Author Topic: UPDATED!! Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice  (Read 4546 times)

jdoolin

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My wife and I are considering a cross-country road trip from Ohio to California to see some very dear friends.  We've calculated the cost of driving versus flying and they are about even.  However, driving offers us the chance (especially me, who has basically never been outside an 8 hour radius of my birthplace) to see a lot of the country and make some stops at fun and interesting places.

We're taking the more fuel efficient vehicle, staying with friends in CA (and possibly a few in between) and plan to dine out infrequently (and only in places that we plan ahead and will be worth it). 

We've also both gotten Chase Freedom cards with a $200 cash back if you spend $500 or more in the first 3 months, so that will be easy.  That saves $400 right away.  The 5% reward during the trip would be at gas stations, so there's another savings, plus the 1% on other stuff.

I guess the advice I'm looking for are:

a) food suggestions.  my wife and I are great cooks and have our own ideas (making sheet pans of protein/granola bars, dried fruit and nuts, etc) but Mustachians are creative and I wondered if anybody had any tricks up their sleeves.

b) lodging.  On the nights we don't spend with friends, we had originally planned on just crashing at inexpensive hotels, but I'm open to other ideas.  Though I'm not sure camping would be all that feasible.

c) anything I may not be thinking about but that other Mustachians have figured out.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2015, 07:06:57 AM by jdoolin »

Dee

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2015, 06:58:23 PM »
One option for overnight might be AirBNB (a site that allows people to list their spaces for rent to travelers) -- you might get a whole apartment, with full kitchen for less than a cheap motel. This would allow you to put together your meals/snacks for the road as well.

Sounds like a fun trip, though. You've already got a lot of awesome money saving ideas in place and you will surely see many memorable sites!

forummm

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2015, 07:12:34 PM »
I spent 30 days driving across the country one summer. I mostly stayed in hostels. They usually have a kitchen. Hostelling International ones are generally good (and have a $3 discount if you buy a $25 membership, so if you're spending a lot of nights it pays off). Since you are going together, you might do Motel 6's. Generally you can find one for $30-40 in the more rural areas. They are decent options. Just bring your own shampoo since they don't provide that (and soap if you don't like the tiny bars they provide). You can get price quotes and book online for a discount. I mapped out my route and just planned in the places I was going to stay in advance and made reservations.

When we travel I bring my homemade granola and some of the dried fruit and bulk nuts we normally eat. You can get a half gallon of milk just about anywhere, and that makes a great breakfast for 2. If you're staying in a place with a fridge you can save more by getting the full gallon. You can find grocery stores for things like fruit and vegetables that are pretty shelf stable (carrots, celery, etc) for when refrigeration isn't available. We eat pretty inexpensively on the road.

I also find that I don't pay money for a lot of the things I do. When visiting a city I am more prone to go see what the place is like (walking/driving around, looking around public areas, etc) instead of going to a restaurant or a show or whatever. For example, St Louis is one city I visited. I think it's free to hang out around the arch and walk over to the Mississippi River right next to it and see some of the exhibits. And I think the Anheuser Busch tour is free.

mrshudson

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2015, 07:52:39 PM »
Traveling Ohio to California, admittedly, I'm biased toward the Iowa-Nebraska-Colorado-Utah-Nevada-California route, simply because of variety of landscape (corn fields, mountains, desert, etc.) If doing that route, you can plan on stopping over at a major city to spend the night, get a room or an apartment via Airbnb.

For food, one time I made lots of flat bread with garlic and olive oil, along with veggies and cheese. Also have carried along things like soup in a thermos. Assuming you'll be traveling this summer, I'd get a cooler and carry along cold things like Gazpacho. You can stop over at grocery stores, and get things to supplement with homemade stuff. I normally like Trader Joe's which has a lot of fancy items at ridiculously cheap prices. You can get things like raw veggies, cheese sticks, dips/spreads, fruit, hard boiled eggs, jerky, yogurt, granola, and even some cheap but nice beer or wine. Drive along and find scenic picnic areas/public parks and hang out and enjoy (be sure to check alcohol rules!). Carry around hand sanitizer, may not always find clean restrooms on the go.

Other than that - stay hydrated if traveling in summer - carry a couple of reusable bottles and sip away while driving. Stop for rest breaks and get some exercise - I like walking/running for may be 15-20 minutes for every couple of hours of driving. Will slow you down, but your body will thank you at the end of the day. And when napping in the car, don't recline the seat too much (for seat belt/air bag safety).

Enjoy your trip - it's a wonderful way to experience the country.

kpd905

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2015, 08:14:12 PM »
If you reconsider the camping thing, Utah has a ton of BLM land where you can camp for free.

Trifele

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2015, 12:54:02 PM »
Road trips are great!

X2 on the cooler. We do long road trips 1-2 times per year and always take the cooler.  You can buy ice anywhere, and you are neither required to find a restaurant, nor to eat 'car food'.  We stock ours with hummous, raw veggies, cheese, coldcuts, beer, whatever.  If you then take along a separate bag with utensils, a couple bowls, some flatbreads, maybe a jar of peanut butter, and a roll of paper towels, you can stop anywhere-- state/national park, roadside rest area, etc -- and have a great meal.  (And if you come across a great store like a Trader Joes, like MrsHudson said, then you can grab a couple salads to go.)  Then you just restock the cooler every day or two with what you need.

Two weeks ago we were driving through Oregon and stopped for gas in Ashland.  We'd never been there, so we asked the guy at the gas station if there was a nice place in town to eat lunch, and he directed us to a gorgeous little park (which I think was called Lithia Park).  We had a lovely hour's rest from the car, sitting at a picnic table and enjoying nature. 

Have fun!! 

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2015, 01:04:01 PM »
Amen on the cooler.

When we're going on a long drive, we intentionally stay a bit on the dehydrated side to minimize potty breaks.  Of course, we're trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible...

Bicycle_B

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2015, 01:15:48 PM »
I think camping is very fun, perhaps you could do it in moderation.  Depends on:

Whether you own camping equipment.
Whether you would be up for open air camping (just carry 1 or 2 sleeping bags, and perhaps a mat for dryness) or would feel that you need a tent (more cumbersome, equips you for all conditions).
Amount of space in your car.

I would suggest a couple of camping weekends near you for practice, pack a yoga mat and sleeping bag(s), reserve spots in beautiful campgrounds and use them if the weather is good. 

Consider preparing inexpensive hotel options as backups.  Would add variety to your adventure.  Lots of advice is available online.  You can pay $10 for a National Parks membership and save its cost immediately on reduced fees.

Some of my favorite experiences in cross country trips were camping. 

surfhb

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2015, 05:45:39 PM »
You can make some great stews by filling a pouch of tin foil with meat, vegetables, spices and put it in your engine compartment for a 100 miles or so.   

I do this often on long trips

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2015, 09:08:13 PM »
You can make some great stews by filling a pouch of tin foil with meat, vegetables, spices and put it in your engine compartment for a 100 miles or so.   

I do this often on long trips
That idea is....really intriguing.  I guess you have to be careful not to overcook it.  Where exactly do you put it?  I imagine the exhaust manifold would be too hot, and if you've got a V6 the intake manifold is probably in the way.  Maybe you've got an inline 4 and you can put it on top of the valve cover?

bogart

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2015, 09:32:12 PM »
That idea is....really intriguing.  I guess you have to be careful not to overcook it.  Where exactly do you put it?  I imagine the exhaust manifold would be too hot, and if you've got a V6 the intake manifold is probably in the way.  Maybe you've got an inline 4 and you can put it on top of the valve cover?

Not to worry -- there's a book!  Manifold Destiny.  I am not kidding (though I have to admit I haven't read it.  But it gets good reviews, mostly, on Amazon.  Again, not kidding.  $12, in Kindle format.).

surfhb

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2015, 10:38:15 PM »
You can make some great stews by filling a pouch of tin foil with meat, vegetables, spices and put it in your engine compartment for a 100 miles or so.   

I do this often on long trips
That idea is....really intriguing.  I guess you have to be careful not to overcook it.  Where exactly do you put it?  I imagine the exhaust manifold would be too hot, and if you've got a V6 the intake manifold is probably in the way.  Maybe you've got an inline 4 and you can put it on top of the valve cover?

Cubed meat, potatoes, celery, onion, garlic, Saracha Sauce.    I put mine between the manifold and the firewall towards the rear

It aint bad ;)

jdoolin

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2015, 09:48:57 AM »
Ok, some great ideas here.  AirBnB in particular I didn't even think of. 

Camping, while something I would *greatly* enjoy doing some day, isn't an option.  Time, space and equipment are all barriers to that for this trip.  But some day... yeah, that will be awesome.

I also love the idea of flatbreads, hummus and even that engine compartment slow cooker idea.... I just *might* have to try that.

Keep the thread going, by the way, for the benefit of anybody who may be searching for the same suggestions.  I initially searched these forums before starting this thread, so for future cross country travelers, this could be handy.

jdoolin

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2015, 09:54:17 AM »
Also, for our coffee needs, I purchased an Aeropress and hand grinder which will allow us to have quick, easy coffee without compromising quality.  They'll take up very little space and the quality will be just as good as home.

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2015, 09:58:28 AM »
In the past the hubs and I would use our little camping propane grill at rest stop picnic tables.  We'd usually get those 'one-pot' freezer meals at Walmart and it would make a quick and hot meal.  (I don't really feel full unless I eat something hot.?)  .  It literally only takes one pot and some stirring-so there's very little clean up. With a little planning you could make a stash of your own one-pot freezer meals, pack them into a cooler, and save even more money then buying the bag from the store.

jdoolin

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Re: UPDATED!! Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2015, 07:27:33 AM »
We have returned from our cross-country road trip.  First of all, it was absolutely amazing.  I finally got outside the 8 hour radius in which I've lived since my birthplace.  We got to see so much of the country, so much breathtaking beauty.  The St. Louis Gateway to the West, Oklahoma cattle ranches, beautiful New Mexico and Arizona desserts, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon, 108 degrees in Gila Bend, AZ, San Diego, playing in the Pacific Ocean while watching dolphins, the Mojave Desert and the Joshua trees, the breathtaking beauty of Utah, the Colorado Rockies, the Great Plains, a tornado in Kansas, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Museum where I got to see the Apollo 13 command module, the Liberty Bell 7 and other awesome artifacts, Kansas City barbecue and the endless construction on I-70 in Illinois.  Best of all, we spent some great time with friends in San Diego.

So, here's the breakdown.  We stayed in hotels on the way out and the way back, usually outside of larger cities in places like Fruita, CO or Hutchinson, KS.  That saved money there.  We stayed with friends in San Diego, so that was free.

We rented a 2014 Toyota Camry for $330 which saved us a huge amount of money on travel costs compared to driving my own and having to pay the mileage.  My wife and I hypermiled to the best of our ability and averaged 37.5 mpg (rated at 25 city/28 combined/35 highway).  We also paid for everything with the Chase Freedom cards, including fuel, which just happens to be their 5% cash back category.  So that saved even more.

We used the cooler and packed it with water, fruit, veggies, deli meats and cheeses and some home made fruit and nut bars.  This served us as our lunches and snacks and even a couple dinners.  We did dine out several times, but that was part of the experience.  Mexican in Arizona, Kansas City Barbecue, Pizza Port Brewpub in San Diego and a few others.  We also cooked for our hosts in San Diego and it was a lot of fun and great food, if I do say so myself.  Saved on coffee by bringing our own.  Most of our breakfasts were just what the hotel served.

We did splurge on some luxuries too.  Of course the tourism stops like Meteor Crater, Grand Canyon, Cosmosphere, etc.  Then some good craft beer and wine at a few places and a few souvenirs.

We put the whole vacation on the Chase Freedom cards so we could track expenses and take advantage of the rewards. We'll get $200 back each plus the 5% spent at gas stations (and we made sure to stock up on new snacks and water at gas stations) and 1% on everything else.

All said and done it came out to be about $1400, including all the luxuries.   Not bad for a 10 day trip across the US.  That's $140 per day.  Not too bad.

mrshudson

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Re: UPDATED!! Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2015, 01:38:51 PM »
Sounds like a great trip. Thanks for updating us with detail, jdoolin. I love long road trips!

Trifele

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Re: UPDATED!! Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2015, 05:44:03 AM »
Ditto!  Thanks for the update JDoolin.  You did great!  We also hit Hutchinson KS a couple years ago on a long road trip and liked it.  We visited the Underground Salt Museum (cool old salt mine 600 feet underground) and Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm.  Kansas has a lot of quirky fun things to do. 

jdoolin

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Re: UPDATED!! Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #18 on: July 19, 2015, 07:36:21 AM »
Ditto!  Thanks for the update JDoolin.  You did great!  We also hit Hutchinson KS a couple years ago on a long road trip and liked it.  We visited the Underground Salt Museum (cool old salt mine 600 feet underground) and Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm.  Kansas has a lot of quirky fun things to do.
We saw the signs for that Salt Museum.  I kinda made fun of if saying the exhibits would be like, "And here we have.... salt.  If you look on this side, we have... more salt."  :-P   But it actually sounded pretty cool.

One thing I noticed was that the drivers got better and better as we drove west.  Then on the way home, it started again in eastern Kansas and progressively worse until we got to Ohio when the tailgating, speeding, aggressive driving, driving in the passing lane and other idiocy commenced in earnest.   I don't think it's a coincidence that there were WAY more state highway patrol in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois than any other state we passed through.  Ohio had the most by far.

The_path_less_taken

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Re: UPDATED!! Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #19 on: July 19, 2015, 07:53:34 AM »
Glad you had fun.

Next time, in addition to hypermiling, see if you can draft a little behind the big rigs. No caffeine yet today so somebody else will have to chime in with the physics but have your wife smile/wave at one to get rapport going and so they don't get annoyed and tap their brakes to make you leave. Then sorta tailgate: not too close as you need air to cool the engine. But the high cube trailers displace a lot of wind and sort of suck you along behind them down the highway. For 3,000 miles, that can be a bigass gas savings.

Also, truck stops used to let you shower for free if you filled up (but then again, I was a single blond girl going in there so maybe that helped? And I had a van that took 30 gallons...no idea about a Camry but not that much I bet.). As recently as 5 years ago though I've seen where it's like $7 for a hot shower...cheaper than a room.

Even just one night paying for a room, one night sleeping in the car or in a tent next to the car would have saved you half on housing...

You nailed the food thing. Next time make sure you see Lake Tahoe.

jdoolin

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Re: UPDATED!! Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #20 on: July 19, 2015, 10:30:50 AM »
Glad you had fun.

Next time, in addition to hypermiling, see if you can draft a little behind the big rigs. No caffeine yet today so somebody else will have to chime in with the physics but have your wife smile/wave at one to get rapport going and so they don't get annoyed and tap their brakes to make you leave. Then sorta tailgate: not too close as you need air to cool the engine. But the high cube trailers displace a lot of wind and sort of suck you along behind them down the highway. For 3,000 miles, that can be a bigass gas savings.
I was always on the lookout for this but only once could I take advantage of it.  I thought for sure I'd be able to a lot more often than I did.  I'd have had to drop to speeds that were not only too low, but too inefficient.  The sweet spots on this Camry were odd.

Trifele

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Re: UPDATED!! Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2015, 12:18:02 PM »
Ditto!  Thanks for the update JDoolin.  You did great!  We also hit Hutchinson KS a couple years ago on a long road trip and liked it.  We visited the Underground Salt Museum (cool old salt mine 600 feet underground) and Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm.  Kansas has a lot of quirky fun things to do.
We saw the signs for that Salt Museum.  I kinda made fun of if saying the exhibits would be like, "And here we have.... salt.  If you look on this side, we have... more salt."  :-P   But it actually sounded pretty cool.

One thing I noticed was that the drivers got better and better as we drove west.  Then on the way home, it started again in eastern Kansas and progressively worse until we got to Ohio when the tailgating, speeding, aggressive driving, driving in the passing lane and other idiocy commenced in earnest.   I don't think it's a coincidence that there were WAY more state highway patrol in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois than any other state we passed through.  Ohio had the most by far.

OMG, JDoolin, you are sooo right about the drivers in various areas!  And if you keep going further east, like -- say -- to Boston, you encounter the ninth circle of driving hell.  :)   

bacchi

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Re: Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2015, 01:56:35 PM »
Cubed meat, potatoes, celery, onion, garlic, Saracha Sauce.    I put mine between the manifold and the firewall towards the rear

It aint bad ;)

This is an awesome idea. I'm going to try it next time I'm on a camping/road trip.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_Cooking

jdoolin

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Re: UPDATED!! Cross-country Road Trip: looking for Mustachian advice
« Reply #23 on: July 19, 2015, 03:32:46 PM »
One thing I noticed was that the drivers got better and better as we drove west.  Then on the way home, it started again in eastern Kansas and progressively worse until we got to Ohio when the tailgating, speeding, aggressive driving, driving in the passing lane and other idiocy commenced in earnest.   I don't think it's a coincidence that there were WAY more state highway patrol in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois than any other state we passed through.  Ohio had the most by far.

OMG, JDoolin, you are sooo right about the drivers in various areas!  And if you keep going further east, like -- say -- to Boston, you encounter the ninth circle of driving hell.  :)
I wondered about that.  Thanks for the confirmation.