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  1. Default Budget help please!! First road trip out west

    My fiancee and I are planning a 2 month trip out west/southwest starting in mid/late April. We plan to fly to Portland, OR and pick up a car that we're able to borrow, then follow this general outline:

    -Drive down Portland coast to Redwoods Forest in CA
    -San Francisco, then drive along Big Sur/Route 1 coast
    -Cut across to Joshua Tree NP, CA
    -Tucson, AZ/Saguaro desert NP
    -Santa Fe, NM
    -Back to AZ for Painted Desert/Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon
    -Bryce Canyon, other parks in UT
    -Mesa Verde, Boulder, and Rocky Mts in CO
    -Points of interest in WY and many days in Yellowstone/Tetons
    -To circle back to Portland, either go up through MT all the way to Glacier NP, then down and over to Portland, or drive through Southern MT and Idaho back to Portland.

    We don't have a set idea yet how many days to spend in each place, but we're giving ourselves about 2 months to be able to mosey, explore, and enjoy the scenery.

    Budget question: we don't have to rent a car and our borrowed car gets good gas mileage, so that will cut down $$. We also want to spend most nights camping or coachsurfing near the national parks, and in cities either couchsurf or stay in hostels. We plan to make/pack many of our meals, but do want to enjoy restaurants/diners once in a while so we don't go too crazy.

    Given all this, what would be a reasonable budget to plan for? I've read a few people on this forum advising $100/day per person, but that would run us about $12,000 total! Since our expenses are so frugal do you think it's safe to budget less than that?

    Just looking to you seasoned travellers for advice -- this is our first journey on the open road and this forum is awesome! Thanks :)

    PS- on a separate note, the reason we're starting the trip with California and southwest first is because I figure it gets really hot in the desert in late spring/early summer, so if we start off in those places in late April/early May then by the time we get to WY/MT, it will be mid-late June which I've heard is optimal visiting time for Yellowstone and other WY/MT parks. Agree??

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Things to Consider When Budgeting

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Remember that the $12,000 budget is based on a moderate motel and a couple of restaurant meals a day, but excludes gas, entrance fees, and other purchases. You will need to work out your own estimate in a little more detail. This discussion lists a number of the expenses you'll have to take into account as well as ways to minimize them. Also make sure that your low cost options are available. Neither couch surfing nor hostels are universally available, particularly in the sparsely settled western U.S.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,269

    Default

    One thing about hostels - they usually charge per person, and quite often it will be just as cheap getting a room in a budget motel. Hostels only pay off economically for solo travelers. However, they are an excellent way to meet people.

  4. Default

    AZBuck: Thanks for the warm welcome, and for your input. The link you gave was REALLY helpful. I think what we want to do is camp when we're near national parks, which I gather is often free or very cheap (I looked at www.freecampsites.net). There are some couchsurfers in cities like San Francisco and Tucson and maybe we could stay with them if convenient, or "splurge" on a hostel. Especially because I imagine normal hotels in metro cities are expensive. (And I'm a NYC'er so I know expensive!). I am hoping the money we save when camping will make it easier to get hostels/hotels when we have to. Or when we want a break from roughing it. Meals also we will make cheaply as much as possible to offset the costs of occasional restaurants. We are both vegan so used to making our own food anyway!

    As for gas, Google maps gave me 5560 as the number of miles for our trip. I'm adding to that to make it 6600 in case of detours, etc. The car is 28mpg so the calculator gave me close to $600. However, someone else on the board estimated $900 for someone else traveling 6000 miles so I'm guessing that's a safer bet.

    glc: Thanks for the FYI about hostels...I hadn't realized it. Will double our hostel budget!

    Lastly, in your travels, have you come across a safe guesstimate for how much emergency money? I'm sure it depends but I don't even know where to start with a ballpark amount. Thanks!!!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,269

    Default

    For emergency money, one of the better options is bring a credit card that's nowhere near its limit and only use it if you HAVE to. Use cash or a debit card for your daily expenses. I use a debit card almost exclusively for everything except small purchases, I very seldom have much more than $100 in my wallet. When I need cash, to avoid ATM fees I go buy something at Walmart and get $100 back.

    Yes, downtown hotels are usually quite expensive, but it's possible to find $50 rooms if you get out into the suburbs around Interstate exits. For example, I was checking prices in Seattle for someone last night, and there are a few budget hotels near the airport that meet that criteria. The airport is about 10 miles from downtown. The cheapest (legitimate) downtown hotel I found was over $100. Another issue, as I'm sure you are aware of, is parking in large cities. Not only will you have to pay $125+ for a room, parking might be another $30. San Francisco is probably the biggest potential expense on your itinerary, but there are options.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Budgeting

    Quote Originally Posted by jen779 View Post
    Budget question: we don't have to rent a car........
    Borrowing a car is not necessarily cost free. Make firm arrangements with the owner of the car as to who is going to be responsible for the cost of repairs in the case of a breakdown. And don't overlook having to replace tyres. On my recent trip, the car I borrowed, and which was given a complete check and service before I took delivery, still broke down with an unforeseen, and unpredictable issue. It cost me the best part of a $1000 (and 4 days without a car).

    Quote Originally Posted by jen779 View Post
    and our borrowed car gets good gas mileage, so that will cut down $$.....
    You can cut down fuel costs even further if you keep your speed below 65mph. As well as that, take off gently, and anticipate stops, slowing down well ahead of the stop.

    Quote Originally Posted by jen779 View Post
    We also want to spend most nights camping or couchsurfing near the national parks, and in cities either couchsurf or stay in hostels.
    Don't overlook motels. At many rest areas and truck stops, as well as welcome centres (and ocassional other places) look out for the hotel/motel saver coupon books. On my recent trip I spent many a night in a motel, and never paid more than $45 - sometimes as little as $30 - per night. These are always rooms for two, so in your case it would be even more economical than for a solo traveller. All of the ones where I stayed had fridge and microwave, as well as wifi. Many offered free coffee all day, and some even offered free breakfast. If you have any concerns as to the cleanliness of the rooms, ask to see the room before committing. Just don't expect 3 star opulence.

    Hostels are great, especially for solo travellers, but since you pay per person, you may find a motel cheaper. On the other hand, hostels have much more to offer than just a bed. For one, there are other travellers with whom to share experiences, and learn about the road (and attractions) ahead. Here is probably the most comprehensive list of hostels on the internet. Unfortunately not all hostels keep their information up to date, so it is a good idea, for budgeting purposes, to add 10% to the quoted price.

    Do you have experience with couchsurfing? It is much more than getting a free bed.

    Quote Originally Posted by jen779 View Post
    We plan to make/pack many of our meals...........
    I picked up a great sandwich maker for peanuts in Goodwill. With a little imagination, tasty snacks and wholesome meals can be turned out. It will pay for itself many times over.

    Quote Originally Posted by jen779 View Post
    I've read a few people on this forum advising $100/day per person, but that would run us about $12,000 total!
    Roadtripping is not cheap, even with camping and hostels. You may find that you will need the better part of what you have quoted above. My 174 day / 28000+ miles trip recently cost me only a little more than that. About 30% of nights were spent with family and friends. On the other hand it included many 'free nights' at truck stops, almost $2000 on vehicle repair and maintenance and around $1500 on tours and train.

    Lastly, whatever you do, do not skimp on healthy food, and carry plenty of drinking water. The food will keep you focused and the water will cut down on expensive and undesirable fizzy drinks.

    Lifey who travels on a tight budget

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default Camping and gas.

    I think what we want to do is camp when we're near national parks, which I gather is often free or very cheap
    Be aware that most of the free camping will be in a more remote area with no services such as toilets and showers. Some will be on unmade roads and others could require permits to do so, so look into it carefully. The National and state parks have campsites with some amenities and are often in the $15-20 range and will include a shower !

    As you are visiting a large number of parks it would be penny wise to purchase an annual pass for $80 prior to travelling or at the kiosk of the first one you visit. The fee is for entrance only and does not include camping.

    As for gas, Google maps gave me 5560 as the number of miles for our trip. I'm adding to that to make it 6600 in case of detours, etc. The car is 28mpg so the calculator gave me close to $600.
    With these sums you are estimating gas to be around $2.60 and it's not possible to predict the prices next year but I would be allowing for at least $800 [maybe 900] for budgeting reasons. Always better to have some "spare money" than not enough.

  8. Default

    Wow, thanks everyone, for such specific and helpful information. I will take all of this into account. Luckily we have some time to figure all this out before embarking. Thanks again!!

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