Traveling from one coast to the other? Road trip tips for the Nomad on a budget
Tent. Forget expensive hotels. Even more so, forget those cheap run down cockroach infested motels. Pack a tent, save some money and set up camp!
Up-to-date Rand McNally Road Atlas. From my experience, some of the most beautiful destinations are off the beaten path and do not offer GPS coverage. Rand McNally has literally saved my life a few times. Yes. Yes. Just, yes.
Non-perishable or canned/box food bin. Money saver. I keep one in my trunk at all times, even when I’m not traveling. Stock up on some of your favorite non-perishable or boxed/canned foods in advance. This will save you more money than you can imagine. Some of my favorites: Zatarrans red beans and rice, dehydrated fruits and veggies and my go-to Ramen Noodle packs. (Packing a cooler with drinks, lunch meat and sandwich bread will also come in handy around lunch time.)
Check the current average gas prices for states along your route, plan your trip around when gas is at its lowest. You can manage to get from one coast to another for under $250 in gas. And unlike a $700 plane ticket, you’re covering more ground and activities for less than 2/3 the price.
Grab your travel pants and let’s go!!
St Augustine: Explore the history behind our Nation’s Oldest City. Be sure to check out Castillo De San Marcos to see one of the oldest standing buildings. Have an itch for more of an adventurous setting? Grab yourself a harness and zip over one of the largest Alligator Farms in the South.
Don’t leave yet!
Florida Panhandle: Don’t be fooled, that isn’t snow you’re seeing! The Florida panhandle is known for it’s white sandy beaches and pristine Caribbean-esque coastline. Don’t be caught leaving this piece of paradise without making a stop at one of the world-famous Islanders Retail Stores, located right here on the Emerald Coast! Grab yourself a pair of Rainbow Sandals, a Kavu backpack and a pair of snazzy new RayBans and you will blend right in with the Island Lifestyle. Don’t forget!! We wouldn’t want you leaving with anything more than happy memories. Protect yourself from the rays, throw a bottle of SunBum Sun Protectant in while you’re at it!
New Orleans: Beignets, beignets BEIGNETS. Wait, did I say beignets? YES! If you haven’t already experienced the French Culture that New Orleans has to offer, your first stop should be at the world-famous Café Du Monde located right in the heart of the French Quarter. Keep in mind, you better be hungry for beignets, as this is the only item on the menu (other than drinks of course). Fortunately for Café Du Monde, beignets are all they need. Seeking a night out? New Orleans nightlife isn’t for everyone, but if it’s for you, it’s for you. Once the sun goes down, Bourbon Street becomes the center of attraction (not recommended for the faint-hearted). Bars, clubs and street vendors keep the party going until the very slim hours of the morning. Just stay away from wandering down any dark alley ways. Now, before you head out, be sure to check out the biggest Market the south has to offer for a few well priced souvenirs. You can find a variety of vendors at New Orleans French Market located within walking distance to Café Du Monde and Bourbon Street.
Now, you have a few options as to which route you can take next. Don’t let the big state of Texas worry you, keep trekking down I10. There’s a few hidden gems that you won’t want to miss. Here are a few of my favorites!
San Antonio: Don’t plan on spending longer than a few hours here, but do plan to stop. San Antonio’s River Walk is a glorious place to take a break and stretch those road trip legs. Grab yourself a quick bite to eat with a view. The RiverWalk offers a variety of different Restaurants to quench whatever craving your pallet desires.
Time to go “off the grid”, escape the big tourist traps and take in some of the best scenic views Texas has to offer, made only by Ms. Mother Nature herself (my personal favorite).
Palo Duro Canyon State Park: That’s right, Palo Duro Canyon. Never heard of it? That wouldn’t come as a surprise! I was introduced to this gem by a well traversed Texan couple during my quick stop at the River Walk in San Antonio. Having experienced a few nights camping at the Grand Canyon, I was hesitant to incorporate this stop into my travel plans as I was determined to make it as far west as possible. Don’t waste the money on a hotel. Once you’ve made it to this stretch of West Texas, you’re practically in “no-mans-land”. You’re limited on hotels and the towns become far and few between. Plan for a goodnights sleep for under $15 and a view that you won’t find from any hotel room. The view from your campground had me speechless, with the canyon wall right to our back. Stopping here was well worth taking the Texas stretch when traveling from coast to coast. As Nike once stated, just do it.
(Taking tips from locals is always a great way to find the best locations that tourists aren’t always flocking too. However, with that in mind, letting others know of your travel plans/dates you will be arriving is STRONGLY not advised. Leave the weirdos where you found them.)
Carlsbad Caverns; New Mexico: One of mother nature’s finer creations. Plan a few hours out of your drive to stop and check out this local legend. Carlsbad Caverns is one of the largest underground cave systems located here in the United States. If you are travelling through during dusk or dawn, this is a great time to stop. You can watch the bats as they flock together in a swarm to vacate the mouth of the cave once the sun begins to set. But don’t stop here, keep trekking west as you’re still in “no man’s land”.
This is a good time to break out the trusty Rand McNally Road Atlas!
Grand Canyon National Park: Take a break, you’ve made it so close. Time to set up camp! My recommendation, visit the South Rim. Here you will see the red sandstone canyon wall, from my experience, the view from the North Rim is suffocated by trees that it doesn’t offer the same canyon-like feel. Mather Campground is an excellent location close to all of the major highlights. You only need a night or two to cover the entire south rim. I felt fulfilled after just one night.
If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re almost there, the west coast, the best coast!
Stop for a breather (or more) in Las Vegas, after all, you’ve earned it. Plus, you’re too close not to! Wind down, and get yourself pumped for the great west coast.
Once you’re ready to set off again, it’s up to you where you head next. Heading towards the southern region of California? Here you can enjoy fresh authentic Mexican food off Ventura Blvd in Mission Beach or grab a seat and prepare to have your mind blown at the Venice Beach Freak Show. If you’re craving more of an adrenaline rush, head North. Northern California offers some iconic views. Especially on the stretch between San Simeon and Carmel. Big Sur is ranked one of the Best Road Trips in the US. Camping on the coastline is tricky and isn’t permitted in most locations. Book several months in advance if Big Sur is on your camping agenda (which it should be). Pismo Beach is one of the only locations you can drive your car onto the beach, and set up camp for the night. Spend some time hiking around the mountains, chasing waterfalls in Yosemite or wandering around the mystical Redwood Forrest. California is a melting pot of all different activities. Enjoy yourself and just remember, you’re on a budget!
Ho’ohau’oli, safe travels!
- Kekoa Jane