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  1. Default Planning a road trip.

    First post here!

    I'm hoping to get some help here with planning my road trip. Now, I'm still at the beginning process of planning and don't have any certain dates. To give some background info, I'm 24 years old, male, never done anything like this before, and, unless something unexpected happens, i'll probably be traveling alone. At minimum, the trip would last a month (I got the okay from my job to do this). However, I have been thinking of quitting my job altogether and doing 3 months on the road (6, if I'm feeling comfortable). I don't have anything holding me back, except 2 parakeets but I'm sure I can get someone to watch them. I feel like this is the perfect time for me to do this! I don't really like my job and don't see myself there much longer. The thing is, if I don't quit, I don't think I'll ever leave. So, while I'm sure I would feel better knowing I have a job when I come back (if I limit myself to only a month), I would be stuck at the same cycle I want to get away from.

    I have a bit more than 10k saved to do this, but would like to budget myself to 5k, if possible. I was thinking of camping, as much as possible, and maybe staying at a hotel every few days, to lower cost. My question is, does every state have a place that I would be able to camp? I don't mind doing the "primitive" camping, where I park and have walk a distance to the campsite. If so, would it reasonable to expect to find open campsites if I don't reserve them in advance?

    I have heard of couch-surfing but I don't think that would work for me. Admittedly, I don't do well with people I don't know (I'm awkward at small talk and stuff like that). I'm hoping a trip like this would help me with that.

    And that brings me to my last question (for now). I'm naturally introverted and pretty shy, until I get comfortable with the people I'm around. Honestly, even the thought of doing this scares me. What is the likelihood of me enjoying this? What are the chances that I am unable to get out of my comfort zone and I end up cutting my trip short? I know it's a hard question to answer, since y'all don't know me, but any stories from someone in a similar situation as mine might be able to help.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,509

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Camping is probably your best bet, honestly. Every state has county and state parks that offer campgrounds, and some have national forests and parks that have the same. If you get yourself either a set of maps, or a good road atlas like the Rand McNally, look on the maps. State parks are marked with a leaf, those with a campground have a green triangle. National forests and parks are marked, and most have a lot of campgrounds, some that are little used.

    As far as reservations go -- we found that national forest campgrounds were little used. National park campgrounds were mostly "get there early" (i.e. 9 am) and see if you can get a space. State parks depended a lot on the location, but those near national parks or beaches filled quickly, or (in our area) on the mountaintops in the summer when the desert is scorching hot.

    Another way to find camp spots, if you're not in a big hurry, is to find the local ranger station. They'll be a big help. Mr. Google is also helpful, but the problem with Mr. Google is that the directions are not always accurate!


    Camping is a great way to meet people. You automatically have something in common - you obviously like the outdoors. You see someone with a unique tent, or some piece of equipment that intrigues you, most will be happy to share why and where they got it, etc.

    If you cut your trip short, so what??? It's your trip. A lot of folks have to cut trips short for one reason or another. It happens.

    With camping, be prepared to find a cheap motel or even a hostel every few days, so you can catch a night in a comfortable bed and get a nice long shower. Another alternative to the shower issue are truck stop showers. Do be prepared to pay $7-15 for a shower and to wait in line. Most truck stops have a sign-in sheet where you are called by number ("Number 58, your shower is ready!").

    Camping is also a lot easier on the budget for another reason: food. It's a lot cheaper, not to mention healthier, to cook your own. Carry a small cookstove, something to cook with, a cooler, and some utensils. The only time when cooking out is a pain is during inclement weather, so have an alternative plan.


    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default Getting started.

    You say you are at the start of the planning process. But how much do you really want to plan?

    As one who regularly hits the road for six months at a time, I rarely plan anything. Yes I plan the general areas I want to be in, and the States, but as for routes and where I'll spend the nights are left to a day or two before I'm there.

    As mentioned above you will see a lot of great and important information on good maps. Either get yourself a Rand McNally road atlas or go to AAA and pick up a set of their maps (free to members) Thinking of AAA, on a trip like this it would be a good idea to have a good roadside emergency contract.

    When you have the maps, you may find the information in the following paragraph helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck
    Start with maps. Not GPS, not software, not Google, but real honest-to-god paper maps that show you your entire route, that you can mark up (and erase), that you can stick pins in, and that show something about the land you'll be driving through. Those are your essential tool in any RoadTrip planning process. Start by marking all the places you know you want to visit. Then connect the dots. Then look for more places of interest and scenic routes along the lines connecting the dots. Repeat until you've got as many sites and roads as you think you want.
    Now, I would not do this for the whole six months, just stage by stage, or you might like to preplan a particular area you are looking at.

    Camping on public lands such as State Parks/Forests and BLM lands is the cheapest way to go. I spend a lot of my nights at them and always try to visit a rangers office or forestry office or BLM office wherever I am. The best way to find these offices is to ask at a Visitor centre or Welcome centre in the State or city. Most places have one of these offices. It is rare to find more than one in any place, and I have never seen all three in one town or city. The benefit of visiting these public land offices is that the staff are familiar with the local area and conditions, and will be able to tell you where the nearest, or the best, or the busiest campground is. All campgrounds have basic toilets, you will sometimes come across a campground where they do not have tap water. For that reason I carry two or three milk bottles with clean water - just for washing hands, washing dishes and so on. Paint two sides black and leave them sitting in the sun will get it hot enough to wash with.

    A tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat or air mattress will set you up. I agree that you meet the nicest people at campgrounds, who will no doubt look after you knowing that you are on your own. One way to break the ice is to accept any and all help anyone offers. Soon you will be sharing experiences or talking around the campfire.

    Accept with grace a meal offered. People never offer if they do not mean it. It will be your easiest way to meet people. It may also be a great idea to carry a small box with souvenirs from your home town to share with those who have been generous. Small things like pens, pins, fridge magnets, post cards, key rings, etc. are always appreciated.

    Hostels are another great way to meet other travellers and share experiences. Especially if you are cooking your own meal in the kitchen. That is where most of the talk happens. Sometimes you may be invited to join others in a meal. Take all those opportunities to meet others.... and remember, chances are that at least half of them are as shy as you are.

    Do your shopping at grocery stores and supermarkets. Avoid convenience stores. You will eat better, and spend less.

    Have a great trip.

    Lifey

  4. Default

    Go for it!

    My cousin did exactly what you are planning at about the same age. He visited just about every National Park and had a lifetime of memories.

    You might have to consider reservations at the most popular National Parks.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,992

    Default one way to find out

    Quote Originally Posted by CampRo View Post
    Honestly, even the thought of doing this scares me. What is the likelihood of me enjoying this? What are the chances that I am unable to get out of my comfort zone and I end up cutting my trip short?
    Here's my thought, since you aren't certain you're going to like this, why not simply take advantage of the month off that your employer is offering you? That will give you some experience on the road, will let you know what you really need budget-wise, and let you figure out what you like.

    You might end up hating being on the road by yourself and even go home sooner than you planned, you might enjoy yourself but decide that being gone for one month is enough time before you're ready to go home, or you might decide that (like many of us on this forum) that you love being on the road and want to be gone as long as possible. If you do love being on the road, go back to your job after your month is up, start saving up money again, and look to quit your job and go on a longer trip maybe next year? Remember, you don't have to check off all of your life goals by the age of 25.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    158

    Default

    Hello!

    There are a lot of us older folk (myself included) who would give their right arm to be in your shoes. You're 24 years old, you have no anchoring commitments, a decent amount of money saved, and there you are, on the brink of your first real adventure! I think it's safe to say that we're all excited for you.

    I totally agree with Michael's suggested approach. Take the month off. That's a generous amount of vacation time, enough to have one heck of a whole lot of fun, but if you're not really sure? Don't burn your bridges (as in, quit your job) until you've had a chance to see how an extended time on the road feels for you, because everyone is different in that regard. If, as you approach the end of that month, you find yourself ready to go back home? You do exactly that, no harm, no foul. If, on the other hand, you find yourself 3,000 miles away and having the time of your life? If the biggest question in your mind is "Why didn't I do this sooner?" Maybe that's the point when you can seriously consider making a change, taking a break, see a little of the world for yourself, so you'll know what's out there.

    Not everyone likes their job. Not every job is likable. But we all have to make a living, and with that being a given, it's easy to get trapped in a rut. Life tends to be a lot more satisfying when we enjoy what we do. That isn't always possible, but it's definitely something to consider. Sometimes you have to climb out of your daily routine in order to see it for what it is. Maybe it's not as bad as you think? Or maybe it's worse!

    You're only young once. That's not a cliche--it's a simple fact, and when you say this is the perfect time? You're absolutely right. Regardless of where you go, or how long you stay gone, there will never be a better time for you, so by all means, get out there and stretch your boundaries, expand your horizons. Don't be afraid to test the waters outside your comfort zone. That's the only way to find out who you really are, and, odds are, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

    My first serious solo road trip happened in the fall of 1970, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I recently took a solo drive to Alaska and back, and when I was preparing for that journey, I found myself thinking back on my earliest road trips, and I wrote about it in my blog. If you're interested, check the following link (I have a series of three posts on that subject, beginning with this one, called "Alaska: Step 1":

    http://www.rcquinn.com/?p=2889

    If you do it right, the planning for your trip can be half the fun--but don't over-plan. Leave a little room for serendipity, spontaneity. You don't really know how it's gonna go until you get there. So figure out where 'there' is, and hit the road! Odds are, you're gonna have a blast!

    Rick

  7. Default

    Thanks for the replies, everyone!

    I went ahead ahead and purchased a Rand McNally atlas. I'm sure it's going to be a big help in whichever road trip I decide to do. I don't want too strict of a plan, but I do want to figure out the locations I want to visit, things I will need, and a reasonable budget. As for roadside assistance, the credit card I have with Capital One offers that. Any idea if that is as good as AAA? The tips given for camping are great!

    I really haven't considered taking the one month off work to see if I like it, but that is a good idea. I guess I have the tendency to see things in an all or nothing way. I don't plan on burning bridges with my job. If I do leave, I would make sure to do so in a respectful way. However, if I do take them up on the 1 month off, then decide to go ahead to do the 3 months instead, I don't think they'll like that.

    I really do appreciate all the input! It's making this all more exciting.

    Right now, I'm starting small and doing a small weekend road trip to a State Park 4 hours away. It was even fun purchasing all the camping equipment. Hopefully, I enjoy this smaller trip as much as I hope I am.

    Rcquinn: I read your blog posts. They're great and informative! I've wanted to do the PCT as well, but think it would more as a personal challenge than something I do for fun.
    Last edited by CampRo; 04-01-2016 at 08:59 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default A good start.

    Quote Originally Posted by CampRo View Post
    As for roadside assistance, the credit card I have with Capital One offers that. Any idea if that is as good as AAA?
    Be sure you know what it covers, especially towing. Twice I have had long distance towing, once in AK and once in AZ, and I was glad I had chosen the plan with the most towing. Some of the distances out west can be vast, and towing is expensive.


    Quote Originally Posted by CampRo View Post
    Right now, I'm starting small and doing a small weekend road trip to a State Park 4 hours away. It was even fun purchasing all the camping equipment. Hopefully, I enjoy this smaller trip as much as I hope I am.
    Brilliant idea. Have fun.

    Lifey
    Last edited by AZBuck; 04-03-2016 at 10:47 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,509

    Default

    As for roadside assistance, the credit card I have with Capital One offers that. Any idea if that is as good as AAA?
    As was said above, check to see what it actually covers. You don't want to find out the hard way, that it will only tow you 5 miles.

    AAA has a couple of plans available. The advantage of AAA over most other plans are that they will offer other free things along with towing: maps, Tour Books, brochures, TripTik. Tour Books have listings of AAA-approved lodging and restaurants, and nice articles about various places of interest. The con's to the state Tour Books is that they take up space, so we usually get those only for states where we plan to do some touring and/or stay more than one night. The TripTiks are paper strip maps made just for you, with markings on them about AAA approved lodging, restaurants and camping. Unfortunately, AAA dropped their old CampBooks in favor of a partnership with Woodall's. (Those seem to concentrate on the privately owned RV parks rather than public campgrounds.)

    The regular AAA plan covers 5-7 miles of towing. Their "Plus" plan covers more than that. Whether they will "allow" you to purchase the Plus plan depends on the regional AAA you are purchasing from. We were not eligible for some odd reason -- perhaps the age of our vehicles -- until we had been with them for two years.


    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,992

    Default

    Certainly check with your CC company, that's the only way to know for sure.

    AAA is fine, but honestly, if it wasn't for the roadside coverage, I wouldn't even consider getting a membership. The mid-level membership costs about $80 and includes up to 100 miles of towing. If you need a tow, that easily pays for itself in one use. However, I really don't think anything else they offer is close to worth the fee. I am not at all a fan of their maps, the Triptik is completely worthless in this day and age (other free online mapping programs are just as good, if not better), I've yet to find a single piece of useful information inside one of their tourbooks, and while the AAA discount on hotels and the like is nice, I can often find better discounts elsewhere.

    But like I said, the roadside coverage is top notch, and is a lot easier than many other roadside plans where you generally have to pay out of pocket and then hope to get paid back later.

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