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  1. Default Planning a 2.5wk roadtrip from Victoria, BC to Chicago, IL for two on $2500.

    I've been doing a bit of lurking (especially in the travelling on a budget section!) in plans for a roadtrip a friend and I are taking to the Lollapalooza music fest in Chicago in August. We are going into our third years of university, hence the relatively low budget of around $1250 each (we're poor students!) and she's 19 and I'm 20.

    We are looking for spots that our budgetting is unreleastic, or holes in our time management, or additional stops to make that aren't too too far off of our route. Sorry in advance if the trip description sounds like a novel, I do like to ramble and this is a fairly detailed itinerary. All of the activity costs are for two people.

    July 29th: We are leaving and driving 2 hours down island (we live near Nanaimo, BC on Vancouver Island when we're not in school) to catch the 6:00am ferry ($71) from Victoria, BC to Port Angeles, WA. From here we're driving through Seattle to the suburb of Issaquah, WA. We're staying with a friend overnight here. We spent 2wks in Seattle two years ago, so we feel like we covered it pretty comprehensively. We will be getting in at 11am, and just visiting for the day and taking it slow.

    July 30th: Our goal is to hit a Chimposium in Ellensburg, WA at either 9:15 or 10:45am for $34. It's an hour forum on chimpanzees that know sign language. Then we will drive to Spokane, WA and check in at the KOA campground ($34), the drive from Issaquah to Spokane should be 4.5 hours, with the chimps as a break in between. We will have the night in Spokane, any advice on nice scenic places to go or things to see?

    July 31st: Drive 450 miles from Spokane, WA to Big Timber, MT and check into the Big Timber KOA ($29). Any advice for stops to break up the 7 hour drive?

    August 1st: We're going to stop in Custer, SD to see Flintstones Bedrock City: we're not planning on stopping there long, it's mostly a photo-op. ($20). Then it's off to Keystone, MT to see Mt. Rushmore ($11 to park). At night we will check into the Rapid City, SD KOA ($35). The drive from Big Timber to Rapid City is another 7 hr 450 mile one, but we have a lot to break it up.

    August 2nd: A slight detour to the Cosmos Mystery Area. ($19). We're going to stop to seen the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD for FREE! We plan to arrive at Wild West Water Park after 4pm so we can get in for $30. Then it's a 20 minute drive to Sioux Falls KOA for check-in ($24). This is yet another rough 400-450 miles from Rapid City to Sioux Falls.

    August 3rd: Drive from Sioux Falls, SD to Madison, WI. Here we're treating ourselves after all the camping and staying in a hotel ($65). That drive is 430 miles. What is there to check out in Madison?

    August 4th: Leave Madison relatively early for the 150 mile 3 hr drive to Chicago, and actually to our hotel in Evanston, IL ($364 for 4 nights). Park there, and catch the train into the city. This is where the budget gets foggy. We have one day and want to see the bean at Millenium Park, go up to the glass balconey of the Sears tower, there's Navy Pier and Lincoln Park... if you were doing Chicago in essentially one day, what would you do?

    August 5th, 6th, 7th: Lollapalooza. See approx. 20 of our favourite bands. The festival is from 11am - 10pm each day, so we aren't planning any sightseeing on those days. $370 festival pass fees. We are taking the L-train from our hotel each day and not driving at all within the city.

    August 8th: Hour drive to go to Six Flags Great America rollercoaster park ($74). Half hour drive to camp in Zion, IL at Illinois Beach State Campground ($40).

    August 9th: 400 mile drive from Zion, IL to Minneapolis, MN. Check out the Mall of America, and check into the Minneapolis Northwest KOA. Any stops along the way? 450 mile drive.

    August 10th: Minneapolis, MN to Winnipeg, MB. We're going to stop in Fargo (we both love the movie... even though we know it wasn't actually filmed there), see the Fargo Walk of Fame and eat at the Space Aliens bar and grill. Check in at the Winnipeg West KOA ($20).

    August 11th: Winnipeg, MB to Indian Head, SK. There's a Folklorama festival going on in Winnipeg, so we might be checking that our. Any stops along the drive? 300 miles.

    August 12th: Major 2hr rerouting off the trans-canada from Indian Head to Roulou, where they filmed the Canadian show Corner Gas. Then 5 hours to Medicine Hat, AB where we check into the Gas City Campground ($34).

    August 13th: 3.5hr 180 mile drive from Medicine Hat to Calgary, stay with my aunt and uncle for FREE! at long last, a free night. Visiting time. Been to Calgary pretty extensively as well, no need to go do anything touristy.

    August 14th: Drive from Calgary AB, stop in Revelstoke to go to the Enchanted Forest park and stay with family in Vernon, BC. This is an 8hr drive through the rockies but I've done this route once before minus the Revelstoke stop so I know that it is do-able. 350 mile drive.

    August 15th: Vernon, BC to Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver to catch the ferry home. 5.5hr drive, followed by a 2 hour ferry ride ($73) and HOME!

    Also in our budget is the $58 I spent to renew my BCAA (good as AAA in the states)

    My friend who added this all up put it at $1300 (or 650 each) before gas and food.

    We're bringing a cooler and grocery shopping in Issaquah, WA because we are unsure on what food can be brought over the border or not. We already have all the camping supplies we will need like tents, portable grill, sleeping bags etc. We're planning to leave at 6am/7am on most mornings when the sun is up to get started on our route. I'm a morning person so that's the best time to drive for me. We really want to avoid driving in the dark as much as possible. We both have GPS's on our phones (she has an iPhone and I have a Sony Experia Arc and Rogers said both our phones will work in the states), as well as borrowing a real GPS from my mother. We also have our route marked out on regular paper maps should technology fail.

    We really don't want to spend much on food at all, except for at Lollapalooza because while you can bring small snacks in we don't want to carry that much around at a 3 day musical festival. We will only be drinking water and gas station coffee so that should cut down on expenses (turns out to be a good thing to be underage in the States, won't be tempted to drink at the concert!)

    We already checked and both hotels we will be staying in (Madison and Evanston) are NOT 21+, just 18 which is absolutely fine.

    We have never been on toll roads so we're not sure where to expect them, or what to budget for them. Do they only take cash/only credit? Sorry if that's a dumb question, I want to make sure we're prepared with our method of payment.

    My car is a 2002 Mercury Cougar, it has a fuel economy calculator in it and realistically gets 35/mpg on the highway, and 24mpg in heavy city driving. We calculated our fuel expenses with an average of 28mpg, and gas at $1.25/litre which would be about $4.60/gallon using a gallon being 3.7litres. Gas is cheaper in the drive through the states from what I understand due to less taxes, what should I expect gas to hit a gallon? Though obviously this will vary greatly from area to area. I know when we initally calculated we had gas at $800.

    So $1300 for camping/hotels and attractions minus the one Chicago day plus $800 gas puts us at $2100. $400 for food, basically.

    Is this do-able? Budgetting at all accurate? Any replies are MUCH appreciated, this is the first time I've planned anything of this magnitude.

  2. Default

    And we realize that after Chicago, just reversing our route through the states would be smarter for less mileage/cheaper gas but we've never been past Alberta, so it would be amazing to see some of our country (even if everyone keeps saying the prairies are a real drag to go through).

  3. Default

    Oh, and speed limits. Here, if a speed limit is 80, 90 or 100 km/hr you're generally safe to go 10 over without getting pulled over. Is the miles version of that 5 miles over as a rule of thumb? Where will be the trickiest places that cops will hide on this route? I have not budgetted for speeding tickets, nor am I speedracer but it's just nice to know.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
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    4,546

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by amyargh View Post
    Oh, and speed limits. Here, if a speed limit is 80, 90 or 100 km/hr you're generally safe to go 10 over without getting pulled over. Is the miles version of that 5 miles over as a rule of thumb? Where will be the trickiest places that cops will hide on this route? I have not budgetted for speeding tickets, nor am I speedracer but it's just nice to know.
    Few people actually budget for traffic tickets, since they could cost anywhere from $15 to over $200. In some places, cops look the other way at 5 mph over the speed limit, but never-ever-ever count on that!

    Suggestion on saving money: do a little research online ahead of time and see if you might find campsites cheaper than the KOA's (unless there is some reason you like KOA's?). While my father is a former KOA owner, and I am not a KOA basher, I also have not ever relied on them. For budget travel, see if there are state parks or national forests along your routes, as they will be MUCH cheaper. Since you have a AAA membership, you can get CampBooks and they will also lead you to cheaper camping accommodations that may also offer you the showers you may need every couple of days. Take further advantage of that AAA membership and get maps, tour books and TripTiks for your trips. The TripTiks have little things listed on them, too, as well as the needed things like fuel stops, rest areas, etc. Also, don't forget to budget for those unexpected things (like the rain POURING down when you're trying to cook your camp meal and it forces you to a restaurant, or car repairs - ugh.)

    In Chicago, if you find the time, try Brookfield Zoo if you like zoos. Or, the Museum of Science and Industry (which would easily fill 4 or 5 hours depending on your interests).

    Donna

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post

    Suggestion on saving money: do a little research online ahead of time and see if you might find campsites cheaper than the KOA's (unless there is some reason you like KOA's?). While my father is a former KOA owner, and I am not a KOA basher, I also have not ever relied on them. For budget travel, see if there are state parks or national forests along your routes, as they will be MUCH cheaper. Since you have a AAA membership, you can get CampBooks and they will also lead you to cheaper camping accommodations that may also offer you the showers you may need every couple of days. Take further advantage of that AAA membership and get maps, tour books and TripTiks for your trips. The TripTiks have little things listed on them, too, as well as the needed things like fuel stops, rest areas, etc. Also, don't forget to budget for those unexpected things (like the rain POURING down when you're trying to cook your camp meal and it forces you to a restaurant, or car repairs - ugh.
    Thank you! We picked KOA just based on sheer convenience, we've never stayed at one though there is one near here - we want to be able to book online, and there was a ton of them along our route, and I've heard favourable reviews plus amenities like having showers. How much cheaper would it be to not stay KOA? I realize that's a broad generalization...

    I'll have to stop in at the BCAA office and see what they have for deals, I didn't even think about them for anything beyond free tows/getting keys out of locked cars (oh, how I am bad for that one!)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by amyargh View Post
    Thank you! We picked KOA just based on sheer convenience, we've never stayed at one though there is one near here - we want to be able to book online, and there was a ton of them along our route, and I've heard favourable reviews plus amenities like having showers. How much cheaper would it be to not stay KOA? I realize that's a broad generalization...
    Yes, BIG generalization. There are just as many local/mom-and-pop private campgrounds as there are KOA's, and their rates are going to vary. Generally speaking, though, if you want to "camp" near a big city, you will pay more. Stay outside of the city, and it will be more peaceful (especially in a tent!) as well as cheaper. (However, you may burn up the savings in more fuel or in bus/train fare into town.)

    That BCAA office can be your best friend in trip planning. The ones here in the US have a ton of materials. Oh - something we learned years ago - if you happen to spot a AAA office near a spot you're staying at, stop and see what they have! Some of the local offices are gold mines for more brochures, discount coupons (gotta love those!), and more.


    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    9,270

    Default

    In Chicago, if you find the time, try Brookfield Zoo if you like zoos.
    On a budget, go to the Lincoln Park zoo instead - it's free!

    My car is a 2002 Mercury Cougar, it has a fuel economy calculator in it and realistically gets 35/mpg on the highway, and 24mpg in heavy city driving. We calculated our fuel expenses with an average of 28mpg, and gas at $1.25/litre which would be about $4.60/gallon using a gallon being 3.7litres.
    A bit of a problem here - miles per gallon ratings in Canada are based on an Imperial gallon, which is 4.546 liters. Right now, the average price here is about $3.75 per US gallon (3.785 liters) - but in downtown Chicago it's about $4.70 and it's $4.35 in Evanston. Fill your tank in Beloit WI before you enter Illinois! It's $3.79 there right now. Illinois is the second highest priced state for gas, after Alaska. It's even more expensive right now than California and New York, which is rare.

    The only toll roads you should encounter will be in the Chicago area, and you will need cash or a transponder (I-Pass).

  8. Default

    Thank you, I didn't realize my error with the math and imperial gallons. And I looked up Illinois tolls, thank you for that as well. I shouldn't be worried at all about affecting the budget, they're cheap. The only toll road in the province here (Coquihalla in the interior of the province) was $10 when it was tolled, so I was thinking more in that area for each one.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Default Raise Your Right Foot

    Quote Originally Posted by amyargh View Post
    Oh, and speed limits. Here, if a speed limit is 80, 90 or 100 km/hr you're generally safe to go 10 over without getting pulled over. Is the miles version of that 5 miles over as a rule of thumb? Where will be the trickiest places that cops will hide on this route? I have not budgetted for speeding tickets, nor am I speedracer but it's just nice to know.
    One of the surest and most effective ways to save money on a road trip, is to 'raise your right foot'.

    The most fuel efficient speed at which to travel has been shown to be around 100kph (62mph). Furthermore, don't leave your engine running when you are not moving. A car uses less fuel to restart, than it does to stand idling for 15 secs or more. Anticipate stops, and coast up to them, and take off gently after being stationary. None of these measures takes much effort, but all are effective in saving money.

    And on top of that, you won't have to worry about busting your budget with an unexpected ticket.

    Have a safe trip.

    Lifey who travels on a tight budget

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

    Default nitpicking

    First, let me say what a great job you've done coming up with a plan. I don't see anything that has to be changed, but I see a few things that might be an improvement.

    I'd agree with the previous advice about KOA's. If you are a young couple looking for a quiet, cheap place to put up a tent, they usually aren't the best bet. They tend to focus more on families, and RVs. A lot of times tent sites at KOAs tend to basically be a field, where there is very little in between you and your neighbors.

    I generally find that state parks and similar public facilities offer the best value. The best part about state parks is that they are usually marked clearly right on your map/atlas and typically shouldn't cost more than $20-25.

    As far as the specifics:
    We're going to stop in Custer, SD to see Flintstones Bedrock City: we're not planning on stopping there long, it's mostly a photo-op. ($20). Then it's off to Keystone, MT to see Mt. Rushmore ($11 to park). At night we will check into the Rapid City, SD KOA ($35).
    Custer State Park is a gem that compares well with many National Parks. It would be a very good place to camp, it's also a place that I'd personally much rather spend my time than blowing $20 on a photo op at Bedrock City. The Wildlife Loop and Iron Mountain road between CSP and Mt. Rushmore are both highly recommended, and a tour of Jewel or Wind Cave could be fun. Also note, that you'll be hear about a week before the Sturgis Rally, so expect everything in the area to start getting pretty busy.
    August 2nd: A slight detour to the Cosmos Mystery Area. ($19). We're going to stop to seen the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD for FREE! We plan to arrive at Wild West Water Park after 4pm so we can get in for $30. Then it's a 20 minute drive to Sioux Falls KOA for check-in ($24).
    With your extra time on this day, I'd consider using it to drive through the Badlands rather than spending your time and money at Cosmos or Wild West. I don't know much about Cosmos, but Wild West Water Park isn't that special. Admittedly, its been 10-15 years since I was there, but I only remember it having a handful of slides that weren't that special. If you want waterparks, then I'd wait a day and check out Noah's Arc at Wisconsin Dells.

    Camping here, Palisades State Park is right off I-90 about 10 miles east of SF and has some nice wooded sites. (I suspect SF KOA would be very wide open Prairie).

    August 3rd: Drive from Sioux Falls, SD to Madison, WI. Here we're treating ourselves after all the camping and staying in a hotel ($65). That drive is 430 miles. What is there to check out in Madison?
    If you don't do a Wisconsin Dells Waterpark. (which would also have lots of the cheesy touristy stuff that you appear to like), I'd certainly check out State Street which has lots of restaurants, shops, and museums, while being bookened by the State Capitol and the UW Campus (both are also worth walking through.) I'd also bet you could find a cheaper hotel than $65.

    August 8th: Hour drive to go to Six Flags Great America rollercoaster park ($74). Half hour drive to camp in Zion, IL at Illinois Beach State Campground ($40).
    You can usually find discounts for 6 Flags pretty easily. I've seen coupons at Wendys and on Coke cans recently. Is IL Beach that expensive? I know IL state park camping fees have gone up in the last couple years, but that seems really high.
    August 9th: 400 mile drive from Zion, IL to Minneapolis, MN. Check out the Mall of America, and check into the Minneapolis Northwest KOA. Any stops along the way? 450 mile drive.
    Along the way, you might stop at the Jelly Belly plant near Kenosha, or make a stop or two in Milwaukee. Near Minneapolis I often camp at Willow River SP near Hudson WI, and just a couple weeks ago I stayed at Lake Elmo Regional Park which is right off I-94, and I stayed there without a reservation on a holiday weekend! However, both of those places are on the east side of the cities, and you may want to look on the Northwest side to avoid traffic as you leave.
    August 10th: Minneapolis, MN to Winnipeg, MB. We're going to stop in Fargo (we both love the movie... even though we know it wasn't actually filmed there), see the Fargo Walk of Fame and eat at the Space Aliens bar and grill. Check in at the Winnipeg West KOA ($20).
    While it wouldn't go through Fargo, and it may be a bit much for a day, one of my favorite drives is to go up through International Falls and over the top of Lake of the Woods. That would let you say you've been to Ontario too! I've camped at Birds Hill Prov. Park just north of Winnipeg.

    And of course not only was the movie not shot in Fargo, only the opening scene was set there. Most of it was set around Brainerd and Minneapolis. The movie's Wikipage lists several of the actual locations.

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