Oy! It’s been a whirlwind since I got back from Pennsylvania. Work, family events, friend plans…May evaporated quickly, and here it is already 5 days into June.
I wanted to kinda share how we’re keeping our biggest trip yet cheap and also how we are packing for 18 days on the road. For 2 and a half weeks, ten states, ten National Parks and thousands of miles we will be living out of 4 small totes and a cooler. These ~7″ deep totes we got from The Container Store stack and store well under our camper bed so they stay out of the way. One tote is kitchen/cooking items, one is bathroom/laundry, and I and B each have one for our clothing. We will be in many different states, altitudes and seasons on this trip so we will be bringing an array of weather appropriate clothing.
Besides that, we each have our backpacks which will be pre-packed for the 3 nights on the Mt. Whitney Trail; plus one bear canister filled with 4 days of food. Both of our overall pack weights should be about 27lbs.
We decided to really try and be conservative with money & pack super light for this trip to keep it simple and to keep the vehicle and trailer weight as low as possible. We won’t be eating out much at all, probably just a handful of times – we plan to eat a lot of our breakfast and lunch while driving from our cooler, and preparing our own dinner at our campsite each night so grocery store trips and gas should be the main reason we’re spending money at all. (And a Mt. Whitney t-shirt, cause…c’mon!)
You wouldn’t believe how I used to go car camping. For 2 days sitting in a campground, I would bring (probably) my entire closet, all of my bedding, an unbelievable amount of food, beer, and snackage plus some odds and ends. Backpacking the last 2 and a half years has taught me the value of necessity and how to pack lightly and efficiently!
Most of our campsites for this entire trip are booked and paid for already which we started doing about 4 – 6 months ago to offset spending money while traveling. We will be staying mostly within National Parks, so as an early birthday gift, my mom got us a National Park Pass for $80, which will grant us entry into every park at no charge.
We’ll be going through or staying at about 9-10 parks, so that will save us approximately $190+. We have been working extra overtime and paying things off as we go so that this is doable. Taking two and a half weeks off of work and one of us not getting paid vacation time is very stressful, but with planning and saving you can make anything work! Even a trip like this.
Except for the last leg home, we will be guaranteed a place to sleep every night. We are gonna wing the last three days on the road. Using apps like Allstays and KOA we can book a site from the road or pull into a rest stop if we get tired of driving.
Most campgrounds have hot showers and laundry, so we will be able to feel somewhat human while living on the road. No need for $60+/night hotels. If you’re traveling in a large camper vs. a pop-up like ours, you likely already have the shower/laundry option!
I used to see so many people posting photos or blog posts of beautiful places and I always wondered, “How?…how can people my age or younger do this?” It’s not *cheap* but it doesn’t break us either. We are an average couple with average debts and full-time jobs but we manage to do things – with proper planning and budgeting! I do not get paid time off. So I work double days in my salon, pay all of our bills in advance that I need to, then save the extra for fun money on our trips! My weekly and monthly Monat income pays for our camper. Would I love to be one of those digital nomads that travel the world, funded by travel companies? Heck yes. But…that’s not realistic. So we make do with what we’ve got.
Connect with people on social media. I’ve slept in Internet stranger’s (now friends!) guest rooms where they’ve graciously supplied us with showers and food, I’ve slept in my car at rest stops and campgrounds, I’ve camped on hostel lawns, I’ve eaten only gas station food. We’ve left at 5 pm on a Friday night, explored a new place Saturday and been home Sunday by dinner. Weekend warrior status.
Someone said to me the other day, “You are legit going on a ‘retired person’ vacation this summer!” And I just laughed. ‘Cause…I’m sorry but I ain’t waitin’ til I’m retired to do things.
Do you want to travel? Do you want to “just go” and have amazing experiences? Do it. You have this one life! A few years ago I was in a vicious cycle of being burnt out on my job and not getting enough time for myself and my family. I changed things and now I am the happiest I’ve ever been. It’s all about the balance. Working extra hard = playing extra hard. You CAN make it happen, you CAN do it. You just gotta choose what is important and valuable to you. To me – it’s about doing and seeing all I can, while I can.
Adventure is out there, but it won’t come to you…you have to go after it!
What are your best travel tips or learned lessons?!