Cross Country and Back!
My best friend and I are planning to take a 3-week road trip this summer. We are looking to go to Cali and back from upstate New York. I guess we are just looking for ideas of fun, interesting, and affordable places to hang out in during the trip. Also we need help on deciding how to budget not only our money but our time. How much should we save up to not only pay for food, gas, and fun? We have no qualms about sleeping in the car along the way. Hopefully someone can get back to me with some good info. Thanks!
I don't know what are your interests, but there are a lot of free museums and other places to visit along the way, just look in travel books and/or AAA guide books. You can stop in Visitor's Centers on the interstates and ask the clerk about what you are looking for. I come from the north also, so I always find the southwestern sceneries to be gorgeous. The canyons and the desert especially. And you don't even have to pay to see those gorgeous things, you just drive right through it! Of course, you have to pay to get in State/National Parks but you can buy an annual pass for approx. 50$ which will save you lots of money considering the entrace fees are usually between 10 and 20$ per park. They're usually worth it, but for my part, I guess just seeing the desert and some canyons on the side of the road (ex. : Eagle Canyon or Red Rock Canyon) would've been enough to impress me. My favourite place so far has been Bryce Canyon, it's definitly worth the 20 dollars. If you are looking for nightlife entertainment, of course, you'll have to stay near big cities. Each city has a free weekly or monthly publication on the nightlife issue, just go to a music store or a newspaper stand and ask around.
On your way to CA you'll have plenty of things to see and visit without necessarily paying for it, depending on which route you pick : Niagara Falls, Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Chimney Rock, NE, Chicago IL, Route 66, Jack Daniel's, Museums, Native American Reservation, Beaches, Parks, and many many more. I shouldn't say this, but sometimes, there's no one at the gate of the Nat'l/State Parks and you can easily get in without paying the entrance fee. I wouldn't do that if I was wealthy, but I'm not and I'm travelling on a budget so...it doesn't excuse it, but at least it explains it:o))
For tips on cheap logding/sleeping in the car, check out the post called "Lodging for the budget traveller" in the Gear Up section of this forum. If you plan on sleeping in your car at truck stops which is the best option to my opinion, don't be afraid to pretend you're a trucker to the cashier if he/she seems to think you are one, that way you can have access to free stuff or at least have a discount : showers, gas, etc. Buffet in truck stops are also a great option if you're all young guys who eat a lot, they're usually cheap and you can eat plenty of great food. You can also rely on a cooler (if you can afford one that plugs in the lighter it's even better), it's the cheapest way to eat on the road, but of course, you have to be creative if you don't want to eat sandwiches all the way and if it's too big say goodbye to sleeping space for you and your friend! If you don't care about what you're eating, pick up greasy hot-dogs, burgers and burritos at truck stops when you stop for gas, it's fast, cheap and you don't have to wait. You can also do a search in the forum, there are plenty of posts on that topic.
The latest 3 weeks trip I made costed me about 1 800$ US for gas, lodging (Motel 6, truck stops and Mom & Pop Motels) and food. But I know I could've make it for less than that because I brought back lots of souvenirs and I often slept in motel rooms. Plus you guys can split costs, so...Roughly, I think I would bring 1 000$US each, that way you'll have money "in case" and you'll have plenty to spend on gas, food, lodging and fun stuff. Last thing, drive carefully, I'm sure you wouldn't like to spend half of your budget on speeding tickets or at the repair shop. If you have an AAA card, bring it with you, that way it'll be practical if you car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, plus you can get discounts at motels sometimes. And always have water with you (to drink and for your car), especially in the south west.
Gen's tips are generally excellent -- ONE HUGE CAVEAT: DO NOT MIS-RESPRESENT YOURSELF as a professional driver (e.g. trucker at truck stops). That would be the highest level of folly and could lead to all sort of problems.
Ok let me get this straight, what I meant actually was if the cashier seems to think you're a professionnal driver, he/she might give you privileges and/or better prices, I didn't mean to lie and invent some story!
Sometimes when you get in a truck stop with your stuff on your shoulder all ready for a great hot shower, the cashier might think you just slept in your truck in the parking lot, which you did actually but in your car and I saved a few bucks on showers each time it happened. I also had rebates on food at some places. I just didn't tell them they were wrong:-), plus I couldn't believe they actually mistook me for a trucker:-), I thought it was a funny idea. That's what I meant by "pretending" but I understand it definitly shouldn't go further than that!