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Planning The Great American Road Trip

Road trip
Road trip

I’ve been wanting to take a road trip across the United States to visit every state ever since I could drive, and so today I thought it would be fun to dream a little bit and plan the Great American Road Trip, something I very much hope to do as soon as the pandemic is over and things are open again.

As I was putting together my list of 365 Cool Things to Collect, it dawned on me how much fun it would be to visit different museums and tourist attractions to view all sorts of collections across the U.S.

While we probably still have a long way to go before we see any end to the pandemic, I still remain hopeful that I really will be able to go on this trip someday – and of course on the bright side, it just gives me more time to research, plan and save to make this really happen!

First Things First: Transportation and Lodging

Vintage bus
Vintage bus

I’ve thought about different transportation and lodging possibilities, and the one that makes the most sense is for us to buy a small motorhome and camp near the different places we visit.

We aren’t new to camping by any means {I’ve been camping since I was 5 months old!} and we’ve owned a couple of campers over the years. Our current camper doesn’t meet our needs {the kids have literally outgrown it!} so it’s been on our list to sell it and get a new one for awhile now.

Will we buy a vintage motorhome?

One of the things people are asking me already is whether we will buy a vintage motorhome. While I LOVE the look of vintage motorhomes, sadly my answer for this is a hard no, mainly because we actually owned a vintage motorhome at one point.

Sadly the maintenance to keep them running, not to mention the lack of things we take for granted like ABS and modern power steering just makes it not very practical, especially when driving large distances far from home.

So we will probably look into a newer model of motorhome – we’ve also considered the possibility of converting a school bus into a motor home. While we still have a LOT of time to plan for what kind of motorhome we will be getting, I do have to admit I have a weird obsession with looking at sites like rvtrader.com for ideas.

We’ve also already quickly ruled out the idea of towing anything. We have a pull-behind camper now and every time we tow I’m a white knuckled mess of a person in the front seat. Once while towing our camper we encountered a tornado literally less than a mile away from where we were driving. It’s stressful, and I want to go on a trip to have fun, not worry about things like extra tires that could go flat.

We also don’t know at this point whether the trip would just be my husband and I, or whether our kids-who-will-be-adults-by-then would be joining us. There’s a big difference in whether a motorhome sleeps 2 or 6, so a large purchase like a motorhome is something that will likely wait until the year we know for sure we are going.

Fortunately, while we wait, we can still visit things like RV Shows, which are a great way to tour different campers for ideas!

Camping while we travel will save us a lot on the cost of hotels, and of course for more urban and metro areas we can always book a night at a nearby hotel and take advantage of services like Uber or Lyft. Not to mention, I LOVE visiting new campgrounds – and often times that can be a great source of fun things I like to collect since their gift shops often sell things such as keychains and small local souvenirs.

Of course, another option is to stay at hotels, vacation rental cabins and AirBnB’s instead of in a camper. So, that could be a possibility, and it would certainly save us on the cost of actually buying and maintaining a motorhome. We will have to do a cost comparison!

Mapping Out Our Trip: Types of Places I Want to Visit

Clearwater National Forest Sign Department of Agriculture
Clearwater National Forest Sign Department of Agriculture

I haven’t decided on what direction or order we will travel everywhere yet, but we will most likely be starting in our home state of PA and going North before we move South and then westward.

There are a lot of different types of places to go and see, and so I decided to make a list of the different types of places and events I would most like to visit on our travels. Who knows? By the time I’m done with this list, it might even turn into a trip that takes more than a year to complete!

Historic Sites

My Dad got us all into Colonial re-enactment about a decade ago, and so I definitely have developed an appreciation for historic sites. These places can be very interesting and they often have festivals in the spring and fall.

Factory Tours

I have always wanted to tour the Crayola factory ever since I watched a Mr. Roger’s episode about it as a kid. I’d also love to see a jigsaw puzzle factory as that is something else I like quite a good bit.

Fairs and Festivals

There are a LOT Of different fairs and festivals that occur year round. One that has been on my list for eons is to go to a Sheep and Wool festival as I do love to spin my own handmade yarn.

Flea Markets

Of COURSE I plan to visit some famous flea markets while we are on our trip. While I most likely won’t be buying a ton at these places due to space constraints, I always love a good day of flea marketing.

Movie & Television Filming Locations

We visited Savanah Georgia one year just because my husband was in love with the movie Forest Gump. While the park bench filmed in the movie isn’t actually a real park bench, it was still neat to tour the city and learn more about its rich history.

Museums

There are a lot of unique museums that display all sorts of interesting collections. Something like the National Mustard Museum may be off the beaten path, but it’s certainly something I look forward to touring! I’ve already told my husband I’m dragging him to the Salt Shaker Museum!

Musical Places of Interest

One day when my friend and I were in high school, she informed me that the hometown of Nine Inch Nails star Trent Reznor was just about an hour’s drive away. We had a lot of fun touring the tiny little town and while it didn’t have much in terms of tributes to Trent, it was cool to think, hey, he was in marching band on this field!

National Parks

The first National Park I visited as a kid was Shenandoah National Park and those memories still fondly stick with me today. I would visit it again, although of course I hope to add a few more National parks to my list!

I’m sure I will think of other ideas as we travel, but for now these are the top attractions for types of places I want to go visit. Now that I have a plan for what kind of things I want to look for and research, it’s time to start making the master list of places to visit in each state!

The Plan for Budgeting and Saving

Piggy bank with calculator
Piggy bank with calculator

Lastly, but perhaps the most important aspect to planning this trip is to properly budget and plan. A lot of attractions and museums have an admission charge and of course we will need to also save up for gas, meals, personal expenses and campground rentals.

I LOVE the app YouNeedaBudget.com and I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to save a good bit for this trip. Not buying a motorhome may actually end up being less expensive depending on the length of the trip, so we will have to do some research on that.

Since costs can vary depending on whether we get a motorhome or whether we stay at vacation rentals and hotels, I’m going to include both possible scenarios so I can compare and think it over. {I have plenty of time to mull it over!} I’ve also included different time frames in these preliminary budgets, as it’s a significant difference between hitting the road for 2 months or 6 months or even a year!

Budget A – Camping for 2 People

  • Motorhome: $35,000
  • Campground Rentals $50/night
  • Meals: $30/day {one advantage to camping in a motorhome is we can save a LOT on food because we can cook it ourselves}
  • Admission Fees: $30 Most places I’ve researched average between $5 to $15 for admission, $30 is a good average for 2 people.
  • Misc Expenses: $20/day This includes personal expenses and unplanned expenses which are always a good idea to budget for.
  • Gas: $35/day If we drive 700 miles in a week, that averages to about 100 miles a day. Most motorhomes only get 10 mpg, so that’s about 10 gallons of gas per day.

Total Cost Per Day: $155

Of course, this trip also involves saving up at least $35,000 to buy a motorhome, but I’m glad I calculated the costs. A three month trip would cost $13,950 plus the cost of the motorhome at $35,000 for a total of $48,950.

Budget B: Vacation Rentals

  • Vacation Rental Cost Per Night: $125
  • Meals: $75 Not being able to cook as often means our meals will probably be more expensive.
  • Admission Fees: $30
  • Misc Expenses: $20/day
  • Gas: $14 We get significantly better gas mileage in our personal car, so we can save a lot here.

Total Cost Per Day: $264

This route would cost significantly more per day, but an added benefit is I don’t have to save up $35,000 first to buy a motorhome. In the long run, this is actually a cheaper option, as it would cost $23,760 for a 3 month trip. We could also probably cut this cost significantly if we stayed in budget hotels for different parts of the trip. If we stayed only in budget-friendly places that charge $87/night, our cost would be $226/day and a 3 month trip would cost $20,340.

Anyways, I’m mostly just thinking out loud here, but it’s fun to plan for our Great American Road Trip! Coming up next: A List of Attractions and Places I want to Visit State By State!


Have you ever wanted to go on a Great American Road Trip? What places do you want to see and visit? Do you think we should buy a motorhome and camp or should we go with staying at vacation rentals? If you’ve been on an epic road trip, I want to hear ALL about it. How did you plan? What did you do! Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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