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  1. Default First Time Road trip

    Hello I've been reading these forums for a while, picking up ideas here and there for the trip that I'm planning this summer. While reading about other trips was fun, I finally decided I should see what others have to say about mine. Like the title says, this is my first road trip, and I'm planning on making it BIG.

    The trip is going to be four guys all 18 & 19, and round trip about 10,000 or 11,000 miles. Starting the mid-June and arriving back home the first or second week of August. We'll be taking a mini-van that gets 20 mi/gal with the back seats taken out. We'll be camping in National Parks almost the entire time, accept a few roadside naps taken at truck stops. I planned on budgeting 20$/day on food per person.

    A few questions:

    Would having a car-carrier on the roof of the van make us stand out for theives? Or give us an treatment that would not be the "norm"?

    How much would you except a trip like this to cost? My original estimates have been about $1500 per person, but that's why I'm asking the experts.

    Should we make reservations in the larger parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite?

    How much will gas cost this summer? I've been assuming $4.00/gal worst case scenario. I've heard very little about the future prices of gasoline.

    What places would you suggest are MUST SEE? I feel like I've gotten a lot of the basics down, but I don't want to miss those things that would really make the trip special.

    Are there any places that you would avoid in the dead of summer? Places that have reputations that far exceed what you actually get.

    Is 6-8 weeks a good time frame? I've gotten a lot of people telling me the summer before college is not the time to blow all my money to go see the country, and that we could get the same experience in 4 weeks. What's your opinion?

    Thanks
    Last edited by Poncho; 01-22-2009 at 08:15 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default a math problem

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    My original estimates have been about $1500 per person, but that's why I'm asking the experts.
    I think you have made some calculation errors in your budgeting. If you spend $20 a day on food each for 50 days, and drive 10,000 miles at 20mpg and $4/gallon, you've already spent $1500 each and you haven't factored in any other costs.

    I'd probably estimate $30 a night for camping, giving you a little cushion to spend the occational night in a cheap motel. You'll also need money just for entertainment and emergencies.

    On the positive side, I don't think gas will be $4 this summer. I'd probably use $3 as a figure for planning. Who knows exactly what will happen between now and then, but I don't see the world economy improving enough in the next couple months to take prices back to last summers levels.
    Is 6-8 weeks a good time frame?
    Being gone for more time will certainly give you a different experience, and you'll have much more time to see what you want to see. Having said that, there are good reasons to take a shorter trip. Its going to cost less for one, but even at a comfort level, you might want to think smaller. When you are planning a huge trip, it doesn't take much for things to start falling apart. Someone can't get as much time off, or can't raise enough money, or just decides they don't want to commit to being gone for that long, things like that can make the foundation of a trip really start to crumble. There's also the element that you don't know for sure that you'll even want to be gone that long. Traveling is certainly fun, but if you are doing it every day, even that can get old. When you don't have the experience to know exactly what you'll like, and how long you'll want to be gone before you are just ready to be home, taking a less ambitious trip can be a very good idea.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    You could, of course, hit the road and wing it - and watch the finances. When the $$$ is close to 1/2 gone, it's time to head home. Another good sign that it's time to head home is when you start getting on each other's nerves.

    If you are going to be hitting a lot of national parks, buy a yearly pass for $80 at the first park. It will pay for itself and it covers the whole car, not just 1 person. However, this does NOT pay for camping permits, just the park admission.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default You may be asking for trouble

    Quote Originally Posted by Poncho View Post
    We'll be taking a mini-van that gets 20 mi/gal with the back seats taken out.
    If I read this correctly, you're going to have four people and only seating for two? I don't know of a state in the nation that allows that - you have to have appropriate accommodations for each person in the vehicle, which includes seats and seat belts.

    I planned on budgeting 20$/day on food per person.
    I would bump that up to $30/day per person. That's only $10 per meal each which may seem like a lot, but it's easy to get to and exceed that amount. Though you can probably get away with less, the higher amount will give you a cushion.

    Would having a car-carrier on the roof of the van make us stand out for theives? Or give us an treatment that would not be the "norm"?
    A "car carrier"... yes. I'd be interested in seeing how you manage that feat. A car-top carrier... not necessarily. It may be a little more inviting to thieves, but as far as being treated differently, I doubt it. On any given day I see many of these on the highway and haven't really given it too much though until now.

    How much would you except a trip like this to cost? My original estimates have been about $1500 per person, but that's why I'm asking the experts.
    A rule of thumb to start with is $100 per person per day.

    Should we make reservations in the larger parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite?
    I would recommend it. In fact, many of the camping spots for the Summer are probably already reserved at this point.

    How much will gas cost this summer? I've been assuming $4.00/gal worst case scenario. I've heard very little about the future prices of gasoline.
    If I had that information, I could make Warren Buffett look like a pauper. If I had to wager, I'd go with today's prices + 20%.

    [QUOTE/
    Are there any places that you would avoid in the dead of summer? Places that have reputations that far exceed what you actually get.
    [/QUOTE]
    I don't know if there's any place I'd avoid in the Summer, but then again, I've spent many miles driving South in the heat of July.

    Is 6-8 weeks a good time frame? I've gotten a lot of people telling me the summer before college is not the time to blow all my money to go see the country, and that we could get the same experience in 4 weeks. What's your opinion?

    Thanks
    If it comes down to carving a huge hole out of your savings and putting you into a financial bind, then it's not a good idea at all. College is expensive, no matter how you slice it, and that's not going to improve any time soon.

    You could have a great experience in 2 days, 2 months, or even 2 years on the road. It really depends on your state of mind.

    I think one thing that gets in the head of people new to taking road trips is that there has to be a certain set of circumstances and a certain amount of time spent on the road to make the trip into something memorable. I once thought the same thing. But, after my first big trip, where it took nearly three days to go to a place I now get to in about 9-10 hours, I realized that most of what was portrayed in the popular culture about the seminal road trip was hokum.

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Poncho View Post
    Would having a car-carrier on the roof of the van make us stand out for theives? Or give us an treatment that would not be the "norm"?
    The car-carrier won't raise any eyebrows, but I personally don't like to drive with them. If you're going through any plains-type states with no trees, you'll find that a "tall" vehicle really feels the wind. If you're taking out the back two seats, you should have adequate space for four people's gear.
    Quote Originally Posted by Poncho View Post
    Should we make reservations in the larger parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite?
    Yes, you should make them yesterday. Seriously.
    Quote Originally Posted by Poncho View Post
    How much will gas cost this summer? I've been assuming $4.00/gal worst case scenario. I've heard very little about the future prices of gasoline.
    Who knows? I think we're all a little nervous about that. Gas is about $1.80 in my area right now (up from $1.50 two months ago, but way down from $4.00 a year ago). I'm budgeting $3.00/gallon for my upcoming trip; hopefully it'll be less, but I'd always rather have too much rather than too little.
    Quote Originally Posted by Poncho View Post
    I've gotten a lot of people telling me the summer before college is not the time to blow all my money to go see the country, and that we could get the same experience in 4 weeks. What's your opinion?
    I have to agree with "a lot of people". A road trip is wonderful, but a 2-week trip can be just as meaningful and memorable as the big-plan -- and you'll need money for college!

    My financial situation in college: Knowing I'd be on my own financially, I worked a good bit during my senior year of high school, and I saved almost every penny. So I started college with a good nest egg, and I really thought I"d be fine for the whole freshman year -- especially since I was working a few hours a week in college -- I thought my high school savings might even last into my sophomore year. I wasn't particularly "spendy" in college, but everything cost more than I expected. Books were a shock to me. I didn't have a weekend meal plan, and food was more expensive than I'd thought. Also, I hadn't yet learned to get the most from every dollar; I'm trying to teach that skill to my daugthers NOW before they leave home! As Christmas approached, I realized I had to learn to budget better. I spent the LAST of my high school savings to buy my 2nd semester books. That's when I really became a tightwad. I learned to make almost nothing last.

    Seriously, though, I wouldn't put my college finances in danger for an extra-long trip.

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