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  1. #1

    Default Saving $$ on lodging during road trips - Car Camping (no tent, no RV)??

    X-post from Planning Summer Road Trip board:

    Hi Everyone! I'm a relatively new half marathoner who has a crazy race schedule planned for the next few months requiring travel for most weekends ranging from 8-26 hours of total driving times to the first destination (race on Saturday). I'd then be driving anywhere from 2-10 hours to the second destination to race on Sunday. I've done solo trips from NM>IL>IN>MO>NM basically a solo drive (long story) from NM>IL>WI>IL>NM so far this year as well as several smaller weekend race road trips within the NM/TX/OK region. I've stayed mostly in lower end motels ($40-$70/night), military bases or a relative's house. Typically I break up the longer drives in 8-14 hour increments just depending on how I'm feeling. I'll stop for naps at well maintained/trusted rest areas during the day or travel centers at night. If it's just too much I typically try to stop and stay at a military base (USAF veteran/dependent wife of a retiree) for about $40 a night or at a relatively cheap motel.


    With this upcoming trip and a sudden decrease in available funds (I've already paid about $200 in race fees back when I expected to have enough cash for the trip) I am re-thinking my sleeping arrangement. I only need a motel room for creature comforts...bed, TV, microwave, fridge, running water, etc. but I'm beginning to think that I can save some money by sleeping in my Explorer for some of the time. I can basically fall asleep anywhere so as long as I use a memory foam mattress to soften the cargo area/back seat back and have my bedding I should be able to sleep fairly comfortably in my car. Other basic necessities like a decent sized cooler, pre-/home-/easy to prepare foods that could be set up in a "boil-in-the-bag" option over a single burner camp stove would make things even less expensive. I could occasionally stop at a campground or a motel for a good stretch and to get out of the car for a bit and shower at travel centers or at area YMCA's after races.

    I've read a few other posts on this forum that discuss similar thinking and I think I've pretty much talked myself into doing this already. I figure that I could save up to $250 in lodging costs for this trip alone by sleeping in the car on the way up to OR (2 nights), for 2 days between races and on the trip back (the trip would be from 7/2-7/10; military base for 1 night @ $40). I'm small enough that I can stretch out fully in the back of the Explorer in less space than a twin size bed (comes from sleeping with up to 5 dogs on a king bed that push me to the outer 12" of the mattress!). I won't be traveling with a K9 on this trip but I will be on the following weekend for a 2 week trip to WY/ID/MT for races during which I'm considering the same scenario.

    Other things that have been discussed in other threads are the extra weight that I would need which I think would be pretty minimal...folding chair, small folding table, tarp, rope, window screening to tape up to keep bugs out at night, "curtains" to tape up at night, single burner camp stove, 1 pot, 1 plate/bowl/utensils, battery operated lamp and a 5 gal container of water. All of which would be lighter to carry than to tow even a 13' travel trailer (yes, I have one but we haven't used it in 3 years and it needs new tires and some TLC that I don't have time or money for right now) and thus could save me $120 or more in gas. I'm thinking that the extra weight would almost negligibly affect the 20-21 mpg that I get currently whereas towing the trailer drops me to 15-16 mpg.

    So, am I crazy? Well, I won't answer that for now. But I am a late 40's female with a healthy dose of nervousness about doing such a road trip, but not enough that I think it would stop me from at least trying it once. Below is a packing list that I've actually put together for the WY/ID/MT road trip later in July which includes my 45# Aussie Cattle Dog grand pup but since he won't be with me on the OR/WA trip due to a night's stay in military lodging that doesn't allow pets and no where to keep him while I'm running just disregard the dog stuff. He'll be with me for the WY/ID/MT trip for company/protection since I will be camping in the wilderness for 4-5 days trying to acclimate to elevations over 9,500' for a race. Is there anything I might have missed for either trip? Thanks in advance for your input! :)

    Beth

    Projected Packing List:
    Race gear is a given!
    Twin/Double memory foam mattress to sleep on in cargo area (2/3 seat folded down, I'm short...I fit)
    Bedding/Pillows (shared with dog...he sleeps on the bed anyway)
    Toiletries
    Towels
    Flip flops (no nasty athlete's foot for me!)
    Cooler for 1 person big enough for several days of food storage
    5 gal water container
    Pre-made/easy to make foods
    Dog food/bowls
    Leash (30' for exercise/4' for runs or walks)
    Kennel (maybe)
    De-shedding comb for dog to minimize being covered with dog hair!
    Folding chair
    Small folding table
    Pepper spray
    Laptop with inverter (I do need some kind of entertainment! DVDs, CDs or internet)
    Cooking pan
    Cleaning supplies (actually thinking of using boil in bag type pre-/home-made food to save on clean up)
    Plate/bowl/eating utensils
    Bags for trash
    Paper towels
    Regular clothing
    Window screen cut to size of windows to prevent bugs getting in at night
    Black/dark cloth to block windows at night (I'm thinking 1 large sheet behind the front seats and smaller ones along the back windows)
    2" painters tape to secure window screen and "curtains"
    Tarp & rope for a small sun/rain shelter (maybe)

    BTW, the remaining 1/3 seat would hold the cooler with all other items stored either in the front seat or behind the driver's seat at night. During the day, everything would just be piled in the cargo area or out for use. The grand pup would be sitting up front with me during the drive...harnessed and safety belted in of course.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Love the organized view!

    Glad to know that the pup is safety-belted in!

    OK, as you've probably read, we generally don't recommend using your vehicle as the primary lodging choice, although certainly many of the RTA members have and it looks like you've already thought about and resolved many of our normal "issues" with such a plan.

    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum... Other things to consider adding to your packing kit:

    1) A used Yoga mat. They can be a lifesaver when kneeling on the hot ground to check the air pressure, changing a tire, etc. And also make a very nice tablecloth at roadside picnic areas. Failing a Yoga mat -- a beach towel works.

    2) First-aid kit and hand-held CB radio.

    3) Road maps -- Living in New Mexico -- you really should invest in Benchmark maps!

    4) Blanket or tarp

    5) Easy-read-skim book and candle in case you need to read at night with no electronics.

    Here are some more tips for solo adventuring....

    And one more tip, please keep all of your posts for the same trip in one thread....

    Mark

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

    Default

    One thing to take under consideration about sleeping in your car: depending on your location, you could be darned UNcomfortable with the weather! We gave consideration to setting up a sleeping arrangement in our pickup, which has a camper shell on it. Now that I've experienced some of the latest USA weather, I'm glad we decided NOT to use that idea. Right now it's sticky hot outside and raining, it's almost 9 pm in the deep south. That's no fun in a car unless the car is running with the A/C on!


    Donna

  4. #4

    Default

    Thanks for the welcome Mark! Regarding your suggestions:

    Yoga Mat: I had read about the yoga mat but it must not have connected in my head (been up since 3am...killer insomnia) I'm sure I have a couple hanging out in the garage somewhere. I also liked the idea of the PCT linked to in the solo adventuring post...going to do that for sure!

    First Aid Kit: I usually have a fairly significant first aid kit (it's a nurse thing, complete with first responder items) but I took it out to replace expired items over a year ago but never did replace the expired items or return the kit to my vehicle...not smart so guess what I'm doing tomorrow? :)

    Road Maps: That reminds me that I need to get an updated atlas (you think 2006 is a little old?) and see how old my UT/OR/WA maps are...probably around 2006 as well. I don't travel in NM much anymore...we've been almost everywhere that we've had an interest in going in the 20 years that we've lived here.

    Blanket/Tarp: Since I prefer blankets over sleeping bags (even though we own about 8 of varying warmth) I'll have plenty of blankets to throw around if needed I also always keep an old one in the vehicle for animal rescues. I'll probably throw in at least a small tarp and some lightweight rope, but since my construction skills suck and I don't really plan to be anywhere long enough to need a shelter it'll be there more for ground covering if a location is muddy/dusty/etc.

    Book: Do I own up to it?? I HATE to read!!! I think it was all the reading I had to do in 10 years of nursing school (all different degrees) that killed it as an enjoyable thing for me!! lol! I'll have my laptop with an inverter but I also have a tablet that can be plug directly into the cigarette lighter with a USB plug so that I can surf the web or attempt to read what I have stored on my Kindle app (yeah, right).

    Candle: Being in NM where temps are almost always in the 90-100° range in the summer a candle would be an ugly thing to even have in the car. On the other hand it did give me the idea to add a crank style flashlight for those "just in case" scenarios. :)

    Handheld CB: That's definitely something I need to look into. My very first long distance road trip in April or May was through MO/IL/IN when they were having the severe thunderstorms, the tornadoes in MO/OK, etc. The only way I kept up with the weather situation was on my phone...but what if I didn't have service? This is definitely an investment in the very near future.

    Thanks again for the suggestions and ideas. I'll be sure to post how things go if I am actually able to make the trip(s).

    Beth

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks Donna. I'll be up in the NW where the high temps are about 20-30° lower than here in NM. Humidity will be the only thing I'm concerned with, I'm usually OK until it hit's about 60% in the heat but if I remember our 2006 West Coast/BC road trip since it was cooler the humidity didn't bother me. (That was 33 days with my husband and 3 small dogs living in a 13' travel trailer covering NM/AZ/NorCal/OR/WA/BC (Vancouver area)/ ID/WY/UT/NV). Since I plan to have the windows partially open when I sleep and covered with window screening to keep out the creepy crawlies and blood suckers I'm hoping that rain will not be too much of an issue. Maybe the screening will help to keep the water out of the vehicle? If it is an issue I may have to resort to a motel room. The change in temperature will be great though...I prefer to sleep cold than hot! Thanks again for your input! :)

    Beth

  6. Default

    Being military, I've learned a few tricks of creature comforts. If I may:
    I wouldn't necessarily worry about curtains, a lightweight stocking cap over the eyes, or a sleep mask is more efficient.
    If you have a luggage rack on top, it's easy to fasten a tarp to the top and then secure it to the ground, making a lean to on the car.
    Sleep in your car, in your driveway for a night. A dry run is agreat way to find out what you need while it's still right there.
    Keep a living pack list, if you needed it last time, add it. If you didn't us it last time, leave it at home.
    Throw a half dozen bounty dryer sheets in your car, soldier lore has it that bugs don't like the smell. It's worked for me.
    as far as a screen option, you can go to Home depot and get screen replacement for on the cheap. You can tape it to the inside of the window seals before you leave, so when you roll down the windows, the screen is already in place.
    A can of mace is always a good investment also. Thirty bucks for a good can is worth every penny when you stumble across something angry and furry whilst conducting a midnight pee. You won't hurt it, but it will heavily discourage whatever it is.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default We're just getting started... when it comes to gear!


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    For maps - join the AAA (which would be a good idea anyway!). You can get free maps for the entire country. Used in conjunction with a good GPS, you should be fine. I prefer Garmins with lifetime map updates. Do *NOT* rely solely on a GPS, they have been known to route you where you shouldn't go.

  9. #9

    Default

    Thanks for your input Pvt! I had already considered much of what you recommended but I'll elaborate a little more on my thought process...

    I wouldn't necessarily worry about curtains, a lightweight stocking cap over the eyes, or a sleep mask is more efficient.
    My decision regarding curtains is due to the fact that I'm traveling alone as a solo female and while the vehicle's windows are slightly tinted if I'm sleeping in a travel center parking lot in the cargo area it is still relatively easy to see through the windows with the overhead lighting. Not only will this keep unwanted eyes from seeing what/who is in the vehicle they would also provide some blocking of the lights to make sleep that much more comfy. Plus, I don't seem to have much luck with sleep masks as I've managed to break the elastic off one side or the other of at least two masks already (tried sleeping with one for 2 months due to my chronic insomnia, thus typing this at 0445 having not slept for some 30 hours so far)! lol!

    If you have a luggage rack on top, it's easy to fasten a tarp to the top and then secure it to the ground, making a lean to on the car.
    Thanks for the idea! I never even considered using the rack...

    Sleep in your car, in your driveway for a night. A dry run is agreat way to find out what you need while it's still right there.
    Already planning to do this sometime this week, much like taking our trailer out overnight the first night to make sure everything worked. Even considering driving over to the local WalMart or truck stop to take the experience to the max...is that too much? lol.

    Keep a living pack list, if you needed it last time, add it. If you didn't us it last time, leave it at home.
    Ah yes, the living list...forever changing. lol.

    Throw a half dozen bounty dryer sheets in your car, soldier lore has it that bugs don't like the smell. It's worked for me.
    I've heard about this before. Do the unscented ones work just as well? I'm very sensitive to fragrances (I hate it when women/men wear too much perfume/cologne as it kicks in my allergies and makes life miserable to the point of nausea, often makes going to movies or eating out miserable) and even when I've tried to just put one Bounce sheet in the car to de-static slacks from the inevitable dog hair when I was teaching the scented sheet would permeate the car and have to be stored in freezer Ziplock bags...kinda counter productive for the use being discussed here. ;)

    as far as a screen option, you can go to Home depot and get screen replacement for on the cheap. You can tape it to the inside of the window seals before you leave, so when you roll down the windows, the screen is already in place.
    Luckily I already have a half roll of screening in the garage, just need to cut it to size and tape up the edges to keep it from unraveling. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to have the screening pre-taped (non-permanently) to the windows I am one of those drivers who waits until outside temps get into the 100°F range before I start using the A/C which means that I typically drive with the windows open and I don't think even duck/duct tape would hold the screens in place with all the air blowing through. Plus the residue left by the duck/duct tape is a bear to remove (experienced this first hand) thus my choice to carry 2" painters tape instead.

    A can of mace is always a good investment also. Thirty bucks for a good can is worth every penny when you stumble across something angry and furry whilst conducting a midnight pee. You won't hurt it, but it will heavily discourage whatever it is.
    Agreed. I already have some after being attacked by farm dogs during some of my longer, rural training runs. I also checked all the laws regarding pepper spray/mace in the states that I'm traveling to to make sure I'm within the law.

    Thanks again,
    Beth

  10. #10

    Default Thanks glc!

    Hi glc! I was a member of AAA for several decades, in that time I only used them once for towing (<10 miles) and maybe got 2 dozen maps total. A few years after I switched my insurance to USAA I finally let go of AAA since I now have road service with USAA. I just didn't feel that it was worth the expense especially since the closest AAA office is nearly 2 hours away so I couldn't really take advantage of many of their other programs and I'm not one to do things by snail mail. I do have an atlas that I will have on board (albeit an old one, will be sure to replace it before the trip something I should have done months ago) and I can pick up maps if I really need them on the way. Thanks for you input! :)

    Beth

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