Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Road Trip - Car Camping!


My name is Sara and I'm looking for some advice. I am in my first year of university in Halifax, Nova Scotia but am from Ontario. I am looking to plan a long road trip (somewhere from 2-3 months) and would like to do a USA trip with my cousin. We are planning on working for 14 months beforehand to prepare (and save), and then take off in early summer of 2012. I am interested in the routes described on your website, and think that with our own modifications would be very useful. A few questions from an unseasoned road-tripper: I am looking to make this as low-budget as possible, so motels are not an everyday option. Are there places along these routes where we can get a super cheap campsite or just park the car? Also, restaurants can't be a regular thing either. What do people usually do for cooking/eating food on long trips? We have never taken a road trip by our own car but we camp a lot/ have travelled a lot and are used to roughing it, so the cheap way always wins! Any info/advice is greatly appreciated!!

thanks a lot,



Hi Sara --

Thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA, and sorry it took me a while to get back to you. Then again, you've given me a year + notice before your trip, so I hope here's still time for me to help!

I'm glad you like the routes on the website -- if you get a chance, I hope you'll check out the Road Trip USA book, which presents them in an even more appealing way.

I appreciate your need to keep expenses low on a road trip. When I was young, I traveled around for more than 2 months, doing a lot of camping and only once paying for a room, so it can be done. Especially in the western US, there are many cheap and some free campsites -- especially in National Forests and National Parks, and other federal lands, so if you able to do some short hikes and get away from the commercial world, you can see all sorts of magical scenes.

You can search thousands of free and cheap campsites at this US government website:

In general, I don't recommend just pulling off to the side of the road, however -- it's generally against the law, and there are enough freaky scary people out there that it's not worth the risk. Better to head off into the wilds, and take your chances with the grizzly bears.


Anyway, it's much more attractive to wake up next to a lake or mountain, than to wake up next to a parking lot!

About eating, I live on a diet of apples and cherry pies, and when I camp I usually carry a small butane stove and a couple pots and pans, for heating up soup and water for coffee or tea.

From what you say in your letter I think you know what you're getting yourself and you sound well prepared -- so I hope you and your cousin have fun planing this trip, and if you want any more detailed advice once you decide on a route or two, please feel free to get back in touch.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA



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