Spring break in California for $500

How we travel cheap:

My two friends and I are hitting the road for nine days of California sun, sand, and beaches for less than $500 dollars each! (Plus whatever we each choose to spend on shopping and souvenirs.)

Our first “cheap” choice was to pick camping as our primary form of accommodation. Most nights ended up being just over $40 including tax. We already have camping gear like tents, sleeping bags, campfire chairs, a camping stove, cooking utensils and tools, and even air mattresses.

Our Roadtrippers app let us know what our total mileage to drive to our final destination, Border Field State Park, and back would be, as well as an estimate of how much the gas would cost ($300).

We came up with half a menu for our trip. We wanted to have the flexibility to eat out if we found an awesome place and we didn’t want food taking up too much space in our little sedan. We can always go grocery shopping in California. Meal total after scavenging what we could from our family freezers? About $40. For snacks, we lucked out because the last of our meal plans at college went toward having some ready-to-eat road food. In campus dining dollars we ended up spending about $80, but if we’d bought the same snacks from Costco it would come out to about $40. There’s no place as over-priced as a college cafeteria.

We’re cramming the 17-hour drive home into two days and plan on driving as far as we can on the first day before we call it and head for the nearest decent hotel. We’ve estimated the hotel amount based on hotel rates we researched around the halfway point of the return trip.

We divided the cost of all this between the three of us, plus plenty of wiggle room for fluctuating gas prices and MPG of the car and it’s less than $500 each! That’s a steal for that kind of vacation!

Some travel tips:

Use Roadtrippers to plan it all – You can share your plans with your friends and add and change stops and their order. The website tells you the distance between stops in miles and in the amount of time it will take to travel. There’s even a total mileage counter and time for the entire trip. And one of the best features, an estimate on how much gas for your entire route will cost. This is a great way to get an idea of how much your trip will be. Roadtrippers total+lodging+food+wiggle room= trip cost

Your trip will go best if it’s a combination of careful planning and free time – You’ll want some of the big things taken care of, like lodging in remote places and enough food that you won’t devolve into a full-out hangry tantrum if no one can agree on a restaurant or your card gets stolen or you spend more money on fancy ice cream than you thought or any other hundred scenarios. But make sure to leave enough time to go on the little-known hike that local tell you about or to visit the seaside bakery everyone around you seems to have bags from. Find the balance between planning and adventure that works best for you and your travel party.

If possible, plan most activities for weekdays – Busy tourist attractions are popular for a reason, ao you may want to stop by some or all the most visited ones on your trip. If you go in the off-season that’s good, but weekdays in the off-season are even better.

One bad night is just one bad night. You end up at a campground that’s half mud and full of bugs, your hotel is near some busy railroad tracks, your choice of travel breaks down or you’re delayed for hours. Sure, sometimes unfortunate stuff happens or you end up with a bad destination, but remember, you’re only there for a day or so. The next leg of your trip might be better, or you might find one of the best hikes you’ve been on near that swampy campground.

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