Author Topic: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively  (Read 3069 times)

Mr stuble

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 14
How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« on: June 17, 2016, 06:26:11 AM »
Hi All,

I am about to embark on a very long road trip (1800 miles which is a long roads trip by my European standards).

Other than the usual stuff such as making sure tires are the correct pressure, using a diesel engine for long distances etc does anyone have any hints and tips for reducing the costs associated with long distance driving?

MMM mentions in some of his blog postings about driving up to Canada as opposed to flying, is this because in america Car travelling is relatively cheap compared to air travel? As it seems to be the opposite in Europe. Or is there a way to make these long distance trips much more frugal and enjoyable than sitting in a tin can at 30,000ft with 6 inches of leg room?

Best Regards!

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14042
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2016, 06:36:29 AM »
Buy real food in grocery stores . . . not the food like stuff from gas stations or the horribly processed crap from restaurants.  Sleep in your car, not hotels.  Get several books on tape to listen to to avoid going insane while driving.  Stop every couple hours to get out and stretch your legs.  :P

aperture

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 468
  • Location: Colorado
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2016, 06:54:31 AM »
Get a cooler and keep drinks and snacks on ice.  We usually carry lunch meats, bread, mustard, mayo and etc for sandwiches.  When we are camping, we will also have each meal planned ahead and will bring along sausage and eggs and boxed mac&cheese and etc. 
1800 miles is probably at least 3 days on the road so plan your overnights for inexpensive places to rest.  If you have kids on the trip, you may want to look ahead for inexpensive places to stop and distract them and let them get some exercise. When our kids were young, we would stop at McDonalds because they had indoor playgrounds for them to climb on and run about it.  We could order a $1 ice cream or drink for each or to share and get a reasonable break from the driving.  Entertain kids with games that work in the car - spotting license plates from other states,countries etc, making words from the letters on license plates, 20 questions, I-Spy, and stuff.  We have a DVD player in the car and let them watch movies that I pick up at thrift stores for cheap for weeks/months ahead and store up or we rent them for $1 at RedBox along the way.
Plan ahead looking at toll-ways vs. other roads and determine what is the most efficient map for your needs. I don't know about EU driving but in the US North East you can spend a lot of money on tolls.  In some cases there can be affordable alternatives, but these are usually going to be slower.
Do not drive past your wakefulness!!! It is not worth the risk. If you are tired or nodding off, pull off, and either sleep in your car or pay lots of money for a crappy motel room and sleep. 
Best wishes, Ap.

Cranky

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1757
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2016, 07:13:46 AM »
Packing your own food is key, unless you have a crazy love of fast food. And stay at cheap places, or camp.

Mr stuble

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 14
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2016, 07:19:37 AM »
Thanks for the responses GuitarStv and aperture, it is greatly appreciated!

A little bit more background on the trip, there are four of us going, 3 of us can share the driving. We are planning on camping on the way down to save on hotels etc. So far my plan with food was to bring instant noodles etc as they are cheap and won't spoil (not a healthy choice I admit!). We will be doing the bulk of our driving in France (In a right hand drive car which should be interesting).

Cranky, unfortunately I am afflicted with a weakness for fast food, I am going to stay strong however! :P

Thanks again for the advice!


ketchup

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4010
  • Age: 28
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2016, 09:50:33 AM »
Food is key.  Whether it's shelf-stable or packed in a cooler, bring 20% more food than you think you need for the drive (leftovers can be eaten at your destination).  Also bring water.

Three drivers makes things way easier.  Rotate every stop or fuel-up, make sure nobody is driving exhausted.  Fuel up every chance you get when you stop so that you always have plenty in the tank.

Definitely second everyone mentioning music/audiobooks/podcasts.  Have something to listen to; it helps a ton.

In the past five years, I've done 1400 miles in 25 hours solo, 2000 miles in 37 hours with two drivers, 1200 miles in 19 hours with 1.5 drivers, and 2000 miles in 36 hours with three drivers.  And countless other sub-1000 mile insanity.  The more drivers, the easier everything is.  The more food/water you bring, the easier everything is.  And the more music/audiobooks/podcasts you have, the easier everything is.

Long roadtrips can be a blast or they can be awful.  Just plan correctly and it will be a fun journey.

Slee_stack

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 854
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2016, 09:54:50 AM »
Hitchhike.

I'm a red panda

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8011
  • Location: United States
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2016, 09:59:37 AM »
What costs are you associating with long distance driving that you want to reduce?

Except not eating in restaurants (we pack a cooler) and minimizing hotel stays, car travel is extremely affordable, especially with multiple people.  It would be easier to know what to suggest if I knew what concerned you.


« Last Edit: June 17, 2016, 12:18:21 PM by iowajes »

Tyson

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2393
  • Age: 47
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2016, 10:15:12 AM »
Buy real food in grocery stores . . . not the food like stuff from gas stations or the horribly processed crap from restaurants.  Sleep in your car, not hotels.  Get several books on tape to listen to to avoid going insane while driving.  Stop every couple hours to get out and stretch your legs.  :P

Spring/summer/fall - find cool camping spots along the way and bring your tent. 

While driving, stick to highways as much as possible and don't speed.  Bring a credit card that gives you 4% or 5% cash back on gas.

Audiobooks are great - the library will have a ton of them for free.  I personally recommend anything from The Great Courses, just pick a subject that interests you.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14042
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2016, 11:47:23 AM »
While driving, stick to highways as much as possible and don't speed.  Bring a credit card that gives you 4% or 5% cash back on gas.

If you're doing the highway thing (a good suggestion), take a car with cruise control.

HipGnosis

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1593
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2016, 01:04:57 PM »
Four people will limit what each of you can bring.  Bring what you know you will need, of course, and include cloths you can layer.  For everything else, don't bring it if you can buy it if you do end up needing it.
If you have a freezer the night before you start, you can make and pack sandwiches for the first 2 days.  Refrigerate day 1's and freeze day 2's.  You can also freeze some of the bottled water.
Let everyone bring something they like to snack on in zip lock bags.  I use to take chips and sugary dry cereal (which I never ate with milk), now it's beef jerky, nuts and dried fruit.
Multiple drivers means some can sleep while another drives, meaning you don't have to stop unless/until all the drivers are tired.  I think you will want to stop at least once in a motel for everyone to bathe.  Pack one bag with everyone's toiletries, PJs and a change of clothes.
Bring a couple small pillows and towels - for sleeping in the car. The towels can be put over they eyes or pinned in the door or window to block the sun.  I would also bring ear plugs.  I  use a small towel when I drive solo to change my seating position by putting it under my thighs, butt or behind my back or neck - a slight change can be very relieving.   Bring a travel size pack of baby-wipes.
It sounds like you will be driving on the 'other' side of the road than what you're use to.  I've done it in England and Japan.  Pulling out of a parking lot and onto the road is the hardest time.  Have everyone remind every driver when they are about to pull onto the road.. at least the first day.  Highways don't have that problem.
I'd have everyone bring something to read, but be aware that reading makes some people prone to car sickness and some people just can't read in a moving vehicle.
When I do stop for food on a trip, I prefer local foods over fast food.

ketchup

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4010
  • Age: 28
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2016, 01:06:06 PM »
While driving, stick to highways as much as possible and don't speed.  Bring a credit card that gives you 4% or 5% cash back on gas.

If you're doing the highway thing (a good suggestion), take a car with cruise control.
In my experience, cruise control, while convenient, can lead to more "zoning out" while driving, which isn't awesome on long highway drives.  YMMV.  I don't use cruise on trips, but my cruise control is also a bit finicky and likes to randomly disengage once an hour or so.

Khaetra

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 622
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2016, 02:44:40 PM »
I just came back from a 3 week road trip and I learned a few things.  First, sandwiches are awesome the first day, okay the second day and by the third day you don't want to look at them anymore.  Make sure you take a good variety of snacks and include some energy bars, as thy can cover lunch if paired with some fresh fruit.  A cooler is a must, especially for drinks.  I wish I had packed more things like cheese, hummus and yogurt and less lunchmeat and bread.  One thing that I do recommend is stopping every 2-3 hours for a stretch.  I found it very helpful to just march in place and bend a few times, especially as the driver.  Your legs and back will thank you. 

Towels are a must, not only for wiping up spills but they can also double as a blanket and pillow.  Bring (or ask passengers) a couple light throws.  Depending on the weather, if it's sunny out and the sun's beating down they can use one to cover up.  Music is always a good idea and ask everyone to bring their favorites.  A sing-along breaks up the boredom of long drives, as does old-fashioned car games that everyone can play (search Google for some ideas).

Mr stuble

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 14
Re: How to Travel long distances by car cost effectively
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2016, 08:56:49 AM »
Thanks all for your responses! I have finished the car trip now and it was much more successful than anticipated!

If anyone else is reading is looking for ideas I would sum up where we did well and went wrong with the following.

Where we went right - We used a roof box to store a lot of the weight and only kept light items in the boot. We travelled in one of my co-drivers Skoda Octavia 1.6L turbo Diesel, I would thoroughly recommend to anyone looking to get a car for travelling long distances (Roomy, we averaged 68 MPG with all that weight onboard) and drives very nicely. On the first trip we also followed the instructions given and packed a load of food and camped on our way down).

Where we went wrong - The biggest mistake we made was to miss that all major highways in France are toll roads, these were great fun to drive on (Empty and 130km speed limit) but we spent roughly 100 (Euros) altogether on them between us. We also didn't pack as much food as we should have, but what we did pack we used up. Finally the biggest and most shameful one, Coffee! As we were driving long hours a lot of caffeine was needed. A car kettle would have been perfect, so maybe that will be one for the future.

Thanks again for all the advice guys! If anyone needs any hints and/or tips about backpacking/travelling throguh france let me know and hopefully I can be of assistance!

Kind Regards!