Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Travel on a Budget: How To See the U.S.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park 
It just so happens this is also the 100 year anniversary for the National Parks Service. One of the best ways to tour America is through it's national parks and monuments. From the deserts to the mountains and through the ages of American history, these parks embody America.

Even during the travel to the destinations, you'll get to see the topography of America change, the most powerful cities grow out of the surrounding landscape, and the diversity of people and American accents.

Trail Ridge Road, Estes Park, CO
Throughout this summer, Boyfriend and I have been traveling to different national parks almost every weekend and we've gotten quite good at it.

How do we do that with very little money?

I can tell you to save up, but it's a hard economic climate and saving takes years. Instead, I save what I need for gas and prepare the rest at home.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
Buy the Annual Pass
While there are some free days you can visit the National Parks, entrance fees for the parks can very wildly. Per vehicle, Antietam National Battlefield is $5 for three days while the cheapest pass for the Grand Canyon is $30 for seven days.

The annual park pass is $80 and it includes access to more than 2,000 recreation areas across five agencies. This means it doesn't just include the national parks and monuments but it also covers sites that charge entry fees for the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Army Corp of Engineers.

The pass can be bought at federal recreation sites or online and it's good for a full year from the date of purchase. So a pass bought September 15, 2016 will be good until September 15, 2017. For more information or to order a pass, visit this USGS site.

Plan Your Route
 Many times when you buy a pass it comes with a map of the national parks and monuments like this one. Calculate how long it will take to get to your destination and then check surrounding areas of interest that you might be able to stop at on the way back.

Living in Colorado, Boyfriend and I are close to some of the major parks. We plot day trips, leaving at six or seven in the morning, and return late in the evening. For weekend trips, we try to hit more than one destination.

Pack Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks
Before your trip, pack all the food and water that you can. If you have a cooler or even a lunchbox and ice pack, use it! The more variety in food you have, the less you'll crave something else. Choose finger foods which won't spoil easy and place them in resealable and accessible containers so you don't have to stop the car every time you want to ear.

I've found these foods work best:
  • Tea and caffine drinks
  • Peeled hard-boiled eggs
  • Peanut butter sandwiches - PB&J, PB and Nutella, PB and bananas
  • Bananas, cut apples, grapes, and orange slices
  • Homemade burritos - chicken, sausage, bacon, cheese, diced onions, green peppers, and really anything you can think of wrapped in a tortilla
  • Trail mix or M&Ms
  • Granola
  • Nuts
  • Jerky
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Water and Extra Bottles
Gas Stations 
In a few weeks, I'll have a post on the best apps for travel, which will include iExit and GasBuddy to help find cheap gas prices. Before you use those, fill up at point stations like Safeway, King Soopers, or Sam's Club to save even more on gas.

Be Prepared for Anything
Obviously, I keep insurance information and emergency numbers in the vehicle in case of an accident, but I also keep a credit card with me for unexpected necessities. If my lovely car breaks down, it's covered under my insurance and can go rest in a shop. But, where would I go? If I need to stay overnight somewhere, I have the funds to do that.

I usually also bring an extra blanket or sleeping bag, swimsuits, a towel, and wet wipes or napkins.

In the trunk, I keep a prepacked bag in the backseat with first aid materials in case of emergency. This bag is also light enough to be brought on any day hikes.

First Aid Bag contains:
  • Warm clothes
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Band-aids
  • Athletic Tape
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Anti-itch ointment
  • Painkillers
  • Gauze
  • Extra Birth Control
  • Tweezers
  • Knife
  • Space Blanket
  • Maps - in case of no cell service
Get a Partner/Sleep in the Car
Despite horrible farts and fights to control of the AUX cord, a partner is essential for those long road trips. Besides splitting the cost, this fellow road tripper will keep you awake when you're driving or can take over driving so you can continue through the night. You can sleep in the backseat or even use one of these fun air mattresses while your partner drives their shift.

I love to travel and I have more posts coming out like this so like my Facebook Fanpage for updates!

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