Need info about cheap places to eat and stay
Here's the situation: I happen to be going on a 2 week cross country road trip from Boston to Socal with some buddies of mine. The thing is, I'm poor. The catch is though, the friends who are traveling with me are also poor, so I can't bribe them for money. For some reason, these guys i'm traveling with are also high maintenance, meaning they don't wanna sleep in my car at night or eat rice with ketchup for the whole duration of the 2 week trip. But we can't afford to stay at a best western everynight or eat out 3 times a day. I need some information about cheap lodging and cheap ways to eat. Thanks!
Solo travel is good, too! :-)
Seriously, if these guys want it all for nothing, they might be more of a pain to travel with than they're worth. Let's hope not.
Camping is obviously the cheapest lodging choice. Commercial campgrounds can run from $10-35/nite depending on location and amenities. NFS and BLM land is normally free although, increasingly, some of these sites are charging a small fee as well...usually only about $7-12/nite. Make sure you know the rules for that particular BLM/NFS area before setting up camp. National, state, county, and city parks often offer low-cost camping. Rates vary from free, although you will find free ones very seldom, to about $10-15/nite. Camping is far more comfortable than sleeping in your car and offers a chance to stretch your legs and will offer facilities varying from nothing-nada-zip to vault toilets to fancy bathrooms, pools, hot tubs, etc. Again, this depends on what you're willing to spend.
Low-cost hotels chains abound: Budget, Motel 6, and Super 8 are just a few of them. Be prepared for about $30-80/nite depending on location.
Mom and Pop hotels are often fun and charming to stay in. Or they can be real dives that look more like a place that should be charging by the hour. Even the most charming among them are often relatively cheap compared to other lodging in the area but prices vary tremendously. Don't be afraid to get your money back and seek lodging elsewhere if you aren't happy with the room due to lack of feeling safe, filth, etc.
The cheapest way to eat is out of your cooler. Let's face it...you'd be eating at home, right? So, if you prepare most of your meals on the road or at your campsite, you're only spending about the same, or just a small tad more, than if you were eating at home. Delis in grocery stores are another source of cheap, but sometimes delicious, meals. And, of course, McD's, Burger King, etc. are fairly cheap options.
Ideas for eating out of your cooler: granola bars, protein bars, fruit, veggies, bagels and cream cheese (or other spreads), sandwiches, Pop-Tarts (I like them better untoasted anyway), cheese, crackers. Of course, there's always junk food but I wouldn't advise this for the long haul.
Ideas for easy, quick meals to cook at the campsite or at a rest stop along the way: mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, hamburgers, ramen noodles with seasonings, Hamburger Helper, Tuna Helper, heating up some good beans, soup, chowder, or stews from a can; oatmeal, steak, etc. None of these take long to prepare and, while not gourmet, sure can hit the spot!
Another advantage of cooking on the road is that you get out of the car and move! Choose a rest stop or park with a nice view, a few hiking trails, a beach, whatever, and get your stuff cooking. Depending on what you're making, you can enjoy a walk, or just play around (hacky-sack is good for this) and get the kinks from sitting in the car out while you're food is cooking. This is far superior to sitting in a restaurant, IMHO.
Example: while going down the Oregon Coast with a caravan of friends in separate cars, several decided to eat at a restaurant while a few of us decided to go on up to a lighthouse instead. We found a picnic table on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean and with the lighthouse in view. While they sat there and waited for service and "just OK" over-priced food, we prepared grilled cheese sandwiches and a salad, took turns watching the food while others of us explored the lighthouse and some of the trails there, and enjoyed the sunshine. Who had more fun?
The same goes for camping. Simply the actions of putting your tent up, getting your sleeping bag/pad/pillow out, etc. help get the kinks out from sitting in the car. And, when you camp, you often have the opportunity to meet with and talk with other campers as, just being outdoors, brings you in closer contact with people than you get in a hotel. You often get great hints of places to visit and explore, etc. while just walking around your campground and being friendly with people. I always enjoy a walk around the campground before going to bed. I work more of the kinks out that way and it can be fun to see the license plates of where people are from. If I spot a license plate of a state where I'm going and want to get some hints from a local, I'll often just introduce myself and ask questions. Most people are thrilled to help out with ideas.
Oh, one more idea on food...if you see a Farmer's Market, stop and get some of the local, fresh foods for your meal that day. Some of my best meals on the road have come from a farmer's market.
Anyway, I hope this gives you some ideas of ways to convince your friends that doing it on the cheap can be fun as well.