Now that I’ve wrapped up our six-week, 12-state road trip coverage—with a few Photo Fridays reserved for the future—I thought I’d take a break to tell you how we did things logistically, and most importantly, how we funded it all.
We rented our apartment to friends. A couple from Boston we know was moving to the Bay Area and rented out our place for two months. We charged them rent plus our cable, Internet and electric bills so we would break even. Savings: $5100.
We self catered…for the most part. We found in most states that grocery shopping is so much cheaper than it is in San Francisco. We would have been paying for groceries—and let’s be honest, paying to go out to expensive dinners
two or three nights a week more often than not—were we back in California, so we actually saved money as far as food was concerned due to lower prices and simpler meals. Savings: Unknown, but lots.
We bought the annual national parks pass. For $80 (plus $5 handling fee), we got an annual pass that admitted the two of us and Ella to almost every national park we visited. This would have saved a lot more had the weather been better and had we been able to visit more parks, but it’s good for a full year and I suspect this isn’t the last national park we’ll visit until May 2012. Regardless, we visited eight parks at around $10 each so it will still be a deal if we continue to use it elsewhere in the United States. Savings: Broke even.
We traveled during off-season. While I always knew our weather might be questionable—but never realized it could possibly be as bad as it turned out—we wanted to avoid the bulk of the summer crowds, which start mid- to late-June when schools let out. Plus, the timing just worked better with our schedule. Most of the high-season rates in Wyoming and Montana started around June 10, so we saved quite a lot on our daily campground fees by planning nearly four weeks of our route to fall during the shoulder season. (Plus, the weather was no better in July, so I’m glad we didn’t skip our family cruise and push our road trip further back into the summer.) Savings: Unknown.
We weren’t paying parking bills or exorbitant meter fees. If you live in San Francisco, you know exactly what I’m talking about and I don’t have to say anymore. Who knew that the rest of the country had novelties such as free parking or, in “extreme” cases, 5-cent meters?! Savings: $400(ish).
Some nights we got the full hook-up, others we went bare bones. Full RV hook-ups were much pricier than I would have thought—anywhere from $28 to $70 a night, depending on the town. After awhile, we realized that water and electric was all we needed—our tank is so small we couldn’t go two days, conservatively, without filling up so dry camping was out of the question—as every campsite has a dump station out front and many also come with free wireless and cable. A partial hook-up often saved us anywhere from $10 to $20 a night. I worked out what we pay daily in rent back home, and it’s around $70 so partial or full hook-up, we were still paying less than half what we’d pay in rent. Savings: $1,856.40 (camping vs. an apartment).
We tried to curb the shopping urges. One thing one RV couple told us prior to our trip was not to stock up on everything we thought we’d need before we left. The trailer would just get too cluttered this way. And they were right, of course: Everywhere we were going was either a good-sized town or nearby a city, so there were Wal-Marts, Targets and the like all along our route that we could easily pull over to whenever we ran out of essentials like toothpaste or dog food. We did invest in a couple big ticket items, like a new lens, a couple filters, a portable external hard drive and a new Canon camera bag to hold both DSLRs before we left, but we would have done this prior to Semester at Sea anyway. Savings: Unknown.
I kept track of our total expenses in terms of accommodation and transportation. (Food and entertainment would have been pushing it.) Here’s how it all shook out for our 42 days gone:
- Total mileage: 5744.3 miles
- Lodging fees: $1084 total, $25.8 per day
- Gas fees: $1912 total, $45.52 per day
- Gas used: 498.75 gallons
- Average gas mileage: 11.5 miles per gallon
In all, our daily living expenses wound up being far cheaper than had we stayed in San Francisco during those six weeks. Gotta love the ability to travel while saving money—it’s the best of both worlds! After all, we both worked while on the road so we kept our income stream steady, and we even managed to pay down some credit card bills (finally) while at it.
What else we learned:
- Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. We ran into countless roadblocks, especially where weather was concerned—sleet, hail, rain, snow, flooding; we saw it all—that thwarted many of our plans. In the end, we just had to throw up our hands and let Fate take the wheel—and plan to return to all the spots we missed or that were closed. This is particularly difficult for me, as I plan every second of my life. You should see the Post-its on my office desk and the spreadsheets and Word docs on my laptop desktops. They are never ending and all lists about something or another. But putting your neuroses aside is often a good thing. I learned to be a bit more laid back while on the road.
- However, in certain national parks (Yellowstone) during peak months (June through August), you do need to be a planner. It’s best to book a campsite as soon as you know your dates—particularly if you want the cheapest deal out there.
- For similar international trips, we might want to invest in travel insurance—with the luck we have and all that tends to go wrong for me, that definitely would be wise.
So we’re done. At least with this area of the United States. On Sunday, we’re off on yet another long drive—this time to the other side of the country—that will take us around 2,885 miles over the course of nine days. Then, we leave two weeks after that for our next adventure: four months on the open sea, sailing around the world! One day, we’ll become grown-ups. Maybe. In the meantime…
Any questions for us? Are you planning a similar road trip and need logistical help? We’re happy to share anything and everything that we learned!
If you enjoyed this post, consider recommending it through Google +1 or Twitter or “Liking” it on Facebook. It only takes one click through the social media icons below to help us out. This will enable us to grow our audience and ensure we can continue bringing solid content on a frequent basis. As always, thanks for reading and for your support!