Taking a road trip is a great alternative to travelling by bus, train, or plane; driving lets you see the sights as they come into view and makes it easy to take as many stops as you want, whenever you feel like it.
If you’re venturing on a lengthy trip or taking a dedicated vacation, driving can help save you money too. Consider these 10 tips for planning a memorable time on the road that doesn’t break the bank.
Set and stick with a budget.
Create a road trip budget before you go to predict exactly how much you’ll spend on expenses – be it transportation, entertainment, an emergency fund, or something else.
Your budget will help you stay on track and prevent overspending. You’ll feel confident knowing you’ve projected how much money to spend on each part of your trip.
Split the cost with friends.
Road tripping with friends can help cut costs on gas, food, and lodging.
Split purchases with your crew and pay each other back in seconds with an app, like Venmo. You can keep the money in your Venmo account, transfer it back to your bank, or use the debit card to tap into your balance for other spending needs immediately. Zelle is another popular option when it comes to splitting costs.
Bring satiating snacks with you.
Roadside eats, bottles of water, and endless cups of coffee can add up quickly, so do a bulk shopping trip before you hit the road. Stock up on snacks that will leave you satiated and keep well in weather conditions, like trail mix, jerky, bars, crackers, nut butter, and apples.
A reusable, insulated, and stainless-steel water bottle might help you save even more money by keeping your water cold or coffee hot.
Get creative with car meals.
Cooking or making your own food is another way to save on road trip expenses.
Rather than dining in restaurants – which can become especially expensive for families – get creative with no-ice ideas: Tortilla pizzas, stuffed avocados, tacos, or chicken nachos. There’s plenty to pick from, even without a stove top.
Explore accommodation options.
Hotels are far from the only option for catching some R&R on your road trip, through some online searching can turn up promo codes that will save you cash if you prefer to stay in one.
Willing to go another way? Booking a room on Airbnb can be an affordable option, while Couchsurfing connects travellers and hosts to provide a place to hunker down for free. The last resort, it’s also possible to sleep for free in a Walmart parking lot.
“It’s not pretty: no pine trees, no bubbling brook, no ocean beach,” Chuck Woodbury, the editor of RVTravel.com, said in a YouTube video about staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot. “The idea of staying at Walmart is to park for the night, to get some sleep and then move on.”
Redeem your fuel points.
A road trip is the perfect time to tap into any fuel points you might have accommodated through a program, such as the one offered by Kroger.
Even more, you can accommodate extra fuel points before your trip by shopping for on the road necessities through the online portal before you go – gift cards, which range from Amazon and iTunes to Home Depot, will earn you double points.
Make your gas last a little bit longer.
Make your gas last longer to save money on your road trip. GasBuddy is an app that can help you plan your trip, calculate costs, and find gas. The company also has a program that helps people save cents per gallon (.05 per gallon on the free tier to .20 on the paid plus level) after signing up within the app.
In addition to buying the least expensive fuel, you can make your gas last by ensuring your time pressure is good, removing excess weight from your car, and using cruise control.
Earn extra money while you’re on the road
Cutting costs on a trip is great, but earning some extra money as you go is even better.
Roadie is a peer-to-peer delivery service that functions like ridesharing for stuff and you can earn up to $US600 by delivering packages on a route you’re already taking.
Invest in a National Parks pass.
Plan to visit some scenic sights along your trip? Investing in a National Parks pass will save you from paying multiple entrance fees, which can rack up a tab.
The National Parks pass currently costs about $US80 and is valid for an entire year, extending its value after your trip.
Pay for city parking in advance.
Parking in major metros can add up fast, be it paying hourly meters or swiping your card at pricey downtown garages near a hotel or restaurant.
You can often score discounts when you pay for parking in advance online. Another benefit, you’ll save yourself the stress of searching for spaces in popular places.
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