College senior wants to see the country before graduation.
I'll try not to get too longwinded, which is a habit of mine when talking about things I'm passionate about, and road trips are on the top of my list (too bad they don't offer that
major here at USC!) I'll give you a little background on myself. I'm a 22 year old college student from South Carolina, and for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to
take a massive road trip accross America. I have done a bit of travelling before. In the summer of 2000 and 2004, I travelled the country with a performing group by bus, but
only at night. During the day, all I did was rehearse at local high schools. I didn't really get to "see" hardly any of the country. The thing about that was in travelling by
bus, I had no control over where to go. I want to take a road trip to wherever I choose on the spot, and see the sites I want to see.
As a 5th year college senior, during the summer and Christmas breaks, I work to pay for college expenses, although my dad still pays for a lot of it, including gas. It's
about time I do something like this that I have always dreamed of doing, and to seriously start planning it. Pretty soon I graduate and then teach (music.) I am talking with
another senior who wants to do this with me. I've waited long enough, I'm 22, I've always wanted to do this, and now I'm going to do something about it.
I have very limited funds. Part of the fun of it will be roughing it, sleeping in the car, staying at the occaisional hostel, eating out of a cooler, and getting showers wherever
we can. The only major expense will be gas. <b>My question is this. What can I do to prepare, and what tips do you all have for living on the road for a few weeks?
What's the deal with "campsites" that I see on my road atlas? What do I bring? What else do I need to know? Etc. I need to make a list.</b> Hopefully sometime over
Christmas break this could happen, although I could go somewhere closer over spring break, or next summer.
Thanks for listening, and any advise/suggestions/ideas, etc. would be greatly appreciated.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-16-2005 at 11:33 PM.
Reason: Broken link removed
22 and hitting the road
Back in the last epoch I was on the 6-year college plan -- too many good roadtrips got in the way of a 4-year degree schedule. Budget road trip travel is a frequent query here on this board and, in fact, there is a new section dedicated to sharing some tips that you might want to check out. Plus, we will be publishing an article written by "Uncle Bob" Schaller and Gen about "The Art of the Cheap Roadtrip" on the 12th of December.
There is a new funny sign from <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/signs/mushrooms.htm">South Carolina<a/> in this week's edition...
Preparation: Read the articles in our <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/travelplanning/Road-Trip-Planning.htm#planning">road trip planning department<a/>
I am not sure what you meant about the "campsites" on your atlas? They might be campgrounds -- what atlas are you looking at?
Best Advice: What do I Bring? --- An open attitude, embrace the unexpected. RoadTrips are not Disneyland -- stuff happens -- it is all part of the adventure!
I'm 22 and just returned in August from a 12 week roadtrip. It was the most fun I've ever had, and I think you will love it.
My original plan was to sleep in my van, but I caught alot of flack from Rangers because most of the places I slept at were in federal/state parks. So I predominately stayed at campgrounds when I wasn't camped out off from hiking trails. If you want to stay at reasonably priced campsites with showers and laundry services, grab a KOA membership card, and you can average about $20/night all over the country including your showers. Bring a friend and this averages to about $10/night. The atlas you get shows all the KOA locations and you can plan ahead for where you will stop (just make sure to make reservations for KOAs near cities or major parks).
Buy a single burner propane coleman stove. You can cook all your regular meals out of your own chuck box. Throw everything in a plastic bag and wash your dishes at the KOAs at night. My favorite cheap meals were Near East Grains, Idahoan Instant taters, and frozen veggies (which were actually dethawed sitting in icy water). You'll also find that things that are expensive in your neck of the woods are quite inexpensive in their native areas. Bing cherries in Washington were only $0.75/lb, where as in Massachusetts (my state) they usually top $4.00/lb. Take advantage of this, and don't forget to splurge on atleast 1 meal when you visit cities.
As far as your vehicle goes, make sure you have AAA, and drive a 4cyl if you have a choice. Avoid toll-roads if possible.
Hopefully these tips will save you some dough. You can also check out my thread in the "Share The Gas" area of this great forum. I budgeted for 12 months and lasted 12 weeks. Of course developing an affinity for sushi restaurants on the west coast played a large role in this :)
That's really good advice, thanks. I'm slowly coming up with a plan for this. So how do KOA campgrounds work? I went to the website, but everything talks about RV's. I don't have an RV. Are they for camping in a tent as well?
KOA's do have tent sites, although from my experience, they've always been much more RV oriented. Personally, I've never cared for KOA's because they are too family oriented for my taste.
I've always prefered state/national park campgrounds (they are probably what you are seeing marked as campgrounds on your map). I've found state parks are generally cheaper than private facilities, most have modern conviences although it varies greatly from state to state and park to park, and most importantly as a tent camper you usually get a little more space than places that are trying to cram in as many RV's as possible. The only real downside to state parks is that they tend to be a ways outside of town, so if you want to check out a city you may have a significant drive to and from your campsite.
KOA's and tents
Most all KOA's (if NOT all) have tent sites -- usually away from the RV areas -- so you have your own little plot of grass or dirt or whatever. The best thing about private camps like KOA's (my opinion) is the bathroom/shower facilities which are harder to find at the forest service camps -- that said, the public campgrounds are usually where I end up -- like the last poster, I like a bit less circus and a bit more peace and quiet!
You check into a private campground just like you would a motel -- once you've done that, they will direct you to the tenting areas. It's easy! Bob
So what I guess I will probably be doing is camping wherever I can, showering wherever I can, and bringing lots of food in a cooler with me. I am used to travelling overnight and sleeping on a bus every night, so sleeping in a car should not pose a problem. My question is then, what places are considered good places to sleep in your car (I will have one other person with me,) and what places are off limits for sleeping in my car? I would like to drive until I get tired, pull over, and sleep, wake up, and then start driving again, and from time to time camp out.
When I used KOAs, I did so because at the beginning of the day, I had an idea of where I was going to take a shower, do my laundry, clean dishes, relax, and lay my head. Having stayed at 30 or 40 of them, I also saved alot of money using the KOA membership card which gives you 10 or 15 percent off the cost. Of course if I found a nicer place I'd stay there, but KOAs were very convenient and standardized. National Park campsites are just as (if not more) expensive, and usually don't have washers/dryers or other nice perks the KOAs have. State parks are great to stay at, but sometimes lack even bathrooms (which was a suprise when I needed to use one in Michigan).
When it was 95*F+ or I was in/near a city, I usually grabbed a motel. The chain of choice (especially in the South West) is Motel 6. I stayed at a couple that were only $29.99/night. Grab their book, which is free at any location to check prices when you feel like splurging. Sometimes the price difference between campsites and motels is only $10. I know there were some days after driving 400 miles and hiking 15 I just wanted A/C and a bed at a motel.
I originally planned on sleeping in my van all the time, but the times I did were few and far between. After driving hundreds of miles, the last thing you'll want to do is spend 8 more hours in the same vehicle, wake up, and drive hundreds more. Just my experience. For the ultimate in travel cheapness, try state parks as someone else mentioned. I stayed at some that were as cheap as $5/night.