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  1. Default Summer '10 Cross Country Road Trip

    Happy New Year Everyone!!
    My Name is Chris, and i'm in the process of planning a road trip across the country for 3-4 weeks starting in mid to late May with 2 good friends. We're all college students in our early 20's. Our main goal is to visit national parks and a few big cities along the way. Our budgets are pretty tight (about $2000-$2500 apiece).

    We will depart from Los Angeles headed to Las Vegas and Zion, then up through Colorado, then on to Chicago. From Chicago the plan is to head Acadia national park in Maine, then through Boston, New York, and Washington D.C.. Finally we will end the west coast driving the Blue ridge pkwy down to Chimney Rock, NC. Then from there headed back home. Probably won't stop much from here on since we will be headed through northern Texas, and Georgia, and according to my knowledge probably not much to see there (no offense). We will end our trip in New Mexico stopping in Carlsbad, then finally the Grand Canyon.

    I've done some mapping out and we'll probably cover about 7000 miles so my gas cost is an estimated $1000 which will be split 3 ways. For me the biggest question is gonna be sleeping. We all have places to stay in Colorado, Chicago, and Boston. We also plan to do a lot of camping on the way, most likely when we there are campsites. But when we come to those times when we are in between, we just plan on sleeping in the car. I'm driving an SUV so back seats fold down. 2 can sleep in the back most likely uncomfortably, and one in front having to suck it up. We'll definitely switch off every day. But you know, anything to make the trip work, and cheap.

    As for the big cities. We plan to stay in hostels, which cost us about $35 a night which is good for us. And as for food we plan to stock up on non-perishable items before we leave, but also getting stuff along the way.

    I would really like advice on our budget, which I think is possible and also about places to see, routes to take, how to save money on the trip. We're really good friends and known eachother for about 10 years, and have really never done anything like this before. Really looking forward to it and hoping everything works out. If not we'll probly just plan a shorter road trip, but will be saddened about not seeing the east coast since neither of us have seen it before.

    Thanks a lot for reading and for any advice you may have.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Some thoughts.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    You will find a wealth of info by looking around the RTA site and searching the forums, everything from budgeting, packing tips, routes and so much more. I think your budget could work out if you have some free lodgings and camp a lot and eat good food from the cooler. If you are visiting a lot of National parks it will save you money to buy an annual pass for $80 for all occupants of the one vehicle.

    We recommend covering up to 550-600 miles maximum on a multi day trip, but this would be on main routes with time only for short breaks and no sight seeing. Do not expect to be able to clock up more than this safely on the way back.

    A couple of things that stand out are firstly, If you travel through an area with a pre-concieved thought that there is nothing there, that is exactly what you will find. Do a little looking around and talk to the Locals and you will be amazed at what you find.

    Secondly, You can't just pull up anywhere in a car to sleep for the night, so if you got to find somewhere it might as well be a campground and get a proper nights sleep. You won't get one in the car with 3 of you and all your gear and "sucking it up" is going to make next day miserable.

    One other thing is to check carefully when thinking of using a Hostel as they charge per person which could add up to more than sharing a room between the 3 of you.

    Have a look around and if you have other questions just ask.

  3. Default

    Thanks a lot for replying, really enjoying the site and all the info it has to offer.

    Your advice about the annual national park pass is brilliant, thanks a lot. Didn't even know there was a pass like that. Also good advice on checking out local areas and hotel rooms.

    And about the whole sleeping thing. I really understand where your coming from and i appreciate the advice but you have to put yourself in my situation man. We're on a tight budget and it just might have to come to us sleeping in the car. I'd rather sacrifice that than sacrifice less miles i'll be able to see because we have to spend more money on lodging. When i say sleeping in the car I don't mean pulling up in front of someones neighborhood house and sleeping. We plan on sleeping in shopping centers and walmarts.

    any other advice would be great. thanks

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Just So You Know

    Shopping center and Walmart parking lots are private property, and so you will be trespassing when you spend the night sleeping there. The same as pulling up anywhere at random. Sleeping in highway 'rest' areas is specifically against the law in most states. 'Rest' is the US equivalent for WC or 'loo, it does not mean a place to sleep. Trying to get a night's sleep in any of those places will likely result in a visit from the local constabulary (at best) or an armed irate owner (at worst). So, where can you legally sleep in your car? Some Walmarts permit it, but only on a case by case basis, and only where local laws allow it. You need to check with each store individually and get permission, and that means pulling up for the night before they close. Truck stops, often called service plazas these days, are another good resource, but again you will need to make your presence and purpose known to the employees. And in both circumstances, it is considered a common courtesy to buy something from the people who are providing you with this service. The upside of truck stops is that they generally offer stuff you'd want anyway, coffee, meals, showers. The downside to them is that they are a business that does much of their business at night and so will be bright and noisy for the most part.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default $20 investment in friendship

    Let me also add another voice saying that trying to save money by sleeping in your car with 3 people is pennywise and pound foolish.

    Spending $20 on a campsite rather than sleeping in the car could very well save these great friendships you have. No matter how good of friends you are and how long you've been friends, a roadtrip can become a great strain on those friendships, sometimes to the point where that friendship is never the same again. The reality is that you're looking at spending about a month crammed together in a tin can, and if you add not getting good nights of sleep into the mix, that's going to have everyone on edge, at each others throats, and simply not able to have a good time.

    I'll tell you, I regularly take roadtrips with my best friends, who I've known for years, and even lived with on several occations. Our trips are always shorter than your planned, and i can still tell you at times there are always a couple points on the trip where the friendships are tested, because everyone is together all the time and everyone has to agree on pretty much every decision.

    Also, on a more practical sense, if you've got luggage and camping gear for 3 people, how do you expect 2 people to lay down in the back, have one person laying up front, and still have all of that stuff inside the SUV? You can't just pile all of that stuff outside, and I don't know how you'd have room to still sleep as you've proposed.

    I will say the good news is that if you each have $2000-2500 you've got enough money where you really shouldn't need to sleep in the car for economic reasons. You'll certainly have to watch your money, but Even if you got a $50 motel every night for 30 days, that's only $1500 total. Even with gas factored in, you'd each still have more than $1000 left for food and fun. And you could easily bring that cost down more by doing some camping as you planned.

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