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  1. Default Trip around the USA: I'm new to it. Help!

    I'm planning out a huge roadtrip for the summer of 2019. I'd really like to see the USA, but I am a minimum wage worker so it will take me some time to save up. I have the route plotted out. 11000 miles over about four and a half months. I'm taking plenty of time in each location to really take in the sites. I'm also breaking driving up into about four to six hour days. Is this a reasonable way to do it? Can I go more? I've never driven quite that distance in a day before, but I love to drive so I'm not too concerned about it.

    My big concerns are the cost. I have camping gear and plan to camp around the national parks and stuff, but what's the cheapest way to stay in the cities? I've heard about couch surfing, but are there any other good ways to do it?

    My car will need to be replaced before I go. Would it be better to get one that I know I'm getting rid of when I get back home again, or should I look into renting for the trip? Or should I look into getting something new?

    How do you guys tackle eating on the road? I've got some ideas for breakfast and lunch, thanks to a cooler and ice (I'm diabetic and need to keep insulin chilled, so this was an absolute MUST.) but what about good dinner ideas? I won't have access to a kitchen all the time so I have no clue how to tackle that.

    There are lots of attractions and museums and zoos and aquariums I'd really like to get to experience, but they get pricey. I'm definitely getting a pass into the national parks (I'll be visiting about a half dozen of them) and I've seen that some places, like Seattle, have passes for those kinds of things. $75 for $120 worth of admission or stuff like that. Do you find that lots of cities have that? Or should I just budget a bit more for those kinds of things?

    I am budgeting for laundromat trips, repurchasing toiletries and things (though I might just stock up at a Costco or something before I go), gas, campsites or motel rooms, and buying food at grocers instead of fast food or convenience stores. Anything else I should be budgeting for?

    Basically, I could really use any tips you guys might have. Any gear I should look into that you've found helpful? Spots around the US that are a must see? Wish you had spent more or less time somewhere?

    Thanks for reading this, I appreciate it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri


    Welcome to RTA! You came to the right place, because most of us here have been in your shoes at one time or another, trying to work in a trip on a small budget.

    Mileage -- you can probably drive 7-8 hours per day comfortably, if all you are doing is driving. Or perhaps that with one sightseeing stop of short duration. That would be about 400 miles. Don't believe any driving times given to you by Google Maps, Mapquest, your GPS, or whatever. They simply aren't realistic. Take the mileage they give you (most of the time it's really close) and divide by 55 or 60, and that gives you the hours it will take.

    Overnights -- camping is a great way to go if you are comfortable with it. Most of the time, you can probably find a state or national forest or park campground close enough to the freeway. For cities, perhaps you can find a "cheap motel", which will also help you to get a shower. Couch-surfing is nice, but it isn't free, as you should always do something nice for your hosts - either cook a meal for them, take them out to eat, clean a bathroom, or bring them a gift.

    Car -- if you are comfortable with your own car, you could take it. Renting is an option if you are over 21. Cheapest way is to do a loop trip and return the car to where you rent it. For fuel, figure out what the average MPG is for that make/model, how many miles you're going to put on, add 25% to that mileage for sightseeing, then use the RTA Fuel Calculator to see how much your trip is going to run. For now you'll have to use the 2016 average cost for fuel.

    Eating -- I hear you on the cooler, and the need to keep your meds cold. It will help you eat a lot healthier, too, which you know is important for a diabetic. Dinner -- when you're camping, if you carry a little propane stove, a pot or pan, some utensils and a plate and cup, you'll be able to whip up your own food on the road. Plan on stopping for groceries every other day. You can count on Walmart to be least expensive in a given area, for almost anything. If you have to eat out, you may already know the techniques to find what's best for your body, but I found a book called Eat Out, Eat Well, by Hope Warshaw, to be a good read for choosing the healthier options at both fast food and sit down restaurants.

    Your best admission bets are at the national forests and parks, and state parks as well. An occasional theme park is fun, but definitely pricey. We always "pass" on the "Go (city name) Passes", because in the end, they are only a bargain if you use a lot. But my husband and I tend to stay in natural areas, rather than cities.

    Your budget needs to cover one more thing: ICE for your cooler. Plan on $2/day, though you may get a better deal somewhere. If you find someplace selling block ice, grab it. It lasts a long time.

    As for gear, we have a whole forum called GEAR UP! You might want to spend some time perusing it. But the basics do for most people. As for spots that are a "must see", most of us here will tell you that you can't go wrong with the state and national parks. Other than that, it's pretty much what interests YOU. Poke around this site for awhile, and you'll see that there is a wide variety of things to see and do, a lot of them cheap (and some a lot more expensive).

    Feel free to ask more questions. I know you'll get lots more answers!


  3. Default

    Thank you so much! I appreciate the tips. I'm already looking through the other forums and threads and finding useful info. I'm so glad I stumbled on this site!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    If taking your own car you should make sure it's checked over and servicing is up to date and then allow funds to join a motoring organisation such as AAA in case of problems along the way. You might have to budget for new tyres and brakes etc so have an emergency fund for the unexpected. When hitting the road for a long period of time it can eat up funds quicker than you first realise, but as long as you have enough time and money left to get home it really doesn't matter. If you are home a few days/weeks early and have travelled a few less miles, it's more about enjoying the 'here and now'. Hostels are another option for a nights sleep and you will get to meet like minded people.

    As you continue planning and specific questions crop up don't hesitate to ask on this thread.

  5. #5


    Wow, that will be a trip of a life time! Spend plenty of time in the national parks, theres so many and offer so much. My thoughts are to upgrade your car if you are able to with something very reliable and functional for the trip, no need to get rid of it after, you'll become pretty attached and 11,000 miles isn't much in the overall usage of a car. If you can invest in a really good cooler like a yeti they are very expensive but on a summer trip in the desert will keep food cold and safe for days so you can cook most meals especially if camping. You've got time, budget $400 for that. Ours made it through Moab in August for a week in a car that would get well over 120 inside with no food spoilage.

  6. Default

    Emergency meals.

    Nothing can be more frustrating than being hungry with no restaurant in site. It can cause you to drive out of your way looking for a place to eat. It can also cause you to drive hungry much longer than you'd like, perhaps giving you a headache as well.

    I like to pack several microwave Hormel or Dinty Moore meals. They taste great when you boil the sealed bowls for a short time. I really like the beef stew and the spaghetti. I also take along a four pack of Kings Hawaiian rolls. They go great with these meals. For a stove, I have a simple Coleman single burner that screws directly on top of the propane bottle.

    These meals aren't cheap but they serve their purpose in a pinch. They don't need refrigeration and are small enough to be easily stashed away. They've been my ace in the hole for many years of traveling.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri


    Travelingman, the OP is a diabetic. That means he needs to keep sodium and carbs in check in order to try to help control the blood glucose. Hormel and Dinty Moore are often high in both sodium and carbs, so the OP is going to have to be very careful about emergency meals. A diabetic is usually better off with some nutritious snacks that can hold over until a decent meal can be found: almonds or walnuts, a small package of whole-grain cereal, and well-chosen fruits and veggies would be better choices. There are also some good canned soups that are lower in sodium and carbs -- Progresso Light brand comes to mind. That's why the OP mentioned the cooler and take-along foods.


  8. Default

    Thank you so much! I'm so glad I stumbled on this site!

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