First things first: Do. Not. Rent. It’s too expensive for your broke ass. Unless you find one from a personal renter, car companies just won’t be worth it. There are apps that people offer their car from 40 – 100 dollars a day that is at least worth checking out, but your best bet is to buy a junker and watch some YouTube on the side of the road when it inevitably breaks down.
If you’re going to buy, go Used! We both know you’re too broke to buy a car that loses thousands in value as soon as it leaves the lot. Note: when buying a used car, be sure to get the kind of car that you can find parts for at a junkyard because it is so popular. I am partial to the honda civic but have your car guy on hand with a text of picture and the caption is “IS THIS OK OR NA?!!?!?!?!”
Or, if you a bougie bitch, you could just fly, give up the whole thing. If this is the case, just stop reading now. I’m pretty sure Baltimore to Vegas is the cheapest option.
If you are coming from out of the country
you should know that phone plans are outrageous here. If you have to go prepaid get your ass to a Walmart. The cheapest thing you can find is getting on a family plan, so if you have a friend in the states it’s worth asking if you can join them on their plan.
If you are comfortable with traditional maps and waiting for wifi to post your new found memories, it wouldn’t be impossible to go without. But girl, get one with unlimited data for one of you that does the most sharing and hotspot the BEJESUS out of it. Also, the most expensive service is Verizon Wireless but if you’re doing unlimited and have one hotspot that you and all your friends are splitting, it might be worth it to go with Verizon because it works almost everywhere in the country. Not like you’ll really need it, but you could be very attached, fine.
Check out plans and cell phone options before you get to the US, we tend to getcha if you wait last minute, and not in a good way.
First and foremost you’ll need three things; a car, a planet fitness membership, and facebook.
These are your essentials.
The car is obviously for transportation, maybe even temporary housing and a sanctuary from the intense journey you are embarking on. The states are not a popular place for converted vans, so if you find a van and are willing to do the work when you sell the car it will end up being worth more.
The other plus of a van is that you park anywhere since it is not common for people to travel and live in them, you can make it look like you don’t live in it and go almost anywhere to park for free. If you decide to get a camper this will not be an option. Don’t you want to be able to parallel park your home?
The second essential is a planet fitness membership. Look, girl, we know you didn’t drive across the country to see different workout equipment, but you’re missing the point.
And the beauty of the membership is that for $20 a month, plus a membership fee that is twice a year, that you could even possibly avoid by canceling on time, you get access to every one of their gyms across the USA. This means for $20 a month you are guaranteed a shower almost anywhere in the USA.
As if that didn’t make it worth it enough, the $20 membership gets you a buddy pass, and the best part of it all; a hydro massage. Long drives can take a toll on your back and your sanity, and 30 minutes on an elliptical and a back massage can change your life.
Important note: to cancel your planet fitness membership you have to physically be at planet fitness. They say you have to do it at the one you signed up at but know that you can just ask them to transfer your membership to them and cancel it.
This is the best broke girl trick in the world, if you wanted to step it up a notch you could go to different cities and pretend like you just moved to a top-notch neighborhood (know the name of the most expensive neighborhood), and in your bougiest voice tell them you haven’t settled on a gym and you can’t decide without seeing, I don’t know, the rooftop pool, or the salt room where you are actually just going to nap.
This trick rarely works for spas as they offer day passes, this is where you’ll wanna get your Groupon out or wait till you get to Las Vegas (Please read [link to BGGTLV])
Most gyms also offer day passes, but the ones with rooftop pools aren’t letting in day guests; this is your target.
The third essential is a facebook account. I have been collecting friends like Pokemon for moments like these. This is where you will find the free pads to crash in and possibly your best city guides.
If you type in “Friends who live in [insert city here]” into the facebook search bar. You will find that every friend in that city pops up. That’s when you send a “hey, remember me from that bar and I never called? I’d love to catch up. I will be passing through your city. If you know any cheap places to stay let me know!”
From there you’ll either get an “I have a couch.” or “I wish I could take you in but..”
Either way, it is definitely worth a try.
Facebook also offers some amazing tools for traveling.
No matter where you are you can also click on events, and search “events near me.” From here you will literally see everything that is going on from drawing classes to the best bar parties.
You can also do what I think is the best trick Facebook has to offer; Facebook groups. Sure, you might not be the type of girl looking for other people with the same interests on the internet, but now is the time. If you go to your trusty Facebook search bar and type the city that you are going to and filter for groups, you can find the community underneath the city, the parties that aren’t public enough to go on events near me, and the people who aren’t public enough to put their space out there.
If you are more of a planner, these groups could be your chance to get to know people in the community, it could help you get close to someone you might have never met. This could be a golden ticket to a place to sleep or a guide.
But here’s the thing about getting guides as a broke girl, they wanna show you things about their city, things they love, which is great, but costly.
When picking up a guide, be upfront. Let them know you are looking for a place to stay cause your hard on cash, let them know you have no interest in a romantic encounter.
These people should appreciate your honesty. If they are offended by you telling someone you met online that you do not want a romantic encounter then it is because they had other ideas and you just dodged a bullet. Do not apologize for sticking up for yourself.
As a broke girl, I doubt you are traveling alone. But if you so choose to then there are things you should be careful about and know that sometimes it costs more to be alone.
I have personally driven across the country five times, but only once was I alone. I decided that the truck stops alone were enough for me to want to pick up a stranger because I find them so terrifying.
I would like to point out that truck stops are frightening for women; you are in a place with most if not only men, they have usually been on the road for long periods of time with lowered inhibitions and less of a chance of getting caught when they are just passing through.
I get people to ride with me from craigslist.
Yes I know, someone who just told you she can’t be at a truck stop alone is picking up people from the Cereal-killers-are-us of the internet, but hear me out. I think, no, I know there are ways to pick good people from these rideshare sites by vetting them before you even meet them.
For example, write a description that asks them to do something out of the ordinary. I will say something like “Please tell me about yourself, send a picture, and give me some reason why you are not creepy. Someone who sends something like, “Hey, I need to get out of this town and I will send you some money, blah blah blah; they’re out.
They clearly didn’t even read the description, and they either are trying to avoid the photo or just read the title of the ride and are desperate and looking for a quick way out. Either way, not interested.
Of course, ask for a photo of their ID, and let them know you have sent it to people who will pursue them if something goes wrong. Someone who is probably equally as worried will be okay with it. I have had great experiences doing this and have saved a lot on gas by splitting the trip.
Although I have only had one cross country trip with a stranger who is now a good friend, I have taken and given a lot of craigslist rides and have loved all of them.
If you lose your charger do not buy a new one at a gas station, ask a hotel or motel if it is in their lost and found (it is, trust me). This can also work for umbrellas or other regular items.
Hostels in the US are not always a great price. In major cities try Couchsurfing.
As a woman people tend to look less as the “verified credentials,” so don’t pay the yearly fee, just add your social media to your profile and always take the time to read someone else before applying. That way you can send them a message that says “Hey, we have similar interests, you will enjoy having me.”
In larger cities, it might even be cheaper to get an Airbnb room than it is to get a hostel. You could also join some travel groups on Facebook, some are designed just for women, and try to find someone who is also in that city and would like to get a room with you.
This is always great because you have the opportunity to meet them online first, if you’re the kind of girl that wants to wake up early to hike, maybe don’t pick the girl whose profile picture is here taking a cage to the face upside down. Although I will say that we don’t put our best selves out there,
and just simply saying, “Hey, this is what I am into and I am all about,” could have your travel companion decline for you, or you might be surprised and make a good friend.