Frugal travel, recent reflections!

Our Scotty teardrop, perfect for light touring, in front of the Grand Tetons!

I’ve been retired for 19 months, my wife for 11 – long ago, we made a pact to do a lot of traveling in the US and Canada the next several years.

In the last year, we have toured all the way to the end of Long Island (and bought a classic teardrop trailer in West Virginia, towing/camping in it the balance of the trip), toured Gettysburg and the C&O Canal into Washington D.C., and took a fall trip up the coasts of CA, OR and WA, and across British Columbia.

In the deep winter, we drove up to Whitefish, MT, toured into Glacier National Park (eerie in frozen splendor) and experienced 40 below zero in West Yellowstone!  We spent three weeks touring the Grand Canyon, taking in spring training games in Phoenix and visiting pals in Yuma.  Along the way, we have visited eight of the nine national parks in California (only lacking Channel Islands NP; we’ll get there someday!).  We have tossed in a number of closer-t0-home destinations, and logged almost 37,000 miles on a 16 month-old auto!

We want to see the US first, Canada second, before flying off to see Europe and other far-flung destinations. Not that we don’t want to travel the world – 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 schemes to save money. First, we don’t head out thinking “we’re cheap”; merely that we want good value for our money.  We employ several tactics.

We tour with 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).  And, the Focus is surprisingly comfortable and fun to drive!  We also added a bike receiver to the back of the car, and our teardrop trailer, and invariably take two bikes – this provides both exercise and an efficient mode to explore destinations, whether it is San Francisco’s Embarcadero or Tahoe’s west shore.

For meals, we prepare many of our own in camp; if motel-ing, we will often rely on the continental breakfast, 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 can add an inexpensive bottle of wine, and get out with a bill in the $60-$80 range.  Perfect!

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).

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 little 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 intensive rebuild.  We can tow the teardrop with our Focus, 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 mileage?

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 inspiration, see my blog:; contact me at  Happy travels in the west!


This entry was posted in Alaska, 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 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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