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  1. #1

    Default Need Help - Planning 3 month road trip around US

    Hey there!

    1st off, I love this website!

    I am graduating college next August and I am planning on taking a 3 month (give or take) road trip around the US. We will be leaving from the Austin area and heading west (New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California) then heading north (Oregon, Washington), then heading east (Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, all the way to New York), heading down the East coast to Florida, and then back west over to Texas. This is not exact, but a similar route as to where I was thinking for the route.

    The whole reason for this trip is just to go explore the US. We want to go to beautiful places, sight see, hike, camp out, stay in motels every 2 or 3 days out of the week, eat at diners and inexpensive restaurants along with eating out of a cooler and a portable stove, going to ballparks, major cities, small towns, and just going wherever we feel like. If we see a cool town/store/attraction, we want to just stop and explore it. We don't want to rush by anything and really just stop and enjoy where we are.

    I need some help planning though. I am completely novice when it comes to road trips and being nomadic for more than 5 days.

    Here are some things I was wondering and was hoping someone could help me with. And I am ever grateful for those that help me.

    1) What car to take/buy? (compact - corolla/civic, SUV - crv/element, RV, winnebago, teardrop trailer, etc.)

    2) How much money to save? (I know we will be traveling about 38,000 miles so I need to save a lot for gas - about $5,000 but also considering money for for restaurants, tours, motels, recreation activities, etc.)

    3) Where to stay/live? (In the car everyday, in cheap motels everyday, camping out everyday - what are my best options?)

    4) Where to use the restroom and where to take showers?

    5) Anything else I need to know.

    My dream goal is to try to save $20,000 but will that last me 3 months or do I need to shoot for $30,000? That price includes everything - buying a car, gas, food, lodging, activities, etc.

    Any advice is helpful! Thank you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default A great dream

    Hi and Welcome to the RTA Forums.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yale View Post
    1) What car to take/buy? (compact - corolla/civic, SUV - crv/element, RV, winnebago, teardrop trailer, etc.)
    That is a personal choice, depending very much on your travel style, your lifestyle, what you like to and are used to driving, and many other factors.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yale View Post
    2) How much money to save? (I know we will be traveling about 38,000 miles so I need to save a lot for gas - about $5,000 but also considering money for for restaurants, tours, motels, recreation activities, etc.)
    You can get a good guide to fuel prices using the RTA fuel calculator. Other RTA tools which will help you here are the planning pages from the green bar above, and the Saving Money forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yale View Post
    3) Where to stay/live? (In the car everyday, in cheap motels everyday, camping out everyday - what are my best options?)
    Definitely NOT in the car. Not unless you have good sleeping facilities installed. To be alert and stay safe on the road, and especially on such a long trip, you need good rest and sleep. That is not something you will get in a car.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yale View Post
    5) Anything else I need to know.
    Use all the tools on RTA, the map centre, roadside attractions, etc. together with a good detailed map of the country, and start putting dots on the map.

    However, my gut feeling is, that a trip such as this is going to take more than just six weeks planning.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yale View Post
    My dream goal is ...
    That is the start of a roadtrip. Next comes the 'plan'. Then 'reality' sets in, and finally the trip takes place, after many adjustments and much tweaking.

    Enjoy the planning process.

    Lifey

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    We've taken long trips before, using the "camp out and stay at a motel once in awhile to clean up" route. Be sure to bring a comfortable air mattress (and something with which to blow it up) so that you will sleep well when you are camping. If you can't sleep well, driving the next day is dangerous.

    Camping out will cost you about $15-30 a night, depending on where you stay. You can get a decent motel room for less than $50 IF you stick to Motel 6, mom-and-pop motels, and use the coupons from booklets that you pick up at state visitors centers. As for food, if you are cooking out and using a cooler, your food costs should not be too different from what they are at home. That said, do factor in some restaurant meals for those times when the rain just CAN'T wait until after you've finished cooking dinner, or you are on the road longer than you expect (car difficulties). It's happened to us.

    Car ... well, we've done a long trip in a very small compact car with a very full back-seat, trunk and a car carrier on top. (To be exact: a 1979 Subaru 4-door sedan.) We've also done long camping/motel trips like that in a Ford Aerostar "mini van". So it can be done in whatever vehicle. Make sure that you take any car to a competent mechanic, before you set out on your trip, and have him go over it for any potential problems. It may cost you $80-100 to have this done, but it's POM - peace of mind. We have ours check hoses, belts, brakes, tires, fluids and their containers (brake cylinder, etc).

    Do you have a AAA membership??? We dropped out of AAA for awhile (picking up a more RV oriented emergency road service). But we went back to AAA about 18 months ago, and have not regretted it. They have good ERS, but also wonderful trip planning materials. With your AAA card, you can get books for the areas you are interested in visiting, ahead of time, and maps too. Then when you've got your trip plotted out for yourself, you can take your route to them, they'll get you the rest of the books and maps, and make up a "TripTik" - a series of strip maps with your route. The latter is NOT necessary, and we've been known to veer off of our intended route at times, but they're nice to have.


    Donna

  4. #4

    Default

    Thank you both so much for y'alls advice. This trip is actually going to start NEXT August. I apologize for not explaining that. That is definitely important for you to know.

    I used the gas calculator and saw that if I took a compact car (25 mpg) it would be about $5000 for gas around the US at 38,000 miles. However, if I end up getting a mini van or a less fuel efficient car, we are looking at possibly +$6500 in gas alone.

    As for the AAA membership. I've been hearing about how useful and handy it is. How much does a membership cost?

    And realistically, how much would I need to save up to go on a trip like this? Everything included (gas, lodging, attractions, activities, oil changes, etc.) Ballpark $10,000-$15,000?

    Thanks again for the help!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Yale View Post
    As for the AAA membership. I've been hearing about how useful and handy it is. How much does a membership cost?
    Peanuts!! compared with the peace of mind. Pay it, and hope you'll never need it.

    I am a little puzzled as to how you came to your 38000 mileage. As one who has done several four and five month long trips, I have never clocked up much more than 30000. Another way of looking at it is... the average mileage covered in a day, is around 500 miles. Which means that you have about 76 of your 90 days just for driving. You could soon find that is more than comfortable.

    Lifey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    If you are going to be spending 3 months on the road, you may want to look at something like a conversion van that you could in fact live in. You don't necessarily need plumbing or cooking facilities, but you could sure use a couple of comfortable beds. You can always use campgrounds that have showers, or spend $10 for a shower in a truck stop. In a pinch, you can usually park overnight free in a truck stop with permission, and it would be safe.

  7. #7

    Default

    Thank you all again for the help.

    I got the 38,000 miles because I read somewhere (on here I believe) that taking a trip around the entire US is 35,000 miles.

    I have thought about buying a mini van where the back seats fold down flat and then taking out the middle seats so that I have an entire back of the van to put a mattress on it just in case we want to pull over and sleep during the day if we get tired.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default I doubt it.

    I got the 38,000 miles because I read somewhere (on here I believe) that taking a trip around the entire US is 35,000 miles.
    An outline of your proposed route is under 10,000 miles. Even with a lot of 'wandering' I doubt you will clock up more than 15000 miles and possibly not get even close to it.

    I would of thought a comfortable, economical car and camping would be the most cost effective and comfortable option, with the odd night in a motel to break things up a little. A lot of the campgrounds have shower and loo blocks. If you plan on visiting a number of National parks then purchase the annual pass for $80 to save money.

    A van is certainly an option but with the time you have for the trip you shouldn't really put yourself in a position where you will tire during the day and need to go to bed. You have plenty of time for relaxing days and quiet nights and if partying takes your fancy on the odd night, do it when you are not travelling next day.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Yale View Post
    I got the 38,000 miles because I read somewhere (on here I believe) that taking a trip around the entire US is 35,000 miles.
    Not even if you included Alaska! As Dave said, I doubt you'd clock up 15000.

    Lifey

  10. #10

    Default

    Well thank you all for the comments! I apologize for the 35,000 mile comment. I'm sure I look super silly putting that.

    I'll shoot for 15,000 instead. Ha ha.

    And thank you all so much again! This has been unbelievably helpful and I feel a lot wiser gaining info from all of you.

    I'm sure I'll be posting all over here when the time comes for the actual trip to take place. :)

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