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Old 03-04-2014, 10:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Friend wants to do some traveling, looking for cheapest way

I have a friend who's looking to go nomadic for a few months/years, and she asked me my thoughts on how to minimize costs/do it economically. She's self-employed over the internet, and will probably need to get a portable hotspot regardless due to reliability of motel and campground WiFi, though careful planning might negate that.

We listed a few basic scenarios:

1. RV + campgrounds

2. Popup camper + vehicle big enough to pull it + campgrounds

3. Efficient car + motels / hotels

With the RV option, there are some cost savings associated with having a kitchen/fridge and the comfort of having one's own bathroom/shower, but you have the initial cost of the RV, need to tow a car behind it or do without one, and gas costs. (this seems the least reasonable option to me but I might be wrong)

A popup camper or travel trailor might be reasonable, depending on the circumstances, but I don't know enough about them. You would need a car large enough to pull it so she might not be able to get something like a used Insight (??) but I have no idea about the towing capabilities of cars, or what most popups need. The popup would need to have a fridge/bathroom or it wouldn't really serve its needed function, and I don't know what the premium is on those, nor do I know what the average cost of a site is. She might be in some places only a day, and weeks in others.

Going with something like a used 1st gen Insight and getting motel rooms along the way (supplementing with couch surfing) has a low initial cost but I don't know what the break-even point would be when you factor in initial cost, gas, food, site rental vs motel costs.

Something that might be a factor, she has a cat which will definitely be traveling with her.

I'd appreciate it if you guys could share your experiences with low-cost long-term traveling.

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Old 03-04-2014, 10:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
igo
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I don't have much long-term low cost trip experience but, I have gone on many shorter trips for really cheap. So I will throw out some of my experiences.

1) Megabus. If you live in a city that has megabus. You can snag $1 bus rides if You are flexable with your schedule. Took a trip to Cleveland for $2 last year and I just got tickets to Philadelphia for $2.

2) Car Camping. I have slept in my car a few nights. A mini van without the rear seats can make for a good bed.

3) Hostels. they are available in cities and usually around $20-$50 a night. I haven't had a bad experience with them ad it can be fun to chat with other travelers.

Well that's just a few ideas.
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Old 03-04-2014, 11:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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My personal dream fitting your situation:

Mazda 5 series. Standard. Aero modifications, trailer hitch into a boat tail from a trailer hitch box. Solar panel on roof, a few batteries on board. Tint all the windows other than the front. Remove all seats other than driver. Litter box under the glove box (closed box), curtain rod with shower curtain to block front view. Mattress goes on drivers side, on a built up platform. I would insulate the window to keep it cooler in the heat, and hotter in the cold, but I would just put solar panels in the windows. Extreme temperatures are okay if prepared- small air conditioner or safety warmer for the kitty. I would put a diesel generator in the trailer hitch box, but I have limited needs.

For me, I would put a TV where the rear window is and on each side, so I could still use my rear view, shave the mirrors and add the three cameras.

Anytime Fitness, 44.99 a month. Any facility, anywhere in the country, unlimited use. Shower, shave, warmth/coolness, electricity, WiFi.

That would be a dream for me, but I need little gear. The only thing stopping me now are all my animals.

Side arm, running shorts, BDUs, under shirts, shirts, D5200, 40D, under garments, a hooded sweatshirt, jacket, slip ons, trainers, notebook, a couple hard drives, emergency bag, and everything else is optional. I've spent several nights in cars. The vans and SUVs have been the best, but even the Mustang and Insight haven't been bad.

I'd probably bring a small freezer and microwave, myself. When I only had two cats, it could work.
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Old 03-05-2014, 09:23 AM   #4 (permalink)
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UltArc's got it right- a stealth camper is the best way to go. A box truck, van or even a hatch can be equipped for living much more cheaply than buying an RV. You've got the ease of not having to find living quarters or not having to find a place to set up- you also don't have to set it up. You don't have the stigma of being an RV and obviously camping out, you're just a car or van that's parked somewhere.

My BIL's camper for years was his Mazda pickup with a cap, and he had a really good setup going on. He wanted more space and has a pickup camper in it now, but his DIY worked really well.
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Old 03-05-2014, 11:48 AM   #5 (permalink)
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The scenario I've kicked around is like this. Take a small RV like a Toyota Chinook or Dolphin (great on gas) and travel at my leisure for a couple months a year. Solar panels for powering most things and a small portable Honda generator for running the A/C and other higher power needs. There's a list that can be found on the web for free campgrounds. Plus, I believe Walmart allows one night stays in their parking lots also. One would just need to be able to able to dump the their sewage occasionally at a approved site. I do however like the idea of using something like "Anytime Fitness" as much as possible.

When I get tired of traveling and instead of driving halfway back across the country. I would find a storage lot to park the RV. Then take a bus or fly home. That way I could pick up where I left off when I want to resume my travels.

Stealth camping in a car or van is fine for short periods of time. However, having amenities like a kitchen, bath, full bed, plus ample storage and room to move around in makes all the difference in the world when on a extended trip.

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Old 03-05-2014, 01:07 PM   #6 (permalink)
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No need to pay for a wifi hot spot when Anytime Fitness has wifi- get shower, shave, workout, electricity, cable tv, and parking outside will still give access to it. I don't really use internet driving, if I wanted I could preload my maps through Google Maps, but with RW only charging 25/month for data, it isn't needed.
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Old 03-05-2014, 06:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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We're both already on Republic Wireless. I could probably root her phone to provide tethering ability, but it's against the terms and she probably wouldn't feel comfortable with that. I'll run the idea of using WiFi in the parking lot past her, dunno if it'll be practical but no harm in asking.

She's kicking around the idea of borrowing an RV from a family member, a 21' Winnebago Vista (~2002) which reportedly gets mid teens if driven carefully, but one problem with using that RV is that it wouldn't be without strings attached.

Last edited by Ecky; 03-05-2014 at 06:45 PM..
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Old 03-05-2014, 06:45 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I like the van/SUV conversion as well especially if you want max fuel economy in fact I just saw this the other day havin a hybrid would really help

Yes that is a Prius camper
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Old 03-05-2014, 06:58 PM   #9 (permalink)
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My only suggestion is to divest yourself of the things you don't really need. This saves you space and weight. Downsizes your vehicle, increases your mpg.

But she'll probably choose something with more space and amenities which makes the experience more enjoyable.

Have you seen Topgear finds the source of the Nile? There are a lot of things you can do to a car to make it livable. Take out the back seats for space. Sleeping in your vehicle, a tent, or a tow along camper everyday will save her more money by not getting a motel than she'll ever save on gas.

In that vein though, an RV might be overkill if you ALSO want to save gas money. A minivan with all the seats taken out will give a lot of space and a flat floor. Better than what my friend did, which was to throw a matress in the back of massive truck with a bed cover.
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Old 03-05-2014, 07:23 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Connect - '15 Ford Transit Connect XL
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Makes sense. Some good ideas/suggestions so far. Anyone have any experience with tow-behind and popup campers? Something that can be moved with a small car, that has bathroom and kitchen?

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