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Author Topic: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip  (Read 12177 times)

roadman65

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Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« on: November 18, 2014, 01:13:45 AM »

Next year I plan to do my ultimate road trip clinching all of western US 2 from St. Ignace to Everett.  I then plan to spend a day in the Seattle Area, then head south to San Francisco for another day to take in the sites.  After leaving the Bay Area I want to spend two nights for sure in Vegas to rest some as all this driving will put a strain on me, plus to spend this much time and money I deserve rest at a hotel there whether on the Strip or even some resort of of I-15 or US 93 out of the area, but still in the area.

My trip back will include I-40 via the US 93 and Hoover Dam Bypass, which was unbuilt the last time I was in that area.  I plan to hit all of I-40 from there and take I-44 to St. Louis (maybe staying in the Joplin area to clinch some of I-49, but not a full day,just enough to get about 20 miles worth of photos between Carthage and Neosho) before heading out to St. Louis then east on I-70 to Indy or maybe do I-64 to Evansville and use I-69 to Indy and see the new freeway done between Evansville and Bloomington. 

My point of origin of course will be Detroit as it would be  a fly and drive thing being I live in Florida makes getting to the start point of St. Ignace, MI real awkward.  To drive it with my own car would have to add two days to it and doing it this way and then to go up I-44 would be a waste as from I-40 and Vegas back to Orlando would require you to stay on I-40 to either Oklahoma City down I-35 & I-35E to Dallas and then I-45 to Houston and the I-10 thing back to Florida, or continue on to Memphis and then head east on future I-22 to Birmingham, then I have my choice of either US 280 or US 231 via I-65 and Montgomery etc.  Though seeing Dallas again would finish off the many freeways there I could not clinch two years ago, but nonetheless my own vehicle is old and not up to a cross country trip and back.

Anyway, I am looking to save now, so I need a budget first to see what I will spend.  Now the road trip part is easy as I can limit myself easy to 30 bucks( 25 if I buy cold cuts at a grocery store and stock up on water in a cooler) for food each day.  From Detroit to Everett, WA it would be 4 days to play it safe, and this allowing myself for daylight travel only as it would be Summer time when the days are longest.  Another 4 to go between the Northwest and Vegas via SF including the two full days in Sin City for relaxing.  2 days to get to Joplin once heading back. 2 more days I figure to get back to Detroit and 3 if I do via Evansville, IN for I-69.  Plus one day insurance to not arrive in Detroit the very same day I fly back.   So two full weeks (and one day possibly).  That is the grand total of $420 at that rate, plus an extra 40 at least for the expensive Vegas eating. to bring that to a total of $460.

Lodging, I am sure I can do on a budget of $50 traveling considering most motels along US 2 are not that high being away from major metro areas except near the end in Washington.  My one night in the SF area and, of course in Vegas will be more.  So figure 4 nights about 80 bucks average. So close to 600 bucks  there bringing my total to 1020 so far.

Airfare has a wide range, but lets say 200 to be safe.  1220 is now my total.
Rental car about 50 bucks a day, would be 700 bringing it now 1920.
Then gas is the part I have to go by 3.00 a gallon in my calculations because we do not know how high or how low the yo yo will be at.  Depending on the car I get, I will guess that most cars will travel 800 miles a day so I am guessing 60 bucks a fill up times 2 allowing 120 per day fuel would be 1740.

Now am I am at close to 3700 dollars for 14 and if I make it 15 then 4k right there.  Then add 200 for misc expenses and lets say 4200 all together.

I am asking you is my budget calculation and time table about right in the base numbers along with time travel or am I budgeting higher budget than needed?  After all I do not drive a car, but an SUV which on a long trip like this may be $160 a day gas for 800 miles on the open road, so I do not know what the range is for cars with better mileage and smaller tanks. 

Also, is budgeting 50 bucks a day on rental cars too much to consider?  After all rental cars can be cheaper, but I took in that amount as worst case scenario as I did with flying as sometimes rates can be lower, especially if you book months in advance you can get real low fares, but I am not sure how low it can go from MCO to Detroit.

Any advice or recommendations or maybe figures of your own you can share would help me plan this trip out right.
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Sheryl Crowe

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2014, 09:17:45 AM »

.... Now the road trip part is easy as I can limit myself easy to 30 bucks( 25 if I buy cold cuts at a grocery store and stock up on water in a cooler) for food each day. ....

Now I can't help but form this mental image of you:

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oscar

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2014, 01:58:39 PM »

Sounds like your budget depends in part on your renting a car that gets much better gas mileage than your SUV.  You can reserve one, but you might not get what you ask for, unless you are ready to do some last-minute shopping around other companies should the one you chose tries to foist a "free upgrade" on you.  That doesn't always happen to me, but often enough (like the Lincoln I was stuck with at the Seattle airport, and the 15-passenger van I was stuck with at the Providence airport) that it's a worry. 

If your current drive is too unreliable and gas-guzzling for a cross-country trip, have you considered trading it in for something newer and with better gas mileage, which you could take on your trip?  That would cost you $ up-front, but offset by lower gas and maintenance expenses for local travel.
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hbelkins

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2014, 03:44:11 PM »

If your current drive is too unreliable and gas-guzzling for a cross-country trip, have you considered trading it in for something newer and with better gas mileage, which you could take on your trip?  That would cost you $ up-front, but offset by lower gas and maintenance expenses for local travel.

He'd still have to spend a couple of days to drive from Florida to the UP.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2014, 07:36:00 PM »

I'm going to start from scratch, rather than try to follow the OP.
* 2 weeks of rental car: $600, less if you shop around
* Rental car loss/damage waiver (good so they don't charge you for a dent): $300
* 600 miles/day, 30 mpg: 20 gallons/day at $3.50 (can't count on prices to stay low) = $1000
* Food: $50/day is very doable for three meals = $700
* Souvenirs (optional): $400
* Lodging: You're on the low end. $70/night for a reasonable place, includes tax = $1000
* Airfare: $600 RT is a rough estimate.

I'm getting $4600, so figure $5000 to be safe and cover something unforeseen.

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Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2014, 08:32:24 PM »

Orlando typically has some competitive fares. If you're headed to the UP anyhow, why not use a cheaper airport like FNT (Flint) or GRR (Grand Rapids), if you don't mind a layover in Atlanta? I priced a $261 to Flint for early March (10 days apart), $321 to Grand Rapids, and direct to Detroit at $355-400. And you don't have to use Spirit Airlines. Pick days like Tuesday through Thursday and a Saturday departure/return and you'll probably save more.

J N Winkler

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2014, 09:53:23 PM »

I'm going to start from scratch, rather than try to follow the OP.

* 2 weeks of rental car: $600, less if you shop around
* Rental car loss/damage waiver (good so they don't charge you for a dent): $300
* 600 miles/day, 30 mpg: 20 gallons/day at $3.50 (can't count on prices to stay low) = $1000
* Food: $50/day is very doable for three meals = $700
* Souvenirs (optional): $400
* Lodging: You're on the low end. $70/night for a reasonable place, includes tax = $1000
* Airfare: $600 RT is a rough estimate.

I'm getting $4600, so figure $5000 to be safe and cover something unforeseen.

I think the individual line items in this budget are reasonable, though $5000 (including contingencies) for a fifteen-day trip works out to about $330 a day, which is generally far too rich for my blood.  At the very least, I would look for an alternative to paying $1500 (almost one-third the bottom line) just to avoid taking my own car.

I'd allow less for food on the basis of two meals a day (say a round $40 to take account of tips, drinks, and snacks bought at the supermarket), and also a bit less for lodging since sub-$60 motel accommodation is easy to find with a smartphone, and sub-$50 can be found with only a little more difficulty and willingness to search within a 50-mile range of the projected stopping place for the night.

When I went on vacation in September, the cost worked out to about $100 a day including fuel, meals, and lodging.  I took my own car, which allowed me to camp.  That, and staying with friends for several of the nights I was away, allowed me to shave the out-of-pocket cost considerably, but I did not camp every night that I could feasibly have done so.  Typically I passed up camping options because I had a motel reservation already in hand (thus committing myself to paying a cancellation fee), I had things to do that required electric power and good Internet access (power points are a lot rarer at campgrounds than I remember them being on my last really long roadtrip in 2003, and the places that have them generally charge more for tent sites so equipped), or it was raining (my tent is waterproof but packing a wet tent is a miserable chore).  I also normally ate only two meals a day:  a very large, calorie-rich breakfast to set me up for the day, and then an equally large dinner, usually after I had checked into a motel or pitched the tent.  I did stop at grocery stores for fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts to maintain regularity and reduce dependence on vitamin supplementation.

I don't know how the OP is positioned with regard to vacation time, but it strikes me that he could easily do his projected trip for less than half the proposed budget if he adds an extra four days to allow him to take a car of his own (not necessarily the SUV) with camping gear and camps some of the time.  Fuel in the summer is considerably more expensive now than it was in 2003, but both times I noticed that lodging was my single biggest daily expense unless I camped.

I don't think the standard of comfort would necessarily be less.  Last September I consistently slept better when I was camping than I did at motels (the one exception was Panamint Springs, where it was uncomfortably warm, there was wind, and the campers next to me insisted on having a fire).  Less spent on lodging also leaves more for treats at dinnertime.  In any case, I would expect that a person who would rely on supermarket cold cuts to shave food costs would be happier financing a trip at $100/day (or even less) rather than $330/day.

The least I paid for lodging (not counting the times I was a houseguest) was $10 for a tent site at Panamint Springs, and (I think) $38 at a smoker's motel in North Bend, Oregon.  The best value was a double at Circus Circus in Reno for about $53 after various taxes and fees, including a local-to-Reno "resort fee" (!) of about $6.  The regular price was about $139 but the advertised price was just $39.  I don't know if the situation is similar in Las Vegas, but in Reno the gambling industry seemed to be in the middle of an implosion that I am not at all sure was seasonal.  There were lots of empty rooms, whole floors of hotel parking garages leased off to third parties like UNR because otherwise they would be sitting empty, mostly Nevada plates among the parked cars, etc.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2014, 10:38:43 PM »

For whatever it's worth....

In order for me to have a go/no-go for a road trip, I plan on a budget of around $250 per day MINIMUM although my actual expenses turned out to be $200. This easily covers food, gas, lodging, and extras. If I'm staying multiple nights at a hotel, it'll be a nicer hotel than if I'm staying one night, offset by the fact that there is no gas purchase for that day.

Also, any requirement of any road trip is an ice chest, and if you are taking a long trip, consider a Thermoelectric Cooler which runs off the 12v. Of course, when you are staying in a hotel with a fridge, refrigerate your drinks so that they are cooler. As a test, try putting a bottle or two of bottled water at home in the freezer to see what happens during expansion. Seeing that you are flying in, an el cheapo plastic ice chest may be the better alternative.

Your best friends when traveling is going to be a supermarket, warehouse store like Costco or Sam's Club, and Smart and Final. Supermarkets generally allow you to withdraw cash without a fee with purchase, while Costco's, Sam's Club, and Smart and Final allow you to purchase stuff in bulk at a discount, which is certainly cheaper than the gas station along the road. Also, who says you can't purchase a foot long sandwich at a sandwich shop, have half of it for lunch, and half of it for dinner?

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2014, 10:58:00 PM »

I'm going to start from scratch, rather than try to follow the OP.

* 2 weeks of rental car: $600, less if you shop around
* Rental car loss/damage waiver (good so they don't charge you for a dent): $300
* 600 miles/day, 30 mpg: 20 gallons/day at $3.50 (can't count on prices to stay low) = $1000
* Food: $50/day is very doable for three meals = $700
* Souvenirs (optional): $400
* Lodging: You're on the low end. $70/night for a reasonable place, includes tax = $1000
* Airfare: $600 RT is a rough estimate.

I'm getting $4600, so figure $5000 to be safe and cover something unforeseen.

I think the individual line items in this budget are reasonable, though $5000 (including contingencies) for a fifteen-day trip works out to about $330 a day, which is generally far too rich for my blood.  At the very least, I would look for an alternative to paying $1500 (almost one-third the bottom line) just to avoid taking my own car.

I'm advising that you have $5,000 budgeted for the trip. Actual costs for a 15-day trip that I've taken:
$400 for rental car, $200 for LDW
500 miles/day, 33 mpg, $3.50 gas: $800
$400 for food (yes, I eat that little)
$50 for souvenirs and/or entrance fees
$900 for lodging. I won't stay in a stained bed in a loud place just to save a few bucks.
$550 for airfare.
$3300 total, a good bit less than $5000, but a good bit more than $1500. Airfare and car rental alone will eat up $1000.


One note: Yes, you save money by taking your own car. In the short term. If maintenance costs 10 cents/mile (and I believe it costs more than that), it would add up to $750 for a 7500 mile trip. Compare to the $600 I ended up spending.

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2014, 11:39:38 PM »

To save money on breakfast, I put single portions of cereal in zip locks, and take along the proper # of Styrofoam bowls. That way, for breakfast, all I have to do is stop at a convenience store and get a $1.50 milk.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2014, 11:51:21 PM »

I usually just eat cheap fast food when I road trip. Probably not very healthy but it minimizes time wasted and saves a few bucks.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2014, 12:25:43 AM »

While some of the lure of road-tripping for me can be sampling the local eats, sometimes the budget does not allow for this. One strategy I use is to emphasize breakfast more than lunch and dinner. Many breakfast foods are relatively cheap but can be fairly nutrient-dense as well. So I may buy breakfast out while eating sandwiches or similar light, inexpensive fare from grocery stores for lunch and dinner.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2014, 01:05:19 AM »

It might also be worthwhile to find fast food chains that might be common in a particular area but aren't found in your home area.  So at least you get some kind of local flavor.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2014, 02:19:56 AM »

I'm advising that you have $5,000 budgeted for the trip. Actual costs for a 15-day trip that I've taken:

$400 for rental car, $200 for LDW
500 miles/day, 33 mpg, $3.50 gas: $800
$400 for food (yes, I eat that little)
$50 for souvenirs and/or entrance fees
$900 for lodging. I won't stay in a stained bed in a loud place just to save a few bucks.
$550 for airfare.

$3300 total, a good bit less than $5000, but a good bit more than $1500. Airfare and car rental alone will eat up $1000.

The actual cost under the $100/day rule would be $1900 because he would need to budget four days (maximum) to get his car in and out of place.  With the cost of car rental fees and airfare taken into account, I frankly think $200/day is a more realistic rule.

Quote
One note: Yes, you save money by taking your own car. In the short term. If maintenance costs 10 cents/mile (and I believe it costs more than that), it would add up to $750 for a 7500 mile trip. Compare to the $600 I ended up spending.

Didn't you take the car in for an oil change at some point during your trip?  7,500 miles is half again a typical 5,000-mile oil change interval.

Accepting (for the sake of argument) 10c/mile as an average cost estimate for mechanical upkeep, an additional $750 plus up to $400 of added on-road time to take one's own car at worst breaks even with $400 car rental base cost, $200 loss damage waiver, and $550 airfare, for a total of $1150.

Unless you have a mechanical breakdown, fuel is the only marginal cost of taking your own car on a trip.  All of the other running costs, such as scheduled maintenance, replacement of life-expired parts, any other repairs that may arise, insurance, registration taxes, etc. are properly considered only on an average-cost basis and only to the extent that they are mileage-dependent (which is not normally true of registration taxes or insurance, to cite two examples).

10c/mile is too high for scheduled maintenance.  Taking a car over its first 100,000 miles with a typical mid-1990's maintenance schedule, we have 33 oil changes at about $35 each, three ATF and filter changes at $80 each, three coolant flushes at $60 each, and three spark plug replacements at $80 each, or about $1815 total (all at typical shop rates).  You could probably eke this out another $1000 or so with sundries such as tire rotation and balance (usually $20 but often done under lifetime warranty when new tires are purchased), but that barely takes you to 3c/mile.

It takes wear items like tires, brake components, water pump, alternator, etc. as well as unscheduled failures to come close to 10c/mile as an average cost not just of maintenance but of mechanical upkeep in general.  There are three problems with including these in the computations.  First, incidence of failure is unpredictable:  you can usually bet on a water pump blowing at about 100,000 miles, but alternators can last between 30,000 and 200,000 miles.  Second, there is plenty of evidence that sustained steady operation at highway speeds contributes far less per mile to component wear than mixed driving.  Third, the cost associated with a given failure event will vary considerably from one car model to another and from shop to shop for a given model, not even taking into account whether you do the repairs yourself.

Fly-drive makes the most sense when there is some type of time or geographical constraint (no time off from work or other commitments to road-trip a car in and out of position, desired destination is an ocean away, etc.), or the condition of the traveller's own vehicle is suspect.  However, it not only entails high up-front costs for airfare and car rental, but also locks in a higher cost basis for the other expense categories, by making it impractical to camp and (possibly) requiring the traveller to accept a gas-guzzler.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2014, 12:34:28 PM »

When I first started taking overnight trips, I stayed at $100-a-night Hampton Inns. That got old in a hurry and I became a bargain lodging shopper. Now I really hate to pay more than $50-$60 a night. I read TripAdvisor reviews and take most of the bad ones with a grain of salt unless they're consistently bad. For instance, on my recent trip to Alabama I spent the night at a Days Inn along the road. It had a few negative reviews but not enough to alarm me, because there were several good ones too. The room cost less than $50 for the night and I was perfectly satisfied with it. Plus, I prefer motor lodge-style establishments with exterior corridors, where you can park right outside your door because I tend to have a bunch of valuable stuff I don't want to leave out in the car overnight (cameras, GPS, iPod, radar detector, iPad, etc.)

(Conversely, I had a less than stellar experience at a motel that got great reviews on TripAdvisor, and when my wife was on the road and stayed at the same establishment a few weeks later, she was overrun by insects and checked out after one sleepless night of a planned three-night stay. So caveat emptor).

Try to plan your travels and make reservations in advance using any available discounts. I used to use AAA or employer discounts pretty frequently, until I realized I can get a better discount through my insurance company.

If the motel has a breakfast, take advantage of it. Some just offer pastries and bagels and such, but an increasing number offer hot foods (biscuits and gravy and do-it-yourself waffles, or maybe even eggs and sausage or bacon.) Chow down at breakfast time and you may not have to buy lunch.

I usually do drive-through fast food for lunch if I want lunch, unless I'm in Sheetz territory and then I will go in to get MTO after I get gas, and often I'll just get fast food for dinner as well.

Camping's not an option for me. To me, roughing it is if there are less than 20 channels on the TV and the wi-fi is slow.  :-D But I do look for bargain lodging when I can find it. Do your research and you can find good places to stay very inexpensively.

Didn't you take the car in for an oil change at some point during your trip?  7,500 miles is half again a typical 5,000-mile oil change interval.

Many newer vehicles tell you when to get the oil changed. My 2008 Saturn Vue typically will go up to 15,000 miles before it gets down to the oil life being only 15 percent or so, at which time I usually change it. For a lot of modern vehicles, 7,500 is only half the mileage at which an oil change is needed.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2014, 01:48:36 PM »

Plus, I prefer motor lodge-style establishments with exterior corridors, where you can park right outside your door because I tend to have a bunch of valuable stuff I don't want to leave out in the car overnight (cameras, GPS, iPod, radar detector, iPad, etc.).

I personally have the same preference, but more for convenience than for protection of valuables.  However, I found this hard to square with budget prices in many locations last September.  I stayed at Motel 6 quite often since they were the cheapest establishment in a given area, and their default format is two stories with staircases and exterior walkways and I always seemed to get a second-floor room.  This was true even for motels where I made reservations well in advance.

Quote
If the motel has a breakfast, take advantage of it. Some just offer pastries and bagels and such, but an increasing number offer hot foods (biscuits and gravy and do-it-yourself waffles, or maybe even eggs and sausage or bacon.) Chow down at breakfast time and you may not have to buy lunch.

I didn't see that amenity in the states I visited--most had just coffee or a continental breakfast.  I suspect it may be more common east of the frontier-tier states, since I have stayed in a motel in Arkansas that had it.

Quote
Camping's not an option for me. To me, roughing it is if there are less than 20 channels on the TV and the wi-fi is slow.  :-D

My September trip has taught me to distrust promises of free wifi, since the places I stayed in where it actually worked were very much in the minority.  I can think of just three off the top of my head, and one of them was a Motel 6 where you had to go to the front desk to obtain a prepaid wifi card.  (Motel 6 has now unbundled wifi, with a $3/day standard charge at all of its properties.  Each manager of a Motel 6 decides whether he or she collects this charge at his or her property, but the guest still has to obtain an access code to sign in to the wifi.)

I relied on mobile data to a considerable extent, because it was far less sensitive to location and network quality than wifi.  Death Valley was essentially the only place I overnighted where I had no access to mobile data.  I would have used wifi even less if I had been able to get my home computer to function reliably while I was away.  I had wake-on-LAN set up, but it rarely worked because the computer tended to crash when put into hibernation.  (Wake-on-LAN will wake a computer in hibernation but not in a powered-down condition, which is what it is in when hibernation fails and it crashes.)  Cleaning up after each crash was a hassle since I had to request a manual reboot by text and then try to find a good wifi connection for my laptop to RDP in (I have a RDP app on my phone, but it is cumbersome, and RDP in general over mobile data is asking for trouble).   Finally I just had a family member leave the computer on 24/7 with the screen and keyboard backlight turned off.  Some time after I returned, I discovered NetLimiter (which I installed to measure bandwidth consumption) was hampering bandwidth, probably because its packet log database had grown too large, so I uninstalled it, and the frequency of system crashes went down more than 90%.
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hbelkins

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2014, 03:30:25 PM »

Plus, I prefer motor lodge-style establishments with exterior corridors, where you can park right outside your door because I tend to have a bunch of valuable stuff I don't want to leave out in the car overnight (cameras, GPS, iPod, radar detector, iPad, etc.).

I personally have the same preference, but more for convenience than for protection of valuables.

Well, technically my reason is convenience, too, because it's easier to just haul your stuff directly from the car into your room instead of having to walk to a hallway door, enter the door, and then walk up the hall to your room.
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Alps

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #17 on: November 22, 2014, 01:56:14 AM »

Re: oil changes, if my rental does need one, the company always reimburses it. Insurance or no, that's not my cost to bear.
Your other costs: Again, fine, within 100K miles you spend $2,000 or $2,500 or so on maintenance. That assumes a) you do the minimum required and b) nothing goes wrong. Things can go wrong. Then you have the fact that all of your unreplaced parts are 100K miles closer to failure. You're still not accounting for those.

oscar

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #18 on: November 22, 2014, 10:58:56 AM »

Plus, I prefer motor lodge-style establishments with exterior corridors, where you can park right outside your door because I tend to have a bunch of valuable stuff I don't want to leave out in the car overnight (cameras, GPS, iPod, radar detector, iPad, etc.).

I personally have the same preference, but more for convenience than for protection of valuables.  However, I found this hard to square with budget prices in many locations last September.  I stayed at Motel 6 quite often since they were the cheapest establishment in a given area, and their default format is two stories with staircases and exterior walkways and I always seemed to get a second-floor room.  This was true even for motels where I made reservations well in advance.

I think the usual practice is to assign you a room when you check in, so our usual preference to check in late to take maximum advantage of available daylight works against us.

I prefer Motel 6s anyway if I need cheap digs, or there aren't better places locally at a reasonable price differential.  Lately, I've been trying to book at places with elevators, to deal with lower back pain.  Some of the newer Motel 6s, especially in Canada but also some U.S. locations, have elevators, though they also don't have exterior corridors. 
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #19 on: November 22, 2014, 11:12:21 AM »

If you're good at sticking to a schedule (and our not that picky on hotels), you could try booking your trip through Hotwire. You can usually get good hotels for a decent price there and save a ton of money.

The problem of course is if you fall behind schedule, you'd end up with unused rooms.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #20 on: November 22, 2014, 11:53:33 AM »

Re: oil changes, if my rental does need one, the company always reimburses it. Insurance or no, that's not my cost to bear.

Point taken, but it is ultimately a cost that is passed on to the rental car company's customer base since they are in business to make a profit.

Quote
Your other costs: Again, fine, within 100K miles you spend $2,000 or $2,500 or so on maintenance. That assumes a) you do the minimum required and b) nothing goes wrong. Things can go wrong. Then you have the fact that all of your unreplaced parts are 100K miles closer to failure. You're still not accounting for those.

Assumption (a) is actually not correct in the case of the specific example I had in mind (a 1994 Saturn SL2) since the intervals I quoted are for severe service.  I always presume that the service my car sees is severe even if it sees only textbook ideal operating conditions (steady 55 MPH at 70° F, no dust).

In regard to the other points you mention, the underlying fact is that the costs will vary according to car model, maintenance history, state of repair of major components, etc.  (To quote just one example, a timing belt replacement--required at 60,000 or 105,000 miles on many import cars that use belts instead of chains--can easily increase overall scheduled maintenance costs about 50%.)  My point really is that it is not a slam-dunk to rent instead of taking your own car unless there are clearly defined and inflexible time or geographical constraints, and fly-drive usually locks you into a higher cost basis.

I have flown and driven only once.  That was for a two-week trip to Alaska I took in 2004 with two others.  We flew Alaskan Airlines out of Oakland, so we were able to take advantage of their very generous checked luggage policies, which are designed to accommodate people who go up to Alaska to hunt and fish.  We shaved car rental costs by taking a very high-mileage rental and splitting the cost and driving among three people.  Our luggage included camping gear and one of us had family friends in Alaska with spare rooms galore, so we were able to shave overnight lodging costs to nominal amounts.

Airline fee unbundling has progressed much further since 2004, few people have access to a network of family friends in every location they might wish to visit, and most of the major car rental companies rent relatively new vehicles since that simplifies their fleet management.  For this reason generic fly-drive tends to lock in much higher daily costs for lodging and car travel, though there are ways to shave the costs, such as shipping camping equipment by ground to be held at the first hotel stayed in, and renting from an independent operator rather than one of the chains.

Anyway, the OP asked for comments on whether the budget he proposed for a trip was reasonable.  I have spelled out my reasons for believing the trip can be done to a $100/day average, but this is not to say that those who suggest a $200/day or even $330/day average are wrong.  There are differences in terms of value for money, but there are also differences in terms of standard of comfort as well.  We have structured this society around the principle of consumer sovereignty, so it is up to the OP to decide which, if any, of these approaches will maximize his satisfaction.
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The Nature Boy

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #21 on: November 22, 2014, 12:47:40 PM »

If you drive your own car, road tripping is really not a huge expense. People are always surprised when I tell them how cheaply I am able to travel.

Of course, when most people travel, they want to do every tourist thing and stay in the $100/night hotel. That likely contributes to the over inflated perception of vacation pricing.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #22 on: November 23, 2014, 05:46:54 AM »

For whatever it's worth... These were the prices that I paid for a hotel on a road trip that I took from Sacramento, CA to Victoria, BC and back in October, 2013. All but Westport Inn was booked through AAA. Unfortunately, this was put together with less than two months notice.

Best Western, Roseberg, OR - $88
Royal Scot Hotel, Victoria, BC (3 nights) - $369 (CAD)
Westport Inn, Westport, WA - $88
Red Lion Inn, Coos Bay, OR - $91
Rodeway Inn, Eureka, CA - $99

The room that I selected at the Royal Scott was more of a suite with a kitchen and a separate bedroom. It was worth the extra money because I was staying several days. Also, because I took the ferry over and back, it was $70 each way. However, I topped off on gas prior to Canada and immediately when I got back to Port Angeles. My per-day cost for the trip ended up being $200, but I still would budget $250 per day "just in case". The last thing I want to worry about on a vacation is money.

Also, this was not only my first major solo road trip, it was my first major out-of-town vacation not-a-staycation in about 8 years. I don't know all the tricks and tips with booking a hotel.
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #23 on: November 23, 2014, 09:54:04 AM »


I usually just eat cheap fast food when I road trip. Probably not very healthy but it minimizes time wasted and saves a few bucks.

It doesn't save money.  Packing a cooler saves money. 

For example:  five fast food lunches @ $7 = $35

One pound of lunch meat: $5
Loaf of bread: $2
LTPO: $6
Spread of choice: $2
Ice from time to time: $2 (as split among all other ice needs)
Some kind of fruit: $3

Total:  $20

Plus very small time investment.

Better and healthier meal, less drag on wallet and waist, and no five paper bags full of all kinds of trash. 

I feel physically much better when I don't eat fast food for days on end, particularly when locked into a long-term sedentary activity. 
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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #24 on: December 02, 2014, 10:39:23 PM »

Re: oil changes, if my rental does need one, the company always reimburses it. Insurance or no, that's not my cost to bear.

Point taken, but it is ultimately a cost that is passed on to the rental car company's customer base since they are in business to make a profit.

When I worked for a tire-and-lube shop, the oil and filter changes cost the rental car companies about 2/3 the door price. It was about the same for other fleet operators. We lost a little money on each one, but we had their goodwill and latitude when it was time to replace tires and batteries earlier than the average consumer might need to, to make sure they weren't eventually stranded.

If a customer said the rental was due for an oil change, they'd either look it up before honoring it with an authorization number, or they'd just take their word for it when we called up; so as long as they had a valid rental agreement, they'd honor a simple maintenance charge, and we'd just bill after the repair order closed, and faxed it off. There were customers who would be in a rental car for months, due to vehicle repair that would take a long time for insurance purposes, so this might happen about once or twice a month.

Naturally, the rental car companies find some way to excise the consumer with some vague "7.59% Energy Recovery" and "$4.50/day Self-Propelled Mobilization" fees, but that $22.00 LOF is not exactly grinding them down, either. But oil change maintenance on their own fleet is about as close to the phrase cost-of-doing-business* as one could reasonably expect.

* Side note: in Florida, Avis will stiff you for a tiny fraction of the $1 per/tire fee and $1.50 battery fee; while it's literally pennies a day, it's the same state-mandated fee you'd pay if you bought the car yourself when the car was new or used. Face it, no lawyer is going to sue them so a client can get a $0.28 payout. Some states permit the tag fees to be passed on to you in a small way. And then there's the "airport convenience fees", which is a bucket of bat guano, since it lets them get around the whole concept of having to play the supply-and-demand game against their competitors while increasing prices just the same. Can you imagine a world without lobbyists?
« Last Edit: December 02, 2014, 10:59:18 PM by formulanone »
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