How to Save Money on Road Trips?

how to save money on road trips

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Have you ever wondered how to save money on road trips? Some people would say that road trips are a huge expense, but they certainly don’t have to be. With a bit of practical planning, you’ll be well on your way to having an amazing, fun-filled road trip.

You Can Save Money on Road Trips if You…

By learning how to save money on road trips, you’ll be taking a huge amount of financial pressure off yourself, and everyone else on the trip. Because you won’t be stressing about money (at least not as much anyway) you’ll be more free to enjoy yourself, which is most important. Plus, you’ll allow for even more flexibility in your budget for fun along the way, which is sometimes a good thing when traveling. Here are a few tips to help you learn how to save money on road trips:

Download the ‘Gas Buddy’ App

Gas Buddy is an app (available for Android and iOS) designed specifically to help you save on gas. It shows you all of the gas prices in your area, automatically telling you where to find the cheapest gas. Since Gas Buddy gives you the ability to search for gas prices outside your area, you’ll be able to plan your route according to where the cheapest gas stations are. Pretty cool, huh?

When it Comes to Accommodations, Think Outside the Box

Road trips don’t always have to mean staying in hotels. There are so many other creative (and arguably more fun) options out there. Are there any friends and family you could stay with on the way to your destination? What about hostels, or even camping?

If you’re really looking for comfort and privacy, Airbnb is often a very affordable option. Not every listing on the website will be cheap. But compared to typical hotels, many of them are considerably cheaper. You may even be pleasantly surprised with some of the options you’ll find!

Use Mystery Shopping to Save on Food and Gas

Mystery shopping is when every day companies (grocery stores, restaurants, etc) pay market research companies to find out how their employees are actually running their businesses. Those market research companies need mystery shoppers who will go to these businesses and ‘investigate’ them. They do this by posing as normal customers, then submitting a report of their experience after the shop has been completed.

If you plan your route in advance, you can purposefully stop at fast food chains, gas stations, grocery stores, etc. These companies will fully reimburse you for a set amount, and sometimes they will even pay you an additional fee for completing the shop. Traveling while saving and making money in the process? Yes, please!

Consider Traveling in a Group

Gas and accommodations are expensive. But they become less expensive when more people are splitting the costs. Group traveling may not be a viable option for you,  but it’s one that you still may want to consider.

What friends have you been dying to hit the road with? If you’re in a couple, are there other couples that you both wouldn’t mind adventuring with? Traveling in a bigger group can not only be tons of fun, but it can take a lot of financial pressure off of everyone.

Double Check Your Packing List

If you want to learn how to save money on road trips, you have to pack more purposefully. It sounds simple.. but it can really make all the difference. Too many forgotten essentials mean more trips to the store, and ultimately, more money drained from your bank account. The solution? Really evaluate the items you use daily. What else will you need specifically for the trip? Compile all of these things into a list, double checking that you have everything needed.

Carefully Plan Your Route and Travel Times

One of the best ways you can learn how to save money on road trips is by carefully planning your route and travel times. Maybe leaving right before rush-hour traffic is about to start isn’t the best idea. Being stuck in traffic for minutes, and sometimes even hours on end wastes so much fuel, not to mention it’s incredibly boring. By planning on doing the bulk of your driving during the lightest traffic times possible, you’ll save money and have a more enjoyable road trip experience overall.

Choosing the best route is equally as important. You don’t always have to go with the traditional route, especially if it means you might use more gas. Doing a little research for alternate routes never hurts, and sometimes, it can even lead you to new, exciting adventures you wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

Get Your Vehicle Thoroughly Inspected Beforehand

Hitting the road before being absolutely certain that your vehicle is in perfect condition is a recipe for disaster. You absolutely must check that all of your vehicle’s essential components are totally up to par (think tire pressure, alternator, hydraulic, etc). If you don’t, you may set yourself up for some pretty hefty towing and repair fees, plus lots of inconvenience for problems that could have been eliminated with the proper precautions in place.

Other things worth checking out are the lights, turn signals, and windshield wipers. And definitely keep at least one spare tire on you at all times.. you just might thank yourself for it later.

Keep a Navigational App Running at All Times

Nothing burns more gas than unnecessary driving. If there are any faster, unexpected routes to your destination, navigational apps like Waze will let you know so that you can save as much time and fuel as possible. Side note: Waze is awesome, because it alerts you of reported police officers nearby, vehicles stopped ahead, and the latest accident reports. You can also choose to have cool voices (like Morgan Freeman) give you directions throughout your journey. How cool is that?

Prepare Your Own Food

You shouldn’t deny yourself special types of foods especially unique to the places you’re visiting…because, well, that’s part of the joy in traveling. But learning how to save money on road trips definitely means getting creative with your food prep process.

Grocery stores will become your best friends on the road, and will save you tons of money. Coupons too! That’s why it’s a good idea to plan for simple meals that can be made inexpensively. You should also make sure that you and everyone in your party will actually enjoy  the simple meals you’ll prepare on the road. Here are a few items you may want to pack for easy food prep:

  • ice chest;
  • portable stove;
  • cooking tools;
  • disposable utensils;
  • napkins;

Use ‘Free’ Anything to Your Advantage

The hotel you’re staying in offers a complimentary breakfast? That’s a whole meal that you now don’t have to pay for. The restaurant you’re stopped at offers free Wifi? Absolutely take advantage of it.

This goes way beyond basic necessities like food. Free entertainment and activities never hurt on a road trip! Where are you traveling to? What stops will you make along the way? Here are a few examples of free entertainment ideas:

  • Scenic nature hikes;
  • Museums;
  • Zoos;
  • Parks;
  • Swimming;
  • Group sports;

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As you can see, finding out how to save money on road trips isn’t as difficult as you may have thought. Through careful planning, technology, group traveling, out-of-the-box accommodation ideas, and clever budgeting hacks, you’ll be able to experience the road trip of your dreams without the overwhelming financial burden. Certainly, there are even more great road trip budgeting hacks just waiting to be discovered. Can you think of any great ones not mentioned in this list?

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