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  1. Default HELP! 3 weeks, Philly to San Fran, estimated cost?

    Ok, two other friends and I want to take a roadtrip from Philadelphia to "somewhere out west", most likely San Francisco. We will either take my compact car, or try a driveaway agency (drive one car there, hang around a few days or a week, then get another car to drive back). We are planning for 3 weeks in September.

    I don't really know how much we should each expect to spend. This is what I've figured out so far, and if anyone could let me know how accurate this sounds, that'd be great!

    Transportation: I'm guessing we'll be doing 5,500 miles from coast to coast and back, does that sound right? Then if we get 25mpg and gas is say $2.30, it will be around $500 total for fuel.

    Food: I'm all about packing a big cooler and stopping at grocery stores. I don't want to starve myself or anything, I just want to be healthy, and want a variety of good food...veggies, protein, and stuff. Should we expect to spend $10-15 each a day on food?

    Lodging: This is the part I hate spending money on. I was thinking, hey we'll just camp and/or stay at hostels, it will be so cheap...but I was looking at prices online, and it's not quite as cheap as I was told it would be ($5-20 per night). Most hostels I saw were $30 per person per night, and the campgrounds were about $30 overall per night. We are also willing to sleep in our car from time to time though. So should I budget about $25 per person per night? We might might be able to stay with a friend in S.F., but he doesn't know if he'll have space.

    Fun stuff: I don't know how much fun costs. We like nature-y stuff, so we'd probably want to visit some national parks...I really want to see the Grand Canyon, though that's a little out of the way. Anyway I don't know how much extra to set aside per day for this stuff. $20 bucks each?

    So like $1,325 is what the total would be for each person, for a 3-week cross country trip? Does that sound anywhere near normal?

    Thank you for reading!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Thin

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    It might just be possible to get by on the kind of budget you're envisioning, but everything would have to go exactly according to plan, and even then, you'd have almost no room for unexpected expenses, or even expected expenses to make the trip memorable rather than just an exercise in frugality. There are a number of tips around here on traveling cheaply and how to estimate expenses. But the main thing is to be realistic. Three weeks of continuous scrimping is going to put a serious strain on your friendship. As your finding out, things will cost more than you had originally planned. In addition, you can count on doing at least 20% more miles than you've estimated. Even the most direct route there and back, with no side trips to see anything, will be closer to 6,000 miles. And there is simply no point to even thinking about trying to get a good night's sleep, three in a car. So, my first and most compelling piece of advice is to fatten up your wallets a bit before getting too far out on the limb of your dreams.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default within reason

    I agree with Buck that you probably should have a little more money available as a cushion, but I think you are certainly on the right track.

    Your fuel costs are probably the biggest place where you've underestimated. Point to point, you might be looking at 5,500 miles, but on a roadtrip, you're not just driving between 2 points. You're detouring to find campsites, you're driving through parks, and stopping to explore cities. All of those things add up quickly and are really going to push your mileage up. I think I'd be using at least $8,000 miles and if your traveling this summer, I think I'd be using a number closer to $2.50 or even $3 for gas to be on the safe side.

    I think most of your other cost estimates are quite reasonable. Even if you stay at motels, you shouldn't have much problem keeping your lodging costs under $75 total a night, and if you spend several nights camping, your costs could be quite a bit lower. You are right that when you have a group, hostels don't provide much savings because of their per person cost - however, often times they can be located in more central parts of a city. If you'd rather stay in a downtown area (where hotel costs would be high) they are something to look into, although in these cases, you'll usually also have to pay more for parking. I also agree with Buck that sleeping 3 people in a compact car is just not a good idea for anyone.

    Your food and entertainment budget seems reasonable, although you will need to stick to grocery stores for the vast majority of your food. If you start giving into restaurant tempations or just want to sample lots of local food, $15 a day can start flying by quickly.

    With a few slight modifications, you should be in good shape. Best of luck as you continue to plan!

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