know it sounds ludicrous that you can road trip the USA on such little amount per day. But i’ve done it and it was absolutely amazing. Now considering the budget, its not going to be luxury. Most nights you’ll be camping out, some in many places you never dreamed of sleeping. Realistically though sleeping is uneventful so why should we care where we do it!
BUYING YOUR VAN
First buy a minivan, something small and fuel efficient, then insure and register it (you’ll need an international drivers licence for this process) We purchased our vehicle in Canada where we were living but its possible for foreigners to purchase vehicles in the USA. after purchasing a car you need to register it at an address, if you do not have an address it is also possible to register it at a UPS store. Your ownership documents will be sent to what ever this address is and you will need those to sell your car when you’ve finished your trip. You also need insurance with this registration and this will vary in cost from place to place. Make sure you shop around because prices vary hugely from company to company!
DECK IT OUT
Decking out your van doesn’t take a huge amount money time or skill for a basic setup, In fact i built our van with scrap timber from building sites and had it completed in a day. The most expensive part of the construction was the 6pack of beers that i drank. We all see these incredible vans all over instagram but in reality all you need is to build a simple timber bed frame and some storage which we got from Walmart and shoved underneath the bed. After the construction is complete you need to find a way to cover the windows so people can’t see you in the car. I recommend black curtains because from outside at night it just looks like the car has a dark tint and people don’t give it a second look. Yes technically you’re going to be breaking the law occasionally, but in 4 months of road tripping the states we encountered the police twice. both of which were because we slept obviously illegal spots but were simply moved on after many insincere apologies.
HOW TO STEALTH CAMP
- Truck stops are actually places for travellers to sleep in their cars, they are noisy but perfectly legal and generally have showers and facilities
- Basically any 24hr carpark is open to people sleeping for a few hours and moving on. (just don’t set up camp)
- Curbside parking is illegal, but if you arrive late and leave early nobody will see a minivan parked on the street as suspicious. go there to sleep and thats all, do your nightly things like cooking, reading ect somewhere and then drive to a sleeping spot. When you wake don’t cook on the side of the street but drive away and find somewhere public to cook breakfast.
- Walmart is fantastic for camping and you’ll see campers in most Walmart carparks, often even huge RVs. and they are everywhere. not all allow camping but the majority do (if you see other campers you’re good to stay)
- National Forests are a grey area when it comes to camping, dispersed camping (camping a certain distance from your vehicle) is legal in these forests, but we slept in our van most nights. I’m just going to say that most rangers and patrols don’t start before 8am and after 6pm. We never had a problem with camping in turnouts or at trailheads in these forests but we also were always arrived late and left early. (they generally border national parks also which will save cash in some of the major parks)
- www.freecampsites.net this is a great place to find places that others have camped, some are free campgrounds, some dispersed camps in national forests ect but some are also just sweet spots people have camped where authorities don’t care. the website explains all that and has places where other campers have reviewed the campsite
- couch surfing is always a great option, not only for a place to sleep but also to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t on a road trip. this is especially good for cities where camping out on streets and walmarts are not as easily done
PLANNING A ROAD TRIP
planning a road trip is best done while you’re saving up the cash to go, each week research places and things to see. by the time you’ve saved enough you’ll have a general idea of what you want to see. lay out a paper map and scribble all over it then find the best route, taking into consideration the seasons you’re travelling through
The beauty of a road trip is that you can go where ever you please but having a rough guide to streamline driving time will help you save on fuel. considering you’ll be sleeping in your van and eating home/van cooked meals you’re biggest expense will be fuel.
BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING!
- if it gets cold you’ll get cold. with the appropriate gear you’ll be comfortable no matter what
- Get a small fire extinguisher just encase
- Get a Cell phone for emergencies
- Carry a small toolkit
- Always have spare water or a way to purify it
- Have spare non perishable food
- Get a bobblehead for the dashboard
- Make several driving playlists because the radio is horrible in the states
- make your van home!
SPENDING LESS ON THE ROAD
An easy way of saving money on the road is to spend most of your time in nature doing free activities, Exploring nature is one of the biggest reasons i travel and therefor what i spent most time on the road doing. We noticed that the more time we spend in cities the more we spent simply because the option to do so was there. Its possible to live cheaper then the $30 a day but sometimes you are just going to want to eat a burger or have someone else make your coffee. Make sure these things are allowed for in your budget otherwise you’ll go a little crazy. there are some weeks you’ll spend more and some you’ll spend much less but these will balance out.
This road trip you’re planning will be one of the most incredible experiences of your life, it’ll change the perspectives on what you actually need to live. i’m excited for you and if you have any questions i’d love to hear from you and help in anyway i can!