This past Thanksgiving, our family put the Bitcoin-travel economy to the test. We spent three weeks living on bitcoin only, as we explored ten states in our family minivan.
With our two toddlers and small dog, we stood in awe of the Grand Canyon, played in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, and cruised down the flashy Vegas Strip. We took a death-defying drive through the snowy Rockies and enjoyed Thanksgiving with family in my hometown of Kansas City.
This was not our first experience traveling cross-country on cryptocurrency. Last June, our family took a bitcoin road trip from Texas to New Hampshire and back. We tried every bitcoin travel service we could find; some worked flawlessly; others provided us with a great headache.
Many things have changed in the six months between our trips. More restaurants now accept bitcoin, Airbitz launched their new bitcoin-directory and wallet, and our favorite bitcoin-gas card company seems to have gone defunct!
When you travel with the intention of only spending bitcoin, you try new restaurants off the beaten path. We used the Airbitz phone application, which includes an interactive bitcoin directory and map with a built-in bitcoin wallet. The app uses your phone’s GPS to automatically calculate your distance from bitcoin-friendly businesses.
Both my husband John and I agree that we had our favorite meal at City Tacos in San Diego. The authentic tacos were fresh and savory. John says they reminded him of the street tacos he had in Mexico City when he lived there for a summer in 2008.
The Crepe in Las Vegas was equally decadent. I had a veggie crepe with extra goat cheese, and for dessert we enjoyed a chocolate and banana crepe. The meal was beyond fabulous. Our children spent most of their time in the kids’ play area, while we enjoyed conversation with the local bitcoin community and a band played live jazz in the background.
Occasionally, we found ourselves in what we call “bitcoin food deserts.” These areas have zero restaurants that accept bitcoin. When this happened, we used our favorite bitcoin-accepting gift card program, Gyft.com, to purchase gift cards Whole Foods and various restaurants. Gyft offered our followers a coupon code for new bitcoin customers: “uncoin14”.
There are only a few hotels across the country that accept bitcoin directly. We were actually the first customers to pay with bitcoin at the Brooklyn Holiday Inn this past summer. They had set up a bitcoin pilot program with the help of bitcoin entrepreneur, Charlie Shrem.
Things were different on our second bitcoin-trip. The added obstacle of finding pet-friendly hotels because we chose to bring our little dog, Murrary Rothbark, was an issue. This made it impossible for us to stay at the bitcoin-accepting hotels in Las Vegas, Golden Gate and The D, because of their no-pets policy.
We did however enjoy a fabulous bitcoin brunch at the D Grill during our daytime visit to Fremont Street. We even popped into their gift store to purchase a bottle of whiskey and a souvenir for our son.
Until more hotels jump on board with bitcoin, you can use a variety of third-party options to book your hotel, including our personal favorite, CheapAir.com. Not only do they accept bitcoin, but they accept other cryptocurrencies, such as Litecoin and Dogecoin, as well. We had tried several other booking options last summer, and CheapAir was simply the most stress-free solution. On this trip, we even visited the CheapAir headquarters in Calabasas, California to interview their founder, Jeff Klee.
Gasoline is probably the largest obstacle in the bitcoin travel space. There are only a few gas stations that accept bitcoin in the United States and no third-party business has successfully closed the gap.
On our last trip, we used a service called CoinFueled that allowed you to purchase gasoline gift cards with bitcoin. Unfortunately the company did not respond to our inquiries this past fall, and we had to explore another work-around to travel by minivan and spend only bitcoin.
We decided to use a proxy from our local bitcoin group to purchase prepaid Visa gift cards. They purchased Visa cards with dollars, and we traded the gift cards for bitcoin. This actually worked out much better than using gift cards from specific gas stations. With a Visa prepaid card, we were able to get gasoline at any gas station we came across.
The greatest unexpected benefit of the Visa prepaid option is the ability to pay toll roads. This is an important thing to note because toll roads were the only time we spent cash during our 4,400-mile trip to New Hampshire.
Our holiday trip was a real treat for our family. Now that we successfully spent six weeks of 2014 living on bitcoin, we are exploring how to make it more of a lifestyle for our family in 2015!
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