Frugal travel with mini campers!

Spouse Susan, very comfy with our teardrop, in Pinnacles National Park campground.

Our reproduction 58 Scotty teardrop in front of giant fifth-wheel in Yellowstone National Park.


I’ve been retired, now for almost a year and a half, my wife for eight months – we made a pact to do a lot of traveling in the US and Canada the next several years, emphasizing seeing the country and not spending a ton of money.

We also think that it makes sense to see the US first, Canada second, before flying off to see Europe, the Balkans, and other far-flung destinations. Not that we don’t want to do it – we’re currently thinking of an Italian two-week visit sometime next year – but we know we can see much of the US and much of Canada and spend a lot less money.

Our style of frugal travel includes a number of methods to save money. First, we don’t head out thinking “we’re cheap”; merely that we want good value for our money.  Hence, we employ several tactics.

We started with our vehicle.  We purchased a 2013 Ford Focus – on a trip to Southern California it will get 38 MPG on the road (that’s almost twice what we once got with our primary conveyance).  On a long trip, that means half the gas, and savings of $350 on a recent trip up to Montana and Wyoming.  And, the Focus is surprisingly comfortable and fun to drive!

If we are off on a several day trip, we search out efficient, inexpensive motels.   As an example, we have found a very nice Super 8 motel in San Francisco, just 12 blocks from the Marina District, that goes for about $84/night (that’s about half what most folks would think they might have to pay in SF).

For meals, we will often rely on the continental breakfast at such a motel, and do a simple lunch along the way.  For our main meal, we don’t “go cheap”, for we like nice restaurants and appreciate a quality meal.  But, about 12 years ago (both of us feeling like we eat too much and desiring to lose a few pounds) we began sharing a salad and a main entry.  We have never been hungry afterwards; we can add an inexpensive bottle of wine, and get out with a bill in the $60-$80 range.  Perfect!

About seven years ago, having long-realized that California was filled with stunning destinations in every direction and blessed by great weather, we found, on Craig’s List, a kit-built teardrop travel trailer.  These small trailers weigh little, sleep two comfortably, store easily in a garage and can be pulled by the smallest of vehicles (the seller was towing this one with a Mini-Cooper).

We currently own two small trailers, a three-year old 58 Serro Scotty teardrop reproduction, and an original 64 Scotty Sportsman, a bit larger though needing a fairly extensive rebuild.  We can tow the teardrop with our Ford, and we get lots of comments in the campgrounds, parked among the “big boys” – giant fifth-wheels towed by huge diesel pickups.  Guess who gets four-times better milage?

So, in all but the coldest months, we will usually attach our teardrop trailer.  We can often find a national park or federal campground near our destination – and with our federal Senior pass, a $35 camping ground’s cost is cut in half.  That same Senior Pass gets one into any national park free!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: travel; or contact me,  Coming on Friday, a feature on Sequoia’s sister park, Kings Canyon National Park; until then, happy travels in the west!

This entry was posted in Central California, East Coast US, Hawaii, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers, United States beyond! and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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