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Travel costs in USA

Travel Forums North America Travel costs in USA

1. Posted by MartianTom (Budding Member 37 posts) 7y

Hi folks,
I'm planning a two-month long trip to the US, where I'll be hiring an economy car to get around. I'm looking at doing 8,000 - 10,000 miles during that time, going east to west across the northern and central states, then back via the south. I'll be staying mainly in motels, avoiding the chains as much as I can. I'll also be doing my best to avoid fast-food joints. I'm not looking to visit major tourist attractions, either. It's more about getting off the major routes and into the heart of the country. So I'll be living as cheaply and basically as possible. I did a similar trip once before, about 20 years ago, when I travelled by Greyhound. I haven't been back since. I'm allocating a budget (after car hire) of around $100 a day, to cover petrol (averaging 150 miles per day), accommodation and food. Apart from the gas, I'm a bit out of touch with prices over there now. Does my budget sound realistic?
Thanks for any advice anyone can offer.

2. Posted by Derestanne (Budding Member 36 posts) 7y

Hi Tom,

We are hearing that gasoline prices have peaked for the summer and they currently stand at a national average of $2.61 and one half cents. But that could change in a New York Minute if speculators start driving up the price again or we have a major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

You say you will avoid fast food restaurants. What then will you be doing for food? If you are going to buy your food from large stores and prepare your own meals then I would say your budget of $100 per day is probably within the realm of reason.

There are many "mom and pop" motels in the USA that are less expensive than the Chain Motels. What you get for the money can vary tremendously although I have noticed many places upgrading their facilities in recent years.

I have found that the price of motels is based less on the Brand Name and much more on the area (city / region / stretch of highway) that you are looking to stay in. For instance, you can be looking at an Interstate Highway and the motels that are less than 1/4 mile from the on and off ramps charge the most. If you are willing to drive 1 to 5 miles away from an Interstate Ramp you might be able to save $20.00 or more per night. And it likely won't matter who operates the motels - they will almost all be cheaper and more competitive, unless it is a Brand that is always expensive.

Likewise, when you drive 30 miles outside of a big city, the motel prices will suddenly drop by $10 or more. Why? Because they see less traffic and they are not close to any particular tourist attractions.

You can scout ahead on the Internet for low cost motels. One of my favorite sites to do this is: http://www.travelcoupons.com/

3. Posted by MartianTom (Budding Member 37 posts) 7y

Thanks Derestanne. Good info. The fast food joints thing is about avoiding burgers and fries as much as possible. I'm a healthy eater, and if I'm going to be sitting behind a wheel for 7 or 8 hours a day I want to do my best not to let the fat accumulate!

4. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1993 posts) 7y

150 miles a day? and you'll be behind the wheel for how many hours?

I think you need to recalculate a bit. In many areas it is impossible to avoid the Interstates, and also near impossible to avoid the chain motels and chain fast food places.
Here in the States, the fast food industry has recognized the demand for healthy eating too and you'll see salads at many places in addition to the fries and burgers. Healthy eating is hard to come by in the Heartland of America (Midwest and Plains), but quite popular in coastal states.

Really think your estimate of $100. a day is a little low - just give yourself the cushion of a credit card just in case. You will need to avoid many urban areas as prices will be out of your reach in those areas.

Perhaps it would help to rent a hybrid car too. I recently rented one and was amazed how little fuel it used (I use the carshare service - Zipcar).

[ Edit: Edited on 28-Jun-2009, at 11:20 by Daawgon ]