Monday, March 18, 2013


I’ve been going over my Southwestern trip expenses.  Again. 
Always looking for ways to cut costs.  I spent an average of $236/week on this last trip and I know now I can do far better. 
Knowing that 72% of those dollars went into my gas tank, I’m not sure how to lower fuel costs beyond what I’m already doing – driving 60 MPH and using Gas Buddy to find the least expensive gas along my route. 

Because the GDB is so comfortable on the highway, I’ll probably be using interstates more than I thought I would.  I usually prefer secondary roads but interstate driving will likely cut down on the miles while improving my MPG. 


Of course I could save fuel by never leaving the driveway but we all know that’s not an option.
I’m thinking I can easily get down to about $200/week.  That’s with fewer camping fees, fewer meals out, no sightseeing costs, and no souvenirs. 

I’ve learned I can dry-camp just about anywhere.  In the future, I should only need hook-ups if it's hot out and the A/C is needed.  Regarding food, I’ve had some really good meals on the road but most are mediocre, so I’m far less tempted to eat out in the future.  Except for the occasional value-meal maybe.  We never eat fast-food at home so it's kind of a treat on the road.  All the chains seem to have several items for $1.  I can do that once-a-week and not go up a dress size, right?   

I don’t mind paying to see an attraction I really want to see.  For example, the $50 for a day at the Kennedy Space Center was worth every dollar.  And I don’t regret buying those mementos at McDonald Observatory either.  But I’ll settle for coming away with only photos and National Park stamps from now on. 

I could have saved over $400 on this last trip had I taken all the above measures. 
I’m learning.  I've also been reading frugal travel websites.  If you have any other suggestions, please share!  
My real hope is to get the cost down to $170 – $180/ week.  



  1. Just don't skip something just to pinch a penny. But don't go in just because it is there.

  2. From a Georgia Native here ( way north mountains ) and partimers ourselves and formerly owning some small OTR trucks if I may offer for some savings.

    Always make sure those tires are aired to specs.
    Keep your rig waxed with a good quality wax.Yes,it really works.
    A question for you.Why would you want full hookups at a campground when you have a generator which should still be cheaper torun than campground fees?.
    We boondook ourselves with a 26 foot fifth wheel and always strive to boondock which gives us money for other items.
    One being those passport stamps,lol.We are diggin on that idea.
    Have a great week.Trip and Lisa

  3. Kim, good thoughts on the food. I am usually disappointed in restaurant foods. I often think, I could have cooked a better meal than that... for a fraction of the price.

    Deli roasted chickens are great for easy dinners, and the leftovers for chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken and salsa lunches, etc. I can eat for 3 or 4 days off one. And if I'm camped somewhere where I have the time, I can keep the bones and get a nice pot of chicken soup out of them, too.

    Some people really need to hit all the local attractions. I can travel cheaply because I am truly happiest wandering through natural areas and taking photos. If I'm going to spend money on attractions, it's usually on historical sites, or in one of those little shops that sell antiques and collectables, or where local craftspeople and artists sell their work. Since I know I will not get out of them without spending money, I usually just admire from a distance. :)

    I am very impressed with your travel budget. Always keep a few dollars stuck back to enjoy a guilt-free splurge, though. It gives you a feeling of freedom and spontaneity that being TOO careful can kill.

  4. I like to get a take out dinner salad from a good restaurant every now and again. I don't keep salad makings -- not enough room in the fridge. And I can divide up a huge dinner salad into quarters. That paired with my own soup or a half sandwich will last at least 4 meals.

  5. I buy large restaurant meals and bring back half in a takeout container so I get a twofer from each meal. Large meals do not cost twice what small meals do. At Panda Express, one of their 3 entree meals will feed me for for 3 meals.

  6. Be careful of the fast food, even the $1.00 items once a week. It's addicting...AND fattening! I'd rather spend $ on one interesting meal every other week...local food perhaps...also look for local events where food is served..usually inexpensive and you get to eat native!

  7. All good suggestions. Thanks everyone! I asked on the Roadtrek discussion board and got some good input about running the air conditioner via the generator. Now that I know I can dry-camp I'm reluctant to pay for a place to sleep.

  8. I've read, but not sure of accuracy, that the sweet spot for the best MPG is between 45 and 50. I tend to dawdle along at around fifty most of the time, but then DH has to wait for me to catch up - we drive separately - and usually on lesser-traveled roads. I have noticed, though, that on the fill ups where I have been the main driver, the MPG tends to be a little higher. DH drives a bit faster, about 60, if we go on a day trip, and I see the difference when we fill up. Whether this would make much of a difference in the long run on your expenses, I have no idea.

    Food out can be a big expense, and we hardly ever eat out for that reason, and for the integrity of the food itself. If we have a glowing recommendation for a place, we have no problem with giving it a whirl, but haven't had much luck in enjoying the ad hoc places along the way, so we don't do that. I always keep tortillas on hand, and just fill them with whatever leftovers are hanging around, put them in a frying pan, sprinkle on some cheese and salsa, cover 'em and heat for a couple of minutes on the stove, or in the microwave if that is available. Add some black olives, scallions, and chopped peppers (any color) when it comes out, some sour cream, if you have it, and wow! This is a great meal and costs almost nothing; use a paper plate and there is minimum clean up.

    If you are underway and have stopped at a roadside picnic area, or a grocery store, or shopping center parking lot, you can do this in a flash, and then leave the pan to be cleaned when you stop for the night. The pan should be minimally impacted, so a napkin, and a swish with a bit of water, might totally be all the "dishwashing" that is necessary.

  9. I got nothing for you. My budget has been shot to hell by the moho's 5mpg's when we're driving up hills or fighting head winds.

  10. you are doing great..just think how many people you are meeting on the road and that will be a big help in the future..networking is the name of the game...hope you can stop by next year if you do Quartzsite again...I can offer a nice free place to park...shower..and a glass of wine on the front porch.

  11. My solar installation has saved me TONS of money. It costs a bit initially, but I've spent so little on campsites since then.

    I also save money by cooking in most of the time. I very seldom eat out, and I'm getting fresh, wholesome food.

    I can live on very little and still do exactly what I want to do.

    It took a while to get in the groove, though, because I had to try different things to see what worked best for me. I took advice, asked questions, checked out my options. You're doing the same thing. It's so much more fun when you have a little experience and kind of know what's up, you know?


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