost you at least $20/night, and you'll have to spend an hour each evening and an hour each morning setting up -- not to mention the large amount of your car space that'll be devoted to tent, sleeping bag, pillows, and more. Plus there's the issue of walking to the bathhouse during the night and having no air conditioning. Have you seen the bugs in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida? Camping's great -- when the destination's camping. It's not so great when you're traveling to other places, and you don't necessarily want to look like you slept on the ground last night. Camping also means leaving all your worldly goods in a tent, protected only by a zipper while you go out to see great stuff each day. Finally, if you have to buy any camping materials, this option is simply not financially feasible. When you consider all the details, camping just isn't as cheap it it appears on the surface.

    Hostels are a good, cheap option -- they're just few and far between in America. I know you can find them in New York, Philly, and Orlando.

    Plan at least $20/person/day for food -- that's going to be lots of fast food and eating-out-of-the-cooler meals. If sit-down meals are on the menu, add to this figure. Do not figure that you'll skimp on every meal for two weeks straight; you'll burn-out on that, go overboard, and run out of food money.

    So if four people travel for two weeks, your gas, cheap-cheap hotel, and cheap-cheap food would be about $3000. Of course, that's before you visit anything, have a single souvenier, etc. -- entertainment, snacks, laundry, and loads of other things will add a considerable amount to that bottom-line estimate. Also, you'll have some "start up" costs like an engine check-up and oil, possibly tires. And you'll need supplies for the trip.

    Serious question: You say you're doing this before REAL responsibilities approach. College tuition and books'll be due in August. I had to work every minute of the summer every summer to pay that huge bill -- how can college students afford not to work for 2-3 weeks of the summer?

  4. Default

    Thanks you Two, Like i said--- i have, all this spring break... all summer... all next year... and alll next summer until i start college---

    Furthermore... me and my friends-- (we are waiting on a 4th) have gotten it down to an 18 day schedule, weve excluded Philadelphia, because nothing interests us there, plus we figured we'd need Hotels For 3 Nights in NY and 3 Nights In DC; In Myrtle Beach and Ft Lauderdale, well have relatives... so most of the food and all of the lodging will be diminished.. as im sure dinner will be on them ;] on the way back, were taking 2 days
    and going straight from FL> Michigan-- Stopping in another family members house in Atlanta... Making it a 9 hour Drive to ATL and a 11 hr Drive Home--- with 4 people switching off, and others resting--- it shouldnt be that bad....we figured 900 dollars a piece...and if in any way we lose that, we can get loaned money from our 3 respected relatives to make it home---

    TOTAL Budget : ~2700-3600 Dollars...

    Reasonable? based on our new plan?

    Appreciate all the help youve given so far
    Mike

  5. Default

    Hey Mike,

    Looks like a great trip.

    Yeah, I think you can do the whole trip for about $4K or even a little less.

    A couple thoughts. First, staying in NYC can border on the ridiculous costwise. Consider staying outside of Manhattan. For me, part of the fun of being in NYC is using the Subway and public transportation. Brooklyn and Queens offer some pretty reasonable alternative to Manhattan and they're loaded with Subway stops.

    Skipping Philly may not be entirely necessary. Given your group, I think you'd be more than glad that you took a few hours to explore Independence National Park, and then strolled a few blocks to South St. Trust me. For your group, Philly won't require an overnight stay. Just head south into Delaware and find a campground, then head down to DC the next day. In the DC area, I've stayed at a couple of campgrounds within reasonable distance to the City.

    Myrtle Beach is an interesting choice. Personally, I can't stand the place-but I haven't been there in a long time. Very touristy if memory serves. What about Savannah or other Georgia islands? Take a look into them. You might be surprised. But I know you have relatives in Myrtle, so it's probably not terribly negotiable....

    I'm not as pessimistic about doing a road trip while camping along the way as a previous poster. I think it's entirely doable, particularly if the weather cooperates. I would just suggest that you have a minimum of two good quality tents that are absolutely weatherproof. Borrow them or find them used on eBay or something like that. The tents should be lightweight and you should be able to put them up or take them down in less than ten minutes in the dark. And you should have really good sleeping pads, or even air mattresses. Air mattresses are more time consuming but they can be really comfortable. And if you need hotels, based on your route, you won't have the slightest problem finding them. They're everywhere, and often pretty inexpensive (but not like $40....closer to $70).

    Food should be pretty easy for your group. It's actually pretty simple. A cooler. Supermarkets along the way. Maybe a camp stove, maybe not. Fast food now and again. And decent meals with your relatives. You'll be fine with that plan.

    Whatever you decide, just take your time with the planning process and don't get too bogged down with detail. Have fun....

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Dooses View Post
    we figured 900 dollars a piece...and if in any way we lose that, we can get loaned money from our 3 respected relatives to make it home---
    Four of you can do it for $900/each, but it'll be a bare-bones trip. I woudn't start out assuming that it's okay to borrow money to get home -- borrowing's never a good idea. Instead, I'd say each of you should put aside $150 in an envelope in your suitcases; if you have to open that envelope before you reach -- well, I don't know what spot . . . pick a reasonable one -- and say that IF you run out of money before that "safe spot", it's time to turn around and go home while you still have that money left.

    You also need a credit card in case you have a mechanical or medical emergency. Even a brand-new car can pick up a nail in its tire. Even a healthy young person can have an accident and need stitches.

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by metsno1 View Post
    A couple thoughts. First, staying in NYC can border on the ridiculous costwise. Consider staying outside of Manhattan. For me, part of the fun of being in NYC is using the Subway and public transportation. Brooklyn and Queens offer some pretty reasonable alternative to Manhattan and they're loaded with Subway stops.
    On the other hand, if you stay close to the things you plan to see (and I can only assume you plan to see the typical touristy things, which are in the Manhattan area), then you'll see them more quickly and move on faster. On the other hand, if you stay an hour away from everything, you have less time in the day. So what's more economical? 2 nights in an expensive room, or 3 nights in a cheaper place? Check into both possibilities before you make your decision. NYC also has hostels, which will be cheaper than the cheapest hotel and offer a unique experience. Check the ipod hotel too; not super-cheap, but reasonable for the area when split four ways.
    Quote Originally Posted by metsno1 View Post
    Myrtle Beach is an interesting choice. Personally, I can't stand the place-but I haven't been there in a long time. Very touristy if memory serves. What about Savannah or other Georgia islands? Take a look into them. You might be surprised. But I know you have relatives in Myrtle, so it's probably not terribly negotiable....
    Well, it's not my favorite place either. They call it the Redneck Riviera for a reason. It is certainly the cheapest beach in this area, but the reason why is evident! Now, if you go a little ways north or south, you find nice areas -- at higher prices. Senior Week at Myrtle is a long-standing, out-of-control tradition, and the police are always on the lookout for just-graduated kids doing anything wrong. Be careful and be good!
    Quote Originally Posted by metsno1 View Post
    I'm not as pessimistic about doing a road trip while camping along the way as a previous poster. I think it's entirely doable, particularly if the weather cooperates . . . [hotels are] everywhere, and often pretty inexpensive (but not like $40....closer to $70).
    I've camped across America, and I have come to the conclusion that road tripping with the goal of seeing American and camping don't mix well. IF the weather cooperates, you're not going to JUST put your tent up/down twice a day -- you're also going to have to pack up mattress pads, sleeping bags, lanterns, etc. Realistically, every time you move camp, it's an hour to pack up and another hour to set up. That's assuming it doesn't rain; if so, you're packing up a wet tent. Consider the things that a hotel gives you that campsites don't: comforable beds (which are very welcome after a day's driving); clean, private bathrooms; good lights for reading; air conditioning (when you get to the Carolinas and Georgia, you don't want to camp in June, July, or August -- you will learn the meaning of sweltering); laundry facilities; swimming pools. If you're lucky, you can find a hotel with a free breakfast buffet, which eliminates the need to pay for a meal. More than once, we've "won" an inexpensive hotel on Priceline for less than $50 AND it's included breakfast; for a family of four, this can't be beat. Using Priceline, we've recently stayed at Country Inns & Suites for $90 (that was high season right by the cruise ship pier, and it included breakfast), we've stayed at Residence Inn for $50 (included breakfast), and we've stayed at a five-star Marriott resort for $60.

    Then, keep in mind that camping costs more than you think it does. Oh, at first glance, it's easy to say, "Oh, it's free -- I already own the tent!" But that's not true. You'll pay probably $20/night to camp. Want a fire to roast marshmellows and keep away bugs? You're not toting wood from home, so you're going to have to buy it. If you're cooking on a camp stove or using a lantern, you're going to need to replace your propane. Unlike hotels, you can't get free ice at campgrounds, so you're going to have to buy it every day or two. The campground fee plus these "extras" are going to add up to at least $30/night -- and they could easily be more in some areas; some campgrounds charge $30-40 just for the use of a spot for one night!

    Then there are the intangible costs: lack of lighting, lack of privacy in the bathroom (okay for a couple days, but for 18 days?), lack of a place to wash dishes/clothes, lack of privacy in the campground (sometimes you have great neighbors, other times . . . ). Hanging your wet towels on trees gets old after a week, as does sleeping in a sweaty sleeping bag that could've used a wash a week ago. Don't forget, too, that the camping equipment will take up LOTS of space in that small SUV; that's less space for coolers and food, which are big money savers. These things would be acceptable IF, IF, IF camping saved you big bucks . . . but it doesn't. Compared to a cheap hotel, camping only saves you about $20-30/night -- and if you get a good, free breakfast at the hotel, camping and a cheap hotel are about the same cost! Is it worth packing up /sleeping in the heat /etc. worth $20-30/night divided by four people?

    Look into the prices of campgrounds along your proposed route and do some math for yourself. Add $10/night for incidentals -- you WILL spend that much on firewood, bug spray, and other things you'll need. Go camping with the group who's planning to travel together; time yourselves putting up the tent, spreading out the sleeping bags, putting up some camp chairs. See if you're happy hanging around the campground after the sun goes down. Don't jump into 18 nights cold turkey -- see how it's going to work for YOU.

    Don't get me wrong -- my family LOVES camping, and we go frequently! But tent camping doesn't mix with road trips. We camp when our intinerary includes hiking, swimming, fishing, long evenings around the campfire. We camp when we know we won't need to be up early in the morning, when we won't need to pack and repack our tents, and when we won't run out of clean clothes. We camp when it's good weather; nothing's worse than being stuck in a tent during a thunderstorm. We camp when we don't care whether our hair looks good the next day, and when we don't care that we smell like campfire smoke. Most of that doesn't mesh well with visiting historical sites, museums, and cultural attractions, which is what we care about during a road trip!

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MrsPete View Post
    We camp when we don't care whether our hair looks good the next day, and when we don't care that we smell like campfire smoke. Most of that doesn't mesh well with visiting historical sites, museums, and cultural attractions, which is what we care about during a road trip!
    Us too. But that's when we're camping for camping's sake.

    I have a couple thoughts about the particular group that we're talking about...

    First, I don't think they're gonna care quite as much as we might about hair, smelling like a campfire, or similar. There are showers at most campgrounds, often laundries, and you can leave the campground nice and clean without too much hassle.

    Second, I'm not sure the purpose of this trip is to visit museums, cultural attractions and historical sights. I could be wrong ;)

    IMO, it's all about the preparation. Like I said, you've gotta have a tent that you can put up and take down quickly, and stow in a relatively small and waterproof bag (even when wet, which doesn't matter much because you're taking it out again right away).

    I'd suggest a halfway decent self-inflating sleeping pad rather than a full blow up mattress pad (time and space saver). And all you really need are really good LED headlamps for light. Forget lanterns. They're too bulky and cumbersome for this type of camping. If you get a headlamp that's really good, it'll be bright enough to light up everything! Always carry backups too.

    Have a bag set up with all of your toiletries in it. And have a small duffle bag that you can pack every night before you go to sleep. Put your clothes for the next day in it, plus a towel for the shower. Wake up, grab it and go shower. Make sure that warm clothes are easily accessible for cool mornings (nothing's worse than cold camping without proper gear!)

    Camping doesn't have to mean the whole "get everything out every night, put up the big tent, blow up the air mattress, unload the cooking gear, make dinner, make a campfire, tend the fire, make smores, eventually go to sleep." It can be as simple as "Set up the tent, unroll the sleeping pad and bag, pack the bag for the next day, hit the bathroom and go to sleep."

    If you're comfortable with the "abbreviated version" of camping, then it can work on a road trip. If you're not, then I'd agree that camping doesn't represent a bargain.

    The fact that you're staying with relatives along the way will give you the opportunity to get a better nights sleep now and again, so you should be good to handle "camp sleep" on the other nights (although if you're like me, you sleep like a rock whenever you're outside). And when you're traveling and it's raining at camp setup time, that's an obvious hotel night.

    I've done the minimalist way, and I'll tell you what, I've enjoyed it every bit as much as the full-blown camping experience. They're just different animals, that's all.

    Would I do it for 18 straight nights? No way. But sprinkle in a hotel night here and there in addition to your relatives homes, and you're golden.....

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Everybody's different

    I am a huge advocate for camping while on a roadtrip. For several reasons:

    First, after being in the car all day, even if I get out to explore a lot, gives me some kinks. Moreso now that I'm in my advanced years. One of the best ways to work the kinks out is to put up my tent. The moving, bending, etc. feels good.

    Second, I can't stand sitting in a hotel room....I don't care if it's a 5-star resort or a Motel 6. Just can't stand it. But I thoroughly love sitting around my tent, with my lantern, reading a book, watching people, watching nature, watching the sunset, etc.

    Third, I love to go for a walk after getting my tent set up. Walking around a campground is far better than walking around a parking lot. And I often strike up the best conversations with people. It's not unusual to find someplace who has just come the direction I'm traveling to and to get some great tips and ideas.

    I have timed myself numerous times and I can tell you that it takes me all of about 10 minutes to set-up camp and about 15 minutes to take-down camp the next day. To be honest, it doesn't take all that much longer than it does to take my stuff to my room and pack up in the morning. Just make sure you get a tent that goes up/comes down easy and after practicing a few times, you'll get a good routine.

    I regularly leave items at my campsite if I'm going to explore for the day. While I don't leave anything really valuable behind, I will leave my stove, lantern, chair, etc. out. I do tend to put them under the picnic table so they're not totally exposed or easy to grab too quickly. I leave my clothes, etc. in my bag in my tent. I have never had anything stolen yet. Not to say it can't happen and everytime I write that I figure I've jinxed myself. But it's not something I would worry much about. Unless you've got some people camping near you that give you the creeps, heed that notion.

    I sleep better in my tent and find it just as comfortable as most hotel beds. In fact, I'm more comfortable in my tent, on my little backpacking-style pad than I am in my own bed at home. Maybe I'm just strange? But there is no better night's sleep than outside.

    I have regularly taken roadtrips lasting up to 2 weeks in my little New Beetle with all my gear and had plenty of room left over. Only with 2 of us in the car though. There aren't room for passengers in the backseat. But I see no reason why you can't fit this all into a much bigger vehicle like an SUV without problem.

    In addition, I take my campstove/cooking kit and cooler and rarely eat rsetaurant meals...usually only every 2-3 days and, when I do, I splurge on a nicer place or someplace with good regional food. Most of the time, the free breakfasts don't appeal to me from what I've seen. Too many carbs. I'd be napping by 10am. Ice is usually only $1 a bag and propane is cheap and can last for days.

    I am a fairweather camper. If it's raining or unseasonably cold, I will get a hotel. It always bums me out but I don't like to be cold or wet.

    Except for a few vacations to Washington, DC, and Orlando, and a business training I attended in Huntsville, AL, my experience with The South is pretty limited. Maybe I wouldn't enjoy the roadtrip/camping routine as much there due to the humidity and the bugs. Who knows? Hopefully I'll get to that part of the country someday and find out.

    Anyway, whether or not you enjoy camping while on a roadtrip is definitely an individual decision. Some of us may enjoy it and some may not. That's cool as we all like to do things differently. Makes the world more interesting. But I know camping is a big moneysaver so, if budget is an issue, you might consider camping. If you don't think you'll like the stop/set-up and then get-up/pack-up routine, you might try a shorter roadtrip first to see if you find it a hassle. I know I don't but YMMV.

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by metsno1 View Post
    I've done the minimalist way, and I'll tell you what, I've enjoyed it every bit as much as the full-blown camping experience. They're just different animals, that's all.
    I'm totally good with minimalist, but NOT when my schedule says that I should be up early the next day and out to see some wonderful place. I've run college Outdoor Bound type programs, and I worked at scout camp for three summers. I know camping. I'm also not going to do it for a couple weeks straight. My kids also make a difference in the plans -- more equipment, more sleeping bags, more food, etc. Sure, they're old enough to help, but I still have to supervise, and there's no way we're getting everything up (or down) quickly for a whole family.

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