I didn’t take my first airplane ride until I was a sophomore in high school, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t travel. During the summer or holiday season, we’d pack up the minivan with games, snacks and books and hit the road – these trips are some of my greatest memories. According to the US Travel Association, about 80 percent of Americans journey by car, so make this season’s holiday travel a cheap road trip.
5 ways to save money on road trips
1. Fuel up: Gas is something you can’t avoid paying for on the open road. Download an app like GasBuddy to help you find the cheapest gas at stations nearest to you. And if you join the community that reports gas prices, you can win points and prizes.
2. Take it to go: Yes, fast food and gas station markets are an easy way to grab grub during a bathroom break. With a little prep, packing a cooler is just as easy and can cost less. Each person gets their own baggie of carrots, crackers, sandwiches and a drink. Most likey your choices will be healthier too, keeping you more alert than fatty foods that can make you feel sluggish. If you will be staying in a hotel, pack a slow cooker and packets of soup and oatmeal to save $10-20 a person on meals.
3. Go old school: E-readers and DVD or mp3 players require you to spend cash on entertainment. Check out hardback and audio books from your local library for free fun. Grab a muffin tin and some Play-doh for an instant activity station – it contains the doh and is the perfect size for little laps. Have a sing-along or play road trip games. This summer my sister and I met in Denver and played a mean game of License Plates for bragging rights. Whoever arrives at the destination with most states crossed off wins – Mexico and Canada are two points. Ready, set, go! *Check your library for e-books to load onto your devices. My branch doesn’t have a good selection, so that isn’t an option for me – maybe yours does!
4. Save on sleep: Yes, getting a good night’s sleep at a hotel in the middle of Montana sounds better than driving through the darkness. Save $70-100 by taking shifts with another driver. While one is cruising, the other is snoozing and vice versa. Or take advantage of National Parks and campgrounds along the trip for as little as $8 a night – flip down the van seats, throw down some sleeping bags and spend the night under the stars. Visit Recreation.gov for camping locations.
5. Plan ahead: A little prep will help you avoid last minute costs during unexpected emergencies or detours. Get your oil changed, pump up the tires and restock your roadside and first-aid kits. Map out your route using mobile or GPS apps to avoid tolls. If you must stay in a hotel, search online for discounted rates and make a reservation instead of paying the walk-in price. Instead of purchasing roadside keepsakes, bring a mason jar and fill it with dirt or sand from each state you pass through. Draw a line separating the layers and states on the jar with a permanent marker.
Check out Bargain Babe’s other ways to save on holiday travel, and happy trails!
How do you save money while traveling?
Julie Hills says
Thanks Megan! I love a good road trip and this is inspiring me to plan one (for when the weather’s a little warmer and we can make camping part of it)!
Megan Thode says
I know – I would love to road trip down Highway 1 in Cali!!
Bargain Babe says
Great tips, Megan! I’m sure trading drivers at night would save more than $70-$100 – that’s the starting price at budget motels these days (unless you truly are in the middle of nowhere). Not sure I’d do that, however. I love my sleep.
Anna smith says
I must prefer to save more money while travelling and these tips are amazing thanks for share.
Patrick Kennedy says
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Jack smith says
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