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  1. Default Crazy Girl on the Road!

    Hey everyone!

    For reasons that would take way too long to explain, I have embarked on a road trip from Chicago to Little Rock and I have four days/nights to do it and $250 (I have to catch a flight back home to NYC on day 5 and can't move the flight any earlier) for the whole trip. I figure gas will cost about $100 (used the fuel calculator and overestimated by about $25, just in case), so that leaves me with $150; or about $36/day. So.....

    Obviously I can't afford to stay in hotels for 4 nights, but fortunately I have some camping gear that I got off of Craigslist... so I figure I'll stay in public parks/campgrounds every night. So my questions are:

    1) Is this crazy? Can it be done? I’m not worried about the timing, just the budget. I plan to take my time and see the sights, enjoy the adventure… but I’m a city girl and I just don’t know if this plan is practical.
    2) Am I going to get eaten by a bear/kidnapped by organ thieves?
    3) While perusing your excellent "Lodging for the budget traveler" thread on here, I found the FREE overnight camping link, which led me to Giant City Campground in Southern Illinois... which is not free, but very cheap. Does anyone have experience with this particular site, or know of any other good ones along the way?
    4) Is it naïve to think I’ll just stop whenever I see a campground or park that looks appealing and roll in there and pitch a tent? Or do I really need to reserve in advance?
    5) I’m going I-55 to I-57 to I-40 – any unmissable sights along the way that you’d recommend? I love natural wonders, water, and kitsch.

    Finally, I would love any tips, words of wisdom, etc. from you all… I’m frankly a little terrified and need someone to talk me off the ledge! I’m a city girl, but I grew up in the woods and love nature. I do a lot of hiking year-round in New York, New Jersey, and PA, so I’m not a total greenhorn… but I do not drive very often, although I love to do it and am really looking forward to having an adventure!

    Thanks a bunch!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The biggest thing you're going to have to keep in mind is that you've got a tiny budget for a trip like this.

    Its pretty common to pay $20 for a campsite at a state park, throw in $5 for firewood and/or some ice, and $10 a day for food - which is a very spartan budget and all of your money is gone.

    Mind you, even making your own food $10 is not much money. I spent a night on the road last week, stopped at a grocery store and picked up a small package of lunch meat, a piece of steak for dinner, a can of veggies, and a container of juice and even though all of that was on sale, I still spent $10-11 dollars and that didn't include breakfast or a couple of things like bread that I'd brought with me. Point being, you can make it work, but you're very close to "rice and beans".

    I'll note that you have a very nice amount of time for this trip, as you could quite easily do this trip in a day and a half, but having 4 days will also be a double edged sword. You'll have much more time available, which means you'll have many more temptations to stop and see things, which many times cost money.

    You might be able to find some campgrounds for a little less money, and there is some national forest land along your way which you might look into camping options along the way, but I really think this is a case where having even an extra $100 available will make this trip go from being a very restrictive trip where watching your money is your number one priority, to being a trip where you can spend a little more time focused on having fun.

  3. Default

    Thanks, Man! I took your advice and rustled up a little extra cash. Now I'm camped out at a KOA and it is changing my life. You were so right -- now I can focus on having a little fun with my 4 days!

    So now, I'd love some advice about the route. Since I have 3 days now to get to Little Rock, I'm thinking of heading southwest to Springfield, MO thru St. Louis, stop and see the arch, and just stop whenever I see an interesting sight. After that, what's the best route to get to LR? I've been to Branson (worked there for a few months), so I'm not too motivated to go back... although I figure there may be some nice camping there. What's the prettiest route with the best sights?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    If you have 3 days, I think I'd go through Bull Shoals. There's a state park there with campgrounds.

    Don't go all the way to Springfield. Get off the Interstate in Rolla and take US-63 south to West Plains. Then take US-160 west to Gainesville and pick up MO/AR-5 south. At Midway, take AR-178 west to the park. From there, you can essentially take AR-5 all the way to Little Rock. Any amenities that you need, you can get in Mountain Home.

    Money saving tip - fill your gas tank in Gainesville - gas is 20 to 30 cents more in Arkansas.

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