Jonathan has an interesting request for Get Rich Slowly readers. He wants to make a month-long cross-country road trip next summer, and he wants to do it on the cheap. But how? He's hoping that you can help. Here's an abridged version of his e-mail:
I'm trying to figure out how to save money on vacation. My girlfriend and I have always had a dream of spending a month driving out to the Grand Canyon then to DC for the Smithsonian and back and stopping at all sorts of interesting sites on the way. We're in Michigan, so the trip will probably be about 6,000 miles making room for all our random stops.
I've done some work in figuring out how to make this affordable, but everything adds up fast. The worst expenses are obviously gas and lodging, followed by food. We plan on camping, since it is a lot of fun and a lot cheaper than hotels. If we're good, lunches for a week could stay under $30 — mainly sandwich stuff and snacks, but fast food will probably be tempting some days. Dinner will probably be even more expensive.
So far, I've added up over $1000 in expenses and we haven't done anything yet! I would love any suggestions in lowering those expenses, and in what sort of things we could do along the way that are low budget. We hate normal touristy locations, which will hopefully help a lot in keeping the price down.
p.s. I'm considering getting some sort of mobile internet card for my laptop so we can take lots of pictures and blog the trip as we go. Any suggestions on getting a month worth of internet cheap would be great too!
I'm envious. I've always wanted to do this sort of thing. The older I get, the less likely it is to happen, though, so I've begun to live vicariously through the adventures of others. In the past, for example, I've enjoyed reading about The Frugal Traveler's American road trip.
Though I don't have any first-hand experience with this sort of travel, I have discovered a few related sites over the past year or so:
- Last June, the New York Times published a list of 31 places to go this summer, though the advice is applicable to other seasons, as well.
- Roadtrip America has some expert tips on the fine art of the cheap road trip.
- At Wise Bread, Jessica has some advice on how to survive a road trip. (These are more “how not to go crazy” tips than “how to save money” tips.)
- I'm not a big fan of the About.com, but their America Road Trips 101 article actually contains a great collection of tips and links, including advice for finding free wireless internet connections.
Trips like this used to be commonplace, but they've become much less popular since the rise of cheap air travel and “destination” vacations.
Have you ever made a cross-country sightseeing trip? Do you have experience camping for days on end? Are you an expert at eating cheaply while traveling? Do you have recommendations for low-cost points of interest across the United States? Are Jonathan's projections realistic? How much would you budget for a trip like this?