Road trips are a great way to have a fun and frugal family vacation on a budget. Growing up, we took many road trips as a family. Every summer we would drive down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to soak up the sun and stuff ourselves with crab legs. We’ve driven to New York, Disney, Atlanta, and just about anywhere our car could make it. It was cheaper than flying our family anywhere, and we spent time bonding on the way.
Nothing beats getting in the car with the music turned up and venturing to a brand new destination. When money is tight, even a budget-friendly vacation may feel beyond your reach. Which is why I’ve put together this list of 10 expert tips to save money on your next road trip.
1. Plan Ahead and Make a Budget
Before embarking on your road trip, make sure you know where you will be staying and where you are going. Once you know those things, you can create a budget for your trip. You’ll know exactly how much you have to spend on food, gas, and other accommodations which will help dictate where you stop on your trip.
2. Pack at Least one of your Meals
Whether you are traveling with a big family or just you and your sweetheart, eating out will quickly add up. When preparing for your road trip, pack at least one meal to take with you on your trip. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a peanut butter sandwich will do just fine to keep you away from highly marked up travel stops.
3. Bring a Water Bottle
Vending machines and fast food drive-thrus are the quickest way to blow through your travel budget. Help save some money by packing a few water bottles before leaving home. This will give you something to drink on the road with your meals, which will save you money! If you skip ordering a drink each time you stop for a meal, you could end up saving a few bucks each time!
4. Save on Gas
Have you ever filled up your tank, than drove down the street to find it a few cents cheaper? This seems to happen every time I take a road trip! If you are going to be traveling, you need to download the GasBuddy app. It will help you find the cheapest gas station near you. For more ways to save money on gas check out this post.
5. Make your Getaway a Group Outing
The more people you bring along, the more you can divide up the costs of your travel expenses. A road trip is much better when traveling with friends, and it can help reduce your gas and hotel costs along the way.
6. Pack your Own Snacks
No matter how strong your willpower, when you pull up to your first rest stop or gas station and see all those people walking around with snacks, you’ll be tempted. Before leaving, pack a snack bag to take with you on your road trip. The snack bag is a staple of our road trips and can include anything we have around the house, from a bag of chips to Twizzlers. It’s far better to be prepared with a bag of snacks, than be at the mercy of whatever prices you find at the gas station or vending machines.
7. Keep yourselves Entertained
Being in the car for hours can get old, even for grown-ups. Having something to keep the family entertained will make the trip a lot more enjoyable and fun for everyone. It’s easier to stick to your budget when everyone is in a good mood, rather than paying whatever it takes to make your kids content. Print off some questions to ask while driving (this one is our favorite), play road trip games, and get out and move at rest stops.
8. Bring a Tent and Camp Out
If your road trip could take a few days, why not bring a long a tent and go camping! You may have to pay for the campsite, but you can usually find somewhere to camp for free such as national forests. Camping is significantly cheaper than a hotel, and a great way to keep the trip exciting.
9. Stay with Friends or Family
If possible, try to plan your stops around where you know friends and family live. This can be a great way to catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while, plus you won’t have to pay for a hotel!
10. Book your Hotel in Advance
While some people don’t like the idea of booking their accommodations ahead of time, you can get stuck with hotel options that are out of your price range or worse, no vacancy. Do a little planning ahead of time and book your accommodations in advance to make sure your hotels will fit within your budget.