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Making Your Travel More Affordable

general discussion sharing ideas four-wheel drive outdoor lifestyle

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#1 biggman100

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 09:34 AM

You made a comment about how, when we are resourceful, anything can be done affordably. I would like to add to that. With 3 small children, and not a lot of extra funds to mess with most of the time, we have learned quite a few ways to make any adventure affordable, but i have noticed, more and more, that attendance at most of the things we do has been dwindling, and most people say its because they cant afford it.

 

I think what we need to do, without adding more to your busy day, is to show people ways that they can do things without spending their whole weeks pay. Some tips i have found for doing things without spending a fortune, are things like fuel, for starters, and food. What we usually do, instead of filling the tank at home, and then filling it again when we get where we are going, because a lot of the time, like our recent Adirondacks camping trip for example, we find that some places fuel prices are astronomical. When we went to the Adirondacks, we filled up before we left home at $3.95 a gallon, but when we got about 20 miles from our destination, i saw prices that were almost $5.00 in places, which to me is just crazy, so what we do is fill up when we leave home, and then fill up again when we get to around a 1/2 a tank, or when we are within 50 miles of our destination.

 

People say to me all the time, like our recent trip, it didn't take a full tank to get here, so why did you fill up before you got here? The reason is simple, this way you have enough fuel to do any sightseeing, and still have enough left to at least get to where prices may be cheaper, and avoid paying the higher rates.

 

Another one is with food. We usually have a pretty good idea how much we will need food wise, and we usually stock up before we leave because that is another thing that the closer you get to a popular destination, the more expensive it is. Those tips are good for a trip involving a few days. For a couple on a one day trip or maybe overnight, they are still useable, but you wont need as many supplies.

 

It isn't just food we try to get at home either, but things like batteries, medical supplies, anything that is essential for any trip. The best part is, getting the stuff at home, you know where you are going to get the best bargains as well. On a trip, you are at the mercy of a GPS, or someone local, who may not care that you are shopping for the best price.

 

Something i have found on long trips, that is a true time and money saver, are sites like www.gasbuddy.com. They show local gas prices for your planned destination, and most of the time who has the best price, anywhere in the country. That way if you are going somewhere that you need to fill up more than once, you have that information ahead of time. I know my two biggest tips are saving fuel, but to most people i talk to, that and lodging are the 2 biggest expenses to any trip.

 

Speaking of lodging, even if you have very small children, and the initial outlay is sometimes expensive, unless you are handy and can do repairs yourself, don't overlook pop up style campers. If you are handy, then you can sometimes get them needing minor repairs for a fair price. I know sometimes the initial set up when you get to your destination can be a pain, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The other upside is, they can be towed safely behind smaller SUV's, as long as it is done properly, without any problems.

 

Our last 2 camping trips, we took our camper, and stayed at campgrounds, and both trips combined, cost us less than two night's in a hotel. Even the extra we paid in fuel to tow the camper was negligible compared to a hotel or motel room. And if you can survive without things like electric hookup for a few days, you can rent camp sites for as little as $20 to $30 a night, and most campgrounds have weekly rates that knock some off the price of renting by the night. And if you do have to have electric hook up, most campgrounds can accommodate that for only a few dollars more.

 

Another advantage to a small pop up camper, as my wife just reminded me, is that some larger department stores, such as walmart, will sometimes, in a pinch, let you set up for a night in their parking lot. I know that isn't the ideal camping place, but a few years ago, i thought i could drive straight through to Florida from NY, and, needless to say, somewhere in North Carolina, i had gotten too tired to drive, and so was my wife, and we set up in a walmart at around 11 at night, because all the nearest campgrounds were closed by then, and spent the night in the camper, and got back on the road the next morning.



#2 Moses Ludel

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 10:19 AM

biggman100, this is very helpful, especially for families just breaking into outdoor travel or on a tight budget...The fuel think prompted our use of the Transfer Flow fuel tank for range (2200-plus miles under light load; 1600 or more pulling a trailer) in the Dodge Ram 3500.  This gives use plenty of choices around how and when to fuel!

 

Food is a big item.  Your mention of "campers", which for Westerners means "travel trailers" (campers go into the bed and hang over the cab), is important.  I do Moab at the Easter Jeep Safari each year, a business trip, and the hotel and motel rates get hiked substantially that week.  Each year, I come home shaking my head, ready to buy a travel trailer, which I have every intention of doing soon!  I used a neighbor's toy hauler for the 2012 King of the Hammers coverage, a week dry camping that worked out very nicely and allowed me to eat "at home" cooking, pre-prepared and frozen, for that entire week.  I slept with the Honda XR350R motorcycle, but the bike emitted no gas fumes, and I was okay with that, too. Those who stayed at local motels spent a small fortune on food and lodging, which is what you expect to do at Las Vegas during the SEMA Show. 

 

Actually, the Circus Circus, where I've stayed for many years, has a KOA onsite.  When I get the travel trailer, that's a real prospect as opposed to staying in the hotel during SEMA.  I can cook meals in the trailer, keep my clothes hung in a closet, full-hookups for heat and air conditioning, I can shower and such, and I'm sleeping in my own bed—without the need to do a bedbug inspection!  (In fairness, the Circus Circus has nice, clean rooms and no bedbugs.) 

 

www.gasbuddy.com is brilliant, I don't use it because of my fuel range, but I'm constantly watching prices as I pass through towns, largely the billboards at the highway.  Maybe forum members can help each other by suggesting better fuel stop areas.  I can make suggestions for those en route to Moab, UT from the S.F. Bay Area, Sacramento or our Reno Area.

 

Tent trailers (your "campers") are a mixed bag.  All of the comments you make are valid; however, there are some points to consider when deciding whether a sheet metal trailer is better than a tent trailer.  (I'll start a topic in the travel and trailer sections to address the differences.)  True, tent trailers can have a lot of features for those wanting to tow behind a lighter vehicle.  See my topic for further comments!

 

As for Walmart, that's an interesting one. Many think there's some kind of stigma staying at a Walmart parking lot. Something to the effect that this is low brow...We have a Walmart locally, and those who park overnight, (totally self-contained, this is not a trailer park or KOA) are more apt to drive a $500K diesel pusher coach home with a new Jeep JK Wrangler on the back!  All for free, and the parking lot is somewhat secure with the Walmart store open all night.  For self-contained travelers, this could work, though don't expect trees or a creek, just an asphalt pad for catching some much needed winks.  Buy some goods at the store, this is all that Walmart expects.

 

Moses



#3 biggman100

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 10:48 AM

About staying at walmart that night, it wasn't something i would have normally done, but i thought it would be safer than trying to drive any further. I know a lot of people who even have problems shopping there, let alone spend a night in their parking lot, and even my wife prefers Wegmans, a local grocery store, to walmart. Until she finished school, and went to a different and better job, my wife worked at a walmart for several years, and she says there isn't anything wrong with shopping there, she just didn't like the crowds, or how long you would have to wait in line for small purchases.

 

For years, i would see these big, expensive diesel pushers, and even tow behind campers set up in the parking lot where she worked, and until i happened to have a chat with a couple that was staying there one night, i didn't even know that Walmart allowed that. I know most of even the bigger retail areas around here have signs saying no overnight parking.



#4 joemac51

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 12:22 PM

Hello, Men,

 

Well I believe this is a very interesting topic as there is so much out there on all of the issues Biggman100 brings to the table.

 

There are many ways with which folks can save a few dollars or rather avoid spending too many dollars on travel. Folks just need to "plan" their travel. Camping is simply magnificent, and the best way to have a great weekend or vacation - but you must plan it out a bit!

 

I have been camping for many many years and my wife and I tent camped for over 20 years before she said no more - why - too expensive - too uncomfortable - too much work. How the heck camping is too expensive is another story but we didn't plan correctly and there was much waste! 

 

Well - 4 years ago while I was doing my utmost to convince my wife that we could camp economically and comfortably she discoved "Truck Campers".  I never in my wildest dreams imagined my wife in a truck camper (as I was pushing for a nice travel trailer!). While we were at a RV show in Springfield MA she gravitated to the truck campers loving their simplicity and economic benefits!

 

Needless to say we have been truck camping for over 3 years now and love it!! The best suggestion for all of the economic benefits of Truck Camping can be found at - www.truckcampermagazine.com. There are many articles from the publishers and the readers as to affordable travel tips.

 

Truck Campers are true road warriors and we stay at all kinds of places (for free!). Walmarts / Cracker Barrels / Camping World / Sam's Club's etc., while we are on our way to our destination.  As far as camping goes - for example - BLM land can be free or a nominal charge for their campgrounds. 

 

Gas prices need to be hunted and the approach given above is excellent - we do the same thing as Biggman100 and seek out prices - fill up where they are cheaper - and save a reasonable amount.

All in all, if you plan things a bit, travel can be affordable.

 

All the best, Joe Mac     



#5 biggman100

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 03:25 PM

Although this is more for couples who are traveling together with just the two of them, there are the mini vans. Now, before anyone crucifies me, i came across this idea from a friend and his wife who just came back from Washington D.C. They wanted to go there and do some sightseeing, and there was some event they wanted to attend, that i guess is held yearly, but due to very limited funds had never been able to go.

 

Long story short, they had acquired a mini van from her parents that was really cheap, and fairly easy to maintain. The van they got had fold down seats in the back, and they went camping a couple times in it, so after sewing some dark curtains for window covers, and a divider that could be folded out of the way, like guys would do with the full size vans in the 60's and 70's, they decided to go on their D.C trip, and just camp in the van.

 

After getting back from their trip, he said they stopped and bought one of the foam cushions for the rear seat, because the seat was somewhat uncomfortable, but after that fix, it worked very well for them, except meals were a bit expensive, so after looking at their van today, we decided to permanently remove the center seat, and build a small cabinet that could hold a microwave or maybe a small convection oven, with a built in decent power inverter, for quick meals, and put a small portable gas grill under the rear seat that they could take out and use when they needed to. This idea might not be for everyone, but, it is another fairly inexpensive idea for people who aren't comfortable with a tent, and cant afford a camper or travel trailer and tow vehicle. And with most campgrounds having shower and rest room facilities anymore, that issue is solved as well.



#6 biggman100

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 03:29 PM

One other tip i would like to add, for the folks with children, that we have found saves us quite a bit, especially on long trips, and is also healthier than fast food, is to pack pre-made bag lunches, or pack picnic supplies, that way when the everyone is ready for lunch, or dinner, or just wants a snack, you aren't stopping at someplace fast and convenient, and at least with me, being hungry a couple hours later. You would be surprised how much you can save by making quick meals on the road.



#7 Moses Ludel

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 06:15 PM

Well, this ought to get the hardcore four-wheelers jumping!  Not exactly Rubicon Trail material, but you know, not everyone's idea of the backcountry demands a rock buggy.  When I was writing the Owner's Bible book series on Jeep and other 4x4 light trucks, I also freelance wrote and tested vehicles for the Portland Oregonian

 

I recall a Mazda 4WD mini-van that was extremely well built.  As a member of the Lane County Search and Rescue volunteer 4x4 Jeep CJ contingency from Oakridge, Oregon, I found the van of little interest at the time but did write a positive review.  In hindsight, that Mazda van could easily have handled some of Nevada's well graded gravel roads that reach miles into the desert valleys...Different strokes, there could be some outdoor lifestyle use for these AWD vans after all!

 

Your comments about carrying quality food in packages is very wise.  We use a great ARB 12V refrigerator for that chore.  Over time, we also have learned to purchase quality food in advance of travel.  This helps avoid the extortion and junk food at convenience stores and fast food outlets...Eat better, it's often much cheaper when you're on the road! 

 

Moses



#8 biggman100

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 07:59 PM

Actually, your comment about not being Rubicon trail material reminded me of something. I don't know much about what is needed to run the Rubicon, but, a few years ago, a guy i worked with had actually built a lifted AWD Chevy Astro van. He said he had built it, so he could take it, as he put it, extreme off roading. I thought i still had a pic of it, but i couldn't seem to find it, but i did a search in google, and found a lifted astro van, and a lifted ford aerostar, So, who knows, maybe you could run a mini van on the Rubicon. I enclosed the pics of a couple i found on google. Who knows, maybe someone will actually want to build one.

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#9 Moses Ludel

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 03:53 PM

High center-of-gravity looks precarious for the Rubicon Trail!...A longer wheelbase was once considered a liability, too, but the JK Wrangler with 4-door Unlimited 116" wheelbase version broke that standard.  Of course, it takes 35"-37" tires (minimum) for a JK Wrangler 4-door model to do the Rubicon Trail without ongoing break-over angle issues and hanging up on the skid plate!

 

Moses





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