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  1. Default How much to plan for road trip (8000 miles over 6 weeks)?

    So I'm trying to budget for a road trip from New Jersey to California and back (obviously). I've been saving and planning for it. I'm doing it solo, which I don't mind, but I'm trying to gauge a realistic budget. I have budgeted $1300 in gas, $50 per day in food (I kept it liberal and cautious just in case) and a standard of $100 per night in hotels. 1 week will be free of hotel costs because I'm staying with a friend in California. And I already have EZ pass and AAA taken care of. In total, I estimated about $7k, but I've seen some other sites where they spent about $5-6k, which is kinda confusing me. Does anyone have any experience or can provide me a more accurate estimate of how much I'd be spending on a massive road trip like this? And I'm just talking about the essentials (gas, hotels and food). I just graduated college so I'm not gonna be balling out on a $50 dinner every night or a $200 hotel on a nightly basis.

  2. Default

    Hi rj11,

    Sounds like a nice trip. Your gas budget will depend on two things. What miles per gallon your vehicle gets and the cost of gas. I like to over estimate on both but it would help to know what kind of MPG your vehicle gets and when you plan this trip. Gas prices usually tend to go up around Memorial Day and stay high until after Labor Day.

    I can see where some people might come up with $5 to 6k. Their vehicle could get twice the MPG as your does. They might have a cooler to prepare some of their own meals like cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. They might take a camping stove to cook some of their own meals. Lots of rest areas or city parks have BBQ pits so they could cook some of their own meals that way. Another quick meal could be going to the grocery store and buying their cooked chicken and a side or two instead of eating at a restaurant where they have to leave a tip.

    Lodging can be the most expensive part of a trip. Some young people look into Hostels which can be pretty cheap or take a small tent and sleeping bag to stay occasionally at campgrounds.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I have budgeted $1300 in gas, $50 per day in food (I kept it liberal and cautious just in case) and a standard of $100 per night in hotels.
    That should be more than adequate. The only places you are going to spend $100 a night for a hotel are in resort areas, or if you use upscale hotels. I average around $65 a night in Super 8 quality hotels.

    You are going to have to do your own math for gas, I don't know what you get for gas mileage but to be safe figure $3 a gallon and the average of city and highway mileage.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Lots of ways to cut down on costs.

    As a solo traveller, and one who is always on a tight budget and only uses hotels/motels occasionally now, I rarely average more than $50 (inclusive) on a hotel/motel room. When out on the road, look for the hotel/motel discount coupon booklets. There are usually good deals to be had. Just make sure you inspect the room before committing. If you ask, they have to let you. Besides everything else, make sure the smoke detector has not been disabled and that the door has a lock which can not be opened from the outside, such as the chain.

    For the rest you could cater much of the food yourself. As mentioned above there are many ways to eat without going to a restaurant. Rest areas, State Parks and Forests and even town parks mostly have picnic tables and sometimes even a grill. But if you carry a small single burner stove, you can make up for where there is none.

    As Utahtea mentioned, there are great meals to be had in most supermarkets with the wide variety of salads available today. You will find that with a little thought you can probably cut that food allowance in half. I mostly allow about $20 - $25 dollars per day.

    Allow a little to eat out now and then.

    Whatever you do, avoid convenience stores and buying drinks or snacks at fuel outlets. Those are the places which eat into your budget.

    I would heartily endorse hostels. They are a great place for a solo traveller to stay and meet others. Always make sure they have a locker for each bed, and that you lock it with your own padlock. Carry a medium sized padlock for the purpose. check here for hostels all over North America and read the comments which are posted by independents.

    You might like to read through this forum, where many have posted their money saving ideas.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    On saving money on the food budget:

    My husband and I always carry a small electric grill or frying pan, to use in motels. It is a great way to cook up a couple of hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers or grilled chicken, and so forth.

    A cooler is part of our gear, too. It carries our drinks, purchased at a big-box store or our local grocery store (whomever had the sale on them). When we run out while on the trip, we stop at another big-box store and get more. As Lifey suggested, those convenience stores and fuel outlets will cost you so much more on your drinks and snacks. Cooler can also carry a few fresh fruits and vegies for munching on. One word of caution: motels don't usually like you to fill a huge cooler with ice, because it eats into their ice supply for the day. However, if your cooler is small enough (say, a 6-pack cooler size), you can probably get away with it. I just discreetly fill the motel's ice bucket a couple of times and walk it back to the room, rather than blatantly filling my cooler. If your cooler is much bigger than that, plan to buy ice every other day and budget about $80 for ice. (That's what we used on a 6-week trip with a large cooler.)

    Sometimes you'll pull into a motel and find out that the room has a microwave oven. More often than not, these days, the rooms have refrigerators. Microwaves are great - you can go to the store and pick up a frozen meal to heat up. BTW, you'll want to carry some silverware with you; eating from plastic forks for 6 weeks gets old.

    Our last long trip was about 8900 miles, took almost 7 weeks. However, we are TWO adults, and did only a little cooking in our rooms. This is our expense report. There are some things in there that might surprise your budget, like souvenirs, and the fact that my husband and I both love ice cream and stopped a lot for that. (Something that isn't possible to carry in your cooler.) This is the trip report itself. Note that we did not purchase the Annual Pass for the national parks last year. Before our trip, I added up the entrance fees to every park we were going to go to, and the cost was lower than the Annual Pass.


  6. Default Thank you everyone!

    Do you know roughly how much you spent on hotel rooms per night and food? I'm just trying to get an estimate because I have roughly your budget is what I came to in my calculations ($100/night hotel) and ($50/day on food). And you had your husband with you, obviously and I'm going solo, plus, I'm down a week and 1000 miles less. Sorry for being nosy, I'm just trying to gauge since I have around $5000 so it's not like I can really spend liberally, haha! as for the ice bucket, that was what i was thinking too. Glad we're on the same page with that :)

    Great tips. I definitely will be under $30/day on food. Maybe even $20-25. I just have a question about hostels. Are they safe? I've stayed in some abroad when I was in Europe (I mostly couch surfed with some friends I have there), but they were a real crapshoot! The bad ones weren't that bad, obviously, but you knew it wasn't a hotel and not my friends' house XD

    That's a relief to hear. That will save a lot. I imagine most of it will be highway driving.

    I used a gas map sight. IDK how accurate it was because I don't know if it counted from a full tank to E or if it only went to about half or a quarter tank left. I imagine it calculated from a full tank to E. But anyways, it had the mileage for the car type, year and route. And it wasn't a continuous route because I had too many stops to map so some of the gas stops overlapped. So i think it averaged out to say the gas price was pretty accurate.

    Again, thank you everyone for your answers! You guys have been a really big help and have been awesome! :)

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