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  1. Default A few questions to the Veterans of travel

    I am brand new on this website and I would appreciate any advice. I am planning a road trip across the country, here are the facts:

    I am starting from Kentucky
    I am trying to do big hikes in each state (Grand Canyon, Zion Narrow, etc...)
    I am getting a national parks pass
    I am also directing this towards seeing old friends
    I am basically taking this path Ky-Ar-Tx-NM-Az-Ut-Ca-Or-Wa-Wy-Mo-Sd-Nd-Wi- then stright to Ma- down east coast and back home
    I am basically taking a sabatical from work from May until August
    I am getting a parks pass
    I am freezing oatmeal, granolas, Jerkeys, some candy bars. I plan to buy apples, peanut butter bread, ramen noodles on the road. I have a MSR pocket rocket, I figure I will buy about 10 cannisters for it before i leave
    I do not plan on really drinking or partying, but when I see my friends I might go out to eat, basically around 10 meals at resturants
    I am sleeping in my car or in my tent for most of the trip
    I am budgeting around $3400 for this, my estimate for gas is 1410 (11,750 miles traveled- 25 miles a gallon- 3.00 a gallon gas)
    I have 99 Ford Taurus I am taking that I get around 25 miles to the gallon

    That is all I can think of right now. Is there any type of advice that you all have, or do you all see a flaw in any of the info I have given. Its hard to ask someone that hasnt experienced or tried to plan for something like this. I did a smaller trip last summer around the East Coast and loved every second of it, but nothing on the scale of what I am wanting to do now. Like I said any advice would be appreciated

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Since this is in 'Saving Money on Your Trip', I guess that is what you are specifically asking.

    Let me assure you that sleeping in your car is not a wise way to save money. You may have done this on a shorter trip, but it will soon lead to fatigue from insufficient restful sleep. Check out also hostels, State park campgrounds and legal free campsites. Don't overlook truckstops for (that sometimes much needed) showers.

    Fuel is one of the most effective ways of saving on a road trip. Keep your speed between 60 and 65 (said to be the most efficient way to drive), take off gently, anticipate stops slowing down well before hand, and don't leave the car idling. I hear that it takes as much fuel to restart the engine as it does to leave it idling for 15 secs. So whenever you are stopped for more than 15 secs, turn of the engine.

    And don't forget to factor in car expenses. Not only for regular maintenance, but have some in reserve for unexpected breakdowns. They are a reality.

    Lifey who travels on a shoestring

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Budget.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    The biggest hurdle I see at the moment is your budget. If all of May and August are inclusive your remaining budget of just under $2000 amounts to $16 a day, could you even live at home on that? A camping fee could swallow most of that [if not all and then plus some] and eating out occasionally could see off 2 to 3 day's of that budget each time you do so.

    One thing you have also not allowed for is an emergency fund, what if your car needed some attention. Just a tyre would put a big hole in your in your funds when compared to your daily budget.

    Having taken a look I think that 25mpg from your Taurus is also a little optimistic and for budgeting reasons would take 20mpg to be on the safe side and with Gas prices unpredictable that could change things quite a lot on a trip of this scale.

    You could well be looking at more money or less time, but as long as you always have enough money to get home on what does it matter ?

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

    Default untied shoes

    I think you are trying to do this trip on such a shoestring, that its going to be impossible to tie your shoes!

    Seriously, I think you're in a position where to even come close to reaching your budget that you'd have to be scrapping by to the point where you can't really have any fun.

    Starting with your fuel budget, it looks like you are probably using your point to point distances to come up with your total mileage. However, its quite certain that with just basic driving around towns and parks, looking for campsites, grocery stores, the sort of things you'd do in a normal day regardless of where you are, you'll easily add another 25% to your mileage. I'd say 15,000 miles is a more likely estimate, which pushes your fuel costs up around $1800 (and that's if your 25 mpg, and $3 remain accurate.)

    That leaves just $1400 to live on for 3-4 months. When you think about it, the poverty level is about $12000 a year, and you'd be looking at a budget of less than half that! For another way to look at it, The amount of money you'll be living off of is roughly what you'd make if you worked a minimum wage job, and you only worked there 15 hours a week. Do you really think you could live on that meager amount of money and have any fun. Its easy to say you can live off of oatmeal and ramen, but is that really all you want to eat 3-4 months?

    Other people have already mentioned that sleeping in your car is probably not a realistic option for a 3 month trip. Sure you can do it from time to time, but doing it every night is going to get really old really fast. Even if you stayed at campsites for just half of your nights, and never once slept in a motel, spending all the rest of your time in a car, you could quite easily be spending $1000 just in camping fees.

    I really think you are doing a budget that really doesn't work on paper, much less the real world where things tend to cost more than you usually expect. I think for you to have any fun at all, you're either going to have to increase your amount of money rather substantially, or significantly reduce the size and scope of your trip.

  5. Default

    You've budgeted for gas at $3/gallon . . . in my area anyway, it's in the $2.50 range, so you have a little padding built in there. Since gas varies so widely from place to place, and since it's prone to skyrocketing without warning, this is wise. IF gas stays lower, then you have a little extra spending money.

    Other people have given you good advice about sleeping in your car: It's not realistic. Test it at home. Go sleep in your driveway tonight. Since it's November, it'll be cold . . . remember that next summer it'll be hot. And in both seasons, it'll be near impossible for you to stretch out and get comfortable. Not a realistic option.

    Price out the national parks pass cost before you go. I bought it last summer for my family of four, and we figured out that in a 3-week trip it saved us $5. We don't live near ANY national parks, so we haven't used it since that trip. Yes, $5 is money, but it's not signficant money. The internet makes it easy to do a comparison cost. Be sure to notice that some parks (Mamouth Cave, Mt. Rushmore) don't charge an entrance fee; be sure to notice that some parks (Yellowstone, Grand Tetons) give you free entrance if you've paid entrance to another park. Just compare before you buy -- don't assume that it's a bargain.

    You need to budget more for food. The oatmeal (why are you freezing it?), apples, and granola bars are fine for a few days . . . but you'll need some substantial meals -- more than 10 in the whole summer. Plan for at least one good, solid meal every other day. MINIMUM.

    You either need more money or less trip.
    With such a long trip, it wouldn't be hard to cut back on time without sacraficing quality. Really, such a tight budget on the road will probably only be fun for 3-4 weeks; after that, it will get old.
    Or, since you have 'til May, you might look for a part-time job between now and then. Save every penny towards your trip, and you won't have to cut back on your plans.

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