At first glance, taking a road trip can seem like one of the least expensive vacation options since you’re using your own vehicle and saving on flights.
However, as you get into it, the cost of gas, snacks, amenities, and maintenance can creep up, and before you know it, you’ve spent more than you expected.
The secret is that you can plan the cheapest road trip possible by watching your spending and planning ahead, and you’ll still have a blast. Consider some of these hacks for your next cross-country trek.
Plan Your Trip In Advance
The last thing you want to do is pack a few belongings, jump in the car, and just start driving. Not planning and opting to “go where the road takes you” will likely result in an expensive endeavor.
Sit down and plan your entire route and all the stops you want to make while allowing room for a surprise or two. Book your hotels, find the restaurants you want to try, and the cost of roadside attractions that may catch your eye. Then, research how much each may cost and compare it with your budget to see what you can afford or need to cut.
When you’re on the road having fun, it can be easy to forget about your budget, but that could be dangerous, so track your expenses along the way.
Credit cards are also a good idea because they’re more secure. Plus, if they’re stolen, you can cancel them and avoid further costs and frustration.
Next to lodging, the other most significant cost is the price of gas, especially as you go from state to state. You can improve your gas mileage and save money before you leave by prepping your vehicle and having it inspected. Get an oil change, rotate the tires, and check the steering.
Planning your route ahead of time is another way to save gas on your road trip. Plan the most direct route so you’ll get where you’re going with as little fuel as possible, and you’ll know where to find the nearest gas stations.
Save Money On Meals And Snacks
Road trips are a lot of fun because as you drive down those long stretches of road in new places, you pass a lot of cool restaurants you’ve never seen in the past. It can be tempting to stop in and try their famous dish, but if you’re on a thrifty road trip, you need to be smart about how often you stop.
If you know you’re coming up to a town, research the restaurants on the way and look at the prices to see what you can realistically afford and what you can save for the next trip.
The best option is to stop at grocery stores along the way, purchase ingredients for sandwiches and other affordable foods, and bring them along the way. Then you can stop at parks and rest stops, have a nice picnic, and still enjoy the splendor of a new place.
Keep in mind that smart food storage is key when you’re trying to preserve the flavor of your meals while riding in the car. For short-term storage, put your food in resealable containers or sealed storage bags and bring a cooler to keep refrigerated items cold.
If you’re going on a longer trip, you can try canning your fruits and vegetables to keep them all fresh and flavorful for weeks or months.
Road trips are also famous for the incredible gas station snacks that will often tempt you during fill-ups but try to resist the urge to go overboard. Buy some snacks at home and bring them along, but don’t spend money on what you don’t plan to eat.
Save On Lodgings
It’s a smart idea to plan and look at all the hotels, motels, and hostels you plan to stay at before you leave for the trip. Compare prices and find the most affordable options that also offer comfort and safety.
You’ll have the best chance of finding hotel coupons and deals by booking them well in advance because you can use websites like Priceline to help you along. If you show up at the hotel at the last minute, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll pay full price.
If you’re really strapped for cash, there are many ways that you can also find extremely cheap or even free hotel stays.
Students can often get discounts simply for being in school when using websites like StudentUniverse. Another resource, called Worldpackers, will help you find rooms you can book for free in exchange for volunteering or doing small jobs for the owners.
There are many ways to find deals on rooms, so do your research before settling for expensive reservations.
Find Cheap Things To Do In Each City
While you’re purposely trying to save money during your road trip, you shouldn’t completely deprive yourself of the chance to see the fun amusement parks, museums, and roadside attractions because that’s what this type of vacation is all about.
However, if you’re trying to stick to your budget, try to avoid high-priced attractions. Instead, you can find equally exciting attractions for a fraction of the price and still have a great time.
Try hard enough, and you can find cheap things to do in any city by looking around and researching in advance. Just about every city has a website, and they’re proud of their attractions, so check there first to see what catches your eye.
You can also search for specific destinations on Facebook and Instagram to see what people are doing and find something you like.
Once you’re in town, you can speak to your hotel concierge and get insider information about what the locals do for fun. On the way, grab a city newspaper, find the calendar of events, and see what’s coming soon.
When you’re looking for fun attractions, also consider how far out of the way they may be so you can plan accordingly.
Drive Into the Sunset of Savings
These are the various ways to discover your budget bliss and save a fortune on your next road trip.
Whether you’re traveling across the state or the nation, there’s a ton to see and do, and you can enjoy it with money to spare.