Feel free to add your own tips ....
I am on the road over 300 days a year so I can't always afford to stay at a motel - some markets are just too expensive.
I always pay cash.
I always stop at the Welcome Center or Main Rest Area when I enter a state to pick up motel coupon books - I call & ask what the rate is that night because sometimes it is cheaper than the coupon rate.
I don't rely on Siri or Google to locate a budget motel - the results are advertiser driven.
If the weather is cooperative I will sack out in the custom loft I built in my enclosed trailer.
Lowe's & Home Depot are good parking lots because you can get wifi ( I prefer Lowe's ).
I avoid Walmart.
I have a premium membership at Planet Fitness - for $20 a month you get nationwide access to all the clubs - at the very least that takes care of a shower.
I used to always fuel at Flying J - at least (14) gallons at a time gets you a 1/2 shower good for (10) days but they did away with free wifi at a lot of locations and the parking lot(s) by the light duty fueling are crowded & smell like urine.
A last resort is the semi truck parking - some guys don't know how to drive & you can get hit at night - also the trucks run chiller generators & APU's all night or idle their trucks so you don't get much sleep.
I don't know when I last used a motel, but it's been years. Driving modern, I go in the Camry Hotel. The seat leans back for sleeping. Except in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit, Wal-Marts are open 24-7 and usually have good restrooms. McDonald's always has free wi-fi, although some locations are short on places to plug in a computer. Notable was the McD in Santa Rosa, NM, where there was just one outlet, dead, and the manager didn't know how to turn it on. Driving the 1915 last week, I took a tarp, tent, foam pad, and sleeping bag. The weather was so pleasant I didn't bother with the tent and sleeping bag. Even in a city, I found a secluded spot near the Wal-Mart where I could lay down my tarp and pad out of sight. A campground for $8 is nice, and a free spot is even nicer.
When we are traveling to and from with our 5'th wheel we often pull into a Cracker Barrel and park in the rv lot out back.We tell the Mgr we would like both supper and a early breakfast and ask if we can spend the night?? We have never been turned down and it's a better place than a wally world with no hot roding!
When we traveled with the Suburban to and from T tours I dropped the small middle seat and laid cushions down so one could sleep in the back while taking turns driving. Once my wife got comfortable back there Derek and I had to take turns driving and sleeping in the front seat. If Mama is happy every body is almost happy.
All good tips .....
I would have never thought of Cracker Barrel.
FJ, do the truckies leave their engines idling ALL night at the truck stops? (Or just the frig units?)
That seems crazy.
Manuel in Oz
Last Summer we toured for 5 weeks in the eastern side of the US and those coupon books were good and I discovered the same as Jim, ask how much first as sometimes their offer is cheaper than the coupon. This last Summer we traveled for 3 months covering 16 states on the West half staying every night except 3 in hotels/motels. This time the coupon books were a waste of time, every place but one claimed they had sold all the discount rooms. However saying you are a AAA member gets you a good discount.
Can't wait to get back again next year, its a fantastic country to explore.
Since most diesel semi drivers are not paying for the fuel burned - they idle their trucks to run their cab heater/ac.
It is cheaper than staying in a motel.
Most states won't let you idle a diesel vehicle over 10,000 lbs. GVWR - but there are still some that have no restriction.
The trucks are packed in tight so noise seems to reverberate.
We use to use a business discount card which was a money saver, then fewer motels accepted it and started putting restrictions on it so we don't bother with it anymore.In some instances it might save you money.
My 2006 E-250 is a windowless van (no windows in the side or back doors), there is a door behind the driver and passenger seats and the "Cargo" area is insulated and has a spot cooler powered by a deep cycle marine battery and inverter. Secure,quiet, comfortable & Dark.
Park your truck on some high, dry ground.
If you have 4wd you should have enough room to crawl under it to sleep. bring some old couch cushions to wedge between the ground and truck for wind deflection and privacy (tarps hung from the doorjambs down to the ground in a pinch) and you should be good to go.
Toss an empty pop bottle with a screw-on lid underneath with you and you wont have any reason to crawl out from under the truck in the middle of the night....
I see a business opportunity here ......
Steve N Dale Budget Bundle Excursions
Thrifty T Tours ....
Jim, why do you avoid Walmart?
I used to park at Walmart.
My experience has been that Walmart parking lots are turning into homeless camps.
In some communities, overnight stays in Walmart parking lots are not allowed by local ordinance.
In general, things have just gone downhill from what I see.
With a "senior/disability pass" we can camp at most state parks, and corp of engineer parks for 9.00 per night. That includes electric, water, and use of their showers and restrooms. The amount will vary some from state to state, but it is 1/2 price of standard price. The pass also gets us free of charge gate pass into all National Parks and most State Parks if not camping... With a smart phone it is easy to find the closest park to your route and they are always quiet, safe, and scenic ... but there is usually no Wi-Fi, so your smart phone is all you will have if that is important to you... They also are not open for check in from aprox 10:00 PM to 9:AM have fun and be safe in your travels ...
My little brother and I didn't use pop bottles. You could sell them for 3¢. We used one of these.
Thanks for the explanation Jim. I am still amazed.
Manuel in Oz
I am enjoying this thread (so far?). I hope a few more people can post good tips for traveling on the cheap. I also hope that in a couple years I can try some of them myself.
Here is a link to the Corp. Parks system. The parks are in most states, and with a little pre planning they can be a good choice when traveling with a camper of some kind. There is a map of the US on the link. Click on any of the individual states on the US map and another page will show up as a map for that state with all the parks shown. Click on any individual park and that particular parks details will show up. Not all parks will have electric. But by looking at the list down the page and looking for the letter E in the list, that will be the parks with electric hookups. If they have electric, they will have heated showers and bathrooms. You can also look up the rates by using the booking option. If you have a senior or disability pass the rates are 1/2 what is shown ... We made a 10 day trip a couple years ago with a small camp trailer. Our total bill for lodging was 90.00. We had showers, electric, and water, every night. This link is just for the Corp. parks (some Corp. parks are also State Parks). There is also sites for the state parks and the National Parks. happy camping and traveling.
Its taken a bit to figure out what works for my wife son and I (I'm the only driver). I've found that its best to push as far as we can crashing thru the night wherever to grab 1/2 hour-hour naps. Driving during the next day isnt a problem then in the afternoon we crash in a motel and take a break 1-2 nights to recharge. Travelling like this (remember 2 year old in the car) we can manage cross country with only crashing in 2 spots. If we try to stop and rest every night we don't make nearly enough miles and it gets $$. Travelling like this we managed 8000 miles on the past trip.
Park out ways at Casino's if near any..
When my son drove across the country with a sprint car on the trailer he did what Howard said when possible.