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Author Topic: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip  (Read 12174 times)

kkt

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #25 on: December 03, 2014, 03:50:31 PM »

It's really hard to get under $100 for a decent hotel in Seattle or the S.F. area.
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Alps

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #26 on: December 09, 2014, 08:39:17 PM »

It's really hard to get under $100 for a decent hotel in Seattle or the S.F. area.

Airports are cool and funny places to stay near.

US 41

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #27 on: December 09, 2014, 08:58:37 PM »

I'm very cheap when it comes to road tripping. Funny thing is, is that the road trip its self is the vacation for me. I typically lean my seat back and sleep in my car at night at a truck stop or rest stop on the freeway. I figure I use the $100 somewhere else besides just to sleep. My future trip I hope I get time to take, to Mazatlan is going to cost me about $1000 (assuming I have no car problems). That includes the, gas Mexican Insurance, FMM, Import Permit, and the $220 in tolls. (Not counting food and drinks it will cost me about $700, so I'll have $300 for whatever food or stuff I want.) On trips I typically eat like twice a day (breakfast and dinner). A lot of times between my two main meals I'll snack on pretzels or potato chips. I stop a lot at gas stations and get Powerade or some other soft drink.

I'm pretty sure you won't be as thrifty as me, but it doesn't have to cost $4-5000.

BTW the biggest thing I'll probably do in Mazatlan is go to the beach, then I'll most likely turn around and come home the same way I came from.

EDIT: When I go it's going to be about a 3800 mile trip.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2014, 09:03:14 PM by US 41 »
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Laura

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #28 on: December 31, 2014, 11:12:57 AM »

If you're really looking to travel on a shoestring budget, here are some more tips that haven't been mentioned yet:

Car
  • Start shopping early and often. Rental car reservations can easily be cancelled without a fee.
  • If you have AAA, they have an agreement with Hertz that provides very low prices.
  • If your regular auto policy covers rentals, you can skip purchasing the insurance from the rental car company.

Lodging (from least to most expensive)
  • If you are traveling solo, the easiest way to save money is to sleep in your car. I've slept at rest areas, truck stops, Walmarts, 24 hour gas stations, and 24 hour fast food restaurants. You may not want to do this every night, but it will save you money some nights.
  • Couch surfing and staying with family and friends are also free options.
  • Another great way to sleep on the cheap is by camping in a tent. You can sleep for free in lots of national forests and grasslands, and relatively cheaply in campgrounds and national parks.
  • Hostels are a fun, low cost option that also give you the opportunity to meet new people.
  • Camping at a cabin in a campground will bring you pretty much all of the amenities at a much lower price. I stayed in a 4 person cabin with electricity at a campground in South Dakota for $50 per night. The bathroom was a short walk away, and the campground even had a restaurant with inexpensive meals (cheaper than fast food but home cooked, generous portions).
  • If you go the hotel route, being loyal to a particular chain can help you earn points towards free rooms. There are certain times of the year where you can book for bonus or double points.
  • Looking for independent mom-and-pop motels will also help you score some deals. Some of the cleanest places I've stayed with the friendliest people were these types of establishments, typically along US highways.
  • Sites such as Booking and Travelocity will help you find deals on hotel rooms, and I've used them many times to book. It also pays to check out the official hotel sites as well to see what deals they are offering. I booked a stay at an econo lodge through their website because it was $7 cheaper per night than the third party sites.

Food
  • Figure out what food plan will make you the happiest and budget accordingly. For me, I like to personally budget one meal out per day so that I can get a taste of the local flavor.
  • Ask at a welcome center for recommendations for local food. When my family stopped in Wisconsin, we asked where we could get some good, local cheese. We were directed to a farm cooperative just outside of town where we were able to purchase block cheese and summer sausage. It was seriously the best cheese and sausage I've ever had, and for a fraction of the price from what I would have found at a touristy shop.
  • Local/regional fast food chains are also a way to get a taste of local food without paying a hefty price. Generally, the more complicated your meal, the more you will pay. Stick to the basics and you'll only pay ~$3-$4 instead of ~$7-$8.
  • Take water in a Camelbak or similar water hydration system. It reduces the amount of space needed for plastic water bottles, and you can refill it for free with water from soda fountains, restaurants, or hotel rooms.
  • If you stay at a hotel, eat whatever they offer for free for breakfast. If they offer something that you can easily take with you to go (like fruit and coffee), take some extra to go.
  • Find your favorite foods and pack accordingly. For me, I never get sick of PB&J, so those ingredients always come along (and get replenished) on trips. I also enjoy eating lukewarm canned vegetables (because I'm a weirdo), so I bring those in tupperware containers.
  • Find powdered alternatives where you can easily add water. For instance, if I want cereal with milk on the road, I bring powdered milk and just add water. That way, I don't have to worry about keeping the milk in a cooler.

(Edit: formatting)
« Last Edit: December 31, 2014, 11:38:19 AM by Laura »
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Pete from Boston

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #29 on: December 31, 2014, 12:08:02 PM »

For hotels on the road, Priceline name-your-price is a godsend.  You can stay at a 3-out-of-4-stars hotel for $50, and of course can go lower if desired.  This works better for road trips than most situations because you can be flexible, for example, about what exit you stay at.  This is particularly handy when your bid gets rejected and you need to pick a different area to try again.  Just be sure to do it by 11pm or you'll end up booking a room for the next night with no refund possible.  On off nights, places with a glut of hotels (yes, airports are good for this) they seem happy to get anything.   
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Pete from Boston

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #30 on: December 31, 2014, 12:21:53 PM »

"Airport convenience fees" can be a killer.  I avoid Indianapolis for this reason—people using the airport are somehow responsible for paying for some billionaires' stadium and pay a hefty tax for the privilege.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #31 on: December 31, 2014, 12:29:38 PM »

Car

If you are taking your own car and can do your own maintenance work on it, do a tuneup before you go and consider whether the thermostat needs replacement (it regulates engine temperature and so can have a significant effect on MPG).

Quote
Another great way to sleep on the cheap is by camping in a tent. You can sleep for free in lots of national forests and grasslands, and relatively cheaply in campgrounds and national parks.

Budget about $20 a day for campgrounds that have access to hot water for washing, and about $30 a day for campgrounds that also have electrical hookups at tent sites.  (Travelling to a given budget is partly a question of how much you are willing to "rough it," and personally I don't like to skip a daily hot shower.  In principle you can camp at low cost in a NP or NF and then sneak onto a full-service campground to use the showers, but this is not being an ethical consumer.)  Truck stops and some à la carte campgrounds have pay showers at costs ranging from $3 to $10, but the former can be hard to find in major tourist areas.

Quote
Hostels are a fun, low cost option that also give you the opportunity to meet new people.

The US as a whole has a very weak hostelling culture compared to Canada and European countries.  Large areas of the country have no hostels--the only one I have heard of that is near to me is in Lincoln, Nebraska, about 250 miles away, and I am not even sure it is still open.  Hostels are still a viable budget option in major US cities that classify as alpha world cities (NYC, LA, Chicago), as are the closely related options of boutique hotels with dormitory accommodation.  However, the cost of a dormitory bed in such places has been creeping up to the point that it is comparable to the cost of a full room in a motel in a neighborhood that has not yet undergone gentrification, and some necessities--such as a place to park your car if you are driving--are not included in the cost.  When I visited Los Angeles in late September, I actually chose a traditional courtyard motel in South Los Angeles (née South Central) because it cost about as much per night as a boutique hotel/hostel downtown that I also looked at but I would have had to pay for parking at the latter location and I could not be sure about cost or availability.  There was no real advantage in terms of transit access since the courtyard motel was near both the Blue and Green Lines while the boutique place would presumably have been near the downtown hubs.

Quote
Sites such as Booking and Travelocity will help you find deals on hotel rooms, and I've used them many times to book. It also pays to check out the official hotel sites as well to see what deals they are offering. I booked a stay at an econo lodge through their website because it was $7 cheaper per night than the third party sites.

I may have mentioned this already, but it helps greatly not to be wedded to stopping in a particular city.  One example:  Hermiston, Oregon does not have any online-findable motels for less than $80/night, but if you are willing to drive a bit further to the Tri-Cities in Washington state, you can easily find motels in Pasco for about $50/night.  Some sites, like Booking.com, will help you zero in on cheaper nearby properties by listing them as "nearby" matches when you search for a given destination, but you can't always count on their proximity algorithm turning up places that are within your reach and budget.  Chain-specific websites often show their properties as multiple dots on a greatly zoomed-out map (30 or more miles on a side), which can help.
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froggie

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #32 on: December 31, 2014, 12:34:37 PM »

Quote
"Airport convenience fees" can be a killer.

During busy times of the year, absolutely, but not always.  For example, in August, 2011 when I went home to Minneapolis, the cost of renting a car downtown was barely half what it was at the airport (for a full week).  That was well over $200 saved (about $30/day as it turned out).  Then, this past October, it was only about $20 more at the airport for a 3-day period.
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vdeane

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #33 on: December 31, 2014, 12:53:46 PM »

Being flexible on location can help a lot.  I'll likely be staying in Joppa for the Baltimore meet because the hotels there are significantly cheaper than places further in.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #34 on: December 31, 2014, 02:02:30 PM »

One other thought:  car-sleeping makes sense only if you can be sure of getting a full night's worth of quality sleep.  A sign that you are not getting enough good sleep is having to resort to extraordinary measures (more than one cup of coffee, music played loud, climate control turned down very low, one-sided cellphone conversations, etc.) to stay awake while driving the next day.

I have car-slept in the past and have found that the obvious easy approaches--putting the seat back, curling up in the backseat, etc.--don't yield high-quality sleep.  I would instead suggest putting the rear seats down (if you have a sedan) and then sleeping on top of an air mattress, with pillows.  This takes more effort (though a double-action high-volume, low-pressure pump--not a tire air compressor--will inflate an air mattress very quickly) and trunk capacity for the necessary gear, but the dividend it pays in greater comfort and enjoyment of travel is more than worth it.
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Scott5114

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #35 on: January 01, 2015, 08:21:40 AM »

OP is looking for a ballpark budget for planning purposes. Since that is the case, it makes sense to round figures up and pad the budget somewhat to allow room for contingencies—if he hits a region when an unforeseen event is happening like a convention or sports event that causes hotels in his desired price range to be full, if gas prices spike, if he needs to eat in a town where there is no cheap eatery, etc. There is also the possibility of something happening to the car (e.g. tire), in which case I believe the most practical way to salvage the trip would be to pay for repairs out-of-pocket and have the rental company reimburse you (Jake has done this with oil changes, a few of which will probably be necessary on this trip).

All of this means it makes more sense to begin with a slightly inflated figure like Steve's as a starting point. If the OP can put aside $5,000 for the trip, he can economize where desired and able, meet expenses when not able to economize, and, barring anything unforeseen, come back pleasantly surprised with ~$1000 that can be used for some other purpose.

(Another expense since you are planning on stopping in Vegas—gambling money. You don't necessarily have to gamble in Vegas, but since you seem to be going out of your way to stop there, I assume that is an appealing option...)

I may have mentioned this already, but it helps greatly not to be wedded to stopping in a particular city.  One example:  Hermiston, Oregon does not have any online-findable motels for less than $80/night, but if you are willing to drive a bit further to the Tri-Cities in Washington state, you can easily find motels in Pasco for about $50/night.  Some sites, like Booking.com, will help you zero in on cheaper nearby properties by listing them as "nearby" matches when you search for a given destination, but you can't always count on their proximity algorithm turning up places that are within your reach and budget.  Chain-specific websites often show their properties as multiple dots on a greatly zoomed-out map (30 or more miles on a side), which can help.

Not making a firm plan on a stopping place is also a good idea in case your ground covered for the day runs short or long due to an accident, weather, etc. or being able to make better time than expected for whatever reason. Nothing is more miserable than having to drive for hours after you feel done for the day because you got behind or didn't estimate time correctly and have to make it to your reservation. Likewise, if there is still usable daylight and you still feel up to driving you don't have to cut your day short because you made it to your hotel earlier than expected.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2015, 08:28:12 AM by Scott5114 »
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roadman65

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Re: Need advice on a good budget for cross country road trip
« Reply #36 on: January 23, 2015, 11:54:53 AM »

Thanks for all the good advice.  The car sleeping sounds interesting, but for me I am over 6 feet tall so curling up is so uncomfortable for me, however the campground with a tent sounds very appealing.  I once even camped in my SUV in Valdosta at a KOA, it was fun and cheap too! 

The Washington thing gets me as it sounds like its like the Northeast a bit with very steep prices for a simple motel room.  I guess being mostly in areas that have cheap accommodations this will balance out.  Maybe use some of that money I save elsewhere to compensate for areas like this.  The way I look at it anyway is to have one night or two of really good accommodations as I do owe it to myself after traveling at stop and go places for many nights.  After all Washington and California are at the end of the line, I should really relax at a normal hotel.

I have ways to go yet, before I reach my goal for money, but at least I know what to reach for now with everyone's input plus even some travel ideas as well as tips on eating.
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