How to plan for a trip.

Trip Preparation 101A

Let’s talk about how much a trip cost for 2 adults. If you want to plan for a trip financially, the big three things to consider for “overlanding” or a road trip in general are gas, food and lodging.

Initially this “Trip planning blog” was for U.S. Route 101. It slowly evolved into, a generalized planner.

Mt. Rainier National Park

Gas and Miles

Approximate your miles through Google Maps, or your preferred method, from beginning to end adding each of your planned destinations. You should know about how many miles a tank of gas will get you in your specified vehicle, Our VW gets about 330 miles per tank with a load of our junk. Plan to get less than normal mileage since the car will be loaded down and you may encounter mountain passes.

Divide your route mileage by your fuel range (fuel range is how many miles a tank of gas will drive) then you know the number of tanks of gas per that trip. Then add an extra tank, or two depending on your route. If a trip was 5 days long, I would estimate an extra 2 tanks of gas just in case. Know your plan. If your timelines are loose, you may be adding extra miles for detours then plan those miles in. You also need to know how many gallons of gas your tank takes from empty to full. Our VW is 12 gallons. Then estimate the price of gas in the area.

Total Mileage: 1,254 divided by, Fuel Range: 320 1254/320= 3.91
So, you need about 4 or 5 planned tanks of gas. One tank is 12 gallons of gas, so we’ll say that’s 12×5=60 gallons total. Gas is $3.17/Gal. So 60×3.17=$190.20 allotted for gas. I always like to overestimate trip costs.

Virginia, on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Lets Eat

Food. You know how much food costs. You’ve been buying it most of your life, right? Well, food can cost as much or as little as you can plan for. If you eat 3 meals and all of those meals are 5-star eateries, then plan for huge expenses. Or go the cheap route. Eat prepackaged food or eat light. You won’t need too many calories to sit in the car. Yay weight loss!

If you can, plan your meals. Meal prepping can save you money big time if you don’t want to eat out. Bring a stove, eat a Mountain House or Backpacker’s Pantry meal. If you, like we have now, have a propane stove, you can make pretty much anything. We usually do some kind of glaze with chicken breast with two sides for dinner. I love to make pork chops with a splash of Frank’s Red Hot and Fireball Whiskey. The stove, which we bought ours at Cabela’s allows you a lot of freedom. For breakfast we usually make a scramble with whatever we decided to put in and prepare. Lunch can be eating out, or hamburgers, freeze dried foods, usually something that we can eat quickly since we use the daylight to travel or enjoy activities.
For snacks we try and have apples, bananas, some popcorn, jerky, things like that.

North Carolina


No one can live without water for more than three days. Water is a must but also realize what water is for. You need to drink water. You can accomplish this through drinking other things, and I will allow you to determine those and when you purchase them but be cognizant of this. Water will also be used to wash your hands after using the restroom, washing dishes, washing cookware, to brush your teeth or hygiene and even to rinse off your feet after surfing all afternoon. Hand sanitizer may help. Also, sanitizing wipes can be used to clean things.

If you have time, space and money, you can separate these water sources. If, like us, you need to do more with less, than you can buy a large reusable jug from REI like we did. We bought a 7-gallon water jug at REI for cheap and use it as our primary water source. There is nothing wrong with this as long as long as you can keep the system clean so you can drink it. Additionally you may need to find a way to refill. There are numerous options for refills.
Mio is your friend in the summer heat.
Showering is a whole different task. If you find a shower necessary during your trip, I can suggest a trucker shower or a campground that has them. If you live on the road, a gym membership may allow you to shower. Or shower in a local body of water with bio degradable soaps.
We showered at campgrounds and did our laundry at laundromats when they became available. While we lived on the road.

Where do I sleep?

Our Tepui Kukenam Sky

Sleep can be found in many ways. As can a “place to stay”. If you want, you may find a hotel. If that is your method, use group on or travel in the off season to maintain a lower price. We prefer to camp, which means finding a national forest, state forest or our least favorite, a campground. If you truly desire you can even, in emergencies, sleep in the local Walmart parking lot. Usually I see RV type vehicles there.
In the last few years I have found that a roof top tent, or RTT, for the high-speed campers works out great. The roof top tent is a whole new world of time saving. Most of the time. Sometimes the RTT can be a pain while attempting to level the vehicle.
Leveling the vehicle can be done many ways. I won’t lecture you on how to make a truck level, but don’t be afraid to use your traction pads, chunks of wood or random rocks.
If you are ground camping, level can be the least of your concerns when it comes to wet weather or clearing the debris from an area. Plan for whatever you brought and research the weather before you leave.

Long before we had a Tepui or a truck to put it on.

Katrin loves our Tepui RTT for the security. Remember with a roof top tent you are not sleeping on the ground where a bear or coyote can easily “get you”. At least that seems to be the logic.

If you have a full-size bed or a large SUV you can look into making a bed inside the vehicle. which is a great way to camp year-round since it’s much more durable and waterproof than any tent. Also, this way is better for heating with a small propane heater. Just read all of the manual when you get it.


Last thing that seems to be overlooked is the vehicle itself. Certain things happen when you start to cram stuff into your rig. You’re going to put more stress on the suspension. If you look at our Ford, we have continually added weight. The rack and the tent are around 200 pounds. Once we load the truck bed with all our supplies, there was noticeable sag in the rear leaf springs. An easy way to identify this problem is simply watching the gap in the wheel well. You should have x amount of space when nothing is in there and y amount of space when its loaded. If your rig loaded looks like it’s about to launch into space, you need an upgrade.
The engine is going to be working much harder going up hills and mountain passes with all that extra weight. Make sure you watch your temperatures and perform regular maintenance per your vehicle manual. If you don’t have a gauge for it or know if you have a transmission inter-cooler you might want to know before attempting any steep trails. Once upon a time I saw someone attempt to climb a steep trail in a 4runner in 4wd HI. The transmission light came on and he had to stop for a while and the group waited for him. If the transfer case was in 4wd Lo the vehicle would have been fine.


Lastly, before any big trips, if you are not mechanically inclined, have a service shop look over your vehicle for you. I don’t really trust the shop to look as hard as I would, so I do it myself. Remember, no one cares about your rig as much as you do.
Look at the service manual for your specific vehicle. Usually mileage and not age are used as the service interval. For instance, engine oil is usually changed every 5,000 miles. Preventative maintenance is much cheaper than towing it 500 miles. Or having a last-minute repair at the nearest shop.

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