Planning a road trip can be both exciting and challenging. While it may be tempting to pack up the car and hit the open road, there are a few things you should take into consideration before embarking on your journey. In this episode, our host, Whitney Lauritsen, talks about how travel has played a huge role in her life. Whitney shares the history of how she built her way to where she is now, how she figured out her finances, and what her journey looks like. She also shares how she finances her travels and tips to enjoy road trips without breaking your bank.
This episode is sponsored by Athletic Greens and Zencastr.
- Get a FREE 1 year supply of immune-supporting Vitamin D AND 5 FREE travel packs of AG1 (episode sponsor) at athleticgreens.com/WELLEVATR.
- Visit zencastr.com/pricing and enter promo code “wellevatr” to get 30% off your first three months.
Listen to the podcast here
Travel Tips: How To Enjoy Your Travel On A Limited Budget
A road trip that’s going to take me a few weeks to go from Los Angeles across the country. By the time you read this, I will have already made my trip. I try to be incredibly mindful of sharing where I am, even though it doesn’t seem incredibly dangerous, especially if you are being vague. It gives me more peace of mind to not reveal too much.
I am leaving to go to the middle of California and then the next day I go up to Northern California and I’m going to start to lose track of all the days because there’s so much happening each time. I’m going to Oregon, Washington, Vancouver, to another part of Canada called Banff National Park, then I’m going down back into the US across the country. I’m stopping near St. Paul. I’m going to Chicago very briefly to Indianapolis and Cleveland. I haven’t decided if I’m going to see my sister who lives in New York or my family who lives in Massachusetts so that’s to be determined. If you are at all interested, I will share more details after the trip, because I always learn so much.
This episode is not about trip planning in the usual way. I talk about it in a lot of the other travel episodes I have done. I have shared finite details about what things were like, what I learned along the way, what I did, and the travel gear I bought. Now, I want to focus on a question that came from a reader who asked me how I planned for this financially, how I budget and make it work.
When she was asking me this question, some of the details within her question revealed to me the privilege involved with travel. I found myself pausing for a moment thinking, “It is something I have taken a bit for granted,” especially recently because I had been in the rhythm of traveling. This 2022 will be my third big trip that I have taken. I took one big road trip in May 2022. I took my Singapore-Fiji-Costa Rica trip in July 2022. Now, here I am in August through November for this big road trip in which I go all throughout the country. I’m returning back to Los Angeles. My plan is early November.
People often feel very surprised by that. When you are used to doing something, it becomes something that you can easily take for granted because it doesn’t feel different to you. I’m going to give the history of how I built up to where I am now, how I figured out the finances, how I have made it work for me, and what my journey has been like, but along the way want to acknowledge that finances are so incredibly specific to each individual person as is time. I’m not just going to talk about saving money and choosing how to spend my money but acknowledging that for many people, their work may not allow them flexibility. I feel like that’s a good place to start here.
Travel Privileges Growing Up
A little background, part of what makes my life possible now is everything in my life that led up to this. This is where my awareness of privilege has impacted the way that I look at things, especially travel. I grew up with parents that were very comfortable traveling. We would go on family trips together. We took a number of road trips. I have family in Cleveland, Ohio, where I’m going this 2022. I have family in New Jersey. We are going to New Jersey all the time from Massachusetts because it’s not that far away. We also went to Cleveland on average, once a year, maybe twice. Sometimes we would drive there. Oftentimes, we would fly there. That felt comfortable to me.
At the time as a kid, I didn’t love road trips. I have a tendency to get carsick. Sitting in the backseat of a long road trip often felt uncomfortable. Maybe my passion for planning and buying gear came out of those experiences because I remember being in the backseat of a car with my sister feeling like I couldn’t comfortably sleep. I was always trying to figure out the best angle in the car to sleep because some of our road trips would be 10 to 15 hours, especially if we going somewhere like Cleveland. It’s funny because I don’t think Cleveland is that far. It’s only eight hours away, but as a kid, it felt so far.
I remember we took a road trip to Canada, Montreal, and Toronto. That was common for us. We also took a number of flights. We went to Florida to do Disney World. When I was a teenager, my parents for a couple of years were into going to islands. We went to the Virgin Islands once or twice. My dad also had a lot of business in unique places.When you are used to doing something, it becomes something that you can easily take for granted because it doesn't feel different to you. Click To Tweet
When I was around fourteen, he had some business in Australia and he took me with him, which was huge. I have talked about this leading up to my Singapore trip that I took with him. One time my dad had business near Disney World, so we went there as a family. He worked and we all went to the park. Sometimes it would be a business-related experience as a family, other times it was vacation.
My family has always been fairly conservative. Growing up I thought, “This is what most families do.” I also grew up in a relatively wealthy part of Massachusetts. My family felt like we didn’t have as much money as the average person in town. I don’t know where I got that idea, but people lived in big houses with nice cars and would go on elaborate vacations. We had a nice house, but it’s small and very old. Eventually, my parents started to buy nicer cars, but for a while we had Volvos. They are probably not cheap cars and they are very safe, but as a kid, I would think like, “This car is not very nice compared to fancy cars that people have.”
Growing up, I had a skewed perspective and didn’t think that we were doing anything that special, but as I went through my life, I realized that some people don’t travel at all. Some people have never been on a plane, never left their state, and don’t have a family life like that. That’s so important to acknowledge because we have to look outside of our own experiences as very relative and not assume that other people have those same experiences.
When it came to money, my parents always had enough to take care of us. I don’t know where it came from, but there was this desire in me to always want more than what we had. They worked very hard up until I was a teenager or preteen. They both had jobs in the City of Boston. My mom’s job was in the banking industry. She was very financially focused. They then both decided to quit their jobs in the city and start their own businesses at home. We grew up about 30 miles outside of Boston.
That was interesting because I got to see entrepreneurship unfold for them. I don’t remember what finances were like back then. I remember being encouraged throughout most of my life to make money. I did a lot of kids’ stuff like lemonade stands and garage sales. I would look for a little opportunity to make money. I was interested in that. I then started babysitting. Babysitting became a big source of income for me. I was babysitting 2 to 3 times a week, all throughout high school and college. That gave me money to spend on whatever I wanted.
I learned how to pay attention to prices and budgeting, and become more self-efficient. My parents didn’t give me a lot of money aside from paying for my education, which I also think is an important thing to acknowledge that I have never had to deal with student loan debt. That to me is a massive privilege. The more I have understood how other people’s experiences have been also the privilege of going to college or a university, whatever further education and that is a privilege too that was granted to me by my parents. They were big believers in that.
Beyond education, they tried to limit how much money they were giving me and encourage me to make my own. At times, that felt empowering. Other times, I felt like I wish I could be like my other friends in that town where their parents gave them so much money. I felt frustrated that I had to make my own, but the skills from all that work that I did and all the different selling projects that I had as a kid paid off over time because my parents worked on their own businesses and they quit working for others, that taught me a lot too and were a big part of my journey.
Taking On Different Jobs
I went to film school. I thought I was going to work in the film industry my whole career. I loved and had a passion for that, but when I moved out to Los Angeles to pursue that career, I found that I didn’t feel good in those roles. I worked so many different jobs in media. It wasn’t just film. I worked in TV, music videos, commercials, and any job I could get in production. I even worked on some educational video content that was teaching English to people that didn’t speak it as their native language. I had all sorts of odd jobs. I would pick them up on Craigslist. I was continuing to babysit on the side and do whatever I could do to make money.
I didn’t hold a job for more than six months or so aside from working at the Apple Store. I worked for Apple for a couple of years, but that was always part-time for me and I would have different jobs constantly. There were times that I was barely making ends meet. I didn’t have a lot of extra money. When it came to travel, I barely did any, except for flying home for the holidays. I would have enough saved up somewhere to pay for a $300 flight across the country and whatever else came along with that, but all those trips felt hard like a big stretch. My parents didn’t help me with that. That wasn’t part of how they supported me.
There was one job that I was at for a few years and that was one of my highest paying full-time jobs and the longest. That gave me some more security. I remember, especially around the holidays, buying gifts, finally feeling like, “I had enough money to buy nice gifts for my family.” That felt like a big deal, but for travel, I still looked through this lens of minimalism. I would always have enough for it.
I also didn’t get into credit cards until 2006 or 2008. I remember getting them to build my credit. It wasn’t something I needed. It was during that time I had that full-time job. I remember being very disciplined about paying off the credit card at the end of each billing statement. I never wanted to have debt. I didn’t know anything about credit card rewards. I had two credit cards and I can’t remember if they both had rewards. I had no idea what I was doing with that. They were just there.
In 2010, I had a big shift in my life. It was when I quit working full-time for anybody and I have not worked full-time since then. I have been a freelance worker ever since 2010. That’s when things changed for me financially. I remember around that same time, I took a trip to Hawaii and I don’t know how I paid for it. That might have been the first time I started using my credit card with the intention of not paying it off right away because that trip was $1,500 or something. I was either about to or had quit my last full-time job around that time, but it was a trip planned with friends for months. Some of it had already been paid before I quit, but the rest of the trip was something I was winging financially.
The Power Of Spreadsheet
I then moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles, which started to feel more expensive. I started paying attention to budgeting. That might have been when I started something that has been big for me, which is a spreadsheet. I’m laughing at myself because I would love to find an alternative to this. For several years, I have been using this same spreadsheet. I do it in the Mac program Numbers, which is Apple’s version of Microsoft Excel. You could do the Google Sheets and Airtable. I love spreadsheets. You can do it in any spreadsheet.
I made up the spreadsheet and every single week, I go through the spreadsheet and look at how much money I have in my bank accounts, how much money is coming in and anticipated from my work, where my bills are, and when. I go through this list and it’s how I do my checks and balances. It reminds me of my mom used to have a checkbook where she would write down all of the things that she was spending checks on. I was very confused by that growing up. There are other programs that I have used for money. One of my favorites is called Mint.com and that is helpful. I could probably use that instead of my spreadsheet system, but I’m so used to it after all this time. I found it helpful.
I moved to San Francisco and lived there for a year, and then did my first cross-country road trip in 2012 when I moved out of my San Francisco apartment and had no idea what I was going to do. I didn’t know where I was going to live next. Everything was up in the air. I thought I might move to New York City. In order to figure it out, I drove cross country with my sister. We were on a pretty intense budget. I don’t remember, maybe I put it on credit cards. That trip is a blur financially. I do recall that my sister didn’t have a lot of money at the time. Everything was fairly bare bones, but we did have a great time.
When I got across the country, I lived with my parents in Massachusetts for a few months. I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I’m like, “I’m too old to be doing this.” A couple of people said things to me that I felt minimized to all of it. I remember then paying off credit card debt, saving money, and I almost paid off all of my debt, and then I decided to move back to Los Angeles.The skills from all the work I did and the different selling projects I had as a kid paid off over time. Click To Tweet
Everything changed then for me. I flew back and I found an affordable apartment as I could. I still don’t know where that money came from because I had quit Apple at that point. I don’t know if I had any consistent income. It’s amazing to me like, “Where was that money?” I did have Apple stock. I had a stock plan through Apple. There have been periods of time where I have sold my stock as much as I have wanted to hold onto it as a long-term investment. I have been dependent on that stock for times when money was tight up until a few years ago, and that was the last time I sold any Apple stock.
Sometimes you look back on money and you are like, “How was I making ends meet?” I’m not sure, but I started to accumulate credit card debt at the end of 2012. I remember it starting to feel uncomfortable to me that I was doing that, but I justified it because I was so excited to move back to Los Angeles. I was feeling rejuvenated on so many levels. That then started the several years of journey of credit card debt. I don’t know how much interest I spent over that time, but I did not have a lot of money from 2012 through 2020, to be honest.
I have gone through ups and downs, but since I decided to work for myself to run my own coaching and consulting business and freelance work, I was constantly trying to figure out how to make money. I went through periods of time where I would have sponsorships for YouTube. That could be good money. I ran a few online courses. They never did quite as well as I had hoped. I studied that. I was trying to figure out every way to monetize. That became a big part of my consulting. I was helping other people learn how to monetize their online income. I started that in 2015 and did that for a few years.
Along the way, I learned 30 plus ways of making extra money like all these little side hustles and whatever else. Also, I was using credit cards and over time built my way up to four credit cards. I had care credit. I have mentioned them before. All of them have balances on the most, I was paying off the minimum and building so much interest that I had to pay off. It wasn’t until last year in 2021 that I finally paid off those cards. The reason being is that in mid to late-2020, my work as a freelancer picked up and that put me in a place of financial stability.
That brings me to now, where I’m probably the most financially stable that I have been maybe since 2009 or 2010, which is nuts. I could be wrong. I have not consulted any of my paperwork or whatever, but I’m certainly in a much higher financial position. It took me a long time. That’s something that a lot of people don’t talk about and maybe wouldn’t assume because I have always found a way to budget, get inexpensive things when I could, save my money, or depend on credit cards, frankly, to make things work and to get the things that I wanted. I was always looking for new opportunities to make money and be resourceful, I suppose.
It’s pretty interesting how long of a period it took me to get into that rhythm. In terms of advice for that, I have learned that I’m not that interested in trying to predict what somebody’s financial situation is going to be. A lot of people say, “If you do this, you are going to do that.” That advice worked against me because I would take courses from people who were almost guaranteeing a certain financial outcome, and I didn’t get that. I spent thousands of dollars. Again, I don’t know where I got that money from, but I made it work, probably credit cards for periods of time where I had a little higher income, I would put it towards something like that.
I know for a fact there was one course I took that was at least $1,500 and another one that was $2,500, and a few smaller courses. I would do free courses. I was eager to learn how to make more, but looking back, I feel sad for myself in a lot of ways because I was trusting people that would encourage me in ways that weren’t relevant to me. I would go through phases of feeling like a failure or something was wrong with me because I wasn’t making all the money that other people were making. I wasn’t reaching the goals that my coaches or teachers were saying that I would reach if I did this or that.
The Search For Financial Stability
Now, that you know the truth of my spending several years in a lot of financial instability, how did I get to this point of now having solid income for the past few years? A lot of it is luck, to be honest. The way that I have met the stable clients that I have been working with, I have a few of them, was pure coincidence. I wasn’t seeking them out. They weren’t necessarily seeking me out. Things just lined up. If there was any piece of advice, I would have for somebody willing to go into the unknown in terms of money that consistency is such a cliche term, but I kept going, doing things, and trying them.
A lot of my work has come out of podcasting, which I have been doing now since December 2019. We are coming up on three years of the show. This show has brought me some cool opportunities. I have sponsors, which I’m going to pause now. Overall, there’s no way of knowing with money, especially if you are not working a 9:00 to 5:00 job with a salary, but for me, that didn’t feel right.
Looking back over several years, there was never a period that I wanted to give up on all of this. I would say there were months when I did not know how I was going to pay all my bills. There were months that I was late in paying for some things, but surprisingly, not that money. Again, I don’t know if that would be true for anyone else and that’s what I’m trying to acknowledge. I shared that whole history with you to be transparent, to tell the journey, and how that applies to travel is where I’m finally going to get to.
That big road trip in 2012 was one of the few trips I took for a long time. When I moved back to LA, I would take little road trips. I did have a project with Ford, the car company in 2013, so that was luck. I applied for it. It was a huge undertaking, but it was about a couple of months-long program. They gave me a car. I didn’t get paid for it, but they would pay for my expenses. I was able to do another road trip back then in that car which was amazing. I drove across the country and back, and almost everything was paid for, for that. Things like that gave me opportunities. I started to feel more interested and confident.
I think I took two road trips. One was at the very beginning of that program. It was in June 2013 and one of my favorite videos on the Eco-Vegan Gal YouTube channel was when I went to the Bonnaroo Music Festival and that entire trip was paid for. I might have spent $50 to $100 at max, but the agreement with Ford is they paid for all my gas, hotels, and food. I found a way to make it all work and pitch it to them. We had to present ideas to the people that ran that program and I even got to bring a friend, and that was amazing.
I remember on that trip, a couple of pivots for me, that were part of my journey of learning how to monetize, I started listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast with Pat Flynn, and that gave me so many ideas for making more money. Somewhere along that timeline, maybe a year or so later, I started, reading Chris Guillebeau‘s book, The $100 Startup. He was a guest on the show back in 2020.
There were some influences from books and podcasts, but in hindsight, a lot of them were for men, which is interesting. A lot of the advice didn’t end up panning out for me. I got inspired by it. I tried a lot of things. I got encouraged and motivated, but as I have shared a lot of that didn’t pay off. I did that program, and after that, it’s a little bit of a blur. I kept dreaming of road tripping, but it felt far off because the finances weren’t there and it didn’t feel necessary.
What felt necessary was visiting my family and flying out there and doing trips related to business and I would do a few of those every once in a while. I often would travel with a friend, so that always helped with the finances and that leads me up closer to now and where I could get more specific in what I have been doing.
Off the top of my head, there are a couple of big trips in the past few years. Greece was one of them in 2018. Full transparency, my boyfriend at the time contributed a lot to that trip. He was in a good financial position. He was already in Europe and he was out there for a few months or so. I went to Greece to visit him and he covered the hotel. He might have even covered my flights. I didn’t have to spend a lot.Free campgrounds are an extraordinary way to save money for trips. Click To Tweet
The Beginning Of Road Trips
At the time, I didn’t feel interested in travel gear. Maybe I got a few things and I tried to keep it pretty bare bones. In 2019, I took my road trip with Jason who’s the co-host of the show. At that time, I had gotten my Tesla. Backtrack a little bit to 2018, getting the Tesla. Some people think, “She has a Tesla.” People will say that to me, but that car has been a big financial stretch for me. I had money from my inheritance. My grandfather gave me money when he passed away and a huge chunk of that went towards my down payment, if not all of it because, in 2018, I didn’t have a ton of money. I got that car before I went to Greece. It was a lot happening at once.
When I got that car, everything changed and I became very interested in road trips. The first one was in 2019 with Jason and we split everything. The cool thing about the electric car is it’s not that expensive to charge it. Prices have gone up a little bit, but splitting it with somebody and not having to pay nearly as much as gas makes a big difference on a road trip. However, I have huge monthly car payments, relative to me, it’s double the most I’d ever spent on a previous car. It’s a lot of money and I still have a few years to pay off that car.
I got that car in August 2018. It takes up a huge part of my expenses, but that’s part of the reason the road trip started to feel appealing because I wanted to maximize the most of this car. That plus being very strategic about food, again, I’m splitting meals with people. I would go grocery shopping for most of these trips and get a ton of snacks. Oftentimes, that will be split with people.
Jason and I had done a bunch of trips together. He did the one in 2013 where I drove cross-country with the Ford car. He and I would fly to the East Coast and do trips out there too. Those are a few other trips I forgot about. I would fly to my family every fall and as part of that trip, I would go to the Natural Products Expo, which I might do this 2022. I would go see friends. I would rent a car and I was able to afford the rental car because I would split it with Jason. He came back with me almost every year.
I would scrounge up and be very mindful of money and not spend a lot at restaurants. The grocery store would cover a lot of snacks and meals. Jason and I would budget this out. I would use the spreadsheet and plan out how much I anticipated to spend and that would usually work out pretty well. That’s going to come into some of my advice for my more trips.
In 2020, that’s when COVID started and I didn’t feel comfortable flying. I felt interested in driving cross country, but I felt nervous about it. My friend, Leanne said that she was interested in coming so that’s how that trip happened. She split everything with me. That trip cost us $700 total going one way, but it was about a ten-day trip, so it came out to somewhere between $350 may be each of us spent to do the trip and see all these different states. That was a great example of how inexpensive some of this can be.
At that point in 2020, I didn’t have a ton of money. I was starting to work with one of my clients, but I remember feeling strapped for cash back then. I felt incredibly nervous about it. I drove back to Los Angeles by myself in 2020. That was a few months later, I had already started to feel more comfortable with my income with that new client and that trip didn’t feel too bad. That probably costs $700 or so by myself or a little bit more.
That trip feeds into part of my advice or my experience is looking back on the past because of tools like Mint.com, which I love or you can use your bank. In Mint, you can add all your bank accounts in one place so I like it. It’s free. Whatever tool you want to use, you can go and download all of the expenses that you spend in a certain period of time. I would take them, categorize them, and see what my averages were like, and how much was I spending on car charging. How much was I spending on grocery store visits or at restaurants? How much would I spend on accommodations?
2020 was a big pivot for me financially too because I started camping, and that was brand new to me. I barely ever camped before. Going with Leanne and doing that during the pandemic. We didn’t want to stay at a hotel. We didn’t have a ton of money for that. Camps were great because campgrounds, on the higher-end $40 to $50, but you can get campgrounds for $15 to $20. I even saw one planning for my trip that was $10 a night to stay at a nice place. Some of them are free.
I haven’t felt comfortable staying at free campgrounds. Even with Leanne, I don’t know if we would have felt comfortable doing that. We were driving around in a Tesla and I often felt uncomfortable because most campgrounds have tents, Subarus, vans, RVs, and cars that look like they should be there, and then I would show up in my Tesla and feel like I stood out like a sore thumb. That was another big reason I haven’t felt comfortable doing the free campgrounds, but that is an extraordinary way to save money.
For a lot of my trips, I spend maybe $300 to $500 on campgrounds for the long trips like the two-week long trip. That’s probably what it costs me on average. I also stay with friends when I can, that’s another great way to save money. I have learned the average is through all my experience. I will look at how many days I plan to travel and I will multiply that by $30 to $40 to estimate how much it’s going to cost me to camp along the way. Subtract any time I’m staying with friends or family.
Financially with food, based on my experience, I don’t eat a ton when I’m traveling, especially on a road trip. My appetite completely shifts. That’s cool because I don’t eat as much food. I usually have 1 or 2 cups of coffee and I bring my own. This is a great way to save money too. You can do instant coffee. There are so many different varieties, including some that taste great. I bring my own coffee beans and a little coffee grinder, and then I make cold brew. A bag of my favorite high-quality coffee is $10 when it’s on sale. I look for sale prices.
I’m going grocery shopping for the trip and I will be getting some coffee that is on sale. I’m using coupons. I love the app Ibotta and I have a referral code. If you have never used Ibotta, it’s amazing for grocery shopping because it gives you money back. When you sign up through my code, we both get money. I also go to stores that are less expensive. Trader Joe’s is great. I will go to Sprouts. I liked that market. Sprouts often have great sales plus coupons. The coffee I’m buying is on sale and has a coupon. I’m saving $5 on the bag. A bag of coffee, when I’m making cold brew would last a week. $10 divided by 7 days is pretty good. It was very inexpensive. I also bring my own milk.
One thing I bought the last time is a refrigerator. That would cost me less than $200. I knew it was going to go on a lot of trips, but a less expensive option is a cooler that could be $20 or you can get it for free, maybe you already have one. The downside of that is food doesn’t stay as cold. You have to get ice or use ice packs. That’s a bigger hassle when you are doing a road trip. Whereas the refrigerator I can keep on my entire trip. It’s a game-changer. I’m obsessed with it. That also allows me to get more food from the grocery store. The costs cancel each other out in a lot of ways because I rarely go to restaurants on road trips. If I do, they are a splurge or I’m with somebody. I try to calculate that and give myself a little room in my budget for restaurants.
I look historically at how much I have spent on previous trips. I have done a number of similar trips over the years, even by plane or rental car. I knew how much on average I would spend in certain cities. I would keep track of all this so that I could use it as an average for my expenses. With the refrigerator, I could go to the grocery store and get fresh produce, and then I started making things like salads on the road. I bought a little propane camping stove. Those are not that expensive depending on what you get. They were under $100 and some of them are much less. You can get them used too. Thinking creatively like that allows me to cook all sorts of things.
One of my favorite things to eat on the road is soup and so I will buy canned and instant soups, and all I need to do is heat up the canned soup or heat up some water to pour in the instant soup, and I got a great meal. As I said, I ended up having coffee and snacking on packaged snacks, like chips and protein puffs, pretzels, and things like that. At night when I get to my campsite, that’s where I will make myself a meal.Understand how credit cards work. Go with your gut. Pick one that makes sense and weigh the pros and cons. Click To Tweet
The average for camping is $30. $1 or $2 for coffee, although I always bring milk. That brings it up a little higher. Although I find a container of plant-based milk that I like is $4 and that would last me at least five days. I do like half and half. If I just have a soup that could be like $3, so that’s $35 to $36. For snacks, I would maybe have a bag of something for another $3, so that’s $40. I always bring tons of water too so I don’t have to buy any.
I have a bottle from LifeStraw, which are a little expensive. They are worth it because then you can comfortably drink water from a lot of different sources, including out of a stream if you want to. I don’t want to do that, but that’s what one of the purposes of a LifeStraw is. There may be $30 or $40 depending on which one you get. You can drink water from anywhere almost, but there are other brands that you can use to filter out water while camping.
I also fill up a bunch of jugs. This is one thing that I learned from my 2020 road trip was not having enough water. There are times when Leanne and I were like, “What if we run out or the car breaks down?” We are every day thinking about water. I found that because I’m charging my car multiple times a day, I’m parked commonly in front of a grocery store, a fast-food restaurant, or a hotel. Hotels are my favorite place because I can use a clean bathroom in most cases. They often have water filters or they have like a jug of filtered water that you can pour from, so I will fill up all my water bottles there for free.
For car charging, on average I probably charge 3 to 4 times a day, depending on where I’m going and how far the distance is. People always ask, “How much does this cost?” It depends on a few factors. One is the distance. One charge could be $5. Another could be $15. The most that I have ever paid for car charging with my Tesla is $20 to fill up my car. My car gets a 250-mile range. One thing I learned about Teslas the battery degrades over time, which makes sense, so your range goes down. My car initially was supposed to get 300, but the range depends on all these factors like your tires, the wind, the heat, and so much goes into this that is important to consider when budgeting.
I would say $40 to $50 a day at max. The other consideration is something I’m trying to be more mindful of, it’s cheaper to charge your car early in the morning or late at night. Early meaning before 10:00 AM and late sometimes after 10:00 PM, which doesn’t work so well for me on road trips because I like to go to bed by then, but I often charge my car before 10:00 AM and it’s half the price at most stations. The price for Tesla also ranges based on city, state, and all these factors. It’s very hard, but I have come up with averages for that, which has been helpful.
I also use a tool called A Better Routeplanner, which is for any electric car and it gives you an estimate of how much you will spend on the trip. I usually add to that though. It’s on the lower side. It’s not super accurate, but it’s helpful for a range. I used to do the same thing with rental cars. I would look for good deals on rental cars, and think of how much gas I would spend. Also, the toll roads, depending on where you are going, there are sometimes tolls to go across bridges and on certain highways.
I have used tools that have helped me avoid them, the route planning app Waze and Google both allow you to avoid toll roads, but sometimes it adds an extra amount of time to your trip and it’s not always worth it, but I will look ahead of time. There are websites you can go to and you can calculate how much the tolls will be. I have been doing that for years because there are a lot of toll roads and bridges between Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, and all the way down to Pennsylvania, or maybe further. A ton of the East Coast has toll roads and a little further westward. You have to think about that too, but all that’s been factored into my budgeting.
Also, in terms of car charging, a cool tip is that you can go to RV parks and use their electricity overnight and that can save money. I’m weighing it out because sometimes it’s an extra $10 to go to an RV park and I could probably charge for the same amount at a Tesla station. It depends on time and all other factors. Campground sometimes has chargers so I think about that stuff too.
Part of this is being very detailed and looking at as much information as possible. Another part of this is creating an estimate and then adding to it. Overestimating and looking at the historical data has been helpful for me too. How do I make sure this happens? Credit cards are one option, depending on how quickly you can pay them off.
I put everything on my credit cards right now that I can because I like to get rewards. I have started using a travel card and that gets me mile rewards that I can redeem for cash. There are points that you can redeem for cash. You can also redeem them for flights and hotels. I started doing that for my international travel because I realized how expensive it was to fly to Singapore. I then found out that if I had a certain amount of points on my credit card, I could have covered at least half of my flights for free by using the card. That is brand new for me.
I am going to be using that card to book anything travel-related for a number of reasons. One, a travel credit card can also give you various perks. If you use it to reserve a hotel, a flight, or any accommodation, hopefully, the camping counts as that too, sometimes they have different tiers of rewards and they can give you some insurance.
If there were any issues, any cancellations, you got sick, there was an emergency, for example, I’m traveling during fire season, if a huge fire starts and they have to evacuate, from what I understand that could be covered by my credit card like my evacuation expenses or if my campground is closed down or something. I might be able to go to my credit card to get that money back versus the campground probably wouldn’t reimburse me without that.
A travel card is fantastic. If I was staying at hotels, you can get special deals at hotels, upgrades, and also get more money back. My travel card also gives me money back for restaurants. I will be using it for all of that. I have another card that gives me a high percentage back in cash, which I can put towards my credit card statement. I look at that as another way to pay for things, so you are spending money and getting a little extra perk for it, which can help you pay for something else. It might be a few dollars, but you can use that for coffee, for gas or charging, whatever else.
One of my cards gives me a higher percentage for online purchases. I use that for any gear that I’m buying. I buy through Amazon and small businesses whenever I can. For any online store purchase, I get a high percentage with one of my cards. That card also gives me a high percentage for grocery shopping. I use that card instead of my travel card.
I encourage you to understand how credit cards work. You can use websites like NerdWallet.com that give you a great breakdown of all the perks, and the pros and cons. I find it hard and overwhelming to pick a credit card. In hindsight, go with your gut and pick one that makes sense for you that you weigh out the pros and cons. In NerdWallet, you can even compare cards to one another. If they are super close in their perks and you can’t decide, do eeny, meeny, miny moe. It doesn’t matter and get one because you can always get more if you can be financially responsible.
In that spreadsheet, I told you about, my finances that I have been using for several years, I put all my credit card payments in a schedule for myself. I will schedule credit card payments in advance and put them on autopay. That way I’m paying off my card before it accrues more interest. I account for anything I’m putting on that card. I try to always have at least an idea, if not an exact number of what’s the balances. That way I can easily pay it off and not worry about it.If you have the flexibility with your time, money, and outlook on life, just do it if you can. Click To Tweet
I account for that in my income and expenses on that spreadsheet, instead of thinking it’s not there because it’s on the credit card. Mint.com is also great for this because it will show you what’s in your savings, checking, and credit cards. I’m going to wrap up but before I do, savings is huge. All this budgeting that I have been talking about, one option is you pay for it. A lot of people do this. They just pay. They know approximately how much their trip will be and put it on their debit card or pay with cash.
Preparing Travel Funds
Some people put it on their credit cards as I said. I do mostly credit cards, but I have money in my savings account prepared for that. This 2022 was the most proactive and planned I have been financially, mainly because I have had financial comfort and stability. I knew I was going to take this trip. I started putting money aside for travel every month. I calculated how much I thought this big road trip was going to cost me and divided that up based on how many months before.
I started saving in January of 2022, it’s a total guess. It could have been last 2021. Let’s say I planned 6 or 7 months out. I would take the total amount I anticipated spending on the trip and divide that by 6 or 7 months and then put that amount into my savings account every month. The cool thing was that 1) I was comfortable because I knew I would have that money every month to save because of my income. 2) It’s a high-yield savings account.
I have mentioned it before. It’s called Ally. I love them because they allow you to put your money into buckets or categories. I have a travel bucket and every month I put a certain amount of money in there. Not only is it saving that money for me so I don’t spend it, but it’s getting interest. My interest with Ally has been going up. They have been raising it constantly. It’s so amazing. I can’t speak to any other bank, but every month, I’m getting an email from them saying, “Your interest has gone up. You are making more money on your savings. I try to save as much as I can because I can make money off of that savings. That gives me that peace of mind.
Now, I have exactly as much money as I anticipate spending in that account preserved and when I need it, I take that money from the savings and send it over to my other bank. There are two separate banks. My checking account is with a different company. I transfer it from Ally to my other bank and I’m good to go. That’s awesome because I have also been making money on it. That money sitting there making me extra, that I could put towards travel or other things. That has been helpful.
Let me summarize all of this for you. Lesson number one is that money is so relative. Look at your specific situation. Where are you right now with your income? Do you have money saved? Do you have credit card debt? Where’s your comfort level? That’s going to determine the next steps for you in terms of saving for travel. When do you want to travel? Where do you want to travel? That’s going to help you determine how much to put aside and how much time you have if you want to start saving for it.
Do you want to get a new credit card? Are you going to be financially responsible to pay off that credit card? If not, are you comfortable accruing some interest if you don’t pay for things on time? A very important thing to consider because the perks of a credit card may be outweighed by the cons of having high interest. There’s a whole strategy for credit cards, but I’m not going to get into that. I’m still learning myself, but NerdWallet is a great resource for it.
How much time do you have? If it’s an open time, can you create some timelines so that you can start saving money, get yourself on track, give yourself that time to do the research, and figure all this out? If you can start putting that money aside a highly recommend, high-yield savings account. I recommend using any current credit cards to get points or rewards that you can either pay for things or use that extra money towards your savings.
I would recommend paying attention to deals. There are all sorts of travel and deal sites out there. I would do some research on how much things cost on average if you are not ready to plan the specifics. I would also anticipate big sale days if you need to buy anything. For me, I have bought so much travel gear over the years. I did get a bunch of stuff through Amazon Prime day. I waited six months to buy something because I knew it was going to go on sale.
Black Friday sale and holiday sales are coming up, so maybe now start thinking about what you want. If it’s not urgent, hold out until the big sales happen. Start saving some money for that stuff. I have done that as well. It’s not about hotels, gas, charging, campsites, or all these other factors. Start thinking about what food you would eat and where you want to go. What feels good for you? Are there activities that you want to do?
You can also get deals on activities. I mentioned this on my Singapore trip. I got a great deal on some of the places my dad and I went on the admission costs. I was able to save money. You could get that in advance if possible if you are able to plan. People do this with Disney all the time. They plan out so far in advance and they can get the best deal possible. If you can do that, it helps with saving money.
If you can’t do any of this, two pieces of advice. One, if you have the flexibility with your time, money, and outlook on life, just do it. It’s a big if, just do it is incredibly relative to you. It depends on where you are at mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically. There are many factors that go into this. It’s not necessarily easy, but if you can do it, just do it because that’s where you learn and get better. Every trip I take, I get better at planning it and I get more excited. I start planning a year in advance for the next trip based on what I have learned. I’m always in that mindset because I love it.
Two, if you are not in that place yet, don’t rush or force yourself unless there’s an urgency to travel. Hopefully, you will have time in the future. We never know how much time we have left in life, but many of us have the privilege of more time. If you can start now planning for next year or two years from now, it might take you a while, but it can be amazing and so worth it.
You can do something small. You can work your way up to these things. This has been a long journey for me as I have shared. It’s been several years of me doing road trips off and on through all different circumstances, all different financial positions, and all different mindsets. There’s so much that has evolved over time. You could start off by driving to a different part of your state or your country, depending on where you are based. You can go somewhere new that could be twenty minutes away that you have never been to before. That can start to awaken this adventurous spirit within you.
I also highly recommend traveling with someone else because it saves a ton of money, but it gives you comfort and maybe flexibility. Traveling with somebody has its pros and cons, but companionship is great. I don’t mind traveling alone. It’s more expensive, but it gives me maximum flexibility. If you can go in a group, group things can be affordable.
If right now you are wondering, how can you travel? If you are thinking about my trips and you are wanting to do it too, try to do something right now. Try to think and write down some ideas. Dream through it. It’s not necessarily going to be easy. It might be expensive and might feel like out of your reach in your means. It might not happen the way you think it’s going to be. I never want to oversimplify this.
A huge part of my journey was several years ago, I started saving pictures of campgrounds, road trips, and places in the US that I didn’t even know where they were, but they looked pretty to me. That’s been a huge part of my journey too. Anytime, I see something and I’m like, “I’d love to go there one day.” I save it. An example, I saved a destination in Japan. I have zero plans to go to Japan. I don’t know if we will ever go there, but I saved it anyways. Maybe one day I will go and I will have that saved. I will remember that day I saved it down as I did several years ago with my road trips. It could be a long journey.
I’m here if you have any other specific questions. I love to talk about this. I will share more details from this road trip. I have got two more episodes coming about that. I’m so excited. Thank you for reading. I hope this has been helpful. I appreciate you. I believe in you and I’m here to do whatever I can. You can reach out to me via email or direct message.
You can join my private community, Beyond Measure, where you can talk with me and other people. Some of them travel and some don’t. Although we can all have conversations about this. We have rewarding weekly conversations about all different elements of life, self-care, and wellbeing. I love to have you part of it. It’s a super easy way to chat with me and free. That’s it for now. I will be back again with another episode. I have a guest coming up and so much more. I appreciate you. Until next time. I’m wishing you the very best with your own travel journey. Bye.