Our plan: The 21 day California to Michigan road trip

In case you didn’t know this SoCal family is relocating to Michigan. To kick off our mini retirement The Roamers are heading off on a 21 day cross country road trip.

The count down says I only have 9 days and 11 hrs until this adventure starts.

I get asked why move to  Michigan?

Michigan. Family? Check! Snowy Fun? Check! Happiness? Check!

In Short: Family and property.

Mr. Roamer & Jr’s dad are  both from Michigan and most of their families are there too.

Moving to Michigan means we can re-plug ourselves into the family.

As for property, California is a very prohibitive market. While we could take on a massive loan to buy a home here. We are choosing not to. In Michigan we will be able to afford property and not put ourselves in negative net-worth territory.

While we aren’t the first people to move cross country. I’d like to think what we are choosing to do in the middle is a bit more unique. Instead of just jumping in to normal life all over again we decided to squeeze in a mini retirement. A 21 day road trip followed by a month in El Salvador and a month in Ecuador.

The first leg of our mini-retirement will be our 3 week cross country road trip. While we could do the trip in 5 days. We are extending the trip to include some fun stops.

Before our Epic California Road trip I did a post on our plan and then a wrap up. It was great to compare our  projections to the actual. So here we go again.

Trip Stats

  • Trip length : 21 days
  • 10/1- 10/21
  • Visiting: Las Vegas, Zion, Denver, Nebraska, Iowa, Chicago.
  • Drive time: 37+ hours
  • Distance: 2,409 miles
This is our plan for our road trip. 

Projected costs


Where are we staying? Right now everything is booked as hotels but if we can crash with some people, even better. It will give us a chance to connect and save.  We wont be paying rent so no double spending. If you live in any of these places: Las Vegas, Zion, Denver, Nebraska, Iowa , Chicago and would like to host us for a night we would be so grateful.

Cost : $ 60/night = $1,200


We plan to buy groceries for the day and  eat out once in a while. Normally we spend $300  on groceries a month and another $250+ on eating out. We think there is likely to be an increase. On the trip we are sure to have some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and plenty of oatmeal to meet our budget. But avocados and some fancy meals are also on the list too.

Cost: $550  ( $26/day or $6.5/person/day)


With 2,409 miles to cover in 2 cars it will be high. We normally spend 35 to fill up the tank and I just did some math to figure out how many fill ups we would need for 2 cars. But then I added cushion so I am hoping we’ll be below this.

Cost: $700


I don’t see us spending money on many activities. I want to spend most of our time walking and hiking and visiting people. Still I want to be realistic so I projected $15 a day for this just to be safe.

Cost: $300

Total Cost projection
  • Accommodations: $1,200
  • Food : $550
  • Gas: $700
  • Activities: $300

Total: $2,750 ($130/ day)

It looks like a lot, but I think we will come in below. It is still below our current daily spending. I think I am over shooting, but we’ll see.  We should be well within our spending. Which means if this number feels ok. Then coming in under it will feel just rad!

Not to mention that I feel like most people spend this much for a family of 4 for a one week vacation. VacationKids’ site says to plan $65 per day for food for adults and $45 for children. That hotels cost over $100 a night. While implying that if you aren’t drinking or if you are cooking, Are you “really” on vacation? If that is the benchmark then, you know, we’re looking good. Of course it’s not over till the fat lady sings. Sign up for our newsletter to get the final cost after the road trip. Then we can check how we actually did.

How we are paying the Costs

Mr. Roamer and I practice something I like to call. Last months money. Hahaha just kidding I don’t name our strategies. But maybe I should.

October and this road trip should be no problem for us because we are always a month ahead with our money. Which means that when Mr. Roamer is hard at work and gets paid. The money he earns in July isn’t to cover July expenses. All that July money is actually going to cover August expenses. July is being paid by the money from June.

So our road trip starts October 1st but we don’t have to scramble and save for this month off. The money from September will be untouched and ready to provide for us in October. Mr. Roamer’s paycheck isn’t just big enough to cover this trip. It has to cover all our normal spending and savings. Last month we spent $4555. After the trip costs we should still have $1805 left for everything else.

Stuff like phone bills and car insurance. You know the usual. On months we spend less we just save more.

I love this strategy and it’s a consistent one month buffer for our finances.

Full time travel vs. a vacation

  • Paying double for a place to sleep. When it comes to traveling full time you don’t have to pay rent and hotel cost at the same time. You could rent out your place. My lease says we can’t sublet, so I never rent out our place while away for 3+ weeks. When you don’t have to pay for 2 places to sleep you don’t add extra costs for your travel, it’s just part of your living expenses.
  • Nature is free.Theme parks and all inclusive resort rank high on peoples idea of a vacation. But as full time travelers we plan to be out in nature and just check out each cities differences. Hanging out at parks, hiking and visiting some libraries if we can manage it. Personally I love seeing how home styles vary so much by region.
Live in any of these areas, have any recommendations? How do you plan for a long trip? What is new with you this October? Let me know in the comments below.


The Roamer traveling wallet

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