6 Ways to Save Money on Your Road Trip

With airlines continuing to add extra fees, which pushes the price of air travel higher and higher, taking a road trip makes more sense than ever. Here are six tips to make your journey as affordable as possible.Have you always wanted to see the Grand Canyon? Or maybe Yellowstone National Park? How about the Empire State Building? If that’s the case, it’s time to pack up the car and hit the road because the perfect time to take a road trip is now.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price of regular gasoline during the summer driving season will be only $2.27 a gallon, one of the lowest average prices in years.

Of course, saving money on fuel isn’t the only reason to travel by car. With airlines continuing to add extra fees, which pushes the price of air travel higher and higher, taking a road trip makes more sense than ever. Here are six tips to make your journey as affordable as possible.

1. Plan and Budget Ahead of Time

“Before you hit the road, research routes and destinations to make the most of your summer vacation,” says consumer expert Andrea Woroch of BusinessInsider.com. “Map out places to visit, [including] popular eateries (consult Food Network for recommendations), and prebook your accommodations to avoid a no-vacancy nightmare.”

Next, you’ll want to make sure your road trip is within your means. There are personal finance apps that allow you to budget for the cost of hotels, meals and gas. Be sure to add in around 10 percent for unexpected costs like medical expenses and auto repairs. You can even use a prepaid credit card to help you stay within your budget. In the meantime, set aside a little from each paycheck to help fund the trip.

2. Maximize Your Car’s Performance

“Perform a maintenance check to make sure your car is in good condition before you hit the open road,” says Holly Perez of U.S. News & World Report. “This includes checking the tires and fluids and scheduling a tuneup, which will help you avoid breakdowns that could result in costly repairs with unfamiliar mechanics. There’s nothing worse than cutting your road trip short with a car repair that could have been prevented.”

Additionally, obey the speed limit on your trip. Faster driving means faster gas consumption. Taking it slow — and enjoying the scenery — saves on gas and helps you avoid those costly speeding tickets, as well.

3. Choose the Best Time to Travel

Hotels in major cities are generally cheaper on weekends when business travelers aren’t there, while resort hotels are generally cheaper during the week, according to Bankrate.com. Also, holiday weekends will usually feature higher gas prices and hotel room costs, so plan your trip accordingly.

If you’re a repeat customer at a hotel chain, ask about special perks such as lower rates, a free night’s stay, free breakfasts, access to the concierge lounge or a room upgrade. Membership in AAA or AARP will often give you hotel discounts or other travel bargains too.

4. Pack Food and Other Essentials

Plan ahead, and pack anything you may need on the road, such as rain gear, sunscreen, phone chargers, batteries, flashlights and even a first-aid kit. Having entertainment such as magazines or video games for the kids is smart too, as you won’t have to spring for any of that along the way.

Of course, you will still need to stop at gas stations and minimarts, but the financial damage can be held to a minimum.

“Pit stops are a road trip must,” Woroch says, “but loading up on convenience store fare will quickly eat into your budget.”

Instead, Woroch advises packing your own snacks, soda and water. This will not only save you money, but also let you save your pit stops for more interesting landmarks than a convenience store.

When you do have to stop for gas, it never hurts to pay the cheapest amount possible, even if prices are already considered “low.” Use mobile apps like CheapGas or GasBuddy to pinpoint the lowest prices along your route.

5. Look for Inexpensive Accommodations

Perez notes there are many budget-friendly alternatives to hotels.

“If you don’t mind roughing it, consider sleeping under the stars. If you prefer the comfort of a warm bed or couch, rent a house or room through Airbnb or align your overnight stops with places where you have friends and family,” she writes. “A road trip can be a great opportunity to sneak in a visit with an aunt, an old college roommate or a childhood friend.”

6. Leave Your Home Secure

This could be the most money-saving travel tip of all. Don’t leave your house looking as if no one’s home. Put a hold on mail and newspaper deliveries, leave a light on inside your home, and don’t make it public knowledge that you’ll be away.

Then you can feel secure enough to have a happy, fun and frugal trip.


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