Jan 31, 2018
Ralph has a few things to clear up before we jump into this episode, and it begins with apologizing for mispronouncing the name of one of the co-hosts of Social Media Unscrambled. Of course, next week he will apologize for calling it “Social Media Scrambled” in this episode.
He also takes umbrage with Janet Johnson, one of the hosts of Business Growth Time, whose marketing campaign had a typo, but who didn’t respond when Ralph pointed it out. Mostly, he wants to know: whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?
Finally, SuperFred and friend Nadia Bracken let us know that we may have used the a-s-s word too many times in last week’s episode, especially since her mom listens, too. We apologize profusely because we’re just so happy to hear that her mom listens to our podcast!
Last week, Ralph asked me to tally up the expenses of our 11-week cross-country road trip. So I did. On this episode we disclose the amount we spent. But why?
It’s important to let you know that we’re not “lifestyle entrepreneurs.” We don’t work from the beach and insist that you can too, if only you follow our ten-step plan and sign up for our email list. So we’re not talking about money to tell you how amazing we are or to pitch you on doing things our way.
We just like to travel. We discovered that recently, when we did it for real for the first time. And we were fortunate enough to have a really good year financially, so we didn’t have to travel on a budget. We were cost-conscious in some ways, and extravagant in others. But we know we COULD travel on a budget if we wanted to.
Here’s what we learned about traveling smart, so that if you want to get out of a stuck space and spend time somewhere else, you can do it even if you have a small budget. It’s a matter of mindset and a willingness to compromise.
After tallying it all up, the receipts, the credit card bills and the little bit of cash we brought, we spent about $22,000. Rounding it up just to have a nice even number, and in case we left anything out, let’s call it $25,000.
That includes a place to stay, food, gas, parking, and entertainment. It also includes anything we spent on incidentals on the road. Like toothpaste. And coffee.
It doesn’t include money we spent on souvenirs. We spent a couple hundred dollars here and there on t-shirts (one from every city and town!), gifts, and other fun things, but I don’t count that as a travel expense. It was totally optional.
That’s less than Ralph thought we spent, and more than we could have. But what if you don’t have $25,000 lying around?
You’ve got to eat. And you’ve got to do that whether you stay home or travel across the country. So if you eat smart then you don’t have to figure much if any additional budget for food.
We went to restaurants when we arrived at our destinations but we almost never ate from the road.
We bought a cooler and filled it with fruit and bottled water, and stocked up on non-perishables like nuts and granola bars. Grab a loaf of bread, some cold cuts and a little PB&J and you can eat anywhere, anytime, inexpensively.
If you stay somewhere with a kitchen (or even an outdoor grill) you can cook for yourself instead of spending on restaurants.
Our cooler was a lifesaver. We bought a Yeti cooler, because we had experience with their products in the past and we know how awesome they are. We used one of their travel mugs for years. You can make a cup of tea in the morning and it will still be piping hot by afternoon. We also got their half gallon jug. We put a cold beverage inside and days later it was still ice cold.
So getting a Yeti was more expensive than getting a traditional cooler but it was easy to carry (more like a giant purse than a cooler) and it kept food cold for days. We could stock up on food from farmer’s markets, roadside stands and grocery stores. It was like having a mini refrigerator.
We saved a ton of money simply by not buying bottled water on the road. Compare two bucks a case at the supermarket to two bucks a bottle at a gas station. That can really add up.
Our trip included one very expensive, luxurious week at the Salish Lodge and Spa in Washington state. That one week accounted for a sizeable chunk of our budget, but it was our anniversary and we gave ourselves a present. It’s not the kind of thing you do on every trip but it was totally worth it!
We got a suite on the waterfall and enjoyed every second of the beautiful room, the stunning scenery, the great people and the incredible food. If you want to feel like you’re on top of the world and have money to spend, we highly recommend it.
But if you’re on a budget, there’s a lot you can do to keep your room costs in check. Start with one of the hotel apps, like Priceline or Hotels.com. If you can stand a little risk, pull the app out when you show up in a town and see what the deals are. You can sometimes get great deals at the last minute.
Airbnb is another great option for lower cost rooms. If you’re OK sharing space with other people, you can get pretty good rates on rooms in other people’s homes. If you want a little more privacy, like your own bathroom, you’re going to pay more, but you can still find nice places at good rates.
If you’re using Airbnb, look for rules and amenities that suit you. You can find places that allow pets, include parking, wifi, kitchens and patios, and a lot more. Some people don’t allow shoes or meat, others want quiet time by 9PM. Find something that fits your lifestyle.
Look for extended stay hotels or Airbnbs that offer discounts for a longer stay. If you want to get away and aren’t looking to do the touristy thing, go someplace for a month and you’ll get a better deal than if you place-hop every few nights. Sometimes a MUCH better deal.
Go off the beaten path. If you aren’t looking to go to the biggest tourist havens, you can get much better rates. January in our breach town is deserted, so rooms are much cheaper than they are in July. Don’t mind being in Arizona in the dead of the August heat? You can get some super nice rooms for dirt cheap.
We even found hotels that did “stay two nights get one free” deals, so look for those, too!
And finally: campgrounds. We didn’t stay overnight at one but it’s a possibility next time. You might be surprised by some of the amenities. You can find campsites with showers, electricity, and even wifi. And there are often common rooms where you can meet and socialize with other people, and even use laundry facilities. Yes, you can spend a little more and get yourself a cabin, but for very little money you can get a spot to park your car and either sleep right in it, or pull out a small tent. Depending on where you are, you could spend no more than $20 a night.
And since you’re a nomad now, you can leave your camping spot during the day and do a little sightseeing, or go park yourself at a café and work right from there.
Knowing what we know now, we could do another 11-week trip and easily cut our budget in half. We could do that without even thinking too hard, without having to sacrifice our private bathroom, and even getting to go out for a nice filet mignon and lobster tail dinner now and then.
So yes, if you’re having a great year and want to treat yourself to something fun, grab your keys and go see some of this amazing country. But if you’re daydreaming about getting out of town “if only you could afford it”, then grab your keys anyway, stock up on granola bars and go find someone with a room to rent.
If you’re willing to take a chance, to leave your “safe space” for a little while and roll with whatever happens, it really can be that easy.
We learned early on that using a debit card on the road was a really bad idea. If it gets stolen (and ours was, numerous times), that’s a direct line to your bank account. Use a credit card instead because you’re protected if it's stolen and it won’t affect your cash.
As for credit cards, use one with rewards if you’ve got it. We used our Discover card, which amounted to several hundred dollars of cash back at the end of the trip, and that’s like free money you can use to help pay for the credit card!
This episode was like one giant ad for stuff we love, and we think some of these people should pay us for raving about them. If you run into them in the street, let them know!
Check out Yeti products if you camp, hike, travel or just want something you can keep out in the sun on barbecue day that won’t melt in an hour.
Book yourself a room (even better, book a suite) at the Salish Lodge and Spa if you want to be pampered.
Also, big props to Bensound for providing the royalty-free music that we used behind Ralph's apologies.
Finally, enjoy this skit from Key and Peele, related to a reference Ralph made that we’ll apologize for next week.