Road trips are a great way to have a little time away from home without breaking the bank. With a little bit of planning and research, you can make your road trips even more frugal by learning some tricks to save $$$ on gas, food, entertainment, and accommodations.
I went to college pretty far from home from home and made the trip back and forth many times. Sometimes I flew and others I drove. Long weekends and time between semesters were perfect for taking road trips and exploring other parts of the world. Now that I’m older and have a steady job I still try to take a few long weekend trips to experience new paces.
I saw a comment on my last blog post Back to Frugal. Aireona from Nightborn Travel mentioned how she would love to live a more frugal life so she can use the money to travel… Well my dear, you can do both! Here are 13 Frugal Tips for Road Trips.
Although gas prices are dropping, they are still steep when living the frugal life. Some people might try to shy away because of this, but when compared to other means of travel, this can actually be the more frugal friendly route.
Side Note Here-When traveling alone be sure to check into all possibilities, it will cost more per person for other ways of transportation but for one person it might be the better deal, if you do your research.
Some people might shy away from taking road trips because of the price of gas, but when compared with other means of travel, it’s usually the most frugal way to go! Driving might not be cheaper if you’re going alone, but the more people you put in your car, the more economical your trip will be. With our family of six, flying anywhere would easily cost us over a thousand dollars (probably closer to two), but driving would cost a fraction of that.Here are some tips to save on gas:
Make sure your car is running properly. I always check the miles, oil and tired before a road trip. Did you know that inflated tires make less friction? Less friction means better gas mileage!! Not only does checking your car keep you safe, but it keeps your car lasting longer and means you will get to your destination with no extra surprises along the way.
Avoid rush hour traffic. Try to plan your trip using back roads through large cities. Sitting or crawling in bad traffic is a huge waste of gas (not to mention time and patience). You’ll save money and have a much more pleasant trip if you avoid heavy traffic times in big cities. By going back roads you also get to enjoy the scenery. In my opinion that’s the best part of a road trip! My favorite time to travel is early fall when all the leaves are changing.
Use the Gasbuddy app or GasBuddy.com to plan out where to get your gas while traveling. Use the app or website before you go on your trip to get an idea of the best places to get gas since gas greatly varies from town to town. While on your trip you can check out the app to find the location of the cheapest gas around. Very helpful in my opinion.
Use cruise control. Now this is one I absolutely hate to do, I just do not like not having control over the car! For years I would spend hours with a cramp in my leg! As I have gotten older I have grown more comfortable with cruise control and I have learned that driving at a constant speed is more fuel efficient. Cruise control will also keep the lead-footed from getting a ticket, saving even more money!! (Don’t give me what look, Come-on we have ALL been there)!
Another big expense on a road trip is food. This one is sooo hard for me, I love trying new places and experiencing new food. The truth is, eating out while traveling can really put a dent in your spending. Planning a-head and budgeting your food on the trip can really help cut down expenses. One of the best ways to save on food while traveling is to bring your own. Not only will you save money but you also save time waiting in long lines leaving more time to explore where you are headed. Here are some tips for saving on food while traveling:
Prepare the first few meals for your trip at home. I usually make something easy that doesn’t need to be cold. I usually pack a good old PB&J sandwich with some crackers and a water (I actually do not like cold water so this is perfect while traveling).
Leftovers are also a great road trip option if you’re going to be gone for a while, it will help prevent wasting food, too! Pack a cooler with some ice and put in a few leftovers to heat up once you get there. I recommend finding accommodations with a suite or kitchenette (more on that later)!
Bring the fixings with you, I always bring along some ingredients for the trip home. Like my PB&J sandwich for the drive, I will make another one before leaving to go back home to save from stopping for food along the way. I really enjoy stopping at arrest stop and eating at a picnic table if possible.
Bring a variety of snacks. It is important to remember to bring a variety of snacks along for the long trip. If you only bring chocolate to munch on, you may be tempted to buy something savory at a rest stop. This curbs spending money on things that you can buy for a fraction of the price at home. Most rest stops have high prices for those impulse buys while traveling.
I buy snack sized baggies and make a grab-and-go type snack pack. Pretzels, crackers, cookies, and even cereal are great munchies to have on hand. Dividing them up into portions ahead of time saves mess and hassle in the car, and it’s cheaper than buying individually packaged items.
Bring frozen water bottles. For those of you who like cold water, unlike me… Having frozen water bottles serves two purposes, you have cold water to drink and it also keeps your other food items cold. No need for ice in the cooler with frozen water bottles. Personally, I bought a Brita filtered water bottle which I absolutely love for traveling. No need to wake up in the night to go find a water bottle in the cooler. I just fill it up from the tap at a rest stop or in the hotel.
Find interesting sites, historical markers, along the way. Do a little research ahead of time to see if you’ll be passing by some free entertainment on your route. This to me is the whole point of having a road trip! It’s to stop and see the little places along the way, often these are free attractions. Search the local newspapers for events or activities while traveling. This can provide free entertainment and a short break from being buckled up.
When I was young I remember my dad powering through a trip or trading of with my mother half way through on the really long trips.Here are some ways to save on accommodations for your road trip:
Bring along a tent and camp. I am not one of those outdoorsy people, usually one night of camping is enough for me. But usually one night on a road trip I like to pull out the old tent set it up and enjoy a night by the fire. Always stop where we can camp for free. You can pitch a tent in most national forests. In the high-use areas with designated campsites, you’ll have to pay, though it’s probably a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel.
Stay with family or friends. This is the part I love about having a huge family! There is always someone to go visit. When I plan a trip, I try to plan it around stopping by to visit someone I know. This cuts down on expenses, even if I must crash on a couch or an air mattress in the Living-room!
Find a hotel with a suite. As mentioned earlier this causes you to save money on food while traveling. Getting a room with a kitchenette allows you to heat up those leftovers. Even if you do purchase food out I never eat all of it and this allows me to bring it home and eat some later. I ALWAYS leave one night for splurging and trying a top-rated restaurant in the area (top meaning food not price). Sometimes I try to find something particularly known in the area that is recommended by the people who live there. Having a microwave lets me splurge while being frugal.
Are you excited to plan your next road trip? I know I am, this post has certainly got me thinking about where to go. Your road trip can be as frugal as you make it to be. You can set a budget, and stick to it while on vacation and still have lots of good fun!