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Travel Reviews

Road Trip/Cross-Country Move Recap & Spending

Three million years later, I’m finally writing my road trip recap. I moved into my new place a few weeks ago but honestly I didn’t really want to add up the numbers. Spoiler alert: they are large. That’s why I broke them up by day and/or person. Sneaky, sneaky me.

I’m going to try to keep this very short. I know some bloggers do recaps of each day individually but I don’t have the attention span for that. Fill in the time blanks with driving, sleeping, and working. Fill in the eating blanks with Chipotle and Starbucks. More pictures available on my Instagram.




We left Ohio (I was a  little teary eyed) and headed to our first stop, Chicago! We had our first couchsurfing experience with a wonderful couple who had recently moved from NC. They invited their friends over and grilled out. We spent the night drinking local beer, eating burgers and guacamole (my first guac experience!), and chatting.



We spent the morning walking around Chicago. We saw The Bean, Michigan Avenue, the shore line, and Navy Pier — all which were within walking distance of our hosts’ apartment. We had lunch at my favorite pizza place to date, Pequod’s, on our hosts’ recommendation. After lunch, we packed back into the car and drove through the rest of Illinois, Wisconsin, and settled into Minnesota for the night so I could get some work done.



We drove into South Dakota and had lunch in Sioux Falls at Sanaa’s, a Mediterranean restaurant. The food was good but incorrectly labeled. Shish tawook, my ass. We went to Badlands National Park. Then we drove into Rapid City, SD for the night. We had dinner at Independent Ale House which had awesome pizza and a great selection of wine and beer. It was a very happy happy hour.



We got up early to head to Mount Rushmore before leaving SD. It looks smaller in person but it was definitely awesome to see. We drove from Rapid City to Denver, dropped our bags off at our couchsurfing host’s place, and went out for Mexican with the lovely Carrie of Careful Cents. She’s just as wonderful in person as she is on the Interwebs.



We purchased tickets to the Real Madrid game in L.A. on a whim, effectively lengthening our trip by an entire week. Real Madrid has been Steve’s favorite team for over 15 years so it was definitely money well spent. Then we made our short drive from Denver to Colorado Springs to settle in with our next couchsurfing host. We did a bit of hiking at Palmer Park and had dinner and drinks at McCabe’s.



Colorado is freaking beautiful! I hadn’t been there since the age of 9 and I loved it just as much. We went to Garden of the Gods, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and Manitou Springs. All of it was wonderful! Question: why is every Coloradoan preggers? You guys are seriously fertile. Everyone was about 8 months pregnant with at least 3 kids already.




We drove to Albequerque. This is where I started getting crabby. Not even crabby, just bitchy. I was pissed at everything for no apparent reason. My theory is that I was just exhausted and sick of living out of a suitcase. We spent the night drinking wine and watching game shows because I had no desire to do anything.


Still bitchy, we drove to the Grand Canyon and then Vegas.We went to the strip, had margaritas at Margaritaville, and hot dogs and beer at Manhattan Streets. After that, I was done. I hated Vegas with a passion. Not because it was a bad place, but because I hated everything. I just wanted to be in one place for a minute.




We drove to L.A. and had In-N-Out Burger for the first time. Yum! Then we checked into a hotel in Santa Monica and I spent the entire night catching up on work. Finally, I was out of my crabby mood. I just needed some time to unwind and get caught up.


We strolled the Santa Monica Pier for a bit before heading to Hollywood Blvd. I looked at every. single. star. and couldn’t find my dearest SJP. There was a section that was being completely redone so I suspect she was there. I mean it, we looked at EVERY star. Note: there are a lot of stars.



We spent the rest of our credit card points on a hotel for the night and headed to Aliki’s Greek Tavern for dinner. It was my first Greek food! So delish!


Steve picked up breakfast from The Coffee Co. before we headed out to The Getty. Afterwards, we checked into our hotel room in Inglewood (oh how the mighty have fallen) and went to 3Dog Cantina to watch the L.A. Galaxy game. Well Steve watched the game, I worked on my laptop. Yes, on a Thursday night in a bar. I like to party.


On the drive back, we happened upon Pink’s Hot Dogs. We stood in line for an hour or so to eat mediocre hot dogs. That’s what tourists do.


After a riveting morning in the laundromat (seriously, I’d rather go to the BMV), we headed to The Grove for look shopping and aimless wandering. We grabbed a cupcake from the famous Sprinkles and then dropped our stuff off at the hotel. Since we didn’t die during our night in Inglewood so we decided to put our arms further into the lion’s cage and stay in Compton.

We went downtown and headed to Bar Ama for dinner. Oh em gee delicious. The queso will make you cry sweet, sweet tears of joy. We picked up beer from a liquor store (in Compton!) and called it a night.


GAME DAY! We went to the Real Madrid game (we won!). It was a total dream come true for Steve and I had fun as well. Then, we spent about an hour looking for our car because we didn’t see any parking markers when we originally parked. “We’ll find it”, we said. Do you have any idea how big Dodger Stadium is? Holy shit, I was almost in tears by the time we finally found our beloved Focus. We spent the night in Compton again because we were cheap and ignorant.





We drove to San Francisco. Note about SF: It’s really cold. Not like cold compared to L.A., like cold in general. I did not know this. We grabbed shawarma from Truly Mediterranean for dinner and shivered our way back to the car.


We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and spent the entire day driving. We finally got to Portland around 11 PM.



We spent this time staying in hotels, looking at apartments, and applying for jobs/working. Moved into our current home on Saturday.

Things I learned

1) When I eventually travel the world, I need to stay in one city for at least a week at a time so I don’t turn into Mrs. Krabbs.

2) Chipotle does not exist in South Dakota, so I will never, ever live there. Ever.

3) San Francisco is hella cold and Colorado is hella fertile.

4) There are a lot of boring states in the middle of the U.S.

5) L.A. is scary and you should only stay there if you have the money to stay in nice areas. Only go there for queso.

6) Northern California and Oregon are absolutely gorgeous.

7) In-N-Out > McDonald’s

8) Vegas hotels are really cheap and Vegas drinks are really expensive.

9) Life is too short to stay in one state.

10) Steve is the best husband in the entire world for putting up with me. (Just kidding, I already knew this one!)


Lodging: $1,108.97 or an average of $58.37/night

Out of 19 days, we spent 4 couchsurfing, 1 using credit card points, and 14 in hotels. Due to staying in some pretty sketchy places (Compton, Inglewood, basically L.A. in general), we kept this very low. Note: we did not intentionally stay in dangerous areas. We knew they weren’t the best, we were not aware that we were basically sleeping with the gangs of L.A. until afterwards.

Our couchsurfing was limited due to last-minute planning. We had no idea where we were staying from one day to the next.

Transportation: $621.37 or an average of $32.70/day

This was the gas for the drive across the U.S. (obviously) plus tolls and parking charges.

Food/Alcohol/Coffee: $760.05 or an average of $20.00/day per person

The number as a whole looks bad, but the breakdown isn’t TERRIBLE for a vacation especially considering we are both coffee and alcohol drinkers. I call it a win.

Shopping: $0

Nada! No knick knacks, no “Vegas was so expensive I could only afford half a cup” cups. Absolutely no shopping.

Entertainment: $314.42

This includes our game tickets (over $200) and our entrance fee (or “parking fee”) to the national parks and monuments.

Miscellaneous: $72.54

Restocking toiletries, laundry, and a lamp I broke. Long story.

It isn’t actually — I broke a lamp. Then I paid for it.

TOTAL: $2,877.35 or an average of $151.44/day

Over 1500 words later, this was not “very short”. Oh well, whaddya gonna do?

Questions? Comments? Did anyone make it this far?

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Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
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