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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013
    San Francisco, California, United States

    Default US round-trip: where to sleep? what to see?

    I'm a third year undergrad and I'm planning on taking a BIG trip this summer (LA to Seattle, to Billings, down through to New Orleans, across and up to DC & New York, and then back through Chicago home to LA: see this map). I have friends coming with me for different legs and I have our route somewhat planned out, but I still need a lot of help & advice.

    We're trying to save as much money as we can while still having a good time. I'm estimating the gas will cost at least $2,000, and if we give ourselves a budget of $20 for food each day, we'll still be spending about $1,200 on food. How can we bunk cheaply? What are the best ways to sleep for cheap? (and shower?)

    On top of that, what should we see? I'll be with friends from college for most of the trip. We like food, quirky small-town attractions, more food, history, and anything else that shouldn't be missed.

    Finally, is there anything I should know of or be aware of or think about in particular on the road? This is my first really big trip, so any advice is extremely, extremely appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Not Enough, and Too Much

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    There are a number of things you can do to keep costs down. But if you are only budgeting $20/day for food and looking for ways to shower 'cheap', then I suspect that your budget isn't really up to your plans. You can sleep occasionally for 'free' at truck stops, but you are expected to pay for it by buying your gas there or taking a shower there. But sleeping in your car will get very old very fast. At the very least, you should plan on spending most nights sleeping in an actual campsite, on a minimum of a pad and sleeping bag, in a tent with some air circulation. You can search for state parks (generally the lowest cost campsites) but more often than not, even such a site is going to set you back about $20. You should also plan on spending every third or fourth night in a real bed. That's not a luxury, it is what your body will need in order to keep going over this weeks-long trip.

    Trying to give you specifics on all the quirky small towns, great sights, and food you're going to encounter while covering 7-8,000 miles is simply impossible. Your trip will cover almost all of the United States, or the sum total of all the advice that's been given on this website over the last ten years plus.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-29-2013 at 07:05 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default What memories are made of.

    Buck took the words out of my mouth.... your budget is simply not up to your plans.

    There is nothing like the memory of your first roadtrip. But right now your plans will not make for the best of memories. If you cannot significantly increase the funds available, your trip could end up being the nightmare you'll never forget. It could put you off roadtripping for good.

    On top of following all the good advice above, may I suggest that when you get to planning this trip, that you scale the trip back to suit your budget. Not the other way around. That way you will end up with a trip you'll share with your grandchildren.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm not seeing a huge red flag for your budget - yet!

    However, that's also because there's some pretty important information that's not included in your post.

    For example, $20 a day for food is perfectly find for one person, tight, but doable for 2 people, if you're basically never eating at restaurants, and not enough if you've got 3 or more people coming along. But you've never said how many people will be going on this trip with you.

    The number of people going with you will also play a large roll in where you can sleep for cheap. I'm not a fan of sleeping in the car, but it is possible to do it once in a while, if you are solo. However, if you've got multiple people, I wouldn't even consider it. Similarly, if you are solo, hostels can be a good choice, especially in cities, but they charge per person and aren't very cost effective for multiple people. Camping is probably the best universal "cheap" option, but that can be tough and/or mean long commutes if you're focusing on exploring a major city. It also means bringing quite a bit more gear, and it can be uncomfortable in rainy weather, which is why even there you should plan for at least some time in motels.

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