Thrifty Roadtrip!

Miss Thrifty22 October 14, 2008

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We’re in the middle of planning our week-long roadtrip (above). We’re getting there, but it’s a squeeze. So many miles, so little time.  I’m excited though; I love driving along a long straight road in the middle of nowhere, in a big ol’ American car. I like all the open space – we don’t have so much of that here in the UK. We’re going to spend a day in at the Arches National Park in Utah; on our way down to Phoenix we’re going to pop into Jerome, a mountainside ghost town turned artists’ colony.

I don’t know how we would have managed in the days before the internet, but this is how we have great roadtrips on limited budgets:

  1. Pick up the brochures in Motel 6s, Super 8s and Econo Lodges, and keep them in the car. Between them, they usually turn up budget motel rooms for wherever we’re headed. They also have maps and directions, which come in handy when we pitch up in towns in the middle of the night. We tend not to book these places online because, well, it’s a roadtrip and sometimes plans (and weather systems) change. Also, if something happens and we find ourselves somewhere completely random as night closes in, we can quickly find out where the nearest clean motel is.
  2. If we do know where we’re headed, we check out the hotel reviews on Trip Advisor. This has saved us from some real nasties.
  3. But I have a soft spot for the aforementioned motel chains. Clean rooms, internet connections, cable TV (is that Nancy Grace still on the air?) and parking – can’t go far wrong with that. I especially like the ones that are $30 a night. I bite my thumb at you, Days Inn and Best Western.
  4. Roadside America. I can’t tell you how much I adore this site; it’s a godsend. It lists all the quirky attractions and Americana, complete with reviews, updates, maps and more. Most of these must-dos are free, or next-to-nothing. For this trip, I am planning stop-offs at destinations including the World’s Largest Watermelon, a Shoe Tree in Nevada, the Singing Sand Dune and Families in Cave Dwellings. I am one spoiled roadtripper.  
  5. Go for the economy rental car. We’ve plumped for Alamo’s cheapest economy model. It’s still enormous and luxurious, by UK standards.
  6. CDs. We won’t buy any or take any with us, but we’ll pop into a thrift store en route and pick up a few. I’ve no idea what we’ll end up with – it’s a lucky dip! Last time I got lucky with The Sound of Music and Dolly Parton.
  7. Mexican food. It’s cheap, I loves it – and there aren’t many Mexican restaurants in the UK, so it’s novel now too. By the time that I’ve filled myself fit to pop and am shivering at the very thought of another chimichanga, it will be time to turn around and go home. Perfectly calibrated.
  8. Dollars booked waaaaaaay in advance, so we got a great exchange rate. I used this place.
  9. Empty suitcases. Target here we come. 
  10. More than one British Visa card. Occasionally, very occasionally, the US card machines can’t compute the quintessential Britishness of my regular Visa debit card. So this is one of the few occasions that will impel me to dust off my aged Barclaycard Visa, just in case we need it. We shouldn’t need either card if our currency holds out, but you never know.
  11. A readiness to throw ourselves onto the mercies of strangers, should anything go wrong.

Now, is San Francisco to Ely, NV in one long day do-able, do you think? I contacted the Nevada tourism dept. and asked them if we could drive Highway 50 in November, but they said they wouldn’t know until nearer the time.


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22 Responses to “Thrifty Roadtrip!

If you want some variety from the Mexican food, Walmart Deli has some very cheap food. I like the huge $5 sandwiches. They are larger than Subway branded sandwiches and can realistically feed you for both lunch and dinner. While stopping at Walmart, you can also fill up on Gas, other snacks, water, etc.

Finance Junkies last blog post..U.S. Said to Invest $125 Billion Between Nine Banks

October 15, 2008 at 4:46 am

FruGal says:

I am addicted to trip advisor, I can’t stay anywhere without checking on that thing first! I’ve done a similar route to the one you’ve posted and it was great, you are going to have such a great time! 🙂

FruGals last blog post..Frugal: So hot right now

October 15, 2008 at 10:34 am

Sounds like a very exciting trip.

October 15, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Hey, when are you going? I can recommend some sites but depends on the weather/seasons!

Frugal Trenchess last blog post..A wonderful new venture

October 15, 2008 at 10:51 pm

admin says:

Thanks for your tips guys!

@Frugal Trenches: November! Nice and sunny in AZ – not sure about NV and UT though…

– Miss T.

October 15, 2008 at 11:46 pm

steve says:

sounds like fun.

your trip is a little different, so you probably wouldn’t want to do this, but my girlfriend (she’s Scottish) taught me how to REALLY go thrifty when we went car camping in Nova Scotia.

We would just pull over on the side of the road at a likely spot and pitch our tent. We also had 2 campstoves and cooking stuff in a big bin in the trunk (the boot) of the car. So we would just stop at the supermarket, pick up small portions of meat and vegetables, and have a saute or a stew cooked out behind the car.

Once a day we would eat at a restaurant, and when the weather was really bad we rented a room instead of camping.

It was a beautiful trip.

October 24, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Millie says:

Your trip sounds like fun.

The SF to Ely day has the potential of being a nightmare, depending on when exactly you’ll be traveling in November. It’s hard to predict what the conditions will be like!

I can’t speak for NV, but I’m from northern CA so I know a bit about that. If they close I-80, you’ll def be okay until you hit the Truckee area about 3 hours into the driving that day. It’s really hit-or-miss sometimes.

Good luck!

October 24, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Aryn says:

It takes about 3.5-4 hours to get from SF to Reno, but it really just depends on the road conditions over the passes. Things look a lot closer on maps of the west than they actually are, especially on curvy mountain roads.

Aryns last blog post..That Makes Me Stabby: The Second Economic Stimulus Proposal

October 24, 2008 at 7:19 pm

admin says:

@steve @Millie @Aryn: Thanks so much for your advice! The SF -> Ely day is troubling me; it’s the first full day of the trip and we’re tight for time as it is, so I don’t want to fall behind that early! Fingers crossed.
– Miss T.

October 25, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Zath says:

Sounds like a really cool trip you’ve got planned – very inspiring, I’d love to do a roadtrip like that, maybe something to look at for next year!

Have a great time!

Zaths last blog post..PS3 Hard Disk Upgrade

October 28, 2008 at 10:33 pm

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