Seeing the world is a dream many of us have, but our wallets don’t always allow for it. Road trips are a great way to experience multiple places at your own pace, plus you can avoid costly airfare. However, without proper planning, road trips can end up being just as expensive as catching a plane and traveling across the world. Before embarking on your journey, be sure to read these 12 tips for taking a road trip on a budget.
1. Know Where You’re Going
While it can be fun to just let the road take you places, it can also be expensive. Have a route planned out with all of your stops and how much you plan to spend at each. If you know exactly where you’ll be going, you can search the internet for deals ahead of time and budget properly.
2. Don’t Travel During Peak Times
If you choose to take a road trip during a holiday weekend or a popular tourist time, it’s likely that prices for food, gas and accommodations will be much more expensive. See if you can adjust your schedule to allow time for traveling during the week. This will save you money as well as help you avoid unwanted crowds.
3. Bring Your Own Food
Meal prepping can save you a ton of money while traveling. Pack some coolers and plan to eat your own food MOST of the time – we still want you to experience the local culture!
4. Use Airbnb or VRBO
Both Airbnb and VRBO let you stay in people’s homes and apartments at affordable prices. Some people offer the entire place to you, while others offer just a room. Either way, both of these services are reputable. You’ll likely have access to a kitchen if you use one of these services, helping to bring down your food costs – a major plus.
5. Go Camping
If you have a camper or don’t mind spending the night in an old fashioned tent, look for national parks and campgrounds to stay in overnight. Nightly fees range from $10-$30.
6. Get Your Car Checked Out Before You Go
Before heading out on the road, bring your car to a local mechanic to check your battery, tires, brakes and fluid levels. This will (hopefully) avoid any unexpected breakdowns and expensive visits to unknown repair shops.
7. Pack Light
The heavier the car, the quicker you’ll burn gas. Pack only the essentials such as your camera, phone, charger, cooler, ice packs, utensils, no more food than you need, and comfortable clothing that’s appropriate for the climate.
8. Make it a Point to Find the Cheapest Gas Prices
The worst thing you can do for your wallet is wait until the very last second the get gas and be forced to fill up at a highway gas station. Allow yourself enough time to find a gas station away from the highway, which will typically be much cheaper. There are also quite a few apps out there that will show you the cheapest gas prices in your area, like GasBuddy.
9. Look for Free Entertainment
Visit the local tourism center or do a quick Google search to find free museums, parks, landmarks and events to check out while you’re in the area.
10. Check the Weather
Before you leave, make sure you know what type of weather to expect. This will help you pack the proper clothing and avoid over-packing. This will also help you steer clear of pricey last-minute clothing purchases, as long as Mother Nature doesn’t make any unpredicted decisions.
11. Avoid Tolls
Most GPS systems and navigation apps have the option to avoid tolls while traveling. If you can avoid tolls without straying too far from your route, do it. You’ll save money while likely seeing some much more interesting things than you would see on the highway. If taking the back road is bringing you far off course, do the math to see if it’s more cost effective to avoid the toll or avoid using that extra gas.
12. Park for Cheap
Whether you’re looking for day parking while on excursions or overnight parking, parking can be extremely expensive – especially in big cities. The Parking Panda app allows you to find the cheapest price for parking near you, and you can reserve and pay for it in advance. There are many participating parking lots and garages all over the country.