Road tripping again: The dreaded planning process

We really enjoyed our road trip last year, especially all of the amazing new sites we got to see, so we’ve been chatting about taking another road trip this year. My fiancé likes to be exceptionally spontaneous and I’m more of a planner. To make this work, he gives me a budget and a general theme or location for the trip. I then go to town researching the areas we are considering and how that will fit with our goals and budget. We don’t usually pre=book anywhere to stay along the way, so we can play it by ear as we go. This enables us to stay longer in areas we like and not waste precious time in areas that aren’t holding our interest. It also comes with some challenges though, especially when things are booked and we have to drive further than expected to find lodging for the evening.

This road trip proves to be exciting and challenging at the same time. We plan to road trip for 10-13 days around the perimeter of the state of Michigan, visiting state parks along the great lakes. We have thrown in an added challenge in that we will be camping for most of the trip. This means that every time we want to move locations (almost daily), we will need to tear down camp and then make sure we arrive at our next location early enough in the day to have light to set up camp again. It also means planning our food ahead of time. Our diet since the juice fast has been drastically different than our previous camping adventures have been and I need to rethink our camping food choices to find something that works with our new diet. Our entire budget for the 10-13 days is only $1500-1750.

I began by trying to find out which state parks in Michigan might have something interesting to offer that we can’t see elsewhere. There are over 100 state parks in Michigan, so we obviously can’t visit them all. We live in Southwest Michigan, so we have already decided we won’t spend a lot of time on the western side of the state, since we can get to most of those parks as a day or weekend trip. The same is true of the southeastern corner of the state, below Detroit. So, we will focus the bulk of our time in the upper peninsula and the northeastern corner of the state. I have compiled a map of 36 state parks, plus other attractions, that we might be interested in visiting.

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Next step is budgeting. I’ve calculated basic driving distance between select points in the state and determined we will probably drive about 1500-2000 miles and our vehicle gets about 20 mpg; this means we will need about $300 for gas alone. Our basic admission to the state parks is free because of the license plate I mentioned, but we still have ot pay to stay overnight. Camping fees in the state parks vary from $17-35/night, so I’ve budgeted $30/night for 13 nights, totaling $360. Our menu is pretty simple also. I’ll make rice and quinoa ahead of time and bring canned beans for dinner. Since it’s summer, we will stop at farmers markets along the road and pick up fruits and veggies to supplement. For lunch we’ll have rice cakes and peanut butter with fruit on top. Since I’m a BeachBody coach, we’ll have Vanilla Vegan Shakeology for breakfast each day. The powder is easy to mix with water and keeps you full for a few hours. Our grocery budget for all of this (minus Shakeology, because I already have it) is $260. We also have 2 meat days each week. I don’t really like taking steak in the cooler, so I’ve budgeted $180 for us to eat in restaurants on our meat days. This leaves us $400-650 for miscellaneous spending like hotels (if it’s cold or rainy), extra restaurant nights, admission to other attractions, etc. I don’t count souvenirs in the budget; if we decide to buy them, they are extras.

BUDGET $1500-1750

  • $300 – fuel
  • $360 – camping fees
  • $260 – groceries
  • $180 – restaurants
  • $400-650 misc.

After all of my planning, I can see that our trip is actually doable and looks like it will be fun and full of new sights and adventures. When I told my fiancé it was a go, he decided we should leave in 4 days! I already have a camping packing list to work from (I’m a planner), so it won’t be too hard to get things ready in time. Fortunately for my fiancée, my obsessive planning allows him to be as free and spontaneous as he wants to be. This is why we work so well together.