I really do not know why, but for some odd reason, I end up driving across the U.S. just about every other year… In doing so, I’ve become pretty much an expert on how to get across the huge country in the most relaxing way, while still seeing as much as possible, and trying to save a little bit of money…
LIVE OUT OF YOUR CAR
Learn how to live out of your car (see below) in order to save money and feel completely free! Tired? Your bed is right behind you! Dark and can’t see the pretty scenery? Pull over for the night, make dinner, and watch a movie in the back of your car! No matter where you are, your bed [and everything else] is with you… No need to book hotels or make decent time on the road to get to anywhere in particular… No messing with setting up a tent or hitchhiking in the rain… No worries about accumulating a few extra items and not being able to fit them in your backpack… Roadtrippin’ and living out of your car will be one of the best experience you’ll ever have! Go wherever the road winds to and leave your worries behind!
Preparing your car to be set up as your “home” might be the most important part of this experience.
Don’t want to live out of your car? Here are other options:
WON’T HAVE A CAR?
Kind of weird to have a “road-trip” without a car, but I’ll work with you here…
It’ll be more difficult and not nearly as care-free, but that’s ok… Hitchhike! …But not with your thumb out on the side of the road… no no no, you’ll be standing there forever. Learn how to hitchhike the smart way! Or make a posting for other travelers with cars to see! [read below]
ONLY PAY FOR HALF YOUR GAS
Not many people think about this, so I think it would be cool to share it with others. If you share with your friends, I’ll share with you! :)
If you post online about your travel plans, you could potentially get some other travelers to accompany you. Not only will you have company, but a lot of travelers that you find on Craigslist are willing to split the cost of gasoline.
How to make a Craigslist Travel Ad:
- Go to the Craigslist.org page of a city you plan on going to in a few days…
- Top left section: “Community”
- Click on “Rideshare” – there could be a posting already there about someone NEEDING a ride and you could help them out! or…
- Make a new post and be sure to include:
- When you’re planning to leave that city
- Where you intend to end up later that night [to drop them off]
- If you’re going to a campground and they can camp beside you
- That you’re looking for someone that will split the gas money
- Your phone number, or email…
Tip: I always put my phone number because I don’t check my email every 10 minutes so if someone can text me, that is a LOT easier while traveling…
(this was back before I had a smartphone – it’s all the same now)
This is one of my rideshare posts where I had two other young travelers contact me and we ended up traveling 1,086 miles together… They told me that there were other rideshare postings going out west, but that they picked mine because they said mine was worded the best – but they couldn’t put there finger on as to why…
Jan 10th: Driving from Indianapolis.. Westbound!
Jan 10th… I will be driving from Indianapolis to about Kansas City via route 70. If you need a ride and are willing to split the gas money with me, let me know! I drive a 2008 Toyota and it is very good on gas! Also, there is extra room in the car in case you have luggage [or even another person]! Feel free to give me a call on my cell since I’ll most likely be driving [or responding to this post is ok too, but response will be slower…] 123.456.7890
WHERE TO SHOWER
If you’re staying at a motel, hostel, hotel, or couchsurfing, then this section is of no use to you. However, if you’re traveling like I do (for the LEAST AMOUNT OF MONEY and the MOST FREEDOM) then here’s your answer:
Don’t cringe… truck-stop-showering is actually really nice! I’ve been in a few that were just like a bathroom in a nice hotel – with little soaps, shampoo and conditioner, fluffy clean towels, and even a hot tub and shower combo! And guess what I paid… I think it was around US$4… and I was in there for about two+ hours just enjoying being clean for less than what I pay for a coffee sometimes…
Other truck stops might not be as classy, but they’re still a cheap shower [better than paying $100 for a hotel room]… and 99% of all truck stops I’ve been to include a towel and soap in the price.
HOW TO FIND TRUCK STOPS
Three ways to find truck stops: (1) Websites, (2) Apps on your smart phone, (3) word-of-mouth and maps.
There is a great website that gives just about every truck stop for every state.
A plus about both of these websites is that (1) they are categorized by state/province then broken down by city [so it’s really easy to narrow down which of the 100 truck stops is the one nearest to you… and (2) besides the address, phone numbers are also listed. I used to call ahead of time to see what the prices were before I got there.
Avoid: Truck stops that want to charge you US$9 or more. There are PLENTY of truck stops along whichever route you decide to take so… just keep on rolling until you get to the next cheap one! It’s not like you’ll be going “out of your way”… you’re just a little closer to where you’d stop the next day :o)
What I did when I traveled [before my smartphone days…]: The website is categorized by state… So I would click on the 2-3 states that I thought I might stop in that night and leave them open on my laptop… Then, whichever state I ended up in when I started to get tired or needed a shower, I would just open my laptop and see which was the closest to my current location…
Nowadays, there are apps that you can download that show nearby truck-stops based on your current location… The one I have on my phone is called “Truck Stop Locator”.
There are a TON of State and National Parks… Try to visit as many as possible along your route…
You might already have an idea about where you want to go, so I won’t waste your time here about which parks I think are the best.
But just in case you want to see my top picks, here you go:
ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH YOUR PASSPORT
Even if you don’t plan on leaving the country, always have your passport with you! Why limit yourself on the places that you have no idea if you’ll eventually want to wonder to?
Example: If you visit Niagara Falls between New York State and Canada, you’ll need your passport if you want to walk over the bridge. I’ve been with people before that didn’t think about this and then couldn’t go over to look at the falls from the other side.
Also, you might meet people that might want to take a small side journey to somewhere just over the boarder… without a passport, you’ll end up missing out!
Here’s a list of how I save money in my life so that I can spend it on things that are the most important to me.