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  1. Default 3 Friends to Cali and back from PA

    Okay, so me and two friends plan on a trip to Cali and back starting from Philly. We want to camp mostly, but cheap motels some rainy nights. Not sure on the car exactly, probably a small car but that's not an issue as we're used to long car rides. Probably drive 8 hours-ish a day. Cook our own food as much as possible, you know, be cheap lol. I have two main questions, and any other advice is appreciated! -around 20-30mpg for the car
    1. How much money would it take for gas/food/campsites(or motels) alone, while being cheap as possible? (just necessities)
    2. What are good stops from PA to CA, although we might go north to Washington and work down the West Coast?


    Now, we've never taken a trip like this before but are 100% committed and have the means and ability to take this trip. Everything is situated. This trip would be taken in mid-july of 2014. Before I leave for college and before my friend moves out of his house. My friend will be 20 and me and the other person(not sure exactly who yet) will be 18 most likely. We want to camp as much as possible unless a storm or something comes through, then we will stay in hotels. Any advice, past stories, etc. are much appreciated!

  2. Default

    Im looking under $2000, I crunched some numbers and for a 2.5 week trip (around there, hopefully back before 3 weeks) I estimated around $1500 for each person, total of $4500. now, thats just an estimate. We want to have a fun time, a few parties with some locals, try to just really experience America

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default The Other Expendable and Other Considerations

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You don't mention the other major constraint on such RoadTrips, namely time. You would need somewhere in the vicinity of three weeks, minimum, to make this safe enjoyable and, more importantly, safely. Along the same lines, consider this. When you say that you are going to "drive 8 hours-ish a day", that won't get you as far as what a computer mapping program will tell you. Those programs assume that you will always be able to drive at or above the speed limit; will never need to stop for gas, or a meal, or to go to the bathroom; will never see any traffic or get stuck behind an RV or 18-wheeler; and will never get tired and just need a break. So realistically, Philadelphia to San Francisco is five solid days each way, even before you add any stops for sight-seeing, or side trips to any of the many attractions along the way.

    As far as camping goes, your best (quietest, cheapest, safest) bets are state parks and national forests. National parks tend to book up early - months ahead of time for popular times where reservations are possible, early in the day at those parks that have some sites on a first-come, first-served basis. Commercial campgrounds will cost nearly as much as a low-end motel room and tend to be wall to wall RVs.

    Unfortunately, some of your other questions are just too far wide open to answer just yet. Costs will depend immensely on your lifestyle: where you spend your nights. How many of them will be in public campgrounds and how many in motels. Despite your best intentions, camping (unless you're quite comfortable with it already) will get old fast and you will tend to spend more time in motels than you're currently envisioning. Similarly, you may think you can make do on fast-food "value menus", but before too long you're going to crave much more, fresh fruits, real meals, food that doesn't come through the faces of a clown. What you do then, from cook your own meals to eat at modest sit-down restaurants will greatly affect your costs.

    Similarly, there's no way to tell you what your gas will cost when your current plans allow for a 50% increase in the number of gallons you'll have to buy per mile and a number of miles that could similarly increase. Or to tell you what are good stops when you haven't even decided on a basic route.

    One final obstacle. You will be risking possible legal problems if you try to travel with an minor (under 18 years old). Some motels may refuse to rent you a room without proof of majority or blood kinship for each of your members. Then there's the problem of what to do if the minor needs medical attention at any point in your trip. You will have no one to authorize treatment for her on site.

    None of this, however, is meant to discourage you, only to show you how much planning and forethought is needed to make a trip of this magnitude happen. Right now, you and your companions should be deciding on what you want to see. A set of locations you'd like to visit on your trip and a collection of roads to get you efficiently, scenically and enjoyably from one to another and eventually back home. That's the point at which most of your other questions become answerable. So get yourselves a good US atlas and start marking the points that intrigue or excite you and then start connecting the dots. That's the point at which we can start giving you some specific advice.

    AZBuck

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default It could become an issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by Philly58 View Post
    Okay, so me and two friends plan on a trip to Cali and back starting from Philly. We want to camp mostly, but cheap motels some rainy nights. Not sure on the car exactly, probably a small car but that's not an issue as we're used to long car rides.
    You might just find that it will be an issue. With three full grown adults in a small car, camping equipment and cooking equipment, you will need to be very organised. It will mean packing everything away just like it came from the shop. Besides, if you really would like to cook for three, you do need at least sufficient equipment to do so. It is all possible, but you may find that a small car is not quite the thing for all that on such an extended trip. Waking up in the morning with the tent wet with dew, you will want it to dry before having to pitch it again, next night. You may not want to roll up a wet tent.

    Cooking up pasta and fresh sauce bought in a supermarket needs at least two pans... and is best done on a two burner stove (which is more stable than a single burner). It certainly is possible to eat well; to cook tasty meals, but you will need the equipment and give yourself time to prepare.

    As mentioned above, you could have issues with a minor when checking into hotels/motels. That goes for many campgrounds as well. Even most hostels will not allow underage guest without their parents or guardian.

    Before you progress much further in your planning, you really should all take this quiz.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Buying a car ?

    I doubt renting a car will be an option if you will all be under 21 years of age when travelling, and if you could it would be really expensive. If you have to buy a car, [itdoesn't sound as though you have one at present] would this be coming from your budget ?

    Have you already got camping equipment to cater for 3 people or has that to be purchased from your budget ?
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 02-18-2014 at 02:59 AM. Reason: mix up.

  6. Default Thanks!

    Thanks for the great replies! As for our route, I already anticipated about 6-7 days each way, don't want to drive too much every day and want to have some cool stops and stuff. We estimate around 3 weeks tops for this trip. We do have a car available, but if we switch from the GTI to possibly a Mountaineer, we know the gas difference. We're used to camping and cooking our own food. My friend and I know how to stay within our budget. We mainly want to buy and cook our own food, with a dinner here or there. I came up with a preliminary budget, but I counted out my paychecks (11) that i can save from and make changes if necessary:
    Gas: $500 per person (Total of $1500, above what is needed but a few extra hundred to be safe)
    Food: $250-350 per person
    Camping/Hotels: ~$750 total ($250 per person)
    Other Necessities: $150 per person
    Total of ~$1300 per person. So to be safe $1500 per person, with 3 people. Total of $4500 should be good right?

    Please fix me if I'm off or missing something, obviously we'll have some back up money. But this is what we're expecting to pay.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,066

    Default

    Your budget looks very well thought out to me. If I was going to do a rough sketch of a budget for a trip like this, I think I'd come up with numbers that would be very similar.

    Excellent work.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Sounds About Right

    Your financial budget should be quite adequate for what you have planned. Your temporal budget will be a bit tight but not overly so. If you take your time crossing the country, taking two or three hours each day to stop and see a sight or two and maybe, on those days when the weather turns bad and you check into a motel, even take a half day off and sleep in and/or perhaps get some pool time, then you won't feel as though you have to turn around as soon as you get to California and trudge back. But you really don't have time to go all the way up to Washington, all the way down to southern California, and complete a grand circuit of the United States. Keep it simple and relatively direct, but use different routes westbound and eastbound so that you're always seeing new countryside, and this should work out for you. We'd like to hear back when you work out a basic route.

    AZBuck

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    3 adult sized people with camping and cooking gear plus luggage in a GTI across the country and back is going to be way too cramped - I'd definitely plan on taking the Mountaineer. Plan your gas budget accordingly!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default One Other Thing to Budget

    Yes, yes, yes, I know you're all the best of friends and it would never happen to you, but three weeks is an awfully long time to be cramped together 24/7 in a small car and campsites and you will get on each others' nerves. Every few days at least plan on stopping in a town or park and just going your separate ways for a few hours. It will do wonders to keep your friendship and sense of exploration alive for what will get repetitive after a while.

    AZBuck

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