It’s no secret that travelling is expensive. According to American Express, the average cost of a vacation is over $1,100 per person. For many, this amount just isn’t attainable, so they simply don’t ever take trips out of fear for what it will cost.
It’s possible to take a vacation without spending a fortune, though. Driving is almost always cheaper than flying, especially for multiple people. Road trip expenses can add up quickly though, so it’s important to plan ahead to avoid spending more than expected.
Ready to make some memories on the road, but want to stick to a budget while doing so? Here’s 5 tips to save money on your next road trip.
Head to the grocery store a day or two before your road trip and stock up on your family’s favorite snacks. Think about things that will be easy to keep fresh while you travel, and plan to eat any perishable snacks (fruit, veggies, hummus, sandwiches) on the first day (or have a good cooler in the car).
Don’t forget drinks – bottles of water, cans of soda, juice boxes, and other drinks are great to bring in a cooler on your trip. If your overnight accommodations have a fridge, chill your drinks as often as you can to keep them cold. If your hotel offers free ice, take advantage of the opportunity to re-chill your cooler for free.
Even if you splurge (within reason) on some of your family’s favorite special treats at the grocery store, you’ll still save money. You can often buy a package of food for close to the same price as an individual serving at a convenience store. It’s tempting to run in for a snack when you’re stopping for gas or a restroom break, but having plenty of snacks in the car will save you money.
Don’t overpay for sleep
It’s fun to stay in hotels when you travel, but it’s also super expensive. With the average cost of a hotel room in the United States during peak summer travel months at around $130, the cost of a bed really adds up and can blow your budget fast. If you choose to stay at a hotel, plan ahead and book your room before leaving for the best rates. Some chains offer deals for staying at their hotels multiple nights in a row, which is definitely something to look into as well.
If you have friends or relatives who live on or near your path, spend a night with them instead of shelling out for a hotel. This might also include a home cooked meal, which can be a bigger treat than expected after several days on the road.
Another option is to rent with AirBNB or VRBO (always ask for a discount!). It’s often possible to find cheaper accommodations than a hotel, and you can book a place with a kitchen and save money by cooking your own meals.
Small, locally owned restaurants tend to be cheaper than chains. Ask for recommendations at your hotel, the gas station, or look online for suggestions of the best local restaurants to check out at meal time. You might save money while also supporting small business owners, and who knows when you will find a hidden gem. Eating a large meal at lunch instead of dinner can also save money as many restaurants offer reduced prices on their lunch menu.
If you stay in a hotel, book one with free breakfast. Even if you don’t normally eat breakfast, taking advantage of a free meal in the morning can reduce food costs if you can skip lunch and snack through the afternoon. Don’t be afraid to grab an extra piece of fruit as you leave breakfast to take in the car for later, and be sure to fill up your insulated thermos with coffee to stay caffeinated without a $5+ latte.
Take your car in to have it looked over before leaving on a long trip. If there’s any concerns, it will save you a significant amount of money and stress to be able to take care of the issue before hitting the road.
GasBuddy.com is a great way to look for the cheapest gas prices near you. While a few cents per gallon savings may not seem like much, it adds up quickly!
Withdraw cash to have on hand before leaving town. If you find yourself somewhere that doesn’t accept plastic, or end up needing to pay a toll road, withdrawing cash at your financial institution before leaving town can save you from ATM fees on the road. And, while you’re at the bank, be sure to tell them you’re headed out of town to prevent out of state charges from being flagged as fraudulent.
It’s also a good idea to keep emergency cash hidden safely in your car should your wallet get stolen or your credit card get shut down for fraud. It’s always a good idea to travel with more than one payment method, and cash as a backup is best.