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Driving all around the US!

Driving all around the US!

Old Feb 9th 2011, 2:45 pm
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Question Driving all around the US!

Hello there, fellow expats!

I'm studying in the US and will be (hopefully!) graduating in May. I have 60 days on my Visa after this and want to make the most of them by doing the quintessential American roadtrip. I want to go everywhere and see everything in those two months! I plan to start in Chicago, head West to Seattle, South to LA, East (somehow) to Florida then North to Boston, from where I will fly home.

What I need, however, is a reality check. I've not been in a car journey longer than 12 hours before. Google tells me my expected trip will take 160 hours on the road to cover 10000 miles. That's a lot of miles. I rationalise because it is only 160 odd each say - but clearly some days will be longer (the corn fields of the midwest) and other shorter (spending a few days enjoying some of the cities we visit).

I had two burning questions. Assuming I don't spend anything on accommodation (we plan to hammock wild and Couchsurf) and I exclude $1000 for gas, I come to a fairly optimistic total living cost of about $1500 each - a little over $20 a day. We won't be splurging on food, but allowing for visits to national parks, a few tourist/sports activities and the occasional night on the town, does this sound like a plausible budget? Or am I kidding myself?

The second question is more "has anyone done this and what did you think"? I've seen a few reports, mostly much shorter (coast-to-coast typically) and almost always positive. But this far? Am I setting myself up for disaster here? What can I do to mitigate risks to our comfort and well-being?

Cheers!
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 2:59 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

Here are ten places you should include in your trip.
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 3:21 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

I don't know how feasible it is, does sound like a great adventure!

Thing is, you'll probably be spending most of that time on the road rather than enjoying the sites, which would be a shame.

You'll be paying more than $20 to enter most state/national parks and sites. Some of those areas might still be a bit cold in May, so not sure if you'd want to be roughing it outside in Chicago area, or even if you'd be allowed, but the parks should be opening up around then.

Even eating in a grot shack, you'd probably spend more than $20 a day a person, but could be doable if you got sandwich stuff from a grocery store.

Also don't forget car maintenance costs, the odd flat tyre and oil changes into your budget and you'll be ahead if you don't need it, but you won't be screwed if stuff happens.

Boston, unless you know where to park, the main parking spots are $25-40 a day.
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 3:26 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

Yes that would be quite hard on a car and you'd have to budget for maintenance - what are your plans for the car?

$20 a day sounds rather optimistic.
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 3:37 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

Robin: Great ideas - I would never have found them, but a few of those seem like must-sees!

Bob: Aah ha - this is the kind of practical tips I am looking for! I never even considered parking issues, but yes, I suppose that may well be a problem in cities (although i would hope wherever we stay will provide some sort of parking).

I was wondering how long we'd spend on the road each day. If it was just 150 miles (~2-3hours) a day, then we'd still have quite a bit of time to enjoy. But maybe I've not included enough distance slack to account for side-trips, getting lost etc. Perhaps I can somehow reduce my overall distance..

Cold in May still? Hmm... I was more worried about the heat, but right you may be. We should be OK, it doesn't appear likely to drop below 32F/0C (which is our comfort limit).

Car costs will be "absorbed" by the significant other, as it's her car. In exchange, I pay for all the fuel It's a new ride of hers, so I'm hoping it will hold together, with serious issues being picked up by insurance. Despite being an engineer, I have very little experience with car problems and their remedies (I consider myself lucky...!)

Food - maybe you're right. I was envisaging grabbing cheap supermarket food as we go, but I expect the lure of eating at local eateries will be strong. I will need to be a little more robust in this area perhaps... any thoughts as to what a reasonable food budget is, if you want to appreciate the gist of local cuisine?
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 3:40 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

You should definitely budget some extra money for accommodation. Even if it is just for a couple of nights. Couchsurfing can be a great experience but Couchsurfers are not always the most reliable of people. You don't want to end up stranded in a big city at 1am after your host blows out on you. But then again, sleeping in a car by a beach can be an eye opening experience in itself!
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 3:43 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

The problem with eating out is that it is hard to get even a basic meal at a modest diner for less than $12 per person. And for that $24 you could buy more than enough pbj, bread and a bag of apples to last you for a week!
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 3:48 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

Originally Posted by alexandicity View Post
....I would never have found them, but a few of those seem like must-sees!
........
Yes; if I ever go to Texas, I definitely want to visit the tomb of Qin Shi Huang-di and the Forbidden City.
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 4:04 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

I drove the following route over a period of 14 weeks with Mrs tonrob:

Vancouver - Toronto - Chicago - Nashville - Memphis - Pensacola - New Orleans - Houston - Dallas - El Paso - Santa Fe - Salt Lake City - Spokane - Seattle - Vancouver

If you look that up on a map we visited pretty much every major city and National park nearby. Looking back it did feel rushed, but not exhaustingly so. There were a number of places where we did feel we would have liked to stay and extra day or so more than we did, but finances were tight too at the time so we were happy to move on.
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 4:21 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

I took four months to cover half that distance.
On twice the budget.

'Free' camping is more expensive than you think!
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 4:28 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

Originally Posted by alexandicity View Post
Bob: Aah ha - this is the kind of practical tips I am looking for! I never even considered parking issues, but yes, I suppose that may well be a problem in cities (although i would hope wherever we stay will provide some sort of parking).
Don't count on it. In Chicago there is limited street parking, it;s not free. In residential areas you have to buy a permit to park and without one you can't park at certain times. Overnight parking will cost you a lot, we were just there and had to pay $50 a night which was about the going rate around where we were. That was at a hotel in the hotel parking lot.

If you want to actually see things, grab some local food and a more expensive meal every now and again and pick up incidentals like tolls, drinks, snacks, magazines, etc you should probably budget more around the $50-60 a day average. Obviously some places you will get away with a lot less but some you may need to shell out a lot more. Also remember that even though couch surfing is technically free, it's not good practice to rock up at somebodies house, stay a night or two and maybe get shown around or taken out without giving something back to your hosts. Drinks at a bar, a meal, flowers, etc. That can add up pretty fast if you are going to different places almost every day.
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 4:30 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

Originally Posted by meauxna View Post

'Free' camping is more expensive than you think!
I've never done this, but apparently Walmart is OK with folks parking all night at their stores. That way you have a bathroom to use, drinking water, and a place to buy breakfast etc.!
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 4:37 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

Once you have a more solid idea of your itinerary you can post on Craig's list offering a ride share. If you are amenable to the idea of driving with strangers in your car it can be a great way to split fuel costs.
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 5:22 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

Originally Posted by robin1234 View Post
I've never done this, but apparently Walmart is OK with folks parking all night at their stores. That way you have a bathroom to use, drinking water, and a place to buy breakfast etc.!
We were car camping.

They might not mind an RV, but I think my set up would have caused objection!
I meant Nat'l Forest land etc.. it seems free, but the OP's budget is v. low (how many are going tho?)
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Old Feb 9th 2011, 5:25 pm
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Default Re: Driving all around the US!

Originally Posted by meauxna View Post
We were car camping.

They might not mind an RV, but I think my set up would have caused objection!
I know -- getting those tent pegs into the parking lot blacktop takes an honest effort.
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