Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Start Packing! 5 Tips to Frugally Taking That Cross Country Trip! #5faves

Welcome friends!
Regular readers as well as pretty much anyone who's stopped by the blog a time or two know that we're a family who takes to the road during the summer months.  I so enjoy sharing our journeys around this great country  with friends in my space here! And I love that I get to "talk travel" with my readers, exchanging anecdotes on the best haunts across the country!

However,  I've definitely gotten vibes from reader comments and emails, that our trips, while they appear adventurous  and maybe  even educational at times,  seem to some,  difficult to afford.

Nothing could be further from the truth!  

If  you think a cross country road trip is  financially unattainable,  or at the very least, to be put on the back burner  for some-day-in-the-future-when-you-can-afford-it, think again. These travels are very  doable. And by the way, check out my   list of 5 personal essentials to bring on the road.........Maybe there's  a helpful tip or two here.

 As a stay at home, homeschooling mom who has not drawn a  salary in fifteen plus years, I can absolutely attest to the fact that a  family road trip can be in your future sooner than you think  -- - a trip that can be enjoyed  abundantly and without tremendous sacrifice....that is, unless you're aiming to hunker down in a villa at the Hilton, ordering margaritas  at your private pool.  In which case, you're reading the wrong blog! 
Here's how we don't vacation:
( photo credit - not me, that's for sure ) 

Here's how we do vacation...   

......which some may mistake for an episode of Survivor...but that's ok.  It's not the lap of luxury, but once you get used to it, roughing it's not really  so bad. In fact, it can be pretty darn amazing.

Just, you know,  watch out for the bears!

Now I wouldn't be too quick to call myself an expert in anything, but since necessity has dictated, I can honestly say I am adept in saving money and in traveling richly---so here are my tips  or doing both and living a family journey that is bountiful and memorable......

~ 1 ~ 
Plan your trip 

You'd think a vacation, for heaven's sake,  an opportunity for a change of pace  and maybe even relaxation, wouldn't require quite so darn much time and effort, wouldn't you? Not so.
However, you should know  that allllll the energy you put into the trip will yield you dividends in terms of money and time saved on the well as a clearer picture of your family's itinerary. 
Let's face it, you're hopping into the family vehicle for a journey of several thousands of miles across many states, seeing many sites and requiring food, lodging, gas and entertainment. You'll be gone for weeks........In fact, it seems that it's taken you weeks to plan and to pack!  But this is huge and requires much preplanning, right? 
Rest easy,  the internet makes trip planning a breeze.  Check out these sites for invaluable and free info from your local library or right here on amazon so you're armed with all you need prior to setting out : AAA Motor Laws site,    National Park Guide,   Discover America
Also, Fodor's books borrowed  from your local library or acquired used on amazon are a hugely helpful resource! 

 Lodging on the Cheap

 ~ 2 ~
Let's go camping!
Sleep under the stars:

Don't think you're  up for sleeping on the ground and schlepping to a
public bathroom on your vacation...? Here's the scoop: 
Years and years ago, I didn't think I was either, 
but  under $10 per night for accommodations
at Grand Canyon National Park's Desert View Campground?
Most campgrounds do however, 
charge in the $18- $30 range for a tent site.
If this sounds
about right to you, here's what you need:
A five person tent,  cozy sleeping bags all round, a sturdy, reliable lantern, and a few flashlights plus extra batteries from your dollar store.
That's it. There's nothing fancy needed....
Throw in your own pillows and blankets from home; 
don't buy special camping gear for this.
Forget the inflatable mattress pad and all the 
paraphernalia at  that  Coleman outlet store you may 
have wandered into once upon a time.
I've camped across the US  numerous times and I can tell you,
 none of it is necessary. ( Sorry, Coleman!)
Hey, if you want to splurge, please go right ahead.
Maybe you saw some nifty LED lantern lights that you can't resist!

photo credit - amazon

Why not? They'll light up your campsite adorably, won't they?
But the point here  is frugality, not luxury.
(Almost seems like "camping" and "luxury"  don't belong in the same sentence, no?)

Added bonuses~~~~~~ 
you  get to spot those constellations through the skylight in your tent.....
there's no worry about bedbugs because you have your own linens!

~ 3 ~
But what if tenting it is not my thing?
If you're still not convinced that camping is for you---don't worry.
There's a happy medium between The Ritz and the KOA.
In fact, this summer, monsoons seemed to follow us across the country, making
camping downright dangerous.
In that case, we were able to go to to click around for the 
best prices on a hotel/motel in our  area.
I'm not being compensated for this; I've just had really good luck
finding lovely, clean, even upscale at times,  lodging  at extremely reasonable rates.
How about a gorgeous, newly renovated 
Rodeway Inn right outside the entrance 
of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
 for $59 plus tax with a full breakfast the next morning?
Great deals are out there. Just don't pull into the first hotel
off the interstate. Shop around.

~ 4 ~ 
Eating on the Cheap

How, you might ask, can you afford to reasonably and nutritiously feed your family
on the road without access to a kitchen?
Here's how:
*Load up your cooler, before you leave home, with lots of snacks and mini meals to get you through  the first couple of days. ...milk, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, sliced meat for sandwiches, bread, fruit, veggies, etc. 
*Box up tons ( yes, in 1/2 a dozen boxes) of non perishables....cereal, cans of tuna, peanut butter, jelly, pasta sauce.  You want the supply to last you so that you can inexpensively make meals at a rest area, not waste time and money whenever someone is hungry. 
*Bring food that can be cooked at your campsite for a quick and simple meal....pasta, mac n cheese, cans of soup. 
*Stop at a local grocery store or a Walmart ( they are everywhere, on every interstate all over America) for food items as you run out of them---you can pick up anything from cold cuts to salad fixings to breakfast pastry for the day....also ice to reload the cooler.
*Every once in a while, splurge on a lunch or dinner out at a quaint eatery. But don't order dessert or drinks with the meal. Stick with water. Any extra you'd like to spend...just give it ina tip to your server. Don't spend excessively on non essentials.
Just as IMPORTANT ~~~
* Be sure to make a list of all the accessories you'll need, such as paper plates, utensils, napkins, wooden spoon, colander, egg slicer, plastic cups, ice cream scooper ( ! )  etc.....
*When splurging, look at the big picture. For example, it will cost you less to indulge in frozen treats for the family by purchasing a gallon or two of your favorite ice cream, cones and syrup than it will to buy individual cones for all especially in a high end touristy town.  Yes, they're out there and they'll prey on your vacation mentality. ......
I'll never forget the time I went into a bakery on Main Street in Durango, Colorado in August of 1994 to buy bagels for the next morning's breakfast. I gave the cashier  a $10 bill for 4 bagels and Got No Change. Not kidding. I asked for the change and she said each item was $2.50. Yup. Now, I live in the bagel capital of the world. The best bagels at that time were 20 to 25 cents each depending on which corner store you frequent. Ten times that amount for a pile of dough? I think not. So watch out. They see you comin.'

~ 5 ~
The most costly of your expenses

The secret to saving is in comparison shopping, once again.
Don't wait until the car is on vapors to start looking to fill the tank.
You can easily hop on gasbuddy .com or at the very least, 
eye the prices at 
all the gas stations at an interstate's exit
 before you pull into one.
We've driven in excess of 10,000 miles on certain trips 
and here are some of our cost saving tactics:
*Use cruise control when possible
*Use the fan or open the windows instead of A/C when possible to reduce the load on the engine over long distances. Not always doable, esp when traveling in Death Valley, where it was 118 degrees the day of our visit this July.
*Choose routes that avoid steep inclines or stop-and-go traffic. This isn’t always an option (such as when driving through mountain ranges like we did), but it’s important nonetheless.
*Use gift and rewards cards at participating gas station chains. You’ll often get as much as a $0.04 discount per gallon.

I'm happy to join Jenna for her weekly #5faves linky
Please visit Jenna for others' faves too.

Now go  put your mail on  hold and get the suitcases out of the attic....
you've got a country to explore!

How can you sponsor a child through Compassion International?
Wait til you see these adorable faces!

And here are all of the 2016 A to Z  Blog Challenge posts~~ ~

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Until next time,



  1. Great advice. I do sleep on an air mattress, but I have arthritis in my spine. So in my head, it's necessary. lol
    But the rest, I'm in complete agreement with.
    Great post my dear.
    xx oo

    1. Hey Em~~

      Well, yeah, then a cushion is a necessity......absolutely! And they are actually super comfy!!

      Thanks for visiting, Em!!

  2. This is all great advice and you had me until camping....Great tips though!

    1. Thanks stopping Stephanie------I appreciate you stopping over

      And hey, you might actually like the camping never know!!

  3. These make road tripping seem actually doable. My skeevey-sense is going off at the thought of campground bathrooms though. Are they horrible? Livable? Grit your teeth and bare it types of places?

    1. Well, bottom line: it all depends. We've honestly stayed at a few places w/ bathrooms that felt like walking past them was risking getting diphtheria. I kid you not.
      Others are super clean and maintained. In busy campground, high tourist-y areas , such as by the entrances to Yellowstone, well, those are pretty gross. Where there's a high turn over and busy-ness, the campgrounds are like tent cities and we've learned to avoid drive further perhaps.
      Honestly, I do bring Lysol with me into the bathrooms all the time.And I wear flip flops. It's absolutely not bad.
      We've stayed at some chain hotels whose bathrooms were surprisingly questionable! So truly, overall, the campgrounds aren't terrible.

      Hey thanks for stopping by!

  4. These are great tips! We have not braved a camping cross country trip but when we do travel I always use gasbuddy. It is amazing how going a couple miles off the interstate can save you a ton in larger cities!

    1. Jen~
      Thanks!! Yes, gasbuddy, on high mileage trips is So beneficial!

      Thanks for stopping over!

  5. Chris thank you for all these tips! Love them all! And they make me want to go NOW with my family cross country! :) Oh and your bagel story! Crazy, crazy prices! It reminds me of the hot dog prices at Disney...$10 !!!!!! No way! :)

    1. You'll get there one summer soon, Tracy!!

      Iknow those food prices are spiked! yikes.

      Thank you for visiting m my friend!

  6. Great post Chris, I would love to go on a road trip :)

    Thanks for sharing at Creative Mondays

  7. Just what we do many times! Thanks for linking up with Frugal Mommas - I'm pinning & sharing!

  8. Good tips... though I am not a camper we do shop for cheap hotels and find that vacationing in the off season helps a lot too! We're planning Myrtle Beach this September and found a really nice beach side hotel for 1/3 the price of what it would be in August.


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