Toketee Falls is a short hike with tall cascades. | Photo by Scott McCrary
Toketee Falls is a short hike with tall cascades. | Photo by Scott McCrary

Don’t Trip, Just Hit the Road


How to Navigate a Budget Oregon Road Trip

By Kelly Bessem

“On a roadtrip? Things rarely go as planned, but that’s part of the adventure,” said Sean Sesanto, a senior Humboldt State University student from Santa Cruz, Calif.

Stormy roads carved into snow 12 feet tall, trespassed tent sites, and driving directions gone adrift. These unanticipated parts of my recent Oregon road trip made for moments of wariness but enlivened the memories. The key to appreciating bumps in the road is expecting the unexpected.

“My only road trip preventions = time & money,” said Jenna Kelmser. Kelmser is an environmental science major at Humboldt State. The response reverberates the words of many students and potential road trippers.
Planning a road trip to Oregon may sound difficult with time and money constraints. Once these are bypassed, obstacles such as car trouble or being generally unprepared may also present themselves.

I’d never ventured Oregon before my Feb. 2017 trip. I let the aforementioned roadblocks prevent me from setting out despite being just south of Oregon’s border. I’d heard about Oregon’s natural wonders, culinary experiences, and breweries from friends and websites. It took me two years. My suggestion? Don’t wait to go. Oregon’s whimsical wanderings- hot springs, waterfalls, quirky cities- will not disappoint.

Oregon is a welcoming expanse, with speed your only real limit. Use this Oregon road trip guide to prepare for the road and get out there right now.
Total cost of my quintessential Oregon road trip? $280. My strategies:
-Camp when not in a big city. State parks and national recreation areas are cheap options ($10-20). There’s plenty of free dispersed camping as well. maps all of these and has helpful search filters. Just make sure to check the box “redo search when map is moved.”

-Travel with others and divide the costs
-Keep eating out and making food at a 50:50 split
-Have drinks before going to the bars
-Focus on free recreation possibilities
-Find free or cheap firewood within your community

Use a budget calculator to estimate your trip costs. Once you know your total, you can reign in regular spending. Destination photos are great motivators for sticking to this. breaks down road trip planning in a way that people of experience levels can appreciate. Access its budget planner from the “Read” section of the home page.

Lambs ear plants flock the Valley of the Rogue SP Campground | Photo by Scott McCrary


The week before the road trip, make a list of imminent tasks. Then match those tasks with a tentative completion day. It doesn’t have to be exact, but gives the brain a good idea of how to manage within the available time.

Use to estimate travel and activity times. It has excellent graphics and trip ideas. Anything you find on Travel Oregon can be added to a Roadtrippers website account by clicking “add to my Oregon road trip”. Roadtrippers has a page for each thing added with locations, hours, and detailed reviews.


Travel Oregon made an Oregon Weather Compass ( that shows you where you can find sun, snow or rain anywhere in the state. The Oregon Department of Transportation ( shows all road restrictions, closures, and weather hazards.

Snowshoeing the Raven Ski Trail at Crater Lake NP | Photo by Scott McCrary


-Carpool with others to avoid fatigue. Whether or not you can drive, you can help keep drivers awake.

-Inspect your vehicle or get it inspected before taking off. This is always less costly and time consuming. Proper tire pressure and fluid levels are included in any car manual. Some auto shops offer a free check with simple servicing, such as an oil change. Others offers inspections for around $20. American Automobile Association (AAA) members get free inspections.

-Know how to change a tire, jump a car battery, and put on snow chains. In Oregon there can be snow just over 1,000 feet elevation. Instructions are easy to find on YouTube.


-Save maps or directions detailed enough to use when service is lost. Download these to a phone or print them out.

-Glance at directions beforehand if you are driving to avoid confusion.

Snow towers over the road to the Steel Visitor Center at Crater Lake National Park | Photo by Scott McCrary


-Borrow gear from friends. Make sure to return it clean and in good condition.

-Rent items that you don’t use often. (i.e. snowshoes). Humboldt State Center Activities is great for this.

-Be prepared for the weather, and have a plan if items get wet (such as a laundromat).

The Trip

How long did it take me to indulge in the Rogue River, Crater Lake, Umpqua Hot Springs, Toketee Falls, and Portland? Just three days.

Night 1: Valley of the Rogue State Park Campground

Day 1: Snowshoeing Crater Lake

Night 2: BLM’s Susan Creek Campground – closed for winter

Day 2: Umpqua Hot Springs, Toketee Falls, Portland nightlife

Night 3: Airbnb in northeast Portland

Day 3: Exploring Portland, Corvallis pit stop

View an interactive map and detailed info for this trip.

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