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  1. Default Virgin to cross country

    Hello all..

    I am planning my first cross country trip. I have done road trips before though. I live in New Jersey and have done the entire east coast more times than I can count. This will be my first venture in a car across the country. My boyfriend and I plan on leaving in the middle of August and do not have a set time of when we are returning. That is if we return at all.

    Our current plan is to first head to Chicago where I have family. We will then head to Minneapolis. On our way to Portland where his cousin lives we plan on visiting Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Old Faithful. I am not sure what are other must sees. From Portland we will be heading down to the Oakland area where I have some friends. We will continue down to Los Angeles to San Diego. From San Diego we plan on heading to Las Vegas. Of course we will be doing the Grand Canyon and such. We're at a loss from there. He wants to head up to Denver, Co as we plan on doing Mesa Verde. I on the other hand would rather go into Albuquerque, NM and take Route 66 into Amarillo. Wether we do that or Denver we want to end up in Amarillo. From Amarillo we are heading to Austin, where his sister lives. Austin - New orleans - Memphis. We're toying with the idea of heading back down to Atlanta and then Orlando but we're not sure.

    Any tips, ideas, suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Has anyone ever done such an extensive trip like this? If so, how long did it actually take? How much did it cost? Any input would be greatly appreciated. I am a planner and he is mister spontaneity. This of course could pose a problem but we're both very adjustable which is good. Thank you very much!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome aboard RTA!

    Yes, I've done an extensive trip like that, though not the same route. Planning is important, especially FINANCIAL, no matter what roads you take. One year our family hit the road and drove from San Diego to Fairbanks Alaska, circled around Alaska, and drove back home. We were gone 8 or 9 weeks, I think. I couldn't give you a cost because it wouldn't make sense in today's dollars and we were towing a trailer. Last year, we drove to New Jersey and came back through Missouri.

    This is how my husband and I budget:
    Mileage - we figure out how many miles we are going to drive, add another 25% for sightseeing mileage, and average how much gas/fuel is going to cost (I always average HIGH to be safe). Then we use the lowest gas mileage that vehicle gets to compute fuel costs.

    Hotels -- easier. Figure out how many nights you are going to have to stay in a motel and multiply that by $65/night. You may spend less, you may spend more, but we find that's a good average for us who like to stay at the discount chains that are a step above Motel 6. (Though we do stay there occasionally!)

    Food -- more difficult. We travel with a cooler full of drinks/water, juice, and some snacks. Sometimes we stop for breakfast, if we get a later start we can use the motel's breakfast facilities if available. We snack for lunch, eat a regular dinner meal when we stop. We used $60/day for the 2 of us last year and that was about right: not including snacks and drinks (separate budget).

    Sundries -- we don't count anything we'd have to buy at home anyway like toothpaste that runs out, etc.

    Sightseeing -- museums, park entrance fees, and theme park admission fees (!) all add up rapidly. Estimate by looking stuff up before you leave. Look for discounts no matter what -- if you are a member of an auto club, union, employee group, etc., there may be discount tickets available. (Hubby and I just scored a 4-day-park-hopper to Walt Disney World in FL for $135.50 per ticket. Unheard of! Hubby is retired military, that's why!) When you get to a museum, ASK if they give a discount for (name your group). It's amazing how many times our AAA card or military ID has saved us a few dollars. Just don't count on a place having one -- budget for the highest price.

    That's the basics of budgeting -- don't think I forgot anything -- and we have a forum here called "Saving Money on the Road" that will give you even more tips.

    PS My husband can be more spontaneous with trips, and I am a planner. I have learned to give a little and not plan every minute, and he has learned not to spring something on me too unexpectedly!


  3. Default

    Thank you.. we plan on camping almost all of the trip unless unforeseen things happen to us. Which I'm sure that they will being how long we plan on being on the road for! I do have triple A so im hoping that helps us. Thank you for your input!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Camping is a little less expensive. First, have you ever been camping? Are you talking about tent camping? Do you already have the equipment? If you haven't done a lot of camping, you may want to get a little experience close to home and start collecting the necessary items.

    Camping can be anywhere from $10-15/night (state parks and national forests) up to $30 for tents in commercial campgrounds. You should also take into consideration that it takes a little bit of time to set up camp every evening and then time to tear it down -- and the more stuff you have, the more time it takes. You'll be able to cook your own dinner and have your own breakfast stuff, but a lunch on the road may be needed, whether it's restaurants or from the camping cooler. Don't forget to budget ice: $2 bag is common, and we used to get at least one bag for every travel day. Block ice, if available, is more economical, but not always available. It just lasts longer for the same price.

    AAA is a great source for maps, tour books, and CampBooks. The latter lists a lot of state parks and national forests, but it isn't always an extensive listing. You may want to search the Internet before you go. Some campgrounds (public) are listed on road maps -- or it will have a state park name and then a green triangle to indicate "camping available".

    Another thing about camping -- you'll want to make sure that you're either at a family member's or friend's home, or in a motel, every few days. Most public campsites do NOT have showers available and the bathrooms are often primitive type.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Planning

    One thing to consider for a trip of this magnitude (and, indeed, any trip) is what to do in case of emergency. You certainly don't have to plan for every possible thing that can go wrong, but consider some common issues and plan accordingly.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Case in point - on my last trip I seized up a wheel bearing out in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska. I was fortunate to have been able to get out of that predicament for about $600. No matter how reliable you think your vehicle is or how well you maintain it, things like this do happen. If you are traveling on a tight budget, $600 can really put a crimp in your plans for the rest of the trip.

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