We took a road trip in 2010 fall, almost 5 years ago. We flew to Boston, then took a rental car and visited 14 states in 21 days. it was exciting at first, fun after one week and tiring in the last week. We learned our lessons and will keep our next road trip duration smaller, certainly not more than 14 days. We spent a lot of money but expenses could have shot u had we not saved money in various ways, like gas, food and hotel stays.
Do you need a break or want to spend some time with family, take a road trip? Don’t let money hold you. Remember, a successful road trip is possible even without a full wallet. But for this, you have to shun expensive places, shopping, extravagant activities and much more. Just select a place that isn’t very costly and yet entertains you to the fullest. Here are some ideas to help you make your frugal road trip a success.
Choosing your drive
Always choose a car within your budget – a car that is maintained well and consumes less fuel to have a safer trip. Go for a pick up truck as SUVs and sedans consume more oil and will cost you more. If you don’t have one, borrow it from a friend who has it.
Fill in your car tank
Before leaving home, do not forget to visit your nearest petrol station to fill your car’s fuel tank, in case you don’t know how far the next petrol station is. Filling your fuel tank in advance will help you generate good mileage.
Keep an average speed
To meet your fuel requirements, keep your speed normal as hassling through the roads won’t help you save your fuel and would certainly shoot up your expenses.
Use free gas/stay rewards
Sometimes banks offer rewards on credit card purchases. Some stores too lend gift cards for extra fuel points or hotel stay. You can use these points and save on your fuel charges and in case you have gathered enough rewards, your accommodation problem too will get resolved for at least one or two days. Grab them.
Keep you luggage light
Keep your luggage light to help your fuel running for long, if the number of passengers in the car are more. Overweight tends to increase your car’s fuel consumption, therefore decreasing its efficiency.
A good chunk of money gets spent on food while travelling. This raises your travel cost automatically, much against your expectations. To curb this, pack stuff from home for the first day. For this, visit a grocery shop before the trip. Things that you can take along includes peanut butter, cheese slices, potato chips and breads. Take fruits for a day. It will help you cut cost which you would have otherwise spent on a single meal at a food joint on the way.
Stopping by roadside vendor would also help save money on food.
Set your food budget
Cutting on expenditure does not mean you cannot stop for a nice dinner, but look for cheaper places. To enjoy the best delicacies of different areas that come along your way, you must make a budget and should look out for best affordable places beforehand, so as to avoid heavy food bills.
Study the restaurants in places you’d cover in your road trip before hand, make a list of low cost restaurant serving local specialty. You’d find plenty of sites, including tripAdvisor to
Keep sufficient water supply
Either take few water bottles or take along a portable water filter to meet your water need. Do not dehydrate yourself as you cannot afford to fall ill on vacation. Take a cooler along to keep your food stuff fresh and last longer, so that you can avoid eating out and save money.
To save money on water bottles, take empty bottles and fill up at rest areas whenever they get empty. Do take as many empty bottles as possible.
Eat healthy though
I have seen people survive on burgers and fries while on a road trip. Mainly because there’s always a burger option available every few miles, takes less time and you can eat while you drive.
But it’s not very healthy option to try frequently. Especially, if it’s a longer trip. Rather, there are low cost restaurant chains at freeway exists. Food served there, is arguably better than those at burger joints. You may pay a few bucks more but in return you get healthier meals.
You can even pack your lunch and eat on a picnic table at a rest area. Here’s some great advice on food for road trips.
Essentials for children
If you are driving with kids along, carry games from home and don’t forget to buy movie CDs from a dollar shop as kids get bored easily and you would need something to keep them engaged on the way.
You can also pack inexpensive goodies for them which they can open after every hour of drive or so. In addition to this, you can pack drawing books, colors, some eatables which they like. This will keep them busy and fun filled on a road trip.
About your Stay
Instead of staying in expensive hotels, go for camping. You can rent a space in the campgrounds which would cost you much less and in return you can enjoy bonfire and all sorts of night activities. These are luxuries that you may miss out in a hotel room.
Many camping grounds have shower and laundry facilities, making them good choice for staying and saving money.
Borrow camping equipment
There is no need to rent camping equipment. Either carry your own (if you have one) or borrow it from a friend of yours. There is a long list of camping accessories, but a tent house and a sleeping bag will do if you are not going to a very secluded sight.
Other lodging options
Couch surfing is very common these days. You can search online for such places. Find it in advance and contact people who are willing to keep you at their place. Staying for free will help you save money which can be used for other activities.
Other lodging option include cheap motels, they do cost more than 20-30$ a night.
Plan a trip to places where you have friends or family. This can help you cut down the lodging cost. Do not hesitate in accepting food they pack for your journey back home.
You would not want to stay in the car all the time, so get out and enjoy the place. Play games and visit sites and click pictures. Spend time at all the beautiful places on the way, which you managed to organize at a comparatively low cost. (Related – Walk , the best travel advice)
Plan your own activities
Plan some activities. Come up with ideas which helps you enjoy and doesn’t cost a penny. Sit together and brainstorm ideas that can make your trip memorable.
(Read Also – 51 fun and frugal weekend ideas)
Visit information centers to find out if the place has any free activities where you can enjoy for free and get best deal from the place. Even your hotel lobby might have coupons and special offers, where they keep the brochures and pamphlets. You may ask hotel personal as well.
The most important thing on a road trip is that you should drive safely and responsibly as you are not alone. You have the responsibility of your co-passengers and others driving on the same road. When driving at night, take naps so that you can avoid any accidents on the road. Be safe and drive safe.
These are a few ideas for a frugal road trip and don’t forget to buy gifts for your loved ones as we have given you enough tips to save money.
Paul @ The Frugal Toad says
My daughter and I go camping every summer. Not only is it a cheap vacation, it is a great way to spend quality time together.
How old is she and have you started teaching her about money? Interested to know
Jon @ Money Smart Guides says
My wife and I are toying with a cross-country road trip. We’ve talked about how we would camp out or find low cost bed and breakfasts to stay at to save money. We’d probably pack snacks too and maybe get some food for a cooler so that food costs could be managed well.
Autumn @ The Barefoot Budgeter says
My husband and I went on a short road trip for our anniversary this year – it was a ton of fun. We didn’t plan well with the hotels and ended up paying more than we would have liked, but we packed food and found free or really cheap things to do – like hiking in national parks.
maria waley | mechanic thomastown says
I dread going on long trips with kids in tow. We have driven across the country at least once a year for some time now and have learned a few things about traveling with children. I love travelling with them. Thanks for the wonderful article.
Road trips are best ways to know about the country. The best part I like about ’em is when we find hidden treasures while on road driving. The changing landscape, changing wether are excellent attraction as well
[email protected] beaters says
Great information.Love it! The only true way to experience the road trip to its fullest is to grab a friend, hop in the car and drive wherever your journey may take you.Hitting the open road should be freeing,
Great Blog! I think hiring a car is the best way to explore new places. Thanks for sharing this informative article.