Where do I sleep?
November 2, 2006 2:12 PM   Subscribe

How can I do a roadtrip on the cheap?

I'm planning to go on a 1 month long roadtrip sometime soon. The problem is, I dont have one of those fancy vans. All I've got is a 4 door car. Over a month of travel, accomodations turn out to be the most expensive expenditure. Even if we stay in hostels ($20/night minimum) it works out to about $600 over the course of the trip. I've though of camping, but that's kind of nasty - no showers for a couple of days and then driving for 10 hours.. Is there something obvious I'm forgetting or am I just gonna have to bite the bullet?
posted by aeighty to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
Are there national or state/province parks where you are headed? Many of them have showers you can use. I've taken road trips where we camped for two nights, and then stayed in a hotel on every third night--it's cheapeer, and you do get a good night's sleep and a good shower often enough to feel human.
posted by donajo at 2:20 PM on November 2, 2006

Response by poster: Interesting idea. I'll be travelling through US and I think there's a pretty extensive park network. I'll do some more research, thanks donajo.
posted by aeighty at 2:22 PM on November 2, 2006

Campsites have showers.
posted by smackfu at 2:23 PM on November 2, 2006

some truckstops also have showers.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:43 PM on November 2, 2006

Many truckstops have showers as well.
posted by LarryC at 2:44 PM on November 2, 2006

If by 'soon,' you mean in the winter, make sure you check out the campsites online or by calling ahead of time. Even in state parks you can't necessarily camp year-round.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:50 PM on November 2, 2006

stay with friends, relatives
posted by canoehead at 3:00 PM on November 2, 2006

You might want to spring for a copy of the Trailer Life RV Parks, Campgrounds and Services Directory. It's a pretty comprehensive guide to private campgrounds and lists most of the larger state parks. They also inspect and rate shower/bathroom facilities.

Bigger State Parks are usually more interesting and less expensive than the roadside campgrounds like KOA. The bathrooms/showers are generally much nicer than you might expect for public parks.
posted by laptop_lizard at 3:06 PM on November 2, 2006

You really won't need to shower that often if you're going in the winter, since you won't be sweating as much as summer. However, the downside is that you can't take a grit-ball bath by jumping in a lake. My boyfriend took a four month road trip last summer and spent less than $1500. I think at one point he had gone about a week without showering and he said that after a certain amount of time the smell just sort of went away (or he got really used to it).
When I worked at a boy scout camp for two summers teaching archery there were a few days in a row that I would go without a shower because there were some issues with the staff showers (and being female, I couldn't shower in the camper's shower area). It really isn't that bad.

Also, have you thought about posting on craigslist looking for platonic crash-on-your-floor-friends?
posted by banannafish at 3:13 PM on November 2, 2006

Remember too that you'll get cheaper rates at all the campsites (private, state, or national) because you're tenting - so don't look at the RV rates.
Also, get some baby wipes and use them for waterless showering (as my mom used to say "just the cracks"). I find that the unscented ones at Target work just great. Put 'em in a big 'ol ziploc and use as needed.
posted by dbmcd at 3:19 PM on November 2, 2006

Couch Surf
posted by cholly at 3:36 PM on November 2, 2006

Response by poster: To answer some questions:

1. going this upcoming summer (or around there)
2. going without showers is possible, but not conducice for a continuing friendship between 2-4 people travelling in a said car.
3. couch surfing is something that i've considered, but not with the number of people going.

Thanks for all the suggestions i'll check out that directory.
posted by aeighty at 4:09 PM on November 2, 2006

Use a good anti perspirant for a start. Don't overdress and get hot, you'll just get smelly. Wear clothes that breath.

Wear sandals or socks (if legal) while driving. Wearing sandals AND socks will make people call you `Gramps', particularly if you pull the socks up all the way.

You can wash pretty effectively out of a sink if you have some soap and a hand towel. You honestly don't need to shower every day, particularly if you're not being very active.

Washing your armpits, crotch and feet (the three stink zones!) with rubbing alcohol kills the bacteria and makes everything clean and odour free.

The major thing to do is make sure you have clean clothes on. Clean clothes will hide minor body odour pretty well.

I'm pretty sure you could go a week without anyone noticing you hadn't had a full shower. The only difficulty might be how clean your hair is, and it's really not that hard to wash your hair from a bottle of water if you need to.
posted by tomble at 5:00 PM on November 2, 2006

I spent six weeks on the road with my best friend a few years back, and probably slept in hotels less than twice a week.

We slept:
1. In the car in the parking lots of Super Wal-Marts (where legal, Wal-Mart actually encourages this).
2. In the car at public rest areas (where legal and not too sketchy).
3. At campgrounds around the country.

You can buy a US road atlas for less than $20 that outlines different state laws on sleeping at rest areas or on the side of the road. It's OK in some parts of the country, banned in others.

You can also buy a campsite guide for less than $40, which will include pretty much all national park, state park, forest service, county park, etc. campsite in the US. This book likely also has many private campsites.

Look in the travel section of your local mega-bookstore.

We bought these books, as well as a $50 national parks pass (price may have gone up since my trip) The pass makes camping at many parks free, and gives you a discount elsewhere.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 5:09 PM on November 2, 2006

This national driveaway company has some large vehicles that need to be delivered from one city to another. Maybe you could string together a bunch of driveaways.
posted by Joleta at 5:35 PM on November 2, 2006

I generally found that the kind of caravan parks that wanted $15/night for an unpowered campsite would sell me a shower for $2 if I turned up in the morning and asked if I could buy one.
posted by flabdablet at 8:18 PM on November 2, 2006

I've tried to sleep in parking lots and found it to be impossible because of the bright lights. If I ever did try to do something like that again, I would definitely bring along one of those eyemasks that you put over your face.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:08 PM on November 2, 2006

you're going on a roadtrip, not a beauty contest. start driving and stay in a motel6 every other night. this will cut cost in half and you can still brush your teeth at gas stations and such. I did this many times in college. me and my best friend would pick a direction and just go until we couldn't go further. we ended up covering on average 500 miles per day without even using the major highways (which is kind of key since they are usually dull). just pull over at the side of the road and crash in the car for a couple hours. won't be the best sleep you've ever had but I gotta tell ya, the breakfast at the local inn will taste so much better knowing that night you'll have a queen-size bed to yourself for forty bucks... (or share and cut the cost in half, of course.)
posted by krautland at 11:10 PM on November 2, 2006

For free morning showers, take up a discrete position in the parking lot and watch for people leaving big motels. When they leave the door ajar, you're in, until housekeeping shows up.
posted by Rash at 8:53 AM on December 14, 2006

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