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  1. Default Help! Need advice on mega trip! Anything will help!

    Hi there
    My two best friends and I have decided to take a year off of our schooling to see the country. We will all be 20 during the trip. We want to spend 3 or 4 months starting out in Salem, OR. We would love to have some advice on where to go, what route, what to see, and how much everything will cost. You guys seem to have a ton of knowledge!

    We are budgeting, at the most, 4 months for this mega trip. We will be taking a 1987 Toyota Dolphin mini RV, or a van pulling a 16 foot travel trailer. Does anyone have any advice on which one would be better to take on a road trip? We won’t have to pay to sleep anywhere, assuming we find Wal-Marts, or parking lots every night. Our Dolphin get roughly 16mpg on the highways, and 12ish in the city. I think the van with trailer will be roughly the same. We have budgeted 2400 dollars for gas (800 each). We will do most of our eating with groceries, but will obviously spend money on famous places to eat along the way sometimes. Does anyone know how much we could expect to pay for attractions? Do you think 300 in food, and 250 in attractions every month would be possible?

    We want to see as much as we can! Go anywhere and everywhere! We will be leaving this September, in the middle of the month, and could be back as late as January 20th. Has anyone done such an epic journey that could help me out? Anyone have any good ideas for routes or any advice? Or just a mock trip you would do? I’d greatly appreciate it!

    Thanks,
    Joe

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default unrealistic expectations

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you are being way too optimistic in your predictions.

    First, assuming you'll be able to sleep for free every night by staying in parking lots is just not a very good starting point. Yes, that will be an option from time to time, but when you are parking lot camping, you basically are confined to your van/rv, and don't have anywhere to move around and to get space from each other. With 4 people over the length of trip you are talking about, that's just a recipe for problems.

    $300 per month ^per person^ is probably a fair estimate for your food costs, if you keep things cheap and do most of your own cooking. If you were thinking $300 a month total, that's just not realistic, and I would challenge you to try and feed 4 people on $10 a day even when you aren't traveling.

    As far as where to go or what vehicle to take, those are things that only you can answer. With 4 months, you can go just about anywhere you want, and the best vehicle depends upon which is more reliable and comfortable for you to drive and live in over this period.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Compatibility

    Hello,

    That sounds like an epic adventure !

    To get the best from a trip of this length and time you will have to sit down as a group and decide which routes, what vehicle etc to take and check that you are "all on the same page". A trip in such close quarters over a long period will test the resolve of friendships from time to time, so maybe this Compatibility test will be a good way to get discussions going.
    When you are working out your budget you will need an emergency fund in case of any mishaps such as a mechanical failure and one that will get you home if and when the rest of your funds have gone. If you want to spend some time visiting National parks then the annual pass for $80 would be a good bet. It usually pays for itself after your first four parks and any after that become "freebies".

    Have a good search of the forums and road trip planning pages for ideas and as you build your trip keep asking questions as and when you need to.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Road Test

    I'd test both rigs on the road to get a better idea of their true MPG so you have an accurate comparison. Also to figure out what you prefer driving. Towing presents challenges a smaller RV doesn't. However, this also gives you an advantage of leaving the trailer somewhere for daytrips in just the van. Tough call.

    I really would not depend on freebie camping every night. Many Wal-Marts don't allow it. Some towns have ordinances against it. And, really, sitting in a parking lot vs. a nice campground with places to walk, be out in the fresh air, maybe build a campfire, take a swim, etc. No contest and easily worth the $20 or so. I would budget for paying for a campground site for at least half your nights on the road.

    Depending on how much your eat, what you eat, how good you shop for sale items at grocery stores vs. paying full price, how much you depend on convenience foods, etc., will effect your food budget. $300 per person per month sounds reasonable but you'll have to shop careful to get any lower than that, and it might very well go higher.

    You should all sit down together and make a list of the places you want to see most, prioritize them, and then the routes to get to them should be pretty obvious. But I wouldn't get hung up on specific routes. With four months, you can do lots of meandering. And I think that's part of the fun.

    I agree with an emergency fund.

    Start meandering home when you're roughly 1/2 way through your money.

  5. Default

    Hey thanks for all of the replies!

    When it comes to Travel Centers and Walmarts, we are gonna really try our hardest to use as many of these as possible to maximize our money. I feel like these two combined with an occasional Indian Casino could make up most our lodging, especially in a motorhome. However it is inevitable that we will need to pay for campgrounds along the way.

    Does anyone know of cheap camping spots across the country? Also, Southwest Dave mentioned the $80 annual pass for National parks; does this include camping as well? If not, is there any other sort of camping pass we could get?

    Also, I think $300 is way more than doable when it comes to food per person. That comes down to $10/person a day and when we are eating ramen and pb&j daily, that number will come way down.

    Thanks a lot!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default The money to get home.

    Hi,
    The State parks usually offer good value camping as does the National parks, but the fees are not included in the $80 annual pass, that is for entrance fees only.
    The NP's are around $18 a night [State parks cheaper I think] but a lot of them have dump stations and fresh water so it would give you the chance to fill and empty your waste water tanks. There are public dump stations that are free, but as I understand it more and more are charging for the privilege to use them so use these stops wisely.
    You can find RV info in our road trip planning pages.

    but will obviously spend money on famous places to eat along the way sometimes.
    Also, I think $300 is way more than doable when it comes to food per person. That comes down to $10/person a day and when we are eating ramen and pb&j daily, that number will come way down.
    Or maybe not !

    I admire what you are trying to achieve but the reality is that just a couple of nights a month "living it up" could blow a big hole in your budget. There are a lot of little things on your trip that will be easy to spend a couple of dollars here and a few more there that will all add up over 4 months. You don't need money to enjoy a road trip as such but if it came down to it I would choose a 3 month trip with a more comfortable budget and the chance of having a few treats then a 4 month one scrimping and scraping.
    I am sure you are all saving hard but I always look to budget at home long before I leave home to max my spare cash when away on the trip. Things like not going out for a drink with the lads to often, not going to the game, cutting down on eating out etc. I don't stop living though, I just get them to bring the beers around and I light up the BBQ Lol! The little things add up quickly too.

    I think you will have a great time and as long as you have enough money left to make the journey home, whether it be after 3 months or 4 months, you will be OK.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default down to the bone

    Whenever I see people plan trips like this and talk about how they are going to do things this cheap, I wonder if people realise they are looking at everything working out as a best case. Everything would have to go exactly as you have laid out on paper, and that rarely ever happens.

    There is a point where you try to do things so cheap that making sure you are staying on budget becomes more important than trying to have fun. I'm quite sure you are going to be at that point and then some with the dream you've got. Living on a shoestring, eating nothing but ramen and pb/j and living in parking lots can be sort of a fun challenge for a few days, but not for 4 months. The reality is, I really don't think you'll end up having much fun with your current plan, and I'd place a pretty big wager that your friendships will also suffer too.

    It can also be easy to fall into the myth that you have to make your trip as big as possible. I think you would have a much better time if you scaled down your plans a bit, and allow your money to do more. Instead of planning for a 4 month trip where you have to stretch every last dollar to the max, a one to two month trip where you can worry about having fun instead of pinching pennies would almost certainly be a more enjoyable experience.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Yup, and let me add...

    I am the queen of the cheapies. I virtually never pay full price. Stock my cupboards and freezer with sale items. Camp. And look for every possible way to save on fees (coupons, AAA discounts, etc.)

    I have done several caravan trips with others. They stop and eat in restaurants; I eat out of my cooler. They stay in hotels; I camp. So, other than gas which is roughly the same since this is with a car club group and we all drive the same cars, our expenses are quite different. My total expenses have often been half the others.

    Yet, I always make sure I budget in extra dollars for fun. I may only eat in a restaurant every two or three days, but then I budget that in. I also budget in extra money for things that I know I'll want to do. I mean, if it's hot, I might want ice cream or a milkshake or something else not out of my cooler. Even ice for the cooler can add up, too. I also factor in extra bucks for finds along the way. There might be a really great museum, a whitewater rafting trip, a funny tacky tourist trap, or any other number of things that might lure me in and make the trip far more fun and memorable.

    I don't see you budgeting in anything for these types of adventures. And I think it will make for a frustrating trip.

  9. Default

    If your up for roughing it for real, I know that camping on federal land is free or costs next to nothing (like $5 or $10, depending on location). Some of these sites may be harder to get to with an RV, but it might be worth doing some research about any available free campsites around the specific places you are going to. These sites however, are not maintained and there are no amenities, so leaving the place as clean or cleaner than you found it is of utmost importance.

    Like I said, with an RV or camper it may not may be a valid option, but it might worth it to check it out at least.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default sort of

    Welcome to the RTA forum, ausker!

    There are some free camping options on public lands. These are mostly National Forest or BLM lands, that are pack in/pack out places with no services. They also require a bit of research as you can't assume that just because you are on some of these public lands that you can camp there. However, these usually have pretty limited parking so being in an RV is a bit tricky.

    Actual campgrounds in these lands usually do cost about $10, and will usually have at least basic services like water and pit toliets. National Park campgrounds usually cost around $20 a night.

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