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Old 12-23-2014, 10:51 AM
405 posts, read 419,468 times
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You absolutely can take a road trip on $500-$700. Now, you're road trip that you're talking about is probably different than the ones I used to take back in the day, but you can still do it.

Right after high school, before we had to do too much in the real world, a friend and I would fill up one of our cars with gas, pick a direction, and see how far we could make it on that tank of gas. We always made sure we had enough money for gas to get home, which back then a full tank in our cars would be $15-$23. We'd get to the place and explore a little bit and head home either later that day or the next day. If we went home the next day, we would usually find a Walmart parking lot to sleep in. If we knew in advance that we were spending the night, we'd make sure we had the money for a night in a motel/hotel also.

Depending on the length of your road trip, you should be fine. I wouldn't recommend trying to drive from NY to CA and back for instance, but if you just want a 2 or 3 day trip, you should be fine even if you have to pay for a motel sometime.
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Old 12-23-2014, 11:44 AM
Location: Charlotte, NC
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I think a lot of it depends on where you start. If you are in a mountainous area, or an area with higher gas prices, the road trip might not go off so well. If not, then you could probably do okay for a week or so. I wouldn't plan on being gone too long unless you can arrange for some work along the way to prolong your trip. Check out some job listings on CL in towns along your way. You might get a little lucky in that someone needs work for a day. $100 can go a long way in gas if you drive carefully and stay out of the go-pedal.

If I were to take my truck for a limited-budget trip, it would cost me $80 per tank that gets me about 450 miles on the highway, give or take a little bit. So, $400 could get me 1000 miles away with not much problem. Food and beverage costs would be higher, but maybe get a camp stove and a bunch of ramen noodles. It ain't glamorous, but do you want more trip or better food?

I'd take my budget and spend half to get away and then the other half to get back. I would make sure I had $100 as a reserve in case something goes wrong (flat tire, need a tow, etc.)

There was an article I read in Men's Health (iirc) about a guy and his buddies that did what they called the $1 road trip. It was a fairly interesting idea, but I don't think I would go to that extreme.

I may have to do a $1000 road trip some time if I find myself in need of a break from everything. The possibilities seem interesting.
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Old 12-23-2014, 01:09 PM
Location: North Idaho
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Originally Posted by mlb8251 View Post
...... Can you take a road trip on $500-700? .........
My budget is kind of low, since I'm out of work right now. Can you sleep in your car at highway rest areas to save money on hotels?
Can I take a road trip for $700? You bet. But I own a travel trailer and all the camping equipment I could ever need, and I live in Oregon where we have the most beautiful state park campgrounds for a reasonable overnight fee. Plus, I have annual passes for state park day use areas at no charge and for National parks that get me in free and sometimes camping is half price.

However, if you don't own camping equipment and are clever, you can make yourself a bed roll, buy a can of bug repellant and stay in state or national campgrounds. Most states have them and they tend to be cheap.

Either cook cheap meals, or if you don't own any camping gear, eat fresh fruit, lunch meat, cheese, and bread from grocery stores and buy prepared food from grocery store delis. In my state, the grocery stores all sell fried chicken that is half the cost of fast food chicken and tastes twice as good.

Casinos in Las Vegas do not have free campgrounds. Casinos in Oregon all allow free camping. Whatever state you will be in, that could be checked on-line.

The Walmarts that are close to me do not allow overnight parking. I don't know how far this policy spreads through the company, but Walmart is no longer a guaranteed free place to stay.

Many fairgrounds have camping facilities and it is cheap to stay there. If there are no events going on, they will feel dark and deserted, but they have security that patrols around, often armed security, so I usually feel safe there. That can be checked on line and reservations would either be made on-line or on the phone. You have to be there before the office closes for the night.
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Old 12-23-2014, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by jane_sm1th73 View Post
I can think of quite a few legit reasons to take a road trip while unemployed. One is to scope out a new city which may have better employment prospects. I have done this myself, several times. I had played out my string in the places I lived - I felt they had started into decline. In the first place I left, three of the town's major employers were on life support. Kodak was asleep at the wheel when digital photography emerged into public consciousness. Don't know what happened with Xerox and Bausch and Lomb, but they appeared to be sliding down as well. It was not a good vibe - people started walking differently, shifting their eyes away at the grocery store. I simply did not want to be there anymore.

Had to get out of there before I got cemented in. The first step was research, research, research. Demographics, education level, median income and unemployment stats (relative to where you are now; state; and national) give a profile. Since it's never ALL about the numbers, it's also necessary to feel the vibe and to see for yourself. In my case, I did not want to head out into a mecca for service jobs, or to a place where peoples' idea of the good life was square miles of identical boxes.

Each of the places I explored was quite a distance away. Seeing the unknown made it easier to launch off into the unknown. At least I knew what I was heading toward.

My flight stories had good endings. In every case where I researched better prospects, and actually drove there to see if I could bring myself to live there, I wound up better off than if I had stayed in the place I left. It didn't even take long. A difference of even 1% in FT unemployment makes a huge difference to the feeling of vitality in an area, and in the quality of life. People lose the edge of desperation that turns to meanness on a dime. I moved away to places that had 2% lower unemployment rates.

Much, much better to get out of Dodge on the first wave, than to spend your savings trying to hold on, only to wind up sinking with the ship. Even if you own a house - if you're the first one out the door, and tell your realtor you want to price it to sell fast, you'll get a decent price. The real estate agents will keep the "prosperity" price pumped up with smoke and mirrors for as long as they possibly can. Once the man on the street wakes up and smells the coffee, the second wave is a mad rush for the exits that drives housing prices down by 30%. There is no third wave. The ones remaining are stuck, out of savings, unable to sell, unable to refinance, and trying madly to make it all work with multiple part time jobs and renting out the empty bedrooms.

IMHO, I can think of at least two other scenarios where a road trip while unemployed makes perfect sense. Personally, I cut the OP some slack. I've been there, got the T-shirt.
Well said.

Now is the perfect time to scope out a new location. It's also a good time to get to catch up with friends and family.

You can certainly sleep at truck stops, Walmart parking lots, rest areas, camp grounds, all night restaurants, hospitals.... You can also bunk with friends and family for a day or two Though some will view you as a moocher, others will welcome the chance to catch up on the news.

We've had several guests this year who were traveling through and stopped by for a night or two. It was a joy visiting with them.
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Old 12-23-2014, 04:34 PM
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Check out hostels. Hostels.com - Great deals on hostels anywhere!

You can spend a night in NYC for $20. There are hostels all over the place. Dorm rooms. Community kitchen. Usually have good deals on tickets to local attractions.

Combined with nights in between at truck stops and you could have quite the holiday on $500.

Bon voyage!
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Old 12-23-2014, 04:44 PM
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Or find a buddy who has $500 and the two of you can have an adventure together.

Check out the deals on roomsaver.com or pick up those newsprint hotel coupon booklets at truck stops. Hotels offer good deals on rooms if they are still available that night, no reservations. We've stayed at some great places with full breakfasts for very affordable prices, in the $50 range. For two to spend the night that and eat a full breakfast, it's a good deal.

Using the booklets, when we get tired, I call to one that looks good to find out if they have any rooms. Usually no trouble.
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Old 12-23-2014, 04:45 PM
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Be sure to have a credit card with some room on it or a couple hundred tucked back for emergencies, such as a rock throughout the radiator.

Just saying.
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Old 12-23-2014, 05:05 PM
Location: City of Angels
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I have been homeless and living out of my car a few times. Truck stops and wal-marts are my preferred places to sleep when I am in these situations. Can get showers at truck stops too which is nice. have done 5 LA-Sacramento round trips in the last two weeks and since my pay for it is just a flat fee and hotel would cut into my profit have been taking naps at truck stops along the way when I get tired. Havent had any problems
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Old 12-23-2014, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by spankys bbq View Post

I may have to do a $1000 road trip some time if I find myself in need of a break from everything. The possibilities seem interesting.
What a great idea for a thread!
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Old 12-23-2014, 08:43 PM
14,253 posts, read 23,969,886 times
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Originally Posted by annerk View Post
I live in a suburban area. our hospital has free parking, and security. Security is not going to allow you to sleep in your car all night in the parking lot. The cops don't bother people at WalMart unless they look like derelicts. They will only let people stay one night so it doesn't become a vagrant hang out--and they do keep track of comings and goings.

I took a shower at a truck stop about 10 years ago after my niece got car sick all over my lap. They had no problem with selling me a shower while my husband used a washer and dryer to clean our clothes.

I know of a number of people who have slept in their cars in hospital parking lots. They do not have the money for a hotel and the drive home is just too much for them at the time. I have to admit that I have done it a couple of times myself.
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