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  1. Default Feasibility of MKE - LA - SF - Seattle!

    Hey everyone!

    I've been reading this forum extensively for the last few days or so, and have always wanted to take a somewhat epic road trip. In any case, I'm curious as to the feasibility of this 'tentative' tip.

    Participants: Myself and my best friend (who lives in DC). We've lived together for about a year, and we've done several trips from Milwaukee to DC together. Unfortunately none of these trips have involved overnight stops.

    The Map!

    This is just a *basic* outline of the trip. I haven't yet researched where exactly state parks are on the way out there (don't have too much of a desire to visit many), but anything close to that route is fair game.

    That barebones route is a little over 5200 miles... I've figured add in 1000 miles or so for meandering/city driving and we're at about 6200. I drive a 2008 Hyundai Accent, which has averaged to about 35/36mpg highway, and I've figured an average of $3.50 per gallon, which ends up to about $620 for fuel.

    Both of us have camped seperately, but never together. We're pretty damn adventurous, so camping several nights in a row wouldn't be a problem. Fresh out of college, we're trying to keep things low cost (and we're used to it), so camping for 4/5 nights followed by a stay in a motel isn't a problem. Oh-- also looking at a timeframe of about 21 days. We figure 4 nights in a hotel (average at $50 a night), and 17 at a campground ($20/night), our lodging cost would be $540.

    Food-- eating cheaply at places (a lot of bread and other filling foods), sandwiches, and other cheap things. I have a burner that I'd bring, but mainly we're trying to keep this cheap.

    We've both gone a month before on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ramen noodles, water and fruit-- so I'm thinking this shouldn't be too much of a problem. I've budgeted $30 a day for this, so $630.

    Like I said, our main goal is just for the journey, and to spend some time vegging out in California (I used to live out there and absolutely loved it). The trip from Seattle to Milwaukee will likely be barebones entertainment wise, and primarily be focused on taking pictures, and enjoying the drive. I'm not anticipating a lot of entertainment money being spent out there. Our main entertainment will likely be stopping at local bars, drinking with local people, and trying to document it.... who knows, maybe we'll score some free nights with the local Cougars ;)

    In any case, we plan on spending the majority of the trip in California. Don't really need to do a whole lot of touristy things out there-- but I know parking will cost quite a bit.

    I'd like to see how people think we've budgeted at this point-- with both time and money. What do you think? So far, before entertainment costs we have:

    $620 (fuel) + $540 (lodging) + $630 (food) = $1,790 / 2 people = $895 sans any 'entertainment costs'

    ... and that 'entertainment' budget is largely based on how much my raise is, how fast I pay off my credit, and if I have to pay rent for the month =)

    Too ambitious? Too much trip? Please let me know what legs we could cut out! This is just the 'perfect' west coast trip, but if need be, it can be scaled back! I also have some friends and family out there in the area, so that may also bring the cost down a tad.

    I'd appreciate any constructive criticism! (looking to make this trip in either November, or next March/April).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Well, Let's Be Honest

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Your trip might very well be doable exactly as you've laid it out, IF everything goes exactly as you expect and if all your cost estimates are accurate. But it is the nature of RoadTrips to throw surprises at you (Else, why take them?), and I think each of your estimates on what things will cost will be the best you will find, not the average. Also, even though you and your best friend have lived together for a year, being together 24/7 for a month is a different animal altogether. So, would I recommend that you make this trip? Absolutely, just do it with your eyes open and a fair bit more margin.

    To help, have a look through these general cost considerations. Keep in mind that although they have been updated once for inflation, things continue to get more expensive. Here is an article on cheap RoadTripping with more ideas. And before you go, sit down with your friend and take this quiz as a point of departure for what each of you wants and expects out of this trip. If you plan on seeing more than 3 National Parks on the trip (e.g. Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Badlands just to name some of the more obvious ones) be sure to get a National Parks Pass at the first one you come to.

    Finally, you have to be prepared for your trip simply costing more than you're currently planning on. Your post was too much about minimizing costs and too little about enjoying the trip. If you're constantly worried that this beer or that lunch will put you over your budget, you will not have as good a time as you would if you and your friend got another $1000 together between you. You should have at least that in reserve or available to you in case of an unforeseen emergency.


  3. Default

    I don't think eating bad food for so many days is a good idea. It's not worth the hit your health might take. I never skimp on food when I go on trips. I enjoy camping, so that cuts down the costs. But I take plenty of fresh fruits, veggies etc and keep eating throughout the day.

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

    Default reasonable, with limits

    I think your budget numbers are in line with what you can reasonably expect to pay for things, however, I do agree that you are pretty much planning for the low end. Having a cushion for things costing more will be a very wise move (your fuel costs alone could cost several hundred more if the price of gas shoots up again and/or your mpgs decline when your car is fully loaded).

    I will say for food, I would strongly recommend using your burner/camp stove on almost a daily basis. Having a hot meal that you cook yourself really won't cost much more than trying to eat just sandwiches and other quick cold foods, and it could end up being a real cost saver. As with many things, if you try to cut costs too much, you end up splurging and spending more money. If all you eat is bread and sandwich type meal, it can be very easy to start eating a restauarants a lot more often just to have something different.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Frugal roadtrips

    I enjoy a frugal trip and don't require a lot of spending cash to have a good time. However, as soon as you talk about your entertainment being going into local bars and having a few drinks, your costs really escalate. Unless you're experts at getting others to buy you a round, you really need to add that into your budget. I'm also one who eats out of my cooler and can do just fine on fresh fruits, veggies, and sandwiches for a couple days at a time but then I also usually budget in a splurge at a good restaurant every 2-3 days. This doesn't have to be an expensive restaurant but something that gives me the option of stopping at a local restaurant/bar/lounge that local people recommend as having good, local food and atmosphere.

    Anyway, I just think you would be wise to add a cushion for these types of expenses and then, of course, for emergencies like car breakdowns.

    So, your plan is pretty good and marginaly do-able but I really think you'll have a better time if you have a bit more spending cash for treating yourself a bit more.

    Also, I think you're missing out on some of the best of the things to see/do on the west coast by going up I-5 to Seattle instead of hugging the coast. Driving the coast is gorgeous. You should try to do this at least part of the way, if not the whole way. If it were me and I had the time you have, I'd hug the coast all the way up around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, getting into Seattle via ferry from the west side of Puget Sound. But, then again, your budget will have to have funds for the ferry. But it would be worth it, imho. It's only about $30 for 2 passengers and a car but, in your tight budget, you might have to eliminate something like that.

    See? You really need to save a bit more, I think. If you can.

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